Statement by the UN Resident Coordinator, Ms. Helena Fraser on International Day for Universal Access to Information, Uzbekistan

Now, more than ever, access to accurate information matters.

Dear Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen.

As all speakers have noted, access to information is a prerequisite for a functioning, participatory democracy, for transparency and good governance. A well-implemented legislative framework guaranteeing access to State-held information allows citizens to better participate in democratic processes, make informed and free choices, and hold their governments to account.

"Now, more than ever, access to accurate information matters." Helena Fraser.

And it is moreover a fundamental human right. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, articulates the right to seek, to access and  to receive  information.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As Mr. Allamjanov has outlined, in Uzbekistan, in the last few years there has been important progress in liberalizing the space for media including independent journalists and bloggers, and in liberalizing access to information.

It is commendable that the highest levels of Government and Parliament have emphasized the importance of freedom of the press and of access to information.

Recently, the Parliament revised the Law on Media, Law on the safety of journalists, and has issued and reinforced laws and bylaws on transparency of functioning of different state agencies.

We also welcome recent moves to amend the law on defamation and insult as an important step towards liberalization of freedom of expression, although we note that full decriminalization would be desirable as recommended by the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression. 

The government has also been successful in significantly increasing outreach and communications with citizens, through the presidential reception centres, ministry websites, telegram channels, FaceBook accounts, and more. Government agencies have become more open and started to communicate their policies and the evidence behind them, such as recent moves to openly discuss poverty statistics, or to begin to track & analyze gender-based violence.

I also want to specially commend the greater openness of the State Committee on Statistics (GosKomStat) - I even saw today that they’ve launched a survey on client-satisfaction in terms of accessing data and statistics – what a great example!

However, there is of course room for improvement.

The free flow of information and uninterrupted communications remain fragile, and more work is required to uphold the right to know, be knowledgeable and skilled to access information of public interest.

Some journalists report that self-censorship continues, and there have been some reports of intimidation. Some data remains difficult to obtain. Some ministries are hard to reach for comment or to obtain information and statistics.

But the positive direction is clear, and I would join my dear partners in the OSCE to commend the current enabling environment to address these challenges.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The UN Country Team stands ready to work closely with all stakeholders today, especially the representatives of media, bloggers, civil society, and the Public Foundation, among others.

In particular, my colleagues in UNESCO, UNDP, OHCHR and other UN agencies look forward to redoubling our collective work to:

1. to strengthen access to information, especially on COVID-19, for all, for the most vulnerable groups across Uzbekistan, including for example people with disabilities, and persons who don’t have access to internet. 2. to strengthen Government cooperation with media and bloggers by ensuring they have adequate and reliable information to stop any rumors & misinformation from being spread.

Now, more than ever, access to accurate information matters.

Thank you!

Speech by
Author
Helena Fraser
Resident Coordinator
RCO
Helena Fraser
UN entities involved in this initiative
UNESCO
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization