News in Brief 11 May 2017 – (AM)

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Registan square in Samarqand, Uzbekistan. Photo: World Bank/Matluba Mukhamedova

Gradual progress on human rights in Uzbekistan: UN High Comissioner

Uzbekistan's human rights record has progressed gradually over the past four years, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said to reporters on Thursday, as he wrapped up a visit to the country.

Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein is the first UN official in his position to visit the Central Asian nation.

The High Commissioner's office in Uzbekistan was established in 1993, just two years after the country's independence, and one year after it became a member of the United Nations.

Over the past eight months or so, the Government of Uzbekistan has initiated an array of new laws, policies and plans with human rights ramifications.

Zeid said that in meetings with ministers and the judiciary, he had noted the "consistent recognition" that the country has "issues and challenges."

He added that human rights reforms initiated by the new administration could, if successfully implemented, have a "transformational impact on the country's future."

India urged to restore internet, social media networks in Jammu and Kashmir

India is being urged by UN human rights experts to "immediately" end its ban on social media networks and on mobile internet services in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, and guarantee freedom of expression for citizens.

The UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, and Michel Forst, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, in a statement issued on Thursday noted that there seemed to be a "worrying pattern aimed at curbing protests and social unrest in the region."

The ban was imposed on 17 April following widespread student demonstrations.

According to media reports, the Government of India blocked access to 22 websites and applications, including WhatsApp messenger, Facebook and Twitter.

Since 2012, there have been an estimated 31 reported cases of social media and internet bans in Jammu and Kashmir, the experts said.

In last year's session, the Human Rights Council, the central human rights body in the UN system, condemned such online disruptions and called upon States to avoid shutdowns, the experts recalled.

Refugee Food Festival expands to 13 cities in Europe: UNHCR

A civil society-led strategy to showcase  refugees' cooking talents and facilitate their integration called "Refugee Food Festival" is expanding to thirteen major European cities in 2017 the UN Refugee Agency, UNCHR, announced on Thursday.

The French-born initiative started last year through a partnership between the NGO Food Sweet Food and UNHCR, with the support of partners, citizens, local authorities, restaurants and private businesses.

This year's edition of the Refugee Food Festival will take place in Paris, Brussels, Madrid, Athens, Amsterdam, Florence, Rome, Milan, Bari, Marseille, Bordeaux, Lyon and Lille as part of World Refugee Day celebrations.

The first event took place in Paris in 2016.

Between 15 and 30 June, more than 50 restaurants will open their kitchens to refugee chefs from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iran, Somalia, Syria and Ukraine to name a few.

Other cities have expressed their interest and might follow.

Jocelyne Sambira, United Nations.

Duration: 3’13″

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