zbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has pledged to improve human rights, reduce restrictions on travel, and make government more responsive to citizens.
Human Rights Watch, a New York-based advocacy group, sent representatives to the country for the first time in seven years to interview government officials, civil society activists, former prisoners and ordinary citizens. The group noted a greater tolerance in Uzbekistan for journalists, religious figures and opposition groups.
Another democracy-promoting organization, Freedom House, praised Uzbekistan for loosening control of the media and allowing more public criticism of government officials. Along the same lines, President Mirziyoyev established a network of presidential reception centers across Uzbekistan to address citizen grievances.
As part of the greater openness in the country, the Uzbek government eliminated visa requirements for 16 countries, easing travel to Uzbekistan, and is planning to simplify acquisition of tourist visas for citizens of 39 other countries. Starting in 2019, Uzbek authorities will cease requiring exit visas that have often prevented Uzbeks from leaving the country without official permission.
Uzbekistan is also making efforts to improve its business environment by stressing anti-corruption efforts that have drawn praise from the World Bank.