EU Representative and Advocacy Manager of CPJ Tom Gibson at the OSCE/ODIHR conference, 09/30/2022. Warsaw
Since May this year, the press freedom environment in Tajikistan has seriously deteriorated. In May, Tajikistan authorities launched a so-called “anti-terrorism” operation to put down protests by the Pamiri ethnic minority in the country’s Gorno-Badakhshan region, reportedly resulting in at least 40 deaths and hundreds of arrests among the local population; and they have taken all possible means to suppress coverage of these events.
Since May there has also been a wider wave of arrests of journalists. There are currently 7 journalists who have either been sentenced to long jail terms or are awaiting sentencing on major criminal charges that could see them jailed for up to 25 years.
From May 16, until late June, authorities effectively imposed an information blockade on Gorno-Badakhshan, shutting down internet across the region and telecommunications in parts of the region, and setting up roadblocks to prevent journalists from travelling there.
On May 17, Tajikistan’s largest independent news agency, Asia Plus, announced that it was ceasing coverage of the Badakhshan protests after receiving an official warning from the country’s prosecutor general threatening to shutter the outlet unless it modified its “one-sided” coverage of the events.
The same day, four journalists working for RFE/RL’s Tajik service and a partner outlet, were attacked by unknown men and had their recordings and equipment stolen while covering the Badakhshan events.
Following this pressure on Tajikistan’s two main independent media outlets, news outlets based in Tajikistan have largely been prevented from publishing anything but official state information regarding events in Gorno-Badakhshan.
Tajikistan authorities have taken steps to ensure that as little information as possible about the seven cases of journalists in detention reaches the Tajik public and the international community. They have classified several of the cases as secret, requiring all the journalists’ lawyers to sign nondisclosure agreements, and trials have been held behind closed doors.
The OSCE should call on the Tajik authorities to immediately and unconditionally release journalists Ulfatkhonim Mamadshoeva, Khushruz Jum’ayev (Khushom Gulyam), Daler Bobiev (Daler Imomali), Avazmad Ghurbatov (Abdullo Ghurbati), Mamadsulton Mavlonazarov (Muhammad Sulton), Zavqibek Saidamini and Abdusattor Pirmuhammadzoda from detenion.
If the Tajik authorities do not release these journalists from detention, the OSCE should call for prison visits, request information on the physical and psychological well-being of the detained journalists, and stress that all legal proceedings should be public and open to monitoring by the OSCE to check adherence to internationally recognized fair trial standards.
The OSCE should also call on the authorities to ensure independent outlets including Asia Plus and RFE/RL’s Tajik service, Radio Ozodi, are free to operate without government pressure and harassment.
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