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8/4/03 - LACK OF FREE PRESS IN TAJIKISTAN - 2003-08-04

Dozens of journalists were murdered during Tajikistan’s 1992 to 1997 civil war. This month, a court in Tajikistan sentenced two men to jail for their part in the murder of two journalists in the mid-1990s.

A delegation from the Committee to Protect Journalists recently visited Tajikistan and called on the Tajik government to continue to investigate and prosecute all those responsible for the murders. Both parties to the conflict -- the People’s Front and the United Tajik Opposition -- were targeting journalists in reprisal for their reporting. The People’s Front, led by President Imomali Rakhmonov, currently dominates the national government.

Since the end of the civil war, the government has continued to restrict media freedom. In Dushanbe, the capital, the sole publishing house is run by the state and engages in pre-publication censorship. Authorities threaten and harass journalists following publication of material that is perceived to be critical of the government. Moreover, cumbersome licensing procedures for media outlets continue to be enforced.

Last September, a state television correspondent, Suhrob Farrukhshoev, was fired after publishing a freelance article on the spread of typhoid in Kuliab, President Rakhmonov’s home region. Television management told Mr. Farrukhshoev that they were following orders issued by the local government.

And a month later, three Tajik journalists working for independent television stations SM-1 and TRK-Asia in Khujand were forcibly conscripted by local military officials after airing a program that claimed that the military employs gangs to fulfill its quotas. The journalists are Akram Azizov and Nasim Rahimov, SM-1 employees, and TRK-Asia collaborator Yusuf Yunsov.

The people of Tajikistan deserve to be informed about all the news at home and abroad. It is up to the Tajik government to ensure that journalists are able to tell the truth without fear of reprisal.