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Tajikistan: Attacks on Journalists Remain Unpunished

by Paul Williamson
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Attacks on journalists have become a frequent occurrence in Tajikistan in recent years. Why are those responsible for attacks on journalists remain unpunished? 

Berlin (23/11 – 67)

November 2 is the “International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists”.  The date was chosen in commemoration of the assassination in Mali of Claude Verlon and Ghislaine Dupont, two French journalists, on November 2, 2013. The 2023 observance seeks to raise awareness of the main challenges faced by journalists and communicators in the exercise of their profession, and to warn of the escalation of violence and repression against them.

Attacks on journalists have become a frequent occurrence in Tajikistan in recent years, but in almost all cases the perpetrators have remain unpunished. One of the most famous cases is an attack on known Tajik journalist, Rajab Mirzo in Dushanbe in 2004.  He was beaten by several men in Dushanbe as he returned home on July 29, 2004.  

Attacks on journalists have increased in Tajikistan in recent years, but in almost all cases the perpetrators have remain unpunished. Of the 92 recorded attacks, 73 were committed by government officials.

On August 31, 2011, the head of the Investigative Journalism Center also editor-in-chief of Farazh Weekly, Khurshed Atovullo was badly beaten in Dushanbe. The journalist turned for help to the authorities.  But in this case there was no investigation as well and assailants remained unpunished. In September 2016, a trainee journalist at Farazh Weekly, Doro Suhrobi was beaten.  The assailants remained unpunished.  

Abdullo Ghurbati, a 23-year-old correspondent for Asia-Plus news agency, was beaten by two unknown men on the evening of May 11, 2020.  According to Abdullo, the incident occurred when he was on his way home from a grocery store. Ghurbati, who is currently servings his jail term in a penal colony in Dushanbe, believed that the assault was related to his professional activities, as before that he had received several threatening phone calls.

On May 29, 2020, Abdullo Ghurbati was beaten by unidentified persons in Khuroson district, Khatlon province, where he went on assignment from the editorial office. However, instead of searching for criminals, the Interior Ministry accused the journalist himself of wanting to excite a feeling of dissatisfaction with the state and government among the residents.

However, the attackers were found this time round. The Khuroson district court found three local residents guilty of petty hooliganism and fined each of them 580 somonis.

On March 4, 2021, two reporters of Radio Liberty’s Tajik Service, Shahlo Abdullo and Mullorajab Yusufi were attacked while preparing a report on gasoline price hikes.  The reporters were attacked as they interviewed a driver at a gas station. The assailants remained unpunished.    

On May 17, 2022, unknown assailants attacked journalists from Radio Liberty’s Tajik Service and Current Time (the Russian-language channel run by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA) in Dushanbe and took the journalists’ equipment and personal phones.  A vehicle of journalists from RFE/RL was blocked by another car and several men in civilian clothes came out of the car, forced journalists, Mullorajab Yusufi and Barot Yusufi out of their vehicle, and attacked them. The men punched Mullorajab Yusufi several times in the body and head and took the journalists’ equipment and personal phones. Moments later, two journalists from Current Time, Anoushervon Orifov and Nasim Isamov, were reportedly attacked the same way, apparently by the same assailants.  The attacks took place after the journalists conducted separate interviews with well-known civil rights activist, Ulfatkhonum Mamadshoyeva. 

In most cases, those attacking journalists remain unpunished. Concern grew in the Tajik journalistic community and forced dozens of journalists to leave the country. Those who remain in the country would have to censor themselves and their work, including remain quiet.  

A report by Justice for Journalists released on October 10, 2023 stated that 92 cases of attacks/threats against professional and civilian media workers, and against editorial offices of traditional and online publications in Tajikistan were identified and analyzed in the course of the research. “Attacks on Media Workers in Tajikistan in 2022” notes that the number of attacks on media workers in 2022 has been unprecedented over the past decade. 

There were 92 cases of attacks on media workers and bloggers, 61 of which were committed by the authorities via legal means.  Eight of these cases resulted in long prison sentences for journalists, ranging from seven to 21 years in prison.  Since 2017, the number of incidents has reportedly increased by more than five times.  Slander against journalists and bloggers on both state media outlets and anonymous social media channels continued in 2022.

Of the 92 recorded attacks, 73 were committed by government officials, 14 by unknown persons, and six by individuals who were not representatives of the authorities. There were a record-breaking eight instances of physical attacks.

Source : Asia Plus

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