Journalist released from prison after court ruling

Editor’s note: The original text of this alert has been corrected to accurately characterize Minbar i Halq.

New York, October 12, 2005—The Supreme Court on Tuesday partially overturned the July 28 conviction of independent journalist Jumaboy Tolibov and ordered his immediate release, according to local press reports. Tolibov’s six-month imprisonment was seen as retaliation for criticizing a prosecutor, and it came amid an ongoing government crackdown on the media.

“The politicized prosecution of Jumaboy Tolibov is a reminder of the government’s campaign to silence independent news reporting ahead of next year’s presidential election,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “We call on President Immomali Rakhmonov to end these abusive practices and allow journalists to work freely.”

In the past year, Tajik authorities have shuttered four independent and opposition newspapers, harassed journalists, and refused to issue broadcasting licenses to independent media companies.

The Supreme Court overturned Tolibov’s conviction for trespassing and abuse of office, and it reduced a conviction on “hooliganism” to a lesser charge of insult. The ruling reduced Tolibov’s punishment from two years in prison to one year of corrective labor; the Supreme Court accepted the six months imprisonment already served as the equivalent of a year of corrective labor.

Tolibov was arrested on April 24 in the capital of Dushanbe at the direction of Ayni district prosecutor Sabit Azamov. Tolibov, who is also chairman of the legal department in Ayni’s local government, wrote commentaries in the ruling party newspaper Minbar i Halq and the parliamentary newspaper Sadoi Mardum that were highly critical of the prosecutor’s office. Ayni is in the northern Sogd region.

Tolibov wrote three articles in late 2004, alleging that Azamov assaulted him and reproaching local authorities for refusing to investigate. Tolibov said the attack occurred when he was seeking information from the prosecutor’s office earlier in the year.

The defense appealed after a judge in northern Tajikistan sentenced Tolibov to two years in a prison colony.

Nuriddin Karshiboyev, head of the National Association of Independent Media of Tajikistan, a press freedom group, said his organization believed the charges were fabricated in retaliation for the commentaries.