“The Tajik government has thrown up numerous obstacles, some arbitrarily and unilaterally imposed, to block the BBC and deny citizens an important source of news,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “We call on authorities to allow the BBC to resume its FM broadcasts immediately.”
The state Committee on Television and Radio Broadcasting, Tajikistan’s licensing agency, based its denial on the country’s media licensing law. The controversial measure passed in September 2005 requires, among other things, an agreement between Tajikistan and the United Kingdom for reciprocal broadcast licensing. Such an agreement does not exist between the two countries, local sources told CPJ.
The Tajik government suspended the BBC’s FM broadcasts on January 10, allegedly because of the BBC’s non-compliance with regulations requiring foreign FM broadcasters to register with the Justice Ministry and obtain a media license, according to press reports.
BBC’s Dushanbe bureau became registered with the Justice Ministry on June 26, and, by July 17, the broadcaster filed documents to obtain a license with the Committee on Television and Radio Broadcasting, according to press reports and CPJ sources. The need for the reciprocal licensing agreement was not noted by authorities until the July 26 letter. The bureau has continued news-gathering operations throughout.
Before its suspension in January, the BBC was the only foreign radio broadcaster on the FM frequency in Tajikistan. The BBC is continuing medium-wave broadcasts, a source told CPJ, but they have more limited scope and lower quality.
President Imomali Rakhmonov’s government has shuttered a number of newspapers, television stations, and radio outlets in the past year. It also has denied registration to several new media outlets, particularly foreign financed outlets, following a March 2005 popular uprising in neighboring Kyrgyzstan and violent unrest in May 2005 in the city of Andijan in neighboring Uzbekistan.