Tajik journalist arrested on defamation, insult charges

New York, December 16, 2010–The Committee to Protect Journalists today denounced the imprisonment in northern Tajikistan of Makhmadyusuf Ismoilov, a reporter with the Dushanbe-based independent weekly Nuri Zindagi. Ismoilov was arrested in Sogd region on November 23, but the regional press first reported on the case on Monday. Ismoilov is currently being held in a pretrial facility in the city of Khujand, according to the local press.

The Dushanbe-based National Association of Independent Media of Tajikistan said Ismoilov was criminally charged with defamation and insult through the media (two separate counts). If convicted, Ismoilov faces up to two and a half years in prison. Authorities have not named a plaintiff in the indictment.

Nuriddin Karshiboyev, the media association’s director, told CPJ he believes Ismoilov was arrested in retaliation for his reporting. Ismoilov consistently criticized the regional government, law enforcement agencies, and the judiciary for alleged mismanagement, poor social and economic policies, and abuse of power, Karshiboyev told CPJ. According to Karshiboyev and local press reports, regional prosecutors asked Nuri Zindagi to provide them with all the articles Ismoilov had written for the weekly since he joined the newspaper in 2008. 

“We call on Tajik authorities to drop all these politicized charges against Makhmadyusuf Ismoilov and release him at once,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “Tajikistan must decriminalize its defamation and insult laws in order to bring itself in line with international norms for press freedom.”

Karshiboyev told CPJ that he has studied Ismoilov’s publications in detail and has not found any instances of insult or defamation.