In July 2019, Humayra Bakhtiyar, a Tajik journalist living in exile who was recently granted asylum in a European Union country, told CPJ in a phone call that Tajik authorities have harassed and intimidated her family over the past several years as retribution for her critical reporting.
Bakhtiyar covered Tajikistan’s parliament, including allegations of corruption and nepotism by politicians, for local publications until 2016, when a campaign of harassment prompted her to move to Europe and seek asylum, she told CPJ. That campaign included repeated threats made against her by pro-government trolls on social media and in telephone calls, and government officials pressuring media outlets not to hire her, Bakhtiyar told CPJ.
Starting in 2017, the Tajik government began harassing Bakhtiyar’s family, who remain in Tajikistan, she told CPJ. Officers from the country’s State Committee for National Security have surveilled and repeatedly interrogated her father and threatened him, saying they would kidnap his family members unless he pressured Bakhtiyar to return to Tajikistan, the journalist told CPJ and German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported.
In a December 2018 phone call, Bakhtiyar’s father told her that a criminal case was opened against her, the journalist told CPJ. She has been charged with making “public calls for the violent overthrow of the constitutional order in Tajikistan,” charges that carry a prison sentence of up to 15 years, according to Tajikistan’s criminal code, Bakhtiyar told CPJ, adding that she denies the charges and believes they are retaliation for her reporting and for meeting with Tajik opposition figures at events in Europe.
CPJ emailed the Tajikistan Prosecutor General’s Office for comment but did not receive a response.
Earlier this month, Tajik authorities revoked the press accreditation of journalist Barotali Nazarov over his reports “mentioning” a banned opposition party, as CPJ reported at the time.