October 25, 2019
His Excellency Emomali Rahmon
President of the Republic of Tajikistan
Via facsimile: +992 37 221 2520
Dear President Rahmon,
I am writing from the Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent press freedom advocacy organization, to express serious concerns regarding threats to journalists, censorship of independent news outlets and the internet, and restrictions on accreditation of journalists in Tajikistan. As your country is preparing to hold parliamentary and presidential elections in 2020, we urge you to take immediate steps to ensure journalists can report the news freely and safely and that the public can access independent sources of information.
Recently, CPJ learned that nine journalists and support staff for the Tajik-language service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), known locally as Radio Ozodi, are currently prevented from working because they have not been credentialed by the Foreign Ministry. Three are new hires and six require renewals. This includes Radio Ozodi’s bureau chief in Dushanbe and one journalist who has been waiting for renewal since 2017. In addition, the credentials for nine journalists are at risk of not being renewed after they expire on November 1, 2019.
This is not the first time press credentials have been revoked or denied in your country. In 2016, Tajikistan revoked the credentials of six Radio Ozodi journalists in reprisal for their reporting. In July, CPJ documented the revocation of Radio Ozodi video journalist Barotali Nazarov’s accreditation, and in August RFE/RL reported that at least eight of its correspondents had been stripped or denied accreditation. As you have executive authority over the Foreign Ministry, we ask you to ensure that it reinstates the Radio Ozodi correspondents’ accreditation.
Unfortunately the targeting of journalists in Tajikistan has, in some cases, extended beyond journalists to their family members. CPJ has documented the case of exiled Tajik journalist Humayra Bakhtiyar, who told us that her family members living in Tajikistan have been surveilled and threatened for years as retribution for her critical reporting. This creates a chilling effect on journalists who should have the right to report without fear of reprisal. It is essential that these threats are investigated and that those who made them are held responsible.
We are also deeply concerned about access to independent news in the country, particularly the continued inaccessibility of the website of the independent news agency Asia Plus, which provides important news and information on Tajikistan to both international and domestic audiences. As the Information Technology Center is the domain name registrar in your country and is under your administration, we urge you to ensure this incident is investigated and the website is brought back online at its original domain address.
Relatedly, CPJ is concerned about reports that social networks and messaging apps are blocked periodically in the country, hindering journalists’ ability to report and access information. Censorship of independent media and social networks is a violation of the right of access to information and is inconsistent with your country’s international human rights commitments.
With parliamentary and presidential elections slated for 2020, it is imperative that the Tajik authorities respect international standards of press freedom by ensuring that journalists can work freely and safely and citizens can make informed choices about politics. We strongly urge you to ensure that journalists can obtain accreditation and that access to non-state media and independent news and information is not obstructed in Tajikistan. Thank you for considering our concerns.
Committee to Protect Journalists
CC: Sirodjidin Aslov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Tajikistan