Journalist Mullorajab Yusufzoda (pictured) and Shahlo Abdulloeva were recently attacked at a gas station in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. (Photo: Shahlo Abdulloeva)

Tajikistan RFE/RL correspondents assaulted while covering rising gas prices

New York, March 8, 2021 – Tajikistan authorities should conduct a thorough investigation into the attack on journalists Shahlo Abdulloeva and Mullorajab Yusufzoda, and hold those responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On March 4, an unidentified security guard at a gas station in Dushanbe, the capital, assaulted Abdulloeva (known as Adbullo), a camera operator, and Yusufzoda (known as Yusufi), a reporter, both of whom work for the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Tajik-language service, known locally as Radio Ozodi, according to news reports and Yusufzoda, who spoke with CPJ in a phone interview.

The journalists were interviewing a driver about rising gas prices in the country when the security guard approached them and demanded they stop filming, and then shoved Abdulloeva and covered her camera with his hands, according to those reports and Yusufzoda.

Yusufzoda intervened to stop the scuffle, and the guard punched him in the jaw, he said.

The journalists filed a police report later that day, and on March 5, the news agency Asia-Plus reported that the attacker was in detention. Yusufzoda told CPJ that he does not know the attacker’s identity or whether he has been charged with a crime.

“Tajik authorities should take the attack on journalists Shahlo Abdulloeva and Mullorajab Yusufzoda seriously, conduct a thorough and swift investigation, and ensure that the perpetrator is held accountable,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “Journalists in Tajikistan must be able to do their work safely and without fear, and it is essential that law enforcement ensure that they can do so.”

Employees of the Soro Oil gas station had told the journalists that they could not film at the station’s building without a permit, and the journalists proceeded to interview drivers nearby, according to Yusufzoda.

Yusufzoda experienced swelling on his face as a result of the attack, and is required to consume only liquids for two weeks, according to the journalist and a medical report published by his employer. He said that Abdulloeva did not sustain any injuries.

CPJ emailed the Tajik Ministry of Internal Affairs for comment but did not receive a response.