Stockholm, October 18, 2022—In response to news reports that independent journalist Daler Imomali on Monday, October 17, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in Tajikistan on multiple charges related to his reporting, including participation in banned organizations, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement condemning the ruling:
“From the start, it has been clear that the case against Daler Imomali is about signalling that the critical public-interest journalism that he practiced will not be tolerated, and ratcheting up pressure on Tajikistan’s media to self-censor. This harsh sentence confirms that,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Authorities in Tajikistan should immediately release Imomali and all other journalists currently imprisoned for their work, and stop abusing the judicial system to terrorize what remains of the country’s independent press.”
During a closed-doors trial held at a detention center in the capital, Dushanbe, a district court judge found Imomali guilty of failing to pay taxes on his earnings from YouTube, where he published reports; making a false accusation of a crime; and participating in a banned organization. He also was fined an undisclosed sum. Authorities classified the case against Imomali as secret, and although the ruling was delivered the evening of October 17, it only became known on October 18, those reports said.
CPJ was unable to immediately determine how Imomali pleaded or whether he intends to appeal. He previously admitted to the tax charge, saying that his YouTube earnings were small and he was unaware he was required to pay the taxes. He denied the other accusations, media reports said.
Imomali and another imprisoned journalist, Abdullo Ghurbati, worked together on Imomali’s YouTube channel, which covered social issues and citizens’ complaints against authorities and has nearly 150,000 subscribers. Local press freedom advocates previously told CPJ that the pair’s bold style of confronting authorities over local residents’ issues was unusual in Tajikistan and the channel had grown in popularity in the months prior to their June arrests.
Imomali and Ghurbati are among at least six journalists currently detained in Tajikistan on accusations of major criminal offenses in what CPJ views as retaliation for their reporting.