New York, October 4, 2022 – In response to news reports that a court in Tajikistan on Tuesday sentenced Tajikistani journalist and documentary filmmaker Avazmad Ghurbatov, who works under the name Abdullo Ghurbati, to seven and a half years in prison, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement condemning the ruling:
“We condemn today’s harsh and unjustified sentence against journalist Abdullo Ghurbati, which appears to be a product of Tajik authorities’ discomfort with the growing popularity of the courageous brand of public-interest citizen journalism practiced by Ghurbati and his colleague Daler Imomali,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “Authorities in Tajikistan should refrain from contesting Ghurbati’s appeal, immediately release him, Imomali, and all other journalists currently imprisoned for their work, and stop their campaign of intimidation against the country’s beleaguered independent press.”
In a closed-door trial, the Shohmansur District Court in the capital, Dushanbe, found Ghurbati guilty on charges of assaulting and insulting a police officer and participation in a banned extremist group. Ghurbati pleaded not guilty and plans to appeal the verdict, those reports stated.
Police arrested Ghurbati and Imomali, whose real name is Daler Bobiev, on June 15. Imomali remains in jail awaiting trial on multiple charges including participation in banned groups.
Ghurbati, a freelance video journalist and award-winning documentary filmmaker, worked as camera operator on Imomali’s YouTube channel, which covered social issues and citizens’ complaints against authorities and counts nearly 150,000 subscribers. Local press freedom advocates told CPJ at the time that the pair’s bold style of confronting authorities over local residents’ issues was unusual in Tajikistan and the channel had been growing in popularity in the months prior to their arrest.
In May 2020, Ghurbati was physically attacked in two separate incidents in Dushanbe and Khatlon in the country’s southwest while he was reporting.
Ghurbati and Imomali are among at least six journalists currently detained in Tajikistan on accusations of major criminal offenses.