A court in Tajikistan on Thursday, November 3, 2022, sentenced independent journalist Zavqibek Saidamini to seven years in prison. (Screenshot: YouTube/Farazh)

Tajik journalist Zavqibek Saidamini sentenced to 7 years in prison

Stockholm, November 4, 2022 – In response to news reports that a court in Tajikistan on Thursday, November 3, sentenced independent journalist Zavqibek Saidamini to seven years in prison, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement:

“Tajik authorities have done their utmost to shroud their prosecution of journalists in secrecy. Yet, available evidence suggests Zavqibek Saidamini, like his fellow journalists Daler Imomali, Abdullo Ghurbati, and Abdusattor Pirmuhammadzoda, is being jailed not as an ‘extremist’ but as an outspoken proponent and practitioner of media freedom, which authorities seem to fear greatly,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Authorities in Tajikistan should either disclose convincing evidence that these journalists have indeed committed a crime or let them, and all other unjustly imprisoned members of the press, go free at once.”

In a closed-door trial held at a detention center in the capital, Dushanbe, a district court judge found Saidamini guilty of participating in two opposition political organizations banned as extremist in Tajikistan. According to those reports, the journalist denied the charges but has yet to decide whether to appeal.

A former state TV presenter who quit his job in 2019 over censorship, Saidamini reported on controversial topics, such as religion and border clashes with Kyrgyzstan, on his YouTube channels and frequently spoke out in favor of greater freedom of speech in media interviews and on social media.

Police arrested him and Pirmuhammadzoda at the start of July, following their criticism of the June arrests of journalists Imomali and Ghurbati, with whom they often collaborated. Authorities last month sentenced Imomali to 10 years in prison and Ghurbati to seven and a half years on extremism charges; Pirmuhammadzoda remains on trial on similar charges.

The four are among six journalists currently detained in Tajikistan on accusations of major criminal offenses that CPJ considers retaliation for their reporting.