Khurshed Fozilov

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:


Freelance journalist Khurshed Fozilov is serving a seven-year prison sentence after being convicted in May 2023 on charges of participation in a banned extremist organization. State security officers detained Fozilov in the northwestern city of Panjakent in March.

Fozilov writes mostly on social issues and allegations of mismanagement by authorities in Panjakent and the surrounding Sughd region, according to Radio Ozodi, the Tajik service of U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and two people familiar with his case who spoke to CPJ on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisal. 


On March 6, 2023, plainclothes officers with the State Committee for National Security (SCNS) detained Fozilov at a local government office in Panjakent, according to news reports. The journalist was not permitted to speak to his lawyer until almost a week after his arrest, the people familiar with Fozilov’s case said. 

The journalist’s lawyer at the time wrote on Facebook that authorities initially jailed Fozilov unlawfully for five days on charges of disobeying a police officer after he refused to grant access to his phone. Fozilov was jailed at the local SCNS office, where officers interrogated him about his work and “forced him” to admit to participating in a banned extremist organization, the lawyer said. Fozilov’s family later told Radio Ozodi that the journalist was beaten, and that interrogators would have “maimed” him if he had not admitted his guilt. 

On May 26, after a two-day closed-door trial in a detention center, a court found Fozilov guilty of participating in banned extremist organizations, without providing further details.

In June, Fozilov’s family told Radio Ozodi that the journalist was convicted for sending information to the exiled news website Akhbor, but said he had not done so since the outlet was banned in 2020. 

A documentary entitled “Treason,” broadcast on state television in 2020, alleged that Fozilov had collaborated with Akhbor. A source familiar with Fozilov’s case told CPJ on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisal, that they believed authorities had recycled old allegations about the journalist’s ties with Akhbor in retaliation for his criticism of local authorities in his reports and on social media.

On July 12, the Sughd region court rejected Fozilov’s appeal, according to information provided in a Supreme Court news conference on August 14


Fozilov is one of seven journalists in Tajikistan to be arrested and sentenced to lengthy prison terms in retaliation for their work between October 2022 and May 2023. The arrests followed mass protests in Tajikistan’s eastern Gorno-Badakhshan in May 2022 and their violent suppression by Tajik law enforcement, which reportedly resulted in at least 34 deaths and hundreds of arrests. Although many of the arrested journalists did not report on Gorno-Badakhshan, several local journalists told CPJ on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisal, that they believe the journalists’ arrests and sentences are designed to create a chilling effect on Tajik media and society amid tensions in Gorno-Badakhshan and ahead of a possible dynastic transition of power in the country. 

Of those seven journalists, Fozilov is the fifth to be convicted of participation in extremist groups, according to CPJ research. All seven cases featured closed-door trials in detention centers amid claims of forced confessions.

In a statement in July 2023, experts with the U.N. Human Rights Council expressed concern about journalists’ convictions in Tajikistan, citing the “apparent use of anti-terrorism legislation to silence critical voices.” The U.N. experts said the cases appeared to have “grossly violated” fair trial standards, and that they were “appalled” by reports that journalists were “ill-treated and tortured, including to extract false confessions.” In a May letter to Tajik authorities, the U.N. experts urged the government to provide information on the legal basis for their convictions.

Fozilov is being held at a high security prison in Khujand, according to Radio Ozodi. CPJ was unable to determine Fozilov’s health condition in detention.

In November 2023, CPJ emailed the Supreme Court of Tajikistan for comment but did not receive any reply. CPJ was unable to obtain contact details for the SCNS.