Dear U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry: The Committee to Protect Journalists is writing to bring to your attention the deteriorating climate for press freedom in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. As you prepare to head to these countries later this week, we ask that you put press freedom on the agenda of your meetings with high-level government officials.
Though a new media bill was signed into law, the legislation failed to decriminalize insulting the president or alleviate other repressive measures, and had no immediate effect on the climate of press freedom ahead of the November presidential vote. To pave the way for a smooth re-election of Emomali Rahmon to a fourth term in office, authorities continued to gag critical voices by using a set of repressive tactics: intimidation of journalists by security services, denial of accreditation, and exhaustive litigation. The state communications agency ordered Internet service providers to block access to news websites and social networking sites, including Facebook and YouTube. Two independent regional broadcasters accused the authorities of jamming their satellite signal at least three times during the year. In November, Rahmon was declared a winner of another seven-year term in office; his rival quit the race, citing obstruction by the elections commission.
New York, February 25, 2013--The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned by today's defamation ruling against independent Tajik weekly Imruz News in closed court proceedings, the organization said.
Authoritarian leader Emomali Rahmon praised journalists' mission at a ceremony said to mark the centennial of the Tajik press, but his speech came with a contradictory message: Rahmon urged news outlets not to publish reports that could damage Tajikistan's international image, cause pessimism, or undermine public order. Such was the gap between rhetoric and reality. Rahmon signed into law a measure decriminalizing libel, even as statutes still impose prison penalties of up to five years for coverage deemed insulting to the president. The authorities blocked access to several independent news websites for up to three months after the outlets questioned the official account of a security general's killing and alleged that Rahmon had stepped up surveillance of local religious groups. Among the blocked outlets were both local and international outlets, including the popular Asia Plus, Ferghana News, Lenta, and the BBC, the Dushanbe-based National Association of Independent Mass Media in Tajikistan reported. The authorities also announced the creation of a volunteer-staffed cyberunit to identify supposedly extremist content and material insulting to the president. Citing the unit's findings, the state communications chief declared Facebook a "hotbed of slander" and ordered it blocked nationwide.
In the last year, CPJ has documented a disturbing trend of attacks against the press in Tajikistan: the frequent blocking orders that the State Communications Agency has issued to local Internet service providers. Delivered in most instances via text message, the orders urge the ISPs to block nationwide access to local and international news websites that criticize President Emomali Rahmon and his authoritarian policies, and publicize issues like widespread government corruption and rising unemployment.
New York, January 17, 2013--Tajik authorities must lift their order blocking domestic access to at least three news websites that have reported critically about issues such as energy shortages, rising unemployment, and human rights abuses, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. The order, which also applied to Facebook, is at least the fourth such ban since the beginning of 2012.
New York, July 24, 2012--Authorities in Tajikistan blocked domestic access to the independent regional news website Asia-Plus on Monday after the outlet reported on the murder of a high-ranking security official and its aftermath, according to news reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on the government to immediately restore access to the site.
New York, March 7, 2012--Authorities in Tajikistan must immediately lift the order blocking domestic access to several news websites and Facebook, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Investigative journalists were targeted with retaliatory arrests and debilitating lawsuits, marking a decline in press freedom conditions. Makhmadyusuf Ismoilov, a reporter for the independent weekly Nuri Zindagi, was imprisoned for nearly a year on defamation charges related to stories on government corruption in the northern Sogd region. BBC correspondent Urinboy Usmonov spent a month in jail after security agents arrested him on extremism charges stemming from his reports on the banned Islamist group Hizb-ut-Tahrir. The independent newspaper Asia Plus and reporter Ramziya Mirzobekova faced a civil lawsuit from a senior Interior Ministry official who accused them of spreading false information in a story about a man who died in government custody, press reports said. And a Dushanbe-based independent newspaper, Paykon, was forced to close after a state agency won a sizable judgment in a defamation case related to a letter alleging corruption. In September, President Emomali Rahmon ended the requirement that senior officials convene quarterly press conferences, diminishing already-limited access to leaders.
Do you believe the free flow of information must be protected? Sign the #RightToReport petition and demand that President Obama immediately:
1. Issue a presidential policy directive prohibiting the hacking and surveillance of journalists and media organizations.
2. Limit aggressive prosecutions that ensnare journalists and intimidate whistleblowers.
3. Prevent the harassment of journalists at the U.S. border.
Or click here to see the full petition, and join leading journalists like Christiane Amanpour, The Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger, Editor of the AP Kathleen Carroll, and Arianna Huffington in signing on.