Tajik journalists attempt to defend their rights again and again
Tajikistan’s media organisations and mass media outlets are beginning a joint action called “100 days of freedom in Tajnet”. The reasons for the joint action are regular blocks of websites and many violations of the rights of journalists.
The media’s problems in Tajikistan began with special military operations in Khorog in July 2012 aimed at neutralising illegal armed gangs and catching the killers of Abdullo Nazarov, the General of the Committee of National Security. From the first days of the operations, the website of information agency Asia-plus was blocked. According to the agency’s director Zebo Tadjibayeva, site providers blocked their site following a verbal order from the Communications Service head Beg Zuhurov. “Operators who did not listen to this, received official letters telling them to block sties for technical reasons,” said Ms Tadjibayeva.
The Asia-plus site was unblocked only on 21 September, and the head of the Communications Service said that she has no idea why operators blocked the site. Beg Zuhurov said that a special organisation takes care of sites in Tajikistan, which creates lists of web resources which publish “black PR” about the country, however Asia-plus is not on that list. Currently, RIA Novosti, Lenta.ru, Fergananews.com, Centrasia.ru and the world’s largest video hosting site Youtube are not available in Tajikistan. Recently, the management of another national information agency Tojnews also announced that its site was blocked.
As well as blocking sites, journalists’ work was impeded by the country’s security agencies. Journalists are often detained and taken to police stations, some have their cameras and other equipment taken away and some even experience physical violence.
To root out these situations, media outlets have developed a series of actions to defend the rights and interests of the media and harness solidarity among journalists. Head of the National Association of Independent Media in Tajikistan (NANSMIT) Nuriddin Karshibov said that the main features were organising meetings with the heads of the security structures and an appeal to the General Prosecutor by the media about the wrongful treatment of journalists by security agencies. The campaign will also includes on-line events, like adverts on social networking sites, the radio and creating banners for all the media outlets. The campaign will also work with internet cafй owners, distribute leaflets and hold round tables. Media organisations are also going to ask the Constitutional Court of Tajikistan to look into the legality of blocking websites.
The head of the Tajikistan Media Alliance Hurshedi Atovullo said that every year, the pressure on journalists is increasing and that this is only the beginning. “Through my personal bitter experiences I know that before every election in Tajikistan, constraints on the media increase and this has already become a tradition. The authorities could close down certain newspapers again for different reasons and block websites, and maybe beating up journalists will also become a tradition.”
The next presidential election is planned for the end of 2013. Current president Emomali Rahmon will stand as candidate of the ruling National Democratic Party of Tajikistan. If is selected, he will be in charge of the country for the third decade.
Hayrullo Mirsaidov (Dushanbe) for Fergana. Photo by the author
Fergana international information agency. Translated by Sophia Matveeva