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Radio Ozodi’s Web Access Restored, But Tajik Reporter Remains Banned

RFE/RL’s Tajik Service, Radio Ozodi, is back online today following an Internet blackout that included its website, Facebook, and several other independent news sites. Authorities attributed the incident, which began on January 18, to “technical problems,” although Asia Plus reported the blackout was coordinated by Tajik authorities. This is the second time in six weeks that Radio Ozodi and major news and social media websites in Tajikistan have been blocked.

The Russian version of Ozodi’s website remains blocked.

In addition to the Internet outage, a veteran Radio Ozodi journalist has been banned from reporting, the result of a refusal by the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to honor a routine request to accredit him.

Abduqayum Qayumov, a parliamentary correspondent since 2001, was informed on December 9 that his accreditation request was officially denied. Authorities provided no official explanation of the decision, which bans Qayumov from working for the service, and serves as a warning to other RFE/RL journalists.

“The government is using accreditation to veto our staff decisions and attack our independence,” said RFE/RL president Steven Korn. “Accreditation is meant to be an administrative procedure to facilitate the rights of journalists, but it’s being politicized by Tajik authorities and used selectively to censor and intimidate them.”

Qayumov was named 2012 Journalist of the Year in Tajikistan by Farazh, the country’s largest Tajik language newspaper, in recognition of his political and foreign affairs reporting and interviews with public figures. On World Press Freedom Day in 2010, he received an award for his “courageous and outstanding” reporting on corruption and public interest stories at a ceremony at the U.S. Embassy in Dushanbe. He was the recipient of a Hellman/Hammett Free Speech Award in 1995.

The ban on Qayumov comes amid several recent incidents that have interfered with RFE/RL’s operations in Tajikistan. Last spring, Tajik authorities refused to renew the credentials of Gulnora Rovshan, an ethnic Uzbek who reported for RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service, Radio Ozodlik, citing unexplained “violations” of the country’s media law.