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Tajik Authorities Continue to Pressure RFE/RL Dushanbe Bureau

RFE/RL's Tajik service staff in Dushanbe.
Tajikistan — RFE/RL’s Tajik service staff in Dushanbe. 23 Oct, 2019.

WASHINGTON — In a letter to Tajikistan’s Foreign Minister, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) President Jamie Fly criticized the ministry’s decision to withhold accreditation from some members of its Tajik Service and grant only partial accreditation to others, obstructing the organization’s journalistic mission inside the country.

“Instead of addressing our concerns, your ministry responded to our repeated requests to accredit our journalists only yesterday, and with only partial approvals that fail to recognize the fundamental right of our journalists to work,” Fly wrote to Minister of Foreign Affairs Sirojiddin Muhriddin. Fly said that RFE/RL “will not succumb to pressure in our reporting in and about Tajikistan,” and urged the ministry “to accredit fully all Ozodi journalists immediately and let them do their jobs.”

Eleven journalists and support staff with Radio Ozodi, as the Service is known locally, are currently barred from working because they have not been credentialed by the Foreign Ministry, as required by Tajik law. Among them are three new hires and six awaiting renewals. Of nine additional journalists whose credentials are set to expire November 1, the ministry on October 30 accredited seven, although in six cases the renewals are only for six months and in one case for three months. The partial permissions appear to contravene Tajik laws and regulations, which require renewals on an annual basis.

Prior to the Tajik government’s announcement, four U.S. Senators wrote to Tajik President Emomali Rahmon to express concern over the accreditation issue, stating that failure to allow Radio Ozodi to operate freely “could lead to “repercussions for the strengthening of the U.S.-Tajik relationship.” The U.S. Congressional Caucus on Freedom of the Press recently criticized the use of accreditation “to restrict and attempt to influence Radio Ozodi’s independent journalism,” and called for the Service’s staff to be “accredited expeditiously.” The OSCE has warned against the use of accreditation as a means of controlling, rather than supporting the media. Tajikistan’s own leading media rights groups have cited the country’s law on media accreditation, which states that “Foreign correspondents have the right to the free transfer” of information, “excluding any censorship.”

The Tajik government has used accreditation previously to retaliate against journalism it dislikes. It revoked, and after a public outcry, reinstated, the accreditation of six Ozodi journalists in 2016 after the Tajik Service published a critical article about President Rahmon’s daughter. More recently, the government has responded to Ozodi reporting on the political opposition and corruption by blocking the Service’s website and Facebook pages and harassing individual Ozodi journalists.

RFE/RL’s Tajik Service is one of the country’s few remaining sources of independent news, attracting outsized audiences with compelling reporting on issues not otherwise covered by state-run media. It has Tajikistan’s most popular YouTube channel (828,000 subscribers; 195 million video views in FY2019) and Facebook page (184,000 followers; 14 million video views in FY2019).

About RFE/RL
RFE/RL relies on its networks of local reporters to provide accurate news and information to 34 million people in 26 languages and 22 countries where media freedom is restricted, or where a professional press has not fully developed. Its videos were viewed over 2.6 billion times on Facebook and YouTube in FY2018. RFE/RL is an editorially independent media company funded by a grant from the U.S. Congress through the U.S. Agency for Global Media.