Journalists still face violations of their rights

United Nations, IRIN Report, 7 January 2004

ANKARA, 7 Jan 2004 (IRIN)—An independent Tajik media watchdog, the only one of its kind, said on Wednesday it registered 100 possible violations of the rights of journalists in 2003. The body also expressed concern that freedom of information was under attack in the Central Asian republic.

The most important problem facing Tajik journalists is access to information sources. Our monitoring of violations of journalists' rights and mass media once more confirmed that this problem exists in Tajik society and needs to be solved, Nuriddin Karshiboev, chairman of the National Association of Tajik Independent Media (NANSMIT), told IRIN from the Tajik capital, Dushanbe.

Also, there were other types of violations with regard to rights of journalists and the mass media, particularly incidents of hindering them from their professional duties and intimidation, Karshiboev added.

NANSMIT has been monitoring freedom of speech and the right of journalists to operate unhindered in Tajikistan since April 2003. It said that every month it received information related to the violation of the rights of members of the media.

This being the case, NANSMIT said in a statement that it was particularly concerned about the independent Dushanbe weekly newspapers Ruzi Nav and Sukhan, adding that it considered the Sharki Ozod publishing house's refusal to carry Ruzi Nav as well as the refusal of other printing houses to publish the two newspapers as a violation of press freedom.

The two newspapers were warned by the Tajik General Prosecutor's Office and Minister of Culture not to publish any articles undermining the honour and dignity of President Emomali Rahmonov as well as other government officials.

Although there are some positive developments in the two biggest cities of Dushanbe and Khujant, we are very concerned over the situation in regions, especially in districts where some officials obstruct the professional duties of journalists, the media activist explained, noting that there were still lots of things to be done in that direction.

In an effort to have a better information on such cases, NANSMIT has been conducting awareness raising activities among journalists and the press so that they inform NANSMIT monitors and volunteers about such cases when they occur.

According to Karshiboev, they had registered some 35 cases of violations during their first four months of monitoring, while over the last four months that figure reached more than 100. But it doesn't mean there had been less cases of violation before. We simply have more means to keep track of the situation with regard to freedom of speech, he said.

NANSMIT is part of a regional project backed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) promoting democracy and freedom of speech in Central Asia—a region noted for the lack of these rights.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a Paris-based international media freedom watchdog, said in its 2003 round-up report on Tuesday that there had been a marked deterioration in levels of press freedom in Central Asia, citing Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan as the worst regional offenders.

Other recent TAJIKISTAN reports

Chronology of key humanitarian developments in Central Asia in 2003, 6/Jan/04

Yearender: Tajikistan at the crossroads, 5/Jan/04

Work on US-built Tajik-Afghan bridge to start in spring, 5/Jan/04

Food security is fragile says WFP, 23/Dec/03

Special report on labour migrants, 18/Dec/03