Tajikistan's journalists and independent media are increasingly being harassed in the approach to the 27 February 2005 legislative elections, Reporters Without Borders warned today, pointing to a politician's aggressive behaviour towards the BBC's Farsi-language correspondent, Iskandar Firuz, and the closure of independent weekly Nerui Sukhan and seizure of its latest issue.
Firuz was accosted on 29 January by the
deputy president of the People's Democratic Party of Tajikistan (PDPT) at a
polling station in the Shokhmanssur district of the
In a letter to President Imamali Rakhmonov, Reporters Without Borders said it was "very worried by this attack on a journalist who was just doing her job in the run-up to the legislative elections."
A seal was put on the offices of Nerui Sukhan and all 3,000 copies of its latest issue were seized on 26 January as part of an operation ordered by the tax office targeting the privately-owned printing works Kaikhon, which allegedly failed to pay its taxes and printed newspapers without a permit.
"The closure of one of the last independent newspapers by this roundabout route, using the tax office, shows that the authorities are bent on gagging all dissident voices," Reporters Without Borders added it its letter to the president.
Some 3,000 copies of Nerui Sukhan (which means "Force of Words") had been published each week since January 2003 by the Fund for the Memory and Defence of the Rights of Journalists.
Nuriddin Karshiboyev, the head of the Association of Independent Media, said the reasons given by the authorities for closing Nerui Sukhan were clearly spurious : "Why would you seal the newspaper's office if there is just a tax problem involving Kaikhon, the company that prints it."
Another printing works was already closed by the tax department
on 18 August, forcing the opposition newspaper Ruzi
Nav to get printed in
Just a handful of independent newspapers are left - Najot (the newspaper of the Islamist Renaissance opposition party), Biznis I Politika, Asia Plus and the online newspaper www.avesta.tj.
The attack on Firuz was preceded by
attacks and threats against other journalists in 2004 which indicate a sharp
decline in the ability of the press to work freely. Mavluda
Sultonzoda of Ruzi
Nav and Nerui
Sukhan received threatening letters on 3 August
after writing an article critical of the president and government that was headlined : "Who is Rakhmonov ?
Former Ruzi Nav
editor Rajabi Mirzo
was the victim of a physical attack on 29 July in
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