Human Rights Watch Demands That Tajikistan Release Two Bloggers and Respect Media Freedoms

Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Wednesday asked Tajik officials to drop “bogus charges” against two independent bloggers arrested last week and demanded their immediate release.

HRW said that Abdullo Ghurbati and Daleri Imomali, who were detained on June 15 and sent to pretrial detention for two months “are being targeted for their professional activities and critical coverage of state institution and investigative journalism pieces posted on Imomali’s YouTube channel.”

Central Asia Researcher at HRW, Syinat Sultanalieva said that Ghurbati and Imomali were being targeted for their professional activities, despite being protected by Tajikistan’s laws and international obligations on freedom of expression and media freedom.

“Criticizing state institutions is not a crime, and the bloggers should be released immediately and all charges against them dropped,” Sultanalieva demanded.

Tajik authorities accused Ghurbati of beating a police officer at the Shohmansur district police station in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, a charge that could carry a fine or a two-year prison sentence.

During the court hearing on June 18, the two were charged with illegal entrepreneurship and premeditated false denunciation.

HRW in a statement said that Tajikistan has a long history of prosecuting journalists and bloggers for their critical opinions. “Tajikistan’s telecommunications agency regularly blocks websites that carry information potentially critical of the government, including the Radio Ozodi website,” the statement said.

HRW called on Tajikistan authorities to respect freedom of expression and stop preventing journalists from carrying out their professional activities.

“Critical voices and opinions are important for a democratic society and stifling them is a violation of international human rights norms on freedom of expression,” Sultanalieva said.

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