Media-Freedom Advocates Demand Justice For Tajik Reporter

By RFE/RL's Tajik Service

DUSHANBE -- Media-freedom watchdogs are urging the Tajik authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into the attack on a reporter for the Asia-Plus news agency and bring the perpetrators to justice.

Abdulloh Ghurbati, a 23-year-old journalist, told RFE/RL on May 12 that two masked men attacked him late the previous evening as he made his way home from a shop.

According to Ghurbati, one attacker hit him on the head from behind and started beating him after he fell.

"I started loudly calling for help and the two left me alone and fled the site," Ghurbati said, adding that he believes the attack was linked to his professional activities.

Ghurbati said that he had received numerous threats in several phone calls from unknown individuals who threatened him for his articles questioning some of the government’s activities, including efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the country.

Interior Ministry spokesman Nusratullo Mahmadzoda told RFE/RL that "necessary measures [to find the attackers] will be undertaken," if Ghurbati filed an official complaint with police, which the reporter said he had done.

The OSCE representative on freedom of the media, Harlem Desir, said he was "appalled" by the violent attack and called on the authorities to "search for & bring to justice the perpetrators."

"Independent media are key to inform the public, especially in times of pandemic," he tweeted.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said the Tajik authorities should determine whether the incident was related to his journalistic work and hold those responsible to account.

"Tajikistan must ensure that journalists can work without fear that they will be attacked on the streets or censored or prosecuted by authorities," said to Gulnoza Said, CPJ's Europe and Central Asia program coordinator.

In April, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked Tajikistan in 161st place out of 180 countries for press freedom.

According to RSF, conditions for independent media working in Tajikistan have dramatically worsened in the last two years.