By Eric C. Sigmund
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
DUSHANBE, Tajikistan – The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Europe’s primary human rights body criticized the government of Tajikistan on Monday for its mistreatment of independent media in the country. OSCE representatives announced that the government has failed to comply with its media freedom commitments by “blocking websites, preventing newspapers from printing and launching tax or prosecutorial inspections” against media providers.
In a statement to the Tajik government, the OSCE urged the government to re-open foreign and internet media sources. At least three major regional news websites have been shut down since September 29th. Internet providers were ordered to block certain websites after the Tajik government issued a directive demanding that restrictions be imposed on those media providers which the government deemed to contribute to unrest in the country. The Tajik government is currently conducting an intense counter-terrorism offensive against Islamic militants in the country. One internet provided commented “[w]e are trying to objectively report on the unrest in the east but clearly some officials do not like this. “
The OSCE further noted that government pressure has also resulted in the censor of printing houses, several of which have been forced to stop printing independent newspapers. Although these organizations report that technical failures are to blame for their decision to stop printing certain papers, the OSCE remains unconvinced and believes that the government used threats of tax inspections to coerce printing houses into submission.
Representatives from the OSCE stressed the importance of free and open media and encouraged the government to “reverse the ongoing deterioration of the media freedom situation in Tajikistan.” Tajik authorities however, have denied any wrongdoing and argued that national legislation does not prevent the regulation of internet media. “As for newspaper” stated a government representative “no newspapers were shut down, while the suspension of some of them is due to purely technical problems.” Despite international pressure, the government remains unpersuaded by the OSCE’s concerns and may take additional steps to censure and regulate media as it continues its fight against militant forces in Tajikistan.
For more information, please see:
Moscow Times – Tajiks Urged to Stop Attacks on Free Media – 20 Oct. 2010
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty – OSCE Warns Media Pluralism in Tajikistan in Danger – 18 Oct. 2010
Reuters Africa – OSCE Urges Tajikistan to Stop Attacks on Free Media – 18 Oct. 2010
Agence France Presse – Tajikistan Blocks Internet sites Amid Unrest – 11 Oct. 2010