Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns Tajikistan’s refusal to renew the press accreditation of a journalist who suggested President Emomali Rahmon began his reelection campaign prematurely. This is censorship, RSF says, calling on the authorities to guarantee press freedom in the run-up to the presidential election.
The victim is Tajik journalist Anushervon Aripov, the correspondent of Nastoyashee Vremia (Current Time), a Russian-language TV broadcaster operated by Prague-based Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in cooperation with Voice of America. After voicing discontent about a report by Aripov broadcast on 3 August, the Tajik foreign ministry failed to renew his accreditation, which had expired on 1 August.
Aripov reported that, although no date had yet been announced for the presidential election, President Rahmon had already began campaigning and was conducting visits to various parts of the country that were receiving a great deal media coverage.
Aripov’s report painted a rather unflattering portrait of the president, showing him visiting a family in the western district of Rudaki. He was seen at the head of a table piled high with food, apparently eating, while his hosts wore masks and sat without moving, their right hand held over the heart in a sign of respect.
“Denying accreditation is a classic method of censoring foreign media,” said Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “But it violates the provisions of paragraph 21 of Tajikistan’s current accreditation regulations. We condemn the use of such methods and we ask the authorities to respect the freedom to inform of correspondents working in Tajikistan.”
This is not the first time that the Tajik foreign ministry has obstructed journalists working for foreign media outlets. The ministry is very stingy with accreditations and is currently holding up those of eight journalists with Radio Ozodi, the Tajik service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
Other Radio Ozodi journalists have been given accreditation for only a few months, which is contrary to Tajik legislation. In 2016, Radio Ozodi journalists were stripped of their accreditation after reporting that President Rahmon’s daughter had been given a position in the foreign ministry.
On 6 August, the Tajik parliament set a date for the presidential election – 11 October. Tajikistan’s ruler since 1992, President Rahmon has not yet officially confirmed that he is running for reelection. A 2016 constitutional amendment scrapped presidential term limits.
Tajikistan is ranked 161st out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.