President of the Republic of Tajikistan since 1992
Predator since taking office
Tajikistan, 162nd/180 countries in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index
PREDATORY METHOD: Censorship, threats and total online control
One of the region’s longest-serving presidents, Emomali Rakhmon has become more and more authoritarian, calling himself “Leader of the Nation” and “Founder of Peace and National Unity” since the end of a five-year civil war in 1997. He imposed official, systematic content censorship on privately-owned and independent media outlets in 1992 and, in 2021, the state-run Tajikistan TV and Radio Committee imposed new conditions for broadcast licences, requiring broadcasters to submit all editorial content in foreign languages, including Russian, for prior approval.
In 2018, the authorities assumed sole control over access to the national Internet, thereby enabling the government’s telecommunications agency to block access to news websites despite a lack of legislative provision for this. The national Internet access provider, Tajiktelecom, which is owned by the telecommunications agency, now has a monopoly on sale of Internet access. The authorities have created “troll factories” to discredit critics and media outlets such as Radio Ozodi, the Tajik service of US-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). Harassed by the intelligence services, subjected to intimidation and blackmail, dozens of journalists have chosen to leave the country in recent years. Others censor themselves and avoid sensitive subjects, which encourages corruption and impunity in Tajikistan.
FAVORITE TARGETS: Independent journalists
OFFICIAL DISCOURSE: Nation against foreigners
“You must be more active and united in the information war against opposition media. And publish your real name on social media! So that our rivals don’t accuse you of being trolls.” (Comments to the leading national media by presidential aide Abdujabbor Rahmonzoda during a round-table with journalists and writers at the headquarters of the state newspaper Jumhuriyat on 3 March 2021 - World Press Freedom Day).
“You, the leaders of the media, must be a reliable shield protecting national interests, cultural and historic values, and the achievements made during this period of national independence.” (Statement by President Rakhmon at a meeting with the heads of leading national TV and radio stations on 20 February 2019).