5 August 2005
Authorities seize copies of newspaper, seal printing company's offices
(Adil Soz/IFEX) - The following is a 28 July 2005 statement by the National Association of Independent Mass Media of Tajikistan (NANSMIT), an Adil Soz partner:
On 14 July 2005, tax police officers working together with Ministry of Internal Affairs (MID) officers seized all copies of "Nerui Sukhan" newspaper and sealed the Kaihon printing company's offices in Dushanbe.
The tax police had previously sealed the printer's offices on 26 January, preventing the publication of "Nerui Sukhan" and seizing the paper's latest issue. The newspaper resumed publication 6 months later, on 7 July.
During a 20 July press conference, the General Prosecutor's Office announced that the paper's chief editor, Muhtor Bokizoda, had to face "defamation" and "insult" charges under the Criminal Code of the Republic of Tajikistan.
According to Prosecutor General Bobodjon Bobohonov, his office sent an official warning to Bokizoda, demanding that he stop publishing reports similar to those that had previously appeared in the paper, which contained baseless accusations against state officials and private citizens.
Speaking to NANSMIT, Bokizoda confirmed that on 27 February the State Revenues Ministry's Tax police department filed charges against him under Article 253, part 2, item b (inflicting material damages by means of fraud and abuse of trust). The authorities have closed the investigation and are planning to take the case to the court.
In July, Bokizoda issued a statement addressed to the president, prosecutor general and international organisations, saying he was unable to carry out his work in the past 6 months, as he was subjected to regular audits by the tax police department. He believes the criminal charges filed against him were connected to his work. "Some ministerial departments don't like our critical reports, and they, therefore, try to exert pressure on us, journalists, to avoid justice," he said.
Bokizoda called on the president and the prosecutor general to monitor his case and allow him to continue his work.
As for the defamation and insult charges mentioned during the press conference, Bokizoda believes the prosecutor general may have been referring to charges previously filed against "Nerui Sukhan"'s editorial board and journalists.
In 2004, journalist Zarif Habibov was sentenced to 3 years in prison on defamation charges under Article 135 for publishing an article entitled, "Dear President, be careful of people close to you". On 31 May, the paper's deputy editor, Vahhob Odinayev, received a 1-year rehabilitation order and a 30% deduction from his salary to the state budget under Article 322, part 1 of the Criminal Code.
On 19 January, a court ordered "Nerui Sukhan" reporter Nuriddin Aminov to pay 50,000 somoni (approx. US$16,000) in damages to Abdullayev, deputy chair of the Judicial Law Department in Tajik State National University.