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Journalist prosecuted over 2007 article on misconduct of district officials

(Adil Soz/IFEX) - The following is a 28 August 2008 joint statement by Adil Soz and the National Association of Independent Mass Media of Tajikistan (NANSMIT):

Prosecution of journalist Tursunali Aliev for criticism

The public prosecutor's office of Sogdi region instituted criminal proceedings under article 135 p.3 "Libel" of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Tajikistan in relation to journalist Tursunali Aliev on 9 August 2008. The charges stemmed from a satirical article by Aliev entitled "It should shame the chairman". This material was published on 12 September 2007. Aliev has practiced journalism for 40 years and is a member of the Union of Journalists of the Republic of Tajikistan.

The article contained information about illegal activity by the heads of the Zhabborrasulov district of the Sogdi region. Aub Ochilov, the chairman of Zhabborrasulov district, was dismissed after the publication of the article. Criminal proceedings were initiated against the deputy chairman, N. Rahmatov, by the regional public prosecutor's office.

There was a previous attempt to initiate criminal proceedings against Aliev, immediately after the article was published. He had written critical articles, in an attempt to protect the legal interests of the state and society. The public prosecutor's office of the Zhabborrasulov district considered the facts of his satirical article, and ruled that he had not committed any crime, therefore it refused to press charges against him.

Aliev's case is currently under investigation by the Sogdi regional public prosecutor's office.

Legal experts think that the actions of the law-enforcement organs of the Sogdi region constitute deliberate persecution of Aliev. These law-enforcement organs have reportedly been directed to favour top officials and pressure journalists. NANSMIT and the Union of Journalists of Tajikistan ask for the courts to consider the criminal charges honestly, ignoring the particular interests of influential individuals or groups, and to uphold the law.

NANSMIT and the Union of Journalists of Tajikistan have expressed concern about Aliev's prosecution for his critical article. They are worried that in the course of protecting the interests of society and the state, journalists have become the targets of prosecution for their professional activities.

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