On July 21, the head of the national security committee for Tajikistan's Gorno-Badakhshan autonomous oblast was murdered. Investigators who traveled to the region were then taken hostage by opposition warlords. Within days, officials had cut off internet and telephone connections and deployed special forces and military equipment to the region. Nearly 100 people were killed in the security operation that ensued.
Radio Free Europe's Tajik Service, Radio Ozodi, covered the story from the very beginning, breaking the news of the security chief's murder and immediately notifying other RFE services. A correspondent in the distant region got access to a satellite phone and began to report on events. For four days, Ozodi was the only media outlet providing local, multi-source coverage on a story that went on to be picked up by international companies like CNN, the BBC, and the Wall Street Journal. On August 11, the service secured an exclusive interview with the head of a rebel group accused in the murder, as he was surrendering to authorities.
We all recognize the challenges the language services face in covering territory that is not only far from their bureaus, but very remote. The Tajik Service did an excellent job of dividing up its limited resources and using them to its best advantage in gathering and disseminating fresh, accurate, and important news from a part of the world that no one else could get to in time. Well done.