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Tajik Correspondent Summoned

Abdumumin Sherkhonov, RFE/RL Tajik service correspondent and editor in chief of the independent "Pazhvok" newspaper, was beaten by attackers on 05Jan2009
RFE/RL’s Tajik Service reports that Abdumumin Sherkhonov, a correspondent with the service, received a summons for questioning this morning from the country's Prosecutor General. Sherkhonov recently wrote a report about the murder of a soldier by his commander that drew the wrath of the regional military authority.

Soon after the story came out, the military chief went to Sherkhanov's office and warned him at knife-point to drop the story, however Sherkhonov ignored the warning and continued to investigate the case. The military chief subsequently filed a complaint about Sherkhonov with the General Prosecutor's Office, on the basis of which he was summoned today.

Commenting on the summons, Sherkhonov said it was related to the interests of regional officials who are involved in corruption and murder.

Sherkhonov was beaten in January last year in an attack by three men, one of whom identified himself as a Ministry of Interior employee. At that time, he claimed that the incident was related to his journalism.

In addition to contributing to RFE/RL, Sherkhonov is editor in chief of the independent Pazhvok newspaper.

The media watchdog Reporters Without Borders expressed concern this week about stepped up government harassment of the media in Tajikistan in connection with the country's forthcoming parliamentary elections. Reacting to a series of lawsuits against leading independent Tajik newspapers that could require them to pay disproportionate damages awards, the Paris-based organization said in a statement that "Tajik officials must stop using the judicial system to harass independent news media."

The press freedom organisation further stated, “…a new tendency is emerging in the lawsuits that have been brought against the country’s leading independent newspapers in the past few days. With just weeks to go to parliamentary elections on 21 February, there is clearly an all-out drive to intimidate news media and get them to censor their coverage of state authorities.”