WASHINGTON — In an escalation of the recent harassment of its journalists in Tajikistan, four RFE/RL journalists were beaten, threatened, and had their electronic equipment seized today after conducting an interview. The attacks were carried out by unidentified persons allegedly linked to Tajik security services. RFE/RL demands that the Tajik government take action to stop the harassment of independent journalists in the Central Asian country.
Said RFE/RL President and CEO Jamie Fly, “We strongly condemn the two separate attacks on our Radio Ozodi and Current Time journalists in Dushanbe earlier today. We have called on the Tajik authorities repeatedly to stop the government’s pressure campaign against free media. Most recently, in February 2022, I wrote to Tajik Foreign Minister Sirojiddin Muhriddin detailing instances of withheld accreditations, harassment and threats against RFE/RL journalists. It is time for the Tajik government to stop trying to undermine independent reporting that benefits the Tajik people.”
Earlier today, Mullorajab Yusufi and Barot Yusufi, two journalists with RFE/RL’s Tajik Service (Radio Ozodi) were beaten up in Tajikistan’s capital, Dushanbe after they recorded an interview with Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO) activist Ulfatkhonim Mamadshoeva, whom Tajik authorities believe was among the organizers of this week’s violent protests in the GBAO. One of the beaten journalists, Mullorajab Yusufi, said the attackers did not say who they were or what they wanted, “but they knew the journalists well and deliberately wanted cameras and telephones…One of them began to threaten me with the words ‘Mulloradjab, I swear to God, I will shoot you.’”
The two Yusufis were accompanied to the interview by Current Time TV journalists Anushervon Aripov and Nasim Isamov, who were attacked separately after getting into their vehicle to return to RFE/RL’s local bureau in Dushanbe. Athletic-looking young men reached into their car to steal smartphones from the journalists, then dragged the reporters out of the car and forced them to open the trunk, from which they took all electronic equipment.
In total, the attackers seized seven smartphones and a video camera from the journalists. When one of the journalists, Anushervan Aripov, demanded that his assailants return the stolen equipment, he was told, “you will get everything back.”
The beatings mark an escalation in a recent online campaign to smear RFE/RL’s Tajik Service and its journalists in retaliation for their hard-hitting, balanced journalism. The campaign, appearing primarily on the “Vatan Vatanon” Facebook site, uses crude manipulated imagery and personally threatening language in an attempt to intimidate and undermine the reputation of the journalists and their family members.
RFE/RL has repeatedly criticized the Tajik government and called on it to end its harassment of our Tajik Service staff and their family members, most recently in February of this year. In response to complaints it received in a letter from members of the U.S. Congress, the Tajik government asked that RFE/RL "provide proof of the existence of persecution and threats against journalists and records about the existence of pressure on them and their relatives." In its response, RFE/RL detailed how the Tajik government misused accreditation procedures to threaten the livelihoods of Tajik Service correspondence, threatened and beat RFE/RL journalists on assignment, and sought to extract information from family members in Tajikistan about their relatives who work for RFE/RL.
RFE/RL’s Tajik Service, operating out of a bureau in Dushanbe, is one of the country’s few sources of accurate and independent news, attracting outsized audiences with compelling reporting on issues not otherwise covered by state-run media.
RFE/RL relies on its networks of local reporters to provide accurate news and information to more than 37 million people every week in 27 languages and 23 countries where media freedom is restricted, or where a professional press has not fully developed. Its videos were viewed 7 billion times on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram/IGTV in FY2021. RFE/RL is an editorially independent media company funded by a grant from the U.S. Congress through the U.S. Agency for Global Media.