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Radio Ozodi Breaks Drug Smuggling Story

RFE/RL’s Tajik Service, Radio Ozodi, was the first to break a drug smuggling story on September 17 that was immediately picked up by numerous media outlets due to its exclusive reporting. Originally in Tajik, the story was translated into Russian and republished by media outlets in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia.

An anonymous source from the Tajik customs service told Ozodi journalist Fakhriddin Kholbekov that the son of the Tajik ambassador to Belarus was detained in the Dushanbe airport along with his wife for allegedly attempting to smuggle 2.5 kilos of illegal drugs across the border in a secret compartment of their luggage while en route to Minsk via Moscow. The type of drugs allegedly hidden in the compartment has not yet been confirmed.

“One day after the events, a lot of media reported the story based on our report, and Tajik officials understood that this diplomatic scandal will offend their reputation,” said Mirzo Salimov, a broadcaster with Ozodi. “The detained man is not a little man, he is the son of an ambassador.”

Thus far, the Tajik authorities have not confirmed the identities of those detained, whom the anonymous source says are Koimdod Koimdodov and his wife Mushtari Muborakshoeva. Mr.Koimdodov works in Minsk as an officer of the CIS Economic Court of Belarus.

Within 12 hours after the story was published on the Ozodi website, 12 media outlets had republished the story citing Kholbekov’s report. During the three days after posting, the article was picked up by about 50 news organizations, including Forbes Kazakhstan and Russian Business Channel (RBK).

If found guilty of illegal drug trafficking, Koimdodov and his wife face up to 23 years in prison.

Radio Ozodi has regularly reported on drug smuggling in Tajikistan. The service has highlighted the vulnerability of the country’s 1370-kilometres-long border with Afghanistan, which is notorious for supplying the drug trade in Europe and Russia.

Throughout 2012, Ozodi followed several high-profile cases, including the prosecution of a former senior official of the country’s Presidential Drugs Control Agency, who was found guilty of abuse of office and drug smuggling.

Radio Ozodi also covered the case of a former security chief stationed at a Tajik-Afghan border checkpoint who was accused of facilitating passage of illegal substances.

--By Anna Shamanska