WASHINGTON -- Tajik authorities revoked the accreditation of six members of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s (RFE/RL) Tajik Service on Friday, November 25, the latest act in a series of incidents targeting the company’s reporting inside the country.
“We are outraged by this action by the Tajik government, which is a blatant attack on our ability to do our jobs as journalists,” said RFE/RL President Thomas Kent. “This is an abuse of an administrative procedure for political purposes that we expect to be reversed without delay.”
The suspension came after Tajikistan’s Foreign Ministry contacted RFE/RL’s Dushanbe bureau on November 25 about a story reporting the appointment of Rukhshona Rahmonova, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon’s daughter, to head the ministry’s International Relations Department.
A ministry official gave RFE/RL five minutes to remove the story, saying otherwise the Dushanbe-based correspondents would lose their accreditation. RFE/RL refused to delete the story.
RFE/RL’s reporting was based on a post on the Foreign Ministry's website, and further confirmed by a source in the ministry. The ministry has provided no official explanation for its actions.
In an earlier incident, RFE/RL refused authorities’ demand to take down a November 9 report of a security message issued by the U.S. State Department warning American travelers about the risk of terrorist activity inside Tajikistan.
Tajik authorities have used numerous means recently to exert pressure on RFE/RL’s Tajik Service, known locally as Radio Ozodi, and other independent media inside the country. The Service’s website has been blocked since September, 2015, requiring users to employ alternative means to access it. Radio Ozodi journalists have been portrayed as being “unpatriotic” and damaging the country’s image in official media, interrogated by security service agents, and proffered “friendly advice” by authorities to avoid problems.
RFE/RL’s Tajik Service serves a growing audience, registering more than 3.7 million views on YouTube and 1.5 million visits to its Russian and Tajik-language websites in October 2016. It has 130,000 followers on its Odnoklassniki social network account, with almost 1,000 new subscribers joining the group every day. The Service also broadcasts its content via shortwave and satellite channels, and through mobile apps.
Freedom House has designated Tajikistan as “not free,” with a score of 83 out of 100 in its 2016 Freedom of the Press index. Reporters Without Borders ranks Tajikistan 150th out of 180 countries in its 2016 World Press Freedom Index.