DUSHANBE -- Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) leader Muhiddin Kabiri has said that his party's printing house will not print independent newspapers as doing so would result in pressure from the Tajik government, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.
Kabiri met early on November 2 with U.S. Ambassador to Tajikistan Kenneth E. Gross Jr. He told the ambassador that the government is trying to prove a connection between the IRPT and the recent attacks by militants on government forces in the eastern Rasht and northern Isfara districts.
Gross told RFE/RL that there has been some normalization of the situation in eastern Tajikistan. "We understand from the government...that they have the situation in hand," he said.
At the end of October, the U.S., British, German, and French ambassadors as well as the head of an EU delegation voiced their concern with the state of media freedom in Tajikistan to the Tajik Foreign Ministry. They noted that three newspapers: "Farazh," "Paikon," and "Nigoh" have been effectively shut down by being deprived of the possibility to print -- allegedly on the order of government officials.
The ambassadors noted that on September 29, Deputy Transport and Communications Minister Bek Zuhurov ordered all major Internet service providers to block access to five independent media websites -- Tojnews.tj, Avesta.tj, Tjknews.com, Centrasia.ru, and Ferghana.ru.
The diplomats cited public statements by senior government officials attacking independent media outlets and expressed concern that on September 3 RFE/RL's Qamar Ahror and Ferghana Information Agency journalist Tilav Rasulzoda were detained by security officials in Khujand while reporting on an attack on a police station. Photos they had taken in Khujand were also deleted.
The ambassadors also noted that libel cases against Asia Plus, "Farazh," "Ozodagon," "Paikon," and "Millat" for publishing articles critical of the government remain open, and they called for a swift settlement of those cases.
The diplomats called on the government to live up to its Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe commitments to guarantee freedom of the press and information. Specifically, they said the government should not interfere in the printing of newspapers and should allow unhindered access to all Internet sites.