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Independent Tajik Weekly Has Equipment Confiscated

DUSHANBE -- Equipment from the offices of the independent Tajik weekly "Paikon" has been confiscated in line with a court-imposed fine of 300,000 somonis ($67,153) for libeling state consumer-protection agency Tojikstandart, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

"Paikon" correspondent Ahliddin Salimpour told RFE/RL that court bailiffs took two computers, a scanner, and a printer from the newspaper's offices.

Tojikstandart brought the defamation suit after "Paikon" in 2009 published a statement from a group of businessmen who accused the product-safety watchdog of obstructing their activities.

In October 2009, Dushanbe's Firdavsi district court ordered "Paikon" to pay 300,000 somonis in compensation to Tojikstandart.

Tajik lawyer Shuhrat Qudratov argued that the property confiscated by the court did not belong to "Paikon" but to the Bureau of Linguistic Expertise, Legal Advice, and Journalistic Investigations which, like "Paikon," belongs to journalist Jumaboy Tolibov.

Nuriddin Qarshiboev, chairman of the National Association of Independent Media, alleged that the court case against "Paikon" was aimed not at ensuring that justice prevailed but at "strik[ing] fear in the hearts" of journalists.

"Paikon" has a weekly print run of 2,000 copies. Its editors are hoping that other newspapers will agree to publish reports written by "Paikon" journalists in the event that it cannot continue publishing.

Such mutual assistance is becoming increasingly common among hard-pressed independent publications in Tajikistan facing official pressure.