DUSHANBE -- The entire staff of the Russian-language weekly "Vecherny Dushanbe" has resigned to protest censorship and "harassment" by their owner, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.
Journalists at the newspaper issued a statement on January 18 announcing their resignations.
They also accused Akbar Sattor, head of the Charkhi Gardun Media Group that owns the paper, of censorship, harassment, and ignoring the country's labor law.
Gulnora Amirshoeva told RFE/RL today that the paper's staff had been under nonstop pressure for the past six months. She said Sattor repeatedly threatened to close the weekly because it is not profitable.
Amirshoeva said journalists at "Vecherny Dushanbe" asked Sattor to let them take over the paper, but he demanded a huge sum of money to do so.
Sattor rejected Amirshoeva's charges. He told RFE/RL it was true that "Vecherny Dushanbe" is unprofitable, but denied he wanted to close it.
Sattor said he planned to launch another weekly in Tajik that would have the same content as "Vecherny Dushanbe" because there is an increasingly smaller demand in Tajikistan for Russian-language newspapers.
Sattor said that despite the journalists' resignation he would try to publish the weekly as usual.
Media experts note that Sattor's situation is delicate because he is also the head of Tajikistan's Union of Journalists, and in that capacity is obliged to defend journalists' rights.
Tajik lawyer Hamza Hakimzoda said that according to the law, in cases where a conflict of interest arises the official involved should put his/her union leadership ahead of commercial interests.
"Vecherny Dushanbe" was founded in 1968 as the daily newspaper of the Dushanbe Committee of Tajikistan's Communist Party. It became independent in 1992 and, in 1996, Sattor's media group acquired it and turned it into a weekly.