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Tajik Newspaper Editor Assaulted In Dushanbe

"Farazh" editor Khurshed Atovullo

"Farazh" editor Khurshed Atovullo

DUSHANBE -- The chief editor of an independent Tajik newspaper says he and his relatives were beaten by unknown attackers while going to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Khurshed Atovullo, editor of the weekly "Farazh," told RFE/RL he was driving to a friend's home in Dushanbe on August 31 when a car blocked the road and forced him to stop.

Three people armed with clubs then attacked him, his brother, and his brother-in-law, who were with him.

Atovullo added that at least four more people waiting for them in Dushanbe's Zarafshon-2 district joined the first group of assailants. He said the men did not give a reason for the attack.

Qaysiddin Aliev, the officer on duty in Dushanbe's Sino-2 police station, said his station took a statement from Atovullo about the attack. Aliev added that Atovullo was sent for a medical check-up and the police were waiting for the results before launching an investigation.

Aliev said it should be easy to detain the attackers because Atovullo saw the license-plate number of the assailants' car.

Nuriddin Qarshiboev, the head of National Association of Independent Media of Tajikistan, deplored the attack on Atovullo.

Qarshiboev said if there was evidence that Atovullo was beaten for being a journalist then the association would offer him legal advice.

"Farazh" and two other independent weeklies were effectively closed down for three weeks in October after not being allowed to use any printing facilities, reportedly on orders from government officials displeased by what they called "aggressive" coverage of military operations in the eastern Rasht Valley last year.

The U.S., British, French, and German ambassadors and the head of a European Union delegation cited that printing-access deprivation when expressing concerns to the Tajik Foreign Ministry in the fall about the state of media freedom in the country.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Davlat Nazriev told RFE/RL late last year that the government did not issue a ban on the printing of the newspapers. The pressure on "Farazh" was subsequently lifted.

In April, a legal dispute between three Supreme Court judges and three independent newspapers -- including "Farazh" -- was settled out of court after more than a year of dispute.

The case began in January 2010 when the newspapers "Ozodagon," "Farazh," and "Asia Plus" published a statement by lawyer Solehjon Juraev accusing the Supreme Court of corruption.

Atovullo was also attacked and nearly killed by unknown attackers in 1995 when he worked as a journalist.