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The UN special rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression has expressed "grave" concern over the situation faced by civil-society groups, independent media, and political opposition in Tajikistan.

In his March 10 statement, David Kayle cautioned about "the widespread blocking of websites and networks, including mobile services, by the Tajik authorities."

Kayle voiced concern over the recent ban of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, prosecution of its leaders in secret trials, and attacks on members of Group 24 and other independent politicians.

Kayle urged the Tajik authorities to release all persons detained on political grounds and ensure due process and a fair trial for those charged with serious crimes.

Kayle is to prepare a report to the UN Human Rights Council on his main findings from a recent official visit to Tajikistan.

He will also make recommendations on how to better promote the right to freedom of expression in Tajikistan.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) says Russian authorities' inaction in the face of hostility against media was, in part, to blame for an attack near Chechnya that left six journalists injured.

The CPJ's statement on March 10 came a day after attackers intercepted a small bus carrying activists and journalists, beat them, and set the vehicle afire.

The journalists were on a media trip arranged by a nongovernmental organization, the Committee for Prevention of Torture. They were traveling from neighboring Ingushetia, hoping to cross into Chechnya.

Group member Oleg Khabibrakhmanov said there had been two other attacks on their organization recently.

"The attack follows a burst of menacing comments on social media and in the press...by government officials in Chechnya," a CPJ statement said.

CPJ said the March 9 attack "was enabled by the government's inaction in the face of overt hostility to the press."

Chechnya's Kremlin-backed leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, and his supporters have publicly vilified the Committee to Prevent Torture's activists.

Kadyrov has been accused of running Chechnya as if it were his own fiefdom, often disregarding Russian law in his pursuit to keep order in the restive North Caucasus republic.

One of the journalists who was attacked, Norwegian Oystein Windstat, linked the violence to stories he wrote in December about two Chechens found dead in Chechnya after they returned from Norway where they were denied refugee status.

With reporting by AP

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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