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Sanja Mikleusevic Pavic (left), president of the management board of Croatian Radio and Television (HRT) and Hrvoje Zovko, president of Croatian Journalism Society (HND) in Zagreb.

Several hundred Croatian journalists have rallied in the capital, Zagreb, against what they call the curbing of press freedoms and pressure on journalists.

The rally on March 2 was organized by the Croatian Journalists' Association (HND) in protest over more than 1,100 lawsuits filed against journalists and media outlets in the country.

The protesters marched through downtown Zagreb blowing whistles and playing drums.

"Enough of persecution of journalists...it has gone on for decades," Hrvoje Zovko, the leader of the HND, told the rally.

Zovko accused the government of "behaving ignorantly...and destroying journalism.”

"We live in a country where one can be condemned for publishing true information," he said.

The lawsuits have mainly been filed by politicians and other public figures, with most of them claiming compensation for nonmaterial damages such as "mental anguish" or "tarnished reputation.”

The issue came into focus after Croatia's public broadcaster, HRT, filed more than 30 lawsuits against its own and other journalists, including Zovko, who complained of censorship.

In January, both the International and European Federations of Journalists called on HRT management to drop the lawsuits.

Critics say the HRT, which is mainly financed through a monthly license fee paid by users, serves the ruling parties' interests rather than operating as a genuine public service.

Based on reporting by AFP and AP
Sharofiddin Gadoev at the Frankfurt Airport on March 2

A prominent Tajik opposition activist, who resurfaced in Dushanbe last month from self-imposed exile in the Netherlands, has returned to Europe.

Sharofiddin Gadoev appeared on a video live-streamed on a Tajik opposition group’s Facebook account on March 2 and issued thanks “to all the organizations and countries” that voiced concern over his case.

“It is thanks to your tireless efforts that I’m able to speak in a free and peaceful environment,” Gadoev said.

“I will possibly give...more details in the next few hours,” Gadoev said, standing next to Muhiddin Kabiri, the leader of the banned Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT).

The Europe-based opposition National Alliance of Tajikistan that shared the video said it was live-streamed from Germany's Frankfurt Airport.

Gadoev, a member of the banned Group-24 opposition movement, recently resurfaced in Tajikistan, sparking claims that he was abducted during a trip to Russia.

Tajik authorities insist Gadoev, 33, returned voluntarily on February 15. They shared a video that shows Gadoev criticizing the opposition and urging other activists to follow suit and return to Tajikistan.

But on February 21, the Dutch Foreign Ministry said Gadoev was arrested in Tajikistan on suspicion of “criminal activities,” an allegation linked to his past business activities.

Tajik authorities have not announced his arrest or commented on the Dutch statement.

Four leading human rights groups -- Human Rights Watch (HRW), the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, the Association of Central Asian Migrants, and the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia -- said in a February 24 statement that Gadoev should be released from Tajik custody and allowed to return immediately to the Netherlands, where he has refugee status.

Sources investigating Gadoev’s case discovered that Russian security service officers forced Gadoev into a car in Moscow on February 14 and drove him to Domodedovo Airport, where the activist was placed on a flight to Dushanbe, the human rights groups said in their statement.

Steve Swerdlow, HRW's Central Asia researcher, said that in Tajikistan Gadoev was facing “trumped-up charges for his peaceful exercise of freedom of expression."

There were no immediate comments from Tajik officials about Gadoev’s return to Europe.

President Emomali Rahmon, who has ruled Tajikistan since 1992, has been repeatedly criticized for crackdowns on dissent.

Group 24 was banned as an “extremist” movement in October 2014 after it called for antigovernment protests in Dushanbe and other cities.

The IRPT, a key political rival of the Tajik government, was banned by the Supreme Court as a “terrorist” organization in 2015. The party had in previous years been a coalition member within the government.

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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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