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The website of "Millat"
Another Tajik newspaper has officially been charged with libel, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

The Tajik Agriculture Ministry filed the defamation lawsuit on January 28 against the weekly "Millat" (Nation). Ministry spokesman Nazrullo Dodoboev told RFE/RL that the newspaper printed an article in December that gave "wrong and unproven information stating that the ministry is allegedly corrupted."

"Millat" chief editor Zohir Davlat told RFE/RL the information in the article was based on results of a parliamentary investigation in which ministry officials were found to have either misused or stole some $60 million of state funds.

The charges against "Millat" come on the heels of a similar case against another publication.

On January 27, a Dushanbe court upheld a verdict on the weekly "Paykon" (Arrowhead), which was found guilty of libel and ordered to pay a $40,000 fine to the state company Tajikstandart.

Nuriddin Qarshiboev, chairman of the National Association of Independent Media, told RFE/RL that both cases are likely connected to the Tajik government's efforts to silence independent media ahead of the February 28 parliamentary elections.

He said that for publications like "Paykon" and "Millat," such large fines will force the newspapers to close.
Ramazan Esergepov, editor of 'Alma-Ata Info'
A prison appeals commission today rejected a request for early parole by jailed "Alma-Ata Info" editor Ramazan Esergepov, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Esergepov's wife, Raushan Esergepova, told RFE/RL she thinks the commission, in the southern Kazakh city of Taraz, made the decision under pressure "from above."

Esergepova said the prison commission ruled on January 12 to parole Esergepov, who has served one year of his three-year sentence. But she added that the same commission held a second meeting on January 23 and ruled to keep Esergepov in jail.

Taraz prison officials refused to comment on the decisions and told RFE/RL to send a formal inquiry.

Esergepova said she received a letter from Deputy Prosecutor-General Askar Sekishev in December that said Esergepov has the right to be paroled after having served one-third of his prison term.

Esergepova said she will appeal the commission's negative decision to the Prosecutor-General's Office.

Rozlana Taukina, the head of the Kazakh nongovernmental organization Journalists in Trouble, told RFE/RL that it will protest against the commission decision, which she called "another subjective and prejudiced decision against a journalist who criticized the security services."

Esergepov was found guilty of revealing state secrets and sentenced to three years in prison one year ago. His supporters and rights organizations say the case against him is politically motivated because of his independent newspaper, which has stopped publishing since his arrest.

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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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