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Tajik Weekly Charged With Libel By Ministry

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.