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Tajik Court Suspends Activities Of Independent Pollster Citing Violations Of Group's Charter

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Qahramon Baqozoda, director of the Zerkalo polling organization (file photo)

DUSHANBE -- A court in Dushanbe has suspended the operations of one of the few remaining independent pollsters in Tajikistan, the Zerkalo (Mirror) Center For Social Studies.

Deputy Justice Minister Asadullo Hakimzoda told reporters on July 13 that the Ismoili Somoni district court had suspended Zerkalo's operations for two months.

Hakimzoda said that the court made the decision on the ministry's request after Zerkalo "failed to correct shortcomings," namely violations of its charter by the group's leadership, including hiring people without the necessary documentation and making decisions without taking into account the opinions of other members of the organization.

Qahramon Baqozoda*, Zerkalo's director, told RFE/RL that the Justice Ministry's move to suspend his organization's operations "might have been based on a misunderstanding," adding that his organization hires people by signing work contracts with all of them and requesting labor booklets from them, as required by law.

"If some of future employees do not have labor booklets, we issue such booklets for them. The Justice Ministry has checked us since 2010 and there have been no problems before," Baqozoda said.

According to Baqozoda, the ministry's last inspection was in late 2019, after which it asked him "to correct all violations" and report back in one month.

"Because we don't have a lawyer, we submitted our report to the ministry in March, which was too late as the ministry had filed its request to suspend our operations by that time," Baqozoda said.

Hakimzoda told journalists that Zerkalo could be allowed to resume its operations if the ministry finds that the violations have been corrected.

Zerkalo has been operating in Tajikistan for almost 20 years. Its numerous polls and surveys on various issues and developments in the Central Asian nation have always differed from surveys conducted by government or pro-government agencies.

Many experts in Tajikistan have said that Zerkalo's surveys reflect the real situation in the country and some international organizations in their reports on Tajikistan use data collected by Zerkalo's polls.

*Qahramon Baqozoda is the brother of Khiramon Baqozoda, who works in RFE/RL's Tajik Service.
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