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Independent Tajik Press Suffers From Ban On Street Sales

Selling newspapers on a Dushanbe street
Owners of independent Tajik newspapers are complaining that a new ban on selling newspapers on the streets of Dushanbe is hurting sales, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Zafar Sufi, the owner and chief editor of the weekly newspaper "Ozodagon," told RFE/RL on February 23 that most people buy newspapers on their way to work or when they walk in the city center, and the ban curbs those purchases.

Sufi said that when the Dushanbe municipal administration banned street sales of newspapers, sellers had to build new booths. But most newspaper sellers can't afford to buy the booths and, as a result, newspapers are incurring financial losses because of lower street sales.

Shavkat Saidov, a spokesman for the Dushanbe mayor, said on February 23 that the ban on street sales does not apply only to newspapers. He said the new regulations prohibit placing any item for sale on the ground, whether newspapers or food products.

Saidov said vendors should keep newspapers in their bags or sell them from booths. He added that it is even permissible to sell newspapers on public transport if the newspapers are kept in bags.

The head of the Union of Journalists of Tajikistan, Akabar Sattor, told RFE/RL that police sometimes abuse their authority when seeking to prevent the sale of merchandise on the streets.

Other observers see the ban on street sales of newspapers as part of a broader political campaign against the independent press.

They say other methods being used by authorities are court cases against many independent publications and the raising of VAT on January 1 from 4 percent to 18 percent. They say this trend by the government threatens the freedom of information.

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