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Bipartisan Group Of U.S. Lawmakers Urge Rahmon To End Pressure On RFE/RL's Tajik Service

Tajik President Emomali Rahmon (file photo)
Tajik President Emomali Rahmon (file photo)

A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers has sent a letter to Tajik President Emomali Rahmon urging him to help end what they say are pressure and threats to RFE/RL's Tajik Service journalists and their families.

"We are writing to express concern about the reported ongoing harassment and intimidation of employees of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's (RFE/RL) Tajik Service (known locally as Radio Ozodi) and their families, as well as numerous obstacles that your government have used to prevent Radio Ozodi from operating freely," the eight members of U.S. Congress wrote in their letter dated October 29.

The letter was signed by Representatives Adam Schiff (Democrat-California), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Steve Chabot (Republican-Ohio), Carolyn B. Maloney (Democrat-New York), Chris Smith (Republican-New Jersey), David N. Cicilline (Democrat-Rhode Island), Jamie Raskin (Democrat-Maryland), Brian Fitzpatrick (Republican-Pennsylvania), and Ron Kind (Democrat-Wisconsin).

The letter is a follow-up to similar appeals made in 2019 and last year, when Schiff and Chabot also called on the Tajik authorities to stop interfering in the activities of Radio Ozodi, cited unduly short extensions of press credentials for some RFE/RL correspondents, and the outright refusal by authorities to renew the press accreditation of others.

In the new letter, the U.S. lawmakers warn that "despite the statements of your government on the recognition of democratic values and freedom of speech, the journalists of Radio Ozodi and their family members in the country and abroad are subjected to serious pressure from the authorities, and even receive threats of physical harm."

The lawmakers go on to list examples of the harassment that RFE/RL journalists face in Tajikistan, including frequent raids on the reporters' workplace and homes, direct pressure on reporters and indirect pressure through their relatives to stop working for Ozodi, denial of accreditation and limiting its duration to only three months instead of the customary one year, and the interdiction of internships at the Dushanbe bureau since 2019.

"For example, denials of accreditation are currently impacting the ability of at least eight journalists to work with Radio Ozodi," the letter says.

"The ability of the press to operate accurately and independently is a vital component of a free society, and we hope to be partners in improving and preserving media freedom in your country," the U.S. lawmakers said, urging Rahmon to take all necessary steps to ensure the smooth operation of Radio Ozodi in the country.

"As members of the U.S. Congress, which funds RFE/RL, we express our continued concern about these reports of ongoing harassment and undermining of Radio Ozodi and its staff.

"We remain worried that these continuing actions, which we first raised two years ago, could pose challenges for the U.S.-Tajik relationship."