Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns Tajikistan’s decision to ban Pamir Daily News, an independent news site that is one of the few sources of coverage of Gorno-Badakhshan (GBAO), an isolated autonomous mountainous region in the east of the country. The ban is clearly designed to cut this troubled region off from the rest of the world, says RSF.
Tajikistan’s supreme court declared Pamir Daily News to be an “extremist organisation” on 14 June, thereby banning it from any form of activity in Tajikistan. The decision was made public and effective on 19 July. Its website is now blocked and any participation in its activities, or support for it, is now punishable to 7 to 21 years in prison under Tajikistan’s laws. Its journalists, who are mostly based abroad, have announced that they want to continue publishing under another name.
This Russian-language site – which takes its name from the Pamir Mountains, once dubbed the “roof of the world” – has been covering Tajik national news and GBAO local news since 2019. Its readership was boosted enormously by its unique coverage of the violent uprisings in this mountainous region in 2021 and 2022. But the Tajik authorities have been trying to silence it ever since.
“President Emomali Rakhmon’s government cannot stand being reminded of the crimes it committed in the GBAO. The banning of Pamir Daily News is another step in its bid to turn ‘the roof of the world’ into an information abyss. We call on the international community to put pressure on Tajikistan to stop muzzling journalists who draw attention to human rights violations in the region.
Head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk
During the political protests and unrest in the GBAO in late 2021 and the ensuing bloody crackdown in the spring of 2022, the authorities disconnected the Internet for months, while threats forced national media outlets such as Asia-Plus to stop covering the region. The Tajik government deliberately used all possible means to suppress photos, video and other evidence of the army’s use of deadly violence, in which dozens of protesters, especially members of the Pamir minority, were killed.
The reporting by Pamir Daily News proved to be essential for keeping the international community informed about human rights violations in the region. The site has continued to provide this reporting ever since, while taking many precautions and protecting the identity of its reporters for safety reasons.
Other independent media and journalists are also hounded by the Tajik authorities. Khurshed Fozilov was sentenced to seven years in prison at the end of an unfair trial on 26 May, becoming the fifth journalist to receive a heavy prison sentence in less than a year.
The catastrophic decline in the press freedom situation has been reflected in Tajikistan’s position in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index, in which it is now ranked 153rd and has joined those countries where the situation is classified as “very bad.”