Detained Tajik Journalist Charged With Calling For Change To Constitutional Order

PANJAKENT, Tajikistan -- Tajik journalist Khurshed Fozilov, who was arrested last week in the Central Asian country's northeastern city of Panjakent, has been charged with public calls to forcibly change Tajikistan's constitutional order.

Fozilov's brother, Khushbakht, told RFE/RL on March 13 that the journalist has rejected the charge and maintains his innocence.

Panjakent city authorities and law enforcement officials have not been available for comment on the situation concerning Fozilov.

The 37-year-old father of three is a freelance journalist who has cooperated with several independent media outlets, including the independent website Akhbor, which is based outside the country.

He often covers social issues and problems faced by ordinary people in the region and was critical of the local government. He has been active on social media networks, as well.

Fozilov was arrested on March 6. No information on his arrest was given when he was taken into custody.

Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, who has run the Central Asian nation for almost 30 years, has been criticized by international human rights groups over his administration's alleged disregard for independent media, religious freedoms, civil society, and political pluralism in the tightly controlled former Soviet republic.

Last year, Tajik courts sentenced seven journalists and bloggers to prison terms ranging from seven to 21 years on charges of spreading false information, involvement into activities of extremist groups, and cooperation with banned organizations. The journalists, their supporters, and human rights groups have called the charges trumped up and politically motivated.

International human rights groups, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the U.S. government, and EU states have called on the Tajik government to drop all charges against the journalists and release them.

Tajikistan was ranked 152nd in Reporters Without Borders' 2022 World Press Freedom Index, and designated "not free" in Freedom House's 2022 Global Freedom Status, with a score of 8/100.

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