Freelance journalist detained by security officers in northern Tajikistan on unspecified charges
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Tajikistan's State Committee for National Security (SCNS) has detained a freelance journalist Khurshed Fozilov in his native city Panjakent in Sughd province on unspecified charges. His relatives told Asia-Plus on March 9 that there are three days already that they have not been able to find out what for Fozilov was detained. A 37-year-old Khurshed Fozilov, a freelance journalist, who has cooperated with several independent media outlets, including the independent website Akhbor, which is based abroad, was reportedly detained on March 6 at the Panjakent Directorate of Labor, Migration and Employment, where he worked on a contractual basis. 'The contract ended in January, and Khurshed came to the Directorate on March 6 to visit former colleagues. He was taken from the building by two unidentified men in civilian clothes. Four more men in civilian clothes came the next day and took away the computer on which he worked. We asked about the reason for the detention of Khurshed, but they didn't say anything,' one of employees of the Directorate told Asia-Plus on the basis of anonymity. Later it turned out that Fozilov was detained by security officers and he is currently being held in the SCNS's office in Panjakent. Security officers reportedly promised his relatives to release him after interrogation, but on the evening of March 8, security officers asked Khurshed's relatives to bring his mobile phone, notebook and personal belongings. 'They showed him to us and said that he confessed to everything. But they did not specifically say what he confessed to,' one of Fozilov's relatives told Asia-Plus Thursday (March 9) afternoon. Khurshed Fozilov's mother Aziza Numonova told RFE/RL on March 8 that her son had been detained two days earlier. Numonova added that she was allowed to see her son on March 7, but he could not tell her the exact charges he faces. Recall, Tajikistan authorities blocked access to the Prague-based news website Akhbr.com noting that it serves as a platform for terrorists and extremists. Tajikistan's Supreme Court ruled that Akhbor.com should be blocked on the grounds that it offers a platform to 'terrorist and extremist organizations.' According to the Supreme Court press center, the ruling to block access to the website is based on the request from the Prosecutor-General's Office issued on February 18, 2020 and it entered into force on March 19, 2020. It is to be noted that last year, seven Tajik journalists and bloggers Mamadsulton Mavlonazarov, Abdulloh Ghurbati, Daler Imomali, Zavqibek Saidamini, Khoushrouz Jumayev, Ulfatkhonim Mamadshoyeva and Abdusattor Pirmuhammadzoda were sentenced to prison terms of between seven and twenty-one years. They were charged with spreading false information, participation in extremism community and collaboration with banned organization. The journalists themselves and their relatives reject these charges as absolutely unfounded. International groups, including Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), have called on the Tajik government to release the reporters and end its campaign against the free press. A report released by the CPJ on December 14 last year says arrest and conviction of independent journalists and bloggers makes Tajikistan the leading jailer in Central Asia. The report, in particular, notes that the prisoners were tried secretly behind closed doors in detention centers, not courts, and sentenced to lengthy prison terms amid allegations of torture. Tajikistan was ranked 152nd out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders' 2022 World Press Freedom Index, and Not Free in Freedom House's 2022 Global Freedom Status, with a score of 8/100.