Independent journalist charged with extremism sentenced to seven years in prison
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Independent journalist Zavqibek Saidamini, who is charged with extremism, has got a lengthy jail term.
A court in Dushanbe’s Ismoili Somoni district sentenced Zavqibek Saidamini to seven years in prison on November 3.
The journalist pleaded not guilty to the charges brought against him.
The court’s ruling was nearly identical to the prosecution’s earlier demand for a 7 ½-year prison term.
The trial of Zavqibek Saidamini that began at the Dushanbe-based pretrial detention center on October 11 was held behind closed doors.
Zavqibek Saidamini was detained in Vahdat Township, some 17 kilometers east of Dushanbe, on July 8. He was charged with participating in an extremist group.
The charge stems from Saidamini’s links to two banned opposition parties, the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) and Group 24.
According to some sources, he has repeatedly denied supporting any political group. Both organizations also deny any cooperation with the journalist.
Zavqibek Saidamini published commentary and reporting on his YouTube channels, which have a total of about 15,000 subscribers. His recent videos reportedly cover topics including border conflicts with Kyrgyzstan, religion, and allegations of unlawful military drafting practices.
Saidamini reportedly worked as an editor and presenter at the state broadcaster Tajikistan Television until 2019, when he quit as he felt unable to report freely.
Currently, Tajik journalists and bloggers Ulfatkhonim Mamadshoyeva, Abdusattor Pirmuhammadzoda, and Hushom Gulyuam are in custody waiting for their trials on extremism charges that human rights groups call politically motivated.
Earlier this year, journalists Abdullo Ghurbati, Mamadsulton Mavlonazarov, and Daler Imomali were sentenced to prison terms of between seven and 10 years on extremism charges.
International groups have called on the Tajik government to release the detained reporters and end its campaign against the free press.
Ranked 152nd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2022 World Press Freedom Index, Tajikistan has fallen 36 places in the index since 2015.