Tajik Authorities Launch Probe Into Attack Against RFE/RL Correspondents

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DUSHANBE -- Tajik authorities have officially launched a probe into last month's attack against journalists from RFE/RL's Tajik Service and Current Time amid an outcry by human rights advocates and media groups.

The Independent Human Rights Defense Center in Dushanbe said on June 8 that the four journalists have been officially defined as victims in the case.

Two journalists from RFE/RL's Tajik Service, known locally as Radio Ozodi, and two from Current Time, a collaboration between RFE/RL and Voice of America, were attacked on May 17 by unknown assailants after they interviewed an activist accused of organizing a protest march that turned deadly in Tajikistan's restive Gorno-Badakhshan region (GBAO).

The attackers also confiscated the journalists’ equipment, mobile phones, and wallets. They gave back money they found in the journalists' wallets but kept the equipment and mobile phones, saying they would be returned to them a a later date.

About 30 minutes later, Anushervon Orifov and Nasim Isamov of Current Time were attacked in the same manner, apparently by the same assailants.

The attacks took place after the journalists conducted separate interviews with well-known civil rights activist Ulfatkhonum Mamatshoeva, whom Tajik authorities accused of organizing the May 16 deadly protests in the volatile GBAO.

On May 28, an unknown person approached Mullorajab Yusufi in Dushanbe and told him that the journalists' mobile phones and equipment can be returned to them only if they withdraw their complaints with police, adding that otherwise, "your family members will not feel safe."

Abdurahmon Sharipov, a lawyer with the Independent Human Rights Defense Center, told reporters on June 8 that police launched investigations into "robbery." Sharipov added that the Interior Ministry had officially ordered Dushanbe city police department to provide safety to the journalists and their families.

The journalists involved, however, have said the attack was not a robbery as the assailants knew their names and returned their cash, leading them to believe that it was a targeted move to interfere with their journalistic activities.

On May 20, the Committee to Protect Journalists called on Tajik authorities to thoroughly investigate the attack and bring all those involved in it to justice.

Eleven media outlets and journalists' organizations in Tajikistan have also demanded authorities find and punish the attackers.

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