Press crackdown in Tajikistan

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Newsline reports Aug. 10 that three opposition parties—the Democratic Party, Social Democratic Party, and a wing of the Socialist Party—issued a statement protesting limitations on freedom of the press in Tajikistan. The statement said that “political pluralism and freedom of speech, guaranteed by the constitution, have been subjected to pressure and risk over the past few years,” noting the closure of the independent newspapers Ruzi Nav and Nerui Sukhan in the run-up to February 2005 parliamentary elections. On the day the statement was released, police arrested Nurali Mirzoev, an employee at an Internet cafe in Dushanbe, the capital, and charged him with membership in the outlawed Islamist organization Hizb ut-Tahrir. Police also confiscated Hizb ut-Tahrir leaflets and discovered the texts of the leaflets stored on computers at the cafe.

As we reported in our recent feature on Uzbekistan, Hizb ut-Tahrir (Party of Liberation) is a regional Central Asian Islamist group which is non-violent in orientation. It has nonetheless met with harsh rerpression in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The Uzbek regime has blamed the group for actions apparently committed by an armed cell, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which is on the State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Uzbekistan has been lobbying the State Department to have Hizb ut-Tahrir added to the list.

See our last post on the politics of Central Asia, and our report on Tajikistan’s contested elections.