Tajikistan Labels Opposition Group’s Website Extremist

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DUSHANBE — Tajikistan’s Prosecutor-General’s Office says the Central Asian nation’s Supreme Court has labeled the New Tajikistan 2 website — which belongs to the opposition Group 24 movement — as extremist and banned its activities in the country. 

The statement on July 26 added that all social networks and YouTube accounts belonging to more than 20 New Tajikistan 2 website authors had also been banned and blocked in Tajikistan. The Prosecutor-General’s Office said any cooperation with the banned sites and its authors is punishable by up to eight years in prison.

The self-exiled leader of Group 24, Suhrob Zafar, told RFE/RL that the authorities’ move will not affect the activities of his movement and its website.

Group 24 was labeled as terrorist and extremist and banned in the tightly controlled former Soviet republic in 2014. In March 2015, the movement’s founder, businessman Umarali Quvatov, was assassinated in Istanbul.

Last week, Tajik authorities labeled as extremist and banned the popular Pamir Daily News website, which covers developments in Tajikistan’s volatile Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region, citing “the defense of Tajikistan’s constitutional order, security, and sovereignty.”

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the move and called on Dushanbe to reverse the decision.

Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, who has run the Central Asian nation with an iron fist 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.

Last year, Tajik courts sentenced seven journalists and bloggers to prison terms ranging from seven years to 21 years on charges of spreading false information, involvement in the 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, and governments of the United States and the European Union 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.

Source: RFE/RL