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Usmonov, BBC’s Tajik journalist, on trial in court

Written by on Wednesday, 17 August 2011
Media and Internet, Politics and Society, Tajikistan

While joyfully reporting that BBC’s Tajik journalist Urunboy Usmonov was released from custody last month – “The BBC’s Usmonov is released!” – neweurasia now anxiously learns that he is still facing unjust criminal prosecution.

Check out neweurasia’s “Alleged religious association lands a BBC journalist in Tajik detention” for a thorough look into Usmonov’s case.

On August 15th, BBC reported:

“Usmanov has received notice on Monday that he must appear in court in Khujand – hometown of the journalist in northern Tajikistan.”

On August 16th, BBC informed:

“He has repeatedly denied the charges, saying his only contact with the group was to interview some members as part of his work reporting on the region.”

Also on August 16th, Journalism.co.uk said:

“Although the specific charges against Usmanov are still unclear, he has been accused in the country’s state media of being a member of Hizbut-Tahrir, an extreme Islamist organisation which is banned in the country.”

During these days of trial, Asia-Plus.tj informs on exactly what charges the journalist is fighting against:

“Urunboy Usmonov faces accusations under two articles of the Criminal Code – article 36 part 5 (types of accomplices, not informing about the crime), article 307, note 3 (participation in activity of political parties, public or religious association, banned in Tajikistan).”

Do mainstream journalists – thus trustworthy newsmakers who inform the world by the stories they break – have personal political affiliations with every topic they research and every story they cover, in particular the controversial ones? Of course not. And if this is what – and it seems that it is, based on their reaction to Usmonov’s case – the Tajik authorities are trying to notion to, then they have the entire concept of professional, informative, mainstream journalism spot-on-wrong.

On August 17th, Robert Mahoney, Deputy Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called the charges “abserd”, continuing:

“Journalism requires reporters to have contact with all groups, including those opposed to governments.”

Faizinisso Vokhidova, Usmonov’s lawyer, told CPJ:

“Prosecutors see his complicity with the group in his reporting on the trials of its members, and allege that he used the BBC as a platform for Hizb-ut-Tahrir propaganda. But that’s nonsense—he has been covering the group for 11 years, and as a journalist, he had to collect information and meet with the sources”.

To reinforce the obvious – BBC clearly and firmly says, and has been saying all along:

“The BBC has insisted throughout that it regards the allegations as completely unfounded. The corporation has said that it believes meetings and interviews with people representing all shades of opinion are part of the work of any BBC journalist.”

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty says:

“Usmonov’s arrest on June 13 was condemned by international media and rights advocates as a censorship attempt.”

The release of Urunboy last month proves how influential global outcries by media agencies and international organizations have on the mistreatment of journalists – the eyes and ears that see and hear what happens around the world on a daily basis, and who we as the audience depend on and trust.

In their attempts to silence journalists simply doing their job,authorities in Tajikistan – and other countries alike – just draw more attention to their own dictatorial actions.

In addition to Uuruboy, Central Asian Newswire (CAN) informs:

“Four others are also facing charges of complicity with HT along with Usmonov. These four appeared in a cage in the courtroom while Usmonov did not, the BBC news agency reported Usmonov’s lawyer as saying.”

On the first day of trial, CAN reports:

“The first day of a trial against a BBC reporter in Tajikistan resulted in his four co-defendants confessing they belong to a banned Islamic group.”

If you are interested in the perspectices of Religion Today’s “Hizb ut-Tahrir News”, check them out because they are covering the story extensively, but you need a membership to access the articles. But here are snippits from the homepage:

“…Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is outlawed in Tajikistan for allegedly fomenting unrest…”

“…the northern city of Khujand also began considering on Tuesday whether the reporter assisted Hizb ut-Tahrir by failing to inform authorities of his meetings with group members…”

“…He has repeatedly denied the charges…”

And for a final tit-for-tat to leave off with, CAN said:

“Interior Minister Abdurahim Qahharov last month said that senior police will be dismissed if the reporter is found to be not guilty.”

It seems someone will lose in the end of this cat-and-mouse game, and with all due respect to journalistic integrity and human rights, let’s sure hope it isn’t Urunboy Usmonov.

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  • flo rida says:

    the importance of this process is that other Central Asian leaders could see how vital their participation and effort to sustain a better international image is. Rahmon’s ‘participation’ played a very important role, which does not necessarily mean that other journalists would enjoy the same privilege. the mechanism of a stronger lobbying could be an asset in future mutual efforts in greater protecting journalists of the region.


  • [...] But considering ASIA-Plus’s reporting of lawyer Vokhidova saying that Judge Shodikhon Nazarov “did not react to his [Usmonov] statement [about being tortured]”, one could troublesomely wonder if Qahharov’s statement will actually suffice. After all, if the Judge ignored his plea, then will the police do the same? Again – undoubtedly – let’s sure hope not! [...]

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