VIENNA, 10 October 2011 - The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatović, condemned today the prosecution’s request for a 16-year prison term for Tajik journalist Mahmadyusuf Ismoilov and called for his immediate release.
“I call on the authorities to drop all charges against Ismoilov, as they result from his professional journalistic work, and to release him immediately,” said Mijatović.
Ismoilov, a journalist who works for the local newspaper Nuri Zindagi, has been held in pre-trial detention, in Khujand and Asht, since 23 November 2010. He was indicted for criminal libel and insult of public officials, extortion and incitement of “regional hatred.” According to the Tajik prosecutors, he committed most of these crimes in an August 2010 newspaper article.
"If journalists who criticize government officials face criminal charges, lengthy investigative detention and punitive prison sentences, Tajikistan risks stifling public discourse," said Mijatović.
"Ismoilov's possible conviction would have an enormous chilling effect. His many months of detention have already sent a threatening message to Tajikistan's journalists."
“I have been following the case of Ismoilov since his arrest in November last year and have intervened on his case three times with the Tajik authorities. Unfortunately I have not to date received any official response from the government,” Mijatović added.
“I look forward to my upcoming visit to Tajikistan to discuss with the authorities this and other issues of concern to my Office, including the ongoing trial against BBC correspondent Urunboi Usmonov,” said Mijatović. “My Office stands ready to assist Tajikistan in reforming its criminal defamation legislation in order to prevent imprisonment of journalists.”