Journalists in non-democratic countries are among the most vulnerable to threats, harassment and even beatings, and their perpetrators remain unknown or unpunished.
In particular, the beatings and attacks on journalists that have occurred in Tajikistan every few years, are a serious signal to them and other journalists in general that they should know their “place” and should not go “too far” in criticizing the government.
Tajikistan, where threats, harassment, emigration, beatings and imprisonment of journalists have increased significantly since 2010, is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists.
The attacked journalists are among those journalists, who have dealt boldly on sensitive issues and taboo issues, and have been outspoken critics of the country’s leadership.
Although there are many such cases in our country, in this article I will cite only 4 cases of beatings and attacks on journalists, who later faced different fates, and their attackers remain unknown.
1. In 2020, Abdullah Ghurbati – in Freedom (Date of Attack 11.05.2020 and the Perpetrators still Unknown)
On the evening of May 11, 2020, Abdullah Ghurbati, a 23-year-old “Asia-Plus” correspondent in Dushanbe, was attacked by two unknown persons and taken later to hospital. His health condition has not been so serious reported, despite injuries and bleeding from his head.
The motive for the attack is unknown, and authorities have not commented. But Rajabi Mirzo, a well-known Tajik journalist, said that if doctors were not provided and criminals were not found, people would inevitably conclude that “this shameful incident took place to create an atmosphere of fear and terror.”
Abdullah Ghurbati is one of the most outspoken journalists covering the coronavirus epidemic, including the terrible state of hospitals of the country.
This is despite the fact that four days ago, Yusuf Rahmon, the country’s Prosecutor General, warned “sensationalists and liars” in the wake of the coronavirus crisis that they would be punished if they spread rumors. Also, yesterday evening, when Ghurbati was beaten up, the website www.kvtj.info , which published an alternative list of victims of COVID-19 in Tajikistan, became inaccessible in the country. It reflects the government’s harsh treatment of journalists, who risk their lives to carry out their professional duties.
- In 2013, Mahmadali Hait – Life Imprisonment (Date of Attack 19.04.2013 and the Perpetrators still Unknown)
Seven years ago, Mahmadali Hait, a senior journalist and the then deputy chairman of the IRPT, was attacked and severely beaten up by unknown persons outside his home in Dushanbe on April 19, 2013, resulting in serious injuries and long-time hospitalization.
The motive for the attack has not been officially explained, and the attackers remain unknown. “Freedom House” issued a statement, linking the attack to the 2013 presidential elections in Tajikistan.
Two years after the attack, Mahmadali Hait was arrested along with other senior IRPT activists on September 16, 2015, following a crackdown on the opposition by the government, known as the “brutal crackdown of 2015,” and was later sentenced to life in prison.
- 2012, Daler Sharipov – One Year in Prison (Date of Attack 07.05.2012 and the Perpetrators still Unpunished)
Eight years ago, Daler Sharipov, a journalist of “Safina TV”, was attacked and beaten up by unknown persons on the evening of May 7, 2012, in the 82nd district of Dushanbe, and was taken to hospital in a coma state. The journalist’s beating was so severe that his eyes and forehead were black and swollen, leaving severe scars.
The motive for the attack has not been officially explained. But Daler Sharipov himself said, he had received many threatening messages from strangers before the attack. One of the attackers was identified, but neither his accomplices were identified, nor a legal action against him was taken.
Eight years after the attack, Daler Sharipov faced a bitter fate. He was arrested on January 28, 2020 by security officers and recently sentenced to one year in prison.
- In 2011, Hikmatullo Saifullozoda – 16 Years in Prison (Date of attack 07.02.2011 and the Perpetrators still Unknown)
Nine years ago, Hikmatullo Saifullozoda, the then editor-in-chief of the weekly newspaper “Najot” affiliated with the Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan, was attacked by unknown persons on the morning of February 7, 2011 in Dushanbe. As a result, he sustained serious injuries, fainted, and was then taken to the hospital. Due to severe injuries, he was hospitalized for several days.
The motive for the attack was not officially explained and the attackers remained unknown. The IRPT at the time called the attack “planned” and an “attempt on Saifullozoda’s life.”
In September 2015, four years after the attack, Hikmatullo Saifullozoda was arrested along with dozens of other senior IRPT activists following a brutal crackdown in 2015 and then sentenced to 16 years in prison behind closed doors.