Investigators of the State Committee for National Security (SCNS)’s office in Sughd province have concluded probe into the case of the freelance journalist Khurshed Fozilov and submitted it for confirmation of the indictment to the prosecutor’s office, Radio Liberty’s Tajik Service, known locally as Radio Ozodi reported on May 11, citing Fozilov’s defense lawyer Dilafrouz Samadova.  

According to the law, following the confirmation of the indictment, a case moves to a court. 

Radio Ozodi notes that despite calls from international human rights and journalistic organizations, Khurshed Fozilov remains in custody.  

Ms. Dilafrouz Samadova told Radio Ozodi on May 11 that she was informed about the completion of the investigation into the criminal case a day before.  

“Together with Khurshed Fozilov we got acquainted with the materials of the case and it will move to the court of first instance in the near future,” the defense lawyer added.  

Recall, the detained freelance journalist Khurshed Fozilov is charged with calls for forcible changes to the constitutional order in Tajikistan.  Criminal proceedings have reportedly been instituted against him under the provisions of Article 307 (2) of Tajikistan’s Penal Code – public calls for forcible changes to the constitutional order in the country through the media and or the Internet. 

On what basis the case was initiated against him under this article is still unknown.  This article provides for imprisonment for the term of between three and eight years.

A 37-year-old Khurshed Fozilov, a freelance journalist, who has cooperated with several independent media outlets, including the independent website Akhbor, which is based abroad, was detained by officers from the SCNS’s office in Panjakent on March 6 at the Panjakent Directorate of Labor, Migration and Employment, where he worked on a contractual basis.

It is to be noted that last year, seven Tajik journalists and bloggers Mamadsulton Mavlonazarov, Abdulloh Ghurbati, Daler Imomali, Zavqibek Saidamini, Khoushrouz Jumayev, Ulfatkhonim Mamadshoyeva and Abdusattor Pirmuhammadzoda were sentenced to prison terms of between seven and twenty-one  years.

They were charged with spreading false information, participation in extremism community and collaboration with banned organization.  The journalists themselves and their relatives reject these charges as absolutely unfounded. 

International groups, including Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), have called on the Tajik government to release the reporters and end its campaign against the free press.

A report released by the CPJ on December 14 last year says arrest and conviction of independent journalists and bloggers makes Tajikistan the leading jailer in Central Asia.  The report, in particular, notes that the prisoners were tried secretly behind closed doors in detention centers, not courts, and sentenced to lengthy prison terms amid allegations of torture.

Tajikistan was ranked 152nd out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders' 2022 World Press Freedom Index, and Not Free in Freedom House's 2022 Global Freedom Status, with a score of 8/100.