Members of Tajikistan’s upper chamber (Majlisi Milli) o parliament have seconded the amendments made by the government to the country’s administrative code.

The second session of the Majlisi Mill, presided over by its head, Rustam Emomali, took place in Dushanbe on June 26.

Majlisi Milli members unanimously seconded the law amending the country’s code of administrative offences.  

Recall, deputies in the lower house (Majlisi Namoyandagon) of parliament voted in favor of making it an administrative offense to spread deliberately false information about the pandemic through media or the internet.  Individuals found to be in breach will face fines of up to 580 somoni, while legal entities, ostensibly meaning media outlets, may have to pay 11,600 somoni.

The amendments also provide for a fine from 116 to 290 somoni for anyone not wearing a mask in public or failing to practice physical distancing of two meters.  

The Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has called for the withdrawal of newly approved legislative amendments in Tajikistan under which false or inaccurate COVID-19 coverage would be subject to heavy fines.  RSF warned that the amendments could lead to censorship and other violations of press freedom.

“This new, vaguely defined legislation could be exploited to violate the right to information,” Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF's Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk, said in a statement published on June 12.

RSF recommends that the Tajik authorities should combat disinformation by means of self-regulatory mechanisms that promote the best journalists standards and ethics, such as the Journalism Trust Initiative.

In its most recent World Press Freedom Index, RSF ranked Tajikistan 161st out of 180 listed countries and territories.

Civic society’s organizations, media outlets and independent journalists of Tajikistan have called on President Emomali Rahmon and Majlisi Milli (Tajikistan’s upper chamber of parliament) Speaker Rustam Emomali not to approve and sign amendments recently made to the country’s administrative code. 

Representatives of Tajikistan’s civic society express serious concern that “the amendments will seriously worsen an already difficult situation with freedom of speech in the country.”  

They have emphasized that the amendments can lead to censorship and “cause prosecution of not only media and journalists, but also civic activists for dissemination of information that could be interpreted as knowingly false.”