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Tajikistan25 January 2006

Tajik authorities suspend BBC’s FM broadcasts

Reporters Without Borders expressed great concern today at the government’s recent suspension of relayed radio broadcasts inside the country by the British BBC network for supposed “administrative reasons.”

The broadcasts were suspended on 10 January because the authorities said the BBC had not presented in time the right documents needed for permission to be renewed under a 1 September 2005 revised regulation on licencing.

“Bureaucratic reasons are the best the authorities have been able to find to counter foreign and independent media,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “The country seems to have little access to serious impartial and independent news at the moment. As next November’s presidential election approaches, the government is afraid of a free press and fears growth of protest movements, as happened in neighbouring countries.”

Tajikteleradiocom, the State Committee on TV and Radio Broadcasting, cut off BBC FM relay broadcasts under the 2005 regulation, which requires all media broadcasting inside the country to get a licence from the Tajik TV/Radio Committee, with no foreign citizens allowed to apply for it.

Officials of Tajikteleradiocom told the BBC by phone on 20 December that the deadline for a new licence application was 10 January. The documents could not be produced in time. A BBC spokesperson in London said the application sometimes took up to six months to be processed in Tajikistan. The BBC can meanwhile still be heard on short and medium-wave.

The media office of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Center in Dushanbe, the Tajik capital, told Reporters Without Borders that a long-term ban was not in the interests of the Tajik government.

Apart from the BBC, only the German station Deutsche Welle can be heard in the country. Despite long time and repeated efforts Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty cannot get permission of the Tajik government to broadcast their programs on FM and Medium Wave in Tajikistan’s territory. Some foreign media still operate in the country, including the two main Russian TV stations, RTR and ORT, and several international news agencies.

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