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Tajikistan7 November 2006

Candidates had unequal access to media in yesterday’s presidential election

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Yesterday’s presidential election in Tajikistan and the preceding campaign showed that President Emomali Rakhmonov, who has won his second reelection bid, wields absolute power over his country’s media, Reporters Without Borders said today.

Observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said the campaign did not meet democratic standards. But Rakhmonov, who reportedly won 76.4 per cent of the vote, rejected the criticism and said the election was better than previous ones. “No country in the world respects OSCE standards 100 per cent,” he said.

“In the world press freedom ranking we published on 13 October, Tajikistan was placed 117th out of 168 countries,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Coverage of the election campaign showed a disturbing lack of media pluralism. The government has frequent recourse to censorship, suspending individual opposition media and withdrawing licences. These measures are increased in the runup to key political events.”

Rakhmonov said on 20 October that all five presidential candidates “must have the same conditions for their election campaign.” A decree in September specified that each candidate would get 30 minutes of airtime on the national television, the main source of news in Tajikistan. In practice, they only got between five and 15 minutes.

“The campaigns of the other candidates were virtually invisible,” the OSCE observer mission said, adding that the other candidates “did not criticise their main rival, his policies or his actions.” The leading opposition parties boycotted the elections.

The communications ministry blocked five independent news websites - Centrasia, Ferghana, Arianastorm, Charogiruz and Tajikistantimes - from 10 to 12 October because their content had “undermined government policy in the information domain,” the ministry said.

The BBC, which had been banned from re-transmitting on a local FM frequency in January, was refused a broadcast licence by the Tajik authorities on 8 August. The last independent TV stations, Somonien, was closed down by the government in May 2005. The authorities often arrests journalists who are sympathetic to the opposition, such as Djumaboi Tolibov, who was detained from April to December 2005.

Rakhmonov was first elected in 1994 and was reelected in 1999. Constitutional changes that were approved by referendum in 2003 allow Rakhmonov to serve two more terms and remain in power until 2020.

  In this country
12 October - Tajikistan
Information websites unblocked
8 August - Tajikistan
Government refuses to give broadcasting licence to BBC
25 January - Tajikistan
Tajik authorities suspend BBC’s FM broadcasts
21 December - Tajikistan
Djumaboi Tolibov freed after seven months in custody
31 August - Tajikistan
Editor sentenced to hand over 20% of his income to the state for two years

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