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“No country in the world comes up to all the standards of the OSCE,” was President Emomali Rakhmonov’s retort to critical OSCE observers after he won a third term of office at elections on 6 November 2006 with 76.4% of the vote. The run-up to the election weighed on press freedom throughout the year.
OSCE observers said the election had not met democratic standards, despite a decree in September that each candidate would be given 30 minutes on national TV (the country’s main source of news) and the president’s statement on 20 October that all candidates should have equal opportunities during the campaign. In reality, the five other candidates were only allowed between five and 15 minutes air-time each.
Two journalists were briefly arrested in the southern town of Qorghan-Teppa on 18 September after investigating forced labour by students in cotton fields. They were Radio Free Europe correspondent Nosir Mamurzoda, who is not allowed to broadcast in the country, and a reporter of the Avesta news agency. They were freed after being ordered not to investigate matters that “could destabilise the country.”
A dispute between the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and the state broadcasting commission Tajikteleradiocom dragged on during the year after a new law in September 2005 required media outlets to re-register with the authorities. The BBC had been told on 20 December 2005 that it must file the necessary documents before 10 January 2006 even though some of them would take six months to get. On the deadline, the relay of BBC programmes on FM (the only way to reach much of the population, in Dushanbe and northern town Khujand) was suspended. The justice ministry eventually allowed the BBC office in Dushanbe to reopen on 26 June. In July, the station applied for an FM operating licence to the state broadcasting commission, which refused it on 2 August on grounds that there was no agreement between Britain and Tajikistan.
Less than a month after the presidential election, several independent news websites were illegally shut down, including that of opposition figure Dodojon Atovulloyev, Tajikistantimes.ru, founded in March 2003 and one of the few criticising the government.