The country’s journalists were optimistic in early 2007, but at the end of the year President Rahmon was still hostile to press freedom. New rules were introduced hindered news distribution and the law was amended, further restricting press freedom.
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The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) reported at the end of 2007 that 97% of the country’s newspapers were not profitable, undermining their independence, mainly because of the high cost of newsprint and printing and low revenue. Tajikistan officially has more than 200 newspapers, some owned by the government, which has a major direct or indirect stake in the nationally broadcast media. The regime also has power over the media through its control of printing and distribution.
President Emomalii Rahmon signed into law on 23 August a parliamentary bill extending protection against defamation (articles 135 and 136 of the criminal law) to online publications and allowing imprisonment of those convicted, as in the print and broadcast media. Punishment ranges from a fine of up to 1,000 times the minimum monthly wage to two years in prison or 500 hours of forced labour. The culture ministry said the amendments were needed to make online journalists and bloggers act responsibly. The Internet is increasingly used to criticise the country’s leaders. The press law has been amended four times since it was passed in 1990, each time reducing freedom of expression.
The state broadcasting commission ordered four cable TV stations to shut down at the end of the year because they did not have operating licences. Askar Nyazov, the head of one of them, TV Ensan, said he had asked for permission (with full documentation) when he set up the station in 2005 but was simply told his application was being considered. Five other privately-owned TV stations are threatened with closure for the same reason.
Also at the end of the year, a working group of journalists told a press conference they had sent a list of 80 proposals to the government to improve freedom of expression and press freedom, including abolition of having to call the president “worthy” and “reliable” every time he was mentioned. They noted that under the national constitution, all citizens were equal. The working group was set up after a draft law proposed by the local OSCE office in 2002 was rejected by parliament because it had been “presented by a foreign organisation.”