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Tajikistan7 November 2002

Three journalists drafted into army by force; editor gets death threat

Reporters Without Borders today denounced the forcible conscription into the army of three TV journalists who criticised its methods in a programme. It also deplored the army’s threats to kill the head of the station.

"The drafting by force of these journalists is a clear attack on the daring nature of their report that irritated the authorities," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard in a letter to President Emomali Rakhmonov calling for their immediate release.

"Such behaviour, as well as the threats to their superior, is unacceptable and shows that the Tajik authorities have no respect for press freedom and democratic debate. Independent journalism is still a very risky business in Tajikistan."

The conscripted three - Akram Azizov (21), Nasim Rahimov (20) and Yusuf Yunusov (21) - of the TV station SM1, were among nine journalists from SMI and another station, TRK-Asia, arrested by military police on 28 October while attending a journalist training course in the northern town of Khujand. Six of them, who were exempt from doing military service, were released but the others were sent to the town’s army base.

Four days earlier, SMI had broadcast a documentary made during the training course about army squads that tracked down young people to conscript them, using violence and rejecting medical certificates justifying exemption. A senior regional army officer, Fazliddin Domonov, who denied during the film that such methods were used, reportedly threatened the journalists the day after it was broadcast.

The head of SMI, Mahmujan Dadabayev, received phone calls from army officials on 5 November threatening to kill him and shut down the station.

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