DUSHANBE, October 9, Asia-Plus  -- The trial of three female reporters for the Dushanbe tabloid newspaper Ovoza (Rumors) was expected to begin in a court of Dushanbe’s Firdavsi district today morning.  

The trial was adjourned until October 10 as the complainant did not come

Judge Akbar Safarov, who will be taking in the trial, said that the journalists face charges of insult and illegal collection and spread of information about private life.   .

We will recall that Farangis Nabiyeva and Muhayo Nozimova coauthored the critical article of singer Raihona titled “Raihona pi-pi-pi Afghoniston” (Ovoza, # 25, June 21, 2007).  

Raihona lodged an application to the Dushanbe city prosecutor’s office o July 11, claiming the article by Muhayo Nozimova and Farangis Nabiyeva had allegedly defamed her.  Following the application, the Dushanbe prosecutor’s office instituted criminal proceedings against them and the Ovoza editor Saida Qurbonova.  They face charges of illegal defamation) and insult.  

  Saida Qurbonova noted that in their article, the reporters referred to the website www.mynet.tj as the primary source.    

The journalists released an open letter to President Emomali Rahmon on August 20, asking to intercede on their behalf after the Dushanbe prosecutor’s office formally initiated criminal libel case against them for “insulting” a singer.  They argued that their joint article critical of Raihona Rahimova published in Ovoza did not constitute grounds for instituting criminal proceedings.  They defended the singer’s right to defend her honor, dignity, and business reputation, but said that the issue would be better settled by a civil court. 

Media rights groups have also criticized Tajik prosecutors for opening criminal cases against the reporters.  Media advocacy groups in Tajikistan and Russia called on Dushanbe to stop prosecuting journalists for their professional activity.