The detained freelance journalist Khurshed Fozilov is charged with calls for forcible changes to the constitutional order in Tajikistan. 

His brother Khoushbakht Fozilov told Asia-Plus that criminal proceedings had bene instituted against Khurshed under the provisions of Article 307 (2) of Tajikistan’s Penal Code – public calls for forcible changes to the constitutional order in the country through the media and or the Internet.  

On what basis the case was initiated against him under this article is still unknown.  This article provides for imprisonment for the term of between three and eight years.

“I talked to my brother for several minutes in the presence of a lawyer.  He did not complain about his health and there were no signs of torture.  Now the lawyer is engaged in the legal defense of my brother,” Khoushbakht Fozilov added.  

Until today, the authorities have not officially explained circumstances of detention of Khurshed Fozilov and grounds for filing charges against him, and our attempts to obtain additional information have so far been unsuccessful.   

A 37-year-old Khurshed Fozilov, a freelance journalist, who has cooperated with several independent media outlets, including the independent website Akhbor, which is based abroad, was detained by officers from the State Committee for National Security (SCNS)’s office in Panjakent on March 6 at the Panjakent Directorate of Labor, Migration and Employment, where he worked on a contractual basis.

Security officers reportedly promised his relatives to release him after interrogation, but on the evening of March 8, security officers asked Khurshed's relatives to bring his mobile phone, notebook and personal belongings. 

“They showed him to us and said that he confessed to everything.  But they did not specifically say what he confessed to,” one of Fozilov’s relatives told Asia-Plus Thursday (March 9) afternoon.

Recall, Tajikistan authorities blocked access to the Prague-based news website noting that it serves as a platform for terrorists and extremists.  Tajikistan’s Supreme Court ruled that should be blocked on the grounds that it offers a platform to “terrorist and extremist organizations.”

According to the Supreme Court press center, the ruling to block access to the website is based on the request from the Prosecutor-General’s Office issued on February 18, 2020 and it entered into force on March 19, 2020.

It is to be noted that last year, seven Tajik journalists and bloggers Mamadsulton Mavlonazarov, Abdulloh Ghurbati, Daler Imomali, Zavqibek Saidamini, Khoushrouz Jumayev, Ulfatkhonim Mamadshoyeva and Abdusattor Pirmuhammadzoda were sentenced to prison terms of between seven and twenty-one  years.

They were charged with spreading false information, participation in extremism community and collaboration with banned organization.  The journalists themselves and their relatives reject these charges as absolutely unfounded.  

International groups, including Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), have called on the Tajik government to release the reporters and end its campaign against the free press.

A report released by the CPJ on December 14 last year says arrest and conviction of independent journalists and bloggers makes Tajikistan the leading jailer in Central Asia.

The report, in particular, notes that the prisoners were tried secretly behind closed doors in detention centers, not courts, and sentenced to lengthy prison terms amid allegations of torture.

Tajikistan was ranked 152nd out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders' 2022 World Press Freedom Index, and Not Free in Freedom House's 2022 Global Freedom Status, with a score of 8/100.