DUSHANBE, March 14, 2011, Asia-Plus -- The NGO collation for preparation of an alternative report to the UN Committee against Torture has released a statement to support the Asia-Plus newspaper in lawsuit filed against it by the Interior Ministry organized crime control department (UBOP) chief Anvar Taghoymurodov.

The statement is signed by the Bureau on Human Rights and Rule of Law (BHR), Sughd Barristers’ Association, Center for Human Rights, Republican Barristers’ Association “Sipar,” Amparo, RDI and the Equal Opportunities Public Association.

The statement, in particular, says that becoming more frequent cases of filing lawsuit for protection of honor, dignity and reputation against journalists evoke serious concern of the country’s civil society because such lawsuits cases lead to increase in self-censorship and affect the level of freedom of speech in the country.

The UBOP chief Anvar Taghoymurodov in late January filed the defamation lawsuit in the court in Dushanbe’s Firdavsi district against the Asia-Plus newspaper, asking for 1 million somoni as compensation for moral damage caused by article published by the newspaper.  The Interior Ministry high-ranking official who filed the lawsuit as private citizen claims that the article entitled “Investigation or Inquisition?” printed in the newspaper in December 2010 defames his honor and reputation.

The article published in the December 21, 2010 edition of the newspaper told of the use of torture on some suspects by UBOP agents in Sughd province.

In its conclusions and recommendations to Tajikistan, the UN Committee against Torture noted in 2006 that there are numerous allegations concerning the widespread routine use of torture and ill-treatment by law enforcement and investigative personnel, particularly to extract confessions to be used in criminal proceedings, the statement said.

The statement notes that Article 19 of the international agreement relating to civil and political rights, (PIDCP) (LINK) signed by Tajikistan in 1999 guarantees that everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.  Furthermore Article 30 of Tajikistan’s Constitution guarantees every citizen freedom of speech, the press, the right to enjoy all mass news resources and bans government censorship and prosecution for criticism.

The fact that they accuse the journalist who raised this serious and pressing problem of having ties with terrorists is the cause for serous concern because thereby they intimidate the country’s journalists.

We will recall that Taghoymurodov alleged that Ramziya Mirzobekova and other journalists who had covered the terrorist attack in Khujand knew those who had perpetrated it, “were informed of their evil intentions and perhaps had ties to them.”

The statement notes that the article did not hurt honor, dignity and reputation of the plaintiff.

The NGO collation also notes that pressure on independent media in Tajikistan may lead to serious restriction of freedom of speech in the country and negatively impact Tajikistan’s prestige on the threshold of submission of Tajikistan’s Universal Periodic review to the UN Human Right Council scheduled for this year.

The NGO coalition for preparation of the alternative report to the UN Committee against Torture calls on Tajik law enforcement authorities to take urgent measures to probe into facts mentioned in the article authored by Ramziya Mirzobekova and make the investigation results available to the public.  The collation also calls on the court to be unbiased while considering the mentioned lawsuit.