Newswatch | Newswatch

You are here

Tajikistan: Worldwide call for BBC correspondent’s release

BBC staff participate in a vigil for Urunboy Usmonov at the BBC World Service Headquarters in London June 22. Usmonov, the BBC's correspondent in Tajikistan was detained by security services on June 13 and charged with association of the banned Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Paris-based press freedom group Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) has joined a renewed call by BBC staff worldwide for the immediate and unconditional release of the BBC’s correspondent in Tajikistan, Urinboy Usmonov, who has been held since June 13 in the northwestern town of Kujand and said it was very concerned about his plight.

“The apparent dropping of the charge of belonging to an illegal political party, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, shows how very flimsy the accusations against him are,” the organisation said. “The authorities are now trying to save face. The new charges against him are groundless and also serious violations of media freedom.”

Usmonov’s lawyer, Faiziniso Vohidova, said the dropping of the charge indicated that the GNKB secret police did not have enough evidence. But he still faces accusations of not informing the authorities of his journalistic contacts with the party and of reporting its statements. Usmonov has all the official accreditation he needs to do his job. Vohidova noted that a journalist is “not obliged to tell the authorities of his investigations, which would violate the principle of the privacy of sources.” The only “evidence” against him were a few books and documents of the party found on his computer.

“As we said when he was arrested, having this material and the fact that he met two party members was part of his normal journalistic work of investigating the party, “ RSF said.

Vohidova and the head of the BBC’s central Asian service, Hamid Ismoilov, saw how physically and psychologically fragile he was when they visited him in prison. “Even if he has been allowed to see a doctor since he was switched to preventive detention, his state of health is worrying,” the lawyer said.

Usmonov, 59, has diabetes and heart problems and friends say he has been ill-treated. “We don’t know exactly what happened on the night he was arrested,” said Vohidova, who has only been allowed to meet him in the presence of the investigating judge. She said she was hoping to see him alone in the next few days.

Date posted: June 29, 2011 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 110