The editor of independent Tajik weekly Farazh, Khurshed Atovullo (aka Khurshed Niyozov), was badly beaten in Dushanbe on August 31. According to Atovullo, he was driving to a friend’s home in the Tajik capital along with his brother and brother-in-law when a car, which had followed them all the way from his home, blocked the road and forced them to stop. Without giving any reason, three unknown men from the car as well as four other men who joined them at the scene began beating the journalist and his relatives with clubs.
Following the incident, Atovullo reported the attack to the police and went to a hospital where he had to spend a night because of bad injuries. The journalist does not know the motives behind the attack, but he says that detaining the assailants should be relatively easy because he remembered the license plate number of their car.
Tajik media freedom and human rights watchdogs have called on the authorities to conduct a “quick and thorough” investigation of the incident and bring to justice the assailants. This is already the second attack this year against independent journalists in Tajikistan. In February, editor of the Islamic Revival Party’s (IRPT) official newspaper Najot, Khikmatullo Sayfullozoda, was beaten by unknown people in Dushanbe.
Khurshed Atovullo is well-known in Tajikistan for his independent and often very critical coverage of social and political developments in the country. In 1995, he was nearly killed by unknown people, an incident most probably linked to his journalistic activity. His weekly Farazh, which is among the most popular independent newspapers in the country, was heavily criticized by the authorities and forced out of business for three weeks last year after it covered a large-scale security operation by government forces against militants in eastern Tajikistan. Atovullo also serves as head of the Media Alliance of Tajikistan, a group comprised of a dozen of independent mass media outlets in the country.