Tajikistan: Government bodies, political parties, self-nominated candidates and mass media should respect freedom of expression

As Tajikistan prepares to hold elections for Madjilisi Namoyandagon (the lower chamber of parliament) on 1 March 2015, ARTICLE 19, NANSMIT (the National Association of Independent Mass Media of Tajikistan, Tajikistan), Adil Soz (the International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech “Adil Soz,” Kazakhstan) and MPI (Media Policy Institute, Kyrgyzstan), call on the Government of Tajikistan, the Central Electoral Commission, political parties and candidates to Madjilisi Namoyandagon (the lower chamber of Parliament)  to respect and protect the rights to freedom of expression in the run up and during the elections.

ARTICLE 19, NANSMIT, Adil Soz and MPI,

  • Noting the special role of the media in elections to the Majlisi Oli (the parliament of Tajikistan);
  • Noting the need for adequate pluralism of opinions during the election campaign
  • Stressing the importance of a broad public debate on all issues of importance to voters;
  • Emphasizing the commitment of the highest political leadership of the Republic of Tajikistan to conduct equal, fair, transparent and democratic elections in the country;
  • Recalling the duty of States, that are signatories to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by the Republic of Tajikistan on 4 January 1999[i];
  • Having regard to international democratic standards and recommendations of the United Nations (UN) on international standards concerning defamation in relation to the policy makers;
  • Having regard to the recommendations on the media and the elections of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)[ii], of which the Republic of Tajikistan became as of 30 January 1992;

Call on the Government of Tajikistan, the Central Electoral Commission, Mass Media, Political Parties, candidates to members of Madjilisi Namoyandagon (the lower chamber of parliament) of Tajikistan to observe the following principles that ensure democratic standards in conducting the upcoming parliamentary elections in Tajikistan and recommend undertaking concrete measures to ensure the activities of the mass media during the electoral campaign are:

  • Balanced and impartial approach by state – controlled media is not limited to air time, paid or unpaid newspaper space provided to political parties and candidates. During the election period, these principles apply to all information, including analytical programs and publications that must be bound by strict political neutrality and impartiality to political parties and candidates. These principles should be communicated to the general public and observed by all participants of the electoral process.
  • Procedures for filing complaints in cases of violations of the principles of neutrality and balance against all political parties and candidates should be clearly defined and published. In order to protect pluralism in the media during the election campaign, the Government of Tajikistan shall take adequate measures to ensure access, and general political party newspapers, registered in the republic, government printing services.
  • The right to receive information from government agencies should be guaranteed to all media, regardless of the form of ownership and without any discrimination, especially in the period of preparations for and conduction of elections to make sure there are no delays in information and timely coverage of the events in the country .
  • The safety of journalists must be guaranteed and provided by the state, especially during the preparation and conduction of elections. The government should prevent incidents of aggression in relation to, intimidation and obstruction of professional activities of journalists, as well as to provide adequate investigation of such cases.
  • Journalists should not be held accountable for any provocative or critical statements made by candidates for election in relation to other parties, candidates, government or public entities.

We also encourage everyone involved in the elections in Tajikistan to admit their role in promoting the freedom of expression and constructive debate, and realize that their actions and statements have an impact on others; this is important in order to create a society based on mutual respect and equality for all.

We call on the Government of Tajikistan, the Central Electoral Commission, Mass Media, Political Parties, candidates to members of Madjilisi Namoyandagon (the lower chamber of parliament) of Tajikistan to make the following commitments:

  • to promote democratic values, respect for and recognition of the right of everyone to participate in the administration of the state;
  • to demonstrate zero-tolerance to any discrimination whatsoever;
  • not to incite ethnic, clan and religious hatred, not to use hate speech against marginalized groups in any political debate, and take measures to prevent such speech;
  • and, finally, to contribute to the protection of human rights, including the freedom of expression, freedom of religion and the protection against discrimination, and to support the national and international obligations of Tajikistan for human rights protection.

[i] By ratifying the ICCPR, Tajikistan committed to respect freedom of expression (Article 19) and the right to take part in the conduct of public affairs (Article 25)

Article 19

1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.

2. 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.

3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:

(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others;

(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.

Article 25

Every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity, without any of the distinctions mentioned in article 2 and without unreasonable restrictions:

(a) To take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives;

(b) To vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors;

(c) To have access, on general terms of equality, to public service in his country.

[ii] In the Document of the Copenhagen Meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension of the CSCE, the participating states committed to “…accordingly respect the right of their citizens to take part in the governing of their country, either directly or through representatives freely chosen by them through fair electoral processes” as well as to“… ensure that law and public policy work to permit political campaigning to be conducted in a fair and free atmosphere in which neither administrative action, violence nor intimidation bars the parties and the candidates from freely presenting their views and qualifications, or prevents the voters from learning and discussing them or from casting their vote free of fear of retribution,”

“provide that no legal or administrative obstacle stands in the way of unimpeded access to the media on a non-discriminatory basis for all political groupings and individuals wishing to participate in the electoral process”