In this legal analysis, ARTICLE 19: Global Campaign for Free Expression, reviews the Law on Print and Other Mass Media of the Republic of Tajikistan (the Media Law), adopted in 2013. The Media Law is reviewed for its compliance with international standards on freedom of expression.
In the analysis, ARTICLE 19 appreciates a number of positive features, in particular:
- The Media Law recognises that international treaties, to which Tajikistan is a party, apply to the regulation of media;
- It proclaims that media in Tajikistan are free and that everyone has a right to seek, obtain and distribute information, express his/her convictions and distribute them in the mass media;
- It bans censorship and persecution for criticism and establishes legal liability for violations of the freedom of media.
At the same time, ARTICLE 19 finds that the Media Law includes a number of provisions that are in breach of international freedom of expression standards, in particular, the regulations dealing with:
- media registration,
- content restrictions,
- the right of reply and refutation,
- access to state information,
- the protection of confidential information,
- the accreditation of journalists,
- duties of journalists, and
- the accreditation of foreign media.
We call on the Tajikistan authorities to review the Media Law and bring it into full compliance with international freedom of expression standards. We also recommend that the authorities encourage public debate on the reform of this law and other legislation relating to freedom of expression.
Summary of recommendations
- The Media Law should provide that its purpose is to safeguard the right to freedom of expression and media freedom. It should stress the value of uninhibited expression, particularly in the circumstances of public debate in a democratic society concerning figures in the public and political domain;
- Content restrictions, set out in Article 6 of the Media Law, should be revised in accordance with the international standards;
- The registration system for media outlets in the Media Law should be abolished altogether;
- Article 30 of the Media Law should be amended. Accreditation should be required only if due to limited space all interested journalists cannot attend a meeting or follow the activities of a particular body. The Media Law should provide safeguards againstarbitrary refusals of accreditation via clear accreditation rules. The accreditation should be overseen by an independent body, such as a journalists’ union. Furthermore, journalists should be granted a right to appeal refusals for accreditations to court.
- Article 18 should provide that the right of reply is a remedy for infringements upon recognised rights only. The phrase “legitimate interests” should be removed. Article 19 should provide that the right of denial is a remedy for incorrect facts only;
- The Media Law should establish a reasonably short time limit for making a request for reply or denial (for example, 15 days after publication) and explicitly stipulate that disputes concerning the right of reply to the brought by a tribunal with powers to order the immediate publication of the reply;
- Articles 23 and 24 of the Media Law dealing with access to information should be repealed;
- The rule on protection of sources should be cast as a right of the media, not an obligation, and it should apply to everyone, both professional and non-professional, regularly engaged in the dissemination of information;
- Article 26 of the Media Law should provide that only courts can issue orders for the disclosure of sources and that the order for disclosure cannot be made unless:
- the circumstances justifying the disclosure was necessary to protect human life, to prevent major crime or for the defence of a person accused of having committed a major crime;
- reasonable alternative measures to disclosure do not exist or have been exhausted;
- disclosure is justified by an overriding requirement in the public interest; and
- the circumstances are of a sufficiently vital and serious nature to justify overriding this important right;
- Article 29, setting out professional and ethical standards for journalists, should be repealed. An independent, self-regulatory body should set out the ethical standards in the press and an independent broadcast regulator should set out the broadcasting standards;
- The Media Law should give powers to an independent body to regulate state financial support for the media which should include detailed and objective criteria for the distribution of the funding.
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