Freedom in the World
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Political rights and civil liberties in Tajikistan are severely curtailed by the government of President Emomali Rahmon, which sustains a campaign of repression against political opposition, dissent, and criticism.
- In May, voters approved a package of 41 constitutional amendments that, among other things, significantly strengthened executive power, including by removing presidential term limits.
- Taking the repression of opposition voices to another level, authorities prosecuted lawyers who had represented members of the banned Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) in court.
- In November, the independent media outlets Nigoh and TojNews announced that they were ceasing operations.
The government continued to arbitrarily limit free speech, access to information, and the right to civic organization in 2016. In May, authorities held a referendum on a controversial package of constitutional amendments, which voters approved. Among other things, the amendments formally removed presidential term limits, introduced a prohibition on faith-based political groups, and lowered the minimum age for presidential candidates from 35 to 30. The changes effectively allow Rahmon to rule indefinitely, and also render his 29-year-old son eligible for candidacy in the 2020 presidential polls.
The government continued a legal and media campaign against former members of the country’s largest opposition group, the IRPT, which was banned and declared a terrorist organization in 2015. After arresting many of its leaders and sentencing them to long prison terms in 2015, the regime expanded efforts to suppress the IRPT, and initiated prosecution against lawyers who represented IRPT members. In October, the Supreme Court convicted two such legal professionals of extremism and related charges. After exiled former members of the IRPT and another opposition entity, Group 24, spoke at a conference organized by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Warsaw, authorities in Tajikistan harassed, threatened, and arrested members of their families.
Independent voices within the media continued to face dire conditions. In November, two prominent independent outlets—the Nigoh newspaper and TojNews website—announced their closures, noting that conditions in the country no longer allowed for them to continue operations.
This country report has been abridged for Freedom in the World 2017. For background information on political rights and civil liberties in Tajikistan, see Freedom in the World 2016.