RSF Warns New Tajik Legislation Could Hamper Coronavirus Coverage

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has called for the withdrawal of newly approved legislative amendments in Tajikistan under which false or inaccurate COVID-19 coverage would be subject to heavy fines.

The Paris-based media watchdog warned that the amendments could lead to censorship and other violations of press freedom.

"This new, vaguely defined legislation could be exploited to violate the right to information,” Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF's Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk, said in a statement published on June 12.

"Under international law, nothing ever justifies giving a public authority the power to decide what is true or false, or -- without reference to a judge -- to restrict the right of a person or media to freedom of expression on the grounds that what they say might be false or inaccurate," Cavalier added.

"We call for the withdrawal of these amendments, which violate freedom of the press and expression," she said.

Tajikistan's authoritarian government initially claimed there were no coronavirus cases in the country and President Emomali Rahmon flouted warnings by international experts to order social-distancing restrictions or other measures to try to curtail the spread of the disease.

According to official numbers, 4,690 people have contracted the virus in Tajikistan and 48 have died.

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