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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

NTV Apologizes to Keep Tajik Bureau




In exchange for permission to continue reporting from one of the most authoritarian states in the former Soviet Union, NTV television has given an oblique apology to the government of Tajikistan for a report the company maintains was accurate.


The apology came three days after NTV's star reporter Yelena Masyuk was stripped of her accreditation and declared persona non grata for what the Tajik government described as "unethical coverage" of the murder of four United Nations workers outside Dushanbe. NTV officials say the Tajik government also threatened to close the NTV bureau there.


"Lena was carrying out her journalistic duty. All the facts were the truth," said a high-ranking official with NTV television, who asked not to be identified." But in Tajikistan, they don't like washing their dirty linen in public.


"[Apologizing] is a strange position [for NTV to take], but we didn't want to lose a bureau there. Who knows what will happen there in the future?" he added.


Igor Satarov, head of the Tajik Foreign Ministry's information department, said Tajikistan appreciated NTV's efforts to maintain a healthy relationship with its government. In a telephone interview from Dushanbe, Satarov said should Masyuk reapply for accreditation, her request would be duly considered -- but he added that she would not be welcomed in the country.


"She allowed herself a patronizing tone impermissible toward a foreign country, and the juggling of facts," Satarov said. He added, without elaboration, that he had reason to believe Masyuk's reporting had been skewed to suit somebody's larger agenda.


Tajik officials were particularly angry over Masyuk's use of archival footage of Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov in her report. In that footage, Rakhmonov claimed crime in Tajikistan was on the decline. The interview was not dated as from the archives, something the NTV official conceded was a mistake. Satarov said the excerpt came from an interview with the president "from when the situation was much calmer."


Tajikistan takes its president's reputation seriously. A draft law to "protect the rights and honor of the president" recently discussed in parliament would have forbidden the head of any other organization in the country to call himself a president, and would have allowed the government to arrest anyone who harmed the president's reputation and to jail him or her for up to six years without a trial.


The NTV apology came in a meeting between NTV's general director Oleg Dobrodeyev and Tajik Ambassador Ramazan Mirzoyev, and also in a letter Dobrodeyev wrote to Tajik Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov that in part read, "NTV did not, and does not, have any intention of destabilizing the situation in Tajikistan" and was "prepared for constructive cooperation."


Sixty-two journalists have been killed and 30 media outlets closed in Tajikistan over the last six years, according to Oleg Panfilov, an activist with the Moscow-based Glasnost Defense Foundation. More than 100 journalists have fled the country after being persecuted for their reporting.