Note: Tajikistan repealed general criminal offences on defamation and insult – formerly Arts. 135 (defamation) and 136 (insult) of the Criminal Code – in 2012 and replaced them with provisions in the Civil Code of Tajikistan . However, criminal provisions on “public insult or defamation of the President of Tajikistan” (Art. 137) and “insult of a public official” (Art. 330) were retained.
Criminal Defamation of Public Officials
Art. 30 of the Constitution of Tajikistan guarantees freedom of speech and the freedom to criticise (in particular state officials) . The Tajik Constitution prohibits state censorship and prosecution for criticism.
However, there is still criminal liability for insulting a public official (Criminal Code Art. 330) in a public speech, publicly demonstrated work, in the media or on the Internet. The penalty is a fine of up to 1,500 monthly calculated indexes (equivalent to approximately €9,200), detention of up to six months or incarceration in a penalty colony for up to two years.
Criminal Defamation of the Head of State
Publicly insulting or defaming the President (Criminal Code Art. 137): Publicly insulting or defaming the president through the use of print, electronic media and the Internet. The penalty is correctional labour for up to two years or imprisonment for a term of two to five years.
In November 2016 the Criminal Code was supplemented by Art. 1371, which establishes the criminal offence of “Public insult of the Founder of Peace and National Unity – Leader of the Nation or slander against him”. The penalty for this offence is two to five years in prison
Criminal Defamation of the State and its Symbols
Abuse of the state symbols of the Republic of Tajikistan is a criminal offence under Art. 342 of the Criminal Code.
The penalty is a fine of up to 500 monthly calculated indexes (equivalent to approx. €3,000), restriction of freedom for up to two years, arrest for three to six months or imprisonment (deprivation of liberty) for up to one year.
Art. 1 of the Law “On state symbols of the Republic of Tajikistan” states that the flag, state emblem and the national anthem are the state symbols of the Republic of Tajikistan.
The extent to which this provision could be used to sanction verbal or written insult of symbols is not clear. The Commentary to the Criminal Code of Tajikistan indicates that abuse of state symbols may consist of drawing characters on the flag and state emblem, tearing, etc. According to experts, it is possible that a court may interpret “etc.” to include verbal or written insult.
Criminal Defamation of Foreign Heads of State
Criminal Defamation of Foreign States and Symbols
Criminal Defamation of the Deceased
Tajikistan guarantees freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, including the right to profess, individually or jointly with others, any religion or no religion, to freely choose, distribute and change any religious and other beliefs and to act in accordance with them.
Obstruction of the exercise of the rights to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, including involving violence against the person, with the deliberate insult of citizens in connection with their attitude to religion, the propaganda of religious superiority, with the destruction of or damage to property or the threat of such acts, are prohibited and punishable under the laws of the Republic of Tajikistan . Conducting public events, placement of text and images insulting the religious feelings of citizens, outside places of worship are prohibited.
There is no exact article on criminal blasphemy in the Criminal Code of Tajikistan but Art. 189 prohibits incitement of national, racial, regional or religious enmity. Actions aimed at the incitement of national, racial, regional or religious enmity or discord, humiliation of national dignity, and propaganda of exceptionality of citizens on the grounds of their religious, ethnic, racial or group interests, if these acts are committed publicly or with the use of mass media are punishable by restriction of freedom for up to five years or imprisonment for the same term.
It is prohibited to do any incitement to hatred, enmity and conflict on religious grounds, violation of religious and atheistic feelings of citizens.
According to the Law on Freedom of Conscience and Freedom of Religious Associations, it is forbidden to charge a person because of religion or disbelief or apostasy.
Criminal Law and Media
Insult to head of state
In 2005, Rustam Faiziev, deputy chairman of the unregistered political party “Taraqqiyot” (“Development”) was sentenced to five years and 10 months in prison on a charge of public insult and defamation against the President of Tajikistan (Criminal Code Art. 137). His trial was held behind closed doors. The charges were based upon a letter that Faiziev intended to send to international organisations and to the International Court of Justice in The Hague a letter in which he criticised the policy of Tajikistan’s president. However, Tajik law enforcement authorities intercepted the letter. In 2009, Rustam Faiziev died in prison .
In September 2008 Tajikistan issued an arrest warrant for Dodojon Atovullo, an exiled opposition journalist and editor of the online newspaper Charogh-i-Ruz. The news agency Asia Plus said the prosecutor general’s office had opened a criminal case against Atovullo on charges of “public calls to a violent change in the constitutional regime,” along with defamation and ”public insult of the president.” The charges carry up to 15 years in prison. The Tajik government asked Russian authorities to extradite Atovullo, but the Russian government, amid an international outcry, refused to do so.
Recent Legal Changes
2007: Amendments to the Criminal Code of Tajikistan, inclusion of criminal liability for public insult and defamation of President, inter alia on the Internet .
2012: Amendments to the Criminal Code of Tajikistan, repeal of Arts. 135 (Defamation) and 136 (Insult) from the Criminal Code of Tajikistan , following President Rahmon’s speech dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the Tajik Press .
2016: Law on Addendum to the Criminal Code of Tajikistan, introducing criminal liability (1371) for the public insult of the Founder of Peace and National Unity – the Leader of the Nation or slander against him .
Notes and Acknowledgements
Information for Tajikistan was originally collected by IPI as part of a study commissioned by the Office of the Representative on Freedom of the Media of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). It is reprinted here with the permission of the OSCE. Last update: March 2017.
The information contained in this database is for informational and advocacy purposes only. If you are a journalist facing a defamation claim, you should seek legal advice from a qualified attorney. However, if you are unable to find such an attorney, IPI may be able to assist you in doing so. Please contact us at info(at)ipi.media.