The BBC reported late yesterday that Urunboy Usmonov, its Central Asian Service journalist being held in Tajikistan, is physically and psychologically frail, according to a colleague who managed to visit him in prison.
Hamid Ismailov, from the BBC Central Asian service, said he was “horrified” to see Urunboy Usmonov in a detention centre in the northern city of Khujand.
According to the BBC, which reported Usmonov’s detention earlier this month, the reporter has been charged with association with Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, allegations which the broadcaster claims are “unfounded”.
Last week BBC journalists held a vigil to demand his release.
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The International Press Institute (IPI) claims a report from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has indicated at least 57 journalists are currently in prison in Turkey, which the IPI says is “apparently more than any other country”.
While Iran and China topped lists last December by reportedly jailing some 34 journalists each, Turkey, a candidate for membership in the European Union, has nearly doubled that number five months later, raising questions about the country’s commitment to freedom of the press and the legitimacy of its democratic image.
Last year Journalism.co.uk reported that restrictions on freedom of expression in Turkey had given the European Commission “cause for concern” according to a progress report released in November.
In the annual report, produced to assess progress in European Union membership candidate and potential candidate countries, the commission claimed a “high number” of violations of freedom of expression in Turkey are still being submitted to the European Court of Human Rights.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists the number of journalists in prison worldwide as of 1 December last year, had risen to its highest level since 1996. In its annual census of imprisoned journalists, the CPJ found that 145 reporters, editors and photojournalists were in jail in 28 countries at the time of the report.