Friday, January 14, 2011

Why should I ask the government what books I can read?

Tajikistan has imposed greater
fines on breaking censorship rules.
Tajikistan has a new law.

In late December 2010, President Emomali Rahmon signed into law severe new punishments for producing, distributing, importing or exporting religious literature and items of a religious nature that have not passed through the compulsory prior state religious censorship, reports Forum 18 News Service.

The Religion Law states that only officially registered religious organisations and their members may import, export, produce, sell and distribute religious literature or items of a religious nature—and they may do this only if they have specific permission for each item from the state Religious Affairs Committee.

Religious leaders have complained to Forum 18 about the high new fines and the continuing religious censorship that violates Tajikistan's international human rights commitments.

An Ismaili Imam from, who wished to remain unnamed for fear of reprisals from the authorities, told Forum 18 on Tuesday that it is "very bad that such heavy fines" were introduced by the Tajik authorities. "Why should I ask the Government what books I can read?" he asked. "I should be free to read any books about my faith."

Individuals who break the censorship rules will be fined up to $800 CAD, and religious organisations will be fined up to $1,600 CAD. Repeat violations will lead to fines for individuals of up to $1,200 CAD and for organisations up to $2,400 CAD. In addition to these new fines, religious organisations can also be fined up to $800 CAD for not marking the organisation's full name on the religious literature.

The new law was created with the addition of Article 474-1 to the Code of Administrative Offences, and took effect on January 1.

The new punishments come amid increasing government restrictions on religious activity. In recent months the government has pressured Muslims studying abroad to return home, has closed mosques and continued to deny state registration to religious communities.

You can read the full story here.

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