DUSHANBE, TAJIKISTAN - A journalist of Tajikistan's independent Asia Plus news agency has been attacked for the second time in less than a month as he covered the aftermath of a recent landslide that killed two men.
Abdulloh Ghurbati told RFE/RL that three men attacked him Friday in the southern region of Khatlon after one of the assailants introduced himself as a village chief and accused the journalist of being a "provocateur."
"When I tried to explain that I am a reporter working on material about people affected by the landslide, one of the three [men] unexpectedly knocked me down, punching me in the face, and then continued beating me after I fell down," Ghurbati said, adding that the attackers then left by car, the model and the license plate number of which he remembered.
Ghurbati said he was confident the attack was premeditated and might be linked to his professional activities. He said he had filed a complaint with local police.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's representative on freedom of the media, Harlem Desir, said he was "alarmed" by the attack and called for "a quick and thorough investigation to bring culprits to justice."
"Journalists must be safe to report on matters of public interest," Desir wrote on Twitter.
Less than three weeks ago, Ghurbati, 23, was attacked by two masked men in Dushanbe, the Central Asian nation's capital.
Ghurbati said then that during several phone calls from unknown individuals, he had received threats about his articles questioning some of the government's activities, including efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the country.
Desir, the OSCE representative, and rights watchdogs condemned the attack and urged Tajik authorities to thoroughly investigate it.
Last month, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked Tajikistan 161st out of 180 countries for press freedom.
According to RSF, conditions for independent media working in Tajikistan have dramatically worsened in the last two years.