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Print Media

In numbers alone, Tajikistan has an impressive array of publications. In August 1999, the Ministry of Culture had registered 255 publications, including 199 newspapers. Four of the newspapers belong to the government, twenty-one to political parties and movements, and sixty-four to enterprises ("mnogotirazhniye"). There are alsosixty-four regional, city, and district papers spread throughout the country,14 and three independent papers in Dushanbe. Very few of these are currently in print, however-according to the Ministry of Culture some 30 percent15-and although print media has expanded since the signing of the General Agreement, not one daily newspaper exists in the country, and few are published on a regular basis, in part due to financial constraints. This situation is exacerbated by the fact that all printing presses in Tajikistan continue to be state-owned and run, which means that the independent print media is vulnerable to arbitrary refusals to print their materials.16

Newspapers that appear more or less regularly number seventeen. Government-owned newspapers all containing "official" news include Sadoi Mardum (The Voice of the People), Jumhuriat (The Republic), Narodnaia gazeta (The People's Newspaper), Khalk Ovozi (The Voice of the People).17 The Union of Writers publishes Adabiot va san'at (Literature and Culture), and the Ministry of Culture the cultural review Bahori Ajam (The Spring of Ajam). The Ministries of Defense and Security publish a paper focusing on crime, Tojikiston. Those belonging to political parties are Junbish (The Movement, produced by the National Movement of Tajikistan), and Ittihod (Unity, produced by the Socialist Party of Tajikistan). Javononi Tojikiston (The Youth of Tajikistan) is produced by the Union of Youth of Tajikistan and the State Committee on Youth Affairs. Privately owned newspapers are Biznes i Politika (Business and Politics), Vecherniye Dushanbe (Evening Dushanbe), the cultural paper Charkhi gardun (The Wheel of Fortune), the medical paper Avicenne, and the business papers Digest Press, Vostochnii Express (Eastern Express), and Kurier Tajkistana (Tajikistan Courier). The independent political and cultural papers Istiqlol (Independence), and Surush (The Voice), and the newspaper of the Congress of National Unity, Haft ganj (Seven Heavenly Treasures), together with the Communist Party of Tajikistan's newspapers, Nidoi Ranjbar (The Voice of the Laborer) and Golos Tajikistana (The Voice of Tajikistan), have been out of print for six months or more, due both to financial difficulties and publishing obstacles.18 In Khorog, the informational bulletin Chatri Simin (The Silver Umbrella) is published bi-weekly or monthly.19

There have been few publications linked directly to the UTO within the country, apart from Sadoi mujohid (Voice of the Mujaheddin) and Muzhda (Good News).20 The former, a two-page broadsheet, was founded in Garm in 1993, a region of Tajikistan that was often outside government control since the civil war, and saw close to fifty issues published through November 1998. Published under the editorship of the Armed Islamic Movement of Tajikistan, it featured many interviews with UTO field commanders and mujaheddin, although next to no direct criticism of government figures or policy. Sadoi mujohid was not officially registered, and was distributed only in the Garm region and to select opposition figures. Muzhda, a publication of the UTO press center, was first issuedin May 1998, but issues have been sporadic since that time and distribution extremely limited, mostly due to a dearth of financial and technical resources. The independent opposition newspaper Charogi Ruz (The Light of Day), which is intensely critical of the current government, was published in Moscow from 1992 to 1997, and re-started in Moscow in April 1999. At that time a limited number of copies of the first issue of 1999 appeared in Dushanbe kiosks. Additional issues have since been distributed clandestinely.

Although at present there are no daily newspapers in the country, the private news agency Asia-Plus publishes Russian and English-language print and electronic bulletins on politics, social and economic issues, and business. Its bulletin Asia-Plus Blits is published five days a week, while the Tajikistan Economic Review appears twice monthly. The news agency serves as a resource for other newspapers and some independent television stations; while its content continues to expand in scope, it provides very little analysis. Asia-Plus' publications are popular among international organizations, the diplomatic community, and governmental ministries, but high subscription prices keep them well out of reach of the local population. Other private press agencies include Infokon and Mizon, while Khovar (Novosti Tajikistana) is the governmental news agency.

Although extremely cheap by Western standards, local newspapers are very expensive for most residents of Tajikistan.21 Foreign publications, aside from Russian-language ones, are only sporadically available in Dushanbe at exorbitant prices, and are often three-to-five-month-old issues. In August 1999, for example, The Economist was available at one Dushanbe hotel frequented by very few locals, at the price of U.S. $7.00 per issue.22 Russian newspapers that contain critical material on Tajikistan, such as Nezavisimaia gazeta (The Independent Newspaper), Izvestia (The News), Novaia gazeta (The New Gazette), or Obshchaia gazeta (Everyone's Newspaper), are not regularly available, but on rare occasions make a surprise appearance in Dushanbe kiosks.

Subscriptions to local and foreign publications are impractical due to the poor postal system. Both government and nongovernmental newspapers and magazines are sold at newsstands or by hawkers on the street. Distribution of Dushanbe newspapers in the regions and regional papers in the capital is limited.

Broadcast and Electronic Media

State television has regional branches throughout most of the country. Between twelve and fifteen independent television stations broadcast at present, although more have received broadcast licenses; the number of those functioning at any given time fluctuates, due to financial and technical difficulties.23 The majority of the independent television stations produce news programs at least three times a week.24

Russian television channels include ORT (Russian Public Television), RTR (Russian Television and Radio), and the Moscow-based TV-6.25 In Russian, ORT is broadcast throughout the country, RTR in several regions, and TV-6 in Dushanbe. Uzbek television from Tashkent, in Uzbek , ceased broadcasting in Tajikistan in early 1996, ostensiblydue to financial difficulties, though worsening Tajik-Uzbek relations almost certainly played an important role in the decision.
State radio is broadcast in Tajik and Russian throughout the country. Foreign programming includes the United States' Radio Liberty (Tajik, Uzbek, and Russian services) and Voice of America (Dari, English, and Russian services), the BBC (Tajik and Uzbek services), Voice of America (Dari, English, and Russian services), Sadoi Khuroson (Voice of Khuroson, the Iranian international service, Uzbek, Tajik and Russian services), and the Iranian governmental radio, Radio Iran (Tajik, Russian and Uzbek services). There are, in addition, several Russian radio stations, including the Moscow-based Radio Mayak and Mir, which broadcast only in Russian. At present no independent radio stations exist in Tajikistan, although at least two have received sponsors and equipment, and for almost a year have been awaiting operating licences in order to begin broadcasting. There is little expectation, however, that these stations will receive licenses before the upcoming presidential elections.26

Electronic mail has been available to local users in Dushanbe through the U.S.-based Central Asian Development Agency (CADA) for several years, and service providers have been set up in Khujand, Kurgan-Teppa, Kuliab, and Khorog. It was only in January 1999, however, that full access to the Internet first became available in the country. Because subscription rates and user fees are firmly out of reach for the large majority of Tajik citizens (minimum user fees are U.S. $6.00 per hour), foreign residents constitute the bulk of the clientele.

Beyond prohibitive subscription and user rates, it is unlikely that Internet access will become widespread; although until June 1999 the law did not require a license or permit for providing Internet services, permission was consistently denied for two years to at least one international organization, and to more than one local educational institution. In a recent addendum to the Law on Television and Radio Broadcasting of 1996, Internet radio broadcasting now requires a permit from the State Committee on Radio and Television.27

Economic Conditions

The almost continual deterioration of Tajikistan's economy since independence in 1991 has not spared its media.28 The fact that not one daily publication currently exists is almost certainly due to the high price and short supply of newsprint, next to non-existent subscriber pools, and the additional weighty economic and political constraints described elsewhere in this report. Many publications surface only to close down weeks or months later, unable to stay afloat. Very low salaries have forced many experienced professionals to quit the field in order to gain a more lucrative salary elsewhere, while worries about job security also add to the prevailing atmosphere of self-censorship. The dire economic straits, coupled with an unstable political environment and its consequent restrictions on the media, provide little incentive for experienced journalists-who fled the civil war and who have developed their journalistic careers abroad-to return to the country.

Professional Standards

Many local observers believe that low professional standards, such as weak analysis, poor investigative techniques, and a failure to tap available sources, lower the quality of media output. Some claim that the Soviet tradition of control and censorship left a legacy of caution and a lack of curiosity. Others argue that the exodus of many experienced and talented journalists from their profession, whether for economic or political reasons, has degraded professional standards. In the opinion of many journalists, the general level of journalism teaching andtraining has also declined, as has the decline in professionalism in many other fields, and publication and advertising techniques remain underdeveloped.29

Many media professionals and observers also claim that journalists rarely protest government restrictions on the media. The Union of Journalists, a leftover from the Soviet era, rarely makes public statements, and today it appears either unable or unwilling to represent journalists' interests. The Glasnost Defense Foundation, a Moscow-based independent nongovernmental organization working to defend media and journalists' rights in the Russian Federation and other countries of the CIS, publishes its materials in Moscow, and they are not openly distributed in Tajikistan.30 A welcome arrival, however, is the nongovernmental Fund in Memory and Defense of the Journalists of Tajikistan, founded in April 1998 by Mukhtor Bokizoda. The organization seeks to promote journalists' rights and provide material and moral support to the families of journalists who perished during the civil war. Although the Fund is still fledgling and without sufficient funds, Bokizoda has been vocal in several fora about restrictions on the media and recently helped to secure the release of five journalists illegally detained by a member of parliament on charges of libel.31

The Role of International Actors

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Mission to Tajikistan has increased its support to the media since the fall of 1998. The Mission has helped to resurrect two regional newspapers in the south, Sharaf (Honor) in the Kabodian district and Sadokat (Trust) in the Shaartuz district, and is planning to rehabilitate more in the coming months. More recently, the OSCE mission has organized monthly meetings in Dushanbe to bring together local journalists, members of local nongovernmental organizations, and members of international organizations, with an aim to improving information exchange among them. The mission has also conducted training seminars for journalists and attempted to help establish an independent radio station in southern Dusti, albeit without success. The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, in a February 25, 1999 report to the Permanent Council, noted that Tajikistan had had only two years since the signature of the June 1997 peace accord to implement media reforms, and emphasized the economic constraints suffered by the print media. The report neglected to mention the wide scope of official and unofficial constraints, which are discussed in this report.

The U.S. embassy in Dushanbe has from time to time organized round tables on freedom of speech in Dushanbe in which both local journalists and those working for foreign services, government and nongovernment representatives, and members of international organizations have participated.

The non-profit international organization Internews supports independent media in emerging democracies, and in Tajikistan, it is the only international organization entirely devoted to supporting the media.32 Internews has supported independent television stations, conducted seminars on media law and numerous training sessions for television employees, published training manuals in Tajik and Russian, and helps to produce weekly and monthly news exchange and social analysis programs. The organization also retained a local lawyer to study new laws and keep independent television stations informed of their rights. In this regard, Internews was instrumental in resolving disputes surrounding the issuance of licenses for independent television stations in 1997 and 1998.

14 These newspapers are produced and financed by a wide variety of sponsors ranging from governmental departments to public associations to commercial firms. 15 "List of Periodic Publications, Registered by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Tajikistan," Tajik Ministry of Culture, August 1, 1999. 16 Severe financial difficulties and bureaucratic obstruction make founding a private printing press difficult. See also "Censorship" and "Arbitrary Denial of Permission to Print." 17 Further to a January 1999 decision of the presidential apparatus to "make it easier to inform the public about state policy," Jumhuriat, Narodnaia gazeta, Khalk Ovozi now appear twice weekly, and are under the direct control of the presidential executive. Tajik State Radio, Dushanbe, January 13, 1999. 18 For further details, see "Censorship" and "Unofficial Bans." 19 Chatri Simin is financed by the Eurasia Foundation, and does not contain political analysis, in accordance with the funder's conditions. Human Rights Watch interview with staff member of Chatri Simin, Dushanbe, September 21, 1999. 20 This situation was expected to substantially shift, given the August 1999 lifting of the ban on UTO parties and their media outlets. The Democratic Party of Tajikistan had at the time of writing issued a very small number of the first issue of its newspaper, while the Islamic Renaissance Party was reportedly still preparing its first issue. UTO media continued to operate in exile until the signature of the General Agreement in June 1997. These media included, among others, a radio station that broadcast from refugee camps in northern Afghanistan, and at least two bulletins published in Pakistan. Oleg Panfilov, unpublished manuscript. 21 In August 1999, for example, the average price of Dushanbe newspapers was between 150 and 200 Tajik rubles. During that month, one U.S. dollar purchased about 1500 Tajik rubles; non (a flat loaf of bread) cost about 200 Tajik rubles. 22 According to Radio Liberty in Dushanbe, the average monthly wage in August 1999 was between 12,000 and 12,500 rubles, about U.S. $11. The United Nations provides a figure of $8.60 from 1998. Tajikistan Human Development Report 1998, United Nations Development Programme. 23 Human Rights Watch interviews with Internews staff member, Dushanbe, August 19 and September 1, 1999. 24 The international non-profit organization Internews helps produce weekly and monthly news exchange and social analysis programs for independent television stations. See "The Role of International Organizations." 25 TV-6 programming is similar to that of ORT and RTR, but with a greater emphasis on entertainment. TV-6 is on a UHF frequency, requiring a special antenna for reception. In Dushanbe, it is re-transmitted on TV-201, the channel of the Dushanbe-based 201st Motorized Rifle Division of the Russian Army. The latter's mainly military-oriented content is targeted at members of the 201st Motorized Rifle Division. 26 See "Licensing procedures." 27 Law on the Introduction of Changes and Additions to the Law of the Republic of Tajikistan "On Television and Radio Broadcasting." No. 814, June 30, 1999. 28 The World Bank and the Ministry of Labor in 1998 estimated that 80 to 85 percent of the population could be considered poor. Tajikistan Human Development Report 1998, United Nations Development Programme. And according to a 1997 World Bank study, two-thirds of the nation's households have incomes insufficient to meet basic food needs, an additional 12 percent are able to survive only by selling assets, stealing or begging, and unemployment is between 30 and 40 percent. United Nations Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal for Tajikistan, December 1998. 29 Human Rights Watch interviews with local journalists, Dushanbe, 1998 and 1999. 30 The Glasnost Defense Foundation's representative in Dushanbe has been harassed and attacked. See "Violence against Journalists." 31 See "Intimidation of and Threats Against Journalists." 32 In Tajikistan, Internews is also registered as a local non-profit organization.

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