The Institute for War and Peace Reporting published a rather dismal appraisal of the Government of Tajikistans treatment of the independent media. With an election next November to worry about, President Rakhmanov is not taking any chances.
The present situation cannot be coincidental, said political analyst and journalist Marat Mamadshoev. Theres undoubtedly major pressure being exerted on the media at the moment. It is outrageous and incomprehensible.
NANSMIT chairman Nuriddin Karshiboev says that the increased frequency with which lawsuits are being brought against journalists working on independent papers does not in itself prove that the authorities are stepping up the pressure ahead of the presidential election. However, he added, The authorities always seek to control the media before important political events.
While independent print and broadcast media face crippling legal and financial challenges, their counterparts in the state-run sector are getting a boost.
According to the chairman of the State Committee for Television and Radio, Asadullo Rahmonov, state TV and radio got one million dollars in government money to upgrade their technology last year. This year, they will get a 25 per cent increase in funding.
The authorities have also started up a new TV channel called Safina and taken over a private station, Poitakht.
Officially, the Tajik government continues to pledge its support to the principle of media freedom. However, that commitment is tempered by political considerations.
As the deputy head of the State Committee for Television and Radio, Abdurahmon Abdumanonov told the Asia Plus newspaper recently, We are far from indifferent to the content of our countrys information space, and we dont it to be filled with foreign material and voices.
Perhaps the fact that Tajikistan is actually far more progressive than many other Central Asian Republics in regard to political opposition (Rakhmonov allows Islamists and civil war veterans from the side who fought against him to sit in parliament) contributes to this crackdown, as the president has more reason to fear the opposition. It will be interesting to see how much this intensifies as the election looms closer, and whether or not Rakhmonov will push at least some election reforms the way Nazarbayev did in Kazakhstan.