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Why Are Tajik TV Channels Silent About Events in Belarus and Kyrgyzstan?

Why do the Tajik media prefer not to discuss the protests in Belarus and the change of power in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan?

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Митинги в Беларуси. Фото: dw.com
Protests in Belarus. Photo: dw.com

For several months now, the protests continue in Belarus; at the same time in Kyrgyzstan, the President resigned and the new elections are being prepared. In Tajikistan, media publish only brief reports on these events, and some journalists even claim facing censorship.

Jaloliddin, resident of a remote village in Jomi district of Khatlon region, says that he heard about the protests in Belarus and Kyrgyzstan from the Russian TV channels. He expected Tajik media to cover this topic as well.

“I watched Tajik TV channels for several days. However, they did not talk about the events in Belarus and Kyrgyzstan. I would really like to see the impact of these events on our country and hear their analysis from Tajik experts,” Jaloliddin said.

A journalist of the Tajik state Shabakai Avval TV channel, one of the authors of the international news program, told CABAR.asia that the Center for Strategic Studies, the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Tajikistan and the Tajik National University proposed to conduct an analytical program about events in Belarus and Kyrgyzstan. According to him, the channel’s management refused.

“They did not tell me why I should not cover these issues. We constantly talked about the events in Iraq, Syria and other restive regions, but we were not allowed to cover the events happening in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan,” said the journalist of the Tajik TV channel.

Another journalist of the state Jahonnamo news channel also claimed that the management banned the coverage of events in Belarus and Kyrgyzstan.

“Events in Belarus and Kyrgyzstan occurred during Tajikistan’s preparation for the Presidential elections. Since August, we did not have a single detailed analytical program on any international issues,” said the journalist of Jahonnamo TV.

The last message about Belarus on Jahonnamo TV’s website was published on May 10, 2019, and on the TVT’s website – on May 15, 2018.

Meanwhile, TV channels constantly publish information about other international events.

In Belarus, the first protests caused by the dissatisfaction with the results of the Presidential elections took place on August 9. On August 6, the Parliament of Tajikistan announced the date of the Presidential elections – a month earlier than was planned, on October 11. Previously, the elections were supposed to be held on November 6.

The Deputy Speaker of the Parliament Mahmadali Vatanzoda commented on this decision and stated that the shift of the elections is due to two reasons. According to him, October is the month with the most favourable weather and there is a risk of a second wave of coronavirus in the autumn.

Do Detractors Only Talk About Belarus and Kyrgyzstan?

Акции протеста в Бишкеке в октябре. Фото: CABAR.asia
October protests in Bishkek. Photo: CABAR.asia

The Khovar news agency, the official state media of Tajikistan, did not publish materials about the events in Belarus and Kyrgyzstan, except for a few official messages.

However, Khovar published an article by two professors of the Tajik National University – Sirojiddin Emomali and Shodmon Faizalizoda. It stated that the banned parties and movements and “some foreign news agencies hostile to the state and the nation, as well as individuals on social networks inspired by the current events in Belarus want to share those events with our country and give readers the opportunity to draw “necessary” conclusions.”

Фотоколлаж "Ховар" размещен с подписью: "В противовес нескольким тысячам противников Лукашенко несколько миллионов человек в стране заявили о поддержке своего президента".
Khovar published this photo collage with the caption: “In contrast to several thousand opponents of Lukashenko, several million people in the country supported their President”.

“Some of them are inspired by these events, predict the same events in our country and rejoice at such immature fantasies,” the article says.

The authors cite several statements that, in their opinion, prove the impossibility of the similar events in Tajikistan, but at the same time, warn the reader to remain vigilant in this matter.

“The real reason for several more revolutions in the so-called “revolutionary” countries (especially in Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan) was the deception of the people and disappointment that the expectations from the revolution and its leaders were misplaced,” the authors argue.

Tajik media expert Kironshoh Sharifzoda says that media are reluctant to report the events in Belarus and Kyrgyzstan for fear of being accused of destabilization of the situation.

“What if the authorities think what we want is the situation as in Belarus and Kyrgyzstan?  Exactly for this reason, the journalists may avoid discussing recent events (in Minsk and Bishkek – Ed.). In general, the media caution reflects the current situation due to restrictions. There are almost no people with different point of view in the media,” said Kironshoh Sharifzoda.

Кироншох Шарифзода. Фото с личной страницы в facebook.com
Kironshoh Sharifzoda. Photo from personal Facebook page

Another Tajik media expert Abdumalik Kadyrov also suggested that the media, primarily the state ones, were given “a silent order not to aggravate the situation”.

“That is, the less people know about such provocative events, the less they will commit provocative acts and the country will remain peaceful. According to officials, those who propagandize such events intend to plunge Tajikistan into the same chaos,” Kadyrov added.

Tajik journalists reported that in 2016, after the Uzbek President Islam Karimov’s death, law enforcement officials went to all media and urged editors not to publish “negative news about Uzbekistan”. Based on this experience, the experts believe that in recent months, the authorities again instructed journalists to refrain from covering events in Belarus and Kyrgyzstan.

According to officials, those who propagandize such events intend to plunge Tajikistan into the same chaos.

Imruz News, the only independent daily newspaper in Tajikistan, also barely publishes the news about the events in Minsk and Bishkek. However, the journalist of the media anonymously told CABAR.asia that this was not due to censorship restrictions.

“We do not cover events in Belarus and Kyrgyzstan, because the readers are not interested in this topic. In addition, we do not have experts in this subject,” the journalist said.

This article was prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project.

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