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Tajik Service's Cockroach Effect

Tajikistan - Radio Ozodi website, 16Feb2010
An official with Tajikistan's presidential apparatus told a meeting of assembled political, NGO and media representatives that reports from several foreign internet sites, and their rebroadcast and reprint by local media, "could be poisonous for the health and well-being of the country's population," RFE/RL's Tajik service reports.

Ansor Niyozov spoke to the country's Public Assembly, a body created in 1998 as a result of a kind of civic truce concluded between the Tajik government and the United Tajik Opposition. The Assembly includes representatives of most of the country's political parties and social movements and is led by Tajik President Emomali Rahmon.

Niyozov convened the group to discuss national security and the mass media. He told the gathering that his office continuously analyzes reporting by foreign media, claiming that 30000 items had been assessed in the last five years. He said that some 500 reports from the Tajik Service's Radio Ozodi and some 200 reports from the Internet site had been assessed as "poisonous." Niyozov then employed the analogy of a diseased coackroach to explain how Radio Ozodi spreads infection among an entire community, ultimately immunizing them with its "poison."

Niyozov also drew special attention to the interactivity promoted by Radio Ozodi's website, noting that articles posted on the site typically attract numerous comments from readers. He exhorted official media to adopt similar methods to engage users more directly.

Akbar Sattor, head of Tajikistan's Union of Journalists, rebuffed Niyozov and said that local newspapers and other media have the right to reprint or quote any report. He added that local media should not forget national interests, and should carefully scrutinize the professionalism of such reports before reproducing them.

An official from the country's State Security Council appealed to local state and independent media to be more active, pointing out that residents in the border areas cannot easily access state-run broadcasts, while the State Commission on Television and Radio refuses to grant licenses to independent radio and tv. In such areas, he claimed, Uzbek media fills the gap.