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Tajik Service is Main News Provider, and Trainer, Too

Prague -- Amriddin Olimov and Shahlo Abdulloeva spoke with Tajik Service Director Sojida Djakhfarova during their training program at RFE/RL headquarters November 2013.
Prague -- Amriddin Olimov and Shahlo Abdulloeva spoke with Tajik Service Director Sojida Djakhfarova during their training program at RFE/RL headquarters November 2013.
RFE/RL’s Tajik Service, locally known as Radio Ozodi, was the leading provider of news in Tajikistan in 2013, according to Boztob, a Dushanbe-based analytical and research center.

According to the center’s roundup for 2013, which tallied reprints, citations, links and shared content, Radio Ozodi’s original reports comprised 60 percent of all information published inside the country.

Service director Sojida Djakhfarova noted the recent popularity of Radio Ozodi's Russian page. In addition to commanding local interest, she said many stories are quoted and picked up by media organizations in neighboring countries.

One report that was widely cited focused on the wives of migrants, who demanded that their husbands return to Tajikistan. “In one day as many as 20 news sources linked to this story,” said Djakhfarova. “We get most credit for original stories like this one.”

Radio Ozodi’s local reputation and its multimedia expertise recently prompted the Tajik branch of the Open Society Foundations to turn to it for support in launching a summer Multimedia Journalism School.

The project, having just completed its initial year, provides an opportunity for young journalists and Internet activists between the ages of 20 to 25 to receive training in multimedia journalism. The course comprises 160 hours of in-country training, during which participants learn the basics of multimedia platforms, international media law, editing and storyboarding a TV report. They also acquire knowledge in the fields of digital information and security, social media and mobile journalism.

The training is provided by multimedia professionals representing media outlets that have proven to be innovative in the field. Radio Ozodi’s local journalists are among them.

In addition to the Dushanbe training, the program selects two high-performing students to participate in a two-week practicum with Radio Ozodi at RFE/RL’s headquarters in Prague.

Shahlo Abdulloeva, a correspondent with the Tajik independent weekly newspaper “Nigoh,” and Amriddin Olimov, a correspondent with the local independent television station “Mavji Ozod” received the “study-abroad” award this year.

In Prague, they worked with RFE/RL professionals who taught them the basics of photo- and video journalism, web reporting and graphics design.

Describing her experience, Abdulloeva singled out the value of RFE/RL’s training on infographics. “I used to create my infographics in Microsoft Word or similar programs,” she said. “I didn't realize that there are special programs that help you create infographics much faster and that they would look neater too.”

Olimov was also pleased with his new infographics skills, which he hopes to use to create an interactive map that would chart the problems young people in his country are having in a specific geographic area. “It would be difficult to implement, but I will do it one day,” he said.

The students’ work was placed on a specially created web page on Radio Ozodi’s website.

Djakhfarova believes the training program helps strengthen Tajik media. “I believe the one thing most needed by Tajik journalism is interactive media,” she said. “In countries like Tajikistan, people become politicized and there is very little material unrelated to politics. [Journalists] don’t know what people really want.”

“That’s why we need journalists who have a gut feeling for what a reader needs. And that’s what we help them learn,” she said.

Olimov has since been hired by Radio Ozodi’s team in Dushanbe.

- Anna Shamanska