Limited access to official information is still one of the main problems for Tajik journalists. Journalists continue to experience difficulties in obtaining official information. A number of legislative acts of Tajikistan, and in particular, the Laws "On Television and Radio Broadcasting" and "On the Press and Other Mass Media" impose on the state, political, public organizations and officials the obligation to provide the media with the necessary information, with the exception of the state or other legally protected secret. Moreover, in accordance with Article 25 of the Law “On Information”, the restriction of the right to receive public information is prohibited. But as practice shows, the articles of these Laws work poorly enough.
Journalists, mostly correspondents working for news agencies, have difficulty obtaining timely information. Officials refuse to provide information or comment on an event by telephone, arguing that some journalists distort the information or quotation received. They require the journalist to make an appointment with them in advance. But it should be noted that the specificity of the journalistic profession is such that journalists seek information quickly and sometimes they simply don’t have enough time to meet with sources. In addition, the current legislation provides for seeking information and verbally.
Quite often, officials, refusing to provide information, recommend the journalist to receive information from the press service. But even here many problems arise. Firstly, not all ministries and departments have press services. Secondly, the professional level of representatives of some press services leaves much to be desired. Often, they can not answer the most basic questions, referring to their employment or incompetence in a particular issue. And this raises the question, if the representative of the press service does not understand the question asked by the journalist, then why does he take this place?
On March 4, 2005, President Emomali Rahmon ordered that heads of ministries and departments, as well as heads of local authorities of the country, hold quarterly press conferences with media representatives. Thanks to this order, journalists had the opportunity to meet with the heads of state bodies and ask them questions of interest. But in this case, state officials manage to avoid sensitive questions and not to answer them.
Often, officials require a request for information and in the form of a written request with questions prepared in advance, but this form of appeal does not always work effectively. More often than not, the official is so much delayed with the answers that the problem that the journalist intended to shed light loses its relevance. More often, officials ignore the request of the journalist altogether and do not contact him. The request of a journalist is lost in a pile of papers, and it becomes almost impossible to find an official at the workplace.
Undoubtedly, some journalists in the coverage of a particular topic, in their materials or news make mistakes, distort the facts and use anonymous sources. Many officials pay attention to this and reproach it. But again, this is due to the fault of government representatives. If representatives of the authorities worked closely with journalists and openly provided them with official information that is not a state secret, such facts might have subsided, and anonymous sources would have completely disappeared from the journalistic vocabulary.
The Criminal Code of the Republic of Tajikistan provides for liability for refusing to provide information to a citizen (article 148) and for obstructing the lawful professional activities of a journalist (article 162). But as practice shows, no criminal case has been initiated under these articles. Journalists do not fight for their rights for several reasons. One of them is a lack of trust in the judicial authorities of the country.
Foreign experts at various international conferences or seminars often point out the low professional level of Tajik journalists. Perhaps this criticism has grounds, but at the same time I would like to look at this problem from the other side.
Analyzing the activities of Tajik journalists, it is possible to come to one conclusion - the journalists of Tajikistan are working in extreme conditions. I would like to give a few examples. Journalists, especially those working for foreign media, are under the scrutiny of the authorities. As noted above, there is a limitation in obtaining official information. In many ministries and departments there are no press services, and there are no websites. Officials are reluctant to work with journalists. There is censorship in almost all editions and editors. In addition, there is self-censorship. Tajik journalists are afraid to publish critical materials, as this is not safe for them.
Journalists working for the local media, and especially in the regions, receive meager wages. Many of them do not have access to computers and the Internet. The situation is complicated in the winter, when a limited supply of electricity is introduced throughout the country. Young journalists, having worked for some time, cannot adapt in such a difficult situation and as a result change their profession.
Working in such conditions, many journalists do not have to think about improving their professional level.
Recently, the human rights international organization “Article 19” (London) prepared and distributed the report “Control Policy: the Situation with Freedom of Speech in Tajikistan”, which describes the problems faced by the Tajik media in practice. The report, in particular, notes that the mass media in Tajikistan is mainly controlled by the state, while the rest of the media face many obstacles - from threats and intimidation, difficulties in registering and obtaining licenses to obstacles using printing houses.
“The combination of these measures has led to self-censorship among journalists, who often wish to serve as a mouthpiece for the government and other sponsors in order to increase their meager earnings. Difficult economic conditions, lack of training, opportunities for investigation and journalistic professionalism, as well as the unwillingness of the authorities to be open and transparent, also hinder the development of a truly free press in the near future. A factor that further aggravates the situation is the limited interest of Tajik society in human rights, given that since the time of the civil war, interest in achieving stability and economic prosperity has prevailed even at the cost of infringing civil liberties, ”the report says.
This document also provides a number of recommendations to the Tajik government. In particular, it is recommended: it is necessary to adopt a comprehensive Law on Access to Information to guarantee and streamline this right; private printing houses should be allowed to work without prior permission and without informal intervention; In accordance with international law, the Tajik authorities should create an atmosphere in which pluralism of opinion can flourish, etc.