DUSHANBE, February 11, 2011, Asia-Plus  -- A republican media forum entitled “Modern Threats and Challenges to Independent Media Activities and Ways of Removal of Them” too place in Dushanbe on February 11.

Organized with support from the Mass Media Program of the Tajik Branch of Open Society Institute/Assistance Foundation (OSI/AF-Tajikistan), the conference brought together representatives from central and regional media outlets, international organizations and diplomatic missions accredited in Tajikistan to discuss problems that impede development and functioning of media outlets in the country.

The forum participants noted that freedom of speech and medial outlets in Tajikistan were under pressure from the authorities.  Tajik medial outlets need support and new media legislation that would meet requirements of the time.

Speaking at meeting, Nargis Zokirova, chairperson of Tajikistan’s Bureau on Human Rights and Rule of Law (BHR), noted that legal prosecution of reporters undertaken by officials evoked serious concern of journalist community.  The fact that the plaintiffs in these lawsuits are powerful officials sends a chilling message to the independent press, negatively impacts the level of freedom of speech in the country.  Increasing cases of filing defamation lawsuits against representatives of media outlets are a reason journalists self-censor their work.

Chairman of the National Association of Independent Media of Tajikistan (Nansmit), Nouriddin Qarshiboyev, noted that the main problem facing media outlets today was indifference to the laws regulating media activities in the country and ignorance of many nuances.  “The parliament is currently drafting a new edition of the media law, which, in my opinion, meets all norms; however, there are two problems to be tackled – registration and re-registration of media outlets,” the media watchdog head said.

Lawyer Junaydullo Ibodov, for his part, noted that the registration problems resulted from the fact that at present several bodies, including the ministries of culture and justice as well as tax committee, dealt with registration of media outlets.  “All this leads to confusion,” the lawyer said.