Tajik Officials Forced to Answer Criticism

New rules requiring Tajik officials to be more responsive have largely been welcomed, although some of them may continue reacting badly to constructive criticism.

Tajik Officials Forced to Answer Criticism

New rules requiring Tajik officials to be more responsive have largely been welcomed, although some of them may continue reacting badly to constructive criticism.

Saturday, 21 February, 2009
The idea behind President Imomali Rahmonov’s February 7 decree is to ensure officials respond whenever concerns are raised about them in the media; they will have to report back to his office on any action they have taken.



As reporter Farzona Abdulqaisova discovered, there is a feeling that officials either remain silent and try to ride out any criticism, or lash out at those who question them.



Umid Babakhanov, head of the Asia Plus media group, believes the decree will prove valuable.



“It’s very good that all officials have been placed under an obligation to pay attention to critical articles in the Tajik media, to react to them, and to take action and fix things where necessary,” he said. “On the other hand, it naturally places a greater responsibility on us journalists. This decree doesn’t open the way to unbridled abuse or unfounded criticism of every single official.”



Some journalists believe the decree could be a double-edged sword, and might actually make them more cautious about writing material that could create trouble for them later on.



Khurshed Atovulloev, head of the Centre for Investigative Journalism, says that in his experience officials, especially in local government and the security services, are allergic to criticism and are quick to resort to libel charges – still part of criminal law in Tajikistan – to gag journalists who speak out about their activities.
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