"Tajikistan is a dynamic, democratic and stable country with strong public and state institutions and civil society"

Can you give the readers an idea of the media landscape of Tajikistan and its quantitative and qualitative evolution in recent yearsnamely, the number of media outlets (both printed and digital) operating in the country, on the one hand; as well as the legislative and regulatory environment in which they operate, on the other hand?

Let me start by saying that Tajikistan is a dynamic, democratic and stable country with strong public and state institutions and civil society. It has implemented important reforms that have established a system of public administration. Step by step Tajikistan is taking further reforms to enhance democratization and ensure respect for human rights. It has secured fundamental rights and freedoms in the country's Constitution. The citizens of Tajikistan enjoy equal rights and opportunities protected by the legislative framework.

Owing to the independence of the Republic of Tajikistan, the state's press system has noticeably changed in form, content, purpose and number of newspapers and magazines. All the necessary conditions have been created for the development of media. Along with the state-owned media, an independent press is steadily developing in the country as well.

Founder of Peace and National Unity – Leader of the Nation, President of the Republic of Tajikistan H.E. Mr. Emomali Rahmon pays special attention to the development of mass media within the country. According to the Constitution, Tajikistan is a sovereign, democratic, legal, secular, unitary state. And freedom of speech is guaranteed by the Constitution to every citizen of our nation.

Based on these principles, over the years of independence we have significantly improved the legislative framework for the activities of media, adopted 3 concepts, 5 state programs and a number of laws for the media regulation.

Over the past 3 years, 175 newspaper titles have been registered (114 state-owned and 61 independent ones), 148 magazine titles (124 state-owned and 24 independent ones), 107 printing houses, including 17 state-owned and 90 private ones, 11 publishing houses, including 5 state-owned and 6 independent ones, 5 news agencies, including 1 state-owned and 4 independent ones.

It is crucial to note that on 14 March 1992, the Law of the Republic of Tajikistan "On Periodicals and Other Mass Media" was adopted, which was amended and supplemented in 1996, 1999, 2002 and 2016. With the evolution and improvement of media, specifically the private press, there was a need to prepare and adopt a new law on media. Conscious of the importance of this matter, on the legislative initiatives of the members of Majlisi Namoyandagon Majlisi Oli (Assembly of Representatives of the Parliament of the Republic of Tajikistan) a new bill "On Periodicals and Other Mass Media" was prepared and issued on 14 May 2016 taking into account the opinion of journalistic community.

Furthermore, the "State Program of Development of Digital Television Broadcasting in the Republic of Tajikistan for 2020-2024" and the "State Program of Development of Television and Radio in the Republic of Tajikistan for 2021-2025" have been adopted in this field. These programs are aimed at developing television broadcasting and, on this basis, ensuring constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens, equal and unhindered access to information, effective use of national cultural heritage, historical traditions, compliance with social norms, protection of moral values, promoting patriotism and ensuring information security.

For the purposes of establishing a constructive dialogue between governmental agencies and the media, in 2009 the Leader of the Nation, President of the Republic of Tajikistan H.E. Mr. Emomali Rahmon signed a Decree "On official responses to critical and analytical materials in the media".

Digital media is rapidly evolving in Tajikistan. In this regard, measures are being taken to create favourable conditions for its activities. Prior to independence, there was only one television and one radio in Tajikistan. And currently, there are 52 TV channels in the country, including 15 state-owned and 18 non-state channels, 15 cable TV and 4 IPTV, 32 radio stations, including 10 state-owned and 22 non-state ones. Most of the media are non-governmental. This serves as a vivid evidence of the state's democratic course and existence of a free environment for expression of opinions.

What role does the media play within the country in creating a common sense of cultural identity and patriotism among the Tajik population?

Patriotic education of citizens and development of a sense of cultural identity are the core tasks facing the media.

In the Republic of Tajikistan, media plays a key role in strengthening the cultural values and forming the patriotic identity of society. As stated by the Leader of the Nation, President of the Republic of Tajikistan H.E. Mr. Emomali Rahmon about the high status of the press: "Any democratic society needs media and their effective activities. Newspapers, magazines, television and radio as one of the main tools of influencing the public opinion can actively contribute to solving the existing problems".

Media have a great influence on formation and maintenance of cultural identity, enhancement of cultural values, preservation of cultural diversity, traditions and customs.

Playing a key role in preservation of culture, the media serve as an essential platform for development and popularization of literature, traditional music, art and state language.

Patriotism is experiencing an unprecedented rise in Tajikistan; national traditions and customs are being actively revived. And media being an integral part of the society are fulfilling the primary task in promoting cultural values and patriotic ideas throughout this process.

The Government of the Republic of Tajikistan with the aim to promote a patriotic education of citizens, especially teenagers and youth, gradually takes measures and establishes political, legal, socio-economic and cultural foundations for this approach.

In this context, the National Concept of up-bringing in the Republic of Tajikistan was adopted in 2006, and a number of other documents such as "The National Program of the Social Development of Youth in the Republic of Tajikistan for 2022-2026" and "The State Program for Patriotic Education and Strengthening the National Youth Identity of Tajikistan for 2023-2027" were enacted as well.

It is evident that the democratic and legal principles of the state envisage the development of human rights and freedoms, taking into account the increasing level of responsibility in all spheres of society. These programs are aimed at strengthening the role of society in the training and education of youth, advocacy of the national ideas and love for the Motherland, national dignity and creating favourable conditions for strengthening the basis for the legal, political and cultural education of youth. Constant measures of the Government to implement the state youth policy play a major and effective role in the process of development of an independent, democratic and unitary state and in the full personality formation of youth in the society.

In general, media plays a central role in disseminating cultural values, promoting cultural exchange, preserving cultural heritage and strengthening the patriotic identity of a society.

How has the media landscape changed with the introduction of new technologies and modern means of communication, including social networking services, blogging, and etc.?

In the era of an active development of the latest means and channels of internet communications, and evolution of their quality and accessibility, it is becoming increasingly urgent to ensure use of various media technologies. The relevance of this matter is caused by the need to improve public administration based on new features of services, social networks and internet platforms. Interconnection between state and society through these resources becomes distinct. One of the essential conditions is the availability of the internet for users. New media technologies are actively used in promoting democratic transformations in the society, digitalizing the economy and preventing the corruption.

Along with the development of radio and television channels, related information resources, in particular social networks are also widely used. All the radio and television channels actively use the multimedia principle. In addition to the official websites, television and radio channels use social networks such as Facebook, YouTube, Telegram and Instagram to distribute their materials. For instance, over the last year the "Tajikistan Television" official YouTube channel exceeded 25 million views.

Freedom of media is an important goal, but so is Tajikistan's legitimate desire for stability and security, as well as the protection of traditional values (e.g. family values). How to combine these goals so that they do not contradict each other?

Definitely in the context of meteoric development of the mass media, especially social networks and high technologies, maintaining comprehensive security, peace and tranquillity in the society becomes paramount given the contemporary threats.

Media are responsible for the objectivity and reliability of the information they disseminate. National mass media regardless of their status, affiliation and relationship with the authorities are called upon to protect the Constitution, national interests, stability and public order, and act in the interests of people.

For this purpose, media in Tajikistan play an important role in strengthening peace, security and harmony in the society, as well as make a significant contribution to the promotion of national values.

The adopted legislative norms directly indicate the inadmissibility of abuse of freedom of speech in the society. With the aim to preserve cultural and moral values, including family traditions, the topics of national identity, culture, art and development of folk crafts are regularly promoted through the media. The country has a law "On Parents' Responsibility for Children's Upbringing and Education".

It is quite obvious that the rich culture and age-old traditions of our people contribute to the preservation and strengthening of family traditions and cultural values in the society.

As part of the multi-faceted cooperation within the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, how are the European Union and Tajikistan collaborating to strengthen the media landscape and improve the quality of journalism in Tajikistan?

The European Union is an important partner of Tajikistan in implementing programs in the field of the rule of law and strengthening the media landscape. The dialogue platforms in this area, regularly held since 2008 between Tajikistan and the European Union are at the forefront of developing legal acts on media, increasing media literacy, as well as the enhancing the effectiveness of media landscape and journalism. In December 2023, the Republic of Tajikistan and the European Union held the 14th round of the annual Human Rights Dialogue in Dushanbe. In the lead-up to this event, the 10th edition of the Tajikistan-EU Civil Society Seminar with wide participation of media representatives took place in our capital.

We also actively work with the Council of Europe, the Venice Commission and other European organizations to support higher education students and the journalistic community in advanced training and sharing experience.

At the same time, I would like to point out three areas of our interaction with the European Union, which are the media landscape, media professionalism and media literacy. In implementing projects in these areas, the European Union collaborates closely with independent media in Tajikistan.

As part of development of the media landscape, the European Union promotes the expansion of dialogue between representatives of the media community, government agencies and the Parliament. The scheduled events include information sessions for the members of the lower house of the Parliament and representatives of the relevant agencies, as well as the public hearings with active participation of their representatives for incorporating the proposals from the journalistic community into the new law on media.

In order to promote media professionalism, exchange platforms are being created between interested representatives of the media, and trainings on modern trends in journalism and new opportunities for interaction with the audience and journalists for press secretaries of the state bodies of Tajikistan are organized.

Finally, media literacy support is aimed at developing the skills of journalists and bloggers to analyse media content, create their own audiovisual content, increase the ability to identify fake news and disinformation, apply critical review and fact-checking methods, promote understanding of professional and ethical behaviour in cyberspace, data protection and online security.