Independent media outlets in Tajikistan say it has become difficult for them to interview officials following a new government directive.
The new directive instructs officials to make the state news agency their first choice when giving information to the press. The directive applies to information about government meetings, the president and any trips he makes, and all meetings attended by Tajik officials abroad or in Tajikistan.
Umed Babakhanov, head of Tajikistan's independent Asia-Plus media holding company, was critical of the policy, stating that “if all official information goes through one channel, ordinary people will get less news about the government's activities.” Mr Babakhanov raised concerns that the development may “create a growing gap between the authorities and society”.
The head of the National Association of Independent Media of Tajikistan, Nouriddin Qarshiboyev, voiced fears regarding the possible shrinking of the space for independent journalists to operate in Tajikistan, branding the new directive “against the constitution,” which he said “provides equal rights to media outlets”.
Tajikistan consistently ranks near the bottom of international ratings for press freedom. It is ranked 116th among 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index for 2015.