In March and April, while countries around the world were just starting to realize the massive problems they were facing due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, authorities in Tajikistan claimed there were no cases in the country and urged people to go about their daily lives as usual. The government even helped to arrange large public celebrations of the Norouz holiday in late March.
But the Tajik authorities were wrong.
The coronavirus was in the country, and by the time they finally admitted it at the end of April, the situation was beyond the ability of the country’s medical system to handle.
Unable to control the spread of the virus, the government resorted to its longtime tactic of trying to control information, providing some dubious figures about the number of infections inside the country.
Other, independent sources of information were reporting the problem was far worse than official statistics showed.
So the Tajik government just passed new regulations on reporting false information, which some feel simply means information that does not jibe with what the government says.
The independent news website Akhbor, which is run from the Czech Republic, reported on suspicious quarantines and deaths in Tajikistan. In March, Tajikistan’s Supreme Court ordered that the site be blocked. More recently, authorities have put pressure on the family of Akhbor founder and editor Mirzo Salimpur.
On this week's Majlis podcast, RFE/RL's media-relations manager for South and Central Asia, Muhammad Tahir, moderates a discussion that looks at the Tajik government’s latest crackdown on the few independent media outlets that still report honestly about affairs inside the country.
This week’s guests are, from Paris, Jeanne Cavelier, the head of the East Europe and Central Asia desk at Reporters Without Borders; and from Prague, Mirzo Salimpur of Akhbor, Sirojiddin Tolibov from RFE/RL’s Tajik Service, known locally as Ozodi; and Bruce Pannier, the author of the Qishloq Ovozi blog.
Listen to the podcast above or subscribe to the Majlis on iTunes or on Google Podcasts.