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Tajikistan Demands Wikipedia 'Correct Spelling Mistakes'

Wikipedia editor Ibrohimjon Rustamov says Dushanbe's demand suggests that Tajik officials have little idea of how the encyclopedia website actually works. (file photo)
Wikipedia editor Ibrohimjon Rustamov says Dushanbe's demand suggests that Tajik officials have little idea of how the encyclopedia website actually works. (file photo)

Tajikistan's state language committee is demanding that Wikipedia correct what it described as "spelling mistakes" in the online encyclopedia's Tajik-language content.

The committee claims that numerous Tajik words have been misspelled and warns the errors violate the country's state-language law and therefore make Wikipedia legally liable for the mistakes.

Tajik officials have been scrutinizing Wikipedia for the past two weeks, the deputy head of the language committee, Saodatsho Matrobiyon, said on October 2.

The committee has warned the publishers of Wikipedia's Tajik-language pages about the errors and suggested that "all spelling mistakes must be corrected," the state agency's official website says.

It remains unclear whether or even how Tajik authorities could potentially take legal action against Wikipedia, a nonprofit, multilingual online encyclopedia that relies on a worldwide community of volunteers to write, edit, and correct its millions of pages.

'Senseless' Demand

Ibrohimjon Rustamov, a U.S.-based Tajik scholar who takes an active part in writing and editing Wikipedia's Tajik-language content, says Tajik officials' demand indicates how "unaware" they are about how the website operates.

Wikipedia "is free and public, it's edited by the world community, sometimes anonymously," Rustamov told RFE/RL. "It's senseless to demand editing from a source that can be edited by anyone, including by Tajikistan's language-committee specialists," Rustamov added.

He urged the committee to "mobilize its own editors to improve the Tajik content in Wikipedia, instead of killing initiatives by others."

Rustamov, who studied educational technology in the United States, was among the first Tajik volunteers to take the initiative to write and edit Tajik-language material for Wikipedia more than a decade ago.

Rustamov wrote his first article for the site in 2006, when he worked as an English-language teacher in his native Isfara, a small town in northern Tajikistan.

Administrative Punishments

In 2014, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon praised the initiative and called on Tajik scholars and writers to help improve Wikipedia's Tajik-language pages.

The language committee has, in the past, warned hundreds of businesses and institutions across the country to correct or change their names according to Tajikistan's state-language law. Dozens of "offenders" have been subject to administrative punishments, including fines.

Founded in 2001, Wikipedia is made up of more than 40 million articles in nearly 300 languages. The website's content can be written, edited, and modified by anyone, and the writers are encouraged to back up their statements with verifiable references and to avoid injecting opinion. Bad content, factual errors, and typos are usually swiftly spotted and deleted or corrected by other editors.

Written and reported by Farangis Najibullah with additional reporting by RFE/RL's Tajik Service
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    Farangis Najibullah

    Farangis Najibullah is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL who has reported on a wide range of topics from Central Asia, including the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on the region. She has extensively covered efforts by Central Asian states to repatriate and reintegrate their citizens who joined Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

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    RFE/RL's Tajik Service

    RFE/RL’s Tajik Service is a trusted source of local news, attracting audiences with compelling reporting on issues not otherwise covered by Tajikistan’s state-run media.