Tajikistan, located in Central Asia to the north of Afghanistan, is geographically isolated and its economy is struggling. Journalism courses are provided at a number of universities, but for the most part these courses are theoretical. Now, since an explosion in the number of mobile phones has helped connect half of the population to the Internet, it is essential to improve the professional skills of Tajik journalists. Free Press Unlimited therefore supports the Independent School of Journalism Tajikistan XXI Century.

On the thirteenth floor of a run-down Soviet-era office tower in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, dozens of young journalists have been working eagerly on investigative reports. The topics are as diverse as the local life in this remote Central Asian republic: a business incubator group helps local entrepreneurs; the continued use of torture by local police; the state of public transport in Kurgan-Tyube.

Published in newspapers and websites, illustrated with videos, graphs, slide shows and other new online media tools, these reports are setting new standards for news reporting in Tajikistan.

Updating the local media landscape

Provincial media are important in the media landscape, but are often underfunded. In the Pamir mountain region of eastern Tajikistan, once heavily subsidized by Moscow because of its strategic importance, no independent professional newspaper had been produced since the end of the Soviet Union in 1991. Free Press Unlimited has helped local journalists to establish Impuls, just such a professional newspaper, published in the regional capital, Khorog.

In addition, Free Press Unlimited supports media consultants to give local news outlets technology and management advice. Newspapers, radio and television stations are trained in setting up websites, using social media and in the efficient management of their newsrooms.

Free Press Unlimited has also worked with the main Tajik-language newspaper, Faraj, to upgrade its reporting from provincial areas beyond the capital that are often overlooked by the Tajik media. Many Tajikistan citizens speak Russian as their first language and since the outbreak of hostilities between Russia and Ukraine in 2014, many people in Central Asia have become concerned about the biased nature of Russian-language media produced in Russia. Free Press Unlimited has provided help to establish a Russian-language version of Faraj’s news website.