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How to Cover Religious Issues? IWPR Tajikistan Presented the Toolkit for Journalists on Covering Religious Issues

On February 17, in Dushanbe, a presentation on the application of the Toolkit on covering religious issues in Tajikistan was held.

Photo: CABAR.asia
Photo: CABAR.asia

The presentation was held at a workshop session, where the contributors of the Toolkit gave advice on the effective application of this guide.

The Toolkit is created for journalists and civil society representatives working in relevant fields. It includes four chapters:

  1. The right to freedom of religion
  2. Legislative regulation of religious issues in the Republic of Tajikistan
  3. Practical recommendations for journalists
  4. Glossary of terms used in covering religious issues

About 40 media representatives, activists and bloggers attended the event.

In her opening speech, Lola Olimova, coordinator of the Stability in Central Asia via Open Dialog project and IWPR Tajikistan Editor, emphasized the importance of following the main recommendations of this Toolkit, which is based on many years’ experience of IWPR in Central Asian region.

“This is extremely important, in the light of recent events in Tajikistan, when we witness the persecution of journalists for their materials on religion, which may not have complied with the international standards. Following the recommendations from the Toolkit will secure you, your editors office, as well as the society that consumes your product,” she said.

Inga Sikorskaya, Director of the School of Peacemaking and Media Technology in Central Asia. Photo: CABAR.asia
Inga Sikorskaya, Director of the School of Peacemaking and Media Technology in Central Asia. Photo: CABAR.asia

Inga Sikorskaya, the author of two chapters, the Director of the School of Peacemaking and Media Technology, spoke about the features of the international regulatory framework, the latest trends in covering religious issues in Central Asia, and the tools used to cover religious issues.

Sikorskaya appealed to journalists to follow the standards that would not allow them to offend other people’s feelings and abandon the terms of the hate speech.

Shoira Davlatova, a lawyer and human rights activist, the author of one of the Toolkit chapters, spoke about the nuances of local legislation on covering sensitive topics.

Participants discussed the methods of proper covering the activities of religious organizations that are legally banned in the Republic of Tajikistan, the fine line between freedom of speech and hate speech and the journalist’s role in covering religious issues.

Photo: CABAR.asia
Photo: CABAR.asia

Khosiyathon Komilova, independent journalist, believes that the publication of this Toolkit is timely, especially considering that currently various law enforcement agencies have increased the pressure on journalists who cover religious issues.

“Journalists are criticized and blamed for every simple sentence. Today, in our society, unfortunately, no educational institution teaches the nuances of religion: neither Christianity, nor Buddhism, nor Islam. That is why most journalists make mistakes when covering such issues. In addition, some law enforcement officers, for the same reason – a lack of religious knowledge, while studying a journalistic article may immediately accuse the authors of complicity with extremist or terrorist organizations and drag them to the court. I am very glad that the Institute for War and Peace Reporting has published such a necessary guide,” Komilova said.

According to her, the Toolkit provides detailed systematic recommendations that contribute to the correct and safe coverage of religious issues.

“This is a very useful and timely Toolkit. It includes everything that every journalist needs. Moreover, most importantly, it is written in a plain and understandable language. I hope that everyone who needs it will be able to receive this Toolkit,” said Abdulaziz Voseev, journalist, editor of rushnoy.org website.

Journalist Zevarsho Muhammad proposed that in the future, when creating such guides, authors would pay more attention to the current situation and the legislation of Tajikistan, “using real cases and examples, as well as reflecting all existing problems”.

“Certainly, the current reality in our country is such that it is impossible to reflect all the events honestly and openly. However, if we will continue considering the existing problems from this point of view, then we will never make any progress,” said Zevarsho Muhammad.

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