Tajikistan: Politicized Navruz

Navruz is one of the main celebrations for Tajiks. This time — more than ever — it means end of one of the harshest winter in several decades. People could hardly wait for these warm days that have come with the beginning of spring. Navruz has been celebrated throughout the country during the last six days.

Aisha saysthat it's a nice time because “Tajik people seem to gain energy after the hardships of winter”:

In Tajik language Navruz means “New Day” and the 21st of March is also a kind of New Year eve. This year, the president came to Khujand and all people were walking in the streets and parks, taking boats on the river, eating ice-cream and watching street performers. Women wore national satin spring-colored dresses and friends and families got together to make sumanak — a sweet paste made from wheat.

During the last six days Tajik broadcast media were covering only Navruz celebrations attended by higher officials in different parts of the country. Tojvar comments that it is too hard to see one and the same face on TV all the time [tj]:

If a foreigner watches Navruz on Tajik television, he would think that it is either a president's birthday or his pre-election campaign.

This year all main festivities were held in Khujand on the main square near the building of the local government, where a a theatrical performance of more than thousand people — including children — was held and attended by the president. Ravshan at neweurasia is wondering why we have such big celebrations, if they are restricted by the law, which was introduced by the incumbent president [ru]:

Last year, new regulations restricting lavish festivities were introduced in Tajikistan. Now, one year after that, a lot of money is spent for one celebration of Navruz. What is the cost of all those costumes and decorations? How much money was spent to take governmental officials from Dushanbe to Khujand? Why do we have enough money to organize this kind of dubious events and don’t have money to buy give food to the starving people?

Tajikistanweb points to the contradictory statement made by president Rahmon. In his speech to the Tajik intelligentsia on the occasion of Navruz, Rahmon criticized the Tajik mass media for late response to the events that are happening in the country:

Whenever something happens in our country, people are informed about it by the Russian agencies and only then our media air the news,” said the president. “As a result, the situation is often misunderstood, and thus – false, defamatory or exaggerated news reports emerge.

To solve this problem, he ordered to establish a news channel that would operatively inform people about happenings within the country and abroad.

At the same time, Rahmon expressed his implicit support for the state censorship, underlining the need to hinder publication of any material that offends dignity, in particular, of the officials, or incites conflicts, regionalism and extremism. He also asked journalists to refrain from spreading “mistrust and pessimism”. The presidential wish can be interpreted into stricter censorship and further media repression by the authorities. Any effort to contradict the official point of view can be labeled “destabilizing” by the Rahmon’s subordinates.

It's a pity that even such bright holiday as Navruz has been used by the government to brainwash the population and further restrict the media freedom.

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