Tajik leader's 'full title' rule comes into force

Screen grabs of Tajik Akhbor news programme displaying President Rahmon's full title Image copyright Tajik TV
Image caption It takes a full 15 seconds for the president's title to scroll across the screen

A new rule came into force in the Central Asian country of Tajikistan last week which forces state-run media outlets to refer to President Emomali Rahmon by his not insubstantial official title.

That means news reports about the country's leader must refer to him as "The Founder of Peace and National Unity, Leader of the Nation, President of the Republic of Tajikistan, His Excellency Emomali Rahmon," US-funded Radio Azadliq reports. It takes a full 15 seconds for the name to scroll across the screen on the main TV news.

While there appears to be a little leeway for journalists to refer to him as merely "Leader of the Nation", the head of the state broadcaster has said media outlets should follow the new rule in all official reports. The same rule is being applied to government-owned news agencies and websites, too.

The move has been met with almost predictable humour and resignation on social media, with users offering further titles such as "the man in the moon", "the creator of the universe" and "the magnificent ruler of Tajiks". Others argue that Tajikistan has more pressing problems to solve rather than bestowing titles on its leader. "Provide all of your citizens with jobs and stability, and then call yourself whatever you want, even the Almighty," one Facebook user comments.

Lack of freedom

The use of flattering titles for leaders in not unknown in Central Asia. Kazakh media refer to President Nursultan Nazarbayev as Yelbasy (Leader of the Nation), while his Turkmen opposite number Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov enjoys the title of Arkadag (Protector).

President Rahmon has been Tajik leader since 1992, and the country has long been criticised for its human rights record and lack of freedom of speech, where insulting the president is a criminal offence. Tajikistan's media is rated 149th out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders' World Press Freedom Index, which says "intimidation and blackmail have become part of the daily fare of independent journalists".

Image copyright AFP
Image caption President Rahmon has been virtually unchallenged as Tajik leader for decades

Country profile: Tajikistan

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