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International Forum Seeks Place For Persian-Based Media

March 11, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- More than 60 media representatives from a handful of countries have wrapped up the first day of a conference in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, on Persian-language media.

Organizers hope the three-day gathering will result in the formation of an association of Persian-speaking journalists and find grounds for future cooperation.

"Thirty years ago, when I began working as a journalist, we were reporting about events that had already happened," said Iranian media representative Hassan Bakhshipoor. "Today we report news as it is happening; today in the news we listen to what is going on now. Look at this change."

Spreading The Word

Attendees include representatives from Afghanistan, Britain, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, the United States, Uzbekistan, and host Tajikistan.

"They discussed globalization and they spoke about the feeling that people evaluate the Persian language through the eyes of Washington and Moscow," RFE/RL's Tajik Service correspondent Saifiddin Dostiev, who is at the gathering, said of events on the first day. "They also discussed the role of Farsi-language media in globalization."

With the English and Russian languages already relatively well established in the region -- thanks in part to proximity to Russia and satellite television -- participants at the Dushanbe forum are seeking ways to promote and spread the use of Persian-based languages in media.

"The participants discussed ways to develop Farsi-language media and the culture of Farsi, Tajik, and Dari, which are similar [languages]," Dostiev said. "Most of the participants were concerned about globalization, but Hassan Bakhshipoor from Iran said globalization will help promote the Farsi language throughout the world."

Representatives at the forum hope to establish an Internet website to provide news and information to all those who speak Persian-based languages.

The participants noted, however, that there is a need for two alphabets on such a website.

"At the end of [today's] meeting, participants agreed that in the future they would make a common Internet site for Farsi-language media in which Persian speakers could read [Persian-based-language] news in Arabic script or [modified] Tajik Cyrillic," Dostiev said.

Shared History

Long before Turkic people like the Kyrgyz, Kazakhs, Turkmen or Uzbeks arrived in the area that is now Central Asia, the region was home to Indo-Iranian peoples. It is thus no surprise that Persian-based languages are still found throughout the region.

"The free flow of information has 50 years of history. But we Tajiks and Farsi-speakers did not use it as we could -- we did not use the declared right to a free flow of information and access across borders of verbal, written, and recorded information," Ibrohim Usmonov, a former Tajik deputy culture minister and professor of journalism who also headed Tajik Television and Radio told attendees.

"We did not fully use our right to spead our national vision," Usmonov said. "For some, this was because of political limitations; for others, a lack of finances cost them this opportunity. Of course, Iran has more opportunities but still did not use it as it country should."

Despite long separation, the Persian spoken in Iran, the Tajik spoken in several Central Asian states, and the Dari spoken in Afghanistan are still mutually intelligible.

The conference is scheduled to conclude on March 13.

(The RFE/RL Tajik Service's Iskander Aliev contributed to this piece.)

Copyright (c) 2007 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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