Journalists in Tajikistan expand skills for reporting on tobacco


During the training, journalists took part in exercises designed to help expand their ability to access and use online data sources

Journalists can play a unique and vital role in raising awareness about the dangers of smoking and in building public support for tobacco control initiatives. For this reason, Tajikistan hosted a 2-day workshop, organized by WHO/Europe, that brought together nearly 30 members of the media – as well as representatives from government ministries, health organizations and the consumer protection association – to expand their skills for reporting on tobacco. The workshop took place on 30–31 March 2017 in Dushanbe.

Sharing knowledge and resources

The workshop aimed to provide participants with the knowledge and resources they need to report accurately and effectively on the tobacco situation in Tajikistan, and on the critical importance of strong tobacco control measures.

Smoking prevalence in the country is relatively low (17% for men and 0.3% for women), but this makes the country a prime target for the tobacco industry in the coming years. Women and young people will likely be the focus of its marketing efforts. It will be critical for Tajikistan to implement strong anti-tobacco measures before the tobacco industry has a chance to make headway.

Furthermore, projections indicate that smoking could contribute to premature death for as many as 233 000 of the 467 100 smokers alive in the country today. This provides ample justification for making tobacco control a high priority in Tajikistan, and journalists can help to make a strong case for this.

“The workshop was positive, useful and very needed for our community,” said Shamsullo Fozilov, a journalist from the newspaper Faraj. “The data and graphs were especially useful and gave a visual description of the situation on different issues. I plan to use all this data to prepare an article for my newspaper.”

Using data and countries’ experience to inform reporting

Workshop participants were introduced to the major health impacts of smoking, as well as second-hand smoke, and were given an overview of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). This overview included projections based on the SimSmoke tobacco control model of how full implementation of the WHO FCTC could help to reduce smoking prevalence in the country.

Participants also received a briefing on the Tobacco Control Playbook, launched last year, and had the opportunity to participate in exercises simulating its real-life applications.

The workshop focused on using data to report on tobacco, and included 2 sessions led by a data expert on the tobacco-related data sources available to journalists. The second of these sessions consisted of hands-on exercises that allowed participants to delve into the data and expand their ability to use them in the context of their work.

The workshop also placed a strong emphasis on learning from the experience of other countries that have successfully implemented tobacco control policies, and examples were incorporated throughout the programme. One session was dedicated to an in-depth examination of tobacco control laws in the Russian Federation – the process of getting the laws passed, their implementation, public awareness campaigns around tobacco control and the impact of these measures.

The workshop culminated with participants using all of the information and resources from the previous 2 days to develop a story about a smoke-free law. The story will likely come before the Tajik Parliament in the coming months.

This was the third tobacco-related workshop for members of the media conducted by WHO/Europe. The first took place in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, in December 2015, and the second in Moscow, Russian Federation, in April 2016. WHO/Europe organized the workshops in the context of the European Office on the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases, financed by the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation.