Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Central Asia Handbooks in Demand

New training manuals in local languages set to be issued to university journalism faculties and media schools across the region.
By Saule Mukhametrakhimova

A series of new IWPR textbooks for the Central Asian programme will serve as an important resource for local journalists and human rights campaigners, say media professionals and civil society activists.

The four publications – which IWPR staff, leading regional rights and media experts have contributed to – are aimed at strengthening the professionalism of the Central Asian press and helping activists reach a wider public.

Reporting for Change: A Handbook for Local Journalists in Crisis Areas, the standard IWPR training manual, has been translated into the Kazak, Kyrgyz and Tajik languages. It teaches international reporting standards, explaining the journalistic process clearly, from subject choice to final editing. 

News Analysis on Radio: A Handbook for Central Asian Journalists is designed to familiarise beginners and advanced journalists with the basics of radio production. It has many suggestions, theoretical as well as practical that are helpful in learning how to produce radio pieces and present themes in an interesting way. 

Reporting Human Rights: A Practical Handbook for Journalists is targeted at journalists who cover human rights issues. It is based on the recommendations of leading journalists, media experts and human rights activists on what are the best ways of reporting on such topics. 

Effective Communications: A Practical Handbook for Human Rights NGOs assists civil society activists with their advocacy work, in particular reaching a wider audience. It introduces practical tips from how to write a press release on specific activities to how to put together communications strategies to further the human rights agenda in general.

The new handbooks are to be issued to university journalism faculties in Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, which lack training manuals on international journalism. They will also be sent to independent media schools across the region and a Dushanbe-based media resource centre run by OSCE.

In addition, IWPR has been asked to submit three of the handbooks for the UNESCO Model Curricula for Journalism Education. The project is designed to improve journalism education and enable educators and trainers to share perspectives. 

Guljigit Soronkulov, deputy Kyrgyz minister for education and science, said the launch of the handbooks in the Kyrgyz language was very timely in the light of recent interethnic violence in the south of the country. Clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities in June led to the death of more than 400 people. Press coverage of the violence suffered from a shortage of balanced reporting.

Soronkulov said there was a distinct lack of journalism textbooks in local languages, “Students learning in Russian may use textbooks published in the Russian Federation, while there are almost no books at all for students learning in the Kyrgyz language. That is why the IWPR handbook will prove to be very useful.”

Lira Karagulova, who heads the NGO Intercultural Education, a member of the network of NGOs protecting children’s rights and interests, said, “I hope that these handbooks will reach as many journalists as possible.” 

Urmat Imanaliev, a local journalist and political editor with the Asman Press newspaper, recalled that at the time when he started his career there were no such reference books to learn from.

“At that time, I used to approach my colleagues with questions, but they often had no time to explain things to me. So I had to learn from my mistakes,” Imanaliev said. 

Nuriddin Karshiboev, head of the National Association of Independent Media of Tajikistan, was pleased that the Reporting Change handbook had been translated into Tajik. He said that the book will be “very useful as it brings together the experience of journalists working in conflict areas”. 

Sharif Mulloev, from the department of history, journalism theory and electronic media at the Russian-Tajik university, said that the handbook “will help to improve the work of journalists in conflict zones”.

Acting director of the leading Tajik news agency Asia Plus Zebo Tajibaeva, a former IWPR radio reporter and one of the authors of the radio handbook, said the latter was needed because “lately in Tajikistan, as in other (Central Asian) countries, this genre of radio journalism - analytical reporting - has been dying out…”

Iskandar Firuz, who works for Tajik service of the BBC, said that the reference book is “one of the rare manuals that combines international standards and the specific experience of a radio reporter in Central Asia”.

According to the press secretary of Kyrgyz president Sultan Kanazarov, who used to work as a radio reporter for the Kyrgyz service of RFE/RL, the advantage of the manual for broadcast journalists is that it provides an introduction to radio reporting for people with little technical experience of broadcast journalism.

Dinara Oshurakhunova, of the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society, believes that the Effective Communications handbook will help to bridge the divide between the media and the civil society community.

Nigina Bakhrieva, a leading rights activist in Tajikistan and head of the human rights organisation Nota Bene, said the manual is the first of its kind in the region, and believes it will help rights NGOs to better inform the public about their work.

According to Victoria Tyuleneva, from the Kazakstan Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law, the textbook presents “… accumulated knowledge of the most effective examples of cooperation between NGOs and media”.

It will help rights defenders just starting their career as well as experienced NGO activists, Tyuleneva said.

The head of the Union of Tajik Journalists, Akbarali Sattarov, said the manual, like other IWPR publications, is an example of a training book written in ”a highly professional and accessible way”.

IWPR Central Asia regional director Abakhon Sultonnazarov said, “Over the last years, IWPR has been working on combining the efforts of journalists and human rights activists to make the protection of human rights more effective.”

Saule Mukhametrakhimova is IWPR Central Asia editor.