Central Asia: Jan '09

New project aims to improve ties between journalists and rights activists across the region.

Central Asia: Jan '09

New project aims to improve ties between journalists and rights activists across the region.

Friday, 20 February, 2009
IWPR is unrolling a new project funded by the European Commission and designed to help journalists and human rights groups understand and engage with each other better than has been the case to date.



In countries like Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, human rights groups have often found it difficult to get their message out to the public effectively. For their part, journalists do not always see their role as being to champion rights and liberties. In the public arena, civil and political rights issues are often seen as part of a wider opposition party agenda, rather than as being of value in themselves.



The 24-month project, now in its start-up phase, is entitled “Building Central Asian Human Rights Protection and Education Through the Media”, and envisages two main areas of work: assisting human rights groups in designing and delivering messages to the public effectively via the media; and encouraging the media to focus on rights issues and report on them effectively.



Depending on the country, there are numerous factors that either obstruct this kind of relationship or make it impossible to achieve both aims.



Human rights defenders are harassed and in some states imprisoned for speaking out; and media organisations are commonly under pressure to take a particular line from their state or corporate owners. In Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, there are no free media and the press and broadcast organisations are propaganda arms of the state and are confined to upholding the government line and vilifying its critics.



“In these two countries, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, human rights need to be given more of a voice, at regional and international level,” said John MacLeod, IWPR’s acting programme director for Central Asia. “



“In the other three states, the media are often unengaged in human rights for one reason or another, and activists don’t have the tools for articulating their message effectively. We’re hoping to help them attract the attention that’s needed so that crucial human rights issues move up the public’s agenda.”



IWPR’s Central Asian team is expanding its capacity to make this project work with two new posts, based in the region, and is seeking collaborative relationships with other organisations wherever there is an overlap in terms of activities or target groups.

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