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

Central Asia: Nov ‘07

Series of round tables across the region contribute to better understanding between journalists and officials.
The IWPR Central Asia programme hosted five round table events to discuss the latest media and conflict-related developments throughout Central Asia.

The events, which were held in Dushanbe, Almaty, Bishkek, and Jalalabad, brought together government officials, international organisations, NGOs and media professionals.

A round table entitled Responsibility and Development in Regional Journalism in Central Asia took place in Dushanbe on November 23. More than 50 people attended, including representatives of media organisations and professionals, political experts, journalism professors, government and international groups.

At the Kohi Vahdat government complex, key speakers from Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakstan exchanged views on regional media development, complications with press freedom, journalists’ safety and security, and conflict reporting.

The theme of responsibility - both that of journalists and also that of Central Asian governments and societies to ensure freedom of information exchange and democratic development - recurred throughout the presentations.

Speakers included representatives of the Kyrgyz Media Representatives Institute, the Monitoring Board of the Kyrgyz National Broadcasting Corporation, non-governmental organisation Media-Incubator, Mir Evrazii magazine, the Tajik National Association of Independent Media, the newspaper Vecherny Dushanbe, and Kazak NGO MediaNet.

Most participants thought the event was a useful means of promoting mutual understanding, cooperation and unity between journalists throughout the Central Asia region, as well as further collaboration in devising strategies aimed at reducing threats in their professional work.

“I express my gratitude to IWPR for conducting such events,” said Ulfat Masum, Tajik-language editor of the Argumenti i Fakti newspaper.

“This round table was another positive step towards the development of independent media in Central Asia and its responsibilities to support [itself]. I have learned that we journalists have the same problems in all countries and I believe our experience, our efforts and professionalism will give us an opportunity to protect ourselves from external threats.”

Abdusattor Nuraliev, dean of journalism at the Russian-Tajik Slavonic University, believes media education is the cornerstone of any journalism project.

“We, instructors of journalism, received an opportunity to build links and network to share our experience for media education development in Tajikistan,” he said.

According to independent journalist Fahriddin Holbek, “IWPR gave [us] an opportunity to meet with journalists from Central Asia once again, to share experiences and ideas on reporting harsh political issues of the region.”

Vadim Sadonshoev, a communications officer with the Eurasia Foundation in Tajikistan, said the Dushanbe event enabled him to understand the core problems of the media in Central Asia, and also helped him work out strategies for supporting media development.

“For me personally, this was very useful event for understanding issues of journalism responsibilities and security in the region,” he added.

Another IWPR round table that took place in the southern Kyrgyz town of Jalalabad was aimed at facilitating dialogue between the local authorities and journalists from the Jalalabad region.

With 15 participants from leading print and media, and press officials from the governor’s office, the mayor’s office, as well as the regional administration, the meeting proved to be very fruitful.

The Jalalabad region, which has a population of 800,000, forms a substantial part of the Kyrgyz side of the Ferghana valley.

Bermet Sultanova, head of Jalalabad media centre, said such events are very useful and help journalists learn their role and mission in democratic society.

“The round table contributed to better understanding between journalists and officials, and enhanced mutual trust,” he said.

Ulugbek Abdusalamov, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Didor, felt round tables should be organised more frequently, and that Jalalabad journalists could benefit from discussion of other topics as well, including reporting on ethnic issues and the state of journalists’ education in the region.

The spokesman of Jalalabad regional governor, Mukhamedjan Suranchiev, and head of the Jalalabad Regional Association of Journalists, Jalil Saparov, clashed before the round table, exchanging heated remarks in the local press as well as during the round table itself.

They came to a kind of truce after the event and agreed to meet separately in order to discuss ways of improving collaboration.

As Suranchiev said, “In the interaction of the authorities with journalists, there are things that can be solved in everyday communication, but discussion in a round table format helps [us] better realise what the problems are. Discussion helps not only in finding ways to resolve issues, but also to prevent them.”

The spokesman suggested that IWPR could organise a separate round table on cooperation between journalists and law enforcement agencies.

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