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Central Asia Rights Bulletin Impresses Readers

IWPR quarterly publication said to help raise awareness of abuses across the region.
By Dina Tokbaeva
  • Human Rights in Central Asia newsletter, May 2011 Issue.
    Human Rights in Central Asia newsletter, May 2011 Issue.

Readers of the IWPR newsletter Human Rights in Central Asia say it has played an important role in highlighting rights issues and providing a forum where organisations in different countries can compare notes.

Others have spoken highly of the visual presentation of the material, mixing photos with text to attract a broader audience than just the human rights community.

The last in a series of nine quarterly newsletters was published in late May, under a programme funded by the European Commission called Building Human Rights Protection and Education Through the Media in Central Asia.

Available in print and electronic formats in Kazak, Kyrgyz, Russian, Uzbek and Tajik as well as English, the final issue contained a selection of IWPR stories plus information about activities conducted under the project such as round-table debates and training workshops.

As director of the Drakkar publishing house in Kazakstan, Alexander Yegorchenko focuses on financial publications, so human rights issues were not on his radar until he got a copy of the newsletter.

“It helped broaden my knowledge of developments in Central Asia,” he said. “I was particularly moved by a report on how children are forced to work on cotton plantations in southern Kazakstan. I never suspected that such barbaric practices were taking place right under our noses.”

Yelena Voronina, a journalist and human rights activist from Kyrgyzstan, was particularly interested in discovering what was going on in other parts of Central Asia.

“From the newsletter, I found out about the protection of children’s and women’s rights in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan,” she said, adding that because this was her own area of interest, she wanted to know how her colleagues in those two countries operated.

She said NGOs in the region could learn a lot from IWPR’s approach to raising awareness – campaigns on specific issues with cycles of events linked to reporting and other forms of publicity.

“With its publications, newsletters, articles and media training manuals, IWPR has set an example for all human rights organisations,” Voronina said.

In Tajikistan, Alla Kuvvatova, who heads the Association for Gender Equality and Preventing Violence Against Women, was also keen on the presentation of the key issues facing each of the Central Asia countries. The latest issue covered ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan, the persecution of government critics in Kazakstan, domestic violence in Tajikistan, human rights defenders under pressure in Turkmenistan, and labour migrants from Uzbekistan.

The head of the Kyrgyzstan Union of Photojournalists, Vlad Ushakov, was impressed by the quality of the pictures used in the bulletin, particularly one series that showed labour migrants and another depicting reconstruction after last year’s violence in southern Kyrgyzstan.

“Reports and bulletins by various NGOs and international organisations generally look a bit dull,” he said. “This one helps enrich our visual impressions of the region and of people… living on the other side of borders.”

Ushakov said close-ups of children’s faces and hands roughened by long hours of work in the sun had a more immediate impact than dry statistics alone. He said human rights groups in the region would do well to learn how to present material in more attractive form.

Oinihol Bobonazarova, head of the Perspektiva Plus group in Tajikistan, said information on the high rate of suicide in the country prompted her to look at future collaborative ventures with IWPR.

“We too work on this issue, so we could work together,” she said.

Dina Tokbaeva is IWPR regional editor in Central Asia.

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