Central Asia: July ‘09

New web pages for EC human rights project and Kyrgyz presidential election.

Central Asia: July ‘09

New web pages for EC human rights project and Kyrgyz presidential election.

Thursday, 30 July, 2009

IWPR is pleased to announce the creation of a special web page for a Central Asian project funded by the European Commission and focusing on building bridges between regional media and the human rights community.

The page, Central Asia Human Rights Reporting Project with a Russian-language version here, features stories on human rights themes generated by IWPR as well as our media partners in Central Asia.

As well as parallel English and Russian versions, the IWPR-generated stories are available in relevant Central Asian languages so as to reach as wide an audience as possible. This reflects a real demand for local-language stories – we get frequent requests, for example, for Tajik and Kyrgyz versions of our material from newspapers that want to republish it in those languages.

The page also contains information about the two-year project (Building Central Asian Human Rights Protection & Education through the Media) and reports on recent training workshops and discussion events on such issues as women’s rights in Tajikistan and the treatment of children in Kazakstan.

“The state of human rights observance varies a lot from country to country,” said John MacLeod, acting director of Central Asia programmes at IWPR. “In some cases, there’s a complete lockdown on information about rights defenders; while in others it’s hard for human rights groups to raise issues without being seen as part of the general political fracas.

“What we’re trying to do with this new EC project page is showcase work published in local media outlets as well as our own stories.”

As the project expands, the site will reflect the growing capacity of human rights organisations to make their case to local and international audiences, using the media as a vehicle.

Also this month, IWPR produced a web page especially devoted to the presidential election in Kyrgyzstan.

All the signs are that the incumbent Kurmanbek Bakiev will defeat all comers in the July 23 ballot, including the candidate put up by the united opposition. But four years after the March 2005 “Tulip Revolution” that was supposed to make democracy take root once and for all in Kyrgyzstan, many people are disillusioned with the lack of progress, and worried that the current election is as untransparent as previous ones.

“If you analyse the local media, you’ll see that no one is doing this – bringing various news items into one place, ensuring balance, and providing some brief contextualisation,” said IWPR editor Aida Kasymalieva, who conceived the idea of a dedicated space for election coverage.

“A lot of the agencies are just running dry news items, or alternatively reproducing information from the candidates’ campaign teams without checking facts or seeking other comment so as to achieve balance.”

The page has an English-language version, but the real focus is on the Russian page, which carries frequent news updates.

The page also showcases more substantial analytical pieces from the Reporting Central Asia strand, and radio pieces in both Russian and Kyrgyz (both these elements are produced under a grant from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs).

“Staff at international institutions like the Asian Development Bank and World Bank have responded positively to our page,” said Kasymalieva. “They’ve been asking for the news to be emailed to them, and to get the web link.”

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