The Unreality of JournalismKazakhstan = Rupert Murdoch-ismKyrgyzstan = Factionalism + “NGO addiction”Tajikistan = Weakened governance → “freedom”Turkmenistan = Absolute state controlUzbekistan = Divide and conquer
Reporters Sans Frontières 2010 Press Freedom Index:Tajikistan: 115th (due to fractured governance)Kyrgyzstan: 159th (down from 110th in 2007)Kazakhstan: 162nd (despite its OSCE chairmanship)Uzbekistan: 163rd (no surprise)Turkmenistan: 176th (betw. Iran and North Korea)
These are societies that were for generationssuccored on media that was pedagogical,ideological, and often in denial, where too muchclassical music on the radio meant there was acrisis – Tchaikovskys “Swan Lake” signified thedeath of a leader; on 19 August, 1991, the death ofthe Soviet Union.Content may change, as well as values – gone is theshared destiny of fifteen nations merged into homosovieticus, replaced now with the Altyn Asyr(Golden Age) or the glittering future embodied inthe city of Astana – but media forms persist, morph,mutate, adapt.
What do we do?• Megaphone for reginal voices - all ages, ethnic backgrounds and political and religious persuasions• Blogs and podcasts as a journalistic medium - news, culture, analysis• Languages: English, Russian, Kazakh and Kyrgyz - formerly Uzbek and Tajik / soon: Turkmen
Central Asian viewsPluralism as an antidote to media imbalances:- Contending state-controlled narratives- De-exotifying Central Asia to outside worldCreating a space for interaction at a regional andglobal level between regionals and non-regionals.Broadening what it means to be “Central Asian” (doWesterners committed to the region also count?)
Highlights• Pioneering local language blogging 2006-08 + bringing together Westerners and Central Asians• Original coverage of several major news events• Blocked in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan• Over 50 in-country training sessions, seminars and conferences since 2007• Our bloggers have been interviewed by CNN, BBC, Al- Jazeera, RFE/RL and our work has been cited by Freedom House and Reporters Sans Frontières• In 2011, published CyberChaikhana: Digital Conversations from Central Asia, a crowdsourced contemporary history
• We have worked with: We currently work with:• We also liaise with
Our bloggers: trained journalists human rights activists most of all, normal people like you Political conditions require many of our bloggers to operate under pseudonyms We believe that an independent and pluralistic media is critically important for Central Asias development
No digital panacea• The Internet is vital to promote Central Asias vast number of perspectives• Yet, its also a fragile and dangerous place - Decays over time (Twitter) - Easy to censor - Monitoring potential• Low Internet penetration throughout the region
“Regular” Internet penetration (as of 2010):Kyrgyzstan = 39.8%Kazakhstan = 34.3%Uzbekistan = 26.8%Tajikistan = 9.3%Turkmenistan = 1.6% (of ~5 million)Internet access is largely concentrated in major and secondaryurban centers – which also happen to be infrastructural hubs.Passports reportedly needed at Ashgabat Internet cafes.
Mobile Internet penetration (as of 2010):Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan were reportedly nearingfull mobile penetration by December 2010, andTurkmenistan achieved 3G before Kyrgyzstan.Business Monitor International (Spring 2011):“Mobile broadband services … will make a strongcontribution to the growth of internet services inCentral Asia.”Yet, telecoms deeply politicized/personalized, e.g.,Russian provider MTS abruptly kicked out ofTurkmenistan. Widespread censorship and“snooping”, e.g., Kazakh policing of WordPress.
“Cyber-revolution” and “counter-revolution”The mysterious explosion in Abadan outside ofAshgabat in July 2011 was met by an intense onlinesocial network response to gather and disseminateaccurate information.The Turkmen government eventually seems to haveresponded with a call to exiled opposition to returnhome for “elections”. Meanwhile, a massive hackattack was launched against the Chronicles ofTurkmenistan, with a threatening e-mail and URLsof sensitive content from the Chronicles sent toneweurasia as a warning.
“Message in a Bottle”• Hivos and neweurasias goal: making the Stanosphere “real” - to commemorate - to preserve - to promote• A book can physically go where PDF files and cached HTMLs may not (yet)
The Un-Travel Log• “A story weaved from blog posts and forum discussions, which might at first appear unrelated or inchoate, but are in fact part of a single, multifaceted and digital conversation”• Bloggers and readers themselves wrote the book: - Selection of content - Reviewing rough drafts - Prowling for content beyond neweurasia = Central Asian history by Central Asians
• 10 chapters• 5 country-specific + 5 cross-regional Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan Education, Media, Women, Religion and National Identity = an “un-travel log”
The Authentic Story• Country-specific chapters - KZ: May I go Back in Time? (Modernity) - KG: Wait for the Wheel (Revolution) - TJ: Central Asian Sisyphus (Poverty) - TM: The Length of a Mans Shadow (Ideology) - UZ: The Long Loud Silence (Authoritarianism)
• Cross-regional chapters - Education: Got Spellcheck, Will Work for Food (Ambition vs. Infrastructure) - Media: When the Pen Runs Dry (Censorship) - Women: No Daughters of Traditon (Not Modernity vs. Tradition?) - Religion: The Conversation of the Gods (Conflict and Continuity) - National Identity: The Way We Werent (Historical Memory and Nation-building)
CyberChaikhana Digital05/09/09 Conversations from Central Asia
CyberChaikhana team• Christopher Schwartz, Editor• Ben Paarmann, Project Manager/Ed. Direction• Oliver Dams, Production Manager• Andrey Tolstoy, Russian Translator• Rolf Bremer, IllustratorProduced with a generous grant from Hivos
neweurasia team (2011)• Christopher Schwartz, Managing Editor (ENG)United States of America, Belgium• Yelena Jetpyspayeva, Managing Editor (RUS)Kazakhstan, Switzerland• Oliver Dams, Technical DirectorGermany, Switzerland• Askhat Yerkimbay, KZ blogger + coordinatorKazakhstan• Mirsulzhan Namazaliev, KG bloggerKyrgyzstan• Tolkun Umaraliev, KG coordinatorKyrgyzstan• Camilla Asyrankulova, Editorial AssistantKyrgyzstan, Sweden
neweurasia team (2012)• Christopher Schwartz, Editor-in-Chief United States of America, Belgium• Oliver Dams, Project Manager Germany, Switzerland• Yelena Jetpyspayeva, Social Media Officer Kazakhstan, Russian Federation• Askhat Yerkimbay, Kazakhstan Managing Editor Kazakhstan, United States of America• Mirsulzhan Namazaliev, Kyrgyzstan Managing Editor Kyrgyzstan• Annasoltan Turkmen, Turkmenistan Managing Editor [Undisclosed]• Tolkun Umaraliev, Audiovisual/Multimedia Editor Kyrgyzstan• Camilla Asyrankulova, Editorial Assistant Kyrgyzstan