Expanding Access to Information on Economic Issues in Kyrgyzstan’s Regions

08.05.2013 23:43, —
 Analytics, reports

According to Freedom House’s Freedom of the Press 2013 report, Kyrgyzstan’s media environment remains ‘not free’ with little improvement in press freedom over the last ten years.

Posted on 8 May, 2013 by Bobbie Jo Traut 

According to Freedom House’s Freedom of the Press 2013 report, Kyrgyzstan’s media environment remains ‘not free’ with little improvement in press freedom over the last ten years.

Though the situation is not as bleak as in the rest of Central Asia, when reporting on politically-sensitive issues in Kyrgyzstan, media outlets practice self-censorship to avoid threats or harassment. When reporting on economic topics, however, journalists often simply lack the skills or background to provide comprehensive analysis. As a result, the Kyrgyz public lacks information about important economic trends, events, and issues. As access to information is a crucial component of free societies, the poor information flow in Kyrgyzstan hinders the country’s democratic and market-economic transition.

CIPE’s priority for Kyrgyzstan includes expanding access to information, especially in the regions, which remain isolated and marginalized. CIPE has partnered with the Development Policy Institute (DPI) to provide opportunities for journalists to travel outside their own neighborhoods or regions as participants in study tours on economic topics.

Journalists from Talas, Batken or Jalal-abad, for example, have fewer opportunities to engage with experts on pressing economic issues than their colleagues in the capital, Bishkek. At the same time, journalists from the capital rarely travel to the regions. These study tours afford journalists the opportunity to meet with local authorities, NGOs, and the business community. Participants gain a wider perspective and a wider range of observations, contacts, interviews and photo opportunities, as well as materials to use in articles.

In April, DPI led a study tour to Talas province in northwestern Kyrgyzstan. During the three-day trip, 22 journalists from all seven Kyrgyz regions learned first-hand about the business environment, economic situation, and local governance in Talas.

The on-site visits helped participants understand the unique situation for the agricultural sector and mining companies operating in the region. In meetings with local authorities, journalists learned about efforts to promote economic growth through small and medium-sized business development. Following the study tour, participants published articles in Russian and Kyrgyz containing interviews with local government officials as well as statistics on the business environment for the agricultural sector in Talas. The articles increase readers’ awareness of economic issues in Kyrgyzstan’s regions and provide important information for stakeholders, entrepreneurs, and policymakers who play a crucial role in the country’s economic growth.

With CIPE support, DPI is strengthening the capacity of regional journalists’ to report on economic topics in the mass media. Study tours empower journalists with knowledge to improve their analysis and reporting of facts, thus increasing public awareness of economic issues throughout Kyrgyzstan. A more informed public is better positioned to petition the government for needed changes and improved policies, not only in Bishkek but in the regions as well.

Bobbie Jo Traut is Program Officer for Eurasia at CIPE.