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INTERNSHIP OPEN CALL

 1-09-2021, 09:46

INTERNSHIP OPEN CALLThe School of Peacemaking and Media Technology in Central Asia announces an annual competition among students from Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan and any countries, studying journalism and mass communication, law, cultural studies, and anthropology, to participate in research and media monitoring projects.

Over the past five years, more than 50 students have completed research internships.

 

This internship is scheduled for the period from December 15 to January 20, 2022.

In some cases, a student can start an internship earlier.

Due to the epidemiological situation, it is likely that an internship will be carried out in a distance format.

 

The selected interns will be trained in new analytical tools, will have access to databases, and together with the team, will conduct a few studies.

Participation in the project is a good practice, upon completion of which an internship confirmation letter will be issued. An important criterion for selecting interns is language proficiency, perseverance, attentiveness, a clear application of methodology and indicators in practice, a desire to work with large amounts of information.

Participation in the project is a good practice, upon completion of which an internship confirmation letter will be issued. An important criterion for selecting interns is language proficiency, perseverance, attentiveness, the use of methodology and indicators during research, a desire to work with large amounts of information on the Internet.

 

Topics for this year:

 

COVID-19 pandemic and information manipulation

 

Electoral processes

 

Xenophobia and hate speech

 

Terrorism Threats and Media Narratives

 

A letter of motivation and a CV indicating the contacts of at least two referees should be sent to peacemakingandmediaca@gmail.com until 18:00 Bishkek time, December 5, 2021, marked "For internship".

 

Applications sent after this deadline will not be considered. The team does not comment on the selection methods and does not respond to letters of inquiry after the end of the call.

 

The School of Peacemaking and Media Technology in Central Asia announces an annual a competition among students from Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan and any countries, studying journalism and mass communication, law, cultural studies and anthropology, to participate in research and media monitoring projects.

Over the past five years, more than 50 students have completed the research internships.

 

This internship is scheduled for the period from December 15 to January 20, 2022.

In some cases, a student can start an internship earlier.

Due to the epidemiological situation, it is likely that an internship will be carried out in a distance format.

 

The selected interns will be trained in new analytical tools, will have access to databases and, together with the team, will conduct a few of studies.

Participation in the project is a good practice, upon completion of which an internship confirmation letter will be issued. An important criterion for selecting interns is language proficiency, perseverance, attentiveness, a clear application of methodology and indicators in practice, a desire to work with large amounts of information.

Participation in the project is a good practice, upon completion of which an internship confirmation letter will be issued. An important criterion for selecting interns is language proficiency, perseverance, attentiveness, the use of methodology and indicators during research, a desire to work with large amounts of information on the Internet.

 

Topics for this year:

 

COVID-19 pandemic and information manipulation

 

Electoral processes

 

Xenophobia and hate speech

 

Terrorism Threats and Media Narratives

 

A letter of motivation and a CV indicating the contacts of at least two referees should be sent to peacemakingandmediaca@gmail.comuntil 18:00 Bishkek time, December 5, 2021 marked "For internship".

 

Applications sent after this deadline will not be considered. The team does not comment on the selection methods and does not respond to letters of inquiry after the end of the call.

About the organization: The School of Peacemaking and Media Technology in Central Asia is an organization for the development of media and relations with the public, the promotion of freedom of expression, and the fight against hate speech and discrimination in the media. It specializes in media studies and expert reviews of online content and intolerant language in the media, on the internet, and in public discourse; creating media campaigns on sensitive issues; and trainings for journalists, activists, online content creators, and human right defenders, including those in conflict zones. Starting from 2011, the team of the School of Peacemaking and Media Technology in CA has issued 24 reports and a package of recommendations based on the results of monitoring and hate speech researches in various areas[1].www.ca-mediators.net; https://www.facebook.com/peacemakingS/; peacemakingandmediaca@gmail.com





DISCRIMINATION, VIOLENCE AND HANTRED DURING COVID-19

 30-08-2021, 10:02

DISCRIMINATION, VIOLENCE AND HANTRED DURING COVID-19

The report shows the results of monitoring, documenting and case analysis related to discrimination and violence during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the study of hate speech against minorities and vulnerable groups in the selected online content.

The report contains the data that cover the period from February 15, 2020 thru March 10, 2021.

The study represents the analysis of cases relating to eleven vulnerable social groups:

· female victims of violence and abduction;

· persons with disabilities, including inmates;

· internal migrants;

· labour migrants;

· the elderly people;

· people living with HIV;

· LGBT people;

· children under 15;

· foreigners victims of racial attacks;

· Muslims;

· ethnic Chinese

In addition, the report contains a separate subsection with the case of Kamil Ruziev, the human rights defender based in Karakol, Issyk Kul region. He was arrested in May 2020 on a reasoned charge and was morally coerced, surveilled and illegally questioned even though he was ill with COVID-19.

 

 





The World Press Freedom Day -2021

 3-05-2021, 19:15

The World Press Freedom Day -2021The media should help the society better know the online environment. It is important to detect the reliable sources, differentiate between quality information, facts and fakes, carry out unbiased journalistic investigations amid the existing hate speech, trolling and disinformation.

The School of Peacemaking and Media Technology in CA with the support of the Media K Internews (Kyrgyzstan) documents cases of verbal aggression in the online environment as part of the ongoing monitoring and analysis of hate speech.

The hate speech dynamics in public space demonstrates that it remains at a high level.

The results gathered as of the World Press Freedom Day showed that almost one-third part of the monitored content contained hate speech in various forms. It was especially noticeable in online discussions about the referendum on amendments to the constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic, local and extraordinary presidential election that was held in 2021[1].

The outbreak of intolerance and distorted information was found in the last days of April 2021 amid messages about the armed conflict in the Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border.

The intense public and political agenda of Kyrgyzstan aggravated by the crisis during the COVID-pandemic encourages the journalists and internet users to voice their opinions more actively. However, it is often accompanied by fake news, unverified information and deliberate misrepresentation of information.

Amid this situation, the experts reported correlations between hate speech, trolling and not always reliable messages that are spread in social media both by identified and fake accounts. Endless data flows, verbal aggression, disinformation make the audience doubt whether information is reliable. Therefore, journalistic investigations about facts, scope of distribution of such information, its actors and purposes are highly required.

The media should play the key role by using new approaches of creating and distributing content to protect and promote truthful information, by encouraging the audience to improve their media literacy skills and to offer opportunities, to evaluate information critically.

The World Press Freedom Day means to raise awareness of governments and the society on the need to respect and protect human rights to the freedom of expression, and to highlight the importance of complying with high standards and ethics for journalists, internet content creators. It will help improve the information ecology and create long-term measures to respond to hate speech and fake news.



[1]Hate speech on the internet during early presidential election in Kyrgyzstan, January 2021, http://ca-mediators.net/ru/ru_news/5396-yazyk-vrazhdy-i-sarkazm-v-internete-v-period-dosrochnyh-prezidentskih-vyborov-v-kr.html

 





Central Asia’s “Digital Authoritarianism”

 3-05-2021, 18:58
 
Central Asia’s “Digital Authoritarianism”The pandemic has allowed the authorities to further abuse technology and restrict freedom of speech.

The restrictions around coronavirus have made people around the world more reliant on the internet as a means of communication – often involving criticism of how the authorities have handled the crisis. Attempts by governments in Central Asia to suppress such censure have generated even more discontent, highlighting ongoing debates about online expression in the region.

IWPR: The pandemic and lockdown have made people spend more time online. Based on this, has Covid-19 influenced the level of internet freedom of speech in Central Asia? 

Inga Sikorskaya: The period of the pandemic has become one of the gloomiest for freedom of speech in Central Asia. The authorities have responded with strict restrictive measures that suppressed freedom of speech and the press and increased the risks of threats and attacks against journalists and bloggers, especially those who wrote about coronavirus.

On the one hand, we became dependent on digital technologies. On the other, many measures affected internet freedom as it became the main platform for sharing information during social isolation.  

The authorities silenced journalists and refused to accredit media outlets when they covered coronavirus during the lockdown. In Kyrgyzstan, in March-April 2020 the authorities forced bloggers to apologise for criticism that the government had responded poorly to the pandemic. 

In Uzbekistan in July 2020, a security agency supervisor forced the administrator of the Troll.uz Telegram channel to delete a post about corruption during the pandemic. In another case, unknown people called bloggers and reminded them of their criminal liability for "spreading panic” in posts about coronavirus.

Insults and threats were directed against independent journalists in Tajikistan who reported on Covid-19 when the authorities denied there were any coronavirus cases in the country. A range of independent web resources were blocked and access to information restricted.

What are the dynamics and changes that Covid-19 brought to the sphere of hate speech? 

The level of hate speech in the media and on the internet has increased slightly during social isolation because of the increase in comments from people who shifted to the online sphere. 

The situation increased the growth of xenophobia and Islamophobia. According to the results of our last survey on the influence of Covid-19 on discrimination, the main targets of hate attacks online in Kyrgyzstan were Muslim pilgrims who returned from hajj just before lockdown. Some users not only accused them of spreading coronavirus, but also urged other people to punish them.

Another target group among hate distributors were ethnic Chinese, the main target of media xenophobia in Kazakstan. In Uzbekistan, there was online hate speech against migrant workers who returned due to the pandemic.

In fact, the dynamics remain the same as in previous years. The only change is in the amount of recorded hate speech against various social groups and the political context that affected narratives of intolerance in the public space.

For example, in Kyrgyzstan – which experienced a disputed parliamentary election, an extraordinary presidential election, a referendum and political shock - hate speech spread on the internet much faster than in quieter neighbouring countries.

How would you evaluate the authorities’ attempts to regulate the internet and make users liable for their actions? How can we solve the problem of malicious behaviour via fake accounts? 

Most of the methods that are used to regulate the internet in Central Asia are authoritative and promote censorship. This trend can be seen in other states that experience digital authoritarianism. Instruments are used to strengthen social and political control and to suppress civil liberties. Despite the fact that digital society does suffer from fakes, the implementation of technologies related to online control and regulation requires guaranteed personal data confidentiality and the rule of law. It is difficult to assume that the governments of Central Asian countries will be willing to do this.
 
Therefore, the problem of fake accounts is best solved by cooperating with technology companies, digital giants such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter. These companies are already actively involved in this issue, developing new algorithms, rules, promoting openness, transparency and their own regulatory mechanisms [alongside] freedom of expression. 

How do government’s restrictions affect the work of journalists, bloggers, activists – all those who use the internet for legitimate and free discussion? How should the media community solve these problems? 

Recent trends show a steady decline in internet freedom for several years in a row. There are three main challenges that will further threaten the freedom and development of journalism in Central Asia.

Firstly, this is an increase in the level of online threats, which continue in the offline environment. During the election campaigns of 2020 and 2021 in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakstan, journalists and Internet activists faced an increase in bullying, attacks and seizure of equipment while covering political processes live on the internet.

Therefore, more attention needs to be paid to the digital and physical security of media workers and all fighters for the freedom of expression.

Secondly, there are disinformation campaigns organised on the internet which often aim to entrap the media or active users. This is directly related to a digital tribalism trend. This is when discussion group members or trolls evaluate information not on the basis of compliance with generally accepted standards of evidence or common understanding, but on the basis of whether it supports the values and goals of a given digital tribe and whether this information is confirmed by their leaders.

The third challenge is the continued use of hate speech on social media platforms and under articles by online news agencies. Most of the documented incidents fall under the umbrella of freedom of expression and, if necessary, are regulated by the development of correct polemics, education and social disapproval.

However, there is a danger that the dissemination of hateful content could provoke outbreaks of offline violence against minorities and social groups. Therefore, the media community must act carefully here, with an understanding of the flexible structure of hate speech so as not to cause a baseless attack on freedom of expression. 

What other challenges do defenders of online freedom face in Central Asia? 

The pandemic has changed not only attitudes but also technologies. Censorship will grow through the expansion of technology and the export of digital authoritarianism in Central Asia's big neighbours, Russia and China. The surveillance and control of internet freedom advocates will grow. This challenge to democratic principles and human rights shows that we are moving in the opposite direction. Only new, alternative strategies can win.

These can be joint programmes of digital companies, media, civil society and governments, which must agree on a basic set of rules and values, taking into account the importance of preserving freedom of expression for the development of an open and inclusive society.

Timur Toktonaliev is IWPR’s Central Asia editor.


 

Inga Sikorskaya, a former senior IWPR editor for Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, now heads the School of Peacemaking and Media Technologies research organisation. She warns that government responses to freedom of speech amid the crisis heralds a worrying trend for future attempts to control online expression.

 






FEMALE JOURNALISTS AND ACTIVISTS HAVE TRAINED TO FIGHT AGAINST GENDER STEREOTYPES

 21-02-2021, 21:53


FEMALE JOURNALISTS AND ACTIVISTS HAVE TRAINED TO FIGHT AGAINST GENDER STEREOTYPESFemale journalists and activists have discussed the situation with gender stereotypes and stigma on the Internet and have learned to understand discrimination and tools to counter, assess risk factors to improve their psycho-emotional state during aggression in the online sphere.

The workshop was organized by the School of Peacemaking and Media Technology in Central Asia with the support of the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI).

Women participants from different regions of Kyrgyzstan have gathered at the training organized under the project designed to promote gender equality and women’s rights via monitoring, documenting, analysis of the level of stereotypes, stigma regarding women in the media, on the Internet and public discourse.

 

Female journalists and activists, many of whom encounter threats, aggression, and stereotypical behavior in their professional activities have learned about modern methods of detection of gender intolerance on the internet, preventive techniques and ways to mitigate negative consequences.

Women participants have trained to determine the kinds of discrimination and to discern between them during group practice sessions on detection and classification of discrimination.

The last session focused on the analysis of psycho-emotional state of journalists and activists during their work. Many participants have understood how to use their innate resources and to organize mental self-help by means of analytical exercise and interactive discussion designed to detect risk factors and develop personal defense mechanisms.

The research "Gender stereotypes in the media sphere of Kyrgyzstan” was also presented during the event. It demonstrated frequently used stereotypes, intolerance and threats regarding women in Kyrgyzstan.

The participants of the event discussed the recommendations prepared on the basis of the research. The recommendations will be directed to the authorities, the media, and civil society organizations.


 

 





HATE SPEECH AND SARCASM IN THE 2021 KYRGYZSTAN PRESIDENTAL ELECTION

 10-02-2021, 21:59

 

HATE SPEECH AND SARCASM IN THE 2021 KYRGYZSTAN PRESIDENTAL ELECTIONSchool of Peacemaking and Media Technology in Central Asia with the support of Media K Internews in the Kyrgyz Republic Project presents the "Hate Speech and Sarcasm in the 2021 Kyrgyzstan Presidential Election Discourse ” research held from December 15, 2020 to January 20, 2021.

 

The research was aimed to find hate speech in the discussions about early presidential election in Kyrgyzstan based on multilingual media monitoring and content analysis of selected online media outlets and social media. The level of reported hate speech during the presidential election campaign was two times less than that during the parliamentary election. However, it does not mean that the society’s culture of polemic or the level of network ethics has increased.

Experts explain it by passive election campaign, "early” election, undifferentiated list of candidates, "social burnout” of journalists, users, speakers because of a lot of public and political events that reflected on lower concern for the events and affected the public discourse. The researchers have studied the hate speech trends and dynamics, classified it by types of intolerance and identified reasons of prevalence of one trend over another one.

Moreover, a range of ironic and sarcastic comments and images containing obscene vocabulary, slang, discriminatory expressions was found on social media and forums posted under materials in online media outlets. Sarcasm was often used to add to the negative public perception of a certain individual and to disguise hate speech.

Also, flawed arguments that caused discrepancies in wording, distortion of opponents’ positions were reported in online discussions and in the media. This type of hate speech was revealed in anti-western rhetoric, drawing false parallels between candidates and various identities, formation of dehumanizing metaphors based on comparison of people and animals, according to the report.

The experts recommend developing and implementing public awareness campaigns regarding the efficiency of tolerant technologies in public discourse, continuing to introduce editorial media practices of politically correct vocabulary and stylistics based on pluralism of opinions and freedom of expression. Also, minority, social and discriminated groups must have a voice, and the public awareness on constitutional rights should be raised. In addition, responsible work with comments (moderation, pre-moderation) posted under articles published in the media must be promoted among journalists.

 

 

 

 





HATE SPEECH IN THE PARLAMENTARY ELECTION DISCOURSE OF KYRGYZSTAN

 1-12-2020, 11:28

HATE SPEECH IN THE PARLAMENTARY ELECTION DISCOURSE OF KYRGYZSTANFrom July 15 to October 10, 2020, the experts of the School of Peacemaking and Media Technology in CA conducted the "Hate Speech in the Election Discourse of Kyrgyzstan” study with the support of the USAID-funded Media-K project and Internews in the Kyrgyz Republic.

 

To successfully counteract hate speech and discrimination during election campaigns, it is necessary to improve the culture of discussion and self-expression and create models for politically correct discourses in the public space and media sphere of Kyrgyzstan.

The package of recommendations and findings is provided in the final report of a series of studies on the multilingual monitoring, documentation, analysis, and examination of hate speech and trolling in discussions concerning pre- and post-election topics.

Diagram 1. Dynamics of detected hate speech over all seven periods of media monitoring, %

 

The researchers analyzed the trends and dynamics of hate speech detected in the selected online media and social media content. This content was classified by type, and the team identified ten prevailing trends and their causes in each period of media monitoring. Detailed analysis of these trends is provided in the final report.[1]

Diagram 2. Dynamics of trends by kinds of intolerance in media and online discussions in all periods, %

In their main findings, researchers noted

- the lack of quality analytical information about political parties and their platforms and candidates in the media;

- the use of hate speech in relation to the most sensitive issues for the audience on the internet and in the public sphere;

- references to the ethnic and regional affiliations of candidates and their supporters;

- language intolerance in discussions about debates; and

- gender imbalances and hate speech directed at female candidates on social media.

During the study, researchers also recorded instances of trolling, flawed argumentation and identification, accusations toward political parties and their candidates of association with someone else, divisive language, and obscene and coarse language. These phenomena were also detected in visual content.

The experts emphasize that statements and quotes in the election discourse that contained xenophobia created a demand for xenophobic content among the audience, which was expressed in the form of intolerant comments in the forums under news items published online and on social media.

The researchers recommend that authorities:

- take the September 2020 UN Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech into account when developing programs;[2]

- facilitate the speedy adoption of a comprehensive anti-discrimination law in the Kyrgyz Republic;

- develop multilingual models for debates among candidates and public officials;

- train speakers to avoid hate speech and intolerance during election campaigns.

 

The study authors also urge donor and other international agencies to support ongoing professional monitoring and humanitarian examinations of hate speech in public discourse as well as efforts to develop a new media culture that promotes awareness of non-discrimination in public space and the importance of counteracting hate speech and that supports freedom of expression.

 

The study’s key recommendations are directed toward journalists and the media. These recommendations focus on the need to update editorial standards, institute exit polls to promote alternative options and develop critical thinking in the audience, and establish rules for quoting speakers who use hate speech in their statements.

 

"Journalists need to raise public awareness of the language of aggression in the online environment and its impact. It is important to understand network etiquette in online discussions by training voters to perceive the information they have consumed critically,” the recommendations emphasize.

 

This research has been made possible by the support of the American people provided via the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The School of Peacemaking and Media Technology in CA is responsible for the content of the publications, which does not necessarily reflect the opinion of USAID, the US Government, or Internews in the Kyrgyz Republic.

 

About the organization. The School of Peacemaking and Media Technology in Central Asia is an organization for the development of media, public relations, the promotion of freedom of expression, and fighting hate speech and discrimination in the mass media. This organization specializes in media research and expertise on online content; the language of intolerance in the media, the internet, and public discourse; developing media campaigns on sensitive topics; and training journalists, online content developers, and human rights defenders, including in conflict zones.

www.ca-mediators.net;

https://www.facebook.com/peacemakingS/;

peacemakingschool@gmail.com

 

 






ATTACKS ON FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION IN KYRGYZSTAN

 3-12-2019, 17:31

ATTACKS ON FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION IN KYRGYZSTANSchool of Peacemaking and Media Technology in Central Asia condemns the attacks on freedom of expression in Kyrgyzstan. Two events has been taken place in the past few days indicate the desire of the authorities to control both offline and online content.

 

On December 2, 2019, the Kyrgyz authorities, under pressure of fringe radical groups, cracked down on the1st Feminnale of Contemporary Art international exhibition "Kormilitsa”. Economic freedom. Woman” that was held in the G.Aitiev Kyrgyz National Museum of Fine Arts in Bishkek.

 

According to local media, it happened after the museum’s staff, organisers of the exhibition received threats and after the meeting between a far-right ultra-nationalists groups with the minister of culture of the Kyrgyz Republic[1]. The fringes demanded that expositions that, in their opinion, "were contrary to the mindset of the Kyrgyz people” be closed.

Among the display exhibits, there was a performance – a girl that was washing sheep casings in a bowl and a naked woman, who symbolised the powerlessness and vindication of the rights of women.

These very exhibits were censored, found "provocative” by a specially established committee by the ministry of culture, and then take away from the exhibition. Thus, the agency, under pressure of fringe aggressive groups, used censorship to restrict the artistic freedom.

There are articles 31 and 33 its guarantees every citizen the right to freely seek, obtain, distribute information and exercise the freedom of expression in the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic. International conventions ratified by Kyrgyzstan encourage creation and to support the artistic freedom as a freedomto imagine, create and distribute diverse cultural expressionsfreeof governmental censorship, political interference or the pressures of non-state actors for further development of contemporary art and encouragement of human rights.

 

We call on the authorities to refuse any attempts of content control because the Kyrgyzstan’s society has grown out of censorship a long time ago and lives in the age of freedom of expression and media freedom and can able to estimates of contents its own.

This also refers to the recent fact of restriction of the Internet freedom of expression by reason of critical comments were posted.

On November 24, 2019, Avtandil Zhorobekov, an administrator of the Facebook page "BespredelKG”, was arrested and placed into the pre-trial detention facility of GKNB [State National Security Committee]. A criminal case was initiated against him for "inciting interregional discord” and distribution of "knowingly false and provocative information about the head of the state”. The reason was the comments to the posts, which mentioned the persons discussed in the journalistic investigation of smuggling and corruption at the customs service[2].

GKNB claimed these statements allegedly "made people feel hatred toward each other in the form of interregional discord.” However, it’s unclear who and how qualified this discord, how it manifested itself, what media content was analysed, what verified methodology was applied, and what is the expert knowledge of experts who qualified it as incitement of interregional discord.

Many questions arose especially because the arrest of the administrator of BespredelKG occurred amid the scandal with corruption schemes following the journalistic investigation was published.

School of Peacemaking and Media Technology in Central Asia calls on the Kyrgyz authoritiesto stop repressive practices against the freedom of expression, to stop exerting pressure on online discussions in order to enforce censorship among users.

about: School of Peacemaking and Media Technology in Central Asia is a media development and media communicationorganisation, encouragement of freedom of expression diversity and human rights, and countering the hate speech. It focuses on studies and expert reviews of online content, hate speech in media, on the internet and in public discourse, holding media campaigns on sensitive issues, trainings for journalists, activists and online content creators, including in conflict areas. For more information see:www.ca-mediators.net https://www.facebook.com/peacemakingS/e-mail: peacemakingschool@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 





FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION IN CENTRAL ASIA-2019

 6-05-2019, 00:41

FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION IN CENTRAL ASIA-2019

  Inveterate low scorers: level of the freedom of expression in Central Asian states is below 4

 

School of Peacemaking and Media Technology in CA published a report "FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION IN CENTRAL ASIA: TRENDS AND PECULIARITIES-2019.”

 

The full report in Russian is available at http://ca-mediators.net/ru/ru_news/5309-svoboda-vyrazheniya-v-centralnoy-azii-regionalnye-trendy.html

This research differs from previous ones by a wider focus on the freedom of expression, and the authors didn’t focus on the media freedom level only. Comments on own or public affairs, public opinion polls, discussion of human rights, journalism, expression of ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious identities, creative self-expression, topics and discussions at various events and trainings are the examples of the forms of expression, so they were tested for the purpose of rankings.

The researchers prepared this index on a 5-point scale, where 5 - excellent; 4 - good; 3 - fair; 2 - poor; 1- very poor.

Turkmenistan holds the worst position in the Central Asia. Respondents and researchers summarised all data and put this country to the lowest place by giving it a 1. "1” means the legitimate freedom of expression, yet it cannot be exercised. People have no alternative sources of information, content is widely blocked, people don’t take part in political discussions because of fear of repressions[1].)

Tajikistan has 2 in the freedom of expression and follows Turkmenistan as it has blocked access to independent web sites and social media, while the level of censorship in the media remain very high. The authorities strengthen online censorship when the social and political situation in the country gets tense[2].

Despite positive changes in Uzbekistan emphasised by some international indexes, namely release of journalists who had been arrested during Karimov’s regime from prison, this country of "nominal shift of power” keeps controlling internet and censoring the users.

Somewhat more than "2” in the index means that respondents think there’s still a long way to go before the real improvement of the freedom of expression situation[3].

A critical situation with the freedom of expression has developed in Kazakhstan; the country was given a bit above 2 in this index. On April 21, 2019, two activists – Asiya Tulesova and Beibaris Tolymbekov – were detained in Almaty for 15 days for holding a banner with a slogan "You cannot run from the truth – I have a choice”[4]. It happened during the marathon with 17 thousand participants, when the activists were holding a banner along the route and expressed their opinion that way. The sports campaign was dedicated to the presidential election to be held in Kazakhstan this June[5].

Kyrgyzstan, which takes the highest position – 3+, and cannot reach 4, adopts the methods used in neighbouring countries to repress freedom of expression[6].

 

The level of the freedom of expression in Central Asia states was assessed by experts according to the following 5-point scale:

5 Freedom of expression is encouraged, democracy is thriving, lack of censorship, understandable legislation, citizens express their opinions openly.

4 Freedom of expression is encouraged, access to information is available, citizens take part in political discussions, existing legislation, yet interpretation and enforcement issues remain; improvement of the skills of media literacy, media culture and network ethics.

3 Freedom of expression is secured in legislation, access to information is partially available, information is filtered, citizens take part in political issues discussions on online platforms only, communications are not protected, content may be blocked partially to restrict the freedom of expression, users may be interrogated for their statements.

2 Freedom of expression is secured in legislation, access to information is limited via various mechanisms, including countering dissent, citizens rarely express their opinion on political issues, detentions and arrests for expression of opinions are practised.

1 Freedom of expression is secured in legislation, yet not implemented, people have no alternative sources of information, content is widely blocked, citizens don’t take part in political discussions because of fear of repressions.

Opinions of respondents about the improvement of the freedom of expression:
84% of 100% of respondents think political changes, more freedoms and media pluralism are needed;
79% of 100% are confident that the existing laws may be enforced by political will;
63% of 100% spoke about the need to change the laws and make the authorities and the society follow them;
49% of 100% think the freedom of expression will expand further without internet blocking because it has immense limits;

33% of 100% hope more on the active civil society with a sustainable stance and capacities to promote the freedom of expression;

16% of 100% said the society should seek the freedom of expression;
4% of 100% were pessimistic and said nothing could be done to change the current situation.

Main trends influencing the freedom of expression in central Asia

One of the trends that has a negative influence on the freedom of expression in Central Asian states is the existing law enforcement practice based on wide interpretation of the incitement of hatred and hostility in local criminal statutes (1), which makes them even more dangerous. Kazakhstan is the leader in the region in the restriction of the freedom of expression by charging journalists, users and activists with the incitement of various kinds of hatred[7].Misuse antiextremism (2) is the second trend used to restrict the freedom of expression in the majority of Central Asian states in the contexts of the above statutes. On the one hand, it is due to the vague wording of the definition of "extremism” in local laws, which is the heritage of criminal statutes of the former Soviet Union. On the other hand, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, which comprise a military-political bloc, Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) supervised by Russia, use the common anti-extremist legislation, where such vague concepts enable their misuse to restrict the freedom of expression. The on-going references to the threat of extremisms/terrorism trend allow Central Asian authorities to block online resources.

The growing penetration of the internet in Central Asia, the increase in the number of users created third trend - implementation of user-generated content into professional journalism (3). And finally, researchers recorded rather high level of propaganda and hate speech (4) in the media. However, despite the fact that government propaganda is reported in media outlets of all five Central Asian states, hate speech prevails in Kyrgyzstan, to a lesser extent it exists in Kazakhstan, and is almost missing in the media outlets in other countries.

 

About methodology: The level of the freedom of expression was determined based on the findings of annual media monitoring for hate speech in public discourse, surveys and in-depth interviews with journalists, editors and media specialists of Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and analysis of journalistic articles and user generated content based on a special scale, as well as reports about media situation. 2,189 documented media texts and visual content were analyzed in total, which were published on 79 open media resources. Also, verbal and written surveys were held and covered 500 respondents, including journalists, editors, bloggers, human rights activists of the five countries. Moreover, we used opinions of nearly 700 participants of trainings and conferences conducted by the School of Peacemaking in 2018-2019 about the current level of the freedom of expression and threats in Central Asian states. All comments were documented, processed by experts of the media monitoring application, and then systematised for the general rating. Guests of on-going open consultations on the freedom of expression and hate speech regularly held by the School of Peacemaking and Media Technology in Central Asia contributed to the rating. Their opinions were taken into account when assessing the basic level of the freedom of expression and cases of its restriction.

 

The freedom of expression is reviewed in the report in several aspects:

An opportunity to seek, obtain and distribute information regardless of boundaries, including on the internet;

The level of media pluralism, tolerance to a variety of manifestations of the freedom of expression;

Admissible criteria of the rhetoric of hate according to the local laws and contexts;

Available restrictions of the right of the freedom of expression.

 

 

 

 


[2] For more information, please see full report at the link)

[3]For more information, please see full report at the link

[5]For more information, please see full report at the link





INACTION IN INVESTIGATION OF I.SIKORSKAIA’S CASE TO BE APPEALED IN COURT

 18-03-2019, 00:16

School of Peacemaking and Media Technology in Central Asia hereby appeals to the authorities of the Kyrgyz Republic to expedite the issue of orders for expert examination and to conduct impartial investigation of a traffic accident that occurred on November 24, 2018 under strange circumstances, which resulted in injuries and brain concussion of programme director Inga Sikorskaia.

So far, the investigation has not issued order for two forensic psychiatric examinations on this traffic accident case.

 

On February 8, 2019, Zamir Zhooshev, lawyer of Precedent Partner Group, counsel for the plaintiff, requested the Bishkek GUVD [Chief Directorate of Internal Affairs] to carry out two forensic psychiatric examinations of the driver who committed the traffic accident and of the victim. Under the law, an order for or denial of examinations should have been issued after the request.

However, the counsel has not received any response from the investigator at the time of this press release.

The request for forensic psychiatric examination of the victim was made due to the fact that the Republican Centre for Forensic Examination of the Kyrgyz Republic "refused to determine the severity of the harm inflicted to health of I. Sikorskaia (as written in the report) and at the same time doubted the diagnosis made by a neurologist of a Bishkek-based MEDI clinic "Brain concussion”, which resulted in retrograde amnesia, after which I. Sikorskaia was treated for one and a half months.

Another diagnosis, "post-commotionsyndrome”, was made to the victim in the Republican Mental Health Centre, where she was prescribed a course of treatment and recommended an attenuated regimen for three months.

The victim, in her initial statement, requested for forensic psychiatric examination of the Namba taxi driver, who committed the traffic accident. The driver, according to her, "didn’t know the route, didn’t understand where to go, arbitrarily changed the route and didn’t take any measure to avoid the accident on a half-empty road.”

 

We are concerned with the sluggishness and uncertainty of the investigation.

 

We received the report of the Republican Centre for Forensic Examination of the Kyrgyz Republic on the health condition of I. Sikorskaia from the traffic accident investigator of GUVD of Bishkek, Police Lieutenant Colonel S. Booronbaev on January 25, 2019 despite the fact that medical examination of the victim was conducted on December 7, 2018.

 

On December 19, 2018, Harlem Désir, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, during his visit to Kyrgyzstan, raised the issue of a strange traffic accident with I. Sikorskaia at the meeting with the relevant committee members of Kyrgyz Parlament.

 

On December 9, 2018, the Coalition for Security Issues and Defence of Human Rights Defenders in Central Asia (Kazakhstan) requestedK.A. Dzhunushaliev, minister of interior affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic, to take all reasonable efforts to protect the rights of I. Sikorskaia and to assist in the impartial investigation of the traffic accident.

 

On December 6, 2018, Harlem Désir, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, during his meeting with Chingiz Aidarbekov, minister of foreign affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic, in Milan (Italy), pointed the need to expedite the investigation of this accident. In turn, the head of the ministry assured this case would be followed up.

 

Inga Sikorskaia is a prominent journalist, human rights defender, researcher and speaker on freedom of expression, combating hate speech, anti-discrimination and trainer on media freedom. She is a regular participant of UN, OSCE conferences on the freedom of speech, human rights, conflict-sensitive matters, an author of a range of articles and study guides. In March 2018, she was deniedentry to Turkmenistan, where she should have participated at the OSCE conference.

Since 2017, I. Sikoskaia has been under pressure for her professional activities. Kyrgyz authorities blacklisted Sikorskaia to control her movement abroad. From April 2017, she was closely checked at the border 19 times.Moreover, in June 2018, after such complicated check, her photo in international passport was damaged ripped off.

 

School of Peacemaking and Media Technology in Central Asia, where I. Sikorskaia is a programme director, promotes the freedom of speech, hate speech researches and examinations, implements training programmes on countering the propaganda of extremism through media, encouraging diversity, developing independent media sphere.

 








  • Military men near the aftermarket during mass clashes, Osh, June 201

  • Training’s participants on mediation and conflict management are building the Tower of Peace, Bishkek, April 2011

  • Training in destroying stereotypes for journalists, Bishkek, April 2012

  • Workshop on production of team reporting in multinational journalist groups, Bishkek, August 2012



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