A good friend of mine is a correspondent in Cairo for an American media outlet. I last saw her in November, when she – no stranger to difficult assignments – talked about the challenges of working in a country where the security services hold such sway. In her stories of being followed or stopping interviews with ordinary people if she sensed she might be putting them in danger, I thought of the experiences of some of our past correspondents in Central Asia, especially Uzbekistan.
If, like me, you’re wondering if the revolutionary fervor in Tunisia, Cairo, even Jordan, could spread to places like Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, here are a few pieces I’ve seen lately on the issue: on Friday, journalist and human rights activist Catherine A. Fitzpatrick focuses on the case of Uzbekistan for EurasiaNet, and that site’s Inside the Cocoon blog looks at the situation in Tajikistan. Neweurasia, TOL’s sister site, offers viewpoints from bloggers in the region. If there’s a consensus it’s that the region’s contemporary history, demographics, and economic foundations make such uprisings unlikely. In what seems to me a key passage, Fitzpatrick recounts an exchange aired on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Uzbek service:
“The independent Uzbek sociologist Bahadyr Musayev said that while the nature of the two tyrants was similar, people’s mindsets in the two countries were different; he did not believe that Uzbeks would go out on the streets, as fear had overtaken people and their spirits had been broken. Those who might still promote freedom had all been forced abroad or jailed and those who remained were intimidated, he said. [Shamsiddin Atamatov, leader of a group called Andijan Justice and Development, who has been forced into exile,] objected to Musayev’s gloomy depiction of the Uzbek people and said he believed people would still resist tyranny.”
One other note on the subject of liberty in Central Asia: TOL is offering a distance-learning course for journalists in that region on covering religion, an especially fraught issue there.
Here are the basics:
The course was developed by TOL specifically for the region of Central Asia. The goal of this course is more than broadening your knowledge about the subject. It is to develop your critical thinking, speaking, reading, and writing skills.
Applications will be accepted from media professionals and citizen journalists from any of the countries of Central Asia (Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan). Citizens of those countries who live elsewhere are also invited to apply.
Participation is free of charge.
During the course participants will take five theoretical modules. Each module consists of a text on a specific subject, questions about the text, and a practical task (writing exercises). Throughout the course an experienced trainer will answer any questions from participants and provide detailed feedback on the written assignments. The working language is Russian.
The duration of the distance-learning course is five weeks.
Participants who successfully finish the course will be awarded TOL certificates and those who score the best will be eligible for fully funded places at TOL journalism training courses in Prague.
Click here to apply: http://forms.tol.org/52/
Or for any questions, please contact Larisa Balanovskaya firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo by Daniel X. O’Neil/Creative Commons