Trainings Hone Role of Central Asian NGOS and Journalists

IREX Europe in partnership with the BBC World Service Trust is implementing the Fostering a Culture of Human Rights in Central Asia project. The project is funded by the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) and aims at advancing the rights of women in Central Asia by equipping journalists with the skills necessary to raise awareness and hold policymakers accountable. Additionally the project—which focuses on Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan—builds the capacity of civil society organizations to work with vulnerable groups.

IREX Europe trainer Jillian Hocking travelled to Kazakhstan for a month this summer, delivering four three-day courses in media-skills management to 40 NGO workers, and three three-day courses for 24 journalists and editors in contemporary journalistic practise. At the core of the training was highlighting the importance of media as the fourth estate in forming healthy, democratic societies.

The NGOs are working at a grassroots level, dealing with issues from child slavery and prostitution to bride kidnapping, domestic violence, and defending migrant workers. The aim of the training was to help them make their stories attractive to the media and part of the media’s news agenda, thus raising public awareness of these critical issues.

Throughout the media skills training there was an emphasis for participants to begin to think like journalists. The key message underpinning every training course was the importance of NGOs; their role on a grassroots level, in conjunction with the media, is crucial in keeping governments and community decision makers accountable.

The NGO workers gained insight into current journalistic practice, honed their skills in the art of writing press releases, developed a greater understanding of social-issues journalism, learned about types of interviews and how to handle them, and learned the skills to design and deliver a media strategy. The other crucial component of the training was that NGO workers met and talked with other NGO workers, a rare opportunity.

The goal of the editors training was to introduce participants to more innovative approaches regarding social-issues journalism, provide participants with examples of successful community journalism and human rights, reflect on their commitment to free of charge, professionally uncompromised journalistic practice, and establish an understanding of a wider role within their communities as vehicles for community understanding, tolerance, and change through the effective use of journalism.

The training focused on the importance of exploring a diversity of views, and how this contributes to democratic process and the inability as journalists to debate issues when there are no opposing voices. The aim of these workshops was to instil a commitment towards keeping society healthy and transparent by highlighting the role the media plays in shaping society, and how the media can assist in resolving community problems.

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