On a trip to Central Asia, Germany's Development Minister Niebel stopped in Bishkek. He visited the Central Asian Summer Academy for Contemporary Journalism - a project supported by DW Akademie.
The minister and his delegation were keen to know more and spent an hour-and-a-half with the young journalists attending the Summer Academy. The Central Asian journalists described the often tense relationship between the media in their countries and the public authorities; they also talked about (self) censorship and the impact of social media.
Participants said researching stories was especially difficult. "In Tajikistan," one journalist pointed out, "public offices are allowed 30 days to respond to our questions." The delegates were surprised: Dirk Niebel said his ministry usually had to respond within two hours.
The Minister praised DW Akademie's media development work in Central Asia. Nobody should ever underestimate how important a vibrant civil society is for a functioning democracy, he said, and professional journalism was an essential component. A democratization process could only succeed if the media acknowledged their social responsibility, he stressed. "Media have to promote the exchange of opinions through discussions and by pointing to problems."
The young journalists' television reports on illegal settlements on Bishkek's outskirts, the rising cost of bread and flour, and child labor in Kyrgyzstan gave the delegates a better sense of the country’s problems.
The thirteen young journalists from Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are currently wrapping up their projects. For the last ten weeks they've received intensive training on various media forms. This is the third year that DW Akademie has conducted the Summer Academy together with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The program is a cornerstone of DW Akademie’s efforts to increase journalism training in the region.
Central Asian countries - with the exception of Kyrgyzstan - are at the bottom third of press freedom indexes. Government pressure, libel cases and prison sentences are frequently common. Kyrgyzstan was the Development Minister's last stop on his visit to Central Asia.