Media and Internet
Although we all know that Central Asian societies were for generations succoured on Soviet media that was pedagogical and ideological, we often forget what this fully means. Soviet media was often in outright denial, e.g., nary breathing a word about the Chernobyl disaster. It’s my understanding that if you heard a bit too much classical music on the radio meant, there was a crisis: apparently Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” signalled the death of a leader, and was even played on 19 August, 1991, rather prophetically.
Content may change, as well as values, but form persists. In Turkmenistan today, gone is the dream of the “Soviet New Man” (новый советский человек), replaced now with the “Golden Age” (altyn asyr). Here’s a particularly disturbing info-anthropological tidbit: according to Annasoltan and other Turkmen I’ve talked with, TurkmenTV was showing singers performing songs while panic and chaos rained down in Abadan. It seems media forms and informational habits morph, mutate, adapt, in ways those of us who believe in the freedom of the press and information wish they wouldn’t…
Editor’s note: The Turkmen-language Facebook page “JaPBaKLaR”, originally intended as a forum to share popular Turkmen cartoons, has emerged as the biggest Turkmen Facebook community. More importantly, it’s exhibiting some behaviors that seem surprisingly civic. NewEurasia’s Annasoltan reports.
So, first the naysayers: yes, Turkmenistan has got the slowest Internet in Central Asia. The speed for landline Internet a mere 72 KBps, and to get anything faster can cost as much as 7,000 USD (= for “unlimited” access). It also looks like that within my nation, the number of my fellow Turkmenetizens ranges between 80,400 to 127,000, which is roughly 1.5 to 2% of the population.
But for that tiny percentage, the Internet, especially social media, has been a world-transforming experience. Take for example the Facebook page “JaPBaKLaR” (https://www.facebook.com/japbaklar), named after the fictional youngsters of the serial novel by the famous Turkmen writer Berdi Kerbabayew. Would you imagine that here, in such an innocuous place (and remember: Facebook is blocked via landline access) we could expect to see an exhibition of a civic sensibility?
Uzbekistan’s unique accomplishments in theatre and art have been respectfully recognized. On April 5th, the country’s Ilkhom Theatre (“Inspiration” in Uzbek) was prized with the 2011 Prince Claus Award, from the Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development, for it’s cultural achievements. The Theatre (Ильхом Театр Марка Вайля) is Uzbekistan’s only independent theatre, was the first in the USSR, and today also functions as a school of dramatic art. The award was presented to the Uzbek Ilkhom Theatre, by Dutch Ambassador to Russia, HE Mr Ronald Keller.
In terms of free expression and artistic development, the 2011 Prince Claus Fund was awarded to Ilkhom Theatre for:
“the high quality of its dramatic productions, for creating a space of freedom in a zone of silence, for nurturing and inspiring the younger generations in Uzbekistan, and for upholding the role of theatre as a means of opening minds and stimulating development.”
The School of Peacemaking and Media Technology announces the start of a new competition for a training session among local Kyrgyz- and Uzbek-speaking journalists, who represent print and online media in Osh, Jalalabat and Batken oblasts of south Kyrgyzstan.
In order to be eligible, participants must be younger than 35 years old.
The training is organized with an aim to encourage open discussions on peacemaking-related matters, teaching local journalists the tools of building ‘bridges’ between conflicting parties and important techniques of identifying activists that are ready for dialogue.
The five-day training is a unique initiative. We plan to invite international trainers from South Caucasus and Former Yugoslavia, who have solid experience in professional journalism in conflict societies and in conducting trainings on related topics.
One of the main prerequisites for the selection is readiness of the candidates to work in multi-ethnic groups and their motivation for team reporting.
Synchronized translation into a state-language will be organized during the event. The venue: Bishkek. Time: April, August and November of 2012. More details will be announced on the website: www.ca-mediators.net.
To participate, candidates need to send their resume or CV to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please enclose motivation letter with details on past work and training experience, as well as your motivation to work in a multi-ethnic team. We also need a writing sample (published or unpublished) in any of four languages (English, Kyrgyz, Uzbek or Russian).
Alternatively, you can submit an online application form on our website www.ca-mediators.net.
The School of Peacemaking and Media Technology is funded by Soros Foundation – Kyrgyzstan and the National Endowment for Democracy NED.
Popular Uzbek singer, Yulduz Usmonova, has been censored by authorities in her homeland for years… but not any longer. Usmonova is said to have received official permission to stage her first concert in Uzbekistan, since 2007. And that concert is being held today, March 6th, in the historical city of Samarkand.
The singers website says:
“Уважаемые поклонники и почитатели творчества Юлдуз Усмановой .Рады ,вам сообщить , что 6 марта 2012 года в г. Самарканд , в ресторане “Дилафруз ” пройдет концерт Народной артистки РУз Юлдуз Усмановой.”
“Dear fans and admirers Yulduz Usmanova. Glad to inform you that the March 6, 2012 in the city of Samarkand, in the restaurant “Dilafruz” will be a concert of the People’s Artist of the RU Yulduz Usmanova.” (Google Translation)
In regards to her performance in Uzbekistan, the Facebook page titled “yıldız usmanova” – which has almost 45,400 “Likes” – shares the same information as above about Usmonova’s March 6th performance.
Read the full story »
According to official propaganda, UzA, the primary news agency of Uzbekistan, is not only a source of trusted information about processes going on in the country but an organization that “became a competitve actor in the world’s mainstream media.”
In this month of February, people affiliated with UzA are supposed to celebrate its 20th anniversary. Right after winning presidential elections in December 1991, Islam Karimov reorganized former UzTAG, Uzbek branch of TASS (Телеграфное агентство Советского Союза — Soviet Union Telegraph Agency), into Uzbekistan National News Agency.
Since February 5, 1992, UzA has served as one of the main megaphones of official propaganda with the news full of — let’s be realistic — too-good-to-be-true stories.
It’s no surprise that local mass media used this ocassion to praise UzA and label it with something like “An Active Distributor of Great Reforms.”
Surprise: UzA has not mentioned anything at all about its anniversary. How come? I don’t think that the UzA leadership would go out of line by adding a piece on how honored they were to have the president’s trust and blah, blah, blah. Or is this — finally– the surrender against the fact that “nothing hurts like the truth”?
Moreover, no official congrats to UzA staff on behalf of Islam Karimov, who just loves awarding people for falsified “large-scale developments” with a number of orders that are almost not known to ordinary Uzbeks. Read the full story »
Editor’s note: Google and Opera appear to have been blocked in Turkmenistan — or have they? neweurasia’s Annasoltan explores the mix of censorship, incompetence, and terrible infrastructure that constitutes the “shoddy omnipotence” of government digital control, and why this is both a source of distress and hope.
There’s more funny business going on in the Turkmenet. Recently I heard many Turkmenetizens complaining increasingly about this or that Google service not working. Google Analytics went out of service for a little while, and now Gmail seems to be down on Android-enabled smartphones, while remaining accessible via the UC browser. Google’s Android smartphone also appears to have been affected. However, what’s more worrying is that the Opera mini-browser also appears to be blacked out for the past five consecutive days.
Opera is a major player in the CIS. Since 2010, its regular browser been the most widely used means for surfing the Web in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Belarus, while its mini browser for mobile platforms claims 350,000 Armenian users and a monstrous 70% of all Russian mobile Internet users. For those of us interested in the freedom of information, this is reason to celebrate, for neweurasia learned back in June, as a result of Kazakhstan’s WordPress ban, that Opera’s regular browser’s “turbo” function serves as a kind of accidental proxy server. Meanwhile, Opera mini has been used as a cost-effective method to access sites that are either blocked or access to which is expensive because of telecom rates or difficult because of low quality desktop computers, such as Facebook — and for the cherry on top, there is now also a hacked version of Opera mini with a built-in proxy.
So, how can all these blackouts be possibly explained? Since the Turkmen government keeps its restrictions on telephone and Internet communication in the country secret, the picture is often not immediately clear. Further complicating the situation are neverendingly conflicting reports about access itself (remember the huge debate when neweurasia‘s Schwartz told Al Jazeera that Internet cafes in Turkmenistan require passports to enter?) So, instead of trying to diagnose these specific incidents with Google and Opera, I think it’s more worthwhile to fit them into a bigger diagnosis of the general cyber-disease in my country: a combination of censorship, incompetence, and terrible infrastructure.
A new book on Tajik culture and history has come to Tajikistan.
On February 14th 2012, the “Kitobi edgorihoi Tojikiston” (“Book of The Historical Monuments of Tajikistan”) was presented in Dushanbe by Tajik Culture Minister Mirzoshohruh Asrori and the head of the diplomatic mission of the United States to Tajikistan, Ambassador Ken Gross.
170 historical monuments, 250 pages, 500 copies, 3 languages; the book is a prime example of what cultural preservation via literature looks like. During the project, professionals from the Ministry of Culture, Academy of Sciences and the State National University came up with over 500 significant sites and monuments throughout all of Tajikistan, and of those, over 150 were chosen for publication.
With the help of a fellow Turkmen citizen-journalist, I’ve obtained and translated this official media coverage of our nation’s recent presidential election.
Dodojon Atovulloev, according to Wikileaks, is:
“One of the foremost journalists from Tajikistan, Atovulloev has fearlessly sought to get the news out on his native country, where violence and state authoritarianism have been the norm for years.”
Tajik journalist Dodojon Atovulloev – founder and editor of the Tajik opposition monthly Charogi Ruz (“Daily Light”), was stabbed in the Italian restaurant “Viaggio” in Moscow on January 12th. The attack led Atovulloev to be hospitalized at Moscow’s Sklifosovsky Institute, where he underwent surgery.
On January 14th, on their Facebook page, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty said:
“Police apprehended a man who was found with blood on his hands within hours of the attack but released him after concluding that he was not connected to the attack. There are no other known suspects at this time, police said.”