NewEurasia Citizen Media is Central Asia’s first and largest citizen-journalism network, with an average monthly readership of 30,000 from inside the region and past peak readerships up to 100,000 readers. As of 2014, we have eight years of experience in digital/citizen-journalism training, blogging, podcasting, and using digital culture as both a medium of pluralistic expression and a method of reporting.
Our chief expertise is developing grassroots networks and cultivating localized knowledge, which we then combine with innovative ICT applications with the goal of building democratic capacity by building critical capacity. Put another way, we implement projects that seek the social and political development of Central Asia by changing its consciousness.
As we discuss below, our original expertise was blogging. Today, however, we have evolved into an “NGO platform”, whereby we serve as a launchpad for various innovative media and development initiatives. Many of these are designed and implemented by Central Asians.
We are headed by an Executive Director (Oliver von Braun-Dams), who handles legal and financial matters; an Editor in Chief (Christopher Schwartz) who also serves as Project Developer; and a Managing Editor (Sanjar Rakhmatov), as well as a team of Country Managing Editors situated throughout Central Asia.
We have many partner organizations inside Central Asia and around the world, including our parent organization Transitions Online, Global Voice Online, Oxfam, the Serval Project, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Registan, the Central Asia Free Market Initiative, and the Central Eurasian Scholars and Media Initiative. We also work with several journalism faculties in Central Asia, including KIMEP, Ablai Khan University, and the American University of Central Asia.
History and Past Work
We were founded in late 2005, originally as an online magazine called Thinking East, before re-inventing ourselves as small blogging collective of Western university students interested in studying and discussing Central Asia, particularly the former Soviet republics. We soon went under the auspices of TOL and began the “Building Blogging in Central Asia Project” in 2007 with support from HIVOS and the Open Society Foundations.
A key result of our time with TOL and HIVOS was our transformation into a multilingual network of blogs operating in English, Russian, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Tajik and Uzbek, all of which were manned by Central Asian citizen-journalists, ranging from gender activists to artists to media professionals. We called them the “Bridge-Bloggers”, as they were supposed to bridge the many informational divides between Central Asians on the one hand and between Central Asia and the world on the other. By 2009, NewEurasia had almost completely “Eurasianized”, with our core team and contributors 90% comprised by Central Asians.
From 2009 to 2011, NewEurasia built upon this transformation. We blogged even more intensely in English, Russian, Kazakh, and Kyrgyz, but our main project was to write CyberChaikhana: Digital Conversations from Central Asia. This was a contemporary history of the region that utilized crowdsourcing editorial methods to chronicle the events of 2005-2010, all from the perspective of the region’s still-young blogging community.
One of our main projects throughout 2007-2011 was the conducting of workshops trainings throughout the region, whereby blogging and podcasting were introduced to the general public as a legitimate and powerful medium of personal expression, news reporting and information sharing. We estimate that we have trained around 5000 people in Central Asia, including significant numbers of journalists and media professionals.
We rose to international prominence as a result of our coverage of the political and ethnic turmoil in Kyrgyzstan in 2010 and the rise of the Türkmenet in 2011 (read our peer-reviewed academic article with Oxford University Press, “Hack the Turkmenet!”, here). Our team and coverage has repeatedly appeared on the BBC, CNN, RFE/RL, Al Jazeera (most noteworthily, the eighth pilot episode of The Stream), The Independent, and many non-English outlets, including local language outlets in Central Asia.
In October 2011, we became independent from TOL and registered as a verein (non-profit organization) in Switzerland. We continue to work with TOL on many of their quite innovative initiatives, including a recent online distance learning school and our present HIVOS-sponsored arts and culture project.