Our Youth Must Be Happier Than Us: The Unreality of Journalism, Part 2

neweurasia’s Musafirbek explores the obstacles with which young journalists are faced in Uzbekistan’s media industry. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, they find themselves trapped in a self-perpetuating system undermining not only their careers, but their very ideals.

Young girl in a school in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.  Learn more @ OneMinutesJr.  Image by Flickr user chrisschuep (CC-usage).

Uzbekistan's next generation in a Tashkent school. Learn more about the image by Flickr user chrisschuep (CC-usage) @ OneMinutesJr.org.

Editor’s note: neweurasia’s Musafirbek Ozod goes beyond statistics and formal reports to write about what it’s actually like to live and work as a journalist in Uzbekistan. This is the second part of a series, and part of the ongoing CyberChaikhana project.

Here Musafirbek explores the obstacles with which young journalists are faced in Uzbekistan’s journalism industry.  Stuck between a rock and a hard place, they find themselves the victims of a self-perpetuating system hellbent on undermining not only their careers, but their very ideals.

Our youth should be much stronger, better educated, wiser and, of course, happier than us.

This is a frequent refrain from Uzbekistan’s president, one which, no doubt, he will say for long into the future.  But his words ring hollow when we look deeper into the unhappy situation of Uzbek journalism’s next generation.

Obviously, those who work outside of official, sanctioned channels find themselves the target of harassment, extortion, defamation, or worse.  There’s nothing surprising about this to anyone who’s been paying attention to Uzbekistan since independence.

However, those who work for official media find themselves in a different but equally difficult position.  They are stuck between the independent journalists, in whose eyes they lose all credibility, and the elders of officialdom, who fear them.

To their superiors within the news agencies, young journalists are seen as nonprofessional simply because of their age.   The bad treatment gets worse depending on the young journalist’s individual talent: the more capability they have, the more they are left to rot by their elder colleagues.

The reason is because the elder fears for his or her own job security.  They are not able to gain the experience necessary to advance in their careers, and at the same time, if they do have the experience, they have the doors of opportunity shut in their face.

This rasies an important question: with such problems, why do young journalists still try?  The answer is that before enterring the job market they already invested four years of their life to study journalism in university.

In school they could exercise their free will by choosing their own courses, not to mention drink in idealism.  According to Uzbek law, students who completed their studies on scholarship must pay back the government for three years.  Ironically, the best-paying jobs are with the official news agencies (which, like the students, are dependent upon the state for their survival).

You can easily imagine what happens after three years of thankless slaving away in this industry: most of the idealists are obliterate and either quit or sell out and become cogs in the machine.

But then why are so many of Uzbekistan’s youth enrolling in journalism majors?  After all, you would think that word would eventually get around that the job market is terrible.

One answer is that they are short-sighted.   They are used as cheap labor and don’t even realize it, foolishly believing that eventually they’ll catch a lucky break.

Another answer is that they simply care about their society.  Call it delusion or the naivete of youth; either way, they believe in the power of information.

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