Russia: Sorry State of North Caucasus Journalism

Global Voices Online
Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Timur Aliev - LJ user timur_aliev, editor-in-chief of the print/online weekly Chechen Society (Chechenskoye Obshchestvo) and the Chechnya editor of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) - is involved in a journalism education project that takes him to various parts of the Caucasus, where he conducts seminars to local media professionals. After a recent visit to the capital of Karachay-Cherkess Republic, he concluded (RUS) that "in the North Caucasus, journalism is practically nonexistent." Here's why:

Have returned from Cherkessk - we did a seminar there. Almost got in trouble as we were leaving - all of the city's center was blocked today, but it's good that we lived at the outskirts and managed to drive to the bus station via backyards. The guys, though, were stopped at this very bus station - taken to the cops' room and ordered to write an explanation of what they were doing in Cherkessk. My [...] press card saved me from having to help the cop pretend that he was being alert - for some reason, I doubt that he really was looking for criminals. Anyway, we got out and reached home okay.

The seminar turned out to be rather exhausting. There were only two of us to conduct it, and it turned out to be quite a laborious task.

During the round table that we did prior to the seminar, I suggested that we discuss which form of journalism was the most popular in the North Caucasus - [interactive] civic journalism, informational (traditional), post-Soviet or some other form. And I suggested that we talk on whether this form of journalism suits our needs, and if not, then what does.

But everyone ended up sharing their "pain" - lack of access to information, censorship, etc. A discussion didn't work out. We only determined that because of the information access problems, it's difficult to do informational journalism, and because society is passive, feedback is almost never received. That's why we decided that, with some exceptions, journalism everywhere in the North Caucasus is Soviet [in style]. And when we talked about future prospects, one [participant] suggested that we should start [hiding the meaning] between the lines [as they often did in the Soviet times]. Wonderful.

All in all, we've realized that North Caucasian journalism doesn't exist.



morozov_ilya_s: "with some exceptions, journalism everywhere in the North Caucasus is Soviet [in style]." I'm sorry, Timur, but what (or who) are these "exceptions"?

timur_aliev: Journalists who were there were speaking mainly for their own publications. And from their stories it became clear, for example, that the work of the Daghestani Free Republic newspaper is based on feedback. They put an emphasis on this from the very start - every section editor lists his phone number and email address in the newspaper, so that readers could send in the news or at least complain.

And I stopped being a trainer for a while and told them that initially I saw the Chechen Society as a newspaper working in the genre common to British papers - news analysis, features, commentary and that's it.

In both of these cases, there are some achievements.

And the rest of them were saying that [their editors] demand that it's crucial to have a thought and their own opinion, even in straight news items.

Here's another thought (RUS) on the freedom of speech and journalism in the North Caucasus:

Newspapers in national languages have more freedom

Another conclusion that our Cherkessk round table participants have reached: newspapers in national languages have more freedom.

First, not many people control them - because they are not widely read - because not many controllers understand what's written in them. It gets funny sometimes - they are asking the newspapermen themselves to summarize what's written.

Second, there is always someone who's ready to provide or leak information on certain topics, in order to help the newspaper in their native language - as opposed to newspapers in other national tongues.

Both statements refer both to the [Karachay-Cherkess Republic] and the [Kabardino-Balkar Republic].


sorex: And Internet journals have even more freedom.

timur_aliev: Tha't true...

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