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After the Czars and Commissars

Journalism in Authoritarian Post-Soviet Central Asia

Eric Freedman

Publication Year: 2011

From Czarism and Bolshevism to the current post-communist era, the media in Central Asia has been tightly constrained. Though the governments in the region assert that a free press is permitted to operate, research has shown this to be untrue. In all five former Soviet republics of Central Asia, the media has been controlled, suppressed, punished, and often outlawed. This enlightening collection of essays investigates the reasons why these countries have failed to develop independent and sustainable press systems. It documents the complex relationship between the press and governance, nation-building, national identity, and public policy. In this book, scholars explore the numerous and broad-reaching implications of media control in a variety of contexts, touching on topics such as Internet regulation and censorship, press rights abuses, professional journalism standards and self-censorship, media ownership, ethnic newspapers, blogging, Western broadcasting into the region, and coverage of terrorism.

Published by: Michigan State University Press

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Theoretical Foundations for Researching the Roles of the Press in Today’s Central Asia

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pp. 1-15

From the onset of Bolshevism through the era of postcommunist authoritarianism in Central Asia, a continuum of constraints has restricted the media. Lenin’s candid acknowledgment that press freedom and public access to information could threaten his young regime was followed by Josef Stalin’s acknowledgment of the power of a controlled press to sustain...

Part 1: Under the Commissars

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Soviet Foundations of the Post-Independence Press in Central Asia

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pp. 19-32

Throughout the Soviet Union, the press was assigned the role of propagandist, collective agitator, and educator, to build the Communist Party and to further Marxist-Leninist ideology. The guiding principle was the media’s subordination to the party, the single voice and agent of the working class. Although the press did not favor free expression, it did...

Part 2: National Perspectives

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Oligarchs and Ownership: The Role of Financial-Industrial Groups in Controlling Kazakhstan’s “Independent” Media

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pp. 35-57

Kazakhstan is known for its authoritarian political system and the absence of guarantees protecting citizens’ fundamental rights, including freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Under the rule of president Nursultan Nazarbaev, who has been in power since 1989,1 a variety of mechanisms—formal and informal, legal and de facto—has been...

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Reinforcing Authoritarianism through Media Control: The Case of Post-Soviet Turkmenistan

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pp. 59-77

Total control over national media featured prominently in the evolution of authoritarianism in post-Soviet Turkmenistan. Since its first edition in 2002, the annual Press Freedom Index from the Paris-based NGO Reporters sans Frontieres (RSF) has regularly ranked the Turkmenistani regime as one of the most serious off enders of press freedom...

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Hizb ut-Tahrir in Kyrgyzstan as Presented in Vecherniy Bishkek: A Radical Islamist Organization through the Eyes of Kyrgyz Journalists

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pp. 79-97

For ordinary people, knowledge about any radical clandestine organization usually comes from the mass media rather than from direct interaction. In theory, given the space and resource limitations of print media, it is expected that newspapers create reduced but not distorted pictures of events or social phenomena. In practice, the media intentionally create...

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The Future of Internet Media in Uzbekistan: Transformation from State Censorship to Monitoring of Information Space since Independence

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pp. 99-121

The Internet remains an underused means of expression for the majority of citizens in Uzbekistan (United Nations Development Programme 2007; Guard 2004, 203). Connectivity is not the main obstacle, because it has kept improving since the state monopoly on access was abandoned in 2002.1 The government also demonstrates strong...

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Journalistic Self-Censorship and the Tajik Press in the Context of Central Asia

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pp. 123-139

Tajikistan’s constitution and press law have officially ended censorship. Despite such legal directives, however, the government and power elites continue to control the media—directly and indirectly—and to frame a constricting press atmosphere that forces media owners, editors, and reporters into “politically correct” editorial...

Part 3: Trans-Regional Perspectives

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Loyalty in the New Authoritarian Model: Journalistic Rights and Duties in Central Asian Media Law

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pp. 143-160

A fter almost twenty years transitioning from a single-party press, Central Asia was still defined by a set of laws and behavioral patterns that restricted media pluralism, which stemmed from early the early 1990s. This chapter assesses how Central Asian media law has developed by analyzing both journalists’ and governments’...

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Ethnic Minorities and the Media in Central Asia

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pp. 161-183

The most captivating feature of Central Asia is undoubtedly its multiethnic and multilingual population. This mosaic of peoples and languages results from a rich precolonial history, as well as the legacy of the Russian and Soviet empires. The region was structured during the national-territorial demarcation that the Soviet authorities...

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Journalists at Risk: The Human Impact of Press Constraints

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pp. 185-198

Central Asia has been physically and psychologically dangerous territory for journalists, both in the Soviet era and a erward. The reasons are many, including the authoritarian nature of its regimes; the lack of a tradition of independent media; inadequate education and training opportunities for journalists; pressure on journalists and...

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International Broadcasting to Uzbekistan: Does It Still Matter?

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pp. 199-214

The twentieth century gave the world its first true mass medium. And within a few years of its birth, radio had emerged as a weapon that both powerful and weak governments could use to spread their national ideologies, promote their geopolitical objectives, improve their political and cultural image, gain social influence, and in some cases...

Part 4: Journalism Education and Professionalism

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Journalism Education and Professional Training in Kazakhstan: From the Soviet Era to Independence

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pp. 217-232

This chapter traces journalism education in Kazakhstan as reflected in the eyes of some of its teachers. It recounts the legacy of Soviet times, the struggle to find a footing a er independence in 1991, and recent developments in higher education—in both the Strategic Plan of Development of Kazakhstan, 2005–10, with goals set by the Ministry...

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Professionalism among Journalists in Kyrgyzstan

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pp. 233-243

The crumbling of the Warsaw Pact in the early 1990s, followed by the breakup of the Soviet Union, led to major economic, social, and political reforms across much of Eastern Europe. Foreign aid, business investment, and academic assistance flowed into the region. Among the desired reforms was development of an independent press...

Part 5: New Media, New Frontiers

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Internet Libel Law and Freedom of Expression in Tajikistan

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pp. 247-262

On July 30, 2007, Tajikistan president Emomali Rakhmonov signed amendments to the country’s criminal code to extend the application of existing libel laws to the Internet. Article 135, for example, was amended to say: “Defamation, contained in public presentations, mass media, or Internet sites, is punished by obligatory labor...

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Blogging Down the Dictator? The Kyrgyz Revolution and Samizdat Web Sites

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pp. 263-286

Kyrgyzstan, a small Central Asian country of five million people, made the front pages of print and Web newspapers and the broadcast leads of the world media on March 24, 2005. On that day, President Askar Akayev, who had ruled the former Soviet republic for fourteen years, fled the country a er a series of large public protests, including one...

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Conclusion: Through the Crystal Ball

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pp. 287-293

The end of the Cold War represented an apparent victory for by NATO, capitalism, free enterprise, and democracy over Marxism-Leninist communism, the Warsaw Pact, and the Russian-Soviet empire. With that watershed event, the five newly independent states of Central Asia emerged from the wreckage of the Soviet Union as potentially committed to free...

Contributors

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pp. 295-299


E-ISBN-13: 9781609172282
Print-ISBN-13: 9781611860054

Page Count: 400
Publication Year: 2011