Since independence in 1991, the Central Asian republics to varying degrees have given lip service to democratization and the recognition of free press and political rights. However, the reality has been dramatically different under all five authoritarian regimes. That reality includes limits or bans on opposition parties, as well as elections that are neither fair nor free. Most mass media entities remain state-owned or tightly controlled, and there is pervasive censorship, self-censorship, harassment, and intimidation of individual journalists and their media organizations. One result is inadequate, shallow reporting about political, press, and speech rights and controversies. Western-based Web news sites provide alternative venues for some Central Asian journalists to independently cover such issues. This study analyzes the coverage of political, press, and speech rights news on three such sites: Eurasianet, IRIN News, and the Institute for War and Peace Reporting. It examines the topics covered, the degree to which these stories use unnamed and named sources, and the proportion of journalists writing under pseudonyms. It concludes that even journalists reporting on these issues for Western-based media operate under tight constraints, including the risk of official retaliation.
Recommended CitationFreedman, E., Coverage of the Central Asian political, press, and speech rights issues by independent news websites, Asia Pacific Media Educator, 16, 2005, 71-88.