Study finds major holes in coverage of environmental issues in Central Asia

Eric Freedman

Eric Freedman

News media provide little in-depth coverage of transborder environmental issues in formerly Soviet Central Asia, a new study by Knight Center director Eric Freedman found.

Most news organizations in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan inadequately cover such issues as water scarcity and allocation, climate change, toxic waste and energy in the Ferghana Valley, an agriculturally highly productive and densely populated region.

Environmental controversies and conflicts—particularly those related to water and energy—threaten precarious political, diplomatic and economic relationships among the three countries that occupy it. Journalists in one country usually don’t seek news sources in the others, according to the study published in the journal Applied Environmental Education and Communication.

The study drew heavily on interviews Freedman conducted with journalists and media experts in the Ferghana Valley and in the capital cities of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. These interviewees cite such reasons as avoidance of controversy, self-censorship, lack of access to information, little collaboration, inadequate professional skills and weak minority-language media.

Local journalists acknowledge their inability to adequately and truthfully cover serious policy issues in the Ferghana Valley. As one reporter in Tajikistan explained, “My material will not be all truth. It will be half-truth. The information will be provided by local people who will give me the full information but I will be afraid to print it. I will do my article and provide it to my boss, and my boss will decide how much of it will be shown”