By Eric Freedman
There’s a dramatic disconnect between the environmental topics covered by two major news organizations and Kyrgyzstan and the issues that environmental nongovernmental organizations- – eco-NGOs – in the country feel are most important.
In addition, those eco-NGOs do a poor job reaching out to the media for coverage of their activities and those underreported environmental issues, meaning they have little influence on building the public policy agenda for the media, the public or government.
Those are two key findings in a paper presented by Knight Center director Eric Freedman and independent scholar Chinara Sultanalieva at the annual conference of the Central Eurasian Studies Society at Columbia University. Freedman was Sultanalieva’s external advisor for her senior thesis in journalism at American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
The study examined coverage by Vecherniy Bishkek, the country’s largest-circulation Russian-language newspaper, and 24.kg, the country’s most popular Russian-language online news site.
It found that eco-NGOs consider deforestation, pasture degradation and mine tailings to be the most pressing environmental problems there, but the two news organizations gave the most coverage to agriculture, poaching and mudslides. Among the other findings: The vast majority of articles depend heavily on government sources, giving little attention to analysis, information and commentary from eco-NGOs.
In addition to the content analysis, Sultanalieva conducted a survey of six Bishkek-based eco-NGOs and interviewed representatives of each of them.
The study concluded that eco-NGOS need more effective public relations strategies and tactics to communicate positions to the press and public, and that journalists there should reach out more to eco -NGOs as news sources.
Eric Freedman is the director of the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism.