BISHKEK -- A three-day training session "On safety measures for Kyrgyz journalists and mass media editors-in-chief when covering the topics of religious extremism and terrorism" took place in the Kyrgyz village of Chon-Kemin in Chui Province September 30 – October 2, sponsored by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Centre in Bishkek and the Institute for Democracy, Media, and Cultural Exchange.
The training was conducted by international media experts, in which 20 journalists from Bishkek, Osh, Batken, and Jalal-Abad participated, Vasilina Brazhko, a public relations specialist for the OSCE Centre in Bishkek, told Caravanserai.
"Mass media representatives studied conflict coverage in the media, Kyrgyz legislation on extremism, digital security, data collection and validation, personal safety for journalists covering conflict situations, and the history of Islam," she said.
"The training also included analyzing real-world cases where the problems of religious extremism were covered, as well as practical tasks for more in-depth study of the training materials," she said.
Media - a main player in the fight against terrorism
One speaker, German journalist Ulrike Butmaloiu, noted that violent extremism is a global manifestation and requires the participation of an entire society to fight against it.
"The media plays an important role in informing the public and bolstering its resistance to the influence of extremist ideologies," he said. "During the training, we provided the journalists with 'tools' that help make their work, and the conditions in which they work, safer."
Another speaker, Ukrainian journalist Oleg Khomenok, said journalists should be very accurate while covering extremism and terrorism.
"We must remember that we have an audience, and keep in mind that minors can see the publications," he said.
It is very important that mass media remain professional and maintain ethical standards, said Evgeniy Sharov, the acting head of the Politico-Military Unit for the OSCE Centre in Bishkek.
"This will allow to maintain society's trust and carry out its educational role. A lot depends on the position of journalists," he said.
The editor-in-chief of the website nooruzkg.com Temike Nooruz said journalists need to study the problems of religious extremism and terrorism in depth.
"Holding these kinds of trainings is very necessary work. The problem of radicalism is very acute in Kyrgyzstan, and we need not only trainings, but projects for the mass media geared towards fighting extremism," he said.
Improving media skills, learning about Islam, legislation
Religious expert Ikbaljan Mirsaitov explained the difference between extremism and terrorism.
"There are the concepts of 'extremist activity' and 'extremist organisation' in Kyrgyz legislation. We must remember that extremism bears evidence of disregard for the rules for public order, and that extremism is the inclination of an individual towards extreme views and acts," he said. "But terrorism is an ideology of violence, and practices committing violent acts that are linked to disrupting public safety."
Esengeldi Jumakunov, a member of the State Commission on Religious Affairs, presented an in-depth report on the essence of Islam, the history of its appearance, and Islam's main movements.
Jumakunov said journalists expressed a lot of interest in his report on Islam.
"Instead of one-and-a-half hours, my report stretched out to over two hours because the journalists were active and asked a lot of questions," he told Caravanserai. "I got the impression that journalists have a lot of questions about this subject."
"The main weapon against religious extremism and terrorism is an ideological opposition," he said. "Now, more than ever, the topics of ideology and human faith are of high priority – and that is why, among the public, we need to promote the idea and ideology of genuine Islam over that of Islam's radical interpretations."
One of the training participants, an independent journalist Tolkun Namatbaeva, said holding trainings on radicalism is extremely important.
"They are very beneficial because the problems of terrorism and extremism in the Central Asian region are very pressing, and journalists do not have the experience to cover this complicated topic in a literate and professional manner," she told Caravanserai. "That is why, more than ever, they need to set up more of these kinds of seminars more frequently."
The training was held as part of the OSCE Centre project "National Dialogue on Information Security" and has contributed to its social outreach campaign "United in Countering Violent Extremism".