ASTANA -- International non-profit organisation Internews, backed by the European Union (EU), has launched an 18-month project throughout Central Asia to improve media literacy and prevent radicalisation.
The project is titled "Contributing to stability and peace in Central Asia through media literacy, improved reporting and regional co-operation" and focuses on Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.
The EU has allocated €3.3 million for the project, which was launched in early April and will continue through the end of September 2019.
"The [EU] has always defended, and will defend, freedom of speech, freedom of information and the notion that everyone's opinion be counted in multicultural societies," Zoltan Szalai, the EU spokesman in Kazakhstan, said while presenting the project in Astana on Tuesday (May 15).
"Today, media resources are also used by radical and terrorist organisations" such as the "Islamic State" (IS), Szalai told Caravanserai. "We can all recall recent examples of when IS showed public executions or spread its ideology through the internet."
Tackling a serious problem
The project is "geared toward expanding the potential of journalists and civic leaders in terms of issues involving the production of high-quality media content, as well as increasing the level of critical media consumption on the part of ordinary citizens and decision makers", Marat Bigaliyev, director of the Internews office in Central Asia, told Caravanserai.
"Our work needs to be a concerted effort, since this problem is very serious," he said.
The effort will support national and regional initiatives, facilitating the prevention of radicalisation in the region by increasing the capabilities of journalists, civic activists and media specialists, according to Internews.
As part of the project, researchers will work to identify what causes sympathy for extremist ideas to arise. Experienced media trainers will also teach Central Asian journalists how to cover issues related to extremism.
The project will provide technical support for media outlets, carry out an online campaign to improve media literacy, and organise media forums and other events.