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World Press Freedom Day in Europe and Central Asia

Exhausted from recent political shocks, journalists in Kyrgyzstan gathered on World Press Freedom Day to discuss the challenges they face after the revolution. Dedicated to 3 May, Public Association Journalists (PAJ) showcased its Caricature Exhibition in a museum in Bishkek, a humorous and satirical way to draw attention to free expression violations in the country. The recent overthrow of the regime was reflected in the caricatures. The contest is aimed at reviving a dying art form in Kyrgyzstan and to strengthen solidarity between journalists. PAJ also carried out a tree-planting campaign on 24 April in honour of World Press Freedom Day, with the support of IFEX. Local and foreign journalists remembered colleagues killed in conflict as they planted 144 ash and catalpa seedlings in the Alley of Journalists.

In Kazakhstan, Adil Soz - International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech held a naming-and-shaming event for the first time, with journalists compiling a list of names of the most secretive agencies and officials who refuse to provide information. The least compliant government agencies and officials were awarded a ceramic apple covered in a human face, with a sealed mouth, closed eyes and ear plugs! And in another effort to build solidarity among journalists, Adil Soz hosted an event for "graffiti action painting on concrete blocks."

Azerbaijani journalists and members of the Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety (IRFS) commemorated the day by gathering at the grave of slain editor Elmar Huseynov. Huseynov's murder was allegedly set in motion by high-ranking officials in Baku and carried out by criminal elements in 2005. Also, IRFS and the Media Rights Institute (MRI) hosted a discussion on state regulation of the Internet, including the licensing of Internet TV and control of social networks.

In Belarus, independent journalists are being fiercely attacked: their homes and offices raided, their equipment seized. The authorities control the media by rejecting access to information and banning press distribution and printing. The Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) continues to fight for a free press and on World Press Freedom Day chose to express its solidarity with colleagues worldwide who are also under threat.

Young media activists from BAJ distributed special postcards to honour World Press Freedom Day at an exhibition, "Mass media in Belarus," which opened on 4 May. The postcard shows an American Indian passing a peace pipe from one group of journalists to another. "We had a desire to remind the journalists of state-owned media, who took part in the exhibition, that we were ready to treat them firstly as colleagues," said BAJ. Postcards were also given to government officials.

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