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POLITICAL CORRECTNESS LACKING IN KAZAKH MEDIA, ADIL SOZ FINDS

A lack of professional training and a fear of being punished for their writing remain serious problems for journalists in multicultural Kazakhstan, says Adil Soz in a new book.

Following a one-and-a-half-year project that lead to the publication of "Political Correctness in Mass Media: Search for Harmony", Adil Soz found that reporters in the region often ignore stories on national, ethnic and religious issues in the country to avoid stirring up political hostilities and to avoid being persecuted in the courts.

Kazakhstan is made up of more than 80 nations and ethnic groups, all with diverse religious preferences - so it's difficult to be politically correct all of the time.

"To prevent legal consequences, journalists have to know how to cover these issues in a way which does not insult the dignity of any nation, ethnicity or religion," says Adil Soz's assistant president, Yelena Malygina.

Part of the problem is the lack of professional training for journalists. "Local Kazakh universities do not have courses that provide journalism students with information related to covering such issues. So books are the only resource for journalists to learn how to report on these specific issues and stay protected," says Malygina.

Adil Soz, with the support of the European Community, monitored 50 newspapers in four regions in Kazakhstan, half of them written in Kazakh, over the past 18 months. Surprisingly, the Kazakh newspapers were more willing to take on ethnic, religious and national conflicts than their Russian counterparts, making them "less taboo than the Russian press," according to project coordinator Galiya Azhanova.

Adil Soz's findings were presented over two days of public hearings at the end of April, which brought together experts from different fields - linguistics, philology and theology, journalists and state officials from the Ministry of Culture and Information and the Ministry of Justice.

"Political Correctness in Mass Media: Search for Harmony" will be available in Russian at http://www.adilsoz.kz at the end of May.

(With files from Rinata Alibekova, IFEX Central Asia Project Coordinator)

(8 May 2007)

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