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How do the media in Central Asia cover acts of terrorism? There's a widespread belief that they act as a "dangerous liaison", spreading fear by publicising terrorists' demands, and making gains in circulation by reporting in a sensational manner. But this is not the case, says a pioneering study by the International Media Support (IMS) and its partners, the International Foundation for the Protection of the Freedom of Speech in Kazakhstan (Adil Soz) and the Public Association "Journalists" in Kyrgyzstan.

"Political extremism, terrorism, and media in Central Asia" found that there is little linkage between coverage of extremism and a media outlet's motivation to increase audience and revenue.

Rather, using examples from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, the authors found that the media in Central Asia tend to cover acts of terrorism and political extremism only when incidents occur - and with a neutral tone, "in order to avoid possible criticism from the government."

According to the study, austere official statements provide the backbone of mass media reports on terrorism - illustrating a lack of reliable and easily accessible information resources.

The 40-page report includes recommendations to media, media owners, civil society organisations and the authorities to upgrade their journalism and communication skills so that they can inform the public "in a timely and reliable manner" on all contentious issues.

Hopefully, say the authors, "improvement in the performance of the mass media in times of crises can contribute to the peaceful transformation of social conflicts."

IMS started the project in the summer of 2007, covering 27 media outlets in Kazakhstan and 22 outlets Kyrgyzstan. "The report is pioneering this field, as facts about the actual media coverage (of terrorism) remains scarce on a global scale, and is the first of its kind in Central Asia," says IMS.

To read "Political extremism, terrorism, and media in Central Asia; with examples of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan" in English and Russian, see:

Also visit InfoCenter AntiTerror, a website established in Kyrgyzstan under the project:

(With files from Svetlana Dylevskaya, IFEX Central Asia Project Assistant)

(30 September 2008)

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