WELCOME TO IWPR'S REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA, No. 638, December 19, 2010 MEDIA FREEDOM WORSE IN KAZAKSTANS OSCE YEAR Local and international watchdogs report backsliding in a year when major improvements were promised. By Irina Mednikova
KYRGYZSTAN VIOLENCE ALARM BELL FOR CENTRAL ASIA Regional leaders should not conclude that cure to unrest lies in more repression, analysts say. By Dina Tokbaeva, Yulia Goryaynova, Lola Olimova TROUBLE FOR TURKMEN ACTIVIST AFTER OSCE EVENT Case of Vyacheslav Mamedov highlights freedom-of-movement issues raised at international event. By Nazik Ataeva COMMENT KYRGYZ VIOLENCE TRIALS MUST DELIVER JUSTICE Proceedings to date marred by bias and intimidation. By Pavel Dyatlenko **** NEW ************************************************************************************ LATEST PROJECT REVIEWS: http://iwpr.net/make-an-impact/project-reviews VACANCIES: http://iwpr.net/what-we-do/vacancies **** IWPR RESOURCES ****************************************************************** CENTRAL ASIA PROGRAMME HOME: http://www.iwpr.net/programme/central-asia CENTRAL ASIA RADIO: http://iwpr.net/programme/central-asia/central-asia-radio NEWS BRIEFING CENTRAL ASIA: http://iwpr.net/programme/news-briefing-central-asia CENTRAL ASIA HUMAN RIGHTS: http://iwpr.net/programme/central-asia-human-rights-reporting-project STORY BEHIND THE STORY: http://iwpr.net/report-news/the-story-behind-the-story BECOME A FAN OF IWPR ON FACEBOOK http://facebook.com/InstituteforWarandPeaceReporting FOLLOW US ON TWITTER http://twitter.com/iwpr **** http://iwpr.net/ ********************************************************** RSS FEEDS: http://iwpr.net/syndication/builder DONATE TO IWPR: http://iwpr.net/donate **** http://iwpr.net/ ********************************************************** MEDIA FREEDOM WORSE IN KAZAKSTANS OSCE YEAR Local and international watchdogs report backsliding in a year when major improvements were promised. By Irina Mednikova Media rights groups say Kazakstans government has ignored earlier pledges of reforms that it made to secure the 2010 chairmanship of the OSCE, Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. As Kazakstan comes to the end of its turn in the rotating chairmanship of the OSCE, a bloc that promotes security and democracy among its 56 member states, media activists and journalists say that apart from a few welcome developments like discussions on a bill on access to information, the general trend this year was towards curtailing media. Ahead of an OSCE summit held in Astana on December 1-2, the crowning event of Kazakstans year in the chair, the press freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders, RSF, issued a statement criticising the countrys performance. RSF said Kazakstan had made no move to pass legislation that met international standards with regard to criminal and civil libel, access to information and the penalties that could be imposed on the media. Back in 2007, when it was lobbying hard to secure the OSCE chairmanship, the Kazak government promised numerous democratic reforms which, in terms of the media, were to include abolishing libel as a criminal offence, allowing journalists the preserve anonymity of sources, and ending the requirement that all electronic media register with the justice ministry. RSF recalled that its annual Press Freedom Index published in April 2010 ranked Kazakstan 162nd out of the 178 countries surveyed and said things had got worse since then. Media freedom declined markedly in 2010, the year that Kazakstan has been holding the OSCE presidency, the statement said. As a result of arrests of journalists, cases of censorship (of traditional and online media), journalists serving prison sentences, physical attacks on journalists and lawsuits against news media, Kazakstan fell 20 places in this years Reporters Without Borders press freedom index and now ranks alongside its authoritarian neighbour, Uzbekistan. RSF was not alone in judging Kazakstans OSCE year a disappointment. In a report in mid-September, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ, said the countrys performance had been so bad as to discredit the OSCE itself. By disregarding human rights and press freedom at home, Kazakstan has compromised the organisations international reputation as a guardian of these rights, undermined the OSCEs relevance and effectiveness, and thus devalued human rights in all OSCE states, CPJ said. Many of the criticisms made by international watchdogs were echoed by media representatives in Kazakstan itself. Igor Vinyavsky, editor-in-chief of Vzglyad, a newspaper faced legal action this year, said 2010 was worse than 2009 for the media. The authorities are steadily and methodically destroying those media that are not under their control, and nothing is deterring them from doing so, he said. The director of media development organisation Internews-Kazakstan, Marjan Elshibaeva, said, I think there have been no significant changes to the media in the OSCE chairmanship year, adding that in her view, those amendments to media legislation that were passed were largely cosmetic. The media rights group Adil Soz said more violations of journalists rights were recorded this year than last, while developments that caused particular concern included an attempt to ban any publication of material critical of President Nursultan Nazarbaev's son-in-law, Timur Kulibaev. Following legal action against a number of newspapers that had reported allegations of corruption made against Kulibaev, a court in Almaty seized their print-runs and banned further publication in January. The court ruling was subsequently overturned following criticism by the then OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Miklos Haraszti, who called it a dangerous attempt at censorship. A law passed in 2010 expands the list of prosecutable offences against the president, including defacing pictures of him and presenting a distorted version of his biography. The law will also grant Nazarbaev immunity from prosecution after he leaves office. Several other newspapers critical of the authorities have run into trouble. One was closed down following a libel case, while others found themselves unexpectedly subjected to tax inspections. When asked about the allegations that the government had fallen down on its promises, presidential advisor Yermuhamet Yertysbaev said reform-minded bills had been drafted, but were currently held up in the normal process of parliamentary discussion. Referring to legislation which would remove libel from the criminal lawbooks, Yertysbaev said, Although the president himself has already approved it, many deputies are against decriminalising defamation because they themselves are the targets of libel and insults. As for the close interest the taxman was taking in certain media outlets, Yertysbaev said newspapers were not being singled out because of their political views, and there had been cases where state-run newspapers had been investigated for tax evasion. Another worrying trend in 2010 noted by media-watchers was the governments increasing ability to buy media outlets loyalty by offering them contracts for public relations work, with the result that they tone down their editorial content. The Almaty-based MediaNet group said that up to 70 per cent of independent media outlets received government money this year, one-fifth more than in 2009. Experts fear that when a privately-owned newspaper, for example, agrees to carry paid advertising of government policies, it cannot help compromising its principles. MediaNets director Igor Bratsev said his pessimistic view of the media situation was largely connected to the political influence on the media, which made them financially dependent and had a direct impact on editorial content, encouraging self-censorship. Bratsev said explicit censorship was not even needed in an environment in which restrictive legislation and the frequent use of costly and never-ending libel suits effectively fulfilled the role of forcing media to censor themselves. Adil Jalilov, chairman of the Media Alliance of Kazakstan, is not against the government supporting the media, but warned that over-reliance on the state as a source of income will mean that the media stop putting the consumer of information first, they try to appease their [state] customer, and lose their competitiveness and freedom. Yertysbaev said he did not agree that public funding would undermine editorial independence, and argued that some state-owned newspapers published material critical of government. One of the few positive developments in 2010 was that non-government groups were involved in discussions around new legislation which should make it easier for members of the public to access information held by government and make the system more transparent. Parliamentary debate and approval have been postponed until next year. Irina Mednikova is a correspondent for the Golos Respubliki newspaper. This article was produced jointly under two IWPR projects: Building Central Asian Human Rights Protection & Education Through the Media, funded by the European Commission; and the Human Rights Reporting, Confidence Building and Conflict Information Programme, funded by the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of IWPR and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of either the European Union or the Foreign Ministry of Norway. KYRGYZSTAN VIOLENCE ALARM BELL FOR CENTRAL ASIA Regional leaders should not conclude that cure to unrest lies in more repression, analysts say. By Dina Tokbaeva, Yulia Goryaynova, Lola Olimova The mass ethnic violence around Osh and Jalalabad in June 2010 was a traumatic event that has scarred neighbouring Central Asian states as well as Kyrgyzstan itself. Analysts say there is a danger other Central Asian leaders will conclude that the only way of preventing similar things happening is to crack down hard at home. Such tactics might be inadequate to deal with the multiple risk factors facing the region, which include massive poverty and organised crime as well as Islamic radicalism with connections to Afghanistan. The fighting in June, concentrated, over several days in southern Kyrgyzstan left over 400 people dead, and homes and businesses looted and burned. (IWPR covered these events extensively, for example in Renewed Unrest in South Kyrgyzstan andSouth Kyrgyzstan Slides Out of Control.) The precise causes of the conflict are unclear, but they followed months of political disturbances after President Kurmanbek Bakiev was driven from power in a popular unrest. The June clashes were of another order altogether from previous incidents, pitting ethnic Kyrgyz against Uzbeks in acts of orchestrated rather than casual violence. Kyrgyzstan is now more stable than it was, and many hope a parliamentary election in October will eventually produce a stronger and more legitimate government than the interim administration that succeeded Bakiev. However, the winning parties remain locked in disputes over coalition-building, and there are also questions about whether governance has really been restored in the south, and about the fairness of trials arising out the violence. Farhod Tolipov is a political analyst in Uzbekistan, a country that temporarily hosted tens of thousands of ethnic Uzbeks fleeing the fighting in Kyrgyzstan. He argues that for Uzbekistan, too, the violence was without doubt the most significant event of the last year. Since these events began moving, they have continued until now, albeit in a different form they have sown deep mistrust between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in Kyrgyzstan. This will also leave its mark on inter-state relations between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan for many years to come, Tolipov said. I think this was a kind of moment of truth, a signal or warning; a bell which has tolled across the whole Central Asian region. Arkady Dubnov, a Moscow-based journalist and Central Asia expert, says the violence has prompted governments in other regional states to blame attempts to build democracy for Kyrgyzstans woes, in other words justifying their authoritarian rule and prompting them to strengthen domestic security arrangements further. The leaders of all the neighbouring countries in the region have been saying, and will probably continue to say, Look at what happens when things are allowed to slide, as happened in Kyrgyzstan under the guise of democracy, Dubnov said. The practical conclusion these leaders have drawn is that they need to strengthen their punitive agencies and security services. That kind of reaction, Dubnov added, was a feature of countries where domestic problems are not resolved in a democratic fashion, which is true of all the Central Asia republics to varying degrees. As Kyrgyzstans politicians struggle to build a system that under a new constitution passed in June is supposed to move the country from the strong presidential rule typical of regional states to a fairer parliamentary model, Dubnov said it was important for them to steer clear of the populist, nationalist sentiment that has emerged this year. Martha Olcott, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, agreed that this years turbulence made shaping Kyrgyzstans political future more difficult. The ouster of Kurmanbek Bakiev, and the subsequent inter-ethnic clashes in southern Kyrgyzstan have further divided Kyrgyz society and made it harder for a stable and lasting ruling coalition to be formed. Part of the difficulty in forming a coalition is because of the nature of the new Kyrgyz constitution, and its nascent political party structure, she said. It is also a reflection of a more general problem that other countries in the region are likely to experience, which is that the limitations on political participation in each of these countries have limited the emergence of independent-minded political elites, which is likely to create a crisis of elite competence when political power is transferred, as it will inevitably be when the current political leaders in Uzbekistan, Kazakstan, and Tajikistan exit the political arena. Tajikistan experienced unrest of a different kind in 2010, which peaked in September with an ambush in which 25 soldiers were killed by armed militants in the eastern Rasht valley. This incident and subsequent skirmishes in the same area invoked ghosts of the 1992-97, as former anti-government guerrillas were said to be involved. (See Tajik Authorities Struggle to Quell Militants.) Reports that the dissident fighters were in contact with, and may have been assisted by, Islamic paramilitaries from neighbouring Afghanistan added an alarming dimension to what might otherwise have been seen as a localised clash. Experts say the incident shows how, given the proximity of a highly unstable Afghanistan, Tajikistan is at risk of becoming the weak point through which instability spreads into Central Asia. A Moscow-based Central Asia expert, Sanobar Shermatova, said the Tajik government should respond to challenges from dissident armed groups in a measured way, including the possibility of negotiating with them. If the government sees these people as a potential threat to itself and is keen to sweep the area clean, it wont be a productive battle, she said. Its better for Tajikistan to be a united, strong state [held together through] national reconciliation. Olcott said the deteriorating political and security situation in Afghanistan is, if not spilling over into Central Asia, at least serving as a training ground for politically disaffected Islamists in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. These people are likely to try to use growing popular dissatisfaction in Tajikistan and southern Kyrgyzstan in particular, to their advantage. At the same time, she said it was too easy to blame radical Islamists for acts of violence, while there were also forces keen to create trouble in Central Asia. Criminal groups without ties to jihadist groups are also potential sources of terrorist attacks. Yet rather than try and confront these criminal groups, there is likely to be a tendency to blame radical Islam for any and all violence that occurs, Olcott said, adding that there is the further risk that the governments in the region will target Islamic dissenters and further politicise Islam, and so increase social tensions and polarise society unnecessarily. In the context of both Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, Eduard Poletaev, a political analyst in Kazakstan, said governments preferred to look for enemies to blame rather than discuss deeper problems that made instability possible in the first place. Political elites do not want to acknowledge that problems might lie with them, and with economic and social conditions in their country, he said. Its easier for them to point the finger elsewhere, at certain forces that are trying to destabilise things . Its obvious that destructive forces can only cause instability where the preconditions exist for that to happen. Poletaev said that by identifying such threats to stability, governments were simultaneously justifying their own legitimacy and appealing for support from large powers like Russia or the United States. But they would be wrong to expect other countries to come in from outside and sort out their problems for them, he added. Foreign players are pursuing their own geopolitical interests, and they do need stability. But none of them wants to shed its [own troops] blood to restore order, in the event that a situation of conflict arises again, he said. Poletaevs conclusion is that Central Asias leaders should try to work together to address common problems. The one thing thats clear is that were bound together by much more than our [common] Soviet past, he said. Regional cooperation and integration have been difficult to achieve in the two decades since the Central Asian republics became separate countries, and they are often in dispute over water, energy, and border issues. As Poletaev pointed out, matters are complicated by the fact that many of their leaders do not get on with one another. The modern history of Central Asia is written mainly by the relationships between leaders, and these personal relationships are well known to all, he said. Dina Tokbaeva is acting regional editor for Central Asia; Lola Olimova is IWPRs Tajikistan editor and Yulia Goryaynova is an IWPR editor covering Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. This article was produced jointly under two IWPR projects: Building Central Asian Human Rights Protection & Education Through the Media, funded by the European Commission; and the Human Rights Reporting, Confidence Building and Conflict Information Programme, funded by the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of IWPR and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of either the European Union or the Foreign Ministry of Norway. TROUBLE FOR TURKMEN ACTIVIST AFTER OSCE EVENT Case of Vyacheslav Mamedov highlights freedom-of-movement issues raised at international event. By Nazik Ataeva The case of a Turkmen human rights defender who was stopped by Russian border officials while returning from a conference in Kazakstan highlights the restrictions on movement that face Central Asian activists. Vyacheslav Mamedov heads the Turkmen Civil Democratic Union, an émigré group based in The Netherlands, and was the only rights activist representing Turkmenistan who managed to get to an NGO event held in the Kazak capital Astana on November 28-29, timed just ahead of a summit of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, OSCE. Other Turkmen activists based abroad were unable to make it, accusing Kazakstan the current chair of the OSCE of denying them visas, and of succumbing to political pressure from Turkmenistan. Instead, they sent a collective open letter describing the dire state of affairs in Turkmenistan and raising concerns about political prisoners. Unlike his colleagues, Mamedov did not need a Kazak visa as he was travelling on a Russian passport; he has dual Turkmen-Russian nationality. Travelling through Moscow, he stayed in the city for a couple of days and was stopped twice by frontier officials at Sheremetevo Airport, on his way in from Astana on November 29, and on his way out to Amsterdam on December 3. On the first occasion, the passport control officer cited a technical glitch in the computer system for holding him up, while the second time the official said he was just following orders. Mamedovs passport was scanned and copied. Mamedov said he had not experienced problems in Russia on previous occasions, including a trip there in September. Three months have passed since then, and in that time my criticisms of human rights violations has been directed at the authorities in Turkmenistan and Kazakstan; the situation in Russia was never mentioned , he told IWPR. Its more than possible the Russian security services are acting at the behest of their Turkmen colleagues, he said. Mamedov is uncertain whether he can now travel safely to Russia as he fears his dual nationality could mean he is detained and extradited to Turkmenistan. The Turkmen government exercises tight control over society and no human rights groups are allowed to operate in the country. Officials from the country pressured organisers of two earlier events held in the run-up to the OSCE summit to block rights groups from participating. These OSCE review conferences were intended to give NGOs an opportunity to submit alternative reports giving a different perspective from that of their governments. At the first event, held in Warsaw in late September and early October, Farid Tukhbatullin, head of the Vienna-based Turkmen Human Rights Initiative, Nurmuhammed Hanamov, leader of the exiled Republican Party and Annadurdy Khajiev of the Bulgaria-based Turkmen Helsinki Foundation were denied registration. At the second, held in Vienna later in October, Hanamov and Tukhbatullin were again refused entry. However, after delegates from the European Union, United States and Canada raised objections with OSCE officials, the two were allowed to attend the following day. (See Turkmenistan Tries to Bar Rights Activists From OSCE Event.) The NGO event which Mamedov attended in Astana submitted recommendations concerning freedom of movement in the OSCE region, and urged member states to stop obstructing human rights defenders from travelling as part of their work. The NGOs suggested that the OSCE hold conference on freedom of movement next year to discuss these matters, including the use of blacklists and travel bans. Finally, they called for changes to regional agreements that contradict OSCE members wider commitments. The 1993 Minsk Convention signed by the former Soviet republics in the Commonwealth of Independent States includes reciprocal arrangements for judicial practice and criminal law that have been used to extradite detained persons between signatory countries without regard for international conventions on refugee status, asylum and torture. Mamedov says he plans to submit a complaint to Russias prosecutor general and frontier service. As a Russian citizen, he believes that he has a right to know why his passport was copied and how this information will be used. Nazik Ataeva is a journalist from Turkmenistan. This article was produced jointly under two IWPR projects: Building Central Asian Human Rights Protection & Education Through the Media, funded by the European Commission; and the Human Rights Reporting, Confidence Building and Conflict Information Programme, funded by the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of IWPR and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of either the European Union or the Foreign Ministry of Norway. COMMENT KYRGYZ VIOLENCE TRIALS MUST DELIVER JUSTICE Proceedings to date marred by bias and intimidation. By Pavel Dyatlenko Kyrgyzstan is now the scene of not one but two separate judicial processes arising from unrest earlier in the year. Both are taking place with an unprecedented degree of openness, yet there are serious concerns that the trials are politically loaded and that justice is not being administered in a fair, unbiased manner. Since mid-November, the capital Bishkek has been the scene of a highly publicised trial of members of former president Kurmanbek Bakievs administration, accused of ordering police action that caused the deaths of at least 70 people during anti-government protests in April. The uprising ended with Bakiev being swept from power. (Reporting on casualties at the time included Kyrgyz Mourn Uprising Victims and Riot Deaths Spark Kyrgyz Turmoil.) On a separate legal track, 152 criminal cases are in train in southern Kyrgyzstan in connection with the outbreak of ethnic violence in and around Osh and Jalalabad that left more than 400 people dead, according to official figures. (IWPR covered these events extensively, for example in Renewed Unrest in South Kyrgyzstan and South Kyrgyzstan Slides Out of Control.) Finally, five individuals have been on trial since September, accused of attacking homes and property in the village of Mayevka in April, shortly after Bakiev was removed from office. Five people died in this attempt to seize land in this settlement close to Bishkek that is home to Meskhetian Turks, Russians and Kyrgyz. A verdict is expected in mid-December. (See Kyrgyz Leaders Struggle With Land Wars.) All these trials are important in that they stem from key events that have shaken Kyrgyzstan to its heart this year. But the location, timing and conduct of the proceedings, and the way they are being covered in the media, create serious concerns that the national leadership is using them for its own ends On the positive side, the court proceedings have been open and accessible to the public. Trials relating to the unrest in southern Kyrgyzstan are being held in situ in local courtrooms, while Bakievs associates are being tried in the Palace of Sports, chosen as the biggest venue in the country. An explosion on November 30 last month, however, has led to plans to switch this trial venue. (See Blast in Kyrgyz Capital Raises Tensions.) Such transparency and accessibility has to be welcomed as a sign of how far Kyrgyzstan has come since becoming independent in 1991. This contrasts markedly with the aftermath of the 1990 ethnic conflict in Osh, when proceedings were conducted strictly behind closed doors at the Supreme Court. So from one perspective, holding open judicial examinations that are clearly in the public interest can been seen as an attempt to abandon stage-managed political trials. But there are also indications that the reverse might be true the authorities may wish to create a distraction to channel the popular anger that has built up over months of turbulence, instability, and disappointment that the hopes vested in the post-Bakiev administration have come to nothing. That impression is made all the stronger by the interruptions and intimidation that have marred trial proceedings. We have seen frequent and aggressive interruptions by relatives of those killed in April and other members of the public, shouted threats at defendants and their lawyers, ethnic slurs directed at non-Kyrgyz defendants, and calls for harsh punishment, even lynching. Neither judges nor the police officers deployed to provide security have acted resolutely enough to curb such behaviour. Although it is understandable that revisiting such traumatic events will is highly emotive, there is a clear line between public accessibility and active disruption, and it is incumbent on the authorities to ensure order and security at trials. The attempt to gloss over the ethnic aspect of the June violence is worrying. Right groups like the New York-based Human Rights Watch point out that the majority of defendants are Uzbeks. Meanwhile, most of the police force in the south are Kyrgyz.(IWPR interviewed a Human Rights Watchrepresentative in Kyrgyz Unrest Trials Show Bias, Discrimination.) Human Rights Watch quotes prosecutors as saying in August that of the 243 people in detention, 29 were ethnic Kyrgyz, and more than 200 were Uzbek.In a speech in November, President Roza Otunbaeva said 100 Uzbeks and nine Kyrgyz had been convicted to date in Osh region, and 30 Uzbeks and 22 Kyrgyz in Jalalabad. Yet government officials continue to assert that has been no ethnic bias during the investigative and prosecution phases. "There has been no discrimination against the Uzbek community in judicial proceedings in the south of Kyrgyzstan," Otunbaeva said. There must be grave concern that due process has not been observed in trials and sentencing. Failure to ensure this could be storing up trouble for the future. Yet the issue is being ignored at political level and is not being reported in the media. Thousands of people took part in the disturbances of April and June, but only dozens have been brought before the courts. And they are only the alleged direct participants, while those who coordinated and incited acts of violence have got off scot-free. The flawed conduct of these historic proceedings suggests that the political elite and state institutions of Kyrgyzstan are incapable of delivering justice and holding perpetrators to account. It may well be that by keeping a lid on the more difficult aspects of these cases, the authorities are trying to avoid resolute action such as imposing law and order in the south, and tackling nationalist sentiment. At the same time, the conduct of these trials has led to mounting unhappiness among some influential groups associated with the defendants, who served under Bakiev. In the Bishkek trial, most defendants are former members either of the now dismantled presidential security service or of the elite Alfa force, part of the National Security Service. Certain southern politicians previously associated with the Bakiev administration are also unhappy with the process. There were always risks to prosecuting representatives of such powerful forces, but doing so in a manner that is not seen to deliver justice will do little more than alienate some in the police services. All in all, it is hardly surprising that some people in Kyrgyzstan view the process as a series of show-trials devoid of justice. This presents grave risks respect for human rights and due process may be devalued, public confidence in the police and courts may decline, and populist politics may be encouraged, leading to further ethnic conflict and mob justice. That, of course, is the worst-case scenario. Holding these historic trials in the public view is thus inadequate if the intention is to uphold human rights, judicial independence and the fair administration of justice. The rule of law must be paramount, the rights of every citizen must be protected, and courts must be seen to be independent actors capable of delivering fair verdicts. Unless this is achieved, Kyrgyzstans new constitution and the parliamentary system it is supposed to generate, and in which the public has such high hopes, will fail to produce major changes for the better. Pavel Dyatlenko is a political analyst ofPolis Asia, a think-tank in Kyrgyzstan. This article was produced jointly under two IWPR projects: Building Central Asian Human Rights Protection & Education Through the Media, funded by the European Commission; and the Human Rights Reporting, Confidence Building and Conflict Information Programme, funded by the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of IWPR and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of either the European Union or the Foreign Ministry of Norway. **** http://iwpr.net/ ********************************************************** REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA provides the international community with a unique insiders' perspective on the region. Using our network of local journalists, the service publishes news and analysis from across Central Asia on a weekly basis. The service forms part of IWPR's Central Asia Project based in Almaty, Bishkek, Tashkent and London, which supports media development and encourages better local and international understanding of the region. IWPR's Reporting Central Asia is supported by the UK Community Fund. The service is published online in English and Russian. The opinions expressed in Reporting Central Asia are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the publication or of IWPR. 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