"Professional ethics of journalists in covering emergency situations"
Meeting of Experts transcript
On May 6, the Bishkek Press Club held a meeting of experts on the topic: "Professional ethics
of journalists in covering emergency situations” in the framework of the project "Ensuring the
safety of journalists" with the support of the OSCE Center in Bishkek. Representatives of
media NGOs, international organizations and the media participated in the meeting.
Moderator: Shamaral Maichiev, media expert
List of participants:
Begaim Usenova, director of the Public Union "Institute for Media Policy"
Ulugbek Babakulov, chief editor of the newspaper “Moskovsky Komsomolets-Kyrgyzstan”
Alexander Kulinsky, member of Media Complaints Commission
Adel Laisheva, program director of Internews Network
Grigoriy Mikhailov, correspondent of IA «Regnum»
Marat Tokoev, Chairman of Association "Journalists"
Andreas Hedfors, international journalist, NTRC consultant
Burul Usmanalieva, coordinator of media projects of the OSCE Centre in Bishkek
Elena Cheremenina, director of educational and informational media center
Irina Chistyakova, media expert
Azamat Tynaev, journalist
Denis Arzamasov, lawyer of the foundation "Center for Media Support”.
Shamaral Maichiev: Dear colleagues, today we are discussing the topic: "Professional
ethics of journalists in covering emergency situations”. It is the first meeting here, at least
for me, after the recent extraordinary events. Let's hope that journalists will cover more
normal events, without shocks. But today this topic is quite relevant.
There is broad discussion of the draft constitution in the country. Every two-three years we
discuss the constitution, and most often we discuss the distribution of powers between the
authorities. And in reality, we are often confronted with the fact that the media is the fourth
power. I have already said that the fourth power is not only the media, it is also the civil
society. It would be great to introduce a separate chapter about it in the constitution. Now is
the time, when many problems could be self-regulated.
I now give the floor to Begaim Usenova, the head of the “Institute for Media Policy".
Begaim Usenova: Hello, dear colleagues. The April events have shown that there are
shortcomings in the journalist coverage of emergencies, that the level of traditional media is
quite low, in particular, the television channels. During several days, TV channels showed
only videos without comment; videos with violence, looting and so on. When the situation in
the scountry had not stabilized yet, it very negatively affected the mood of people.
All that was strongly fueled by the Internet, which contained misleading information, often
provocative. There were people speaking on TV, who did not adhere to any standards, which
are very important in such situations; their speeches were one-sided and biased. Journalists
in TV studios and moderators in online forums tried their best to regulate their programs or
forums, but it was very difficult to resist that onslaught.
It is worth noting that the April events have also showed that, in this age of information
technology, it is useless to deny access to information; information will be revealed anyway.
It became clear how “twitter”, blogs and forums could make a difference in access to
information, even when the television, radio and newspapers provide only one-sided
information or do not provide any objective information about the country at all. After those
events had occurred, journalists felt freedom, but it was difficult for them, because they had
not been properly trained to highlight the information. Journalists in these circumstances
should be able to understand the information provided, to distinguish facts from opinion and
to clearly show that in their reports, programs and articles.
It should be noted that journalists have long been attacked, they worried about their safety,
and this threat is still there, because it is unclear whether the investigation into the killings
and attacks on journalists will be completed. That is the threat against journalists also played
its role, journalists were attacked during the April events, their cameras were broken and so
on; there were threats made against journalists, they were not allowed to film during land
squatting around Bishkek. When the authorities do not react to these symptoms, it is also a
problem, and journalists are afraid that the new government cannot ensure their safety
We must take into account that the strong party, in this case, it is the power, will provide
one-sided information, so it is important now to develop standards for providing balanced,
Most importantly, journalists had no time to change their common vision on the journalist
profession and adapt to the situation. We say that there must be some kind of advanced
information materials, but our journalists did not have time to create these advanced
materials. Newspapers have their own work schedule, which does not always coincide with
what is happening in the country, that’s why the television is the main source of information
for the entire country. But national TV channels do not always deliver the full information
about the events. People in the south of Kyrgyzstan have often complained that the
information about what is happening in the south, is not always full and balanced.
Shamaral Maichiev: Thank you, Begaim. Now Ulugbek will speak.
Ulugbek Babakulov: I am pleased to welcome all. I was told that the essence of today’s
Round Table was based on the media organizations’ appeal to the media of Kyrgyzstan to
respect the journalist ethical code. The ethical code of the journalist is the most absurdist
idea I have ever heard. But it does not matter.
I have carefully read this appeal of media organizations. It is noteworthy that none of these
media organizations broadcasts or publishes information, like the media. Yes, some of them
consist of members of the media, coming from the journalistic environment, but most of
them were not engaged in journalism in its pure form, but in some management activities.
Accordingly, I have a question: do such "experts" have the right to say journalists how they
should work? It’s great to give recommendations, when you have stable grants for different
However, one should remember that any media, except the governmental, state-owned ones
or those, which belong to individual politicians, are primarily a business, and every business
seeks to profit by selling goods or services. In this case, the commodity is news, stories,
analytical stories, program. We, journalists, are working to sell this commodity. Let’s look at
a concrete example: a newspaper or a broadcaster gives the news, which describe in detail
all the events, including the existence of nationalistic challenges. Another newspaper or
broadcaster simply give a “dry” report. The question is: Whose product (information) will be
sold? The answer is clear, the information, provided by the former, will be read and watched.
What do I mean by this? The appeal to the so-called self-regulation is actually an appeal for
self-censorship; it deprives society of the right to receive comprehensive information.
Secondly, it cultivates ignorance among the ruling authorities, i.e. often the country's
leadership begins to react only after the media openly show that there is such an event going
on. Thirdly, by those appeals to self-regulation, self-censorship, these media organizations,
or the so-called media experts, are pushing the power to the introduction of official
censorship. They say that once media workers themselves call for self-regulation, the God
himself commands to impose censorship. Fourthly, when it comes to business, a mass
medium, which offers partial information, loses its readers, viewers and listeners, and,
accordingly, it loses a part of its profits.
When somebody comes to me to get a job, as a journalist (all my colleagues, in principle,
know my requirements), I demand a kind of oath to the journalist of him, an oath, which
he/she must adhere to. The oath was written by a well-known Russian journalist, I will briefly
If you want to become a good journalist, you must write, without thinking in advance that
your text can offend or insult someone.
If you came to journalism with the intention to maintain good relations with everybody, you
have chosen a wrong profession; perhaps you should consider becoming a professional
gardener, herder, or at least working on Channel 5.
Do not listen to the advice of your colleagues that this or that issue is bad, and it is not
necessary to write about it.
Remember that your level of journalistic freedom depends only on you, and not on your
superiors or on the ideological orientation of your medium, not to mention the level of
democracy in the country.
You must remember that the worst enemy of a journalist is not the power, not the business,
not the indifference and inertia of a common reader, but the self-censorship.
As soon as you tell yourself "stop", you turn to a campaigner or just an "ass-fool". Your
reports will be only as follows: "After meeting with agricultural workers, the President fed a
When you are accused of seeing everything in black, of not loving your country, because you
constantly criticize it - you must always remember that the main function of a journalist is to
criticize the government. If the power is not criticized, it does not mean that the power is
good - it means that the journalist is bad. There are already many people, ready to praise
Remember that if all around you are beginning to write and speak about universal happiness
and prosperity, most likely they want to deceive or attempt to conceal the true state of
You should write about what should not be written, because otherwise, you will have nothing
to write about.
Remember that no one pays money for writing the truth, and if they pay, the money is poor.
I adhere to the principle that there are no rich journalists, and if there are, it is a very rare
Remember that once you have said "I need to feed my family", you're not a journalist any
We must remember that a journalist can be beaten, tried, and sometimes even killed for
telling the truth. And remembering all this, a journalist still needs to write the truth. Do not
listen to those, who said that any journalist must be objective. The truth is always
subjective. Everyone has his own truth.
Do not listen to those who say that the journalist is obliged to present only the bare facts,
bare facts do not exist, as well as objective and unambiguous facts do not exist either. Any
fact requires interpretation and commentaries; otherwise no journalism in general would
Never maintain strong friendship with film or TV directors, politicians or some experts,
because you cannot be simultaneously someone's good friend and a truth-teller.
You can consider your career successful, only if the majority of readers hate you. If it’s not
like that, you made something wrong, because a good text always makes someone angry
and annoyed, most people on Earth do not like the truth. Here is an example: "A singer
celebrated her birthday at a restaurant. Despite her poor health, the singer decided not to
deprive her relatives and friends of the feast, and organized the party. She says she does not
feel well: "flights and constant change of climate undermined my health, but, in spite of
illness, I drank a lot of pills, called my friends and we had great fun." Never write such texts,
even if you are offered 100, 200, 1000 dollars; even if you starve and have no money for
bus, you shouldn’t write such texts. If you’re told that this is real work, that journalism
should be like that, do not listen to them, go to the other side of the street, because, maybe,
there is such work, but it is not journalism.
We must remember that one can criticize any person. But you cannot humiliate him/her. It
must be remembered that any attempt to settle personal scores through writing articles or
showing some reportages demonstrate bad manners and cause contempt of any decent
journalist. Remember that no matter how much you hate a man, you have no right to touch
his family, personal life, nationality, laugh at his physiology and surname.
Remember that for telling truth you have to pay a shattered nervous system, broken
stomach and insomnia, and it is in the best case.
Remember that the word was and remains a very formidable weapon. All leaders are afraid
of it. However, an honest person never fears anything.
And finally, remember that the most terrible result for a journalist is when no one cares
about you, you become a part of the mass to fill the press conferences, which in 99 cases out
of 100 are seen as a waste of time.
Shamaral Maichiev: Thank you, Ulugbek. In the first part of your speech you said that the
media is a business. But in the second part, you have said that no one pays for the truth,
instead one can be beaten, killed.
Ulugbek Babakulov: I was ready for this question.
Alexander Kulinsky: Here we see a fairly narrow circle of people, engaged in the same
business. Since I am more engaged in public affairs in the field of journalism, not journalism
as such, I would like to speak of the following. Oddly enough, Ulugbek contradicts himself
not only in matters of payment or nonpayment for the truth, but also in matters of
professional ethics. If Ulugbek carefully read the code of ethics of the journalist, he would
reveal that this code is identical to the oath, which he read out.
We'll talk about the truth a bit later. I would like to say that the ethics of a journalist is not
self-restraint. Self-regulation is in no way depriving oneself of the opportunity to speak
something aloud. In fact, the ethics is an opportunity to do it professionally. Nobody ever
said that the journalist's professional ethics restricts someone’s right to criticize or to
produce materials that are particularly biased; the only question is how to do it. The ethics
does not prohibit doing something; the ethics speaks of how to better do one’s job, do it
professionally. And the oath, read out by Ulugbek, in this sense, is also a code of ethics, and
it does not differ from a code of ethics.
I have pursued my career for a long time, and I have been always guided by the rule of
three "no", and when I work with students, I tell them about this rule. First: do no harm.
Second: do not trust, but verify. Third: do not judge. I did not invent this rule; I heard it
from other, more professional journalists, who had worked in more difficult times than today.
Those who worked on ethics in journalism, set for themselves a task to follow these three
“no”s in one way or another. I emphasize that, in my opinion, here we speak of "do no
Unfortunately, journalism in Kyrgyzstan over the past 20 years has not made substantial
progress in the professional sphere, not to mention the ethical one. Unfortunately. Yesterday,
by the way, we discussed the issue with a representative of Barack Obama's administration.
Today we're talking about the same problems as we did 5, 10, 15 and 20 years ago. We,
unfortunately, do not progress. The best of us, who understand the rules, learn them and
begin to apply them in reality, quickly leave this country and start working in more
professional media and in a more professional industry, where such rules are needed and
I was asked to speak about the ethical principles, which should be observed when covering
emergencies, like that one, which occurred recently. In my opinion, the work of a
professional civilized journalist is good when it complies with all articles of the code of ethics.
It does not matter whose - ours, Swedish, German or others - such codes exist in developed
countries, where journalism is truly professional, and where it is more business than in our
As we all know each other, and I think it does not make sense to teach one another, I'd just
like to say that there is the most important rule. The information that we somehow deliver
should do no harm to people, living in this country. Unfortunately, the current revolution has
demonstrated that we have little changed in comparison with the previous revolution. The
journalism here has not developed much.
In the history of the Kyrgyz journalism since 1989, there were three periods of deterioration
of freedom of speech. The first one was from 1989 to 1993-1994. After the defeat of the
newspaper "Free Mountains" there started the first period of a crackdown, which lasted until
2004-2005. In 2005 there began the second exacerbation period that ended with even
harsher crackdown in 2007. And today we entered the period of third exacerbation of the
situation with freedom of speech. I think this period will quickly finish, and approximately
by November-December, we will come to the situation, which we all tried to
overcome. Because the people who came to power are not as democratic as we wanted them
to be. Even today, we see that they are not guided by democratic principles when making
decisions; instead, they are guided by principles, which are necessary to promote this or that
decision. The national television is based on those principles as well. Today we see how it's
Unfortunately, journalism, as I have already said, remained at the same place and did not
move forward. But, incidentally, this time, maybe, we did not look so poorly on the
background of Russian journalists, which is doing everything possible to portray the situation
in Kyrgyzstan so disastrous and bad. Unfortunately, people begin to believe
them. Unfortunately, the Russian media produce the information, which does not correspond
to reality, and it is done by people who three years ago had spoken the same way of the
opposition as they do today of Bakiyev. The only question is how they do it. So this is
propaganda. Agitation and propaganda, which influence Russian people and our people as
well, which are provocative and create a very dangerous situation and exacerbate the
situation in Kyrgyzstan. I am sure that everyone of you have experiences the situation when
a large number of calls and emails or other messages from outside ask you about what's
going on and whether you need assistance in leaving the country. In fact, one can see a
large number of people outside the Russian Embassy. Of course, not so many people, as
some Russian media show, about 300 new visitors, - no, it is a stable and long queue. And
this is the worst damage, which journalism causes in Kyrgyzstan today. Hopefully, that will
be the only damage.
Yesterday we discussed an article in one of the Kyrgyz-language newspapers, which actually
provokes confrontation between two peoples in the south of Kyrgyzstan. Today there is a
rather complicated situation, and the media, unfortunately, often provoke an aggravation of
this situation. Let's think about the implications of this work of journalists. I am afraid that
the implications will be too dangerous. Do we want our names to be among those who are
guilty of this tragedy?
The code of ethics, by the way, offers a number of actions that would not allow such conflicts
to flare up. How probable are they? I give my students and all others an example of Nigeria
in 2002, when one small sentence was the cause of 200 deaths and more than 600 people
injured. In 2002, Nigeria, a very poor Muslim country with huge deposits of oil, gold,
diamonds and other mineral resources, got the right to hold the competition "Miss World" in
its territory. Religious fanatics initially opposed the holding of that competition. Everything
seemed to be going well, until a journalist Isioma Daniel described the general rehearsal in a
local newspaper. There was a phrase saying that all the girls were so beautiful that
Mohammed could marry any of them. What is so special for us in that phrase? But fanatics
used it to organize unrest throughout the country, which resulted in 200 people dead and
about 600 injured. The chief editor was jailed, and the journalist was forced to leave the
country for U.S., where she is residing today.
There was much debate on who was right and who was to blame for this situation, but many
venerable journalists came to the conclusion that in this case the journalist was to be
blamed, and the chief editor was guilty as well, because he should have understood that such
article could lead to significant problems in their country. Neither the journalist, nor the
editor in chief understood it.
it is very well said in the oath read out by Ulugbek that a journalist should not humiliate
another person, describe his physiological characteristics and nationality. I understand why
Ulugbek dislikes the code of ethics; our country has unpleasant experience of self-
regulation. It is worth noting that at that time Ulugbek, regardless of the oath, concentrated
precisely on physiological characteristics of a man.
Ulugbek Babakulov: Tell the story already ...
Alexander Kulinsky: Ok. The article appeared in the newspaper "Voice of Freedom" in
September 2008. It described an event, when MPs discussed the issue of payment of rent for
an apartment. And, in particular, an MP said that a three-room apartment costs ...
Ulugbek Babakulov: One-room apartment.
Alexander Kulinsky: Well, it does not matter. For example, it costs 500 dollars. And
Ulugbek wrote: what can we expect from this deputy? Past injuries and knockouts have
played their role.
Ulugbek Babakulov: Maybe.
Alexander Kulinsky: Not "maybe", but exactly these words were written there. This is
about if we should write about physiological characteristics of somebody. The MP agreed to
resolve the issue out-of-court. Self-regulation is a way to resolve conflicts out-of-court. Of
course, if journalists really like to be sued and lose (and in our courts, they always
lose), we can continue to do that. But all civilized countries (and I hope that we strive to
become a civilized country someday) prefer to settle such conflicts out of court. With all due
respect to Ulugbek as a journalist, unfortunately, I cannot express the same respect to him,
as a person. At the meeting he had promised that he would publish a rebuttal, which
apologized to the person insulted. But the rebuttal was even worse than the original article, it
rather mocked the MP.
So judge yourselves what is self-regulation and what is an oath, the oath, which is not
respected by those, who force the others to respect it. I've always said that the professional
ethics of a journalist is his own inner conviction. Nobody can make a journalist abide by
some code of ethics. Nobody, except himself. If a journalist considers himself a professional,
civilized journalist, acting for the good of society (and the function of journalism is to act for
the benefit of society), he will not allow himself to violate that code of ethics. If he begins to
justify himself, saying that it is his business, that he earns money by it, that his superiors
force him to do that, that he had no other way out... there is always a way out. So, if a
journalist says so, he is not a journalist. I do think so. This is my personal opinion. If you
have questions, I will answer.
Shamaral Maichiev: Thank you, Alexander. Now we can ask questions and discuss the
topic: what should be the level of professional ethics in general and specifically in the
coverage of emergencies. The following questions have been raised. Is anyone today ready
to abandon a one-sided approach? Also there was an opinion that the media is a
business. But any business must be customer-oriented, and the information should follow
some standards. Then there is a big question: do journalists work for each other or do they
work for readers and viewers? Questions, please.
Ulugbek Babakulov: You said that I had contradictions in my speech. Keep in mind that a
journalist should be sold, but not corrupt – do not mix up these two things. And the ability of
being sold depends purely on his human integrity, one should not justify himself only by
“doing his business”.
Adel Laisheva: This appeal to the media appeared, because the videos of these events
without comments had been demonstrated for 4 days. If the media is a business, I think
that videos without any comments in this sense were not a commodity, because they were
not sold to any advertising agency, no one wanted to advertise at that time.
A video camera cannot be objective, because it is always on one side of the barricade, and
the video materials without comments always show the position of only one party, rather
than two or three parties. What did I, as a spectator, receive from such video materials? Yes,
within half an hour I received the information about what happened. Then I got only a
nervous breakdown. Nothing positive. Those appeals for looters not to enter the city ... We
are talking about targeting television, but looters do not sit at home and do not watch TV,
they loot shops at that time.
Any profession has its own limits. And in journalism, one must think about how it affects
those who consume this information.
Shamaral Maichiev: Thank you, Adel. Please, your questions, suggestions. Burul, please.
Burul Usmanalieva: We have heard different points of view today. I think the media should
be a business in a normal country. Otherwise, they become an instrument of ideology. And in
our country, the media are an instrument of ideology: the media are not profitable, but serve
as an ideological instrument. Therefore, all who work as journalists serve their chief editors
and cannot be free enough to comply fully with the ethics.
Yes, managers and administrators, not journalists, work in media organizations, so I agree
that there should be closer links with journalists themselves. Right now, we have only two
active journalists here - Ulugbek and Azamat. But there should be more. When we address
policy issues during such meetings, we should involve more members of the media. I agree
with Ulugbek that public media organizations should work more closely with journalists.
Today's debate has clarified many things for me on the topic of the journalistic ethics. Thank
Shamaral Maichiev: Now I give the floor to Marat Tokoev. There is an organization - the
Union of journalists, but for the past 10 years, I have not seen the Union of Journalists in
journalistic field, as well as the journalists who work in this Union. Therefore, many
journalistic initiatives were promoted not by journalists. What implications do these
organizations cause for the industry, including the journalists themselves? Marat is a
representative of the public organization "Journalists", he will speak now.
Marat Tokoev: I am one of those people who came to media organizations from
journalism. Our appeal to journalists to feel responsibility for every spoken word when
covering the events may not have been heard by many people due to several reasons. First,
there is an understanding of ethics, voiced by Ulugbek, although he contradicted himself a
little. Much of what he said is inherent in the Code of Ethics. It is also true that journalists, as
it has been said, cannot follow the ethical standards simply because they were told so by
their chief editors. Accordingly, they are restrained in their activities.
But some materials today are simply impossible to read. Journalists and media organizations
should cooperate. Media organizations in this case did not think that they would get the
reaction they had expected. But it was simply impossible to remain on the sidelines, it was
necessary to respond to the situation. Frankly, the situation is very complicated, and I do not
think that something will change in the near future. As long as the media do not have any
editorial policies, as long as founders or owners of newspapers do not cease to influence the
media policies, and the media do not stand on their feet, as long as journalists do not change
their own attitude to the profession in terms of ethics, nothing will change.
Shamaral Maichiev: Thank you, Marat. Azamat?
Azamat Tynaev: I fully agree with Burul. First, I treat the work of media organizations with
great sympathy and gratitude; I try to keep in touch with many of them - the Bishkek Press
Club, IWPR, PF "Journalists", and the commission headed by Sasha Kulinsky. And I have the
same feelings toward my colleagues. Nobody will, probably, argue against the fact that both
parties are engaged in very important and necessary work, and there is always something
that both the media and media organizations could be criticized for.
Often, journalists resist the instructive tone, which can be felt in many statements made by
media organizations. Why is this happening? Because they do not take into account all the
peculiarities of journalistic work. Of course, we must remember that a journalist should not
forget about the principles of objectivity, about the principles, listed by Sasha - do no harm,
verify. Certainly, it is necessary to understand that all journalists are different ... But you
should also understand that your appeals are read by publicists, analysts and commentators,
whose work fundamentally differs from the work of journalists. They often express sharp
views, which are, perhaps, wrong, but this is due to the fact that many materials are written
on the issues of the day, and it is often difficult to fully analyze the situation. The consumer
is waiting, and in that sense I fully agree with Ulugbek - of course, it is business, a very
tough business, especially when we talk about newspapers, radio and TV news.
How can we reach some consensus? It will be very useful if media organizations meet and
talk about how to make their work more effective. A way to find this effectiveness, on my
mind, is to carry out targeted work. For example, each media organization establishes direct
contact with one of the editors of actively operating media in the Kyrgyz market; there are
not so many such media (if we talk about local ones). Then the information, obtained during
these close contacts, should be generalized, and some optimal solutions should be found. I
think like that we will achieve the desired result much faster. So far, I have the impression
that too often, media organizations do not achieve any good results; they set good
objectives, but something gets wrong during the implementation. I think if close ties are
established, the situation will change. For example, why cannot "Moscowskyi Komsomolets"
conclude an agreement on permanent cooperation with the Commission for Public Complaints
against the Media?
Alexander Kulinsky: Let's ask Ulugbek why he does not want.
Azamat Tynaev: I think that in reality everybody wants it. The most important thing is to
start a dialogue in the right tone, so that we could find common points of contact. I think
that such partnership, such mutual cooperation will strengthen the role and importance of
the press, and it certainly will raise the credibility of media organizations. Because both these
parties are members of the same process, we need each other. I think that if the process will
continue from this point of view, that is, from the point of view of common positions, goals
and objectives, many issues, including the ethics of journalism in emergency situations and
many others, will be solved. Thank you.
Shamaral Maichiev: Thank you, Azamat. I think the issues of professional ethics should be
raised and discussed anyway, no matter if media organizations exist or not. Now Begaim will
speak, and then - Andreas.
Begaim Usenova: I also came to this area from journalism. We discussed all these
statements and appeals together with journalists. Journalists themselves, and in particular,
journalists from the south, asked us to help and encourage journalists to be more careful in
emergencies, so we made that appeal. We just wanted to draw journalists’ attention; we
didn’t mean to speak in a mentor’s tone. If it is regarded like that, we will pay attention to it,
Regarding the speech by Ulugbek, I would like to say that rules should exist, and they must
be clear. Of course, in journalism there are analysts, news reporters, publicists and so on;
there are various genres. And the information is often based on the genre.
People come to journalism for different reasons - vocation, money, fame, and influence; and
there are journalists who use this influence not always with good intentions. Let’s not forget
With regard to the standards, which we urge to abide by, they are necessary to avoid
negative consequences for the country as a whole.
Regarding objectivity. Indeed, objectivity can be subjective. We are talking about
information, about different points of view. For example, there was information that some
land squatters were beaten, and the comment was: squatters suspect that they were beaten
by “drujinniki” (members of a voluntary public order squad). That is, when such information
is given, it is clear that it does not represent the point of view of the police or drujinniki. A
common person would blame drujinniki, thinkng that that they had a confrontation with land
squatters. And other land squatters would understand it as a signal to react against
drujinniki... These things should be stopped, there must always be a balance, and there must
always be full information. Particularly sensitive topics are inter-ethnic conflicts, land
squatting; when the situation in the country is still unstable, it is crucial to comply with these
standards, it is not our invention.
Ulugbek said that 90 percent of the press conferences held are not worth attending. In
general, I agree that journalists attend press conferences just to get information. Here we
need standards: we need to have multiple sources. If you’ve received information - check it,
or ask questions. But our journalists often come to press conferences and ask no questions.
In principle, the fact that journalists criticize media organizations is normal, it should be so,
and it is a normal process. We talk about the media, you talk about media organizations, but
it should be based on dialogue, and together we must find solutions. Thank you.
Azamat Tynaev: May I briefly comment on? Basically, I completely agree. The problem is
that we should have a good understanding of the nature of a problem. Recently, I myself
witnessed a case, when I invited journalists to the meeting between Temir Sariyev and
Robert Blake. One journalist shocked me, by asking to give her a press release. Just a few
minutes before the meeting between a member of the Provisional Government of Kyrgyzstan
and a very influential official from the U.S., people ask for a press release!..
Begaim, you also worked in the press, you know about the enormous problem with
personnel. Sasha said right that when a person reaches a certain level, his production
becomes demanded. An example is that even in Kazakhstan any edition will hire you, of
course, with a higher salary, and this is one of the factors that motivate us. And this should
serve as a signal for media organizations, where their capacity and resources could be
used. We know that serious international organizations with large opportunities - European,
American – support you. That's just an area where we can invest these resources in order to
not just criticize non-professionalism of local journalists, but to correct them together.
Shamaral Maichiev: Thank you, Azamat. Andreas, please.
Andreas Hedfors: Gentlemen, my name is Andreas Hedfors. I am a Swedish journalist who
worked for the Swedish Public Radio, and now I am a consultant at NTRC. I apologize in
advance for my broken Russian. If you don’t understand, please, ask me.
This is an interesting and good discussion. Criticism is always interesting and useful.
The overall picture that catches the eye of foreigners is the tradition in post-Soviet
journalism to mix the forms of purely editorial materials and private views. I'm not an expert
from the West, but there is always a strict separation, I think that all are familiar with
this. Editorial texts are impartial, accurate and allegedly even objective, although it is
impossible. Views of analysts are a different thing. But here, these forms are
mixed. Although this has its positive and interesting moments, t I think that, first of all, it is
a large source of problems.
As for business, our western example, unfortunately, shows that if one honestly is aimed at
profit, the largest companies will own everything - horizontally and vertically - from
journalists to the kiosk, where newspapers and journals are sold, and they will remove
everything that is not is purely entertainment. That is, there will be no place for normal
journalism and healthy criticism. Therefore, I think the concept of public television
broadcasting, of public media is very important.
In your country, there are some journalists and editors (not so many) who write properly,
investigate and bring information to consumers. But most journalists simply do not do
normal journalism. I think this is partly due to the fact that media owners do not encourage
sharp, radical journalism. I hope that NTRC Supervisory Board, if we're lucky, will encourage
Elena Cheremenina: Ulugbek said that the media is a business. Of course, it is a business,
but businesses can be different. The media that give qualitative information, basing on which
one can make solutions is one thing, but the media that only tries to meet the demands of
consumers is another thing.
What is "to get information at any price"? Again, to get information from a conflict zone and
tell people what it's really happening there is one thing, but to go to a cancer hospital and
bring out a picture of a dying movie star is quite a different thing. "Moskovsky Komsomolets"
is mostly aimed at getting information of the second-rate quality. They have wardrobes with
uniforms of firefighters, medical workers, policemen; - everything possible to enable
paparazzi brings some photograph, which is made at any cost.
Talking about ethics for the media of second-rate quality makes no sense. That is, there is
yellow press, which neither in the West, nor here obey any ethical principles. But for
socially oriented media, which provide information on the activities of government agencies,
talk about socially important issues, phenomena and processes, taking place both in their
own state and around the world - is quite another case, we can talk about the ethics and
ethical principles. Regrettably, there are no such media in our country; they all have “yellow”
It is very difficult to teach ethics to students: I keep on telling them one thing, but in reality
they see something quite different.
What happened in April this year reminded me of the situation when Russian media covered
the “Nord-Ost" events, when all TV channels kept on showing shakhids with taped mouths,
bodies and blood. After the incident, Russian society (as far as I know, not from the
journalist point of view) made its conclusions, Russia adopted anti-terrorism convention,
which prescribed the ethical principles of journalism in emergency situations. When there
were the Beslan events, journalist coverage was more ethical, although of course, there were
also failures. At least, they did not show dead bodies all the time. Maybe Kyrgyz journalists,
after those events of April, we also think about ethical norms of coverage of such conflicts.
Of course, Russia is a big country, and something often happens there. Last year there was
an airplane crash, and our journalists had never had experience of covering plane crashes.
There were also a lot of problems with ethics in covering these events, and what happened
after. Now we also face with journalistic methods of covering emergency situations. I think
we - journalists and media organizations - should work in this direction, think about it
together. Most important is that journalists themselves should not insert sticks in their
The Commission of Complaints against Media was created to resolve conflicts between
various parties in the pretrial order. And journalists themselves, breaking their promises,
undermined the confidence in the commission among public officials and others. Officials and
deputies, which are precisely the claimants in the courts, were first to react to the
Commission’s activities. Unfortunately, the behavior of the journalist community led to the
fact that the credibility of the Commission has dropped, and now we have to restore it. So I
want to appeal to journalists, they should be more serious about self-regulation. Because,
first of all, journalists themselves need it.
Shamaral Maichiev: Thank you. Now Ulugbek will speak.
Ulugbek Babakulov: If we talk about various requests from media organizations, we should
be aware that such requests and appeals have some ultimate goal, certain destinations.
This appeal, as Adel said, was made after the April events.
However, we see that many Kyrgyz-language editions work with “dirty laundry”. Did they
understand the appeal? I doubt it. This means that the appeal was made only to declare the
existence of media organizations. Why, as Azamat rightly said, not to work targeting? Yes,
many journalists depend on their publishers and editors, in which case, you should work with
editors and publishers, approach them and explain. Talk to the owner of a newspaper and
say: "Honey, what you write is bad". He promotes his own interests. Here we have to
distinguish the ethics of the publisher and the ethics of the journalist. If a journalist is ready
to be sold, it’s his own problem, his moral principles, but the way some information is
broadcasted is a problem of the publisher, the main problem of the chief editor. In this case,
such appeals must be targeted. Such appeals should not only say “we, media organizations,
Shamaral Maichiev: Thank you, Ulugbek. Please, Alexander.
Alexander Kulinsky: I am actually an enemy to large number of statements and
appeals. And frankly, I read that appeal in the media; I did not participate in its
In fact, the problem is in relationship. There is a gap in the relationship between real existing
media and media NGOs. I saw this gap, being on both sides, because reading all sorts of
statements and appeals to journalists, I did not understand why all this is done. Last year I
spoke with some asperity at the event, dedicated to the memory of Pavlyuk. Then everybody
got upset, but really statements, appeals, some events, organized with or without a reason,
To date, there is some stagnation in the work of media NGOs. Stagnation, which arose
because of the media reluctance to change, at least a little, their work. It would be great if
the newspaper “Moskovsky Komsomolets” in Kyrgyzstan, for example, expressed a desire to
work with media NGOs. Because too often, the situation is like that: at first, journalists spit
on media NGOs, and then, when something serious happens, all the journalists ask: so what
are you, media NGOs, doing in our defense?!
But what's the problem is? Yes, the power authorities do not listen to media NGOs, because
the media themselves do not want to listen to them. Example – the Law "On television and
radio broadcasting”. Only media NGOs were fighting against this Law. Of all the TV
companies here only OshTV supported media NGOs in that fight, all the others did nothing,
and the Law was passed, a draconian law, whose implementation is impossible in principle in
our country today, including for NTRC. But all were just sitting in silence, and only media
NGOs were fighting. Only media NGOs and Ulugbek Babakulov reported that there was a
draft law on the media, which provides for re-registration of the media. All others remained
silent and did nothing to prevent the adoption of this law. Which of these companies (Except,
perhaps, Europe plus) today is trying to somehow adjust the issue of transition to digital
broadcasting? None, all are just waiting. What are they waiting for? When the law is adopted,
it is too late to do something. That was the position.
I cannot say that I am satisfied with the work of media NGOs, including the Commission for
Public Complaints against the Media. Yes, of course, we often do work in vain, it does not
make that effect, which we would like. But this is also due to the fact that we do not find
understanding among the media. So, once again, I would like very much the media,
including the newspaper "Moskovsky Komsomolets in Kyrgyzstan", to treat media NGOs with
understanding. Even because your colleagues work there. Yes, we are engaged in social
work, but many of us continue to work in journalism. And we know the situation there.
Today we are working for the sake of the staff of 5 channel, "Pyramid" and some other
channels, so that they continue to receive their salaries. And what about the journalists
themselves? They do nothing. Media NGOs are trying to persuade the Provisional
Government, so that they do not rash and do not do drastic steps.
I want journalists to think about their future sooner or later. The best example is trade
unions. Marat and I are working on the question how to create trade unions of journalists in
Kyrgyzstan. What do you think, are there many journalists wishing to join a media trade
union? Nobody wants to join for one simple reason: nobody wants to pay a member
fee. Everyone wants to get everything for free, and journalists themselves do not want to do
anything. See how it occurs in Greece, when they have 48-hour strikes. Journalists go on
strike, because, besides all, they are defending their socio-economic rights. And in our
country, journalists are left to survive. If they dismiss half of Channel 5 and "Pyramid"
workers, where will they go? What will they do? Because our media, including each individual
journalist, do not want to take care of their own future, do not want to support the media
NGOs in the fight for their own rights. That's the problem.
I understand why journalists react so, but I also perfectly understand why media NGOs react
so. This is, in some sense, a vicious circle that we must jointly break. I think that there have
been a lot of chances given to our journalism, and every time we miss them. I hope that we
won’t miss the next chance.
Why was the crackdown possible during the past two years? Because no one resisted
it. There were some individuals who resisted. We should unite our efforts. Together we could
be a big force. I emphasize once again, I would like to see both parties moving to each
other, for the prosperity of the entire industry. Thank you.
Shamaral Maichiev: Thank you, Alexander. Andreas?
Andreas Hedfors: I know that in this situation, the sector of NTRC directors did not get the
opportunity to influence the reform process of the NTRC. Media NGOs also found this process
to be not open.
Alexander Kulinsky: media NGOs do not influence the process either.
Shamaral Maichiev: Please, Grigoriy.
Grigoriy Mikhailov: Grigory Mikhaylov, “Nezavisimaya Gazeta”, information agency
“Regnum”. Most of all, I was moved by the speech of Andreas. He named, perhaps, the most
important thing: conscience and shame. So. Journalism should be divided into several
commercial organizations that make money, and specific individuals who work there. We
may speak of commercial organizations for a long time and get no result. Let's talk about
As the only journalist who had the right to strike in Kyrgyzstan (this was in 2005, KOORT
channel), I can share some impressions. Conscience and shame are represented here quite
poorly. Why? Here is an example of channel 5. I do not want to insult anybody, but let’s say
the truth. People did not understand that if they flattered all the time the authorities, sooner
or later this would turn against you. And it really happened. The silence of the staff of
Channel 5 is very remarkable in this sense, and there are no protests around, no one says
that this channel is used by new power authorities. Before 2005, we worked for Askar
Akayev, but when Bakiyev’s people came, we resisted for two weeks, crawled into the air,
crawled through closed doors and so on. We used the tactics of skunks: the more terrible
smell we produce, the more attention we get.
Now people are afraid: I need to feed my family, my boss does not support me, and so on.
The concepts of 'honor', 'shame' and the 'conscience' have lost their value in the society. And
we want our journalists to suddenly become honest and conscientious? Who of those present
here felt shame for his/her materials or materials of his/her counterparts? Who thought,
sitting in the kitchen and drinking tea, “what have we done”? Unfortunately, it is not the case
today. Here, everyone deals with his own conscience. Until normal human principles, which
are not necessarily tied to journalism, appear... Do No Harm - this biblical principle to
respect the opinions of others – should be cultivated since childhood. Unfortunately, many
of us who gathered here have no such principles, not to mention our colleagues who are not
here with us today... There are very decent people, and there are people with problems. If
the words "shame" and "conscience" do not come back in our lexicon, we should not expect
any serious progress in the issues of ethics. This is the first thing, I wanted to say.
Second. We are speaking that a journalist should comply with ethics and so on. Why do we
not talk about the interests of a journalist? You want people to do something, but you do not
talk about his/her motivation. Why should he/she do it? Why do I need to waste my time to
talk to the other party and get this “full” information? Accordingly, we must talk about the
interests of journalists. Alexander conducts trainings in the BPC, and I have the opportunity
to attend them. I try to explain young reporters (this new generation is quite interesting)
that materials, written in accordance with certain rules, will be appreciated, even if not by
their current bosses, later they can sell these materials overseas, thereby earning more
money than here. At least, we can attract young reporters like that, besides the talks about
What's next? Form of communications. How do media NGO communicate with the mass
media? In the form of statements and appeals? I, as a journalist, am fed up with all the
statements. They are bothering me, I do not read them and I think that I am not the only
one, because anyone can write such statements and appeals. Round tables, just like today,
are a good form of communication. Although, to be honest, it would be best to go to
barbecues and communicate in a more informal setting than round tables. I mean, such
official forms of information exchange should be changed.
On the other hand, that could be an interesting option: if you see some material in the
media, which, in your opinion, severely violates the rules, make the board of shame. Post an
“announcement of shame” - maybe somebody will be ashamed, someone will think once
more, what he has done wrong. Create a website where you could post such materials ...
Yes, you will quarrel with some journalists, but did you think that everything would be
peaceful? It’s impossible. You still have to spoil relations with many.
Speaking of the trade unions - the problem is not that people do not want to pay
membership fees. The problem lies elsewhere. For example, I am a member of a trade union
of journalists of Kyrgyzstan, and this membership does not give me anything. Why should I
join another organization, which does not function? If it functions, I'll be glad. That is, it is
not about money, I think most of us here can afford to pay some money, if this trade union
really works. But in fact this is a mini political party, outlined by professional criteria, and
acting in a certain way.
I was lucky; I almost did not work for local authorities, due to the fact that I work in a
Russian medium. What Russian media are doing today is a different story, I am ashamed for
them. I did my best to explain that nobody is slaughtering Russians here. But in December I
was persistently forced to leave the country, after which I left this wonderful country. And, in
fact, I could not rely on any organization here. Even if I turned to media NGOs ... I imagine
we would have a heart to heart conversation over tea, and then I still would have to leave for
As for channel 5 and "Pyramid", everything is clear: they received what they deserved, and
even now they are afraid to say something in their defense. They are cowards, and you are
trying to take care of them. How? By force? Even if some journalist, who actively watered
opposition with mud during Bakiev’s time, comes forward and says: "I am for Bakiyev, I am
against the Interim Government", I will personally shake his hand. Just because he said it.
Ulugbek Babakulov: Let him come to our newspaper.
Grigory Mikhaylov: Let him come to me. You see, despite my hard relationship with the
regime of Bakiyev, I was one of those who published his statements when he fled to the
south. They were published on the "Regnum". Incidentally, the topic of new law on re-
registration was once discussed in “Nezavisimaya Gazeta”.
We are talking about conscience, moral principles. If a person has no conscience, it makes no
sense to talk about professional ethics. How do we communicate with each other? Note that
even now, the talk is quite tense, and there is no talk of solidarity. In the best case, there is
solidarity of three-four “mice”, caught in the corner. When the pressure is gone, the
solidarity will disappear.
Azamat Tynaev: I'll comment on the statement made by Grigoriy. The situation on Channel
5, KTR, you know, is very hard. Yes, we're right, blaming them for absence of shame,
conscience, a principled position ... But I think we will be even more right if in this situation
we support even those colleagues. For example, last winter, all the TV companies in USA
refused to come to the U.S. White House, when the press office of the White House removed
"Fox News" from the list - the main propaganda machine of the Republican Party. They
showed that same solidarity, which Grisha was talking about. So I think we should, in spite
of everything, seek unity, mutual understanding and cohesion. Like that, we will be more
valued and respected. There are moments when a man needs help, and it is not necessary to
ask if she or he needs help.
Begaim Usenova: Today we are talking about ethics not only in emergency situations, but
in general, because we have ethical problems always, including the principle "do not
judge." I think that we should not judge. We should be guided by facts. If TV channels have
problems, let's write about it; let's develop this topic, so that media organizations are not
asked: why do you need that?
Address or appeal - this is also a tool. I do understand you, I am myself a journalist; appeals
and statements annoy journalists. However, we should not complain of that, because appeals
and statements are a tool to draw attention.
As to for the meetings. Meetings and dialogues are really necessary. When the commission
was created, when the code of ethics was signed, there were meetings held with everybody.
However, many did not sign the code of ethics, although there is nothing wrong there. We all
talk about the same thing. Maybe, sentences are different, but the essence is the same. And
there are various reasons why reporters do not want to sign such codes. Now the task of
journalists who are present here is to attract other journalists. Journalists themselves must
somehow care about their rights; protect their journalism that is their industry. I encourage
all journalists present here. If you are here, it means you are interested in this topic. So let's
just spread these ideas. If they will spread further, it is possible that this way we will achieve
Ulugbek Babakulov: Before assessing the activities of a reporter, whether he is good or
bad, I think that those who assess should prove that they are professionals, too. Let’s take
my controversial material. For example, if Vadim Nochevkin, whom I respect much, comes to
me and shows bad moments in my article. Ok, I will ask for pardon. I will listen to his
opinion. But if somebody else comes to me and says that I did something wrong, I would ask
a question: who are you to judge my work? I do not respect you as a
professional. Therefore, do something yourself to prove that you are somebody. But if you’re
nobody, why should I listen to you?
In this case, media organizations should work more concretely. Every journalist considers
himself an authority in his field, but you need to select those people who enjoy respect
among journalists and work together with them. Media organizations should cooperate with
Grigoriy Mikhailov: I'll talk more on the Channel 5. Yes, we must help colleagues who need
it, no one has canceled the ideas of humanism. The question is what it will give us? What
lessons will we learn from it? This question is rhetoric. What can we do, and what will it
Assume, we will save the Channel 5, it will not be closed down, people will continue to work
there. This is a wonderful tool that will continue to work. But people who work there (this is
my personal prediction, I may be wrong) will continue to violate all ethical standards,
because it is convenient for them. It is necessary to improve the quality of work and create
additional jobs, at least, to explain the employment prospects for people do that they are not
afraid to work.
Shamaral Maichiev: Thank you, Grigoriy. We have another 10 minutes, so we can
exchange the concluding remarks.
Azamat Tynaev: In the beginning of my speech I said that I treat the work of media
organizations with much gratitude. I did not say that just to please them, they really
work. The last example is the attempt to seize the “24.kg” by National Security Forces. Media
organizations were first to come to rescue “24.kg”, and they really helped. It's just been
mediaorganizatsii together with human rights defenders, journalists are often criticized,
asking them: Who are you to teach us, that you represent? In such situations, they manifest
themselves as professionals.
Ulugbek is my close friend and supporter in many things, but here I disagree with him. I
believe that well experienced, decent and concerned people work in our media organizations.
Shamaral Maichiev: Thank you. Burul, please.
Burul Usmanalieva: I would like to return to the topic of the code of ethics. Would it be
effective if a media organization indicates the problem to some journalist? Ulugbek said that
this body should have the authority, represent someone to tell the journalist about the
problem. I think that he is right. Media committees have active journalists, and when some
appeals are made, journalists should know the composition of such committees. Such
committees may not enjoy respect among journalists. Therefore, perhaps, it makes sense to
include some respected journalists or editors-in-chief in the composition of such committees.
Shamaral Maichiev: Thank you. In fact, we have to work with the forces of reason, logic
and motivation. The Committee made several decisions that were published in newspapers,
where every word was motivated and reasonable. And media members, whose articles were
considered, in most cases, agreed with the conclusions of the committee, and many issues
Alexander gave an example when Ulugbek in the presence of all members of the commission
promised to apologize. Moreover, committee members warned him that an apology should
not sound insulting. But his apology caused doubts about the credibility of the commission,
because he did not keep his promise.
But let us judge the commission according to the results of its work. During the previous
meeting, it was said that the commission works badly, but I named its successful
activities. They are easy to list, and it is very difficult to criticize these achievements. For the
first time in many years, the first congress of journalists was held when the code of ethics
was adopted. But the results of a year's work showed that this code of ethics needed some
changes, and with the help of international experts, we improved it. These improvements
would have been impossible if there was not real practice behind them. Two congresses and
two codes - is not that a success? This is a measurable success. A civil servant complained to
the paper "De facto", and the newspaper agreed with our decision. Is that not a
success? There was published a textbook “Code of Ethics” for students - I also think that it is
also a success.
The work of media organizations always ends with measurable results.
Irina Chistyakova: Here I am presented as a media expert. Is there an idea to create a
special edition for journalists? Why do I not know about it?
Alexander Kulinsky: Marat is the editor in chief of "Journalist news". Now this newspaper is
not published, because there is no money for that. We are often criticized for the fact that we
get grants, but most of us out get very little part of those grants as a salary. We are pure
enthusiasts. Most often we spend money to maintain the functioning of media
organizations. That newspaper also existed thanks to grant money, but then the money were
over. Journalists themselves are not interested in subscription.
Irina Chistyakova: Maybe, the newspaper is not interesting for them? We say that the
media is a business. I think it will be in great demand, especially in the regions. Because in
the regions, they do not have access to the Internet, and also there is no money.
During today's debate, I kept thinking: well, there is a code of ethics, but are there
instruments of its implementation? We can create 10 such Codes. But there is always a
question: how to implement? In my opinion, you find yourselves in a blind alley. Maybe,
newspapers, magazines, something else - are real tools needed to resolve this problem.
Shamaral Maichiev: the most effective tool is time. Institutes, which are necessary for self-
regulation, gradually appear in our society. There once appeared the Institute for Media
Representative, and it works today. A self-regulation body appeared, and it began slowly to
work. The Code of Ethics appeared.
What we lack today is the protection of consumers, readers, who could complain about the
media. Please note, we are talking in general about the poor quality of journalism, biased,
one sided - but why do readers not complain? And even those, who want to complain, are
difficult to bring to court? They do not believe, they do not get involved. Does this mean that
they agree to receive such poor quality, one-sided, biased information? No, of course, not.
Alexander Kulinsky: Soros Foundation held a seminar for judges and prosecutors on the
issuance of any decisions with respect to journalists, and they were asked about their
attitude towards journalists. Of 50 people, only two gave indifferent assessment of
journalists. The remaining 48 said that journalists are dirty scoundrels that must be
exterminated. That is, in general, the attitude of enforcement and judicial authorities to
Begaim Usenova: journalists, in their turn, told the same about judges and
prosecutors. This is probably the problem of our society as a whole. But I would like to say
that in fact, the law, or in this case - the rules, should be above all. Regardless of the person
who makes a decision. Laws are the most important, let’s obey the laws.
Shamaral Maichiev: If you have no more questions or comments, let’s finish our Round
Table. Today we heard some very interesting speeches. Thanks a lot to all.