The media of the Kyrgyz Republic demonstrated great professional competence covering the revolutionary transition of power in the republic on October 5-10. However, some mistakes by individual journalists and editorial offices came into the picture.
CABAR.asia Media School together with media experts tried to understand what mistakes were made in media during this period.
«The political crisis in Kyrgyzstan was covered well and professionally, which cannot be referred to the real events. Many things happened that should not have occurred in country that strive to be called democratic, open, and civil. The great work of journalists is not accidental, since they accumulated experience since 2005. Unfortunately, this experience comes in handy often, but this raises questions to the authorities,» media expert Azamat Tynaev says.
According to him, the technical equipment of journalists and their ability to use all media tools available deserve special compliment.
«The technical equipment of journalists, the way they mastered streaming broadcasts, the way they worked live, their content in sufficient quantities in all social networks, in all messengers and video hosting platforms suggest that our media’s competence is growing at a good pace,» Tynaev said.
At the same time, according to the expert, not all republic’s media deserve high rating.
«Many colleagues, unfortunately, spread fake news themselves or stated unverified information. I do not know, whether they did it consciously or not, but there were examples of information manipulation. Somewhere they cut something out. As a result, the readers and viewers received completely different distorted information. There were such cases. Fortunately, there were not many of them,» he emphasizes.
Azamat Tynaev is confident that journalists must remember one thing in such acute situations: even one careless message can lead to very serious consequences, the results of which would have to be eliminated for a very long time and with great efforts.
One of the examples of information manipulation was Vesti.kg portal’s news. The media published a material with a provocative headline, which claimed that the former mayor of Osh Melis Myrzakmatov tried to inflame interregional discord speaking to the residents of the southern capital of Kyrgyzstan.
The Factchek.kg media exposed the manipulation. The fact checkers listened to the politician’s speech and found that only part of the speech was used in the headline and the whole publication. At the same time, the part where Myrzakmatov speaks about the inadmissibility of dividing Kyrgyz citizens based on regions was cut out.
Vesti.kg changed the headline later, as presented in a screenshot below.
[Melis Myrzakmatov: Some Groups Expel Sooronbai for Being From South – Tr.]
Social Networks as Source of Fake News
The founder of one of the leading online media of the Kyrgyz Republic Kaktus.media Dina Maslova notes that the key players of the Kyrgyz media market – AKIpress, kaktus.media, 24.kg, Azattyk, Sputnik followed the ethical standards of journalism as best as they could in the conditions of October 5-10 events.
«The editorial policy is designed in such a way that you have to double-check the information. In this regard, the media lose to public pages in social networks where administrators post short messages or videos,» Maslova says.
Indeed, a number of Telegram channels worked very actively during this period. The two or three sentences long news or just videos with a short comment appeared there very often. However, the data was not verified at the time of release. If the refutations appeared, the administrators posted them later in the same news format.
During the October events in Kyrgyzstan, according to Maslova, the tension escalated precisely on social networks, and professional journalists helped to reduce it.
«On the one hand, there were many emotional posts of opinion leaders and representatives of parties that lost the Parliamentary elections. On the other hand, a huge number of bots and trolls defended Sadyr Japarov and started cyberbullying. The media faced a problem of pressure from supporters: threats at the protests, cyberbullying on social networks. In addition, it was difficult to check the information as the state apparatus actually did not work during those days; the confirmation was possible through personal contacts of journalists. Since the information was periodical and sometimes delayed, but verified, the key media reduced the tension to a greater extent as they refuted some speculation or confirmed some information,» she says.
During the political crisis, social media became a source of fake news about politicians. Hence, a publication appeared and was actively reposted on Facebook claiming that gold in bags was found in Temir Sariev’s house.
The former Prime Minister had to refute this fake news in the officially registered media.
[Temir Sariev: The Photo of Bags of Gold Supposedly in My House Is Fake – Tr.]
At the same time, Maslova believes that the politicians are responsible for the tension escalation: they flurried the public with their statements and actions.
Meanwhile, some media either did not have time to track the changes in the constantly transforming power structures, or deliberately helped certain political forces to legalize their actions.
Thus, on the evening of October 6, the members of the Jogorku Kenesh [Supreme Council] gathered for the special session at Dostuk Hotel, since the ‘White House’ was destroyed. Journalists were not allowed there. On the same evening, it became known that Speaker Dastan Dzhumabekov resigned, and newly elected Speaker Myktybek Abdyldaev reported to media that the parliamentary coalition decided to elect Japarov as Prime Minister. In his turn, he must present his program, structure and composition of the government.
On the same evening, the website of Vecherniy Bishkek news agency reported that Sadyr Japarov was appointed as Prime Minister. Thus, his position was already legitimized, although officially, it was not.
[Boronov resigned, Sadyr Japarov appointed as Prime Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic – Tr.]
In this case, it would be appropriate to receive comments from lawyers on legitimacy of certain procedures and to publish accurate information. If necessary, the situation has to be explained to the reader.
Kaktus.media journalists coped with this task. Even the headline explained that the coalition elected Japarov as Prime Minister, and there was no news of his appointment.
Later, in a separate article, Kaktus.media explained to the readers that Japarov was not yet Prime Minister and the members of the coalition only nominated him.
Meanwhile, the Public Foundation «Legal Clinic «Adilet» prepared a detailed analysis, which revealed that the requirements of the Constitution of Kyrgyzstan were violated during consideration of the resignation of Prime Minister Kubatbek Boronov, the election of Myktybek Abdyldaev to the post of Toraga [Chairman] of the Jogorku Kenesh, as well as the nomination of Sadyr Japarov as a candidate for the post of head of government. Many media did not publish this document.
«This is a very adequate complaint from the point of the absolute objectivity of the media. On the other hand, this question is caused by the general understanding of legal nuances: who, when and how we can call. However, this is not a global question, since the world does not depend on who and how the media calls. Moreover, in situations when everything happens very quickly, when it is almost impossible to find experts and lawyers, there may be some incorrect naming of positions in the media,» Azamat Tynaev believes.
He believes that such mistakes should be explained at journalistic trainings, as well as studied during training courses for journalism students. However, at the same time, it is necessary to understand the real circumstances when journalists make such mistakes.
«The back office journalists are one thing; they can check everything online and find the necessary information. However, if we talk about reporters who run in the street or in the corridors during these incomprehensible, contradictory discussions, decisions, then we clearly understand that these are force majeure conditions. If someone called a person not acting, but the Prime Minister, then we are not talking here about sabotage. I do not consider it correct to make it a subject of serious discussion. Believing that these media contributed to the legalization of the government is very far-fetched,» the expert says.
According to experts, the journalists’ safety is another important aspect of the media covering the political crisis in Kyrgyzstan.
«On October 5, the journalists did their job well; they not only published information on the websites, but also broadcast live, which made it possible to present unbiased information. The journalists tried to show the events fully, worked on the front line during the shooting. This approach deserves respect, but I believe that the life and health of a journalist is the highest consideration,» says media expert Marat Tokoev.
He is disappointed with the way media prepared their journalists for unsafe situation.
«I am frustrated by the low level of security for journalists. The media were supposed to provide employees with some kind of protective clothing. In addition, as I noticed, the journalists worked at the protests one or two at a time. Although, according to the safety rules, they had to work in groups of several people, in case of attack or threats. The media had to think this over. The vests, which the international organisations distributed, eased the situation a little. However, the vests alone cannot solve the problem, it was necessary to consider the issue of the journalists’ safety a little more carefully,» Tokoev believes.
At first, the protesters were sympathetic to the journalists’ work and did not interfere with them, but as events developed, the situation changed. On October 9, 2020, during the rally of Sadyr Japarov’s supporters near the Government House, the rally participants threatened the Azattyk Media journalist saying that the media was covering the rally «wrongly».
One of the protesters said they intend to come to the Azattyk Media office and demanded the journalist to leave the square. According to the journalist, he was pulled by the arms and kicked in the leg. For personal safety, he had to stop broadcasting and leave the square.
The editorial offices of Azattyk Media, 24.kg news agency, Sputnik Kyrgyzstan and Kaktus.media addressed the public order volunteers squads with a request to ensure their safety after receiving numerous messages from various sources that attacks on the offices of a number of media are planned. As a result, the public order squads defended the offices of these media in the absence of the possibility of ensuring security from the law enforcement agencies.
«It is a pity that political leaders who were eager for power did not explain their supporters that journalists should not be harmed, since the freedom of speech is one of the important tools of democracy,» Tokoev said.
Azamat Tynaev hopes that this time, the authorities will be concerned not only to ensure stability in society, but also to pay more attention to the role of the media and the journalists’ safety during mass events – especially for those, who are threatened with violence and attacks on their editorial offices.
«Politicians need to work with their supporters. This is not a supernatural requirement. We saw how well all the rallies were managed. We cannot say, obviously, that in this case the tail wagged the dog. Everyone noted that there was a high level of coordination and consistency; everything was perfect. However, there was not a single call from either Sadyr Japarov or Kamchybek Tashiev not to conflict with the media, not to put it in any kind of danger, not mentioning threats,» Tynaev complains.
He believes that such an attitude towards journalists is a signal of the general weakness of the media education.
«In our country, of course, there are massively replicated stereotypes that the media is provoking the situation, that certain media are some kind of tools for destabilization and colour revolutions. Now, we saw the result of this,» the expert sums up.
The issue of journalists’ personal physical safety should be constantly monitored.
«The media is also diverse: there were such cases when some media or some individual journalists made professional mistakes, could not remain impartial and objective. In general, everything was done well, thanks to the prompt presentation of information, quick and passionless analysis of the events – the population was aware. This is important for the subsequent political analysis, this is our chronicle,» says Tynaev.
He also called on the new authorities to pay attention to the fact that on the night of October 5, communications and the Internet were blocked in Bishkek. In his opinion, this case deserves a detailed debriefing.
«Imagine, that during such a social chaos, there is also no access to communication or mobile Internet. What can happen in the absence of information, when young people crowd the whole city? It is scary to imagine what this could result in. Stable work of mobile operators and Internet providers is necessary during such moments. Those events should be a good reason for this issue to be resolved at the level of the Security Council, at the level of the Cabinet of Ministers, so that this is not allowed in the future,» says the media expert.
Main photo: diario16.com