Teen Journalist Rallies Change in Kyrgyz Republic

Dastan Umetbai Uulu
Dastan Umetbai Uulu
Search for Common Ground
Reporters learn to remain impartial while covering conflicts
“Everyone has their own opinion, and it is our responsibility as journalists to hear all sides of a story. We should seek the truth at all times.”

July 2014—Many teenagers around the world are in high school, preparing to leave for college. But Dastan Umetbai Uulu, a 17-year-old journalist from Kyrgyzstan, is completing his 16th story in the past few years. He is a product of his own determination and the skills provided by a USAID project.

Kabar Ordo is a two-year media and conflict transformation project funded by USAID and implemented by NGO Search for Common Ground. The project responds to a deficit of balanced information about conflict issues in the southern Kyrgyz Republic and the prevalence of rumors that exacerbate conflict. Kabar Ordo teaches journalists how to research stories and present solutions in a fair and ethical way.

Dastan is one of the participants, aged 16-26, of the project’s online journalism school; students are selected through a merit-based competition. Search for Common Ground partnered with local NGO Youth of Osh to conduct the training. Students and graduates of the school write stories for one of the most popular local news platforms, Kloop.kg.

Kabar Ordo, which began in 2012, strengthens mainstream media in the Osh and Jalalabad regions through intensive training and coaching of young journalists. Media reports created by participating journalists are then used as catalysts for dialogue and early warning/early response in local communities as well as higher-level conflict analysis and national workshops.

Participants have produced more than 300 media reports, widely published in local and regional media outlets in Kyrgyzstan from early 2012 to May 2014. They learned how to research stories and cover both sides of a conflict while remaining impartial.

“Everyone has their own opinion, and it is our responsibility as journalists to hear all sides of a story. We should seek the truth at all times,” said Dastan.

In June 2010, clashes ravaged the ethnically diverse region of southern Kyrgyzstan, leaving over 400 people dead and causing widescale property damage.

In one of his first stories, which was written in February 2013 and published in Kloop.kg, Dastan reported on the poor quality of homes that were built for the victims of the June 2010 events. After the clashes, the interim Government of Kyrgyzstan established the State Directorate for Reconstruction and Development of Osh and Jalal Abad cities, which were affected during the ethnic violence. One of the Directorate’s major activities was the construction of free apartment blocks for the victims and those affected by the clash.

Dastan interviewed homeowners, government officials and members of the Directorate. His article created a chain reaction that most journalists dream of—a discussion that leads to action. The article created a public debate on housing in these areas that the government could not ignore. An investigation took place to look into the matter of poor quality housing, and some houses were even renovated.

Dastan explained that, like many other journalists, he believed that studying journalism could only get you so far. The Kabar Ordo project gave him the chance to apply his skills in the real world. “Kabar Ordo has taught me not only to write analytical reports, but also opened new ways to provide [the] population with information. I wish success to this project,” said Dastan.

The June 2010 events were exacerbated by the poor media practices and the one-sided approach taken by many of the media outlets. Dastan is a perfect example of what the Kabar Ordo program hopes to achieve: writing balanced stories that draw upon in-depth reporting in conflict areas.


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