Dushanbe, Tajikistan, August 5, 2020 — The U.S. State Department, through the American NGO partner Meridian International Center and Texas International Education Consortium, conducted an eight-week virtual exchange and training program for a group of journalists from Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan who were selected to participate in the Central Asian Journalist-in-Residence program in the United States as part of the Central Asian Media Exchange Program. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the in-person portion of the exchange has been postponed, but participants were still able to connect virtually to prepare for the U.S.-based residency and to discuss best practices in covering the COVID-19 pandemic.
The virtual program featured speakers from Texas State University, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Texas at San Antonio, and local media representatives from the surrounding Austin area. Speakers discussed topics surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, such as reporting while social distancing, reporting on a public health emergency, and reporting on disinformation. Participants finished this program having published journalistic pieces on the COVID-19 pandemic and presented reports covering the pandemic’s impact on media in their country and region.
“Now more than ever, it is important to keep and build international relationships. This virtual intensive program not only builds a regional network of independent journalists across Central Asia at this critical time for news media but this partnership will strengthen ties between Central Asian journalists and local U.S. media outlets,” said Robin J. Lerner, J.D., TIEC’s president and CEO.
“Meridian is thrilled to welcome new and returning participants from the U.S. State Department’s Central Asian Journalist-In-Residence program,” said Meridian President & CEO, Ambassador Stuart Holliday. “We believe building and maintaining international relationships is imperative as we navigate this moment in history, and journalists are an invaluable part of that navigation.”
The Central Asian Media Exchange Program supports independent journalism in Central Asia through study tours, reporting tours, an intensive training program for young journalists at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, and this residency program. Since the 3-year project began in 2018, 113 journalists from Central Asia have participated in these exchange programs, raising their ability to detect disinformation and report accurately on important events affecting society. Additionally, the U.S. government supports independent media through grants to local NGOs and a five-year $15 million Central Asian Media Program implemented by Internews in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan.