News / 15.04.2010

Vikes: Piloting Journalist Unions in Central Asia



The aim of the project is to help our local partners in Kazakhstan and Tajikistan in institutional and recourse development in order to facilitate creating of networks of activists at the local and regional level and to unite these activists in a journalist union of new type. In Kyrgyzstan the main task was to support the restart of the existing union or create a new one.

Since the project started in 2007 the conditions of journalists have not improved in these three countries. While the economic conditions get worse, the media suffers, too. The authoritarian rule influences negatively the work of the partner organizations, too.

In Kyrgyzstan the revolution of 2005 and the events following it had a dramatic effect on the media field and paralysed the journalist union.

The poor working conditions and professional status, lack of mutual solidarity and courage to speak up ones opinion, as well as the fact that many journalists poorly know their lawful rights, have a certain impact to the union building process. The restrictions to the freedom of speech and authoritarian political rule complicate the process: journalists can easily be harassed and persecuted at their work. The still existing but inactive soviet type journalists unions confuse the idea of journalists trade union even in the minds of many active journalists.

Geographical factors play also a certain role in gathering together journalists. In Kazakhstan the huge dimensions of the country, in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan difficult traffic conditions due to the high mountains complicate the possibilities for journalists to meet and network. The poor level of communication infrastructure also has a negative impact on keeping up the contacts.


In Kyrgyzstan the violations of freedom of expression and persecution of journalists increased during 2009. For instance the well known journalist Gennadi Pavluk was murdered and journalist Kubanytsh Joldoshev was severely beaten. In spite of the worsening of the situation the Kyrgyztan Journalist Union headed by Mr Azamat Kalman has been fully inactive for years, except organising a seminar initiated by VIKES in April 2008. That´s why the project coordinator Ms Airi Leppänen negotiated with the director Mr Marat Tokoev and other representatives of the Public Association Journalists (PAJ) on actions needed to activate trade union work in Kyrgyzstan during the IFEX World Conference in Oslo in June 2009.

In October 14th 2009, a meeting was held in Bishkek in the presence of the project coordinator, seven leading kyrgyzs journalists and the director of the PAJ, and the decison was made to start preparatory work for a new journalist union, because activating the existing one turned out to be impossible because of the refusal of its leader Mr Azamat Kalman to cooperate and, for instance, allow new members to enter his union.

By the end of 2009 the director of the PAJ, Mr Marat Tokoev with the lawyer of the Media Police Institute Nurlan Akamatov (hired expert for the project) conducted seminars in all six regions of Kyrgyzstan and in Bishkek. Altogether 120 journalists participated in these trainings. During this process it became clear that there is an urgent need to protect the interests of journalists, since violations of the their rights take place daily, but not all journalists know their legal rights. The participants also discussed how to organize themselves and decided to set up regional chapters, since in most cases there are not enough activists on working place level to form a local chapter. It turned out the journalists in the regions are more interested in union activities than the colleagues in Bishkek.

In order to support the union building the PAJ produced a trade-union handbook based on materials sent by VIKES and their own materials. It was published in Kyrgyz and Russian. PAJ has also made preparations to establish a foundation for journalists in need. Soros Foundation and the local OSCE office had promised to donate the initial capital for the foundation, which will be administrated by an independent organ consisting of journalists and media experts.


The partner organization of Vikes, NANSMIT, organised 20.10.2009 in Dushanbe a seminar, to discuss the possibilities for a journalist trade union in Tajikistan. The project coordinator Airi Leppänen gave a lecture on the experiences of the Finnish Union of Journalists. The NANSMIT research director Norida Rahmanberdieva told about the study conducted by NANSMIT in 2003 and again in 2007 and 2009 (within the project) to anlyse the working conditions of journalists. For the new study she interviewed over 30 journalists and media experts.

There is a slight improvement in the situation compared to 2007, but majority of journalists still work without any contract and the violations of rights are common.

The chairperson of the Tajikistan´s Association of Trade Unions, Iskander Abdiev, told about the difficulties in organizing trade union work in the country and the participants discussed in groups the strategies and tactics as well as practical measures in building of a journalist union.

There were 19 participants in the seminar. A preparatory group was appointed with representatives from all regions in Tajikistan. By the end of 2009 the group had two meetings in Kurgan Tjube and in the Hatlonsky and Sogdinsky regions.

Following the project´s plan of action NANSMIT published a trade-union activist manual, which was published in Tajik and Russian.


In Kazakhstan the national media market is much larger than in Tajikistan or Kyrgyzstan, and private ownership more common, but the working and payment conditions among journalists are not any better than those in the neighbouring countries.

The OSCE-chair Kazakhstan has not made improvements to the freedom of speech and expression. The situation in media and the working conditions of journalists remain poor and hard. According the VIKES partner Adil Soz and other Press Freedom and Human Rights organisations, the situation has even worsened during 2009.

Adil Soz organised 27.10.–28.10.2009 in Almaty a seminar analysing the socio-economic situation of journalists and the need for journalists to organize themselves in order to support their professional interests. 17 people took part, form Almaty, Taldykorgan, Taraz, Temirgau and Ust-Kamenogorsk, both from Radio and TV as well as printed publications.

In the seminar Natalia Verzhbitskaja from Vetshernyi Almaty newspaper told that journalists in that publication did organise a chapter at the office, but the activities were stopped because of the negative attitude and actions taken by the employer, first and foremost to dismiss the chairperson of the chapter. The representative of the trade-union chapter in Taldykorganin Tv-company Zhetys told that there is a chapter in his working place, but the chairperson had to be changed because the previous one had misused the funds of the union for his own good.

The representative of the Kazakhstan´s Independent Trade Unions, Mr Aleksei Nigain told about the union experiences and the lawyer of Adil Soz, Ms Ganna Krasinilkova, spoke about solving the disputes at work. The participants demonstrated in groups the practical bargaining situations. The Vikes coordinator Airi Leppänen told about the experience of the Finnish union in defending the rights of the journalists.

Adil Soz also composed a trade-union handbook as agreed in the action plan.

2010 and the future:

During the spring and summer 2010 the Vikes partner organizations in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan will continue organizing regional trainings and activating journalists to network, informing them of the journalists labour rights and the trade union work and helping to form local or regional chapters.

In the autumn journalists unions will be founded in Kyrgyzstan (if the local conditions allow) and Tajikistan.

In Kazahktan there will be organised a regional seminar-training Aktobe or Atiray to dicuss futher proceedings towards a journalists union. An evaluation of the project will be conducted by a finnish journalist, trade union activist or media expert.


If and when the journalists unions will be founded in the partner countries, they´ll still need support from the international journalist community, including Vikes in the future. Our responsibility is also to support the colleagues in Uzbekistan and in order to do that it´s necessary to conduct a preparatory trip to Tashkent and other big cities of Uzbekistan to make acquaintance with local journalists and media organisations.




  • Kazakhstan : Adil Soz International Foundation for Protection of Freedom for Speech, Kazakhstan, President Ms Tamara Kaleyeva (, Bogenbai Batyr Str 142 Almaty, Tel. +7272911670
  • Kyrgyzstan: Public Association Journalist, Kyrgyzstan (PAJ), Director Mr Marat Tokoev (, Shota Rustaveli Str 48 Bishkek, Tel. +996312563463
  • Tajikistan: National Association of Independent Mass Media Tajikistan NANSMIT, Director Mr Nuriddin Karshiboev ( Khuseinzoda Str 34, office 414 Dushanbe, Tel. +992935043013


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