For World Press Freedom Day we are excited to share a contribution from Erkinbek Kamalov, a fall 2019 alumnus of Meridian’s Central Asia Journalist-in-Residence Program (CAJIR), part of the wider Central Asia Media Exchange Program (CAMEX). Erkinbek is a dedicated media practitioner from Kyrgyzstan. He is a currently a reporter and project coordinator for Content-Media versia.kg located in Jalal-Abad, Kyrgyz Republic. His current project is short term media research for the New Media Advocacy Project (NMAP) New York based entity in which he is a Lead Researcher for the Eurasia region. His most recent completed project, ‘SynergyKG-21’, is related to communication and transparency issues in grassroots level of governance.
Who is your inspiration in the field of journalism?
There are many brilliant journalists in the U.S. as well as in my country. But among them is Linda Roth, Vice President for External Relations, a former journalist, and award winning producer of CNN. Her dedication to democratic values and service to the people are inspiring to me.
What does press freedom mean to you and how has your CAJIR experience informed your understanding?
Press Freedom is one of the pillars of truly democratic society which provides opportunity to express one’s opinion without fear of being persecuted. During my CAJIR, I learned during university lectures and from my hosting organization how important Press Freedom is in doing quality journalism to inform and raise awareness of the local population and express their stand at free society. At the same time, those who live in developing societies should not take Press Freedom for granted, since the authorities tend to compromise or limit Press Freedom accordingly as situations fluctuate back and forth. Therefore, we journalists should act like watchdogs or guardians for it.
How do you use your role to strengthen journalism, advance transparency, and improve public access to journalism?
I do it in two ways: 1) implementing media communication and journalism related projects in various parts of the country and 2) writing and publishing in Kyrgyz about transparency and journalism related issues. One of my future plans is reporting in English and getting published in English speaking newspapers or journals.
What connections have you build as a result of CAJIR, and how do you stay in touch?
As a result of CAJIR, I expanded my network and built connections with US colleagues for future joint international projects in the field of media and journalism. For instance, I still stay in touch with my mentor Prof. Joe Straubhaar from the University of Texas and Mr. Rodney Gibbs, Executive Director, Revenue Lab at Texas Tribune. From time to time, I discuss with them topics not only on journalism and media but also political social and economic issues in Kyrgyzstan and the U.S. as well as the COVID-19 pandemic in our countries and beyond. CAJIR gave me confidence in networking, and showed me that with good preparation and an innovative approach one can achieve higher professional goals and implement grand projects in journalism and media communication. It opened doors of opportunities from local to global initiatives.