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25-Year Old Kyrgyz Broadcaster Wins Regional Awards

RFE/RL Kyrgyz Service broadcaster Janarbek Akaev receives an award in Bishkek for "Best TV Presenter" in Kyrgyzstan before a crowd of 3000. (Photo courtesy of "Super-Info")
Janarbek Akaev just turned 25, but he's already earning plaudits from around Central Asia for his impressive work in broadcast journalism. On December 13, Akaev -- a television broadcaster for RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service, Radio Azattyk -- was voted Kyrgyzstan’s best TV presenter for 2011.

The award came as part of a competition organized by a major Kyrgyz newspaper, which offered the public the chance to vote for its favorite broadcasters online. Akaev won the prize in front of a crowd of 3000 at a gala ceremony in Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital.

“I was very nervous when I was receiving this award last night. I thanked organizers; it's not easy to talk in front of 3000 people sitting there,” Akaev said.

More impressive is the fact that this marks the second year in a row that Akaev has won the award: the Radio Azattyk broadcaster was recognized for his exceptional professionalism in 2010.

His impact is also being recognized around the region. On December 9, Akaev flew to Astana, Kazakhstan, to accept a “Eurasian Golden Pen” prize from Kazakhstan's Chief Editors' Club. The prize -- which included a $1000 check -- recognized his work on two TV programs highlighting the progress of police and government reforms in Georgia. During Friday’s ceremony, the speaker mentioned that the jury was impressed by Akaev’s series of international reports.

What is Akaev’s secret formula? He stresses that empathy with the audience is key. “We must be close to people. We have to feel what people want to see, what are their concerns and problems.”

Getting that sense of what people care about depends on a lot of legwork. “We went to all seven regions in Kyrgyzstan, we went to far remote villages and showed people's life there,” Akaev says. “Also, we went to Germany and the US and showed the Kyrgyz diaspora there.”

Akaev’s winning TV report on the Georgian police system saw Akaev embedding himself with police trainers, providing a fresh and entertaining perspective.

What’s driving Akaev, and is he getting tired of winning awards? The young journalist who was just recognized as the best TV presenter in Kyrgyzstan has his eyes firmly set on public concerns. “I believe that journalists can change society in a better way,” Akaev says.

-- Kristyna Dzmuranova