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RFE/RL President’s Visit to Bishkek Highlights Kyrgyz Service

Radio Azattyk correspondent Zamira Kojobaeva (left, with microphone) interviewing protesters as the second Kyrgyz Revolution begins on April 6, 2010 with unrest in the western Kyrgyzstan city of Talas.
It has been an enterprising year for RFE/RL’s Radio Azattyk, the small Kyrgyz Service that is making big news in Central Asia.

RFE/RL President Steve Korn visited the enthusiastic Bishkek bureau on October 31 to get a frontline view of one of our most innovative language services. He met with members of the award-winning "Azattyk+" team, which is bringing in new audiences with its fresh field reporting on Kyrgyz life. For its efforts, Azattyk+ has received several travel grants that have enabled the team to take the show on the road.

Korn also met with the journalists who produce the signature TV program "Inconvenient Questions," which uses a hard-hitting talk-show format to discuss hot-button issues.

Earlier this year, a media survey conducted by M-Vector Research Agency ranked Azattyk's programs as among the ten most-watched TV programs nationwide in 2012. In an increasingly competitive media market, the journalists continue to distinguish their work with an emphasis on quality, unscripted reporting.

Radio Azattyk made its first foray into the world of documentary film this year with a look at abuse by Kyrgyz men of migrant, Kyrgyz women in Russia. The film, "Tears Left In Moscow, " opened the "Bir Duino - Kyrgyzstan" ("One World – Kyrgyzstan") documentary film festival in Bishkek this September, attracting an audience of over 500 students, activists, and government officials.

Korn and other RFE/RL representatives also met with Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev, and engaged in a back-and-forth discussion on media issues. Korn noted that he was told by one person during the visit that Radio Azattyk is seen as "the New York Times of Kyrgyzstan."

The trip also involved visits with other dignitaries, including U.S. Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Pamela Spratlen and former Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbaeva, as well as with independent journalists, bloggers, and representatives of Kyrgyz civic groups.

"Our service in Kyrgyzstan is revered," Korn remarked about the reception for Radio Azattyk. "It’s clearly considered the highest class of media entities. It is trusted, and it is widely read and listened to. "

--Jo-Ellen Koester