Yntymak Radio Aims to Reconcile Uzbek and Kyrgyz Communities after Violence in Southern Kyrgyzstan

Part of InternewsNext, a series highlighting 30 youth-led media initiatives.

"Азаттык+" "Ынтымак" радиосунда (eng).m2p

This video by Azattyk+ (Radio Liberty’s Kyrgyzstani service) shows Yntymak’s young staff at work in the studio.

Violence that broke out between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities in southern Kyrgyzstan in June, 2010 left nearly 500 people dead and more than 400,000 displaced from their homes. While the threat of violence has since subsided, mistrust between the two groups remains high. Ethnic Kyrgyz feel they have been unjustly blamed for the conflict and many have responded by embracing ultra-nationalistic sentiments. Meanwhile, many ethnic Uzbeks have lost their livelihoods, property, and sense of security.

Uzbek-language media disappeared from the airwaves in the wake of the riots. Fear and self-censorship continue to silence discussion of the issues that led to the conflict and widen divisions between the two groups.

To combat these challenges, Internews worked with the Kyrgyz government to create Yntymak (“Accord” or “Harmony”), a public radio station in the southern city of Osh that broadcasts in Kyrgyz, Uzbek and Russian. The station employs a staff of 14 young journalists, half Kyrgyz and half Uzbek, and broadcasts news and human interest stories that promote positive images of both communities. It is one of the only places where listeners can hear stories that acknowledge what happened and focus on ongoing recovery efforts, like refugee resettlement, city beautification campaigns, and border issues between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

Yntymak journalist Elyorbek Bainazarov, who is ethnically Kyrgyz, says, “I came to Yntymak because I really share its goals and principles of activity. We encourage our listeners to build interethnic harmony, as well as strengthen friendship among all ethnicities.”

In addition to its community service mission, the station equips its young staff with practical journalism skills that they can’t get elsewhere. Journalism education at universities in Kyrgyzstan is almost entirely theoretical, and other media outlets in the South refuse to hire Uzbek journalists. At Yntymak, staff members may receive training in the basics of radio production, sound editing, multimedia journalism, and conflict-sensitive reporting one week, then put them into practice the next.

Ï was very worried during my first broadcast but now I feel much more confident,” says Yntymak DJ Dilyafruz Hamidova, who is ethnically Uzbek but also fluent in Kyrgyz and Russian. “We follow our motto ‘Everything will be all right.’”

So far the station is broadcasting only online while it waits for the final go-ahead from the government to broadcast terrestrially using its own frequency. Once official permission is received, the station also plans to launch multilingual TV broadcasting. Listen to Yntymak streaming online on its website, Yntymak.kg.

Internews’ work with Yntymak is supported by funding from The Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

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