More about our work in Central Asia and the Caucasus
The BBC World Service Trust's work in Central Asia and the Caucasus focuses on developing the media's capacity to act as a catalyst for positive social change. We aim to give marginalised or vulnerable groups the chance to voice their concerns through the media and hold policy-makers to account.
Asia and the Caucasus is experiencing some of the fastest economic growth in the world - more than 10% per year for the last four years.
The oil exporters in region-Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan-are benefiting from soaring oil prices. Other countries with fewer natural resources are also performing well.
But according to the International Monitory Fund, signs of strain are beginning to appear, with average annual inflation in the region now in double digits.
"Countries where bread is an important part of the consumption basket have been particularly hard hit, with inflation in Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan now heading for 20 percent."
Poverty is still widespread in the region. In Georgia, for example, 54.5% of the population lives below the national poverty line.
Across the region, the media are subjected to varying levels of government interference. This has led to a high degree of self-censorship and a growing reluctance to question the official version of events.
Even in Georgia and Kyrgyzstan where pro-democracy "revolutions" have ousted authoritarian governments, declared commitments to media freedom have yet to be followed through.
Experiments in public service broadcasting have met with limited success. As a rule, the authorities have shown themselves unwilling to relinquish political control of state broadcasters while regulatory mechanisms fall short of guaranteeing editorial independence.
In Kyrgyzstan, continued failure to develop a public broadcasting law has led to hunger strikes at the state TV and radio company.
While most countries in the region are receptive to international expertise, the authorities in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan remain deeply suspicious of external influences. In the wake of the 2005 massacre in Andijan, foreign TV broadcasts to Uzbekistan were blocked and the BBC office in Tashkent was closed down.
Turkmenistan remains one of the most tightly controlled media environments in the world.
However, in October 2007, the new president, Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, urged key media leaders to raise broadcasting standards and encouraged them to "learn from the best in world practices". A new journalism faculty has been established in the capital, Ashgabat.
- During the 2007 state of emergency, the Georgian government banned all news broadcasts by non-state media
- Azerbaijan's ITV was established to meet Council of Europe demands for a public service broadcaster
- There are more than 40 private TV stations in Armenia, which has a population of just three million
- According to 2007 estimates, 15% of Tajiks have access to the Internet
- In Uzbekistan, the government blocks access to most independent news websites
- In Kazakhstan, the president's daughter, Dariga Nazarbayeva, heads the influential Khabar media group
- A bill to introduce public service broadcasting in Kyrgyzstan was blocked by President Kurmanbek Bakiev in 2006
- Turkmenistan took 161st place in Freedom House's Freedom of the World Press ranking, beating only North Korea
The BBC World Service Trust has worked with local partners across the region, particularly with a view to building their capacity to deliver high-quality skills training in the long term.
We have worked in partnership with Georgian media professionals and non-governmental organisations to launch two community radio stations
to give the country's Azeri and Armenian minorities a voice. More
we have a two-year relationship with Studio Re, a Tbilisi-based NGO with significant experience of improving conflict and diversity reporting skills.
In 2007, we collaborated with Internews Azerbaijan on a project aimed at enhancing media coverage of HIV and AIDS.
We are currently working in partnership with two media training centres in Central Asia:
- The Osh Media Resource Centre, Kyrgyzstan
- The National Association for Independent Media of Tajikistan
The consortium for this initiative also includes a Kazakh NGO, Bereke, which focuses on promoting gender equality and human rights.