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Qishloq Ovozi

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) released its World Press Freedom Index for 2019 ahead of World Press Freedom Day on May 3. This year’s RSF index ranked all the Central Asian states, with the exception of Kyrgyzstan, among the worst offenders for press freedom. It is not the first time that has been true, but this year, for the first time, Turkmenistan actually ranked dead last in 180th place, dropping two positions from last year.

Out of 180 countries, Kyrgyzstan improved in the RSF rankings, going from 98th in 2018 to 83rd in this year’s index. Uzbekistan nudged up from 165th to 160th. Kazakhstan maintained its position in 158th place. And Tajikistan dropped from 149th to 161st.

This week, RFE/RL's Media-Relations Manager Muhammad Tahir moderated a discussion on press freedom in Central Asia: what went right during the last year; and what continues to go wrong.

From Paris we were joined by Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s East Europe and Central Asia desk. Taking part from New York, Gulnoza Said, the Europe and Central Asia program coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists. And from Prague, Farruh Yusupov, the director of RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service, known locally as Azatlyk, participated. I’ve been watching the struggles of the press in Central Asia for some time, so I also had a few things to say.

Majlis Podcast: In Central Asia, An Unfree Press Continues To Reign
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Are Central Asia government institutions, such as Turkmenistan's People's Council, fit for purpose? (illustrative photo)

This week's Majlis comes from the Connecting Central Asia in the 21st Century conference hosted by Oxford University on April 25.

We will be discussing how Central Asian governments can transform themselves into reliable international partners as the region assumes a larger role in global trade networks.

Significant societal changes are already under way, but are the governments of Central Asia building the legislative foundations to meet the challenges that come with assuming a more prominent international role?

The regular Majlis moderator, Muhammad Tahir, was unable to moderate this session from Washington, D.C., so, since I was at the Oxford conference, I moderated this one. (The podcast includes questions from the audience at the event.)

Our panelists were David Lewis, from the University of Exeter, and Simon Pirani, from the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies.

NOTE: Since this session was conducted in a conference hall, the audio is at times not great.

Majlis Podcast: The Question Of Connectivity In Central Asia
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About This Blog

Qishloq Ovozi is a blog by RFE/RL Central Asia specialist Bruce Pannier that aims to look at the events that are shaping Central Asia and its respective countries, connect some of the dots to shed light on why those processes are occurring, and identify the agents of change.

Bruce Pannier
Bruce Pannier

Content draws on the extensive knowledge and contacts of RFE/RL's Central Asian services but also allow scholars in the West, particularly younger scholars who will be tomorrow’s experts on the region, opportunities to share their views on the evolving situation at this Eurasian crossroad.

The name means "Village Voice" in Uzbek. But don't be fooled, Qishloq Ovozi is about all of Central Asia.