Saturday, November 24

Curious juxtaposition of religion, repression and technology

This was really outside my realm of usual internet sniffing around, but after reading it all, I found the paper rather interesting. So we have a Christian backed news source which is broadcasting over the internet to Central Asian republics, aiming to proselytise and influence the elite of these CAR's.

I never thought of proselytisation from this angle, that too from Norway. But why not? The same kind of pap is being spread by the Jihadi websites as well. On the other hand, this kind of foreign influence is killing the repression of the various assorted tinpot dictators in these CAR's.

Mind you, this will also provide grist to the mill that religious fundamentalism is on the rise, whether Christian or Islamic! Now it is quite possible that the CAR's try to become more Islamic than others, that's how other tinpot dictators operate in the Muslim World as well. Not good.

Some interesting quotes:

Whether religion and religious rights issues in Central Asia receive press coverage beyond Central Asia and how the media communicate that news carries important public policy implications. As Ovsiovitch (1993) explains in his study of press coverage of human rights, such reporting can informally document violations and educate the public which, in turn, may lobby and motivate legislators and policymakers; coverage can also help correct shortcomings of international NGOs. Even more broadly, the public depends heavily on the mass media for information about international affairs, and exposure to international news may significantly shape public attitudes toward other countries (Brewer et al., 2003).

Forum 18 stories have limited direct readership in the five Central Asian countries, partly because its stories are posted only in English but also because of limited internet access there. The web remains inaccessible - physically, technologically and economically - to a large proportion of Central Asians (Blua, 2005). However, those in the region who do read Forum 18 stories are apt to be better educated, more influential and, perhaps, leaders or potential leaders in government, business, academia, mass media or NGOs. Bukharbaeva and Samari (2003) note that 'with the arrival of the Internet, information has become accessible to more people - certainly the elite - and officials are more likely to be forced to react to controversial reporting that digs up facts they would prefer to bury'.

Another component of Forum 18's mission statement - promoting implementation of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - is more ambiguous and more difficult to measure. Journalists in every news organisation hope that some of their work will influence public policy and public opinion and either promote social, political or economic change or reinforce the social, political or economic status quo. As a Christianity-rooted news organisation, Forum 18 coverage may be interpreted as promoting not only religious freedom generically but Christianity in particular. That interpretation may undermine its intended image as an objective news organisation. As for assessing how effectively it serves as an instrument to implement Article 18, the news stories it produces may be used in the formulation of governmental or multinational policies, but Forum 18 stories will be only one of many sources of information in the policymaking process.

Table 1.    Self-identifying religious breakdown of the population of the five Central Asian republics (percentages)


Muslim  Orthodox  Other
Kazakhsta  47 44 9
Kyrgyzstan 75 20 5
Tajikistan  90 0 10
Turkmenis 89 9 2
Uzbekistan 88 9 3


JO - Religion, State and Society
PB - Routledge
AU - Freedman, Eric
AU - Chang, Kuang-Kuo
TI - Religious news and controversies in Central Asia: a case study of a Western ‘Christian Initiative’ news service
SN - 0963-7494
PY - 2007
VL - 35
IS - 4
SP - 355
EP - 371
AB - Religion, politics and public policy are tightly interwoven in the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, where regimes tightly control religion and domestic and foreign media. This case study examines how one Christian-oriented western news organisation, Forum 18, covers religion-related news. It finds that religious-affiliated news sources are cited more frequently and more prominently than official sources, that Forum 18 stories cover Christian more often than non-Christian religious groups, and that discrete events are covered more often than broad policy or issues.

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1 comment:

A said...

That looks like an interesting paper. I have wondered about Forum 18 for a while now.