The European Union's #LivingAsia project
Eco-Journalism and Environmental Advocacy in Central Asia
This multimedia story is about the "Media for Improved Reporting on Environment and Natural Resources in Central Asia" project, and its results and lessons learned. The project was funded by the European Union through the Instrument Contributing to Stability and Peace and implemented by Internews.
Central Asia is rich in natural resources. Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan possess a significant proportion of the world's gas and oil reserves. Although Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan do not have oil or gas, they have great hydroelectric potential.

It has been more than 25 years since these countries were united by a single government that regulated all internal processes in these countries and decided all issues related to the use of shared natural resources. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, these countries found themselves in an unpleasant situation: their governments became more isolated from one another, they lost their rapid and productive channels of communication, and problems arose regarding the use of shared natural resources the region.

Farhod Rahmatov
Project Director
The sound use of water resources, climate change, soil degradation, and air pollution are issues without borders - they are the same for the entire Central Asian region. It is important for media professionals in our countries to report on environmental issues and the use of natural resources in partnership with civil activists. The priorities of this project were to increase the capacity of media professionals in covering conflict-sensitive topics related to the use of natural resources, as well as to improve collaboration between journalists, civic activists, and representatives of government agencies at the national and regional levels. The project team also developed and launched sustainable tools and an information platform for local and cross-border cooperation between journalists and civic activists in the region.
About the Project
The "Media for Improved Reporting on the Environment and Natural Resources in Central Asia" project, funded by European Union through the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace and implemented by Internews, aimed to enhance regional efforts to improve citizens' and policy-makers' access to information and communication on the environment and natural resources in Central Asia. Due to the periodic transnational and political tensions over natural resources, the project decided to focus activities on leveraging examples of best practices in cross-border media collaboration. The Internews team wanted to dramatically change the tone, editorial approach, and general availability of content that addresses acute environmental issues and the use of shared natural resources in the region.
Professional Journalism Trainings for Media Specialists

Irina Chistyakova
Regional Advisor on Journalism
The Capacity Building Program is one of the three important elements of the project. We can now say that all of the objectives that were set when the project launched have been achieved.

One of the project objectives was to show environmental topics in a new, interesting, and accessible manner, using new multimedia tools.

For us it was important to share new knowledge and skills so that project participants could master multimedia services to prepare interesting stories that attract attention using infographics. During project implementation, we allowed ourselves to take a stab at such a serious thing as multimedia storytelling, which received a great response from the project participants.

We really wanted all of the participants who attended project trainings to be able to prepare interesting and useful stories, and to help them overcome cross-border obstacles unite to create joint media projects.
Participant's Feedback

Ainur Baygozha
freelance journalist from Kazakhstan
The training on investigative journalism was very helpful. Will Fitzgibbon shared the secret of teamwork to prepare investigative articles, also shared some good tips on how to find information quickly, for example, which parameters to set in a Google search. As a result of my participation in the workshop, I produced a special project in collaboration with my colleague from Uzbekistan, Sergey Kostychov. The multimedia story "Half a century from sea to desert" was published on bnews.kz and tells the story of major factories that had maintained two sea ports and which are now abandoned due to the recession of the Aral Sea.
The regional workshop "Investigative journalism with focus on environment and natural resources in Central Asia" was conducted in cooperation with the International Consortium for Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). This workshop was designed and led by Will Fitzgibbon, a reporter of the ICIJ. Mr. Fitzgibbon has extensive international experience in investigative journalism and contributed to such international journalism investigation projects as Panama Papers, Swiss Leaks, and Fatal Extraction
Regional Collaboration to Share and Disseminate Information on the Environment and Natural Resources in Central Asia

Timur Oganov
Project coordinator
One of the main objectives of the project was to improve regional cooperation between media specialists, environmental activists, and state institutions in the five target countries. To accomplish this, a separate special component of the project was devoted to strengthening collaboration between stakeholders by holding regional thematic seminars and cross-border reporting trips for journalists and eco-activists that allowed them to visit their peers in neighboring countries, exchange experiences and knowledge, discuss regional environmental issues, and create media content.

This component also included the launch of an international fellowship program that allowed media professionals from the Central Asian region to attend international conferences on environmental issues, climate change, renewable energies, and hazardous waste.

As a result, journalists, experts, and activists from different countries were able to find a common language, identify common interests and problems, and, most importantly, create truly important interregional media content.

Participant's Feedback

Maria Kolesnikova
freelance journalist from Kyrgyz Republic
Participation in this [project] event was very valuable for me personally because I could build a network of contacts with representatives of the Aarhus Centres and the Ministry of Emergency Situations in Batken and Bishkek [Kyrgyz Republic]. Sessions and presentations were informative and easy to understand at the same time. Also, I would like to acknowledge the side visit to Madaniyat village [Tajikistan] and practical work of the workshop participants. We could assess the risks with the experts' assistance, draw a risk map, identifying dangerous and safe sites, and draw the action plan during emergency. We saw how emergency services and ordinary people from two countries [Tajikistan and Kyrgystan] are consolidated during emergency. In addition, during the workshop I produced a feature on the event that was published on respub.kg
Difficult Environmental Topics Through Human Stories and Data Driven Journalism
Data collection network

Ikrom Mamadov
Regional Data Collection Manager
The concept of "sustainable development" is widely used around the world. This concept pursues the goal of development based on social, economic, and environmental factors. However, it is impossible to plan economic development without environmental data, and vice versa. In the era of information technologies, interest in DATA is growing every day, and environmental data is no exception.

The project's data collection team worked to find, analyze, verify, format, and publish data-sets in such a way that even an ordinary citizen could understand the meaning of this data, which serves as indicators of the environment we are living in and how safe it is.

Our data-sets are unique because most of the published data is not openly available to the public, since the data was collected and disaggregated by district and city, whereas global data-hubs disaggregate information by country.

Top Data Driven Stories produced during the project's Data Labs
1
The multimedia story "Breath is forbidden!" produced by Julia Kalmykova and Irina Ignatovich from Kazakhstan
2
"Will the forest disappear in Kyrgyzstan?" the multimedia story by Maria Orlova from Kyrgyzstan
3
The multimedia story "How Kostanay is turning into a city without trees" by participants from Kazakhstan
4
"Air pollution in Bishkek" the multimedia story produced by Kok Asman team from Kyrgyzstan
5
"Maintaining the Koitendag ecosystem" the multimedia story produced by participnats from Turkmenistan
Interactive Multimedia Platform "Living Asia"

Gulim Amirkhanova
Regional Platform Editor
During the project planning stage, we put in one important goal: The project should have an in-house content production component. From the beginning, the in-house content producers team independently created environmental content. Why did we do this? We wanted to show journalists and environmental activists that stories about the environment can be interesting and visually attractive, and that these types of materials appropriate and logical in modern media.

There weren't any examples in local languages of the kind of content there should be on environmental topics, and English-language examples are not consumed or viewed much. Therefore, we decided to produce content on environmental issues ourselves and use these examples to show how to do it! We have not only demonstrated that we can produce interesting content, but we have also showed that we are learning together with journalists, activists, and others how to produce interesting and easy to understand environmental stories.

At the moment, the content is created by those who went through the project together with us and saw its relevance for our region. Today we can say with certainty that the goal we set was 100% achieved.

Video infographic about car emissions in Kazakhstan produced by Living Asia team
Animated film "Life of a plastic bag" produced by Living Asia team
Top Multimedia Special Projects produced by Living Asia team
1
Multimedia long-read "Never More" about Aral Sea produced in collaboration with a journalist from Uzbekistan
2
Environmental online reality show "LIVENЬ"
3
Interactive environmental 2017 online calendar
4
Online coloring-book "Rare animals"
5
Environmental "Panda Bot," an automated online robot that runs automated tasks over the Internet
Media critics' reviews
Online media watchdog, mediakritika.by, created by media experts, published a review of the most interesting environmental media projects. Living Asia was picked as one of the top five inspiring media projects about the environment, together with international projects like NFB Interactive, In Pieces, Cloud Globe, and Forest Owner. Mediakritika.by experts wrote: "The project's authors demonstrate in practice how to report on ecological topics from different perspectives and in interesting ways. Here you will find informative cards, stories, and virtual reality, as well as beautiful longreads."

"Living Asia" built its audience not only inside but also outside the Central Asian region. Artem Chernov the owner of les.media, editor-in chief at front.photo and the ex-editor in chief of the Russian "Reporter" and "Nezavisimaya Gazeta" reposted Living Asia's multimedia project "Never More" with compliments: "Here you can find a multimedia story about the Aral Sea and its disappearance. Simple, distinct, clear, and comprehensive."
Interactive Video Map with Participants' Feedback
Recommendations from Journalists, Civic Activists and Policymakers on further Development of Environmental Journalists in Central Asia
The 18-month project closed with the Central Asian Forum "#LivingAsia - Ecology & Media", which was held on September 18-19 in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic. The event gathered together representatives of the media community, environmental NGOs, government agencies and environmental experts from the five Central Asian countries. During the forum, participants noted that the project was timely and strengthened collaboration between state authorities, media outlets, NGOs, and experts on environmental protections and the use of natural resources. Participants also developed recommendations to further develop environmental journalism in the countries of the Central Asian region.
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