The role of the mass media for political participation in Kyrgyzstan, 2005-2007

SCOPES Joint Research Project:

The Role of the Mass Media for Political Participation in Kyrgyzstan

Project summary

Project Schedule and Organization

The project is planned to run from September 2005 to June 2007, 22 months in total. It will be conducted in Kyrgyzstan, the fieldwork will pertain to various regions in the country. The desk-work will be performed in Bishkek and in Zurich. The project involves three teams – two Kyrgyz and one Swiss, whose perspectives enhance the interdisciplinarity of the research. The Swiss co-ordinator (team 1) will contribute to the project in person until December 2005, after which date the contact will consist in e-mail exchange and two mutual visits to discuss and plan the progress of the project.

Project description

The research consists in a survey among 600 Kyrgyz adult nationals, who will be sampled in the North and South of the country. The main sampling category will be residence in urban or rural regions, or remote/mountainous villages. These distinctions are assumed to be of relevance for the research interest. The survey will be conducted based on a questionnaire containing a directive part with closed-ended questions to be analyzed quantitatively and open-ended questions yielding material for qualitative content-analysis. Due to its explorative scope and the lack of experience with the quality of sampling categories in Kyrgyzstan, the project cannot fulfill all requirements of a representative study. Its aim is, next to verifying deductive assumptions, to explore previously unknown facts and correlations.


Research interest and scientific background

The purpose of the project is to investigate the role that the mass media play for political participation in Kyrgyzstan. It aims at understanding and explaining how the mass media contribute to informing and educating their audience about politics, social problems, and the rights and duties of civil society. The research concentrates on the audience of the media in Kyrgyzstanand its perception of the role the media play, and on the social and cultural background of theses attitudes and preferences. The project is interdisciplinary and the research original. Theoretical approaches, indicators, and findings from works and studies in media science, anthropology and sociology form the basis for own deduction of research items, whose validity and reliability will be optimized by verification with established items in existing studies.

Relevance of the project

In consequence of the uprising in March 2005, a new interim government is at present attempting to reinstate democratic procedures and promises adherence to democratic norms. The promise that political and civil liberties will be more secure may stimulate political participation and civic engagement. It is therefore relevant to study the attitudes of the public towards political participation during this phase democratic consolidation. Owing to the subsided repression and new liberties the media, who are at present undergoing changes in editorial policies, and the selection and portrayal of news items may emerge to adopt a new role in Kyrgyzstans transition and be more effective in encouraging political and civic engagement. Apart from the badly needed knowledge on these phenomena showing themselves in Kyrgyzstan, it is in general and scientifically relevant to research the role of the media in a transition country, and to contribute to theory building and provide findings to be used for comparative analyses.

Intended impacts

The project will have an impact both on particular publics in the society of Kyrgyzstan, and on the capacities and the international visibility of the participating Kyrgyz researchers. By contributing to knowledge on media and political participation against the social and cultural background ofKyrgyzstan, the research will yield relevant input for media policy-makers, media practitioners, and media development organizations. The nature and the organization of the project support the strengthening of the existing research experience of the Kyrgyz researchers, and their expertise in their respective fields by ensuring the relevance of method and findings for international comparative studies, and encouraging the researchers to submit proposals and articles to high-quality academic conferences and scientific journals.