Radio Yntymak promotes inter-ethnic peace

The multi-lingual radio station is bridging a gap between Kyrgyzstan’s Uzbek minority and the rest of the country.

Listeners and viewers in southern Kyrgyzstan are learning tolerance from a fledgling public TV and radio station.

Analysts credit Yntymak for helping stabilise the south and for contributing to stronger inter-ethnic peace after the violent inter-ethnic clashes of 2010.

“I like Radio Yntymak very much … because it reports about the developments in Osh city and throughout Kyrgyzstan, featuring some news in Uzbek,” Ikbol Isakov, an ethnic Uzbek from Aravan, Osh Oblast, told Central Asia Online. “Second, it broadcasts special Uzbek-language shows, where listeners call with questions in Uzbek and receive answers in Uzbek.”

Yntymak, a publicly owned TV and radio station, began broadcasting online in April 2012. In August 2012, it took the 106.1 slot on the FM radio dial. It offers 24 hours of radio and 17 hours of TV daily.

About 60% of the broadcasts are in Kyrgyz, 30% in Uzbek and 10% in Russian, the company said.

Mission to restore stability

The Kyrgyz government established Yntymak in 2011 as a TV/radio station with the mission of strengthening inter-ethnic peace, inter-cultural co-operation and national unity, Ernis Mamyrkanov, one of the station’s founders, told Central Asia Online.

After the June 2010 ethnic riots, which killed about 400 people in southern Kyrgyzstan, the government sought to restore stability by any means available, and the media outlet is one tactic, he said.

“We knew that access to information in one’s native language would be the foundation of … mutual understanding, so we aimed to create a public square for uniting people,” Mamyrkanov said. “That’s how we formed the idea of founding a multi-lingual TV/radio station staffed by a multi-ethnic team … to give everyone something to his or her liking while offering something else that … could unite everybody.”

The Yntymak team attained that goal, Mamurkanov said.

“They generated a variety of programmes and shows that were interesting to all; they contributed to peace-making in southern Kyrgyzstan after the June 2010 tragedy and to restoring public harmony,” he said. “The station became popular in less than a year’s time.”

The Kyrgyz government in 2011 turned to Internews for help in establishing a multi-lingual public radio station in southern Kyrgyzstan and received the requested technical and financial assistance, Mark Walsh, country director of Internews Kyrgyzstan, told Central Asia Online.

“The information vacuum for the [ethnic] Uzbek population in the wake of the June 2010 riots hindered reconciliation between the two ethnic groups,” he said. “The Uzbek community had no vital information about the society [it] lived in, and both ethnic groups [the Kyrgyz majority and Uzbek minority] were left without information about each other that could contribute to mutual understanding and tolerance.”

Station builds unity

Yntymak exemplifies how members of both communities can work together on mutually beneficial productions, Walsh said.

“In the future, Yntymak can serve in post-conflict communities elsewhere in the world as a model for reconciling groups divided by conflict,” he added.

Yntymak will be in demand not only today but in the future, too, analysts and locals agreed.

“One of our goals was to mitigate the post-conflict situation,” Yntymak General Director Daniyar Sadiyev told Central Asia Online.

“Another was to re-establish friendly relationships between the two ethnic groups. Yntymak has been a success. … It’s good for bringing the ethnic groups closer together and for strengthening national unity.”

A public oversight board consisting of seven members of different ethnicities runs the company, Sadiyev said.

Apart from their main job, namely, broadcasting, Yntymak staffers have staged joint concerts involving Kyrgyz and Uzbek performers, team members said.

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