Initiated in Belarus, and now with Belarusian trainers, Media School Uzbekistan helps journalists broaden and monetize their journalism skills
Nazira Inoyatova already had years of experience before entering Media School Uzbekistan, but wanted to learn how she could expand her employer's program offerings even more.
Nazira Inoyatova has spent a quarter century working in journalism in Uzbekistan, reporting most recently on Covid-19, which won her accolades from the United Nations. As program director at Avtoradio Uzbekistan, she oversees both music and news broadcasts. For 15 years, too, she has concentrated on honing her management skills.
And yet she felt she had more to learn, especially in terms of marketing current programs and attracting an even larger audience. In applying to the Media School Uzbekistan, she saw the chance to do just that.
"I’m inspired," she said recently, noting that her focus is on social media channels, especially YouTube, and how to engage more listeners.
Along with 20 other journalists and media managers, Inoyatova is nearing completion of her studies at the Media School as part of the fourth class since its opening in 2019. The school is considered unique in the region for its hands-on curriculum, as well as training team composed of local, regional and international – specifically Belarusian – media experts. During the 2022 edition, students have pursued stories on homelessness, illegal online gambling, divorce and its impact on children, and domestic violence.
Media School Uzbekistan, or MSU, is a partnership between the Modern Journalism Development Center (MJDC) and DW Akademie, and is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The funding ensures the school’s curriculum until 2023. Prior to the Uzbekistan curriculum, the same media training was established in Belarus, Ukraine and in the Caucasus region. MSU accepts applications for both journalism and media management.
Vitaut Rudnick, a trainer from Belarus who has been teaching at the school since it opened, says that having a diverse student body enhances the school's reputation.
"It’s a complex training program," said Vitaut Rudnick, a trainer from Belarus who has been teaching at the school since it opened. “It is crucial that we have participants from different regions and of various professional levels… our graduates have improved their skills, and now local newsrooms are headhunting for them."
Belarusian trainers are among those who developed the concept of the School and its curriculum, which they eventually implemented in their country. They are experienced journalists, media managers and trainers, and following the opening of their school, they began transferring the idea to the Caucasus region and later Uzbekistan. Political trends have meanwhile slowed the process; one trainer, Andrey Aleksandrov, was detained in Belarus for his oppositional views and is now serving a 14-year prison sentence.
“We see that our projects have impact,” said Saida Sulaymanova, director of the Modern Journalism Development Center.
The average participant’s profile has evolved since the program’s start. More regional and Uzbek-speaking candidates now make up the student body. Increasingly, applicants are younger and, with that, they tend to approach digital reporting with more ease. In addition, program graduates return more often to update their skills, whether that be in management or reporting technology and methods. And students’ reporting projects have meanwhile grown in reach.
"We see that our projects have impact," said Saida Sulaymanova, director of the Modern Journalism Development Center.
She extols one of the school’s alumni, media lawyer Madina Tursunova, a well-respected expert on intellectual property protections who attended MSU to broaden her understanding of journalism today.
According to Lydia Rahnert, head of the Central Asia and Caucasus unit at DW Akademie, the students advance quickly once entering the program, encouraged by their trainers and all that they are learning.
"It is so exciting to see how participants have grown from the recent first module of the school in September," she said. "Back then, everyone was shy and discreet, and now that they are graduating, it is amazing to see how much confidence everyone has."
Lydia Rahnert, right, head of the Central Asia and Caucasus unit at DW Akademie, finds students advance quickly once entering the program, encouraged by their trainers and the challenge of learning new skills.
"I’ve found that it’s a completely new approach to journalism," said Munisa Shamsiyeva, a journalist in Zarafshan in Uzbekistan’s Samarkand region. "But I’ve also learned traditional skills, such as how to structure articles. I’ve learned how to work on social media. And back home, in my newsroom, I have received praise for my work output." As for next steps, Shamsiyeva plans to focus on media management.
Another graduate, Sherzod Rakhmanov, built a news website, www.1gap.uz in 2019. Before attending MSU, he had worked as a cook. He turned to blogging and displaying his culinary skills on YouTube. His followers multiplied, as did orders for his food. During his time at MSU in 2021, he worked on his media management skills. He has since hired more staffers for his website and has found that the work is financially viable.
"I tell fresh graduates of the MSU," he said, "to never save money on investing in your resources."