Funding sought for Caucasus news service

Monday, 17 September 2007 – Caucasus Times – NewsLine is a daily news section featured on the Caucasus Times website. The site has a version in English.

With its own network of human rights-oriented reporters, Caucasus Times – NewsLine provides real-time coverage of events from Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachaevo-Cherkesia, Northern Osetia, Krasnodarskii and Stavropolskii regions, as well as Moscow and Rostov-na-Donu.
Human rights issues account for around 80% of the material covered by the service, and, owing largely to its own reporting network, in the past four years of its existence Caucasus Time NewsLine has become the most demanded analytical and news resources on issues related to the North Caucasus.
The service began in April 2003 and is partly self-financing. A portion of its news is distributed through fee-based subscriptions. Subscribers include the BBC, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Deutsche Welle, NTV, various embassies and diplomatic representatives, as well as a number of international organizations.
Caucasus Times – NewsLine is an objective and reliable resource on the Northern Caucasus for thousands of journalists, human rights activists, diplomats and ordinary consumers.
The Caucasus Times information agency is seeking funding to continue operating NewsLine for the next 12 months.
Today, the situation in the Northern Caucasus is such that Kabardino-Balkaria, Dagestan and Ingushetia have become combat zones.
The absence of objective analysis in media sources leads to the Russian government’s distorted perception of the processes presently occurring in the region. Ignorance of the situation causes misunderstanding of the region and its problems, as well as consequent mistakes by uninformed government officials.

As far as freedom of the press in Russia is concerned, the situation has become considerably worse over the past year, due to laws passed concerning extremism, terrorism, NGOs, and media, many media outlets ended any sort of resistance to pressure from the government.

As far as freedom of the press in Russia is concerned, the situation has become considerably worse over the past year, due to laws passed concerning extremism, terrorism, NGOs, and media, many media outlets ended any sort of resistance to pressure from the government.
Vladimir Putin, who initiated the laws, has armed not only regional governments, but government officials against the free press. Today, according to the law on terrorism, a journalist who conducts an interview with a terrorism suspect can end up in jail. The law on extremism provides the same consequence for pieces concerning inter-ethnic and inter-national disputes. The law on media forbids any criticism of government officials.
Today, virtually all media sources in Russia are controlled by the government. With the help of various fiscal organs, federal and regional laws, the media has become subject to strict censorship. The ability to speak the truth is being suppressed, especially as far as federal policy and corruption of regional elites in the Caucasus is concerned. Practically all Russian media outlets are treated as federal institutions.
According to surveys conducted by Caucasus Times in the region, 85% of the local population lists television as its primary news and information source. The overall figures in Russia range from 70% to 74%, based on various sociological studies. Caucasus Times surveys have shown that the second most popular source of information is newspapers (28.7%). Traditionally, communication with friends and relatives as a source of information has been popular (22%). The internet is currently the fourth most popular (16.8%), but growing in use.
Filling the information gap
The Internet is currently one of the few resources not under government control, and publications like Caucasus Times can fill in the information gap.
In these conditions, when the majority of Western media sources do not have their own reporters in Northern Caucasian republics, and Russian sources are subject to strict censorship and persecution, Caucasus Times has the unique role to play. It can obtain information directly from the regions thanks to its network of local reporters, and publish the information independently through its editing headquarters in Prague.
Project aim
The aim of the project is the development of freedom of speech in the Northern Caucasus, support for democratic processes and civilian initiatives in the region though informing local populations of events unfolding in the Northern Caucasus.
In the 12 months that the project will span, Caucasus Times plans to receive and disseminate news – which the Russian media is forced to keep silent about – from its correspondents in Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachaevo-Cherkesia, Adygea, Northern Osetia, Krasnodarskii and Stavropolskii regions, as well as Moscow and Rostov-na-Donu. The estimated number of news items expected over the 12 months of the project is 4,000.
The main criterion by which the success of the Caucasus Times’ project is to be measured is the level of demand for its materials. This will be evident from the number of references made to news published by Caucasus Times, the number of visitors to the site, its rating in internet search engines, as well as the number of subscribers to its paid materials.
The budget proposal is $29k (US) of which the Caucasus Times is able to cover almost $6k.

Islam Tekushev., editor-in-chief of the Caucasus Times

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