Suiumkan Ulanbek Kyzy on Data Journalism Fellowship by Internews KG

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I count my professional experience as “started” when I got published at “Azattyk”, Radio Free Europe Kyrgyz Service.  “Azattyk” is one of the biggest news outlets in Kyrgyzstan that publishes in Kyrgyz and Russian languages. My work there was a part of the Data Journalism Fellowship which I got on my junior year at AUCA. 

Shortly, Data Journalism Fellowship is a one year long fellowship program focusing on data journalism run by Internews Kyrgyzstan. Each year, they select six journalists, train them and help them publish their own data stories in local media outlets. In my cohort I was the only student among the participants while the others were working journalists. This fact made me feel a bit nervous at the beginning of the program, but I got support from my mentors and a teammate, so I started to gain more confidence in the process. As fellows, we worked in teams of two journalists and my teammate, Yrysbek Ulukbek uulu, was a correspondent at “Azattyk”, so here is the reason why our stories were published there. 

The idea of our very first story  “Cheap Electricity is Self-Deception”. Why Kyrgyzstan Needs to Increase the Tariffs  for Electricity?” came from the group discussion and the arguments that in Kyrgyzstan the electricity is not consumed wisely. It was a quite hard topic to work on, since I knew nothing about the energy sector. In the process, I understood that my work was about absorbing information, analysing and sending to the audience. 

The story on child labour called “More than half of the students in the regions do not study well. What does housework have to do with it?” is one of the important projects for me. I learned a lot while making this story. It was an idea that we could not finish with a team during the Data Journalism Hackathon called “Hack Poverty”, where the idea was that child labour in the regions of Kyrgyzstan does not allow kids develop since they lack time and energy to study.

My idea regarding data journalism, and my love towards this genre was that through data we, journalists, can show social issues, prove that they exist: if there is an issue – data will show it. Thus I try to focus more on social problems such as children’s and women’s rights. The next story that I published was on women and HIV. “I was not protected because I completely trusted him”. Why women in Kyrgyzstan started to get infected with HIV more and more” is a story about the growing number of women infected with HIV by their sexual partners in Kyrgyzstan. Another story on women that was published by our team was about the domestic violence towards women in Kyrgyzstan. “On a public display” shows the picture of domestic violence against women and explains why it is difficult to punish the culprit. We analyzed the laws in Kyrgyzstan trying to find out whether it can protect women. We found out, they didn’t. 

All of the stories that I was working on were challenging. I made many mistakes in the process of making them, did not know many things, however the experience was worth it. I was growing as a professional while being a student. I asked for help when needed and there were always people to advise, including my mentor Anastasia Valeeva. I love the work that I am doing as a journalist and looking forward to contributing more to the sphere of data journalism.

Suiumkan Ulanbek Kyzy, JMC-116

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