Research Projects

The role of media in civic unity and unrest under semi-authoritarian transitional regimes in Central Asia

The Academy of Finland has granted 4-year funding to a project titled “The role of media in civic unity and unrest under semi-authoritarian transitional regimes in Central Asia” led by senior researcher Jukka Pietiläinen. The project will shed light on the role of media in civic unity and unrest in Central Asian transitional, semi-authoritarian countries - Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

The traditional theories on media, democratisation and social change emphasize the role of a free, non-state media in promoting democratisation. Moreover, media theories that classify media systems as stable, fail to understand the processes of media change as part of social change. The purpose of the new research project is to show how traditional views prove to be too narrow and inadequate for conditions in which traditions for a free media simply do not exist. The research aims to create new theoretical models for understanding the role of the media in social transformation.

The main hypothesis is that in conditions of social transformation, the controlled media actually serve social stability and civic unity better than media that are suddenly freed from authoritarian control without traditions of self-regulation and responsibility. The Central Asian situation is in many respects similar with those in other developing countries with challenges related to nation building, democratisation and ethnic unrest. The media have a central role in either spreading the ethnic conflicts or promoting peaceful solutions.

The research team, which besides Pietiläinen, includes Dr. Katja Lehtisaari and researcher Hanna Smith, will work in close co-operation with researchers and media activists from the region as well as with international experts on media policy, developmental communication, Central Asia and transition. One of the aims is to educate Central Asian scholars and students with international research methods and ethics, and to co-publish research results with them.

Project leader: Dr. Jukka Pietiläinen

Researchers: Dr. Katja Lehtisaari, researcher Hanna Smith

Duration: 9/2014 – 8/2018

Funding: Academy of Finland