Interview with the Chechen magazine Dosh

Editors Israpil Shovkhalov and Abdullkhazhi Duduev talked to Reporters Without Borders about their independent quarterly magazine Dosh, which covers political and social affairs in Chechnya and the Russian Caucasus. On a visit to Paris in January, a few weeks after receiving a grant from us, they told us about how they started it up and how it has grown. How and why did you found Dosh ? Shovkhalov and Duduev (S and D): Before we founded Dosh in 2003 there was no independent written media outlet reporting on politics and society in the Russian Caucasus. We started it because we wanted to combat the disinformation put out by official media there. Like all people from the region, we were tired of the old image of the Caucasus as a place of “terrorism” and wanted to tell what the region was really like. Dosh focused first on Chechnya, where both of us come from. This was a success, so we expanded our coverage to the neighbouring republics of Ingushetia, Dagestan, Ossetia and Abkhazia, which also had this same hackneyed image. Today we’re very proud that Dosh is the only non-partisan publication covering events, good or bad, in the region. The readers of our website are in many countries, including the United States, Israel and China. The printed version of the paper can be bought throughout the Caucasus and is distributed all over Russia. In Moscow it’s sold alongside our partner magazine, Novaya Gazeta, in Pushkin Square. You can also buy it in Brussels and at Reporters Without Borders offices in Paris. We’ve expanded a lot over the years and have doubled our Russian print-run. The magazine is linked with the Initiative Centre for the Caucasus that we founded last 23 December with three other human rights activists. But its editorial line has not changed and the magazine is not a mouthpiece for the Centre, which fills a need for research on the Caucasus among groups working on human rights in Russia. Our ties with it allow us to play a bigger part in Russian civil society. Your head office is in Moscow, not the Caucasus. Are you a magazine in exile? (S and D): Yes and no. Yes, because we started a magazine that would be unthinkable in Chechnya or a neighbouring republic. We tried to do that there but could never get permission to open an office and we still can’t. None of our correspondents have offices registered in the name of the magazine. It wasn’t easy in Moscow either. Registration took time but we got it. We’ve had doors slammed in our face many times though, especially by printers. At the same time, we’re not in exile because we’re in permanent contact with the region and we go there often. Our reporters present themselves as Dosh correspondents when they meet people. So we’re rooted in the daily life of the region’s inhabitants. What are working conditions like for your correspondents? (S and D): None of our staff is ever safe, especially our reporters in the region. Dosh isn’t accepted by the authorities there. The magazine upsets them. We wouldn’t have any problems if we wrote about different things. The safety of our staff is our priority, especially as they don’t conceal who they are when they’re working. Our correspondents are often people known in the local community, which opens doors and can be useful from a safety point of view. But many people they talk to won’t give their name for fear of reprisals, which is a real problem for journalists. If people didn’t known our correspondents, probably nobody at all would talk to them, even anonymously. We admire their courage and we’re flattered they want to work for the magazine. What’s a typical day like at your Moscow office? (S and D): Not very different from that of other journalists. We start by discussing what stories are around and the news we get from our correspondents. People also call us for interviews, wanting to know our reaction to events. Journalists going to the Caucasus ask for contacts there. We spend a lot of time on the phone. People call us for advice and help too, and sometimes come to our office. They have often fled the Caucasus and we try to steer them to organisations that can help them with bureaucracy and legal matters. We do a lot of this kind of thing and the emotional pressure is great. The distress of those we defend is reflected in the magazine. Just the letters page shows what life is like for families in the region, with tales of disappearances and arrests of a son or a husband. But these stories aren’t just messages in a bottle cast into the sea. Our correspondents sometimes help people to get official investigations started. Dosh won the Reporters Without Borders / FNAC Press Freedom Prize in December 2009. How has that changed things for the magazine? (S and D): It increased our reputation in Russia and abroad, and the prestige of Reporters Without Borders brought us attention and helps us in our search for more funding. We also won another major prize, from the International Publishers Association, last November. All this has encouraged us and our correspondents to continue our quest for independent and impartial news. How has the December grant from Reporters Without Borders helped you? (S and D): Reporters Without Borders has backed us for a long time and has enabled us to publish and to provide our correspondents with work tools. The aid we got in December has allowed us to buy equipment to put the magazine together in-house*. Before that, we had to do the page layout at night and elsewhere, which cost time, money and energy and affected the quality of the magazine. Our computers were nearly 10 years old, so now we can work better and faster and also, most important, handle the entire production process ourselves. We’ve been bringing out four issues a year, as well as two issues in English (called Dosh Digest). This year we hope to produce four of each version. Apart from this great technological leap, the Reporters Without Borders money has been a big psychological boost and we now feel more confident about fighting for high-quality news in the face of the many publications funded by the Chechyan authorities and using the latest equipment. * Reporters Without Borders gave Dosh a grant of €5,000 in December 2010 which was used to buy two new computers, one with desktop publishing software and the other a laptop (the only one the magazine has) which allows staff to stay in permanent touch with their network of correspondents and to work while on the move. This action was made possible by the EU’s European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), of which Reporters Without Borders is a beneficiary. Читать на русском :
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Updated on 20.01.2016