Fighting corruption with journalism: Student wants to become activist in home country


Zachary Winslett

Arts and Entertainment Editor 


Aigerim Toleukhanova is a young journalist from a very young country, and she is seeking to establish new standards in Kazakhstan’s volatile journalism scene.

Toleukhanova’s home country, Kazakhstan, was a Soviet republic until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, and it officially obtained recognized, finalized independence on Dec. 25, 1991.

Toleukhanova is currently far away from her home country, as she is studying abroad at Troy University. Her study abroad program is aimed at cultural exchange, and she hopes that she can share insight into her culture with Americans in return for learning about the United States.

Despite preconceived perceptions about Americans that exist in her home country, Toleukhanova has learned that people — regardless of cultural stigmas — cannot be ultimately defined by perceptions. In her brief experience in the United States, there is not a definite dichotomy between it and Kazakhstan.

“I think that in Eurasian countries there are some stereotypes that Americans are not educated, and they do not know geography well,” Toleukhanova said.

“But when I came here I was shocked that so many people know where Kazakhstan is.”

In Kazakhstan, Toleukhanova began learning English in kindergarten, but her most memorable experience was in the eighth grade.

“I seriously started studying English in the eighth grade,” she said.

“It was with a very strict and crazy teacher.”

This perhaps tyrannous teacher, whose students were required to learn up to 500 words a day, is someone Toleukhanova is ultimately grateful to.

“I’m grateful for her because she made me stronger.”

Toleukhanova realized in university study that she loved journalism, and she has dedicated part of her life to mastering it. She envisions herself as one day using it as an instrument for social activism.

Her time spent at Troy University will be brief, but her unparalleled, unbridled passion for journalism and activism will undoubtedly touch any who meet her.

“I have a dream to raise the level of journalism in my country.”

Toleukhanova cites democracy and freedom of speech as particular areas of concern in Kazakhstan, a country with a tumultuous history in regards to censorship and the safety of journalists. The valor that fuels this cause is something she also wants to share with others.

“I hope I will teach more young journalists to be professional.”

The blurred line between public relations (PR) and journalism in Kazakhstan is unacceptable to Toleukhanova. This remnant from the country’s former ties to the Soviet Union, for Toleukhanova, creates “inferior” news media.

“There was no journalism in the Soviet Union— there was only propaganda. A journalist is not a PR manager.”

In the future she hopes to create her own print magazine that bridges traditional print standards and the Internet’s versatility.

Toleukhanova’s determination, self-awareness and willingness to adopt global trends drive her march forward to staunchly reject anything but the finest journalism for her home country’s people.

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