ASTANA – On the eve of Astana Day, the Kazakh Foreign Ministry and the Union of Journalists of Kazakhstan announced the winners of their second international journalism contest, “Kazakhstan through the eyes of foreign media.”
The contest attracted 55 entries from 35 countries, with five regional prizes awarded to journalists representing the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Europe, the Americas, Asia and Oceania, as well as the Middle East and Africa.
Central Asian Dialogue journalist Alo Khodjaev from Uzbekistan won top prize among CIS journalists for his article “Locomotive of Progress,” which highlighted a plant for the production of electric locomotives in Astana as an example of Kazakhstan’s economic diversification.
“To be honest, all the journalists were very impressed by everything that we saw and heard. I have not seen such huge workshops, neither in our former Tashkent Aviation Production Association, nor in the factories of Israel, Poland and Russia. The economy of Kazakhstan keeps on a good course…,” Khodjaev wrote in his story.
Bartosz Mendyk of Poland, who writes for NaWschodzie.eu, won among European journalists for his story “Nurly Zhol is the Path to the Future.” In his article, he said, “In my opinion, the main achievement of the President’s programme is that the country left the Soviet legacy in the past. This is the main meaning of Nurly Zhol, which will help open a new page in the history of Kazakhstan… If Kazakhstan entered the top 50 economies in the world, it means that the country can enter the top 30. It is not a utopia, but rather a real future. Kazakhstan can become a corridor linking Eurasia. This means that the country needs to create its own brands, develop small and medium-sized businesses, including family businesses, while educated people will help to achieve these goals.”
Among entrants from the Americas, Evelin Armella of Argentina won for her article “A Place to Discover: Kazakhstan.”
“Kazakhstan is a country little known, but it also has one of the most extensive territories of the planet. The ninth-largest country in the world is itself the largest landlocked state,” wrote the author.
“The cultural life of the capital is full of different festivals, celebrations of days of culture and international music competitions and choreography. In the city, there are the National Theatre of Opera and Ballet, the Kazakh Drama Theatre, the Russian Drama Theatre and the Museum of Modern Art as major cultural attractions,” Armella wrote of Astana.
The winner among Middle Eastern and African journalists was Ahmed Abdu Tarabek, a journalist from Egypt, recognised for his article “Astana, a Modern International Metropolis,” published in the Pens and Books newspaper. The author wrote the following:
“[Astana] has become a political, economic and cultural centre, whose influence is growing both in Kazakhstan and in various regional spheres. Astana appeared before the world as a young capital situated at the crossroads of major world civilisations, as well as a bridge between East and West. The world has learned from the modern capital’s model, which has achieved social and religious harmony and demonstrates its particular vision of solving global problems. UNESCO has recognised the status of Astana as ‘the city of peace,’ which confirms the dialogue being conducted at the conferences held in the modern international capital.”
Marwan Zubaidi, representing Radio Republik Indonesia, took the top spot among journalists in Asia and Oceania for his article “Kazakhstan Inspires the World, Including Indonesia.”
“Kazakhstan is the ‘Virgin Islands’ that continues to develop … because its territory is located in two highly developed regions in the world,” Zubaidi wrote in his article. “The World Bank categorised Kazakhstan as a country with a majority of upper income people with a gross domestic product reaching $231.9 billion in 2013. Besides, Kazakhstan is the 10th largest petroleum-producing country in the world and has reserves of crude oil estimated to reach 40 billion barrels or 1.8 percent of all world oil reserves,” he added.
In addition, two runners-up from each region were selected to be awarded merit certificates.
The winners were chosen by a panel including Kazakh Minister of Foreign Affairs Erlan Idrissov, President of the Union of Journalists of Kazakhstan Seitkazy Matayev and Chairman of the Committee for International Information of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Roman Vassilenko.
The five winners will be rewarded with a trip to Kazakhstan, including visits to Astana, Almaty, the Burabai resort area, sightseeing activities and a cultural programme, along with interview opportunities with Kazakhstan’s senior government officials and leading academics and journalists.
The number of entrants to the contest increased by one third over last year and the number of countries of origin of participants increased by more than 50 percent.
Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov noted an increase in participation in the contest this year. For comparison, in the first contest last year, 41 journalists from 23 countries took part. The number of applications increased by one third, and the geography of the contest by more than half.
According to the foreign minister, the geographical expansion of the contest “reflects the international community’s growing interest in Kazakhstan.”
“I am delighted that the Foreign Ministry’s initiative is wholeheartedly backed by the Union of Journalists of Kazakhstan, and this, in my opinion, is a good example of constructive cooperation between public authorities and civil society,” Idrissov added.
Matayev said the Kazakh media community welcomes projects that enhance Kazakhstan’s image as a hospitable country open to the world. “We are glad to meet and get acquainted with colleagues who exhibit such a genuine interest in our country while adhering to high standards of professionalism in coverage of international issues,” Matayev said.
Partners and sponsors of this year’s contest were Transaero Airlines, the Almaty Bid Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2022 in Almaty, the Hilton Garden Inn Astana and Rixos Borovoe hotels, national railway company Kazakhstan Temir Zholy and transport company Argymak.
Last year’s winners were journalists from Belgium, Malaysia, Qatar, Guyana and Ukraine. From September 15–20, 2014, they took a trip to Kazakhstan, in the course of which they had a series of meetings organised at the Foreign Ministry, the Secretariat of the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, the National Press Club, and Kazmedia Centre among others. They also toured Astana and Almaty.