Who deserves the Gold Pen in Uzbekistan?
Editor’s note: Uzbekistan is having its seventh-annual National Journalism Prize Oltin Qalam (Golden Pen), with awards from several state ministries, the UN, UNESCO and the World Bank. The contest’s aim: to award the best achievements in journalism. Celebrating press freedom… in Uzbekistan… seriously? neweurasia’s Tomyris reports.
The National Journalism Prize Oltin Qalam VII (Golden Pen) gathers young talented journalists in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. The contest’s aim: to award the best achievements in print, television, radio, Internet and press journalism. Ministries, authorities and mass media partake in the event – even the UN, UNESCO and the World Bank participate and give their own awards.
About the awards, Uzbekistan National News Agency said:
“One of the complimentary awards will go for the best article devoted to 2012, the Year of Family.”
“The competition, which was established on initiative of the Uzbek President, is dedicated to the World Press Freedom Day.”
Celebrating press freedom… in Uzbekistan… seriously?
The media in this Central Asian country is very far from anything free, regardless of the image this Oltin Qalam contests portrays. In 2011, the media rights NGO Reporters Without Borders classified Uzbekistan as an “Enemy of The Internet”. On May 3rd, 2011, World Press Freedom Day, the Office of the United States Press Secretary of the Department of State said:
“Countries such as Belarus, Burma, Cuba, Eritrea, Libya, North Korea, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan also continue to be notoriously repressive of press freedoms.”
The real media issue at heart is that though the contest claims to be inspired by free media ideals – there is no real press freedom in Uzbekistan.
Is the aim of this Oltin Qalam VII competition to prove that Uzbekistan is truly moving forward with the twised relationship it has with media today, in hopes to become better – to become more accepting of true journalism, to make the environment more free and welcoming to political commentary and opinions that government would find unfavorable? By hosting this competition, are Uzbek officials proposing they can congregate an international press competition with honesty and transparency?
Even thought it’s an idea that grasps positive hope, evidence of the ongoing treatment of media would tell us that no – this likely is not the case.
neweurasia’s Avicenna’s post “Central Asia is a totally free-press-free-zone “ is about last year’s Oltin Qalam competition results. Here’s a bit of what Avicenna had to say on May 3rd, 2011:
“Today is World Press Freedom Day celebrated everywhere but in totalitarian countries. In Uzbekistan journalist community of those affiliated with official and foreign accredited mass-media enjoyed the national Oltin Qalam (Uzbek, Golden pen) award ceremony in Tashkent.”
“While the major award of the event went to a local media-tycoon Firdavs Abdukhalikov, whose affiliation with mass-media limits with owning tabloids and private TV channels and chairing at the National Association of Electronic Mass Media (NAESMI), and has nothing to do with journalism, Freedom House released its Freedom of the Press 2011 report that identifies the greatest threats to independent media in 196 countries and territories.”
“It was released on May 2 as part of the UNESCO World Press Freedom Day celebration in Washington, D.C. According to the website of Freedom House, “the report shows that global media freedom has reached a new low point, contributing to an environment in which only one in every six people live in countries with a Free press.””
About the contest, UzDaily also says:
“It is also open for press services of the state and nongovernmental establishments.”
Really? It would be very interesting to see how many independent media-makers will be involved in the contest, in a fair and just way. Will a nongovernmental media establishment win this year? I guess we’ll just have to wait for the results to be announced on World Press Freedom Day 2012 to find out.
Please, Uzbekistan, don’t ruin a lovely day for journalists who work hard for a free and open press – especially in countries that are far from being free – by awarding one of your undeserving buddies.
See below: VII International National Competition for Journalists, Uzbekistan – 2012