The competition, which ran from April 1 to June 15, aimed to encourage, promote and reward high-quality and objective international journalism on Kazakhstan’s economy, trade, culture, art and society.
The inaugural awards, sponsored by Air Astana and the Rixos Almaty Hotel, attracted more than 40 entries from 23 countries, with a prize awarded to the author of the winning entry from each of five regions: North and South America, Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
The winners were chosen by a panel including Kazakh Minister of Foreign AffairsErlanIdrissov,Chairman of Kazakhstan’s Union of JournalistsSeitkazyMatayev, General Manager of the Rixos Almaty Hotel Ibrahim Chelik and Vice President forPublic Relations of Air Astana Bella Tormysheva.
Neil Marks, a journalist from Guyana, took the prize in the Americas region for his articlefor Kaieteur News (www.kaieteurnewsonline.com) on the contrasting cultural adventures of a Guyanese footballer living in Kazakhstan and a Kazakh working in Guyana, as well as on the many similarities between the two countries located on opposite sides of the Earth. “It shows that both Guyana and Kazakhstan internally reached a certain level at which both countries understand that there is a need to have a wider look, and make a bigger steps in order to improve and develop,” Marks noted in his article. In addition, despite the differences between the countries, he notes similarities in their mentalities, saying “Guyana and Kazakhstan are different in many ways, but there are similarities which both Walter and Dmitry can testify to – Guyana and Kazakhstani people are friendly and hospitable.”
SibylleGreindl, a journalist from Belgium, won for the European region for her piece for the Brussels Diplomatic (www.brusselsdiplomatic.com)onopportunities in the energy and renewable resources sector in Kazakhstan and the upcoming international specialised exhibition EXPO 2017 in Astana. In her article, she asks, “Why is oil- and gas-rich Kazakhstan showing so much enthusiasm for renewable energies?” Among her answers were, “First and foremost, Kazakhstan is not only sitting on impressive fossil fuel reserves: it does also have an impressive potential in terms of renewable energies.” She noted that President Nursultan Nazarbayev has set the ambitious target of increasing the use of renewable energy sources to 50 percent by 2050, from 1 percent these days.
In Asia, Malaysia’sNorshazlinaNor’azman won for her series of reports for the BernamaNews Agency (www.bernama.com) on life in Astana and Almaty, the halal industry, the science sector and her experience of national traditions in Kazakhstan. Nor’azman began her article about Astana, with the words: “Welcome to Astana. The ordinary world was far behind, and we were clearly the aliens moving about in a science fiction movie.”
Hussain Ahmad from the Qatari newspaper The Peninsula (www.thepeninsulaqatar.com) took the prize in the Middle Eastern region for his reporting on the political and economic development of Kazakhstan, its role in Central Asia and the prospects for the Eurasian Economic Union. Ahmad emphasises the contribution of President Nazarbayev in the consolidation of peace and interethnic harmony in Kazakhstan by noting, “Despite its huge ethnic diversity, Kazakhstan enjoys social and ethnic harmony. Many countries in the world are imploding due to ethnic and sectarian strife, and multi-ethnicity is often a recipe for turmoil. Kazakhstan is comprised of people from around 130 ethnicities who happily coexist.”
In the CIS region, Ukraine’s SvetlanaOstrovskaya won for her colourful report on Kazakhstan, entitled “The Fairy Tale of the Steppes,” which featuredin the WellnessJournal (www.wellness.org.ua) and focused on the cultural and spiritual heritage of Kazakhstan and modern trends in the development of the country. In her article, Ostrovskaya notes that “Kazakhstan is a modern state that cherishes its past but looks to the future!” She also comments on the national project of Astana, saying, “Those who did not believe in Astana had only their own disbelief, while Nazarbayev hadthe power of faith, a desire and a dream.” The author concludes with the remark: “So come to Kazakhstan – you will be quite surprised! And get a bottle of shubat for me on the way back!”
The five winners were rewarded with a trip to Almaty, Astana and Burabai, which will incorporate an extensive cultural programme and opportunities to meet with officials, academics, experts and journalists and scientists from Kazakhstan. Idrissov thanked all involvedfor their initiative and participation in the competition, saying, “It was extremely difficult for the jury. There were many high-quality entries, but we believe the fivewinning journalists gave the most lively and interesting accounts of Kazakhstan. We look forward to welcoming them to Kazakhstan and hope their trip will give them an opportunity to see new aspects of our country and encourage international interest in Kazakhstan among the media and their audiences in business, education, science and tourism.”
Matayev said the entries had demonstrated an excellent knowledge of Kazakhstan’s history, culture, customs and traditions and welcomed the international interest shown in the competition. “We have had strong entries from all over the world, with journalists producing some wonderful work onour country,” he said.
“The competition has shown the high level of interest the international media has in our country, and that is positive for all of us, including Air Astana,” said Tormysheva, adding, “we are actively developing our international network of destinations, with new routes opening up all the time.”
The journalists’ winning articles will be republished on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Two runners-up from each region were chosen to receive certificates of gratitude on behalf of the jury.