During a three-day trip to Kazakhstan to discuss media freedom, RFE President Jeffrey Gedmin met Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Massimov, senior members of parliament, local journalists, and NGO leaders.
In Astana, Gedmin and Massimov discussed the future of RFE’s local station, Radio Azattyq, including the possible addition of FM broadcasts and joint ventures with public television.
“My discussions with the Prime Minister and other Kazakh government officials were frank and constructive,” said Gedmin. “We all hope for more openness and greater media freedom in Kazakhstan.”
Currently, RFE programming in Kazakhstan is only available on shortwave radio, satellite, or online. Freedom House rates Kazakhstan as “Not Free” in its 2010 Freedom of the Press Index, ranking it 169 out of 196 countries.
Gedmin visited Radio Azattyq’s Almaty bureau to meet staff and local journalists. He also met with leading bloggers who contribute to Blogstan, a special section for outside writers on Radio Azattyq’s popular website. In 2009, the site won a prestigious award from the Online News Association for journalistic excellence.
“Online, Radio Azattyq brings bloggers together to openly discuss topics such as economic development, corruption, politics, literature, and music,” said Gedmin. “It’s an example of the crucial role Radio Azattyq is playing in promoting the free flow of information and ideas in Kazakhstan.”
In meetings with OSCE officials, media watchdogs, and local journalists, Gedmin discussed the idea of establishing a regional media training center for independent journalists from across Central Asia. He said RFE “would continue to do its part in defending media freedom and raising the standards for journalism throughout the region.”
About Radio Azattyq
Since 1953, RFE’s Radio Azattyq has been an important source of independent information for people in Kazakhstan. Last year, the station won the prestigious 2009 Online Journalism Award for “standing in defense of citizen’s rights to seek and receive information.”