Keynote Speech of 11th President Abdullah Gül at First Central Asia Media Forum

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Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentleman,

I am honoured to participate in the First Central Asia Media Forum that is a timely and visionary regional initiative. I would like to take this opportunity, to thank the Ministry of Information and Social Development of the Republic of Kazakhstan for their kind invitation bringing all of us together before the end of 2022. I am also pleased to take the floor together with President Nambaryn Enkhbayar today,keeping in good memory that we cooperated very well in the past.

As we all know, our world is passing through a tectonic shift. In that sense, 2022 was a challenging year for Eurasian security and prosperity. The war in Ukraine created an earthquake effect in geopolitical terms not only for Eurasia but also for the whole world:It reminded us the importance of territorial integrity, sovereignty and respect to the rules-based world order.

However, the tectonic shift started much earlier.  And there has been already an obvious need to rethink about the parameters of the new world order which should be more inclusive, comprehensive and representative. Because, only such a new world order would address today’s challenges that are more complex and less predictable than ever.

Within this complex world order, it is an accepted fact that the global economic and political centres of gravity have moved towards Asia. Central Asia has regained its geo-strategic importance as “heartland” of the world. After gaining their independence in 1991, now Central Asian countries stand robustly on their own feet. They have a balanced and multi-vector foreign policy approach. They can shape regional developments and change geopolitical calculations.

They are not anymore objects of any “great or small game” in Eurasia as it was the case in the past. But they are true owners of their region and well-respected members of the international community. In this regard, with its large natural and human resources, Central Asia presents huge potential for development and Turkic states have a significant role in this picture.

The tectonic shift that our world has passing through has actually come with a message in its luggage. This message is indeed crystal-clear. The new era we live requires a sophisticated conduct of both domestic affairs and international relations. This conduct requires to be more accountable, transparent, prepared, cooperative and flexiblenot only at home but also at the global level.

Within this framework, media that should be considered as a power itself assumes a significant role. In the information age that is empowered with the recent digital transformation, we can all access to any information. At the same time, the digital environment gave us a sort of monitoring power. Consequently, we can quickly learn about what is going on and express our appreciation for positivedevelopments. Or we can quickly give our reaction to those which are not in the right direction. So, each individual has turned into a global citizen who can express his or her opinion on world politics and monitor it through this way.

Media has increased its mirror effect today as well. Because, together with the means of new media, each development inside of our borders is directly reflected to the outside world. As a result, the real picture of countries can be easily seen whether or not there is any oppression on freedom of expression. So it is impossible to hide anything from outside. The new media technologies help us x-ray the country and discover its realities. This also plays an important role for its image-building. Through this way, regardless of their regime types, the media pushes the governments and their societies to become more transparent and accountable. This renders media a critical sector and actor in ensuring good-governance.

Media and good-governance share inter-related cross-cutting aspects. Good-governance is about participation, rule of law, democratic values, responsiveness, accountability, transparency, equity and  inclusiveness. Each of these items involves understanding short and long-term needs of the citizens and developing the right toolkit to address them. Providing equal opportunity and equal income distribution are sine quo non of good governance. The societies who can embrace the tangible outcomes of this equal treatment can become more resilient. This will provide ample room for the resolution of any kind of conflict with peaceful means. In such a scenario, rather than spending all their energy to the security issues, governments will be able to further allocate their resources to the benefit of their citizens, their prosperity and the improvement of their life-standards.

In that sense, Kazakhstan and its people are very lucky to have aleadership acknowledging the realities of our time. After the independence, Kazakhstan truly concentrated on the preservation of its sovereignty and territorial integrity. It focused on maintaininggood relations with its neighbours and gave priority to overcome security challenges. It spent tremendous efforts for its state-building and national identity building processes. It struggled to transit to market economy despite serious obstacles. First President Nazarbayev marked on notable results in these areas.

Furthermore, Kazakhstan has been vocal to boost regional cooperation in Central Asia and to enhance collaboration among the Turkic states. I worked closely with First President Nazarbayev and other Presidents for the establishment of the Organisation of Turkic States. I am glad to see that this Organisation has become a promising regional cooperation mechanism. So regional ownership has been also one of the key policies successfully implemented by Kazakhstan. In a short period of time, Kazakhstan gained international recognition as well. As a result, it became the first Central Asian countries to be elected as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.

Now, under the leadership of President Tokayev, a reformist chapter opened in the history of Kazakhstan. This reformist chapter will definitely contribute to empower the country and its people while enhancing its footprint in the world politics. This reformist approach constitutes the guarantee of the country’s resilience and good-governance. President Tokayev initiated remarkable reforms in thecountry from transferring more power to the parliament to enhancing communication between the society and the government, from establishing checks and balances system in the decision making process to the empowerment of Kazakh institutions.

These reforms provide decentralization of power, prevention of monopolies in having privileged access to national resources and certainly ensure participation of people in governing the country.Moreover, they will encourage the international actors to boost cooperation in various fields with Kazakhstan. As a whole package,they are beneficial for domestic affairs of the country as well as its relations with the outside world.

This reformist understanding of President Tokayev was also seen at the leadership he exhibited in the course of unfortunate 2022 January events. During these events, he clearly identified the problems and honestly took the necessary measures. He answered courageously to the aspirations of Kazakh people. The measures that he took were suitable and visionary to ensure equal distribution of wealth and long-term stability in the country. Thus, the whole world understood the meaning of them with appreciation. I personally followed the developments very closely through media and confirmed once again media’s strategic importance in such crises to communicate the right message and to unify people.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Media is certainly the voice of people and has a dual-track role in itself.

On one hand, it can call for reforms reflecting the needs of people.On the other hand, it can be the watcher of the materialization of reform packages. Together with this dual role, media needs to purify itself from any disinformation attempt that currently presents a fundamental challenge to public governance. Therefore, media should enlighten societies instead of misleading them. Media should have an educating role prioritizing dialogue instead of affiliating with “hate speech”.

With the artificial intelligence and big data, media takes advantagefrom the innovative technologies. These technologies have also a dangerous side. Therefore, they should be used for the benefit of our societies instead of any criminal act or cyber-security violation.

Furthermore, there should be no place for trolls who intentionally tryto trigger conflict and hostility and generate disinformation in social media platforms. On the other hand, governments should not afraid of free media. A free media will fight for the truth and hold power accountable. It will prevent governments to go towards wrong directions. Therefore, free media is a vital requirement of good governance.

With all these notes, Central Asian countries that re-gained their geopolitical importance in global politics need a sound and powerful media that will be compatible with the free world. This will allow us to get prepared not only for today but also for the future. At the same time, this will give us further leverage to speak up and to make our voice heard worldwide. Therefore, the right flow of information on the developments in our region is of utmost importance. To do so, we need to equip our media outlets with necessary technological means and right contents. We need also to provide platforms for the exchange of knowledge and best-practices among the media representatives. In this regard, the capacity building programmes are essential to carry out. At the end of the day, the empowerment of our media through a joint platform will unify our individual efforts and surely contribute to our region-branding.

Distinguished participants,

I believe today’s Central Asia Media Forum will provide fruitful discussions to take up all these issues and to prepare the region for the future. I, once again, would like to express my sincere thanks to the organization committee of today’s Forum for bringing us together and also for their excellent hospitality. RAHMET.

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