On June 12-13 Alma-Ata, the capital of Kazakhstan, hosted the International Conference “Freedom of Speech and Media in the Countries of Central Asia and South Caucasus”, organized by Internews Kazakhstan NGO with the assistance of Friedrich Ebert Foundation and Soros Kazakhstan Fund. The Conference gave floor to journalists, media leaders, lawyers, representatives of NGOs, human rights organizations, professional associations, state structures of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The presentations of the representatives of the seven countries of the region were devoted to the national legislations on media, the work of journalists under modern conditions, their legal protection, and the role of journalistic associations.
On the last working day of the Conference the participants adopted a joint Address to the Parliaments, Presidents and Governments of their countries, calling upon them “to ensure free and equal political and economic conditions for the development of journalism and media business”, “establish a civilized dialog and honest cooperation of authorities and media”. The Address, in particular, expressed serious concern over the persecution of independent media, acts of violence towards journalists, the strengthening practice of political and financial control over media on the part of the authorities, the tendency of establishing media and professional associations that are subordinated to the state. Special attention was given to the necessity of ensuring free access to information on the Internet. “We are sure that the authorities must take practical steps to ensure normal conditions for the democratic development of the media. Media must develop and be free not because it is of personal benefit to someone, but because it is of benefit to the whole society and citizens of our countries”, the Address concludes.