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“A symbol of hope” – Acceptance speech by Lukpan Akhmedyarov

Oct. 12 2012, at the National Press Club, Washington D.C.

Lukpan Akhmedyarov speaks about hope and freedom in Kazakhstan.It is a big honor for me to receive this prize. I look on it however not as an award for my service but as a symbol of hope and optimism for all of my colleagues – the journalists of Kazakhstan, for whom court hearings, investigation by the authorities and arrest have long since become a part of their everyday work.

Although my name is inscribed on this prize, there are many other people who deserve this award for courageous and ethical news coverage in Kazakhstan.

And there are people who deserve this prize more than I.

In my place could have been Tamara Yeslyamova, a brave woman from Uralsk who 11 years ago founded the newspaper Uralsk Week.

What began as a small, local paper is today among the most influential publications of the region and a beacon of freedom for thousands of its readers. In my place today could have been Igor Vinyavskiy, editor of the newspaper Vzglyad, who was arrested by the Kazakh authorities for his work as a journalist.

There is no doubt that in my place should be standing Yermurat Bapi, who was banned by a Kazakh court ruling from working as a journalist. And of course this award was earned by my colleague Askhat Sharipzhanov, who was killed for his work as a journalist.

The examples of these people testify to the fact that in Kazakhstan there are journalists for whom this work is not merely a way to earn a living but reflects the conviction of genuine service to society.

There is a saying: “Freedom is like the dawn – some choose to sleep through it, others wake up while it is still nighttime so they don’t miss anything.” There are hundreds of Kazakh journalists who, through their work, are those people bringing the sunrise over Kazakhstan closer and closer.

I would like to offer this clock, bearing the image of Kazakhstan on its face, to the organization Reporters Without Borders.
This clock is stopped – a symbol of the fact that in Kazakhstan time has come to a standstill. The hands of this clock are pointed to midnight. This is the midnight of totalitarianism and dictatorship in which Kazakhstan lives at present. However the minute-hand on this clock has been pushed forward by just one minute. This signifies the hope that the dawn of freedom and common sense will break soon in my country.

Thank you for your attention.