Eurasian Media Forum: review
text: Gazeta.kz , exclusively for Gazeta.kz
President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan launched the annual Eurasian Media Forum Tuesday with a call for international cooperation on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, setting the scene for a lively panel discussion with senior delegates from Iran.
KAZAKH LEADER WIELDS INTERNATIONAL AND REGIONAL AUTHORITY
Speaking in Almaty, he also urged the people of neighbouring Kirghizstan to ensure a rapid return to peace and stability after the recent political upheaval across the nearby Central Asian frontier
The Kazakh leader was speaking with the added international and regional authority of his country's current chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which was the theme of the first full debate in the Forum.
In his welcoming remarks to the ninth annual Forum, President Nursultan recalled that Kazakhstan had been a strong advocate at the recent Global Summit in Washington of measures to achieve better international control over programmes for developing nuclear power. The uncontrolled spread of nuclear weapons was making them more accessible to international terrorists. "There is a great risk of the use of 'dirty bombs'", he warned.
Without mentioning any specific countries, he said: "We believe that all countries have an equal right to carry out atomic power research. At the same time, no one should cross the line separating a peaceful nuclear programme from a military programme."
Repeating his call for the establishment of nuclear-free zones, in the Middle East and elsewhere, President Nursultan stressed the need to reassure the non-nuclear countries that might agree to take part.
"It is important for the world's nuclear nations to give all states participating in such zones solid guarantees of security and support in developing peaceful nuclear programmes," he argued.
Turning to the Central Asian region, the leader of Kazakhstan deplored the recent bloodshed in neighbouring Kirghizstan and described events there as "a simple power struggle" between two elite groups, not a popular revolution in the true sense. Two serious political crises there in the past five years had shown that conflict was inevitable when the authorities fail to improve the living conditions of the people, to guarantee security and to ensure ethnic and religious tolerance.
President Nursultan said Kazakhstan, which had been actively involved in helping Kirghizstan to resolve its internal crisis, would continue to provide humanitarian and economic assistance to its neighbour, but he warned that the Kirgiz people must put their own state in order.
"At the same time, I again call on all political forces in Kyrgyzstan, the entire people, to ensure the rapid re-establishment of peace, stability, law and order, without which neither investment nor development is possible," he declared.
"Such developments once again confirm the relevance of Kazakhstan's initiatives on economic integration of the countries of the region for common development and common security," he added.
Dr Dariga Nazarbayeva, chair of the Forum's organizing committee, stressed that Kazakhstan's rapid intervention had prevented a potential large-scale civil clash which could have had a catastrophic consequences for the whole of Central Asia. "However, it is premature to relax," she added. "The situation is Kirgizstan is still complex. Sovereignty is being currently tested there and we have to watch the situation very carefully," she said.
President Nazarbayev, reflecting on the importance of Kazakhstan's chairmanship of the OSCE, the President noted that he had been able to use the authority and influence of the pan-European organization to help resolve the Central Asian crisis.
As the first country from the CIS and from Central Asia to assume this post, Kazakhstan was in a strong position to enhance the influence and authority of the OSCE.
"We believe that the OSCE, stretching from Vancouver to Vladivostok, should take a very active part in forming a new architecture for the security of the world," he said.
IRAN REJECTS THREATS, DEMANDS EQUALITTY IN DIALOGUE WITH THE WEST
American and Western threats against Iran will simply not work, a senior Iranian official told the Eurasian Media Form in Almaty Tuesday.
Ramin Mehmanparast, Spokesman and Special Assistant to Iran's Minister of Foreign Affairs, was speaking in a debate on the theme of 'Unknown Iran' and its controversial nuclear development programme.
Outlining Iran's policy on the development of nuclear power, he said: "We believe that peaceful technology should be available for everyone and that no one should be allowed to use nuclear weapons. There should be no exception to this, not for the United States or for anyone else."
The problem was that nations that possessed a nuclear arsenal could threaten other countries and try to tell them what to do. The United States was threatening Iran because Tehran had a minimal possibility of responding. This was not acceptable.
Iran, a country with thousands of years of history, would only engage in dialogue on a basis of equality, he said. "If someone wants to talk to us it has be on equal terms. If someone threatens us, we stand up to them. Threats will not work."
Explaining his country's foreign policy, Ramin Mehmanparast said Iran in fact wanted to broaden the international dialogue and raise issues of much more fundamental change in the world's financial and economic structure.
David Merkel, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, said in response that understanding of policy differences could only come from dialogue, and he regretted that the spokesman for Iran had "shown very little interest in real dialogue".
America had been making efforts to engage Iran in dialogue even before President Barack Obama took office, but there had been no response from Tehran. Iran wanted to make an issue of its nuclear options, rather than actually develop nuclear power for peaceful purposes.
"When a country makes threats against its neighbours they have a right to be on the defensive. If the leadership of Iran really wants nuclear power for peaceful uses they would make sure they have the electricity grid to handle increased power and respond to other external comments," he said.
In a lively debate chaired by Peter Lavelle, Presenter, Russia Today Channel, several delegates expressed critical views about US policy towards Iran.
Maxim Shevchenko, Russian television talkshow host, said: "Global expansion is the essence of American imperialism. If they stop that it would threaten their very existence."
On the other hand, Iran was a self-sufficient country which prized its independence. "It is a symbol of humankind at this point in history," he said.
Hooshang Amiramahdi, President of the American Iranian Council, said there had been a history of mistrust on both sides between Iran and the West that had built up through numerous conflicts.
"Because of this history of mistrust, the West has developed an assumption that a strong Iran is a dangerous Iran, that a weak Iran is all right. What this means is that they will do whatever they can to cripple Iran - they will use sanctions to cripple Iran."
He argued that in fact a strong Iran would be a more stabilizing force: "A weaker Iran has always been a trouble maker."
Kairat Abusseitov, Ambassador of Kazakhstan to the United Kingdom, said there were inherent dangers in any review of nuclear policy. "There is a right of the Iranian government to develop peaceful uses of nuclear energy. But what happens has to be within the framework of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and related negotiations," he said.
Ulrich Tilgner, Iran Correspondent of Swiss Television, said he saw no early prospect for constructive dialogue between Iran and the West. When time runs out there is always the possibility of the use of force, he warned.
The Iranian authorities were trying to introduce reforms in their system of government, and foreign pressure to force regime change would not work.
"Sanctions will not lead anywhere, either," he said. "That option is based on a policy of the stick and the carrot. The stick may be very big, but the carrot cannot be found."
FEAR AND IGNORANCE DOMINATE MEDIA REPORTING OF PANDEMICS
The mass media and government health services have both largely failed in their task of informing the public about the risks of recent global pandemics such as 'swine flu'.
The answer? Better science and better communications. This was the consensus that emerged from a discussion by a panel of journalists and health experts at the annual Eurasian Media Forum taking place in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
Speakers agreed that media reporting of health issues was too often characterized by ignorance and misunderstanding of the risks, leading to public fear and anxiety. Many people thought swine flu was an urban myth. Others believed the vaccine would cause other illnesses. The result was general confusion.
Darren Murphy, former special adviser to the British Prime Minister's office, said the media in general were not good at reporting risk because they did not understand the science, but he also blamed governments for not being open enough in explaining the risks associated with pandemics.
He gave the example of a serious health scare which surrounded the use of MMR vaccine in the United Kingdom. The media carried reports indicating that the vaccine could cause autism in children, causing many people to refuse to take it. The reports turned out to be based on fraudulent data.
"The issue was extremely badly handled by the health department, the government and the media. What is appalling is that there are children who are dead today because they didn't get the vaccine," he said.
.A question from the audience: Why do the media get health stories wrong?
"We tend not to ask the right questions," Louise Voller, Deputy Editor, Chili Group, Denmark, responded. "We do not demand the kind of transparency from the authorities in these cases as we do for other reports."
The media should have health specialists on staff, but this was very expensive and difficult to justify for stories that often did not last long on the main news agenda, she added.
Umit Sezgin, Editor in Chief, TRT-Turk, Turkey, said some media cared more about their ratings than reporting the truth. "They don't know the truth and they don't take the trouble to find out," he said.
Big pharmaceutical companies sometimes used the media for their own purposes, he alleged.
"What can we do? Media companies need to deploy medical experts, but there is also a need to educate politicians, companies and others because their statements and announcement can scare the public," he added.
Oleg Kisselev, Director, of the Flu Research Institute, Russian Academy of Medical Science, said it was the task of both the media and the authorities to inform and advise the public. "We must deliver the message to every individual to go and get a vaccine. This must be communicated to the people."
Several speakers blamed journalists' lack of experience and training on reporting medical issues.
"Unfortunately, there are many broadcasters who are good announcers but not good reporters. You have to know the right questions to ask and how to refute the spin that some governments deliver," Stephen Cole, Senior Presenter, Al-Jazeera International and the overall chair of the conference, said.
Vladimir Rerikh, producer and journalist from Kazakhstan who was chairing the session, summed up the mood of the panel by calling for greater cooperation and transparency between the media and the health authorities. "This is a serious public relations challenge," he said. "We all have a duty to help the public understand the science and assess the risks."
CELEBRITY POLITICIANS ON WAY OUT?
Celebrity politicians risk defeat at the polls if they rely on image alone, without substance. The vogue for 'media star' political leaders may even be on its way out.
This was the consensus of a lively debate between journalists and experts on political image-making that closed this year's two-day Eurasian Media Forum in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
Summing up the arguments, Tim Arlott of Reuters Television, chairman of the session, said the discussion had come up with an optimistic conclusion: "Image is important but politicians still need to demonstrate that they have substance, real skills and policies."
Several speakers argued that the most successful politicians had always had both style and substance, even before the age of television. Television had made image seem more important, but politicians who relied on it could find that the public might soon tire of them.
Sandy Dumont, Founder and President of the World Association of Image Consultants, USA, explained how style and image could help to make a successful politician. The impression she was looking for, the 'sweet spot', was a combination of charisma and charm with a dash of old money. The impact must be "refined, cultured, classy, attractive… and covertly sexy."
Anyone in politics could benefit from added style, she said, but added: "I would never accept a political client who lacked substance."
The discussion turned to specific cases of 'media star' leaders.
David Lawday, Paris-based correspondent of Britain's New Statesman magazine, said President Nicolas Sarkozy had offered the French voters a total change of style from the past. "France wanted change and he provided it," he said.
President Sarkozy had deliberately presented himself as a man of the people and encouraged media scrutiny of his private life, unlike all previous French leaders. He had won the presidential election with these tactics, but now his popularity had slumped in the opinion polls. The French public seemed to regret that he had somehow lost the dignity and authority of office.
"In a way this may be a signal that the age of celebrity politicians is coming to an end," Lawday said.
In Italy, he added, Silvio Berlusconi was a media star who owned the media. He had created an image which appealed to a predominantly masculine audience but had deeply offended many women and sections of the Italian electorate who were more concerned with moral and spiritual values. This factor may even have led to him being physically attacked, Lawday noted.
Several panellists referred to the current British election campaign as an example of a relative newcomer, Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrat party, gaining unexpected popularity by demonstrating both style and substance in a televised debate, putting two more experienced but traditional politicians at least temporarily in the shade.
Russian members of the panel commented on the changing image of their leaders, from Soviet times to the present day. An old style politician like Leonid Brezhnev had also encouraged a certain image of himself as a hunter, which had worked in his day but would not be seen as appropriate in an age of animal rights movements. More recent attempts to convey a youthful, vigorous image had sometimes backfired and made a negative impact on public opinion.
Lyudmila Adilova of the Russian State University of Liberal Arts said President Boris Yeltsin's dancing exploits had been seen by many as improper conduct for a leader. "Such deviant behaviour reduces politics to entertainment and can undermine the whole political structure," she said.
Politicians must deliver meaningful messages, not just create carnival images, she added. The creation of an image was a device for a politician to look more interesting and get closer to the electorate.
On the other hand, Ashot Dzhazoyan, Secretary General of the International Confederation of Journalist Unions, Russia, argued that Vladimir Putin had projected a popular image of sporting achievement by having himself photographed as a bare-chested horseman, updating the Brezhnev bear-hunting style. "This was a new message from a new power," he said.
The task of television journalists now was to put politicians back into contact with ordinary people. Television needed to show ordinary people talking to politicians about real issues. The politicians in turn had to learn to be more reflective and responsive in dealing with the people and their concerns.
Alexander Arkhangelskiy of Culture TV Channel, Russia, warned that the whole medium of television was in decline, losing younger people who were turned off by what they saw as an outdated legacy of images of the past. The TV set was seen as an instrument of the older generation.
"The ones who are no longer watching television tend to be the younger, the most successful, the most energetic and the least interested in politics," he said.
He admitted that television could not yet be eliminated from politics, but argued that the age of artificially created images was over.
Guenter Knabe of Deutsche Welle, Germany, speaking from the floor, warned politicians against putting too much faith in "pop star wrapping". He added: "The people are more intelligent than the spin doctors believe."
The panel agreed.
Also in the "In Depth"
09.01.2013 2012 marked by multiple events in Kazakhstan