Moscow – Madrid, October 29th2020. October 28th, Madrid hosted the 9th International Conference “Russia and Europe: Topical Issues of Contemporary International Journalism”. Due to the ban on mass events in Spain, many participants this year have connected and performed online..
The agenda of the event declared acute problems for the European and Russian media market: transformation of the principles of international cooperation under the influence of new media technologies, communication and media in relations between Russia and Europe, diplomacy as a buffer zone between media and politics. However, the speakers also discussed the impact of the pandemic on the development of journalism in our countries: thus, in his welcoming speech, the head of the Federal Agency for Press and Mass Communications of the Russian Federation Mikhail Seslavinsky noted: “The pandemic and self-isolation have become a real test. However, as never before, we felt not disunity, but unity in the fight against the virus, which turned out to be equally dangerous for everyone. This is the time of rethinking the profession of a journalist itself: as at any critical time, it begins to acquire universal functions”. Journalistic material, according to Mr. Seslavinsky, can become an incentive for qualitative changes in politics and everyday life of people: as an example, he cited the emergence of “decision journalism”, which allows citizens and authorities to take the right steps by discussing them on open media platforms.
During the thematic sessions of the event the participants could hear the presentations of the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to the Kingdom of Spain and Andorra, Yuri Korchagin, Head of the Russian Center for Science and Culture in Madrid Sergey Sarymov and Head of Press Centre, Deputy Director of the Department of Information and Press of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Alexander Bikantov,. deputy Editor-in-Chief of the International Affairs magazine Mikhail Kurakin. Russian and European media experts, representatives of international public organizations, diplomatic departments and institutions also took part in the discussion, among them – Anis Bazhrektarevich, editor-in-chief of Modern Diplomacy (Austria), Srdja Trifkovic, writer, journalist, columnist for Chronicles magazine (Serbia), Sergey Nikonov, Associate Professor of Higher Schools of Journalism and Mass Communication of St. Petersburg State University, Thomas Roper, publisher Anti-Spiegel (Germany), Natalia Sudlenkova, journalist, “Pražský Telegraf”, media consultant (Czech Republic), Zlatko Hadžidedić, political scientist, Director of the Center for Nationalism Studies (Bosnia-Herzegovina) and other experts.
One of the most important topics of discussion at the conference was the search for a balance between populism and quality journalism. It is very important to establish a media ecosystem in which politics will have as little impact on the media environment as possible. Anastasia Pacina, media expert from the Czech Republic, noted that the mass media has become very important in citizens` comprehension of politics in Russia: “Nowadays, in times of media dominance, not only an entertainment sphere and the economy but also political sphere and political activists have to adopt their campaigners and to integrate their narratives, actions and expectations into the mass media context. Thence, today social media platforms and social networks are widely
used by politicians including populists as an effective channel for communicating with people and for promoting ideas to the masses”.
The cornerstone of the discussion was the issue of alternative media and propaganda. Can a propagandist be considered a good journalist if he fulfills the task of the editorial board? Can an equal sign be put between alternative media and free media? Why can’t the media controlled by states and corporations a priori be considered free?
The participants in the discussion came to the conclusion that the creation of a journalistic network built on the principles of honesty and respect, and designed to embrace and protect the European and Russian media from political populism, is the guarantee of “liberating” the media. The speakers noted that it is communication based on the principles of mutual understanding that will allow each media to become an alternative – an alternative to nationalism, authoritarianism, aggression and short-sighted political decisions.
The international conference “Russia and Europe: Topical Issues of Contemporary International Journalism” is held every year in various countries. The event is traditionally attended by heads of European media, politicians, diplomats, scientists, political scientists, management of international companies.
The first conference, held in November 2011 in Paris, showed how important the topic of interaction between Russian and European media is both for the media themselves and for their audiences. Russian and European media called the event “the most important event in the international media space”. The conference participants in different years noted that the pluralism of opinions gives a positive effect only in conjunction with the willingness to listen and hear their conditional opponent. Therefore, the media can play a positive role in the Russian-European reset, but for this it is necessary to get rid of clichés, fill the media field with high-quality analytics, not be afraid to express an alternative opinion and seek compromises.
The conference was organized by the International Affairs magazine of the Russian Foreign Ministry and the Federal Agency for Press and Mass Communications.