Essence of partnerships
[b]V Belarusian International Media Forum outlines new paths of information communication[/b] Journalists are naturally curious, so those at the Belarusian International Media Forum secretly hoped not only to visit forum sessions in Minsk, but also to travel the country. Many had ideas that Belarus boasts interesting, as well as economically and politically demonstrational, sites. They weren’t mistaken. The organisers and hosts of the media event arranged trips to the country’s leading enterprises, agricultural farms and construction sites, as part of the Contemporary Belarus: a Detached View project. Of course, a cultural programme was also envisaged, including tickets to Carmen at the National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre. The media were able to cover every possible sphere at Minsk’s forum, discussing their themes against a background of fresh impressions. The great hospitability demonstrated by the hosts was evident and didn’t go unnoticed.
Journalists are naturally curious, so those at the Belarusian International Media Forum secretly hoped not only to visit forum sessions in Minsk, but also to travel the country. Many had ideas that Belarus boasts interesting, as well as economically and politically demonstrational, sites. They weren’t mistaken. The organisers and hosts of the media event arranged trips to the country’s leading enterprises, agricultural farms and construction sites, as part of the Contemporary Belarus: a Detached View project. Of course, a cultural programme was also envisaged, including tickets to Carmen at the National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre. The media were able to cover every possible sphere at Minsk’s forum, discussing their themes against a background of fresh impressions. The great hospitability demonstrated by the hosts was evident and didn’t go unnoticed.
On being asked what most astonished him about the Forum, the General Secretary of the International Journalist Unions Confederation, Ashot Dzhazoyan, noted that the event had a warm atmosphere — making it a home from home. Mr. Dzhazoyan expressed the opinion of all guests in saying that the event was a very useful communicative arena in which to gather journalists from almost 20 countries worldwide. Most were from the post-Soviet space: Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. One of the major discussions was on integration within the post-Soviet space — a topical issue looking at today’s problems and tomorrow’s prospects.
Officials invited to the event were able to speak on the benefits of these integration structures. They gave compelling arguments regarding politics, economics, the social sphere and, even, the successful implementation of joint space projects.
However, the conversation particularly focused on problems hampering integration processes, with participants receiving suggestions to provide more social information about the lives of ordinary people.
Life within the post-Soviet space has changed dramatically, with the new generation growing up almost unaware of life in Soviet days. However, the thirst for community is still evident, as participants agreed. They believe it to be vital to preserve one’s own identity while embracing globalisation, consolidating efforts to jointly solve humanitarian problems. Many are convinced that international and inter-confessional relations must receive attention, alongside science education, the distribution of information, the promotion of culture and awareness of ecological issues.
“We’re currently living in information isolation, unaware of what’s going on in neighbouring countries or even on other TV channels,” admitted famous Russian TV observer Lev Nikolaev, a host with the First TV Channel. “The meetings are extremely useful. They are a practical way of enriching our working arsenal. We can learn about new methods while discussing problems in receiving information and reacting to it.”
“Journalism should warn society about dangers,” mused the General Secretary of International Journalist Unions Confederation. “I’d like to underline the most important journalistic mission, which we’ve somehow forgotten: assisting people. Newspapers should be more effective.”
There were many interesting topical discussions at the Forum, referring to life and professional activities. The Internet’s competition with newspapers and television is one of the most acute issues for today’s journalistic community. According to Mr. Dzhazoyan, circulations have fallen due to widespread blogs and news websites. Many specialists believe that web resources may soon completely replace newspapers. At present, for Belarusian editions and journalism, this problem isn’t so acute.
“Today, the media in Belarus are one of the most dynamic segments of society,” notes Oleg Proleskovsky, Belarus’ Information Minister. “We’ve managed to preserve circulations of our printed editions despite all difficulties. Even district newspapers are often self-sufficient. Of course, the state should support the media, allowing it to implement social, historical, cultural and humanitarian projects.”
The President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, sent his greetings, attaching great importance to the event. Its high status was also stressed by Vladimir Makei, the Head of the Presidential Administration, who took part. He is convinced that the Forum is ‘a perfect venue for the sincere and open exchange of opinions on topical issues’. Mr. Makei notes that the media is the most important instrument in forming public opinion, but is saddened that it can also be used as ‘the most powerful weapon in politics and economics, used for lobbying and propaganda’. He wishes that the growth of the media’s influence were accompanied by greater responsibility, saying, “If we believe that the media is a mirror, we should do all we can to ensure it’s clear and transparent, rather than distorting the truth. We shouldn’t forget that the media reflects our world while also creating and changing it.”
Of course, journalists shouldn’t impose their opinions on us when these are unrelated to the truth, but this does happen. Sometimes, information wars are launched and facts are distorted; publications can be filled with hypocrisy and contradiction. Mr. Dzhazoyan noted that ‘journalism has become a service industry’. Fulfilling an economic or political order, the media don’t think of the destructive power of their materials, which can humiliate or offend a country. It’s especially distressing when such publications and reports are prepared by Russian journalists. Pavel Yakubovich, the Editor-in-Chief of SB newspaper, cited certain especially sharp examples in his speech at the Forum.
The Forum was useful in many respects. Despite students having their examinations, leaving them little time for other activities, they flocked to the event, surprising the professional journalists in attendance. Their master classes boasted full houses, as students from the Belarusian State University’s Journalism department joined those from journalistic departments of other Belarusian universities in travelling to the event. They spent several consecutive hours listening to advice from the experts, and interrogated them in return with their questions. Clearly, the students were keen to gain all they could from this unique media forum.
Belarus’ Information Minister, Oleg Proleskovsky, notes that these future journalists were keen to learn from the Forum’s announced topics and professional teachers.
Belarus advocates open dialogue between politicians and media representatives, as the Head of the Presidential Administration stressed. He proposed that the 6th International Media Forum be organised in Minsk — and the idea was immediately approved unanimously. Belarusian good nature was apparent at the event, as proven by those in attendance.
Gulnora Amirshoeva, Editor-in-Chief of Vecherny Dushanbe newspaper:
Minsk’s international media forum enables journalists to share their experience while gaining closer acquaintance with Belarus. I believe that such meetings between journalists from post-Soviet countries are very efficient. Previously, when we all lived in one country, we used to communicate more often. Now, we stew in our own juice and are sometimes unaware of how our neighbours live and what they are achieving. The Forum is a venue for sharing life and professional experience, as well as disseminating information on various countries.
Armen Smbatyan, Executive Director of the CIS Interstate Humanitarian Co-operation Foundation:
We’ll continue the work launched by the media community in Minsk. I think that the press club of CIS journa-lists will become a place for discussion and sharing common ideas. Today, the world is highly politicised. We should do something to ensure we tell the real truth about each other.
Maxim Shevchenko, a host of the Judge for Yourself analytical programme on the First TV Channel (Russia):
Journalists should make efforts to preserve a cold mind and sober view of events when speaking of economics and politics. There are many political opponents, financed from abroad, who also have the right to express their viewpoints. However, they are ready to break everything and work to continue the separation of the post-Soviet space. We should preserve our commonality, which we’ve inherited from our ancestors.
The participants of the Forum adopted Minsk’s Infinitive, which unanimously expresses our readiness to keep the media from becoming a source of tension — stirring disagreements, spreading rumours and using rhetoric to inflame national egoism.
By Victor Mikhailov