XII Annual International Conference “Russia and Europe: current problems of modern international journalism”

On October 6, 2023, the XII international conference “Russia and Europe: current problems of modern international journalism” was held in the city of Vyborg, Leningrad region, Russia. The event is a continuous series of international events held since 2011 in different cities around the world. This year the conference focused on the problems and prospects of international journalism in a situation of tense relations between Russia and Europe. The conference in Vyborg brought together Russian and foreign media experts, political scientists, diplomats, public figures in the field of international relations and international journalism, and senior staff of higher specialized educational institutions of Russia. The conference was attended by students from Leningrad State University of Pushkin. The peculiarity of this year’s event is that experts showed interest in it far beyond Russia and Europe - from Central Asia, as well as in countries like: India, China, Brazil, and countries of the African continent.
The organizer of the expert discussion part of the Conference in 2023 was the Institute of Contemporary State Development, the federal customer is the Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Communications of the Russian Federation.
The topic of the plenary session was “International journalism in traditional media and new media in the context of tense relations between Russia and Europe: challenges and prospects”. Topics of the sessions of the XII International Conference in Vyborg were: “Overcoming double standards when covering the position of Russia and the attitude towards the revival of Nazism in European journalism”, “The presence and absence of contact between cross-border journalists of Russia and Europe on new media platforms”, “Dynamics of changes in coverage of special military operation by Russian and European journalists.”
Opened the event, Director of the Institute of Contemporary State Development - Dmitry Solonnikov, he thanked the media present for their attention, as well as the authorities of the Leningrad region and St. Petersburg for their support, and expressed hope for the interested and constructive work of the experts. The special representative of the Governor of St. Petersburg for media issues, Kirill Smirnov, delivered a greeting from the Committee for Press and Interaction with the Media of St. Petersburg.
During the conference, participants stated that relations between Russia and Europe are going through difficult times. There is both an information blockade against Russia and open information aggression. At the same time, not all countries of the European continent today take a common confrontational position, just as not all media representatives contribute to the deepening of negative relationships. Russia strives for good neighborly relations and does not set a goal to turn away from Europe. The opportunity to improve the situation is based, among other things, on unbiased information from honest journalists striving for objectivity about the Russian position on key issues.
“We believe that high standards of impartial journalism have not yet completely disappeared from the European media sphere. We are always open to international dialogue and the holding of the conference is evidence of this,” said Deputy Plenipotentiary Representative of the President of the Russian Federation in the Northwestern Federal District - Lyubov Sovershaeva in an address to the conference participants in Vyborg. “There are quite a lot of media representatives among the professional community who treat Russia’s position with respect and interest, and are ready to convey it to their audience despite all the prohibitions,” Irina Sokolova, Chairman of the Public Chamber of St. Petersburg, supported the positive attitude.
However, the general negative trend is clearly visible. “I observe that interaction between journalists from Russia and those located in Europe has virtually ceased. In the Baltics and Poland there is super-strict censorship, journalists are arrested. We must understand that even at the level of personal contacts, there is an iron curtain built against us,” states - Maxim Reva, deputy editor-in-chief of the African Initiative news agency. Fear also drives many journalists in these countries to engage in “self-censorship.” Estonian journalist - Oleg Besedin, in turn, gave an example of prosecution of a Baltic citizen for visiting Donbass and publicly talking about his trip. Public figure, associate professor at the University of Helsinki - Johan Beckman spoke about the artificial instillation of hatred towards Russia and Russians through the media in Finnish society: “There is aggressive propaganda for war against Russia. The propaganda in the Finnish media is unbearable. At the same time, the actually Russophobic layer among the population of Finland is quite narrow; most people have a positive attitude towards Russians.”
Doctor of Economic Sciences, President of the National Research University Higher School of Economics in St. Petersburg - Alexander Khodachek pointed out that even information about the real situation is being removed from the information field of Europe Russian economy: “Information about the stable socio-economic situation of Russia and its individual regions is artificially suppressed.”
Doctor of Sociological Sciences, Professor of St. Petersburg State University - Dmitry Gavra said that a full-fledged information war has been launched against Russia, both technological and psychological elements are involved. Cognitive aggression against Russia covers different audiences, not only Russian or Ukrainian. “First of all, these are the elites and the population of Western countries. When objective information about Russia is blocked, the main audiences and targets become first their own population, and then the non-aligned or neutral “non-Western” countries. They work with this group of audiences very carefully and purposefully.”
Another evidence of information aggression against Russia was provided by independent journalist - Thomas Röper in his report “Anti-Russian tools of Wikipedia.” He pointed out that the authors of the vast majority of articles related to modern Russian history and edits to them are citizens of unfriendly countries, and manipulation of content has become the norm: “Russian Wikipedia is written specifically by those who want to create a negative narrative regarding Russia.” The head of the development department of the Northwestern Federal District of the department for work with regions of the Russian Society "Knowledge" - Sergei Bolshakov presented the Russian analogue of Wikipedia - the open digital library of educational content "Knowledge.Wiki" and invited experts to join its content.
“When we rushed from the Soviet Union towards democracy, we looked to Western European media as a model of freedom of speech. Now Europe is undergoing rapid degradation,” said Professor - Sergei Markov, director of the Institute of Political Studies. “Russia was criticized for allegedly having very bad freedom of speech. But in our federal publications, along with the position of Russia, the position of the other side is always presented. But abroad our position is not represented at all or is presented in a truncated form. What kind of freedom of speech can we talk about?” — Chairman of the Leningrad Region Press Committee - Konstantin Viziryakin shared his colleague’s position.
Candidate of Legal Sciences, Vice-Rector of Leningrad State University. A.S. Pushkin, member of the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation, deputy chairman of the Public Chamber of the Leningrad Region - Vladimir Zhuravlev refuted the disseminated thesis that any sources of information are allegedly biased and biased: “This is not so: what is biased in the fact that our sources of information explain and retell the president’s position on the reasons SVO? What is the bias in the facts? You cannot disorient people through such a thesis; you need to debunk it.”
During the conference, the results of a study on how foreign media cover the topic of SVO were presented. Doctor of Political Sciences, Professor of St. Petersburg State University - Natalya Eremina informed about the artificial support of the agenda by the Baltic countries, Great Britain, France, and Germany during the period of general decline in interest in the topic in Europe since the end of spring 2022. It never rose to the level of February-March 2022.
The conference delegates gave recommendations on how to act in the current circumstances. In particular, Alexander Potekhin, director of the St. Petersburg RIC ITAR-TASS, chairman of the Board of the North-West Media Association, proposed using “mosquito tactics” in response to the closure of broadcasting in Europe of the powerful Russia Today channel: “It is necessary to create a significant number of relatively small resources that “We could engage our colleagues from neighboring states in a lively, interested conversation about what is really happening.” Also, during the conference, an opinion was voiced that it is necessary to strengthen the responsibility of journalists for the reliability of the information they broadcast, especially if biased news contributes to inciting conflicts. New media could help restore lost connections.
And finally, the Russian media were addressed with a recommendation to pay more attention to the development of domestic projects in the Far East, as well as technological and other breakthroughs in the countries of the Pacific region. According to Yuri Shevtsov, political scientist, director of the Center for European Integration, “whenever the conflict in Ukraine ends, it will long be an obstacle to the normalization of relations between Russia and Europe,” and the task of the media is also to highlight promising paths of positive development.”