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Speech at the Opening of X World Russian Press Congress

June 11, 2008


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Delegates to the World Russian Press Congress, dear friends,

It gives me genuine pleasure to address this influential forum. I will try to live up to the hopes that Vitaly Nikitich [Ignatenko, general director of ITAR-TASS] has placed on me.

Present here today are delegates and guests from almost 70 different countries. You have chosen to hold your tenth, jubilee congress here in Russia, in Moscow.

I would like to wish a special welcome to Mr Matsuura, the director general of UNESCO, who has always given his attention to the Congressĺ work and to the particular role the media play in affirming humanistic values and strengthening culture in general.

The high level of representation at this Congress is a serious sign that the Russian-speaking media community is beginning to unite. Consolidation is clearly underway today among all the numerous elements of the Russian world, of which the Russian-language press is an integral part.

You and our compatriots abroad, of course, are to thank in many ways for the fact that Russian journalists have always maintained high professional standards and enjoy a high reputation to this day. It is clear to all of us that the Russian language is one of the leading languages for international communication and that interest in it is on the rise.

To quote figures that you already know well yourselves but that illustrate todayĺs situation, some 300 million people in more than 80 different countries read the Russian-language press. 

In the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when the Russian press abroad was only just beginning to develop (Vitaly Nikitich and I just visited the exhibition and it was very interesting) a little more than 200 publications came out, while today, several thousand different print and broadcast media come out outside Russia.

It is pleasing to see that the Russian press abroad is becoming ever more diverse. Alongside the traditional social and political publications there are many new specialized publications. Among the most significant new developments I also want to note the emergence of a whole number of new Russian-language radio stations and television channels.

With such a large and diverse audience we have a duty to give our utmost attention to the problems of the Russian-language press, both in neighbouring countries and further abroad and to support the most socially significant projects in this area. 

Other facts too oblige us to respond. In some countries there are cases of deliberate and premeditated action to squeeze Russian-language publications from the information space and this cannot but worry us.

This is a very sensitive issue because it concerns the preservation of what is essentially the main information and cultural environment for a large number of our compatriots. Russia cannot simply look on indifferently. We will try to make the appropriate responses to unfortunate cases of this kind.

We also hope that the voice of public opinion will make itself heard in these countries and that the uniting force of the World Russian Press Association will play its irreplaceable role. Indeed, the Associationĺs role is growing all the time and new members are joining.

When the Association began its work it brought together 100 publications in 37 different countries. Today it represents 700 well known publications and this is not the limit.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Associationĺs president, Vitaly Nikitich Ignatenko, who has held this post all this time, and all of you for your enthusiastic and indeed truly selfless work. Your efforts have united millions of our compatriots abroad. You are the main thread binding them with the Motherland and enabling them to preserve their native language and culture and the spirit of Russia itself.

Dear friends, this jubilee Congress is taking place on the eve of our national holiday ľ Russia Day. We are currently in the process of developing our political system. Our immutable guiding lines in this work, today and in the future, are the construction of a just and responsible society, respect for human rights, freedom of the press and freedom of speech and, of course, ensuring the supremacy of the law. This is something I wanted to say especially to this esteemed audience, even though I have spoken frequently on this subject of late.

I think that our present economic achievements and Russiaĺs participation in deciding the problems and programmes of global economic development are also subjects of particular interest to you. These are subjects of concern to all of us, the complex issues that we traditionally name Ĺglobal challengesĺ. 

Finally, the values of the rule of law and civil society are our unquestionable priorities.

As you know, UNESCO has declared 2008 the International Year of Languages. Its cornerstone idea of a culturally diverse world echoes in many respects the issues we addressed in Russia during Russian Language Year [in 2007], which I think was a very successful event. The issue of cultural diversity also ties in very closely with the Year of Literature and Reading taking place this year in the CIS countries.

Your work is directly linked to our common concern for our compatriots and for preserving the status of the Russian language. In this context, the specially established Russian World Fund has a particular part to play. It provides support in the form of grants not just to libraries and cultural centres (which to a certain degree went on earlier) but to the Russian-language media in general. I know that you will hold a round table with the Fund over the coming days and I hope that new projects will come out of this meeting.

The recently established CIS Humanitarian Cooperation Fund is also holding a meeting on the sidelines of the Congress. I think that our colleagues from the CIS countries will have the chance to organise their contacts with this international body, which already has a good number of interesting international media cooperation projects in its portfolio. 

Russia will continue to support projects aimed at bringing people closer together through information. We will support the development of new types of work in the media, above all in the electronic media. I think this is important and I have already spoken on this subject a number of times. I think this is important because it is precisely technological progress that can bring true freedom to the media in the world today. Not state guarantees and pledges and not even money, though also necessary, are as important today as technological progress. We live in an era when information channels and the mass media have become global, and this is probably where their strength lies. 

But at the same time this raises difficult questions about protecting content, as the professionals say, that is, enforcing copyright. This also involves global challenges because in the global world, unfortunately, there are also global problems when it comes to protecting copyright. I think this is also something we should reflect on, something we should address in a separate discussion.

Dear friends, I would like to add a few words in conclusion. I said that we just visited the exhibition with the very symbolic name of ĹThe Russia we preservedĺ. The exhibition presents unique exhibits from the Russian-language media [abroad] covering more than 100 years of history.

To be honest, some of these things I was seeing for the first time and it was a real pleasure.

These exhibits show that even during our countryĺs most difficult periods responsible and honest Russian journalism has stood together with its people and its Fatherland.

We know and value this. The more confidently our country grows and the more open to the world we become, the more important and valuable is the unbroken link with our compatriots and the Russian-language press abroad.

I want to express my confidence that this feeling is mutual.

Once more, I would like to thank you all. I wish you new achievements and great success. I think we will have future opportunities to meet.

Thank you.

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