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15 Jun, 2008 11:39

Russian journalists debate press freedom

About a thousand delegates from 70 countries were in Moscow this week for the tenth World Congress of the Russian press which ran from June 11-13. Home journalists based abroad came together to discuss press freedom and keeping Russia's culture alive on t

Speaking at the event, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said the country wouldn’t stand by and do nothing while some nations effectively censored the Russian language and newspapers written in Russian.

“It’s a sensitive issue for us as we are talking about the preservation of a vitally important cultural and informational environment for our compatriots,” he said. “Russia can’t turn a blind eye to this and we will certainly be trying to react adequately”.

Medvedev said the government support the idea of a free media, the rule of law and human rights. He said the internet was important and contributed to press freedom.

“Currently we are working on the development of our political system, that’s why both today and in the future our prominent landmarks will be the building of a free and responsible society, maintaining human rights and the freedom of the press, freedom of speech and of course, the supremacy of law,” he said.

The Russian President also encouraged the Russian-speaking media to help achieve these goals. He said the press could play a role in combating social ills such as extremism and xenophobia.

“We will use all possible means to fight extremism and religious and national hate crimes within the country. These means are those in the possession of the law enforcement bodies and the Russian judicial system. I understand that such threats may be fought through the media and in that regard you have a profound and serious mission, but to fight these threats we have to use the law,” Medvedev added.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin also spoke at the gathering. He said Russia would continue to support the Russian-language press abroad.

“It's known that the Russian diaspora is one of the largest in the world. It is unique because it consists of people belonging to different nationalities. It is as open as Russia. But diversity of religions, ethnic groups and traditions are all united by the Russian language,” said Vladimir Putin.

Journalists debated Russian as a language of global information and the role of Russian in the development of civilisation.

Media professionals also discussed how the press can reliably cover events both in Russia and abroad.

The Congress also aimed at strengthening international humanitarian contacts.

The three-day event was organised by ITAR-TASS and the World Association of Russian Press (WARP).

The Director-General of UNESCO, the UN’s education and culture body, attended. Koichiro Matsuura was invited by ITAR-TASS.

The congress is an international non-governmental organization, which unites producers and distributors of information in Russian.

Previous congresses were held in Russia, the U.S., Germany, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Finland, Kazakhstan and France.

The Russian language is currently spoken by at least 300 million people, and almost 350 million understand it. It is the fourth most widely spoken language in the world.