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"Responsibility and competence key for journalists”

“Freedom of speech suggests that a journalist should be competent and responsible,” Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said in his speech at the Forum of European and Asian Media on Wednesday.

“There can be many different opinions on how deep media freedom should be, but it calls for responsibility and competence. The main duty of a journalist is to tell the truth. But it is up to you to decide how you are going to do that,”Medvedev told the chief editors and journalists from the CIS countries.

For comments on President Medvedev’s statements, RT turned to the participants of the media forum from Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Armenia.

President Medvedev said journalists should be “competent and responsible”. Do agree with that, or do you consider it as indirect criticism on your part?

Vladimir Skachko, “Kiev Telegraph” newspaper, Ukraine

“I would say this is a very needed and a very ripe directive. It most likely proceeds from the idea that ‘a poet is much more than just a poet in Russia’ – so is a journalist in the post-soviet space – he is much more than just a journalist. It is an old habit that has been cultivated during many years. He is sort of a ‘retranslator’ of certain ideas and he is very much trusted. For instance, in Ukraine, people want a journalist to not only answer questions like ‘What? Where? When?’, but also ‘Why?’ and ‘What happens next?’ However, when there are personal assessments, they can lead to great discontent and even affect intergovernmental relations, making them worse. I am sure Mr. Medvedev definitely put certain criticism into these words. It is obvious that other presidents often criticize him for some statements from the Russian press – the same with him. He also reproaches their press. For instance, if he spoke to our president, Mr. Yushchenko, he would have many reasons to speak about the negative – I would even say Russophobic – policy of many Ukrainian media outlets that are under the direct patronage of state authorities. However, in my opinion, the president criticized media in general – both Russian and non-Russian, since we all do have common problems in many respects.”

Anna Shelepova, “New Generation” newspaper, Kazakhstan

“I fully share Mr. Medvedev’s idea and I do not think of it as criticism. Or if it is – it is directed at everyone, at the media of all countries. I am sure much depends on us, as journalists. All people have a different understanding about one and the same thing – and we, journalists, should simply retranslate what people say. So the audience’s understanding of this or that notion depends on how precisely we transfer it. That is why, I think, we should be very careful in our work. We should be honest. We should abstain from extreme judgments and should not write sponsored articles – that would also help to build bridges between the countries.”

Aleksandr Iskandaryan – Director of “Caucasus Institute”, Armenia

“Of course, in Armenia the media should be the media. So, it should be free, it should provide information to readers and viewers. The truth should be told. However, due to different reasons – political, economic and others – it is not always possible. I think the problem with the freedom of speech exists everywhere, even in the most developed countries. Armenia is not the worst example in terms of the development of the press and it is not the best either, of course. If the media is not responsible, if it is not professional, then it is propaganda, not media. In such cases it changes reality and people do not learn the truth about their own and other countries. Thus, the relations between countries become more complicated and sometimes worsen. If people do know the truth about what is happening in another state, the relations between countries can become better. The post-soviet space is torn apart: we have Russia and Georgia after the war, we have strained relations between Russia and Estonia after the story with the monument, we have relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, etc. If people in these countries have an opportunity to get full and truthful information about what is happening in other countries – it will be easier for them to find [common ground].”

What are your general impressions from communicating with Dmitry Medvedev?

VS: “I liked very much Medvedev’s general approach. He did not try to lecture us; he did not try to be a teacher, so the communication progressed in a very light and friendly manner. Obviously, there were people who wanted to get particular answers, but there were also those who simply wanted to praise him, to pay him a compliment – and he has managed to pass ‘between Scylla and Charybdis’ with ease and confidence. I have Ukrainian politics to compare with – and Mr. Medvedev is standing one step above other politicians in the so called ‘post-soviet political elite.’ He is one of those ‘new generation’ leaders, who have no burden of the Soviet past. So he is able to formulate ideas, to explain the reasons for steps to be taken and he clearly sees the purpose he believes should be reached, which is very important.”

AS: “Well, I think Medvedev’s speech was simply perfect. It did not contain any flattery or hypocrisy. There was also a good deal of sound humor. He quickly and readily answered all the questions – and did it in a very dynamic and knowledgeable way. He managed not to step beyond the limits and expressed himself in a very simple and light manner, without affectation and without using any complicated words or special terms – so everything was understandable to everyone who was there or will hear or read his answers later. I also liked very much what he said about problems with xenophobia which exist not only in Russia, but also in all countries. I suppose it is a very serious problem and people should really understand that it is not just Russia’s problem, but a common one!”

AI: “The overall impression was very good. The president’s speech was lively, undoubtedly showing quite a liberal attitude, which is very important with the media. Liberal relations with the media are necessary for its work in the liberal sphere. Also, I think it is important that President Medvedev said that we – the people living on the post-soviet territory – sometimes should not just preserve what we used to have, but to build new models of interaction. What has happened is over and done with. It was 10, 20 or even 100 years ago, and very often it is part of history. We should search for new opportunities to cooperate instead of speaking endlessly about our legacy, our past life in the Soviet Union.”