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In a time where freedom of information is on decline all around the world, the Nordic states remain on top of the list over countries with the highest level of press freedom.
Hundreds of Norwegians and Russians arrived in the first week of February in the town of Kirkenes on the Russian-Norway border to see the spectacular installations, to visit unusual exhibitions and to speculate about the future of the Arctic territories at the international art festival Barents Spektakel.
Who are we – and who we want to be
Although the BP is said to be a network of journalists in the Barents Region it is dealing with a lot of the most important issues for journalists and their ability to perform as free and individual professionals.
– The press freedom is declining. Now the commercial interests are limiting us in the West, said chairman of the Finnish BP, Timo Sipola.
Like the Indian “Pow wow” was a way to renew thought of the old ways and to preserve a rich heritage the BP youngsters gathered with peers from all the four countries as well as with two Canadian journalist students who were in the Barents region for the first time. Foto: Robert Sandström
The description of media companies buying smaller media and limiting the former competition is not only in Finland. It is happening in all the western countries. At the same time the Russian journalists are experiencing a worsening in their conditions. The regional administrators appoint the redactors – and in return they have to please their benefactors.
– Freedom is good, but shall we live of, asks Jelena Larionovna from the Barents Press office in Murmansk.
– The most serious problem is that we don’t take action. Most journalists don’t want to protect other journalist, says executive Secretary from the Russian Union of Journalists, Pavel Gutiontov.
Lets talk about BP
Robert Sandström who stepped down as chairman after 2 years on duty made it clear already in the opening speech. We need to rethink and define what Barents Press should be. Sandström said on behalf of the Swedish delegation that next year’s annual meeting in Umeå in Sweden will be exactly about this.
– For two days we are going to discuss only the Barents Press.
His radical proposal to enlarge the network from Barents Press into Arctic Press did not get any comments in Levi.
Why should we go to BP?
One thing is the meeting during the weekend of the annual gathering. Another thing is the social gatherings during the Night - after all the formal discussions. During my own participating at the after party in one of the rooms, where some of the Young journalist provided dance music, beer and discussions it all came again.
– We are young journalist students and we were encouraged to go to Levi. We actually asked what is Barents Press. And because nobody was able to answer a lot of us refused to go.
My conversation partner is a young Finnish student who is full of energy and ideas for the Future. He is glad he went though scepticism bothered him before the meeting,
– Now I understand what you are working with and this is really interesting, he claims.
The youngster’s creativeness, initiative and energy are visible at the facebook site B.P.Y. Barents Press Youth. In the moment of writing they have 144 participants. Check it out!
The Russian delegation this year was the biggest since year ago. Foto: BP Russia
Pow wow with new solutions
The young journalist students also had their own night “Pow-wow” around the fire in the wooden “kota” and with inspiration from young energy and ideas Esa Viipola, a media student from the Oulo University of applied science came up with the idea of establishing cooperation between the education Institutions in the Barents region. He suggested that by publishing pictures taken from another part of the region than your own we would have a new possibility to encourage the formation of the “ Barents spirit”.
Like the Indian “Pow wow” was a way to renew thought of the old ways and to preserve a rich heritage the BP youngsters gathered with peers from all the four countries as well as with two Canadian journalist students who were in the Barents region for the first time.
What happened to the interest?
– We were supposed to get to know each other better, but what happened? Asks Gunnar Sætra from Norway. He has been within the network all of these years and is experiencing a decline in interest among journalists to care about the life and the situation in the neighbouring countries.
But development goes on with or without the interest of journalists. Now the wheel of energy hunger is rolling north – and with that the money flow. The new attention from the oil and gas thirsty developed world is exceeding the speed of development in the Barents Region. Now the journalists in the capitals are getting interested – and that’s the time when the journalists within the region also should take action.
Think about it
The enlightening discussions about the situation during the meeting and the fact that the young journalists now are taking interest in participating within the BP is very encouraging. Although we miss a clearly stated goal for our network – we are doing a lot of very important work for journalists.
Remember we are the only network of journalist that the authorities can turn to when it comes to questions about journalism within the Barents region.
I therefore urge all of you to think over what Barents Press is for you and what you would like it to be.
Morten Ruud, Chairman of the international Board
Foto: Robert Sandström, Ex-chairman of the international Board