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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.
Barents Press Annual Сonference in Levi has left many impressions. One can see this in number and and volume of publications of the Russian journalists about the event. The article by Svetlana Loichenko journalist from Arkhangelsk, is one of them.
Levi is a small but rather known mountain-skiing resort. It's in the Polar region, in Lapland. In general - a remote and poor corner from the point of view both geography and nature, with swamps of not so expressed vegetation, lakes and hills. A circular plane flies there from Helsinki: first to Ivalo, then to Kittelä where we got off and took a fifteen minutes bus trip to Levi. Imagine a Boeing flying for example to Kojnas with stops let's say in Mezen or Leshukonsky. «Is there vanybody fetting off in Pinege?» No offence meant for our Finnish friends but our nature is more massive. But... As the popular proverb says: «God hasn't supplied the butt cow with horns». And may be with something else... With closer examination the severe nature of Lapland fascinates. And still it obviously wasn't created to be a resort paradise. And it has turned out to become! In Levi they even hold a World Cup stage in mountain skiing and that means 200 million televiewers and fine advertizing.
Most tourists here are from England,France keeps the second place and Russia is the third. But Russians more often come as free-wheeling holidaymakers hiring habitation from the local people. There are signs everywhere in four languages: Finnish, English, French and Russian. Directly i only one third are engaged in mountain skiing arrived at this resort, the others find other entertainment, in summer it's cycling for example. There is a wonderful spa-complex here. It is said that there were many opponents against its building — why? big cities in the Polar region are full of such things. Yes, such and not such yet! What a miracle is to swim up from a tunnel to an open pool and to see mountains around covered with pines and fir-trees, and huge flakes of snow are slowly falling down. Southern people, in literal sense tired with the sun, faint with delight. Not without reason planes from all Europe fly to Kittelä, a small town with three houses. When we were departing one from Barcelona had landed.
Gold, and it shines
Finns often underline that this land is poor and people here had always lived in poverty. Until they thought up to earn their livelihood by tourism. And tourism remains the most important source of the income. And in the seventies of the last century gold was found here. Now more than five tons of it are extracted per year. In the open and closed way. We were on Suurikuusikko mine. Under the Finnish laws after the termination of works here there should be all in accuracy, as well as by the beginning. All pine-trees should grow on their places. And landscape designers already now prepare the restoration project.
And still experts understand that anyway they have damaged the nature. So they should pay back very much to those who live here. As the company has mines in different countries it is ppresented here herse as Lappish. They know by heart all figures of taxes which are paid to the municipal budget. (By the way who knows what we receive from the company extracting diamonds?) There the information is rich and totally opened. But I would allocate one moment: their project «Buy the Lappish!» But it a little bit differs from our «Buy Pomorish!». With us it's an appeal to the buyer. And with them - to the investor.
An example. Near the gold mine there is a small village with a tiny little shop run by an elderly married couple. The shop was already getting closed down but the administration concluded a contract with it on production delivery. Could they adjust supply for their needs without this little shop? Certainly, and it would have even been easier. But they stick to such kind of policy - to support everything local. For purchasing services and production from local people the company allocates 30 million euro per year, and one mine worker provides with jobs four persons in sphere of services.
An excellent road is biult from the mine, as, however, all roads here. And there are swamps, aren't there? So we are going on this road constructed at the expense of the gold mining company and I feel an urge to ask: «Haven't you tried to get money from local people for using the road?» Colleagues from Murmansk stop me: «They won't understand the question». But our developers of diamonds take, and no constraint!
In general, everything is simple — for the sake of everybody's delight act after the principle: «Live yourself and let the others to live». Perhaps there will be no superprofits, but the calmness and prosperity of native land are guaranteed...
Freedom? And what will we do with it?!
Barents Press Conference gathered journalists from four countries of Barents region plus visitors from Canada. There was a very good atmosphere and some surprise as well: how has the organization stood for 17 years? Such different countries and different problems. But there was a feeling which arises not so often — we are all of one blood.
- Press freedom decreases. Now commercial interests limit us in the West, - said the chairman of Finnish BP Timo Sipola.
Swedes spoke about similar problems also. Journalists from Norway sounded the problem which was flying in the air - we gradually lose interest to each other and we start to be afraid each other.
Elena Larionova, Barents Press memberfrom Murmansk, and Pavel Gutiontov, the secretary of the Union of journalists of Russia, designated our problems. Elena's thought can be formulated so: we couldn't and haven't managed to dispose that freedom which we received because we didn't take into consideration: it's not by itself. To realize it means are necessary. And they again lead to dependance. With us - first of all on the power.
In Barents region the power supports the press as an important economic and political lever. Last year I was in Norway. They give rather a solid grant to the second in circulation regional newspaper. To support diversity of ideas. The sum makes 45 million a year. For them it not such big money. For us it's something extraordinary and impossible. For such money we would lose not only any freedom — we would just be stamped down. They have a government program of support of the press, and no official can think of asking a trifle for this money, it will be the last thought in his head. It was a surprise that the very profitable central newspaper of Norway "Aftenposten" has grants from the state regarding circulation sale in booths. At retail it's more expensively than on subscription, and citizens of Norway have the right for the information in any convenient kind.
Our colleague, journalist from newspaper "Njarjana Vynder" Irina Hanzerova transferred the reference of collective which considers that the editor of this newspaper was unfairly dismissed. Barents Press Board worked out a statement about it which expresses anxiety about the situation.
Svetlana Loichenko, «Pravda Severa»
Photo Elena Doilnitsyna
Translated by Tatiana Polkova