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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 Spektakel” festival in Kirkenes
15 journalists from North West Russia got the experience of what this Norwegian- Russian combination of words means. Five days of cultural, political and business events influenced a lot on our understanding of life in the neighbor country. Debate with Norwegian colleagues has inspired us for a new approach of the journalists role in the society.
Study visit for Russian journalists to Norway was supported by the Norwegian Barents secretariat and NJC –Update.
Little security…compared to Russia
This year the 8th annual festival was specially marked by the presence of H.M. Queen Sonja and Norwegian foreign minister Jonas Gahr Støre. While Kirkenes inhabitants were talking about “unusual security measures because of the royal visit”, Russian journalists were deeply impressed by the openness and accessibility of the distinguished guests. Queen Sonja lived at the same hotel with us. It was easy to make informal pictures when Her Majesty, for instance, passed through the lobby.
Russian journurnalists with Jonas Gahr Støre (in the centre)
Picture Jonas Karlsbakk
Jonas Gahr Støre has found in his busy schedule time for the meeting with Barents Press Russian journalists. He answered directly and openly for all our questions. The most disturbing one was the question about visa-free travel for Russians. The minister referred to Schengen agreement supported by Norway but gave the promising example of visa- free travel for border zone inhabitants on both sides of Norwegian- Russian border. This agreement is already signed and will be implemented soon.
Journalism in Norway and Russia. Who controls media?
From the left to the right: Gunnar Sætra. Elena Larionova, Alexander Borisov, Marit Christensen, Magne Kveseth. Picture Jonas Karlsbakk
One of the most exiting events of our visit was the traditional debate with the Norwegian colleagues. Marit Christensen, former NRK correspondent in Moscow and Russian expert came with the brilliant analyze of nowadays situation in the media in two countries. She participated as a panelist with some Russian and Norwegian colleagues and got a lot of questions from public. It is interesting to read a feedback of the Russian journalists after the debate. For instance, Natalya Sokolova from the Karelian web-portal stolitsa.onego.ru writes:
- The issue sounds ridiculous for the Russian journalists. We all depend either on authorities or on oligarchs.
It was exiting to listen to Norwegian colleagues, who told about their intern methods of work journalistic items. They told us about the prejudices that still exist towards our country.
Jelena Larionova, Barents Press International, project coordinator