A review recently conducted by Nordic Journalist Centre was presented by Leif Lønsman, Senior Consultant. It reveals that coverage of Russia in Nordic media in general is negative and suspicious featuring President Putin in many headlines – independently of the theme of the article. It is contributing to a general perception among the public of Russia as hostile and a dangerous power worth fearing. The Moscow-influenced Russian media are generally sceptical to the Nordic countries focusing on a moral decline in society and problems of integration migrants into the societies.
Vladimir Pozner, a well-known Russian journalist and broadcaster who participated in the debate, had the same observation. He underlined that for Russian media in general, the Nordic countries are not of any remarkable interest.
In the Russian media’s coverage of politics, the Nordic countries are normally addressed together with “the West”.
“For some reason Sweden appears to be the most Russia-sceptic country – 78 % of the Swedish population, according to surveys, are skeptical towards Russia; for EU the average is 61 %”, Pozner said.
On the contrary, Pozner’s assessment was that the general opinion among the Russian people is quite positive - based on the perception that the Nordic countries in general provides for good quality of life, high living standards and high level of democratic involvement.
Astrid Lindgren known also in Russia
Anna Rudels, Head of Communications of the Swedish Institute responsible for Sweden-branding abroad, echoed that the impression of Sweden in Russia in general is quite positive.
Most important and known aspects are within sports and culture: Ice hockey, football, Astrid Lindgren’s figures and IKEA. In social media only around 7% of entries can be categorized as disinformation or “fake news”. “People-to-people relations are of utmost importance to a mutual positive approach”, Rudels said.
Ann-Lena Laurén, one of few remaining Nordic Moscow-based correspondents reporting to Finnish Hufvudstadsbladet and Swedish Dagens Nyheter reflected on the need for Nordic media to reflect the politics of the Russian Government, but of course also to do their own research and tell stories about ordinary life and thinking of people in Russia. By the way, such stories are among the most popular among the Nordic audience.
"Be aware of manipulation"
Vladimir Pozner’s advice for everybody was to be aware of a wish of manipulation from many different sides: Social media platforms, governments, politicians, traditional media, business etc.
“They all know you better than yourself”, said Pozner. "The only way to counteract attempts of manipulation for all journalists as well as individuals would be to search information from different sources and base one’s stories and conclusions on that."“To avoid disinformation – you need to make an effort yourself”, Pozner concluded the panel debate.