Russia and the Nordics: media, knowledge and attitudes

18.06.18 | News
Debatt om Ryssland
Jens Nytoft Rasmussen
The importance of the media’s role in providing information that is both balanced and that offers different points of view on life and society in Russia and in the Nordic countries was discussed at a seminar hosted by the Nordic Council of Ministers on 14 June 2018. The seminar took place during the Danish Folkemødet democracy festival (meaning “Meeting of the People”) on the Danish island of Bornholm in the middle of the Baltic Sea.

As political relations between Russia and the West continue to encounter challenges, and as the level of interaction in business, education, tourism, culture and many other spheres declines, there is a tendency – on both sides – for information in the mainstream media mainly to portray stereotypes of the respective societies and their leaders. So how can the media better balance such portrayals by providing information about peoples’ day-to-day lives, dreams, realities and expectations on both sides?

 “I am worried about the impression of Russia that media in the Nordic countries convey”, said Lars Kabel, associate professor at the Danish School of Media and Journalism carrying out research for the Nordic Journalist Centre. “The Russian narrative doesn’t show the country’s many facets, and it tends to focus too much on the Kremlin and not of the other 140 million people of Russia”, he added, though admitting that recently the coverage tends to be better balanced.”

The seminar was moderated by the well-known Danish journalist Nynne Bjerre Christensen. A panel also comprising Charlotte Flindt Pedersen, director of the Danish Foreign Policy Institute; Andrey Kazankov, journalist; Lars Kabel; and Dr. Olga Johannesson, linguist all contributed their views on the current situation.

“Russian mainstream media is also giving a biased picture of life in the Nordic countries, tending to deliver extreme stories as if it were general situations”, said Olga Johannesson and added that much more attention should be paid to 15 to 17-year-olds: “This millennium generation was born with their fingers in smartphones and they don’t even know if there is a TV in the house. Those youngsters who now choose to use their own channels of information are the ones that in the near future will be defining the politics of Russia.”

Presentation of Nordic-Russian photos

At the democracy festival a presentation of photos from the Nordic-Russian photo journalist project “Next to me” was displayed. The Nordic Journalist Centre course leader Mads Nissen presented the photographic works of the project encompassing 14 Nordic and Russian photographers who portrayed the life of the neighbouring countries.

The Russian photographers captured stories about a Nordic country and the Nordic photographers about Russia. In 2018 one of the photographers, Katinka Hustad, won the Norwegian journalist award “Photo of the Year” for a photo of life in a suburb of St. Petersburg. Mads Nissen is a famous Danish press photographer who was awarded “Danish press photographer” in 2017 and the “Picture of the Year/World Press Photo” in 2015.

Folkemødet is a political event that has taken place for four days every June since 2011 in Allinge on the Danish island of Bornholm. The purpose is to bring together interest groups, associations, NGOs, and individuals with an interest in democracy from across political parties and with a variety of views. Discussions take place by way of informal conversations, talks and meetings. The public gathering is inspired by Sweden’s Almedalen Week which this year celebrates its 50th anniversary on the Swedish island of Gotland.