“Media in South East Europe: The Struggle for Success on the Web”
Media Business Today –Competition, Ownership, Old and New Media
Keynote address by Minister of Foreign Affairs of Romania Bogdan Aurescu
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is my great pleasure to address this message for the SEEMO Conference on “Media in South East Europe: The Struggle for Success on the Web”, attended by distinguished participants from so many countries and international institutions. I would like to express my satisfaction, in the name of the Romanian Government, that SEEMO has chosen Bucharest as a meeting point for the biggest media conference in the region. I would also like to thank the co-hosts and partners of this event - the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) and the Central European Initiative (CEI) - for their efforts to make this event a success.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Please allow me to address, from a diplomatic perspective, the main topics of your discussions: media and politics -how they are influencing each other and the media landscape transformation in Southern and Eastern Europe. We are dealing with a shifting international geopolitical environment and mass-media itself is going through transformations -especially in today’s digital age, in the context of the growing competition and emergence of modern technologies.
The last couple of years have been illustrative in their sequence of new crises, each superseding the previous one. We were and are in a constant need for adaptation and fresh policy making. Nevertheless, the deepening of crises within and around is forcing us to stay focused on our shared strategic interests and the array of complicating surrounding threats.
At the same time, new communication platforms, which became more complex and more participatory, reshaped the way journalism is made and perceived. They also reshape the way institutional actors, such as the MFA, manage their public communication. These platforms are used as a source of information, but also as a channel of sharing that information. Moreover, the Internet is going mobile and consumer habits are expected to change dramatically as a result. We are truly facing a “World Wide Web of information” - the quantity of information available out there has considerably increased: from traditional newspapers and TV or radio shows to blogs, citizen’s journalism. We both – public institutions and media - need to invest much more into monitoring, analyzing, evaluating the quality and accuracy of this information. We all need to adapt to this reality generated by the technological breakthroughs.
The Romanian MFA is working on developing its digital diplomacy tools – using digital platforms to communicate about institutional policies, diplomatic actions and foreign affairs objectives. At the same time, we are very aware that digital diplomacy brings not only new opportunities to communication, but also challenges – from a more rapid flow of information to a real-time communication capability in crisis situations - including the possibility of alerting people about imminent dangers or coordinating actions, such as evacuations from risk areas anywhere in the world.
While we try to make the best of these new technologies, we continue to rightfully value the importance of direct communication and consultation with civil society. This is the reason why, this year, I had the initiative of launching our own series of interactive debates, the so-called “Dialoguri@MAE/Dialogues at the MFA”. We wanted to create a platform for debating the latest international developments, their potential impact on the Romanian foreign policy and the solutions/ideas/concepts we propose in reaction. Open debates offer the opportunity to share our conceptual efforts, engaging constructive discussions with civil society, mass-media representatives, analysts, academic society, in the mutual benefit of both sides.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As I have already mentioned, new technologies do not simplify but often make it more difficult to overcome the main challenge that both journalists and diplomats face: getting the information quickly and getting it accurately, based on reliable sources.
This is particularly relevant nowadays, when we can see what is called "journalism’s dark alter ego” – propaganda – gaining ground again insidiously. Many of you have witnessed firsthand the destructive role that propaganda and disinformation played along our recent history. The fact that technology has advanced at a fast pace since then has created a two-sided issue: on the one hand, more numerous, subtle and efficient mechanism of propaganda but also, on the other - a more vibrant, active and resilient media environment, which offers genuine journalists and even responsible citizens the opportunity to uphold the truth and disseminate accurate and unbiased information.
Today, the relevant case is the EU’s Eastern Neighborhood. You have seen the use of communication tools playing an important role in the dramatic developments that have affected this area over the past year and a half. This has been recognized by the European Council in March 2015 - which stressed the need to challenge Russia's ongoing disinformation campaigns and led to the adoption of the Action Plan on Strategic Communication. An Action Plan that outlines measures on issues related to the Eastern neighborhood and beyond, as well as wider EU efforts in support of media freedom and strengthening of the overall media environment. Romania has supported this initiative and has participated to the Donor Conference on “Free and Objective Media in Eastern Partnership and Beyond” in Warsaw, this September. We stressed there the need for the states in question to promote alternative and independent views in a democratic and thriving media environment that cannot be dominated by a single source. Special attention should be devoted to providing quality information in minority languages, focusing on the promotion of their own national narratives rather than being reactive and just dismissing foreign propaganda. Such effort certainly requires also increased.