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Opening of the plenary meeting of the 19th World Congress of Russian Press

12 July 2017

The responsibility of politicians and journalists for the public word has grown considerably, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said at the opening of the plenary meeting of the 19th World Congress of Russian Press in Minsk on 12 July.

“Of course, those vested with the authority to make decisions in the name of and for the benefit of people are fully integrated in the information flows. Words have an immense influence on us, country leaders. In this context, the responsibility of both politicians and journalists for the public word has grown considerably,” Alexander Lukashenko said.

“It is obvious that today not everything depends on politicians, heads of state. Mass media do not just cover events. Mass media have always been called the fourth power. However, considering the influence they have on the society, we can talk about a more significant role today,” the Belarusian leader stressed.

Alexander Lukashenko noted that the media write the history of present days, give an overview of events and developments, and create a picture of the world. “This is why professionalism and civic responsibility of members of the media are of immense importance. Of course, the readers want sensations. Newspapers, TV channels, internet publications, especially today, survive to a great extent thanks to scandals frequently produced by themselves. Meanwhile, such an approach can eventually cost them a lot,” the head of state said.

“Some say that these are particularities of the job. However, I can hardly agree with that. Today, in the context of the complex socio-political and socio-economic transformations, when the moral standards get broken, the society will not survive if the moral and ethical laws are not restored. The state will also have a difficult time if its foundation loses such elements as integrity, responsible attitude, and simple decency. I think we all should understand this,” Alexander Lukashenko said.

The Belarusian leader said that politicians, public figures, government officials, and journalists are equally responsible for their choices. “Even if we make mistakes, we should acknowledge them to prevent conflicts and protect the peaceful course of life. Unfortunately, sometimes conflicts arise when someone makes hasty moves, gives in to sensations and conceals the essence of the problem,” Alexander Lukashenko said.

The Russian language is not foreign to Belarus. The head of state stressed: “I would like to underline that the Russian language is not a foreign language in Belarus. It is our national treasure, too. Over the course of many centuries the Belarusians have contributed a lot to its development and have enriched the language. Today Russian is a state language in Belarus just like Belarusian. The people made their choice at the referendum.”

“Thanks to this we can enjoy more large-scale and direct contacts in science, culture, and art. We expand intellectual and informational horizons of fruitful cooperation with brotherly nations, promoting the ideas of good neighborhood and peacefulness,” noted Alexander Lukashenko.

Alexander Lukashenko remarked that people in Russia at various levels often thank him for this attitude to the Russian language. He noted he had talked about it with President of Russia Vladimir Putin once. Back then the Belarusian head of state stressed that the Russian language belongs to many countries and nations, including Belarus.

“The Russian language is my Russian language. It is a living thing. Not only Russian people have contributed to it. It is a totally different Russian language where customs, characters, and tolerance intertwine, including those of the Belarusian people. This language developed century after century,” stressed Alexander Lukashenko. “Our language, the Russian language that Russians, Belarusians, Ukrainians, and many other people speak, has souls of many nations intertwined.”

“The Russian language is our language. You have come into the country where people revere, respect, talk, and think in Russian. We are certainly glad that at the same time we have done a lot to advance the Belarusian language to the heights of the Russian one. And we are doing a lot. You should not be concerned about it in the slightest,” Alexander Lukashenko told participants of the event.

“Losing the Russian language today means losing one’s history, the present, and, I am convinced, the future,” added the head of state. “We have never rejected it and never will. Moreover, we will always fight for it.”

According to Alexander Lukashenko, Russian-language mass media have a huge audience and a sphere of influence. Russian-language mass media play a most important role as the bearer of the Eastern Slavonic cultural code, common values and reference points in one’s life. “Through the great Russian language traditions and values of the Slavonic world are manifested such as spiritual and moral ideals, the desire to achieve justice, to do good, to serve the society, and the ability to get united in the face of a common disaster. Unfortunately, these simple and understandable guidelines are not always honored. We can see how tensions are manifested in a number of areas on the planet, how conflicts get to the boiling point, how blood is shed, and the geopolitical canvass of the world is redesigned. The global information space is changing radically, too,” said the head of state.

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko also expressed an opinion that Internet and social media must comply with the ethical and moral principles, the laws of spirituality. “In the name of morality and protection of the rights of citizens to reliable information, the state has the right to apply the norms and force of law. Reliable barriers should be built to block the information harmful to people,” Alexander Lukashenko said.

Alexander Lukashenko noted that the journalistic profession has changed dramatically in the new technological environment. “We witnessed a transition to a new system of production and and dissemination of information, namely citizens’ journalism. Now virtually anyone with a phone and internet access can act as a media outlet. For many people, the world has narrowed down to a smartphone screen, and the picture of the world has become shaped by news feeds in social networks,” the head of state said.

On the whole, the situation in the information sector is not simple. Unreliability of information, manipulation of facts, fake news lead to a distorted perception of events. Broad public opinion gets gradually involved in this. And suddenly you cannot separate fact from fiction.

In these circumstances, the moral and civic principles largely depend on professional experienced journalists, traditional press today, the president said. “The right choice is always important: rating or truth, objectivity or personal interests,” the Belarusian leader underlined.

Political aspects in news reporting are becoming more and more pronounced these days. “Everyone wants to be the first. Under this pressure, they make mistakes and often turn things upside down,” the president noted.

Alexander Lukashenko said that the speed of information transmission and its impact on people’s minds are the topics of particular importance today. The head of state pointed out that people want to learn about literally everything as soon as possible.

“The information reported in newspapers, on TV or on the internet and then picked up by social media more and more often fails to reflect the reality. Moreover, this information becomes a weapon that can provoke strife and armed conflicts,” Alexander Lukashenko underlined. “It fuels hostility and hate. It does not provide any opportunity for constructive discussions of different opinions, political and social approaches to life. High ratings cannot be an excuse here,” the Belarusian leader added.

He emphasized the problem of the so-called hybrid wars in cyber domain, economics, and politics. “I think the wars in social media are the most important and, probably, the first stage of these modern wars. Today, wars against states or groups of states are preceded by media campaigns, rather than artillery trainings. You have become the main element of hybrid wars,” Alexander Lukashenko underlined.

“It goes without saying that life is very fast these days. We need to run, not walk in order to keep up with the progress and global development. However, this is not about sensationalism. Peace and stability pretty much depend on you! Let us not forget about this,” the president emphasized.

“Imposing opinions on journalists and forcing some stereotypes on them is inadmissible. True freedom of speech, that is highly valued in Belarus, is not only about choice, but also about responsibility for it,” the Belarusian leader said.

Alexander Lukashenko noted that the World Congress of Russian Press has established itself as an important forum for professional communication. “When the question arose on whether to hold the congress in Minsk, we decided without much thinking to host the forum, specifically because you have always been responsible people. If it were otherwise, we would have found a reason for a refusal. The forum has no closed topics or idle talk. Only accurate facts and well-grounded opinions, like true journalism dictates. This makes you different from others, and you should preserve this,” the head of state said.

Alexander Lukashenko expressed hope that the event in Minsk will result in constructive initiatives to clean up the common information space from dirt and lies. “In due time Belarus has become a major venue for peaceful settlement. Our country has always been open to new contacts and information exchanges. Let us consider arranging a large-scale international forum in Minsk, sorts of Helsinki-2. Why not get together and invite politicians, scientists, culture and business people to join us in discussing issues of peace?” the Belarusian president suggested.

He said he would like to see the journalists’ community make a great contribution to this. “Let us think about this initiative that is open to all countries and people. I will always support you in such undertakings,” the Belarusian leader said.

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko met with Vitaly Ignatenko, President of the World Association of Russian Press (WARP), UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, and Mikhail Gusman, WARP Executive Secretary, First Deputy Director General of the Russian news agency TASS on the sidelines of the 19th World Congress of Russian Press in Minsk.

The sides exchanged views on the global issues, including the initiatives brought forward by Belarus at the 26th OSCE PA Annual Session to organize a new large-scale international forum, similar to the Helsinki Process. They also discussed the role of mass media in today’s global processes.

For his part, Vitaly Ignatenko commended Belarus’ and Alexander Lukashenko’s initiatives aimed at strengthening stability and safety in the region and the world. “We are tired of conflicts and mutual misunderstanding. Today everyone is looking for mutual understanding. It was for a reason that the OSCE PA session was held in Belarus,” he remarked.

Alexander Lukashenko also gave a brief interview to TASS. He touched upon the results of the session of the Supreme State Council of the Belarus-Russia Union State in Moscow, the key avenues of Belarus-Russia relations, and the prospects and problems of the Union State. The Belarusian leader also spoke about the matters congruent with the agenda of the 19th World Congress of Russian Press in Minsk. This interview will make part of the new episode of TASS’ Formula of Power program due to be released in August.

In particular, Alexander Lukashenko noted that the session of the Supreme State Council of the Union State of Belarus and Russia, which took place in Moscow on 30 June, was heartwarming and effective.

Alexander Lukashenko said: “Let me surprise you by saying that the importance of items on the agenda was not the key thing, the items were super important. The ambience of the Supreme State Council session was important. I’ve said it openly that we’ve never had such openness and warm-heartedness and, most of all, efficiency in the entire history of the Union State of Belarus and Russia.”

The president said that the session began with restricted-attendance talks. The sides decided to address the issues that were lying on the surface and did not necessarily had to be discussed by a large number of people. “Those were nothing. We should have dealt with them a long time ago. And we resolved these issues, they were important, too,” noted the head of state.

The restricted-attendance talks also touched upon the international agenda, including conflicts in Syria and Ukraine. “We touched upon some strategic matters since we had to draw attention to them not only during negotiations between the two presidents. They needed to be put on the agenda of the Supreme State Council for the future,” added the Belarusian leader.

Alexander Lukashenko reminded that the Fourth Forum of Regions of Belarus and Russia was taking place simultaneously with the Supreme State Council session in Moscow. The two events should be viewed together. “During the session of the Supreme State Council we discussed two most important, fundamental matters: the manufacturing sector and agriculture. Then we approved foreign policy plans. [Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei] Lavrov and [Belarusian Minister of Foreign Affairs Vladimir] Makei work just fine, they are an example to follow for everyone. We discussed some defense matters such as the Zapad 2017 army exercise,” he said. “We are getting flak for this exercise while NATO forces are getting deployed near our borders, Belarusian and Russian borders.” The sides also discussed interaction in defense industry.

As far as cooperation in the manufacturing sector is concerned, Belarus and Russia agreed that it is necessary to step up manufacturing cooperation. Apart from that, it was noted that there is no need for effectively operating enterprises in Belarus and Russia to make the same products.

Alexander Lukashenko mentioned the speech by President of Russia Vladimir Putin, who praised the work of Belarusian specialists to create agricultural enterprises in Sakhalin. “We would like to prove that there is no need to transport any products over there, that it is possible to produce good meat and milk in addition to the abundance of fish over there,” said the Belarusian leader.

Asked about his views on the future of the Union State of Belarus and Russia, Alexander Lukashenko stressed that the process is in motion and it will be virtually impossible to stop.

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© 2018, The Press Service of the President of the Republic of Belarus