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Udenrigsministerens åbningstale ved NB8-møde om imødegåelse af russisk propaganda

Opening remarks by Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard at NB8 meeting “Balanced Russian Language Media” in Copenhagen on February 27, 2015

A great pleasure for me to open this NB8 and friends meeting entitled “Balanced Russian Language Media”. A privilege to welcome you here – both the NB8 and other close partners. In early autumn last year, we agreed amongst ourselves in the group of eight Nordic and Baltic States that this topic should be a “focus area” in 2015 during the Danish presidency.  Look forward to your input today.

Today’s meeting is not about counterpropaganda, but about countering propaganda with objective information. And it is about providing an alternative to the current predominant Russian narrative.

The developments we have seen in Ukraine over the last year have confirmed once again that “The first victim of war is: Truth”. This is the case in Ukraine. We are seeing propaganda and misinformation as an active part of Russian foreign policy – and on a massive scale. According to one of the latest issues of the Economist, Russia Today claims to reach 700 million people worldwide, and 2.7 million hotel rooms. How can we compete with that? One thing is certain: If we remain passive, we can be sure that Russia will dominate the media landscape.  

Reaching Russian-speaking audiences with clear and objective facts and providing them with quality media content is a challenge. As chair of the Nordic-Baltic cooperation in 2015 I am very happy that we discuss Russian language media and our strategic communication. It is a complex challenge which we cannot solve alone. I am pleased that the Nordic-Baltic countries are not alone today but joined by partners who are also devising plans to address this issue.

We face two important challenges: Firstly, we need to strengthen the strategic communication from our countries and institutions. The letter on EU Strategic Communication sent from Estonia, Lithuania, UK and Denmark to High Representative Federica Mogherini in early January helped to get this work started within the EU institutions. The Latvian Presidency of the Council of the European Union and others are also helping to push this work forward. I was very satisfied with the Council Conclusions on 29 January. It is important to follow up now, through a dedicated communications team working together across EU institutions.

Secondly, we must strengthen the independence of, and the access to, Russian language media in our own region. We are witnessing a situation where many Russian-speakers in a number of countries – in the EU and in the Eastern neighborhood as well as within Russia – seem to rely on information coming out of basically one single source. Partly because of the lack of readily available and attractive alternatives.

This task lies within the professional free media environment. But what governments can do, without interfering with the free media and freedom of expression, is support the framework conditions for the media. The question is: How can this be done more specifically, and effectively?

Gathering you here in Copenhagen today is one of the many steps we need to take in order to ensure a coordinated approach. We wish to establish a dialogue between our countries and a common understanding of the different initiatives. 

When we place Russian language media on the NB8 agenda, we also extend a broad invitation to cooperate and coordinate with us. We started out with a workshop in Riga a month ago gathering media professionals from most of your countries. Their input forms a basis for your discussions today amongst government officials. The conclusions of your discussions today will allow me and colleagues to move forward at the political level when discussions continue within the NB8, the EU, the Nordic Council of Ministers and NATO.

As I hinted at in the beginning, a balanced Russian language media landscape is the main theme of today, and indeed the long term end state that we are trying to achieve. Free information must flow, and all voices must be able to speak freely. 

Thank you for being here in Copenhagen today.

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