Anna Sharogradskaya, director at the independent Regional Press Institute in Russia
Anna Sharogradskaya, director at the independent Regional Press Institute, Ligovskij Prospekt in Saint-Petersburg

Self-censorship is everywhere and press freedom is non-existing in Russia. Nordic Journalist Center gives 13 Russian journalists the possibility to join the World Press Freedom Day conference in Helsinki

The situation is getting worse all the time. This is how the director at the NGO institute, Regional Press Institute Anna Sharogradskaya describes the media situation in Russian.

Anna Sharogradskaya talks about press freedom and self-censorship in Russia and why it makes sense that the Nordic countries are making it possible for 13 Russian journalists to participate at the WPFD2016 conference about freedom of speech in Helsinki May 2-4.

We cannot celebrate but we can join those who celebrate and we can learn from those who have freedom and proper journalism. – Anna Sharogradskaya

She works at an institute who teaches journalists to write the kind of articles which are legal and perhaps in the grey zone in Russia and how they can tell a story by using the possibilities they got.

“We are doing it for the future. They cannot use all the skills they are told, but they can use some of them. They should be aware that free press exist,” says Anna Sharogradskaya.

Russian reality
She is realistic about the situation. A lot of journalists in Russia can do good work and many want to do something good for society. But unfortunately there is also a great lack of knowledge and ambition.

“Many journalists are more afraid than necessary. They are afraid of losing their pension, their job, money and so on. But the worst thing that can happen is that you write false every day of your life,” says the woman with great courage.

About World Press Freedom Day, WPFD2016

Sharogradskaya emphasizes that the participation at the conference in Helsinki gives new energy and hope for the future. In her opinion, network and conversations between journalists from all over the world are valuable – for both sites.

“It is important to listen to other people and hear what is happening in other countries and be aware of the questions they ask in their societies,” says Anna Sharogradskaya.

The taste of press freedom
Anna Sharogradskaya knows about the press in Russia. And about the people who write and read it.

Remember that there is a generation who tasted the freedom of the press after Perestrojka. It was both healing and poison for us. – Anna Sharogradskaya

In the years after Perestrojka several foreign institutes came to Russia teaching and helping media houses to do business and be a publicist that delivered independent newspapers to the society. But that was long ago.

Now there is only the Nordic countries left and situation in Russian has changed dramatically.

Important support from the Nordics
“The support from the Nordic countries is the only thing that keep us going. Nobody else supports us. I never dreamt that it would be as it is now. Before we felt psychologically free but now there are self-control and self-censorship everywhere,” says Anna Sharogradskaya.

In her opinion, the Russian journalists must keep on writing what is happening in their country. The alternative is too terrible.

“Otherwise nobody will tell the real story. You have to do it – even if it costs you something,” says Anna Sharogradskaya.

And she continues:

“Normally nothing happens, but you cannot push people to produce articles they do not want to. It is a hard life for them.”


Words of Russian journalists before going to WPFD2016

Marina Melnik:
Freedom of press is guaranteed by many legal documents in different countries, the main law of Russian Federation – the Constitution – also proclaims the freedom of mass media and prohibition of censorship. The objective and honest work of journalists is based on this right, that’s why every journalist has a duty to defend the press freedom. This special date is an important occasion for experts from different countries to recall their public duty, to come together to share their knowledge and  experience.

Ekaterina Sokolova:
Why it is important to celebrate World Press Freedom Day. Freedom of press, independent media are an essential part of democratic society. Only those journalists who are able to express their thoughts and views on problematic issues (especially those concerning politics) can provide us with objective information. I strongly believe that it is important to celebrate World Press Freedom Day.

On the seminars and meetings that take place during the celebration it is possible to discuss the current state of mass media freedom worldwide, reveal the existing problems and try to find solutions. For me the conference is especially important since freedom of press is a sensitive issue for my country (Russia).

Vladimir Dmitriev:
In present difficult political confrontations and information wars access to reliable information becomes especially important for journalists. Participating in the conference devoted to the World Press Freedom Day

I hope to estimate how the basic principles of freedom of mass media in the different countries are observed. Also it would be interesting to learn, are how independent of censorship and dictatorship of the power of mass media around the world. At the same time, participation in such representative conference will allow me to receive many new contacts, to communicate to foreign colleagues and to hear opinions of journalists from various countries of the world on many actual problems.

Alisa Kustikova:
On this day the world has reached a consensus about the determinant issue for my profession. It was confirmed  at the international level that a free, independent press – a component, without which there can be no democratic society. Today’s reality challenges this postulate.

Evidence of this is the number of countries where the media is still not free, where and the rights of journalists are violated. This day is important for advocating the basic principles of the profession, which unite journalists around the world.

Vladimir Izotov:
In my opinion, World Press Freedom Day is a good opportunity to remind the Russian audience that the situation in Russia with the Constitutional rights of expression and press freedom, at least are not too good. It can be illustrated by the results of studies of various international agencies engaged in research in the field of freedom of speech.

Therefore, the World Press Freedom Day provides an opportunity to compare the situation with the freedom of speech in democratic states and in totalitarian ones.

Iana Prussakova:
From my daily work as a journalist and from previous working trips abroad I have come to understand that nothing can replace the real communication and discussion the sharp questions face to face with other journalists from different countries.

For me it’s really important to stay in touch with colleagues to exchange of experience, especially now at the time of the crisis on Russian media market and changing legislation that makes the conditions of work more and more challenging for the independent media. Celebration of the Press Freedom Day is a way to announce that independent media in Russia exist and they should exist in future.

Andrey Kalikh:
Free and independent media is the voice of a free and independent society. It is the only tool for a real public oversight over the state authorities, for anti-corruption control and transparency of the state. It is also a tool to stop wars, to attain justice, to raise public needs and thus – to make a better life for the citizens. Thus, journalism could be a dangerous profession and journalists are often working at risk.

The World Press Freedom Day helps us to stress the unique role of journalists in improving our life and to protect them and their rights in achieving this role.

Alla Sumarokova
It’s almost funny and it’s definitely sad to talk about press freedom in our country. In fact among journalists of my age no one really knows what it is. Everthing was already difficult when started my career in 2009 in local TV station. And now I think that our profession is on edge of extinction. Most of us are not journalists anymore, more like a press service. And I need to remind myself that things should be different.

Natalia Goncharova
There’s the only way to be a journalist – to be the one with a free mind, no matter what: business pressure, editor’s limits and personal beliefs or political aspects which can also be of a great influence. World Press Freedom Day is a reminder that other journalists fight just the same for their rights to be free. And all the journalist’s fights for their freedom are the fights for their reader’s rights to have the truthful information.

Arina Ylianova
I believe that the celebration of the World Press Freedom day is very important because today there are lots of journalists all around the world  who are or have been pressed because of the will to tell the truth. So, this event allows journalists of different countries and nationalities feel like a union, support each other, share their experiences and try to find solutions of the problems connected with the Press Freedom.