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Pressing Forward
Industry professionals discuss media cooperation and cultural exchange ahead of the SCO summit
By Wen Qing | NO. 24 JUNE 14, 2018
Huang Kunming, head of the Publicity Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, gives a keynote speech at the first SCO media summit in Beijing on June 1 (XINHUA)

Under the theme of "carrying on the Shanghai Spirit and Ushering in a New Era for Media Cooperation," the first Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) media summit was held on June 1 in Beijing, attracting over 110 media outlets from 16 countries.

The summit was initially proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping last year in the Kazakh capital of Astana, where he suggested that it could enhance people-to-people exchanges among SCO member states. Xi reiterated these views in a congratulatory letter to the summit, adding that he hoped the event would play a positive role in the further development of the organization.

Bridging hearts

In the modern world, as information technology develops ever more rapidly, the media plays an increasingly significant role in communication between people and cross-cultural exchange, Xi wrote in the letter.

The media can enhance people-to-people exchanges and communication and cooperation in other areas among SCO members. Xi called on the media to promote the Shanghai Spirit and to lay the foundations for practical cooperation by facilitating amicable communication between participatory nations.

"The media can serve as a bridge connecting the hearts of people in different countries, and it has played a significant role in the development of the SCO so far," said Huang Kunming, Minister of the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and a member of its Political Bureau, in a keynote speech at the summit. Huang noted that many Chinese media outlets have established communication and cooperation mechanisms with the mainstream media of other SCO member countries. Through media platforms in China, people can find out about the development of other countries in the SCO, and the people in these countries can in turn better understand China though programs broadcast via their own media.

SCO Secretary-General Rashid Alimov said in a speech at the opening ceremony that the SCO has made contributions in promoting security and enhancing economic and people-to-people exchanges. The media should play a positive role in objectively reporting the work of the SCO and promoting its image, he said.

Ainura Temirbekova, Kyrgyzstan's Deputy Minister of Culture, Information and Tourism, said that Kyrgyzstan supports China's initiative to deepen media cooperation. "The SCO has become one big family following 17 years of development. To communicate the voice of the SCO is the media's responsibility. We should build and share an information network together," she said.

Parviz Davlatzoda, Tajikistan's Ambassador to China, said that SCO media cooperation can not only introduce each other's development advantages, but also contribute to deepening mutual understanding, which is the basis for multilateral cooperation in various fields.

The leaders of SCO countries stressed the media's role in enhancing mutual understanding, with industry professionals like He Xiaolan from the Shanghai Media Group echoing this opinion. She said her company is working with the Russian SPB to record oral history by interviewing soldiers who fought in World War II (WWII). The huge sacrifices and contributions made by China and Russia in WWII mean that such a project can promote bilateral friendships, she added.

Indrani Bagchi, an editor at The Times of India, stressed the role of movies in cross-cultural exchange. Indian movies have spread widely among SCO member countries and many people have come to know India better through its films. Bagchi suggested tapping more of the potential for cooperation in movies and other creative ventures.

Unbalanced development

The media has played an increasingly significant role in improving mutual understanding between the people of different countries. Yet, in the eyes of many media professionals, the influence of the media in developing and developed countries is unbalanced and exchanges among SCO countries are insufficient. According to Hu Xijin, Editor in Chief of the Global Times, when news breaks in some SCO countries it is beyond the reach of Chinese news agencies and they instead often quote or republish reports from the Western media, which often lacks subjectivity. Hu suggested that media outlets among SCO countries establish an information exchange mechanism to offer each other timely and true information about events in their own countries so that more objective news can be reported.

"I hope one day we can source information from media outlets in Tajikistan and Afghanistan when we report their news, rather than from Reuters or the Associated Press. If we can reach an agreement on this, it will be huge progress," Hu said.

Alexey Nikolov, Managing Director of Russia Today, also mentioned the imbalance of media influence around the world. In his opinion, due to the powerful influence of the Western media, people's attention is often diverted toward the West, with voices from other parts of the world ignored. Nikolov gave the example of nine journalists who died in a recent terrorist attack in Afghanistan, and the limited coverage of the event.

It is our duty to objectively and fairly report the news around the world. Yet the current situation requires us to do more, which is why we plan to sit down and establish more contact with each other, Nikolov said.

Pragmatic measures

Participants at the media summit also shared their own insights on how to accelerate and deepen media cooperation among SCO member states. One frequently mentioned suggestion was to establish platforms through which the media can conduct regular exchanges. Makhdoom Babar, Editor in Chief of the Daily Mail in Pakistan, told Beijing Review that the SCO media summit provided a good opportunity for communication among media outlets, especially those with a hawkish attitude toward one another, as is the case with some publications in India and Pakistan. Babar said that holding the summit every year would provide a boost to the media industry.

Nikolov agrees. He told Beijing Review that in the future he hopes more editors and journalists will participate in this kind of summit, in addition to industry leaders. They can draw from each other's strength, he said.

Anton Anisimov, Deputy Editor in Chief of Sputnik News Agency and Radio, noted the importance of establishing a mechanism for interaction. In his opinion, the Pulitzer Prizes are mostly organized and awarded according to Western values. As a means to deepen cooperation and encourage quality reporting, the SCO should establish its own journalism prize, he said.

Zhang Xinxin, President of the China News Service, suggested establishing a press association. An official website should be set up under the guidance of this organization, later concrete measures such as organizing joint interviews and trainings can be conducted.

Copyedited by Laurence Coulton

Comments to wenqing@bjreview.com

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