The Conference on “Media 2020 – Bringing Media to the Future”

Bogdan Aurescu, ministrul afacerilor externe
Conferinţa “Media 2020 – Bringing Media to the Future”


Ladies and gentlemen,


It is my great pleasure to open the Conference on “Media 2020 – Bringing Media to the Future”, an event that brings together, in Bucharest, representatives of media institutions from all over the world.

I express my great satisfaction, in the name of the Romanian Government, that you have chosen Romania as a meeting point for such an important occasion and I am sure that your host and partner in our country, The Romanian Broadcasting Corporation, has made every effort to make this event a success.

Dear participants,

Let me address, only at the surface – because I am not a media specialist, I am just a diplomat – the main topic of your meeting: bringing media to the future or the future of the press. As diplomats, at the MFA, of course we know that information is power. A while ago, journalism was made through 3 important channels – radio, TV and printed newspaper. But, the Internet changed everything, from getting to sharing information. So, now power means how fast you can obtain and communicate this information. Sometimes everything is done almost in real time. Those who get the news first have the power. But the true challenge is the daily competition and providing pieces of information based on reliable sources. So, nowadays, we face a double challenge: to get the information quickly and to get it accurate.

I believe that this will continue to be the main challenge of the media 2020 landscape. However, we can only imagine how this will look like by the year 2020. New ways of communication were born, in historical terms, yesterday and they have already become indispensable for many of us. The first SMS was sent 22 years ago, Google was founded 17 years ago, Facebook emerged almost 11 years ago, the same as Flickr; YouTube - one year after that and Twitter in 2006. These are the most popular and used platforms, but new ones are gaining ground. And they reshape the way journalism is made and perceived. They also reshape the way the institutional actors – such as the MFA, the other ministries and the Government as a whole – manage their public communication. These platforms are used as a source of information, but also as a channel of sharing that information with a simple click or finger touch. Moreover, Internet is going mobile and consumer habits are expected to change dramatically as a result. That is why public institutions also have to adapt. The MFA is making efforts to fully implement the term of digital diplomacy – using digital platforms to communicate about diplomatic actions and foreign affairs objectives.

While recognizing the significant role of the paper-based media, radio and TV broadcasters, the focus is on the growing impact of the social media networks and online publishing in shaping the future of the media market. The speedy development and the popularity of social media platforms opened up new ways in which news and views can reach target audiences and how they, in turn, respond and react, becoming themselves a source of information. Today, more than ever, we can talk about genuine “citizens’ engagement” in the news making process, but also in the public policy making process, no matter the channel used for transmission.

The Citizen Journalism and Social Media Panel that I’ve seen on your programs will certainly focus on the fact that there is a shift in journalism and it has a significant impact in shaping the public agenda for institutions. Not so long ago, being a journalist was something reserved for a select few with school and field training, resources and good sources. It was their reporting and, to a significant degree, their opinions, that shaped the public agenda. However, in more recent times, technology has brought about a tremendous change. The Internet has become a daily presence, evolving from a basic communication and entertainment role to a world-wide information processing and dissemination network.

People get their information online and more significantly they also create news using the same environment. So citizens report, publish, praise and criticise with a global reach that was previously available only to the biggest media channels. Most importantly, they get involved to an unprecedented degree. And they can make a huge difference.

Humanitarian cases are a good example of this. I know you will also attend a Disaster reporting to save human lives panel. Your choice of this issue proves that journalism does not mean just reporting, but also helping those in need. After the earthquake that struck Nepal on April 25, Facebook activated its Safety Check feature giving quick safety status updates which gave hope to many people that were expecting news from their loved ones. There were a lot of requests for help, some are still ongoing. Moreover, each picture uploaded online was really saying more than a thousand words and the TV coverage was overwhelming. Without your help, the media’s help, we could not have realised so quickly the magnitude of the disaster and the need of an immediate reaction.  

Ladies and gentlemen,

A century and a half ago, it took days or weeks (depending on the distance) for a telegram to reach its destination. Today, everything is transmitted almost instantly. Digital diplomacy and social media communication have become indispensable tools, complementary to classic communication. Social networks play an increasingly relevant role in the public sphere, as they become more complex and more participatory. As Kevin Allocca, Head of Culture and Trends at YouTube, mentioned: “Technology has brought a more open form of distribution, resulting in decentralization and, more important, participation”. Given the strong impact of the Internet, social media is now also a tool to promote institutional policies, along with other methods already established.

Digital diplomacy adds new features to communication, bringing both opportunities and challenges for us. Communication is accelerating; there is a much faster flow of information and a real-time communication capability in crisis situations - including the possibility of alerting our citizens about imminent dangers or coordinating actions, such as evacuations from risk areas.

We have a wider public audience and bi-directional communication that allows the public to establish a dialogue with the emitter or with each other. But it also generates competition for public engagement. A question that now needs to be answered when managing the communication is: how can we convince the public to watch and listen to our messages, among the myriad messages they receive from all kind of sources - official or not? In my view, in addition to managing and distributing the information, another major challenge for the broadcasters and content providers will be the delivery of trusted, evidence-based data.

As minister of foreign affairs, I can’t end my intervention without mentioning that I am confident that the true power of mass-media will prevail throughout 2020. The means of mass communication - be it through social media or classic broadcasting – can impact people all over the world and help them bring their contribution to building a common area of democracy, prosperity and stability.

Media is often called the “watchdog of democracy” and in the present geopolitical context – with security crisis in many places of the world, in our neighborhood as well, but also with extremist tendencies rising - it is crucial that the press is aware of this important role it has. We count on you to carry on this mission by protecting and fighting for the rule of law, for the human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as for the principles and norms of international law.

Your commitment to defining and promoting a professional media market, accessible and adaptable, but remaining true to its core principles of honesty and transparency, gives me hope that, with your help, the relevant messages will reach the public in a clear and undistorted manner. This has particular relevance in these moments, when we can see journalism’s “dark alter ego” propaganda – trying to gain ground again. There is a very old saying that “The truth will set you free”. True journalism has achieved that on an unprecedented scale – helping to set minds free from ignorance, from oppression, from fear.

In today’s digital age, journalism has helped turn people into genuine global citizens. The importance of its mission cannot be ignored and that is why I wish you success in your endeavour, in which I would like you to see us as a partner. 

Congratulations on the initiative to organise this Conference and, once more, a warm welcome to Bucharest!

Thank you so much!