Dear excellencies, guests,
It is an honour to see such a distinguished group of European and global media representatives and experts gathered today and tomorrow in Riga.
Having you here to share and co-create innovative business models for future media fits my vision of Latvia as a creative and forward-looking nation. My Latvia is a vibrant hub where ideas, talents and sustainable business converge to move the country and the broader region forward.
I would also like to extend a heartfelt thanks to Riga Stockholm School of Economics for its key role in building a knowledge-based ecosystem for turning this vision into reality. This year marks the school’s 25th anniversary – congratulations and thank you for hosting this forum!
Why is it important for me to be here today?
In today’s interlinked world, information streams form a new kind of strategic state infrastructure. It takes the shape of a net of awareness, trust and two-way exchange between the citizens and the state. This strategic infrastructure – mostly invisible – is at least as important as bridges, airports or telephone lines. Media – both public and private – are key players in shaping the information space. In fact, it`s not only information space, but also the shaping of the world of the citizens.
In the spirit of the Latvian Constitution, it is the duty of the state to secure the information and media space. It can do so, first, by creating an enabling environment for quality media work in these times of changing media habits and contemporary challenges. In first place – also legal infrastructure. Second, by putting in place safeguards against abuse of media freedom and expression.
You will discuss media development during these two days.
Media development is now at the forefront of Latvian political agenda. We still have homework to do as regards media sustainability, quality, governance and independence. Let me therefore stress again the important role of independent media in the society, the need for adequate financial support to quality journalism – and it is necessary to create a specific legal construction for that - and especially by the public broadcaster. It is why we now discuss in the Latvian society the financing of public broadcasting system. I have conveyed this to the policymakers in Latvia, and I will do it again.
Beyond policies and regulation, media bear an intrinsic link with the citizen. Not only the citizen is a media consumer, but it is also an investor – be it indirectly by means of state funding, or directly – in terms of pay for commercial content. Thereby, each and every one of us who values trustworthy information is a crucial partner for media outlets. We know today that for the air we breathe to be clean, it takes personal and political decisions and investment – the same goes for quality journalism. Let us support it by demand and personal choices.
I would also like to take this opportunity to express gratitude to international donors and allies who have provided valuable support to independent media in the Baltics. In particular, let me thank Victoria Svanberg and her family foundation for the contribution to raising a generation of investigative journalists who are doing justice to their role as watchdogs of democracy. Your continuous support for the development of sustainable media in the region is an example to others, too – both in Latvia and abroad.
Ladies and gentleman!
To conclude, I return to the forum’s key theme of “reinventing”.
As in any business, and very much so in media, at the time when consumption habits are changing, disinformation and rapid digitalisation, it is important to constantly develop and reinvent oneself. This requires strategic vision, creative and people-sensitive solutions and courageous decisions. This requires a renewed partnership between the media, the citizens and the state. I do believe that this forum is an efficient platform for all of you to collaborate and innovate, to discover hidden opportunities and sustainable business models which deliver on our common objective of informed and active citizenry, rule of law and democracy as basis for modern and robust statehood.
Let me conclude my speech with a wish. I see that the quality journalism is under particular threat. And we have several kinds of journalism, but for the democracy and the society especially this branch of journalism is indispensable. And I hope that you will also discuss the issue of how to distinguish, how to define quality and other kinds of journalism – other branches of journalism. How to support especially this branch of journalism, how to avoid abuse of journalism for hidden agendas that are not obvious to the reader. And it is also equally important to think how to create a state system for supporting quality journalism. Because the state support for that might be vital. Therefore, we must provide state support for quality journalism as a branch of journalism, but not for a specific media outlet and not for specific political interests.
Thank you very much and I wish you a fruitful forum!