MOSCOW, June 5 (RIA Novosti) - President Vladimir Putin called on the media Monday to display greater responsibility in their coverage of events.
About 1,700 editors, publishers, and top media managers are expected to discuss global media trends and gauge press freedom in Russia in the next three days.
Speaking at an opening ceremony of the summit, which will include the World Newspaper Congress and the World Editors Forum of the World Association of Newspapers, Putin urged journalists to act to increase society's faith in the media.
"Much has been said here about the lack of trust in the media in some countries, including Russia," said Putin, who has been subject to much criticism in the West for a perceived crackdown on media freedom since he became president six years ago. "But I believe a government decision alone will not raise society's confidence in the press. What we need is the responsibility of the press."
A report delivered by Gavin O'Reilly, World Newspaper Congress president, which preceded Putin's remarks, highlighted lack of popular confidence in the news provided by Russia's media and excessive state control over the field.
But Putin responded robustly. "I have different data," he said. "The state's share in the Russian press market has continually declined, which is easy to verify, whereas the number of publications is continuing to grow."
The president said there were some 53,000 periodicals in Russia, and it was simply impossible to control all of them, although he admitted there was an ongoing struggle between the state's interests and freedom of speech.
Putin also said investment in Russia's periodicals market alone had hit over a billion dollars a year, which was a considerable figure for the country.
Putin said personal positions and the ability of journalists, editors, and publishers to run their editions, their desire for commercial success, as well as corporations had influenced editorial lines.
He said the capital invested in Russia's emerging media market in the 1990s, the era of fraudulent privatization deals, could "hardly be called transparent."
"Press freedom was now under the diktat of oligarchs' capital rather than the state's ideological monopoly," Putin said, calling it a difficult period for Russian journalists, as well as society and democracy in Russia after the collapse of the communist regime.
"Today, the Russian press has rich experience in working in market conditions, although learning to combine press [freedom] ideals and commercial success is no easy matter," Putin said, adding that this problem remained acute for many countries that sought a balance between the interests between journalists, business, the state and society.
The president thanked the organizations for choosing Russia as the host country.
"We regard it as a sign of your genuine interest in our country. I was glad to hear that the media community had displayed responsibility by shunning arguments against Russia [as the summit venue] and bullying," Putin said.
Russia and Putin personally have been severely criticized in the Western media for purportedly backsliding toward totalitarian rule, allegedly pursuing an energy policy that runs roughshod over other countries and opposition to punishing Iran for its controversial nuclear program. Some critics doubt Russia's right to be one of the Group of Eight industrialized nations and even called on other G8 members to boycott the summit Russia will host in July.