On June 6 – 9, 2018, the 24th International Festival of Regional and Local Televisions Golden Beggar, took place in Košice. The organizer of the festival was the City TV Košice Foundation, the main partner was Košice self-governing region. Parts of this remarkable event, in which TV artists and film-makers from more than 50 countries of the world presented their works, were panel discussions of experts dealing with current social issues. These panels seek the answers to the question of what topics should be brought by televisions and independent producers and in which ways they are supposed to do this.
Participants of the first discussion Nationalism: current politics, public discourse and media included political scientist Grigorij Mesežnikov (moderator) and speakers Peter Hunčík (psychiatrist), Jozef Lenč (political scientist) and Jakub Drábik (historian).
Nationalism is a political ideology based on the premise of ethnic exclusivity, which stresses superiority of a certain group of people sharing the same origins, history, area, language and culture to all other similar groups. Nationalism sees a key and indisputable value in a nation, and national states in particular, and in all things related to it.
Historically speaking, nationalism was based on an effort groups of people defined on ethnic grounds made to survive and gain a better position in the race involving other ethnic groups. It was a reaction to an insecurity of an individual, his or her need for the sense of belonging to a specific community, striving to identify with said community even further. This insecurity stemmed from the feelings of threat, be it external or internal, especially when it came to situations involving social changes, crises and conflicts.
Nationalism is instrumental in mobilizing people, especially so if employed by prominent figures of the society e.g. by political leaders or state apparatus. Outcomes of nationalism in politics are always dramatic: they have an impact on the lives of millions and, oftentimes, can result in suffering or even death.
Factors behind the growth of nationalism in recent decades include the lack of ability of underdeveloped (lagging behind) social structures (such as states or regimes) to cope with the impacts of globalization, technological progress and the unprecedented speed and freedom of information spreading that are disruptive for the traditional forms of national or ethnic communities.
In the last few years, nationalistic feelings were fed by waves of massive movement of people in various regions caused by wars or terrorism (Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia) or by socio-economic disasters (Sub-Saharan Africa). Nationalists prey on anti-immigrant attitudes of some groups of population with the objective to increase their political presence and gain access to power. And even though they usually fail, nationalistic populists have seen been some success.
European integration, which made nations with different ethnic, linguistic and cultural characteristics come together in a long-term association of states bound by strong internal links built on the universal values of freedom, democracy and human dignity, gives hope (and, at the same time, serves to prove) that nationalism as a form of state-supported ideology can be overcome. And it is the responsibility of decent and high-quality media to help this trend.
Participants of the second discussion Civil Society, Media and Nationalism: Freedom of Creation and Threats to Free Media included political scientist Grigorij Mesežnikov (moderator) and speakers Pavol Demeš (political analyst and civic activist), Eugen Korda (journalist) and Peter Schutz (journalist).
Discussion was focused on the media environment in the transforming states and the role of independent journalists in strengthening of democracy and civil society.
Free and autonomous media rank among the main pillars of a democratic society. They are essential for the cultivation of social atmosphere and promote civil society and its role in the efforts to improve democratic processes, fight against corruption and crime, and ensure peaceful coexistence of various ethnic and religious groups. Such media care for a free and safe society which allows for free arts and journalism.
Recent developments in a number of countries indicate the increase of nationalistic and populist forces that undermine the basics of democracy. Nationalists try to gain control over media and restrict their freedom and autonomy. Moreover, they strive to have a major influence on the existing media or create new ones. They spread toxic and malign content over the Internet and use social networks or the so-called conspiracy websites to spread hoaxes and fake news. At the same time, corrupted organized groups with vested interests (both economic and political) intimidate independent journalists, restrict their freedom and, sometimes, they do not even have scruples about threatening them with violence.
Independent journalism and civil society share a common goal when it comes to media – to protect freedom of media, fight against those who try to eliminate it, and to act as a watchdog of lawfulness and rule of law. They have to draw a clear line between the spreading of objective information and manipulation, propaganda and disinformation. Moreover, they should strive to apply core principles of journalistic ethics and professional rules that media in a democratic and free society should adhere to.