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World Newspaper Congress 2008 commences on an upbeat note

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World Newspaper Congress 2008 commences on an upbeat note

It was a mix of classical music, Swedish royalty and a look at the newspaper industry across the world that greeted delegates at the 61st World Newspaper Congress. Organised by the World Association of Newspapers (WAN), the Congress began on a positive note with WAN CEO Timothy Balding stating, “Newspaper circulation has been rising or stable in three-quarters of the world’s countries over the past five years and in nearly 80 per cent of countries in the past year.”

The 61st World Newspaper Congress got underway at Göteborg, Sweden on June 1 and would continue till June 4. The opening ceremony saw a performance by the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, which was followed by a welcome address by King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden. The Congress is being hosted by Sweden for the third time.

Opening the Congress, Balding presented WAN’s annual update of world press trends. According to WAN’s annual update, global newspaper sales were up 2.57 per cent over the year, and had increased 9.39 per cent over the past five years.

Noting that newspaper circulation had been on the rise the world over, Balding added, “And even in places where paid-for circulation is declining, notably the US and some countries in Western Europe, newspapers continue to extend their reach through a wide variety of free and niche publications and through their rapidly developing multi-media platforms.”

He also stressed on the importance of freedom of the press.

In his address, Gavin O’Reilly, President, WAN, said, “In the exploitation of the new opportunities created by the Internet, the Swedish, like their Nordic neighbours, have also proved leaders, whether through their digital news sites, video and web TV, the exploitation of mobile devices or in the convergence of their editorial operations.”

“There is also a lesson to be learned here in Sweden, however, in the continuing strength of the print newspaper,” he continued.

According to O’Reilly, it was a question of measure and perspective. He asked, “If we don’t keep our heads and keep uppermost in our minds the realities and hard facts about the enduring force and impact of our core, print businesses, who will do it for us? Not those with the loudest voice or the most provocative viewpoint who, unfortunately, are those who tend to shape perceptions about our industry.”

The opening ceremony also saw the Golden Pen of Freedom awarded to Chinese journalist Li Chongqing. However, Chongqing was unable to attend the ceremony as he was not given a passport. Chongqing was released from prison in February 2008 after serving a three-year sentence for reporting on an outbreak of dengue fever.


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