What do 12 journalists from the Baltic States and the Society of Professional Journalists have in common?
The journalists — four each from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — will visit with members of the St. Louis Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30, to discuss press freedom and the risks of practicing the craft of journalism amid the political and social unrest generated by recent events in Ferguson, Mo.
At home, the journalists endure a different stress: Their nations face a threat of invasion from neighboring Russia.
All 12 are guests of the U.S. State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program. The World Affairs Council is coordinating their trip to St. Louis and will host the visit with SPJ in the council’s offices in the Old Post Office building downtown. The visiting journalists are:
- Juri Nikolajev, editor, Narva Radio, Estonian Public Broadcasting
- Jelena Solomina, news editor and TV news anchor, Pervyi Baltiiskii Kanal
- Julia Tisler, news editor, Delfi
- Roman Vikulov, reporter and columnist, Viru Prospekt
- Konstantins Gaivoronskis, editor, Vesti Segonja
- Aleksejs Gusevs, reporter, Latvian Radio 4
- Andrejs Hramcovs, reporter, TV5, TV3 and TV6
- Jana Rubincika, correspondent, Latvian Television
- Paulius Gritenas, reporter, World News, Lrytas
- Oleg Jerofejev, editor-in-chief, Delfi
- Vykintas Pugaciauskas, senior international news editor, Lithuanian Radio and Television
- Agne Skamarakaite, moderator and host, Lithuanian Radio and Television
Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania lie along Russia’s western border and are known collectively as the Baltic States. Each is considered at risk of being invaded since Russia adopted a nationalist policy to exert authority over ethnic Russians in other countries.
Since March, Russia has twice invaded neighboring Ukraine, where an estimated 6 million ethnic Russians live, and attempted to annex a portion of Ukraine known as Crimea. Earlier this month, an official with the Russian Foreign Ministry said his nation has a right to take the same approach with the Baltics, home to about 1.3 million Russians.
Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania obtained sovereignty from the Russian Empire after World War I and declared themselves independent nations in 1918. They were absorbed by the Soviet Union in 1940 and remained until regaining independence in 1991.
This year, SPJ has also met with journalists from Iraq and Syria through other IVLP meetings coordinated through the World Affairs Council.