Inside the sprawling international media centre at Bharat Mandapam, the G20 Summit venue, the lines drawn were sharp and clear.
More than 2,000 foreign journalists from across the globe were at the venue Saturday morning—some were glued to their laptop screens and rushing to send out their reports in time, others were speaking to the camera and their audience about the Summit.
A few were enjoying a short coffee break with their country colleagues.
They were all here to report on the two-day G20 Summit. But it was rare to see one media delegation rubbing shoulders with the other.
There were mediapersons from Russia, China and the United States among several other countries at the event.
As per official estimates, more than 150 mediapersons have travelled from Russia and the US each. Around 50 mediapersons have travelled from China to cover the Summit. Then, there were mediapersons from African countries, Japan, Bangladesh, among other countries.
Warming up to each other was taking time in this icy cold media centre which had plenty of canned water, coke and hot beverages for journalists gearing up for a long haul.
Far and few interactions between the groups made that evident. There was little exchange of notes, either on the summit or on the Indian vegetarian food served in the meals.
Groups of Russian, Australian and German journalists were seated a few metres away from each other, but journalists from each group told The Indian Express that they hadn’t spoken to each other till Saturday afternoon. This was also partly because some of them arrived late at the venue and some were busy with work. Journalists from the US were largely scattered around the media room but it was rare to catch any interaction between them and Russian or Chinese mediapersons.Damien Cave, Australia bureau chief and international correspondent for The New York Times told The Indian Express that there has been little scope for interaction with journalists from Russia or China during the Summit and even if they are sharing the same media room and the dining space and sharing tables next to each other.
“In my experience, casual interactions are less common during summits, but are more frequent while covering events such as natural disasters, when everyone is trying to make sense of a chaotic situation,” he said, adding that geopolitical events tend to keep reporters busy trying to craft coverage for their national audience.
As the day progressed, a few lines got blurred though. Indian television journalists were seen interviewing Russian journalists on aspects related to the summit and their experiences here. Some Russian and Chinese media persons were also seen exchanging notes on the event. There were also exchanges between Indian journalists and their Bangladeshi and Australian counterparts.
Talking to The Indian Express, Ksenia Kondratieva, senior editor at Russian English-language news channel Russia Today said she has met a lot of great colleagues at the forum, and interactions between media are an essential part of public diplomacy.
“I haven’t had many casual interactions with Western journalists at the forums, and those that I had were miraculously winded up the moment I mentioned I work for a Russian media,” she said, adding: “Unfortunately, there is some bias regarding Russian journalists, or probably Russians in general, despite many still believing that journalists should remain well-informed and independent.”
“Frankly, I’ve experienced such vibes even before in my career, much before geopolitical realities shaped up the way they are right now,” she added.
Earlier in the day, German media persons present in the media centre said there have not been many opportunities for them to interact with Russian media persons.
“But, given a chance, I would like to interact with them to know their point of view and thinking on certain global issues,” Anna Lehmann of German daily Taz said in the afternoon.
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Not all journalists, however, felt that the sharply polarised world of today has any bearing on the journalists huddling together in the media rooms set up alongside global events.
Li Xiang, chief editor of China Global Television Network (CGTN) emphasised that according to him, the current global geopolitical divides did not reflect in the media room of the summit. He said throughout the day, he has been speaking and sharing notes on food, work, culture and everything else with the Indian, Omani and the American press.
“When it comes to dining, people do prefer to sit together with their country colleagues and that is true for every summit. But inside the media room, I have been constantly talking to journalists from across the globe on several matters. I do not see a divide,” he said.