WASHINGTON - Speaking at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) on April 3, five Vaclav Havel Journalism Fellows cited the expansion of media literacy programs, training and education for journalists, and increased support for local news outlets as measures that could help sustain independent media in their countries.
The Fellows, visiting Washington from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, and Russia, were welcomed to the NED by President Carl Gershman, who said “we have to be alert to how important it is to defend freedom and democracy, especially in the five countries that are represented by the Havel Journalism Fellows.”
In keynote remarks, Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček affirmed the importance of journalism to any health democracy, declaring that “support to independent media...is the best answer to some of the trends we have witnessed in recent years, like fake news, disinformation, and renewed propaganda activities.” The Foreign Ministry of the Czech Republic is a partner in the fellowship program.
During a week of meetings, the Havel Fellows also visited the Washington bureaus of CNN, NBC/MSNBC, and Al Jazeera and met with senior journalists at the Washington Bureau of Arizona State University’s Cronkite School of Journalism, the University of Maryland’s Phillip Merrill College of Journalism, and the National Press Club. They met with senior staff at the U.S. Commission for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the office of Rep. Francis Rooney, and officials at the U.S. State Department, in addition to numerous think tanks and NGOs.
The Václav Havel Journalism Fellowship, launched in 2011, is an eight-month program that is inspired by the late Czech leader’s belief in the transformational power of free speech, and which builds on RFE/RL’s legacy of promoting more open societies through journalism. It is supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic and the Dagmar and Vaclav Havel Foundation Vize97. In 2014, RFE/RL and the ministry launched a similar program, the Jiri Dienstbier Journalism Fellowship, for aspiring, independent-minded journalists from the western Balkans.
RFE/RL relies on its networks of local reporters to provide accurate news and information to 34 million people in 26 languages and 22 countries where media freedom is restricted, or where a professional press has not fully developed. Its videos were viewed over 2.6 billion times on Facebook and YouTube in FY2018. RFE/RL is an editorially independent media company funded by a grant from the U.S. Congress through the U.S. Agency for Global Media.