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New RFE/RL Fellowships Support Independent, Investigative Journalism

Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs Political Director Petr Drulak meets with 2015-2016 Vaclav Havel and Jiri Dienstbier journalism fellows (Photo: @MZV)

RFE/RL has welcomed the 2015-2016 Vaclav Havel Journalism Fellows to its Prague offices for an eight-month program of professional development aimed at supporting independent journalists in countries lacking a free press.

This year’s Havel Fellows are: Knar Khudoyan, Armenia; Zaur Gurbanli, Azerbaijan; Ihar Losik, Belarus; Safie Ablyaeva, Ukraine; and Diana Munasipova, Russia.

Launched in 2011, the program is guided by the late Czech President Vaclav Havel’s belief in the transformational power of free speech. Intended specifically for journalists from so-called Eastern Partnership countries located in the European Union neighborhood and Russia, the fellowship aims to prepare “the next generation of journalists committed to professionalism and pluralism,” said Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs Political Secretary Petr Drulak in remarks earlier this month.

Two Jiri Dienstbier Journalism Fellows also joined RFE/RL in December, in a parallel program designed to support aspiring journalists from the western Balkan states. Milena Mitrovic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Jasmina Lazic of Serbia make up the second annual class of Dienstbier Fellows, who are participating in a program inspired by the contributions to journalism, foreign policy, and human rights of Jiri Dienstbier, Czechoslovakia’s first post-revolution Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Both programs are joint partnerships between RFE/RL and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic. The Havel Fellowship receives additional support from the Dagmar and Vaclav Havel Foundation VIZE 97.

RFE/RL further extended its outreach efforts this month with the announcement of the Khadija Ismayilova Investigative Journalism Fellowship, created in tribute to the prominent Azeri reporter and RFE/RL contributor who was imprisoned in December 2014 after publishing reports linking Azerbaijan’s ruling family to corruption. The Fellowship is a joint initiative of RFE/RL and the Sarajevo-based Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), and aims to ensure that Ismayilova’s voice is heard and that her work continues.