WASHINGTON — Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s (RFE/RL) Václav Havel Journalism Fellows visited Washington, D.C., last week, meeting U.S. journalists, officials, and free media and democracy advocates. The Fellows briefed interlocutors on their work during the Fellowship and on the media environments in their countries while also learning about the U.S. media environment.
At the U.S. Department of State, the Fellows attended a daily press briefing, where they were welcomed by the Department’s Spokesperson Ned Price, and met with Deputy Assistant Secretary Gabriel Escobar. They also visited the Department’s Foreign Press Center. Separately, they met with representatives from the offices of U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), and Rob Portman (R-Ohio.) and staff from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
The Fellows participated in a “Press Freedom in the Age of Disinformation” panel at the Embassy of the Czech Republic, which was moderated by Czech Ambassador to the U.S. Hynek Kmoníček. They visited the U.S. Agency for Global Media and gave interviews to Voice of America’s Georgian, Ukrainian and Russian Services. They also visited the human rights non-profit Freedom House, the international affairs think tank Atlantic Council, the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the National Endowment for Democracy.
The trip was also an opportunity for the Fellows to speak to seasoned U.S. journalists, first at the National Press Club and later at a roundtable hosted by RFE/RL, which was attended by representatives of Axios, CNN, NPR, POLITICO, and Zivvy Media.
The Václav Havel Journalism Fellowship is a joint initiative of RFE/RL and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic for aspiring journalists in the European Union's Eastern Partnership countries and Russia. Launched in 2011, it equips Fellows with cutting-edge journalistic skills, and involves them in the daily editorial debates and discussions that inform a professional and independent press so that they may become standard-bearers of journalism. It is inspired by the late Czech president, Václav Havel, who believed in the transformational power of free speech, and builds on RFE/RL’s legacy of promoting more open societies through journalism.
“This fellowship provides the necessary training, skills and tools young journalists need to navigate and succeed in environments that are hostile to a free press,” said Jamie Fly, President and CEO of RFE/RL. “The Václav Havel Fellowship is vital to identifying and building the next generation of independent journalists in countries where a free press is under assault.”
The 2022 Fellows are Vasilina Sakalouskaya and Valeryja Ulasik, both from Belarus, Kateryna Lykhohliad from Ukraine, Vazha Tavberidze from Georgia, Nicoleta Stavila from Moldova, and Egor Fedorov from Russia, who was unable to take part in the trip to the U.S. The Fellows have been working from RFE/RL’s Prague headquarters since January and, those who are able to, will spend a final month in RFE/RL’s bureaus in their countries.
RFE/RL relies on its networks of local reporters to provide accurate news and information to more than 37 million people every week in 27 languages and 23 countries where media freedom is restricted, or where a professional press has not fully developed. Its videos were viewed 7 billion times on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram/IGTV in FY2021. 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.