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Vaclav Havel Journalism Fellows Welcomed In Prague

VHJF Class of 2013-2014 (l-r): Ivan Beliaev, Natalya Sedletska, Ilgar Gabidullin
VHJF Class of 2013-2014 (l-r): Ivan Beliaev, Natalya Sedletska, Ilgar Gabidullin
RFE/RL President and CEO Kevin Klose has welcomed the 2013-2014 participants of the Vaclav Havel Journalism Fellowship, a program launched in 2011 to help aspiring, independent journalists from RFE/RL's broadcast regions pursue their profession in support of a free and independent press.

Addressing the fellows, Klose said, "Journalism plays an essential role in creating democracies, in creating non-threatening civil societies. It teaches people not what to think, but to think for themselves and by so doing understand the societies around them. You all come from places where freedom of speech is impeded, you are here to fight for it, and we're going to help you."

This year's fellows are Ivan Beliaev, a prolific journalist and editor from the Russian Federation's northwest Vologda region; Ildar Gabidullin, a print and TV journalist who has covered local politics and minority issues in his native Tatar language in Russia's Republic of Tatarstan; and Natalya Sedletska, a Kyiv-based TV journalist known for her investigative reports into the public procurement process in Ukraine. The fellows were selected from more than 60 candidates for their experience and demonstrated commitment to promoting independent journalism in their home countries. They spent an initial period at one of RFE/RL’s local bureaus, and will now receive seven months of on-the-job training and mentoring at RFE/RL's Prague headquarters.

“We are pleased to welcome three new Vaclav Havel Journalism Fellows to Prague,” said Jiri Schneider, First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic. “We are especially proud that the fellowship carries the name of Vaclav Havel, one of the most prominent leaders in the post-communist world, who used his position, voice and moral authority to advance present-day struggles for freedom and democracy. We strongly believe that his legacy will provide the selected journalists with an inspiration for their own work in their respective countries.”

The fellowship, developed in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, is guided by the late President Havel’s belief in the transformational power of free speech, and builds on RFE/RL’s legacy of promoting open societies through journalism. Fellows are selected from countries in RFE/RL’s broadcast regions where media freedom is stifled or not fully developed.

Previous Vaclav Havel Journalism Fellows are Franak Viacorka of Belarus of the Class of 2012, and Irina Gotisan of Moldova, Seda Stepanyan of Armenia, and Tahmina Taghiyeva of Azerbaijan, all of the Class of 2013. In addition, the fellowship was extended this year to include two exiled journalists from Iran.