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Vaclav Havel and Jiri Dienstbier Journalism Fellowship Programs

RFE/RL offers fellowship programs that provide mentoring and support for outstanding journalists dedicated to promoting human rights and democracy in our target regions.

  • The Vaclav Havel Journalism Fellowship is available to aspiring, independent journalists in the European Union's Eastern Partnership countries and Russia.
  • The Jiri Dienstbier Journalism Fellowship is available to aspiring, independent journalists in the western Balkans.

Call for Applications

Fellowship term:
November 18, 2019 – June 26, 2020
Deadline for applications: June 9, 2019

Call for Applications:

About Fellowship Programs

Fellows are selected as a result of a highly competitive process. They are placed with an appropriate language service at RFE/RL's Prague headquarters to receive on-the-job training and mentoring, while working alongside RFE/RL’s seasoned professionals. Programs equip Fellows with cutting-edge journalistic skills, and involve them in the daily editorial debates and discussions that inform a professional and independent press so that they may become standard-bearers of the profession and leaders in their communities, on-line, on air, and in the world.

The Václav Havel Journalism Fellowship (VHJF) is a joint initiative of RFE/RL and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, generously supported by the Dagmar and Vaclav Havel Foundation Vize97. Launched in 2011, it is inspired by the late Czech leader’s belief in the transformational power of free speech, and builds on RFE/RL’s legacy of promoting more open societies through journalism. More information about the Vaclav Havel Journalism Fellowship is available here.

Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs cites the VHJF in its 2018 Statement on the Occasion of World Press Freedom Day

The Jiri Dienstbier Journalism Fellowship (JDJF) is a joint program of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic and RFE/RL, funded by the Ministry. Launched in 2014, it is inspired by Jiri Dienstbier Sr.’s contributions to the fields of journalism, foreign policy, and human rights, and intended to further RFE/RL’s legacy of promoting more just and open societies through journalism. More information about the Jiri Dienstbier Journalism Fellowship is available here.

Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs cites the JDJF in its 2018 Statement on the Occasion of World Press Freedom Day

Fellowship Focus Map

Map of countries where the Václav Havel and Jiří Dienstbier Journalism Fellowships are available.

  • Blue: The Václav Havel Journalism Fellowship
  • Red: The Jiri Dienstbier Journalism Fellowship

Are you interested in fellowship goals, application conditions and how to apply?

For more information click here →

About Havel and Dienstbier

​About Vaclav Havel​

​Václav Havel was the first post-revolutionary president of independent Czechoslovakia in 1989, and the first Czech president in 1993. He was also a renowned playwright, poet and essayist. Vaclav Havel's name is synonymous with peaceful resistance to authoritarianism and commitment to individual liberty and dignity.
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​About Jiri Dienstbier

While Havel is well-known internationally as the “philosopher king,” a former political prisoner who became president, there is another, less well-known figure in many of the iconic photographs of Havel from that time pictured with him, smiling warmly under a thick, tobacco-stained mustache.
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Current Fellows

Vaclav Havel Journalism Fellows 2018-2019

Gulnar Salimova, Azerbaijan

Gulnar Salimova has worked as a journalist for over six years, reporting on domestic issues in Azerbaijan. Besides online journalism, Salimova also works as a photo-journalist and on making documentary films. Her first experimental short documentary essay was released in 2017, and explores femininity through the lives of transgender women. Currently she is working on a feature length version of the film. Many of her visual stories were published on the multimedia platform, which covers stories from the South Caucasus. Salimova is the recipient of a grant for South Caucasus female photographers with the project “South Caucasus Photography Hub for Education and Innovation” sponsored by the Tbilisi Photography and Multimedia Museum, and is currently at work on a photo project about the Romani community in Azerbaijan. She has a Master’s degree from the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs on Multimedia Journalism. She speaks Azerbaijani, Russian, and English.

Hermine Virabyan, Armenia

Hermine Virabyan is a freelance journalist from Armenia. She has worked for local and regional media companies, covering human rights, social, and political issues, and as a freelance photographer and videographer. One of her favorite genres is documentary, and she has done experimental work in VR. Virabyan was a correspondent for, a multimedia platform covering stories from the South Caucasus, and worked as a correspondent for, and She participated in the Young Journalists School of the Journalists Union of RA, from which she took her first steps in journalism, before graduating from the Journalism faculty of Yerevan State University. She also attended the Multimedia Summer School, organized by the Media Initiatives Center (formerly Internews). She speaks Armenian, English, Russian, and Spanish.

Tornike Mandaria, Georgia

​Tornike Mandaria is a Georgian journalist based in Tbilisi. He started his career at the start-up online media site, which soon became one of the leading independent news websites in Georgia. After two years of reporting on daily news and writing in-depth materials at, Mandaria started working freelance, covering Georgia for the unique media platform JAMnews. The platform brings together professional journalists from around the Caucasus, as well as authors and experts who seek to provide readers and viewers with accurate information from diverse points of view. JAMnews offers current affairs reporting, and professional and impartial analysis on major stories and trends in the Caucasus, including the conflicts in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Nagorno-Karabakh. Mandaria has also worked as a media critic and written about journalistic ethics and standards, the media environment, and business media. He is currently completing a Bachelor’s degree at Tbilisi State University in Journalism and Mass Communications. He speaks Georgian, English and Russian.​

Victoria Colesnic, Moldova

Victoria Colesnic reports on social issues in the Republic of Moldova. She has worked for a number of independent Moldovan media outlets, where she produced multimedia stories on domestic violence, mental health, unemployment, and migration. For the last year, she worked as a local correspondent for VICE Romania. Colesnic has a Bachelor's degree in Journalism from Alexandru Ioan Cuza University in Romania and a Master’s in Culture, Collaborative Media, and Creative Industries from Malmö University, Sweden. She speaks Romanian, Russian, English, and French.

Karina Merkuryeva, Russian Federation

Karina Merkuryeva has worked for a number of independent Russian media outlets. She was a correspondent at “Imprisoned Russian” (Rus Sidyashaya), a human rights project that covers the rights of prisoners in Russia, and has worked for Deutsche Welle, writing about banned art in Russia and Russian courts. She has worked for Open Russia, an independent project engaged in defending the rights of citizens and, most recently, was a news editor for the Russian independent channel Rain (Dozhd), reporting on domestic and regional politics, business, and culture. Merkuryeva has just completed a Bachelor’s degree at Moscow’s Lomonosov State University in media business and business journalism. She is currently studying to be a programmer and is learning JavaScript. She speaks Russian, English, German, Spanish and now is learning Chinese.

Jiri Dienstbier Journalism Fellows 2018 - 2019

Masha Durkalić, Bosnia and Hercegovina

Masha Durkalić is a journalist and feminist from Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), working since 2002. In 2011 she began to focus on reporting and researching about women’s and LGBTI rights.

Durkalić is the editor of the first LGBT info portal in BiH, She is the author and editor of the publication Her Voice Echoes, a compilation of personal stories about women and investigative articles that explores the position of marginalized groups in BiH, and the co-creator of the initiative #ŽeneBiH, the first illustrated book on exceptional women throughout the country’s history. She is the editor of a series of advocacy documents that are part of the Feminist Advocacy Platform of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and a contributing author to a number of publications on LGBTI rights and topics published by the Sarajevo Open Center. She is a co-author of the media analysis, “Towards Positive Practice: Media Reporting about LGBTI Topics in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2016.” She is also the co-creator of the book #ŽeneBiH, an artistic, activist and research initiative that is comprised of biographies of over 50 BiH women who have broken stereotypes and advocated women’s rights and emancipation. Her investigative interests include social movements in southeastern Europe, with a focus on feminist activism.

Durkalić has a Master’s degree from the European Regional Master in Democracy and Human Rights program, is a fellow of the UN University Gender Equality and Training program of the University of Iceland, and is a Heinrich Boll associate. She graduated with a degree in Journalism from the Faculty of Political Sciences at the University of Sarajevo.

Jovana Georgievski, Serbia

​Jovana Georgievski is a Serbian journalist and a regular contributor to the Belgrade-based “Vreme” weekly news magazine and the Prishtina-based portal, Kosovo 2.0. Her areas of interest gravitate around situations of crisis, such as conflict and migration, and related processes such as protests and other anti-establishment citizen actions. Georgievski is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Russian Contemporary Literature and Crime Fiction at the University of Belgrade, as well as an international academic program in Conflictology at the United Nations Research and Training Center. She is fluent in English and Russian and has a working knowledge of Czech.

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