Reporting From the Front Lines of Authoritarianism: A Conversation With the 2019 Vaclav Havel Journalism Fellows

April 03, 2019
02:00 pm - 03:30 pm

About the Event

The Vaclav Havel Journalism Fellowship is an initiative of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic and is generously supported by the Dagmar and Vaclav Havel Foundation VIZE97. Inspired by the late Czech leader’s belief in the transformational power of free speech and building on RFE/RL’s legacy of promoting more open societies through journalism, the Fellowship is targeted at young journalists from countries within RFE/RL’s broadcast region.

In an era of resurgent authoritarianism and the growing influence of state propaganda, developing independent journalistic talent is more important than ever.  Emerging young voices in independent media from Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan, the Russian Federation, and Armenia, discussed the common challenges they face while reporting within their home countries and across the region.

Special introductory remarks were given by Tomáš Petříček, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, and Joanna Levison, the Director of Media and Public Affairs at RFE/RL. Carl Gershman, the President of NED introduced the Foreign Minister.

About the SPEAKERS

Tomáš Petříček was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic in October 2018, after serving as Deputy Minister in charge of setting the overall policy and strategic goals of the Foreign Ministry. Before joining the government, Petříček was a senior advisor in the European Parliament and had a successful career in local government in the City of Prague.

Joanna Levison is Director of Media and Public Affairs at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) with over 20 years of experience in international media relations and democracy promotion. Before joining RFE/RL in 2009, Levison worked as a foreign policy officer for Iraq and the Middle East in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the U.S. Department of State.

Miriam Lanskoy is Senior Director for Russia and Eurasia at the National Endowment for Democracy and will moderate the discussion.

Vaclav Havel Journalism Fellows 2019

Victoria Colesnic has worked for a number of independent Moldovan media outlets, producing multimedia stories on domestic violence, mental health, unemployment, and migration. For the last year, she has worked as a local correspondent for VICE Romania.

Tornike Mandaria is a Georgian journalist and media critic based in Tbilisi who has worked for online outlets including – one of the leading independent news websites in Georgia – and JAMnews, which covers current trends in the Caucasus including the conflicts in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Nagorno-Karabakh.

Gulnar Salimova is a journalist, photographer, and documentary filmmaker reporting on domestic issues in Azerbaijan. She has published visual stores on the platform and is currently working on a photo project about the Romani community in Azerbaijan.

Karina Merkuryeva is a journalist who has worked for a number NGOs and independent Russian media outlets including the prisoners’ rights project Russia Behind Bars (Rus Sidyashchaya), Open Russia, and TV Rain. She writes about regional and domestic politics, business, and culture.

Hermine Virabyan is a freelance journalist, photographer, and videographer from Armenia, was a correspondent for and has covered human rights, social and political issues as a correspondent for, and