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Vaclav Havel Journalism Fellowship launched

(This article expired 16.03.2013.)

In a tribute to the life and work of Vaclav Havel and to highlight the importance of independent journalism in overcoming autocracy and dictatorship, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic (MFA) and Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) launched the Vaclav Havel Journalism Fellowship.

President Vaclav Havel´s name, as well as the name of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) are closely associated with the importance of independent journalism in overcoming autocracy and dictatorship. According to Czech Ambassador Petr Gandalovic, "Havel was a playwright, dissident and political leader. He had an uncompromising belief in the power of words and the power of truth to unite people and overcome tyranny. The Fellowship carries the spirit of his convictions to places struggling against censorship where -- even in 2012 -- people are still denied the fundamental human right of free speech." 

The goal of the Vaclav Havel Journalism Fellowship is to support young journalists from RFE/RL´s broadcast region, where media freedom continues to be stifled and where journalism often remains a dangerous profession. Independent journalists will spend six months of professional, on-the-job training and development at RFE/RL's Prague headquarters. The program initially targets EU Eastern Partnership countries including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine, and may expand to include fellows from other countries, including Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

The inaugural Vaclav Havel fellow, Belarusian journalist and youth activist Franak Viachorka, has since January been training with RFE/RL's Belarus service, Radio Svaboda and recently spent a week of training in Washington, DC. On March 21, the Czech Embassy organized a panel discussion called “What Can Be Done for Freedom in Belarus”, moderated by RFE/RL´s senior correspondent Irena Chalupa and featuring Viachorka next to Political Director of the Czech MFA Pavel Fischer, NED President Carl Gershman and Vice President of the Atlantic Council Damon Wilson. During the event, excerpts of “A Lesson of Belarusian” were showed, a documentary film that follows activities of several Belarusian pro-democracy youth activists including Viachorka before the presidential election in March 2006.

(Viachorka, born 1988, has worked as a journalist and editor for several independent publications in Belarus, including as a freelancer for the BelaPAN news agency and the independent Polish satellite TV station, Belsat.)

For more on the Vaclav Havel Journalism Fellowship, visit http://www.rferl.org/content/press_release_havel_fellowship_czech_republic/24516317.html