Eastern europe workshop january/2013: a terra incognita

13 young journalists visit the taz. They come from four successor states of the Soviet Union.

For the participants also took the opportunity to contribute their personal experiences. Photo: Anja Weber

"I am convinced that everything we have seen and heard here is a very good investment in the countries of Eastern Europe," says Wiktoria Bilasch from the Ukrainian capital Kiev. She is one of 13 young journalists from four successor states of the former Soviet Union who – against all odds in obtaining entry visas to Germany – took part in a seminar sponsored by the taz Panter Foundation from January 11 to 20, 2013.

Other supporters included the Zeit Foundation, the Marion Donhoff Foundation and the German Marshall Fund. Following the first visit of six young journalists from Belarus to Berlin in the fall of 2011, the Panter Foundation has once again set out for Eastern Europe.

For good reason: Journalists in countries such as Belarus, Russia and Ukraine still work under extremely difficult conditions and are often subject to repression by the state.

Born in 1964, she has been Eastern Europe editor of the taz since 1995 and one of the two heads of the foreign desk since 2011. She studied Slavic studies and political science in Hamburg, Paris and St. Petersburg as well as media and intercultural communication in Frankfurt/Oder and Sofia. She writes now and then for the journal of Amnesty International.

And freedom of speech quickly reaches its limits when the media try to fulfill their function of criticizing or controlling those in power. This time the seminar focused on the importance of the EU Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum and was aimed at young journalists from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova.

200 applicants

More than 200 young people from many regions of the respective countries applied. This is a clear indication that the need for and interest in such programs is as great as ever, and that such programs make sense and will continue to do so in the future.

On the one hand, the participants familiarized themselves during the seminar with basic features of the German press landscape, the history and functioning of the taz, topics such as journalism and human rights, journalistic forms of presentation and the latest developments in online journalism in Germany.

On the other hand, they had the opportunity for numerous meetings with various non-governmental organizations (such as Reporters without Borders or the Eastern European journalists’ network n-ost), but also a member of the German Bundestag as well as representatives of the European Commission and the German Foreign Office.

40, has a degree in economics and has been a member of the board of the German-Belarusian Society for many years. He has been an election observer for the OSCE in Belarus several times.

The idea of bringing together young people from several countries and working together on issues obviously paid off. The participants took the opportunity to share their personal experiences and compare them with those of their colleagues.

Understanding other countries better

In the process, it became clear more than once how little the participants had previously known about each other. Anton Kashlikov from Belarus puts it this way: "A big plus of the seminar was that people from four countries took part. The Republic of Moldova was terra incognita for me until now. Now, after the seminar, I understand much better what is happening in this country."

Mikhail Yefimkin from the Russian city of Smolensk is impressed by the many discussions that took place during the seminar. "Because that is what is still lacking in Russia," he says.

And Tania Scutaru, a television journalist from the Moldovan capital of Chisinau, notes, "For me, as someone who is in Europe for the first time – Romania and Ukraine are not among them – this was a great opportunity to learn more about the European Union and how people live here and what they think. It’s just a shame that it all ended so quickly." I think all the participants agree – as do the organizers.

The project was realized with funds from the Zeit Foundation, the Marion Donhoff Foundation, the German Marshall Fund and the taz Panter Foundation.

People donated 506,380 euros to the foundation.

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