Social Issues

Oct 152008

ICFJ forum gives opportunity for open discussion of controversial topics

"Democracy in Azerbaijan: Goals and Challenges" broke new ground, allowing open discussion of sensitive topics, and bypassing traditional government-controlled media by using the Internet.One question I faced in the press conference we held a couple of days before the forum was: “How is your forum going to affect the election?”

This was an interesting question – and a pretty easy one to answer. The goal, I said, was not to affect the election. Everyone knows the president of Azerbaijan is going to be re-elected.

Oct 152008

Creating a space for democratic discourse in Azerbaijan

Some thoughts from the night before our forum - Democracy in Azerbaijan: Goals & Challenges.Oct. 9, 200811 p.m. The end is in sight for a project that has occupied Chuck & me for the last two months. Yesterday we had a press conference to the forum – Democracy in Azerbaijan: Goals and Challenges. We were also guests on a Radio Liberty talk show, discussing the event. Tomorrow, the forum will be held at the Park Inn in Baku. We have confirmation for about 40 guests. We have confirmation from most of the panelists.

Aug 72008

Young Azerbaijanis enthusiastic about starting to blog

Young Azerbaijanis learning how to use blogs as one form of modern journalism.

The 14 young Azerbaijanis who crowded into the Sheki computer center on Aug. 5 weren’t focused on building democracy, but the training they received from the ICFJ is leading in that direction. In one day, the students created both individual blog sites and a site for their collective blog.

Feb 202008

Russian journalists interview New York Times correspondent

Russian journalists had the opportunity to discuss journalism, politics and the relative merits of subway systems in a wide-ranging discussion with a New York Times correspondent based on Moscow. About a dozen journalists at Moi Rayon-Moscow got a personal introduction to Western-style journalism when Andrew Kramer, correspondent for The New York Times, visited the newsroom for a lunchtime discussion on Feb. 18, 2008. Discussion topics ranged from reporting styles to the comparative merits of the New York City subway and the Moscow Metro.

Feb 192008

New York Times reporter shares experiences with Russian journalists

One of the three Moscow-based New York Times reporters recently visited the news room of Moi Rayon for an informal discussion about reporting, politics, and the relative merits of the New York City and Moscow metro systems. While the US has many positive aspects, the New York Times reporter on the record preferred the Moscow metro.

Dmitri Surnin, editor-in-chief at Moi Rayon-Moscow, listens as Andrew Kramer, New York Times correspondent, discusses his work with Russian journalists at Moi Rayon.

Feb 152008

Observing training sessions in foreign cultures is valuable experience

Cultural differences come to the fore as participants and trainers work together to solve organization's problems

Academics argue about what “culture” is – but anyone who has lived in a foreign country knows that clear differences in social behavior and expectations exist. I have been living in a foreign country – Russia - for nearly three months, and at this point cultural differences don’t usually get my attention. Sometimes, however, they do.

Feb 12008

Signs of hope in young Russian journalism students

Intensive journalism classes begin in Moscow newsroom.

Eric Schwartz (left) and Alexei Terehov of Moi Rayon talk with young journalism students.

Western commentators understandably worry about growing restrictions on press freedom in Russia, but in the eyes of new journalism students in Moscow I see bright signs of hope. At the Moscow newspaper office of Moy Rayon, we are holding journalism classes for about a dozen young students, who exhibit much of the same fire found in journalism students in the United States. They want to find and tell the stories in their neighborhoods.

Signs of hope in young Russian journalism students

Eric Schwartz (left) and Alexei Terehov of Moi Rayon talk with young journalism students.

Dec 132007

Russian bureaucrats choke flow of information for local journalists

On top of the normal challenges faced by journalists everywhere, Russian journalists find that government sources at all levels are restricting even basic information to the press.   The Yeltsin years in Russia were chaotic and sometimes dangerous, but they afforded journalists great opportunities. The relaxation of press restrictions that began with Perestroika continued, and even stolid bureaucrats became more communicative as the power became decentralized.

But Russia seems to have become more difficult for journalists recently.