Latest News from Transitions (TOL)

Past Events

Education journalists learn to work ‘shoulder to shoulder’

As we’ve mentioned in the past, education reporting in our neck of the woods can be a lonely experience for journalists. Most beats – politics, economics, or sports, for example – have more than one reporter, which can be incredibly helpful for journalists if for no other reason than having someone else in the same situation as you and maybe a shoulder to lean on. But for education issues, it’s rare if a news organization devotes even a single reporter to the field.

Over the course of three weekends starting in late August, we brought together four young journalists from Kyrgyzstan in the city of Osh to help sharpen their skills, discuss trends in education in their country, and work together to improve the quality of reporting on the topic.

These “Shoulder to Shoulder” workshops, funded by the Open Society Institute’s Education Support Program, were led by Hamid Toursunov, who has been a TOL correspondent in Kyrgyzstan for almost 10 years. He is also an alumnus of past training events on covering education, and we’re proud that he’s now in the position of himself training young talent.

Under Hamid’s guidance, the participants learned both practical and theoretical aspects of reporting education, including the benefit of using the inverted pyramid and how to keep opinion separate from story-telling. Participants also had time to work on actual stories to be published by local media outlets and get in-the-field guidance from Hamid.

Natalya Sekerina, a journalism student who works for Yntymak Radio, wrote an article detailing the overcrowding problem in Russian-language schools as parents believe that these institutions will give their children a better chance for the future. The article waspublished by, a human-rights website based in southern Kyrgyzstan on 7 September.

Creating a future window into civil service

Government transparency can go a long way to restoring public trust in a country’s political system, and there’s no better time to instill this value or the skills to implement it than while a future civil servant is still in school.

In early September, Transitions hosted 10 local governance students from the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs (GIPA) in Patardzeuli, eastern Georgia, for a two-day workshop on social media. The workshop was part of a bigger camp organized by our partner, CIVITAS Georgia, to teach the students public speaking and debating skills.

The students were taught how to run a blog and how to use platforms like Twitter, YouTube, and Google Hangout to interact and share information among themselves and with the public.

The social media part of the camp was led by Elza Ketsbaia, our Georgia project manager, and Mirian Jugheli. Mirian is a social-media trainer for journalists and NGO representatives and a student-media adviser and web developer at GIPA’s School of Journalism and Media Management.

A showcase in Skopje

The news website, which focuses on the Roma communities of the Balkans, was showcased at an event in Skopje on 26 September. The website was created as part of Advancing Roma Visibility, a project implemented in partnership with the Macedonian Institute for the Media (MIM), Mediacentar Sarajevo, the Novi Sad School of Journalism, and the Kali Sara Roma Information Center in Sarajevo.

Team members from Bosnia, Serbia, and Macedonia presented the outlet’s activities to an audience at Skopje’s Youth Cultural Center that included civil society activists, members of Macedonia’s parliament, journalists, and members of the public.

The event, which was organized by partners from MIM, included a 90-minute performance by Sutka Roma Rap, a band whose music – and their live performances in particular – have fascinated audiences in many countries.

The project is co-funded by the European Union under the IPA 2009 – Civil Society Facility – Regional Programs, with further support from the National Endowment for Democracy and the Transition Promotion Program of the Czech Foreign Ministry.

The event was webcast on the and Roma Transitions websites and its recording, including the Sutka Roma Rap concert, will be available at both outlets.

Success Story

Ilya Lukash, a talented journalist from Kyrgyzstan, spent September in Prague as an intern with Transitions.

Ilya was able to work with us here in Prague through the support of the UN Democracy Fund as part of a larger project to promote information access and diversity in Central Asia.  

“Ilya is really efficient in finding contacts once you need things done,” said project manger Alaksiej Lavoncyk. “As a journalist, he does not avoid risky topics.”

Over the course of the month, Ilya worked on a project to localize and promote a Kyrgyz version of Skype and the promotion of, or “Teahouse,” a social networking and activism website for Central Asian expats (also part of the UN project). He also wrote for Net Prophet, our new media blog, and put together some great posts aboutthreats to net freedom in Kyrgyzstan, and the growing trend of social networking sites likeOdnoklassniki to create localized versions in Central Asian languages.

“I have gotten much more out of this internship than I originally expected,” Ilya said. “Not only was it an opportunity to work and write in English, but I also learned a lot from conversations and experience exchanges with my TOL colleagues. I know this will be useful in my career as a journalist.”

As a journalist, Ilya contributes to the (Voice of Freedom) human rights website.

He is also known for organizing different campaigns in Bishkek, including one to support members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot and another in defense of a detained human-rights defender in Osh.

Featured Content

Transitions Online ( often showcases the work produced through our grant programs.  Some of the highlights from August include the following stories:

6 August 2012
Tough Talk on Kyrgyz Schools
Heated rhetoric from Bishkek stokes ethnic minorities’ fears of losing education in their native tongues.
By Bakyt Ibraimov and Temir Akmatov

7 August 2012
Worshiping in the Cross Hairs
A strand of fundamentalist Islam has caught on among Azerbaijan’s young and educated, but the government sees a threat.
By Shahla Sultanova

16 August 2012
Moldovas Uniters and Dividers
A defiant movement that aims to unify Romania and Moldova is instead opening up old fissures.
By Zakhar Koretsky

17 August 2012
Kyrgyzstans Judges in the Dock
For the second time in a year, the country tries to clean up a judiciary plagued by corruption and incompetence.
By Askar Erkebaev

30 August 2012
Disposable Children
One adoptive family’s case shines a light on a chilling national trend.
By Galina Stolyarova

31 August 2012
Small Plane, Big Pain for Minsks Military
What does the notorious “teddy bear bombing” say about the state of Belarus’ security and border-control systems?
By Katerina Barushka

Current Projects

Azerbaijan and Moldova
Promoting the use of new media and social media among journalists, civil society organizations, and young people.
Training journalists to cover issues related to the environment.
Central Asia
Promoting the use of Internet media and new media techniques to produce, promote, and distribute new forms of content.
Improving the quality of environmental investigative journalism while increasing the impact of the environmental movement in Russia.
Education Reporting
Using distance learning courses, workshops, and other resources to improve reporting on education-related topics.
Roma Multimedia Training
Training Roma and majority community journalists in multimedia story-telling, with a special focus on Roma issues.

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