Latest News from Transitions (TOL)

Past Events

Not your average history lesson

History can be complicated. And for reporting on issues related to the past, a journalist needs to have a delicate touch, especially in countries that are in transition.

Our partners at are trying to give those skills to the next generation of Tajikistan’s journalists.

As part of our partner project, Bringing Central Asian Art & Culture Into the Spotlight, organized a three-day workshop in Dushanbe with the support of Hivos, the Dutch international development organization. The main focus of the workshop was to train young journalists in the intricacies of reporting on history and culture. The workshop was led by’s managing editor, Sanjar Rakhmatov, a journalist in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

Five participants took part in the 9-11 July workshop, which also included a reporting project and a contest among the participants. Olga Zavyalova, who won the competition, wrote about the culture of waiting in line in Tajikistan and how it has changed since Soviet times. Zavyalova said she aimed to approach the topic objectively.

“I wrote about people’s behavior in queues. I tried to avoid my personal opinion in the article and focused more on what other people think about it. The people I interviewed told me that people’s behavior in queues is the demonstration of their upbringing,” she said. “People want to have everything at once and immediately; they cannot wait or negotiate with each other.”

The workshop also included several practical sessions on how journalists can publish their own work at little to no cost, using tools like blogs or finding alternate sources of income through crowd-funding. The group also spent time discussing how and where to get published locally and internationally.

“Almost every participant told me that they had often thought about trying to get stories onto the international market on history and cultural history, but they absolutely didn’t know how to get started, what to do, and where to work,” Sanjar said. “Now they know how to pitch stories, how to write a good story using the ‘inverted pyramid’ and other tricks, and how they can publish it in international media.”

But the workshop wasn’t aimed at just journalists. Sharofat Arabova, for example, is an expert in cultural studies, but she said she attended the workshop to pick up some new skills.

“I’m not a journalist, but I decided to try myself in this field,” she said. “Most of all I liked the part of the workshop when we were taught how to develop a pitch. I think we can use the knowledge we got not only in the sphere of journalism, but in any sphere.”

Summer camp gets high-tech in Moldova

Over the past spring, Moldovan new media group MediaPoint has been working with hundreds of youth across the country to get them up to speed on the ins and outs of social media, blogging, and web literacy. The first civic organization in the country dedicated solely to promoting the use of new media for social change, MediaPoint is TOL’s local partner in a yearlong program funded by the National Endowment for Democracy and the Transitions Promotion Program at the Czech Foreign Ministry.

In late June, MediaPoint invited 33 of the most promising of those young people to attend the culminating four-day camp for New Media Academy, geared at helping participants launch 10 new community-centered websites. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because we highlighted it in our May newsletter. The Academy has been working all spring and summer to train 200 young people from around Moldova in blogging and Internet literacy.

Guest trainers mentored the participants on how to turn their ideas into functioning websites and promote them using online tools. Attendees also learned how to write compelling articles for the web. The final two days were then spent building and publicizing the sites.

To motivate the participants, the organizers offered advertising funds to the team that snagged the most likes on Facebook. In just 24 hours, the Facebook pages of these 10 projects accumulated more than 1,700 fans.

During the camp, the participants also got a chance to meet some of Moldova’s social-media heavyweights, such as Tudor Darie, Alex Lebedev, Lilia Barbarosie, and the New Media Academy trainers (Radu Lisita, Viorel Rodideal, and Andrei Fornea)

At the end of the event, each team presented what it had managed to accomplish in a mere day or two of work. The trainers and mentors then huddled to choose the three winners deemed to have advanced the most and to have the best chances at sustainability. The lucky few were:

  1. “Be a Volunteer,” a site to promote youth volunteering from Balti;
  2. “Learning on the Internet,” an e-learning site from Straseni;
  3. “Rezinaon,”a local news site from Rezina

The other sites launched at the summer camp were Around HincestiAlert Orhei, Milestii Mici, Ungheneni, LT DorotcaiaMy Right, and Soroca Today.

The winning team, “Be a Volunteer,” created a platform to provide the latest information about volunteer opportunities. The project started with a local focus but has already become a useful resource for would-be volunteers around Moldova. The judges commended the Balti team for its teamwork and the quality of articles on the site. As a prize, the team walked away with $100 to help launch a promotional campaign for the site.

Featured Content

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

5 June 2013
Serbia’s Bosniaks Rediscover Their Roots
The country’s third-largest ethnic minority finally gets the chance to study their own culture, in their own language.
Uffe Andersen

7 June 2013
The Cure That Crushes
In Belarus, alcoholics are treated under a Soviet-era regime that looks a lot like prison.
Volha Khvoin

13 June 2013
Not Ready for Their Close-Up
The installation of cameras during Moldova’s notoriously corrupt graduation exams raises hackles in one ethnic community.
Natalia Ghilascu

20 June 2013
The History of Who?
A debate about textbooks returns to a question that never really goes away: what is a Moldovan?
Dmitri Romanovski

21 June 2013
In Lithuania, Sex Education Remains Taboo
Long free of Soviet strictures, the country’s schools still struggle to teach the birds and the bees.
Linas Jegelevicius

26 June 2013
It means more to Europe’s last dictator than he lets on.
Katerina Barushka

28 June 2013
A Heaping Handful of Balkan Identities
The fruits of modern scholarship presented in this book ought to bring to a close some of the unproductive debates about who Macedonians really are.
Eben Friedman

Current Projects

Azerbaijan and Moldova
Promoting the use of new media and social media among journalists, civil society organizations, and young people.
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.

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