Latest News from Transitions (TOL)

In Memoriam: Vaclav Havel, 1936-2011

Transitions Newsletter, December 2011

Transitions is a Prague-based media development organization with a mission of actively championing democracy, pluralism, and freedom of expression. We do this by strengthening the professionalism, independence, and impact of media and civil society organizations, with a special focus on Central and Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and the former Soviet Union.

Past Events

Central Asian “Media Clinic” Providing Tech Aid

Central Asian NGOs and independent media often have nowhere to turn for technical and new media assistance, with little or no in-house knowledge and commercial alternatives that are far too expensive. That’s where TOL’s new media clinic has come in, supported over the past year by the United Nations Democracy Fund and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). A second group of Central Asian journalists and NGO workers just completed our two-month training program, which focused on using social media for promotion of their organizations’ content and causes, as well as general site management and maintenance. The program also included a basic course on managing websites built on the WordPress platform so that even a non-techie can easily set up and run a well-functioning site. Around 20 participants attended twice-weekly meetings held at the Bishkek campus of the American University in Central Asia; others took part via a distance learning program. Media clinic personnel have also been directly helping dozens of organizations across the region with advice that has often contributed to large spikes in the number of visits to their sites.   

On the Road in Georgia

Over the course of 15-24 November, a TOL/Sourcefabric team visited the three regional media outlets that are receiving assistance through a NED-financed project to revamp the Internet presence and strategies of a select group of independent Georgian media institutions. The goal is to help them play a greater role on the increasingly government-controlled media scene, especially as public watchdogs over Georgia’s democratization. The three team members were TOL Georgia Project Manager Elza Ketsbaia; Jakub Gornicki, a new media specialist who is community manager at Sourcefabric; and Mirian Jugheli, an editor at, who will be providing local support for the project. The main order of business on the trip was training the three media outlets how to use their new open-source content management system, Sourcefabric’s Newscoop.  The three media groups are, a promising site launched a few months ago that remains the only media outlet in the Samegrelo region regularly producing journalistic content; the Mtskheta Mtianeti Information Center, which covers a region in eastern Georgia; and Tspress, a local media outlet that writes about Samegrelo, Ajara, and the upper Svaneti regions.  

While in Georgia, Jakub kept busy by also providing a two-day new media workshop for high school students in Zugdidi, a city in western Georgia close to the border of the breakaway region of Abkhazia. Fourteen students from five schools participated, learning the basics of social media (how to use Facebook and Twitter and other tools); how to set up a blog and promote it; and how to podcast, among other topics. The workshop is part of a 20-month project supported by the Transition Promotion Program at the Czech Foreign Ministry to increase the participation of young people in Georgia in public life.

Part of a Select Crowd

Transitions received the honor of being invited to take part in the first Investment-Ready Program, an initiative of Social Impact International and The Hub Vienna to accelerate social entrepreneurship in Central and Eastern Europe. The program aims to bridge the gap between social entrepreneurs and impact investors to multiply social impact. Executive Director Jeremy Druker attended an introductory three-day workshop in Vienna from 24-27 November that gathered together some of the most promising social businesses across the region.

Featured Content

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

8 November 2011
Beyond the Action-Hero Version of Serbian History
An effort to change the way history is taught in Serbian schools runs aground.
By Dejan Kozul

10 November 2011
Is There Safety in Numbers for Russian Airlines?
A plan to squeeze out smaller carriers and retire older planes would push fares up without making the country’s airspace safer, critics warn.
By Aleksander Kolesnichenko

15 November 2011
Big Dreams, Long Odds in Kazakhstan
Six students and their Peace Corps teacher in a fading village make a bold try for something better.
By Dariya Tsyrenzhapova

16 November 2011
The High Cost of Fair Testing
When Romania attacked cheating on the all-important high school exam, the unintended consequence was a financial crisis in the universities.
By Clara Stanescu

17 November 2011
Property Rights and Refugee Realities Clash in Azerbaijan
TOL video: European courts weigh in on the sticky issue of displaced people from Nagorno-Karabakh occupying private homes against owners’ wishes.
By Rena Allahverdiyeva

23 November 2011
New Blood in Bulgaria’s Classrooms
An appeal to idealism lures young people into an aging and unsung profession.
By Boryana Dzhambazova

28 November 2011
In Grozny, A Girl Discovers the Aliens Among Us
The war diaries of a Russian girl depict a society being demolished from without and within.
By Ostap Karmodi

Success Story

In cooperation with our partner site,, we launched a Best Blogger Award for Central Asia and found ourselves flooded with quality entries from across the region. After reviewing the 60 entries, the judges had the unenviable job of narrowing down the field. In the end, they chose two co-winners and both from Uzbekistan: Gulasal Kamolova ( and Tashpulat Rahmatulaev ( They are almost certainly known to many of our readers, Gulasal particularly for her videos of last year’s revolution in Kyrgyzstan and Tashpulat from his many articles with journalistic publications.

Their exceptional blogging about Uzbekistan allows us to learn insights about a country not often in the news, and we thought it was high time for them to earn some recognition for their work. They will be invited to attend TOL’s popular 10-day international reporting course in Prague in January to sharpen their already considerable skills; tuition and all travel expenses will be covered by the generous sponsor of the contest, Hivos.

Besides Gulasal and Tashpulat, we were very impressed by the photographic skills of Andrey Kudryashov (, whose work had been previously unknown to us. Consequently, we have dubbed him our honorary winner, and we hope to feature some of his photos on TOL and neweurasia in the future.

We also had several impressive runners-up, several of whom we would like to work harder to promote in the future:
– Salimjon Aioubzod (
– Bektour Iskender (
– Alina Zhetigenova (
– Ilya Lukash (
– Ilya Karimdzhanov (
– Bermet Mambetshaeva (
– Jomart Ormonbekov (
– Anatoli Remnev (
– Rustem Takhirov (
– Larissa Shilina (

Congratulations to everyone for their fine work!

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.

How Can You Help?

follow on Twitter friend on Facebookforward to a frienddonate