Latest News from Transitions (TOL)

Past Events

At the intersection of media and democracy

There were busy times earlier this month, as TOL played a significant role in the Forum 2000 conference that took place in Prague from 21-23 October. The topic this year, Media and Democracy, was right up our alley. The event brought together leading thinkers and practitioners from around the world to debate a topic close to the heart of the late Czech President Václav Havel, who had wished for that topic to be the focus of this year’s conference.

Not only was TOL a media partner, but we put together a panel discussion in cooperation with Forum 2000 on “Changing Media Business Models” that included prominent speakers from the Czech Republic, Malaysia, Thailand, the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Among other things, we discussed new payment models, a new ad agency for independent media in the developing world, crowdfunding, and the struggles for freedom of the press in Southeast Asia. The panel was moderated by TOL Executive Director Jeremy Druker, who also moderated a panel on media in Africa and sat on a panel that tackled the changing role of the media in the Balkans (which included the former president of Kosovo, Fatmir Sejdiu).

Forum 2000 was founded in 1996 as a joint initiative of Havel, Japanese philanthropist Yohei Sasakawa, and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel.  According to the Forum 2000 website, “Vaclav Havel was thrilled by the role of the new media in the ongoing changes in the Arab World, the crucial impact it plays in non-democratic countries and the importance of the Internet in revealing atrocities and injustices. He was also intrigued by the evolution of the relationship between the media and society in democracies, how technological developments are affecting responsibility and accountability and the interdependencies between business, economy, and the media.”

This year’s conference encompassed 50+ events at 16 different venues. Attendance on the first day already surpassed that of the entirety of the 2011 edition, making it the largest Forum 2000 ever.  As part of our media partnership, we published three blog posts on the event, which covered the Piano paywall systemthe AP’s success in East Central Europe, and the challenges facing the region’s net activists today.

Taking the show on the road

The award-winning videos about Roma that Transitions and our partners produced two years ago continue to reach new viewers. Five of the videos, part of the Colorful but Colorblind multimedia project, were shown in a special screening to a group of more than 60 high school students immediately proceeding the start of the Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival on 24 October.

Arranged by the European Commission office in Prague, an accompanying panel discussion at the festival in the southern Czech city included TOL Executive Director Jeremy Druker and two journalists from Czech Radio, Jarmila Balazova and Jana Sustova. Jana was the co-creator of one of the videos screened, and Jarmila is one of the leaders of, a TOL partner in Roma multimedia projects and one of the best Roma media outlets in Central and Eastern Europe.

The Colorful but Colorblind project is aimed at remedying anti-Roma stereotyping through the creative use of multimedia in reporting minority issues in new member states of the European Union in Central and Eastern Europe (Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia) and internationally. The project’s training and production components were designed and implemented in cooperation with the Knight Center for International Media at the University of Miami School of Communication.

The recipient of a prestigious 2010 Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi award for excellence in journalism in the Digital Media Presentation (Independent) category, the project also received special recognition by the European Union’s justice commissioner, Viviane Reding, who is also vice-president of the European Commission. In a press release, Ms. Reding highlighted the success of the project after it received the prize.

Colorful but Colorblind was co-funded by the European Union’s Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Program, with further support from the OSF Media Program, the Embassy of the United States in the Czech Republic, the British Embassy in Prague, and the Knight Center at the University of Miami.

Success Story

This month we’d like to send a brief note of congratulations to Polish journalist Witold Szablowski.  Earlier this month, Witold was nominated and received a special mention for the 2012 Anna Lindh Mediterranean Journalist Award in the press category. He was nominated for an article that he  wrote for his home publication, Gazeta Wyborcza, in Poland as part of our joint project “Next in Line.”

The article, “Let Us In, You Bastards!”, looks at Albanian border jumpers and the effect that the Greek crisis has had on their ability to find work.   

As part of the project, Witold has written two other fantastic pieces about Albania and some of the issues it faces as it inches closer to EU accession.  The first looks at the country’s attitude toward one of the most iconic legacies of communist strongman Enver Hoxha: the 700,000 concrete bunkers that dot the landscape. In the third piece, Witold comes face-to-face with a purely Albanian brand of Sufism.

Funded by the European Union, the Next in Line project is working to raise awareness, particularly in the Visegrad countries, about the benefits and challenges of current EU enlargement toward the Western Balkans, Turkey, and Iceland by involving some of Central Europe’s leading publications in reporting on a wide range of issues in candidate countries and potential candidates.

Featured Articles

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

4 September 2012
Saakashvili Builds His Case to the Voters
One city’s reconstruction shows how politics and architecture have become entwined ahead of Georgia’s parliamentary elections.
By Tinatin Tsiskaradze

5 September 2012
Arrested Development
Long kindergarten waiting lists in Lithuania have officials scrambling for answers and desperate parents ponying up bribes.
By Linas Jegelevicius

7 September 2012
A Bomb for the Caucasus
The forces behind the murder of a prominent cleric are determined to scuttle what could be Dagestan’s last chance for peace.
By Nikolay Protsenko

10 September 2012
A Pardon in Baku Causes a Diplomatic Earthquake
Freedom and laurels greet a soldier who admitted hacking his Armenian counterpart to death.
By Shahla Sultanova

14 September 2012
Warriors, Lovers, Immigrants, and Forest Creatures
Filmmakers in Central Asia are mirroring, and creating, their own worlds despite a stunning lack of resources. First in a series.
By Barbara Frye

17 September 2012
Underground, but Not Buried
The saga of Charter ’97 says much of the dedication of Lukashenka’s opponents as well as the misguided support of the West.
By Joerg Forbrig

19 September 2012
Tough Times for Tajik Film
Iskandar Usmonov’s movies go to international festivals, but at home in Dushanbe getting them made is challenging work. Second in a series.
By Farrukh Ahrorov

20 September 2012
Belarus’ Opposition Steps up by Sitting It out
After years of failing to oust strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka in the streets, activists are taking him on at the ballot box with an
election boycott.
By Katerina Barushka

21 September 2012
People With Empty Souls’
A Kyrgyz director’s latest feature turns the mirror on his country and strikes a raw nerve. Third in a series.
By Hamid Toursunov

26 September 2012
Georgia’s Two Faces
Former allies cross swords in pivotal parliamentary elections.
By Zaal Anjaparidze

27 September 2012
Tobacco and Tomfoolery
There are lots of ways to improve the lives of ordinary Russians. Recent anti-tobacco proposals are not among them.
By Galina Stolyarova

28 September 2012
Macedonia’s Cooling-Off Period
The country tries again to devise a single history curriculum for its different ethnicities, but one subject remains too hot to handle.
By Ljubica Grozdanovska Dimishkovska

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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