This week, RFE/RL played host to ‘Training the Trainers,’ a five-day multimedia workshop and training course for journalists and bloggers from Central Asia. Administered by media development nonprofit “Transitions
” and financed by the United Nations Democracy Fund
(UNDEF), ‘Training the Trainers’ seeks to familiarize participants with new and multi-media approaches to reporting in the particularly restrictive media environments of Central Asia.
Instructor Alaksiej Lavoncyk, a media development expert who helped to sketch the program’s initial proposal, explains: “Central Asia is very restricted. For these journalists, the Internet is the only way to promote their ideas. The governments own the printing presses. With this program, we believe we can…at least create some self-sustaining momentum.”
This week’s workshop marks the inaugural event for ‘Training the Trainers.’ The schedule includes a day of focus on social networking – in many ways the principal venue for modern political dissent in closed media environments. During this session students split into groups, each choosing a campaign or website and developing promotional strategies to market the idea using social media. Other days’ topics include software compatibility, multimedia journalism, as well as digital storytelling and publishing.
For the inaugural run, ten participants were chosen from a pool of applicants, with two from each Central Asian country. All active professional or citizen journalists with experience in publishing, the participants came to Prague not only to learn new techniques, but also to learn how to teach them.
But that was the easy part; the primary challenge for ‘Training the Trainers’ was getting the students to Prague, which can be difficult given the relatively closed nature of the countries from they hail. Thanks to significant assistance from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, “Transitions” was able to secure visas for the participants and get them to Prague safely.
Two students even came from Uzbekistan, an authoritarian nation with perhaps the most restrictive media regulations in the region. Such dedication on the part of the participating journalists serves as a reminder of the desire for free expression inherent in post-Soviet Central Asia. With broadcast services in each of the countries from which participants were drawn, RFE was proud to play a small part in the initiative.
‘Training the Trainers’ is funded by the UNDEF through 2012. Judging by Lavoncyk’s assessment, it may not be enough. “We have a lot to overcome in a short time,” he says. Still, if the enthusiasm of the participants is any indication, it would appear that ‘Training the Trainers’ has a receptive audience.