(Washington, DC) On the heels of RFE’s recent participation in the U.S. State Department’s "TechCamp: Moldova" and "TechCamp: Vilnius" (recapped here
), Irena Chalupa
, senior correspondent in RFE’s Washington Bureau, served as a guest and co-anchor for a U.S. State Department-sponsored worldwide, interactive webchat with civil society activists on July 14.
The hour-long discussion
Free expression and journalistic freedom are ... almost like oxygen.
focused on citizen activism, press freedom and freedom of expression in Europe. More than 100 activists from Ukraine, Slovakia, Serbia, Turkey, Romania, Albania, Serbia, Switzerland, Lithuania, and the United Kingdom, as well as surprise particiants from China, Myanmar, and Senegal, participated in the live chat.
[Watch the video chat here]
According to Dr. Tomicah Tillemann, a senior advisor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the webchat's host and co-anchor, Chalupa was selected to assist in leading the global discussion because "she is a real expert on these issues." The chat was part of the "Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society" series, which was launched by Secretary Clinton in February as part of the State Department's Civil Society 2.0
During the webchat, Chalupa emphasized her belief that "free expression and journalistic freedom (are) extremely important and very, very necessary...for human development...almost like oxygen."
"If you are not an informed citizen...how can you make any sort of a decision (that) will give you the tools to make the proper choices?" Chalupa asked.
An activist from Romania asked about the politicization of media in certain European countries, and Chalupa offered Ukraine's oligarchs as a "prime example" of this trend.
"Oligarchs are the new rich people of the countries in the former Soviet Union (and) they do control these outlets quite tightly," Chalupa explained. "You can try talking to the oligarchs to convince them that it is in their own interest to have real, vibrant open and free media outlets... If you’re consuming this material and you find it objectionable, say so or stop reading it."
Chalupa recently moved to the RFE Washington Bureau from Prague after serving more than 20 years with RFE's Ukrainian Service, most recently as service director from 2007 to 2011 where she was involved in every aspect of the broadcast efforts. From 1990 through 2007, Chalupa hosted daily live programs from Munich, Kyiv, and Prague and managed the creation and development of the editorial team supporting the Ukrainian Service's website radiosvoboda.ua