More than a quarter of a century after the collapse of the Soviet Union, media in most post-communist countries are still not free or independent. In many states of the former Soviet sphere of influence, journalists face censorship and strict government control.
A man who dares to challenge this situation through his long-term projects in this area is Jeremy Druker, executive director and editor in chief of TOL Education, a nonprofit organization established in 1999 in Prague. Its main goal is to “strengthen professionalism, independence and impact of news media in post-communist countries of Europe and former Soviet Union.” They do this partly through training programs for journalists and partly through their internet magazine TOL Transitions Online, which offers ‚regional intelligence and insight‘ from former communist countries of Europe and Central Asia.
“There are many post-communist countries in which media are controlled by the government. Even if they are private, rich business people are usually connected in some way with the government, and they are extremely careful about what to publish. The truly independent media are often struggling to survive,” describes Druker.
He explains that the benefits of online media are that they are much cheaper as well as safer to run. That is also the reason why TOL Education does a lot of internet training for journalists. The problem is that people in post-communist countries are often conservative and obtain news mainly from TV, which is usually controlled by the government. Druker clarifies: “You could have a lot of different credible online media, but they won’t reach as many people as the state TV.”
On the other hand, a negative aspect brought about by the internet and online media is the speed of spreading hoaxes, propaganda, and inaccurate information. There are so many diverse online media outlets that any reader can always find sources saying exactly what they want to hear.
In mid-March, our Institute of Communication Studies and Journalism will host TOL Education’s fact-checking workshops for Czech university students, who will be introduced to the latest verification tools and techniques. Thanks to Jeremy Druker and his expert team, future media workers, analysts, and other relevant practitioners will be able to spot, debunk, and expose untrue information both in conventional and new media.
Text vznikl v rámci kurzu Angličtina pro žurnalisty pod vedením Mgr. Aleny Proškové.
Foto: Prague Media Point Conference 2017