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Commending TFAS for an Exemplary EJI 2009

EJI 2009

Commending TFAS for an Exemplary EJI 2009
Published at The News Today Philippines

By Rhea B. Peñaflor

I am so happy to be an official alumna of The Fund for American Studies (TFAS) after completing the 2009 European Journalism Institute (EJI). TFAS did a great job in organizing EJI and I commend the EJI Staff and Faculty namely Laura Kelly, Michelle Jeffress Le and Martina Marečková for an exemplary journalism program.

It is both a privilege and a responsibility to be chosen as among the EJI scholars recently held in Prague, Czech Republic from July 11-18, 2009.

Being the first-ever Filipino recipient of the EJI, I tried to prepare myself for the program as we were given some readings by Prof. Laura Kelly on Principles of Journalism, Core Values of Global Professional Journalism, List of Resources for global journalists seeking expansion, professional development, networks and opportunity, among other readings given by the program’s organizer, The Fund for American Studies (TFAS). All of these readings were very helpful for us, EJI participants.

I did a little research on Prague too before I went there. I am thankful to my friend, Melissa Exmundo who helped me with what I need to know about Prague (from must-see places to garnets and bohemian crystals as well as Czech’s food to its most famous beer) since she used to live and study there for a year at the Academy of Performing Arts (AMU) in 1993-1994 and returned to visit in 2003. The Czech phrases and words were very helpful, but as to how I pronounced them is another story.

It was also a blessing in disguise that my high school friend, Glenn Sanchez currently works at an international recruitment company based in Prague. I would like to thank him for all his help when I was there. He was the one who picked me up at the airport and brought me to my dormitory, Masarykova Kolej Dorm. He has to wait for more than an hour when I arrived because all those carrying Philippine and Vietnam passports were told to wait as the police officers verify our passports and visa.
I also would like to thank EJI 2009’s program manager Martina Marečková for “adopting” me in her apartment while I stayed in Prague after the program.

Lastly, I would like to thank the Office of the President, PAGCOR and Mang Inasal for the valuable support when I got accepted as an EJI scholar.

Prague Ruzyne Airport Procedures Might Be Shocking

Let me segue first to what happened to me at the Prague Ruzyne Airport as this experience might also help all those who plan to visit Prague in the future.

I noticed at that time that the Czech police officers only took all of the Filipino and Vietnamese passports including mine. I deduced that they have to verify our visas first if indeed, we are going there legally. Another thing that popped into my mind was that there’s a possibility that there are identity thieves using our visas as these things already happen in some parts of the world. I showed the police officers my official letter of invitation written in Czech that I am a recipient of the European Journalism Institute. The lady police officer said it is okay but then a guy police officer said to just wait for immigration verification. And so, we all waited. It was after an hour when one by one our names were called and we were asked where we are staying, and to show our money or credit card as well as our return tickets. I showed all my documents and the others also did. I then texted Glenn if it is the procedure that citizens requiring visa are being held by the Czech police officers. He replied that is the procedure in Czech Republic for those having Shengen visa. I was still nervous at that time and praying “Hail Mary’s” was all that I did until the police officer gave each of our passports. And then, we were all allowed to enter and get our luggages.

The Czech police officers were not harsh when they approached us. But they have that kind of look that as if you just committed a felony. I was just relieved that in the end, we were all allowed to legitimately get “in” Prague.

The lesson is to make sure that you have all the necessary documents to support your stay in Prague so that even if they check, you are ready to show them that you went there legitimately. It is just their duty to check and verify your visa. Indeed, each country has its own laws and we must abide by it. Although there is nothing to be scared of if you have all the legal documents when you enter whatever country, it is but human to feel uncomfortable in situations like this. There are no exceptions to feel this way even if you have all the legal documents in the world. This is a clear example when one feels like a total alien.
That airport experience though did not stop me from thinking positively. I just brushed that aside the moment I stepped out of the airport and thought that I am now in Prague, an interesting, beautiful country with very rich history. I plan to take advantage of the privilege of being able to see it for myself, and immerse with Prague for at least, a little more than a week. And that was what I did when I was in Prague.

The European Journalism Institute

The European Journalism Institute was launched in July 2004 by The Fund for American Studies (TFAS), a non-profit educational organization based in Washington, DC. It was founded in 1967 to instill in college students an appreciation for the traditional principles that underlie the American political and economic systems. TFAS sponsors eleven institutes that educate more than 700 students each year. More than 10,000 students from over 100 countries have attended TFAS programs. The EJI is created in response to a growing recognition that journalists must be empowered with the knowledge and skills needed to objectively and ethically report stories with credible and meaningful information. EJI believes that as economic growth advances, private enterprise burgeons, nations reconfigure, governments rise and fall, and globalization interconnects national economies and interests, it becomes increasingly critical that the public is presented with a fair and accurate picture of social, political and economic policies, decisions and forces.

This year, highly qualified instructors and guest lecturers were drawn from the United States and Europe. A total of 36 participants are selected from 27 countries attended this year’s EJI. We received a generous scholarship which comprised of a seven-day intensive journalism training at Charles University with free housing at the hotel of Masarykova Kolej Dorm. Most meals are also covered by the scholarship and included dinners at Cesta Casem, Hybernia and Nebozizek Restaurant.

Guest lecturers were BBC’s correspondent Rob Cameron, speech writer and coummunications director Andrei Postelnicu, photojournalist Samaruddin Stewart, Fleet Sheet’s Erik Best, Bison & Rose’s PR’s Vladmir Bystrov, cultural attaché David Gainer at the U.S. Embassy in Prague, Media and Society Foundation director Guillaume Cheneviere, TOL founde Jeremy Druker, Aktualne.cz editor Libor Stejskal, Slovak Press Watch Gabriel Šípoš and Slovak Spectator’s editor-in-chief Beata Balogová. The combination of instructors ranging from economics and public policy experts to journalists who covered business and finance, as well as government and corporate leaders ensures that students learn from both theorists and practitioners. The 2009 EJI tackled the influences and challenges of new technology, globalization, and a world without borders and media ownership.
Of course, this year’s EJI Academic Coordinator and Journalism Professor is no other than the inspiring and vibrant, Prof. Laura Kelly. In her role as professor and academic director for EJI, Laura Kelly leads class discussions that encouraged us to consider the challenges and practices of professional journalists who served to provide their societies and readers with the information they need to be free and self-governing.

For the whole duration of the EJI program, Prof. Kelly made us think. She popped all these questions like “What are the 5 essential qualities that a professional journalist must have?” or “What are the 3 biggest pressures in your profession as a journalist?” She made us realize that although we are journalists from different countries, we have similarities in problems and professional pressures. EJI provided us with writing and group exercises which strengthened our personal and moral convictions in making the society a self-governing one with common global values as journalists.

Kelly has taught journalism in Albania, Bulgaria, Slovakia and has worked with student journalists in Armenia, Kosovo, Mongolia and Georgia. She has also been a professional journalist in print and radio for more than 25 years.

This year, classes are held in Room 314 of historical Charles University, right off of Wenscelas Square in the heart of the city. The oldest university in central Europe, Charles University was founded in 1348 by Charles IV, the Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia. An institution of major academic and cultural importance in the region since its founding, Charles University has endured the repression of both Nazi and Communist occupations. The appointment of new representatives of a free academic community was legalized in 1990, marking a new beginning of a systematic effort to remove the 40-year-old inheritance of deformation in the life of the university as an academic institution. Charles University has been a partner of The Fund for American Studies in sponsoring the American Institute on Political and Economic Systems since 1993. Charles University is close to the metro, shops, museums and restaurants.

Michelle Jeffress-Le is EJI 2009’s international program director. She is a two-time alumna of The Fund for American Studies. She attended the Institute on Political Journalism in 1995, interning with the Military District of Washington as a staff reporter. The following year, she participated in the American Institute on Political and Economic Systems in Prague. In 1997 she returned to TFAS again, this time, serving as a program assistant for the international programs. In 1998 she joined the TFAS staff full time. Ms. Le currently works as the director of international programs for TFAS.

EJI 2009’s program manager Martina Marečková is a journalist from the Czech Republic. She has worked for the print media since 2000 when she completed a post-graduate journalism program at Academia Istropolitana Nova in Bratislava, Slovakia. She is a full-time writer for Prague-based publication Czech Business Weekly and she also cooperates on a freelance basis with other media outlets in the Central European region. She has been writing lately mostly business-oriented stories, particularly on retail segment in the Czech Republic and Slovakia as well as real estate and other business issues. Over the past years, she has participated in several seminars such as Dow Jones/TOL (Transitions Online) business & economics journalism course held in January 2007 in Prague.

Marečková is TFAS counterpart for the EJI program in Czech Republic being a Czech national herself.
Indeed, EJI is one-of-a-kind experience for journalists and I am so blessed to have been a part of this outstanding program organized by TFAS. I look forward that my participation in the EJI program ignited the awareness of my fellow journalists that there are programs such as the EJI where they can hone their potentials and skills to the maximum as aspiring, responsible journalists. This is only the beginning for Filipino journalists. I highly recommend the EJI program to starting and even student Filipino journalists. This program not only teaches one to be good journalists, but more than anything else, to be better, productive citizens and shapers of the society.

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