DRL currently supports 28 democracy, human rights, and labor programs Europe and Eurasia. Current funding for DRL programs exceeds $32 million. Program topics include Roma protection, civil society strengthening, journalist training, and inter-ethnic reconciliation. The following are examples of the kinds of programs DRL funds in Europe and Eurasia.
Improving Reporting and Public Discourse around Islam and Democracy
A DRL grant in Azerbaijan promoted public discourse around the topic of Islam and democracy. The program strengthens local media through workshops and hands-on reporting to produce high quality television programs, radio shows, and newspaper inserts. Participating journalists capitalized on their skills and the solid reputation they have earned over the life of the program after an August 2008 grenade attack at Baku’s Abu Bakir Mosque. Immediately after the bombing, the Mosque’s leaders unsuccessfully sought to dispute their depiction in the media, leading to the discontinuation of press contact. However, journalists participating in the DRL program requested and obtained an interview with members of the mosque. Additionally, they were able to film exclusive footage inside the mosque. This coverage provided the mosque with an opportunity to communicate with the public and dispel prevailing misconceptions.
Throughout Europe and Eurasia, DRL programs combat intolerance and support marginalized populations, in particular Roma. This includes access to justice through free legal clinics, and enhancing the capacity of Romani individuals and communities to engage in local, national and regional advocacy. The clinics have provided 1,163 consultations in Roma communities thus far. In addition to providing legal consultations, all four legal clinics held Community Law School events. The events provided an overview of legal rights and protections, and offered community-based legal consultations. The events also provided a forum for community members to share and discuss problems they have or are experiencing. DRL programs also promote interaction and provide opportunities for dialogue between Romani youth and majority-community youth through civic education.
In Belarus, DRL programs have focused on strengthening the viability and quality of independent media outlets. This has included providing Belarusian online independent media outlets with technical expertise to better protect those outlets from threats of cyber attack and, assisting independent media outlets with the incorporation of multimedia content and mobile-friendly content. Programs also work to strengthen the quality of independent media and access to independent media in Belarus by training college students in journalism and providing free subscriptions of selected independent newspapers for a variety of Belarusian institutions such as libraries, hospitals, schools, culture, and leisure institutions throughout the country.
In Russia, A DRL program sought to strengthen Russian regional media outlets to address social issues, including human rights, and to more effectively compete in their media markets through the utilization of innovative multimedia and interactive approaches.
In the Caucasus region, the project improved the capacity of an independent news website, helping it to become a focal point for dialogue in its community. During FY 2010, the website garnered an average of 7,000 unique visitors per day and thousands of comments, earning mentions by high profile Russian and international news organizations. More important than the site’s surging popularity, though, were the direct impact that its stories had in the community, from Sochi to Chechnya.
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