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Project History

Beginnings in “Strengthening Independent Media”

The “New Realities” project was a direct outgrowth of a multi-year Initiative, “Strengthening Independent Media” (SIM), funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and led by Salzburg president, Stephen Salyer.  There, Gordana Jankovic, a SIM participant and then-director of the Open Society Media Program, and Susan Moeller, also a SIM participant and director of the Center for Media and the Public Agenda at the University of Maryland, proposed the concept for a project that would build on SGS engagement with judges and lawyers, universities, and media worldwide.

Professor Moeller served as the moderator for an initial planning meeting, held at Schloss Leopoldskron in Salzburg in February 2010, and recruited her Maryland colleague, Deborah Nelson, to write a white paper to inform and guide the conversation.  The intensive meeting produced an outline for an ambitious project – “New Realities” – designed to create a common curriculum for informing journalists about criminal justice and tribunal processes, and associated law, widely misunderstood in transitional countries and on which traditional journalist training is generally silent.

Following the planning meeting, OSF agreed to fund development and testing of the curriculum, and Professor Nelson, J.D., senior lecturer and director of the Carnegie Seminar at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland, was hired by SGS to direct the project.

Continuing with “New Realities”

February 2012 saw a five-day training session, Preparing Journalists for New Realities: Encouraging New Models of International Criminal Justice Coverage, held in the Hague Netherlands, for university professors and instructors from universities participating in the New Realities project.

Professors and instructors came from the University of Sarajevo, Bosnia; University of Indonesia in Jakarta; University of Nairobi, Kenya; Daystar University, Kenya; National University of East Timor; Makerere University, Uganda to the the training session, which provided the grounding in international criminal law and justice, in the requisite reporting skills for covering related issues, and in pedagogical techniques for teaching it.

The curriculum for the training program was developed by Professor Nelson, the researcher and writer  for the February 2010 work. It was carried out with assistance from Jeff Handmaker of the International Institute of Social Studies and Janet Anderson, a journalism educator with years of experience covering conflicts in West Africa and international tribunals in The Hague. The Institute for War and Peace Reporting, an international NGO dedicated to media capacity-building in conflict areas worldwide, provided logistical support and assistance in arranging tours and presentations from the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Throughout the session, the participating universities also made presentations to the group.

Each participant was challenged with creating a syllabus tailored to the specific needs of their region and to comply with institutional requirements for new course approval at their home universities.

Further, the training session launched a support network among participants for sharing experiences and resources.