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MATRA Funded EJC Curriculum Development Workshop held in Tsakhkadzor, Armenia

20 March 2008 | PROJECT NEWS


Sixteen law and journalism professors from eight leading Universities in Armenia gathered in Tsakhkadzor, a picturesque mountain town close to the capital Yerevan, to discuss the issues of teaching investigative journalism, media law and media ethics. 

The workshop is the first activity within the two-year Journalism Practices Enhancement Project funded by the MATRA programme of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Two international experts, Bert Lanting of the Dutch daily de Volkskrant and Mark Guthrie, a human rights lawyer, and three Armenian experts, Karen Andreasyan of the Media and Law Institute, Shushan Doydoyan of the Armenian Freedom of Information Center and Mariam Barseghyan, former producer of TV news show Yerkri teman, joined the group of professors to contribute their practical and academic knowledge in journalism and law. 

In their opening remarks and presentations, the international and local experts stressed the importance of investigative journalism in fighting corruption. They focused on the specific professional as well as legal difficulties in conducting journalistic investigations. Lanting and Barseghyan shared their experiences as practicing journalists in the Netherlands and Armenia. Shushan Doydoyan, a radio journalist and a professor at the Yerevan State University journalism school, who also received a law degree from the same university, bridged the topics of journalism and law as well as best practice within an academic education. 

Guthrie and Andreasyan talked about the importance of media law and media ethics in the work of journalists and also referred to the need for teaching media law in the law schools. Participants focused their questioning on the real potential for Armenian media outlets to sponsor journalistic investigations. They were particularly skeptical about the ability of Armenian journalists to conduct independent, professional, ethical and legally safe investigations. Many professors accepted that Armenian journalism schools are not ready to provide a proper education and training for building the capacity of graduating journalists. 

In light of the skepticism and criticism of Armenian journalism and the curricula of the Armenian journalism and law schools, two new publications, disseminated at the workshop, were highly appreciated: a Teaching Module and a Reader on investigative journalism, media law and media ethics. The Teaching Module and the Reader were both prepared and published prior to the workshop due to the joint efforts of the European Journalism Centre and the Media and Law Institute. The Teaching Module included selected syllabi and practical classroom exercises from several well-known journalism schools including Columbia University, The University of Missouri School of Journalism and Utrecht University in the Netherlands. The Reader incorporated papers and academic texts from leading European, Russian and Armenian authors. Both publications were reviewed at the workshop, some of the exercises were tested and written feedback of participating professors was collected for future improvement of the Teaching Module and of the Reader. 

At the final session, Andreasyan presented the rules of the upcoming competition of the journalism and law students as part of the practical teaching on investigative journalism, media law and media ethics. The competition, the next activity within the two-year Matra grant, is based on a mock detective story on murder and trafficking, which will be investigated by journalism students who will conduct interviews with the story‚Äôs characters, research via Internet and other resources, decrypt codes and use other challenging journalistic techniques. The law students will serve as supporting legal teams for the journalists in the early stages of the competition, followed by the law teams involvement in a moot court. The participating university professors received clear instructions to act as coaches for their respective teams and all participated in a kick-off meeting of the competition, held on 29 February, 2008, in Yerevan. 

The second curricula development workshop is planned for February 2009 with the participation of additional professors from the respective universities.

Enhancing Journalistic Practices in Armenia
Through this project, the EJC sought to improve the Armenian education framework devoted to law and journalism. Its aim - encourage the development of a training programme that emphasises investigative and ethics-based practices, addressing issues such as freedom of speech and freedom of information.