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Ten Days in the Netherlands

30 October 2008 | PROJECT NEWS


Seven journalism and media law students from Armenia immersed themselves in the practical aspects of their craft during their mid-October visit to the Netherlands. In addition to a weeklong internship at a Dutch journalism school, the group met privately with Dutch media and journalism associations. 

The Armenian students spent their first three days in the central part of the country, at the Fontys University of Applied sciences, School of Journalism. Gie Meeuwis, international coordinator and professor of journalism, accompanied the students and facilitated collaborative work with TV students and in the newsroom. The Armenian students were able to work closely with their Dutch peers on the school newspaper, website, TV and radio programmes. 

“As a student from an Armenian journalism school, I was amazed at how practical the education in the Netherlands is for the journalists”, said Anjela Beglaryan, one of the participants. “Another striking element was the fact that the professors there would give very detailed feedback on each assignment given to the student and after the assignment would carefully analyze the performance of the students.” 

Students took part in interviews with citizens of Tilburg on the financial problems of Fortis bank and shot films. They cobbled the material together, then critiqued their work. The students were also interviewed live on one of the university radio shows. The broadcasting fun continued when they did their own interviews at the student TV station. Practical experiences like these are almost unheard of in the Armenian journalism school context. The practice in Fontys Hogeschool was the highlight of the study tour. Students from both countries were able to compare the educational processes and work together. “This was a great opportunity for the Armenian journalism and law students to get close to the culture and life of young people in the Netherlands, as well as to study the educational system, the journalistic community, journalism ethics and the media law of the country,” said Karen Andreasyan, head of the project in Armenia. “It is my feeling that the students will use the techniques of TV and radio journalism that they learned in the Netherlands and they will think more reflexively about higher standards of professional journalism and ethics.” 

The practical work was followed by visits to some of the Netherlands’ most well-known media institutions. In Amsterdam the group visited Radio Netherlands, the Dutch Association for Journalists (NVJ) and the daily national newspaper Volkskrant. On the premises of Radio Netherlands the group had an opportunity to get answers to a range of questions regarding the operation of the Radio. There they met the representatives of RNTC (Radio Nederland Training Centre) and were informed of four international training fellowship courses for journalists. This was followed by private meetings at NVJ, where they met Thomas Bruning and Bregje van der Wijst. The 60-year-old association has about 8,500 journalist members. The students were eager to know about the challenges journalists face working in the Netherlands. Bruning highlighted the projects managed by their association and gave booklets on the info graphics competition they organise, where the best photos taken by photojournalists are assembled. 

Van der Wijst discussed the work of her department does with graduating journalism students. The students asked about the number of public and private TV channels and press items. Some current newspapers were shown to the students, as Volkskrant, De Telegraaf, Het PAROOL (referring to Amsterdam), Fd. (a financial newspaper), AD (for advertisements) and Trouw. They were informed as well about the training for media lawyers organised by European Council. On the final day of the trip, the group visited the Volkskrant, one of the leading dailies in the country. Bert Lanting, investigative journalist and Brussels correspondent for the paper, took the group on a tour of the premises, including the offices of neighboring papers: Trouw, Het Parool and NRC Handelsblad. 

The editor of international affairs, Corine de Vries, joined the group and introduced to the work schedule of their newspaper, how they prepared news block, items on economy, politics, culture, sport and others. The students were extremely interested in the daily work procedures and routine. The head of the appeals department, Thom Meens, described his work as Ombudsman. He provided a window to his work processing feedback from readers. He explained that reader critiques are given due consideration in a special column. Another journalist involved in investigative journalism discussed topics currently in great demand for investigation in the Netherlands. 

From the other side, Volkskrant journalists were extremely interested in the newspaper environment in Armenia. They listened intently in regard to press freedom issues.

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.

MATRA, Societies in Transition
MATRA, a programme of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, constituted an effort to support democratic transition in the Western Balkans, Central, and Eastern Europe, and strengthen the ties of the target countries with the Netherlands. The EJC participated in five media-related projects, from 1995 and up to the programme's conclusion in 2011.