United States to Spend $4 Million on Civil Society in Russia, Belarus and Balkans

The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor of the U.S. State Department has opened up an invitation for civil society organizations in Russia to apply for up to $4 million in grants to promote “programs that will (1) bolster media freedom; priority areas include journalist training, media monitoring, supporting networks of journalists covering high-risk topics, and objective information dissemination, and (2) and programs to support the advocacy, transparency, networking, and professionalism of the NGO sector in order to promote themes that advance democratic development and the promotion of human rights.” The varying levels of funding dedicated to different regions of the world in this invitation reveal to some extent just how concerned the U.S. government is about press freedom in the respective countries. Four million dollars is rather paltry amount to spread across a territory as vast as Russia, Belarus, the Balkans, and Kosovo, especially compared to what is being dedicated to other areas (however Africa is virtually ignored). The big money ($6.4 million) obviously goes to Iran and Syria, and a totally disproportionate $3.65 million for programs in Cuba. Of course the ideal organization to carry out such a program of journalist training would be the Educated Media Foundation (EMF), but ever since the Kremlin launched its campaign against Manana Aslamazyan based on minor customs infractions, the civil society group has been shut down. Click here to read a recent letter to Vladimir Putin by the International Press Institute in defense of EMF.