UNO partners with Afghans to train journalists


January 12th, 2011

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Omaha, NE – A group of professors from the University of Nebraska at Omaha has just returned from Afghanistan. They were in the country hoping to help teachers there create the next generation of independent journalists in that war-torn nation.

Faculty from UNO's School of Communication will partner with teachers at Kabul University in Afghanistan, as part of a 3-year project to train that country's next generation of journalists (Photo courtesy UNO School of Communication)

UNO received a $1.3 million, three-year grant from the U.S. State Department to help develop the University of Kabul’s journalism program. It’s a partnership with UNO’s renowned Center for Afghanistan Studies and School of Communication. The idea is to send UNO’s professors to Kabul, and Kabul’s professors to UNO, to teach American-style hands-on classes and emphasize a free and open press. Doctor Chris Allen is an Associate Professor at UNO’s School of Communication.

“It has the potential to be huge, and it has the potential to go well beyond the three year experience,” he said.

Allen said the University has just broken ground on a new media center.

“They’ve been teaching television for years without the advantage of having television cameras or a studio. Their radio lab is quite rudimentary… So one of the things that we hope we can help them with is to show them how we utilize the facilities we have.”

Allen said there are about 50 television stations in Afghanistan, over 100 radio stations and almost 500 publications. Some are state-owned, some private, he said, but for a country of its size, it’s a good start. Allen said the spirit of a free press exists in the country, but its protection is not completely guaranteed.

“There are free press clauses in the constitution that guarantee a strong and vigorous press, yet we all know that is tempered by how the government administers that,” he said. “Our Supreme Court has protected our free press here in the United States, but that’s not always the case around the world.”

In April, the University of Kabul will send its professors to visit UNO’s campus. And Allen said he’s hopeful the partnership will make an impact in helping Afghanistan overcome a legacy of complex problems.

“It’s education that is the ultimate solution to Afghanistan’s problems, to overcome the corruption, which you can almost feel on the streets, the tribalism that plagues the country, the stagnant economy… and the politics.”

“I think all of those can be overcome with good strong education,” he said, “But that’s a long-term solution, that’s well down the road.”

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