Cablegate: Czech Activist Jan Urban On Iraqi Journalists,

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.



E.O. 12958: N/A


1. SUMMARY. Poloff met with Czech journalist/activist Jan
Urban after his return from Amman, Jordan, where he conducted
training for 40 Iraqi journalists under a program funded with
money from the National Endowment for Democracy. Urban said
he would like to follow up with additional programs,
including internships at RFE in Prague. Urban also told the
Embassy about Czech efforts to help preserve Iraqi cultural
treasures, one program of which involves US military
assistance. END SUMMARY

2. Urban spent the month of August in Jordan training two
groups of Iraqi journalists, journalism students from
Baghdad, and an older group, mostly middle-aged, from Basra.
The program was run by the Czech NGO, People in Need (PIN),
which had been in Iraq for years, though primarily providing
humanitarian assistance. In 2004, PIN pulled all of its
expats out of Iraq and relocated many of them in Jordan. Last
month, PIN began a new program in Jordan, based on the Czech
experience in the transition from a totalitarian regime to
democracy. An Institute has been set up in Amman, with the
working title, The Democracy and Transition Center for the
Middle East.

3. Urban felt that the group of middle-aged journalists from
Basra knew little about their craft. He felt the students
from Baghdad, while untrained, held more promise. The
students were exclusively Shia. The group of 20 students
included 3 women. The other group of 20 had 2 women. Urban
said the journalists did not feel they were going to be
labeled collaborators by insurgents in Iraq, since the US
money went, with relatively little fanfare, to a Czech NGO
that was running the program in Jordan.

4. The Center has received an initial allocation of funds
from the National Endowment for Democracy in the US, and 15
million Czech Crowns (USD 650,000) from an office within the
Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Urban said they are still
calculating the costs for the first two sessions, but expect
to have enough to run additional training for 40 Iraqis.
Urban felt that this was one of the most successful and
productive programs he has ever been associated with and is
eager to continue. Jordanian media outlets have already
agreed to make computers and TV facilities available to Urban
for the next sessions. Urban would then like to select a
small number, perhaps three, who would receive working
internships at Radio Free Iraq, the Iraqi service at Radio
Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Prague. He is still looking for
financing to cover the costs of such internships.

5. Urban also described some of the other activities that he
is working on in Iraq. One program that he considers
extremely successful is a program to save ancient Iraqi
manuscripts from water damage. This program takes advantage
of two unusual factors. First of all, the Iraqi Cultural
Minister lived for many years in the Czech Republic, has a
Czech wife, and values Czech technical abilities. Secondly,
Czech restorationists have ample practical experience,
following the floods in August 2002 which affected the
national library. So when centuries-old Iraqi manuscripts
were found to be waterlogged, the Iraqi Cultural Minister
asked the Czechs to help. Some of the most priceless books in
the country have been flown back to Litomysl, where the
Czech's National Restoration Institute restored them. The
restored books were then flown back to Baghdad. Urban said
the US army in Baghdad has provided two refrigerated tractor
trailers that are keeping other soggy books and documents
frozen until they also can be shipped to the Czech Republic
for restoration. Urban thanked the US for providing this

6. Urban said the Iraqi Cultural Minister had asked for help
with more than 10 preservation projects, one of which was the
book program already described. Urban explained that former
Czech Minister of Culture, Pavel Dostal, who died this July,
had been an enthusiastic supporter of the assistance
projects. But Urban said the search for a new minister, and
the fact that the new minister, Vitezslav Jandak is less
interested in these programs, has caused delays in getting
funding approved. Urban thought there was a great rush
underway to get some of the other programs funded before the
planned October 3-4 visit to Prague by Iraqi President

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