Summer Centered: Katya Konradova ’19 Fights for Free Press in Eastern Europe
The comparative literature major is applying her interest in journalism and communications to her work with the South East Europe Media Organization in Vienna, Austria.
As the United States faces the rise of “fake news” and a president who has called the press “the enemy of the American people,” the situation is even more dire in other countries where many journalists struggle to avoid censorship and coercion. Katya Konradova ’19 is interning in Vienna, Austria, with the South East Europe Media Organization (SEEMO), which monitors and advocates for free press all the way from Central Europe to Central Asia.
During her 10-week internship sponsored by the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship, Konradova is monitoring freedom of the press in the Czech Republic (her home country), Slovakia, Poland, Macedonia, Kosovo, and the Central Asian region, which SEEMO just started monitoring last year. If she discovers something awry, she writes reports, press releases, and protest letters on behalf of the organization. Her internship puts her on the front lines of the battle for a free press—an interest of personal importance for her.
“I suspect it stems from all kinds of stories about brave writers and journalists who resisted the system that I heard a lot about growing up,” said the rising junior and comparative literature major. “SEEMO's area of work was very interesting to me because I have a somewhat personal connection to the region and wanted to help rebuild these young democracies in some way.”
Though SEEMO didn’t have an internship program established, they have welcomed Konradova’s interest in their mission. Alongside her monitoring work, she has helped with fundraising, translated website content into Czech, and built databases, all of which have given her experience with a cross-section of the organization’s work.
“There is an incredible network of support organizations, groups, and individuals who are ready to jump in and defend everyone's right to speak for themselves, both locally and internationally,” she said. “I'm glad that my knowledge of these resources is expanding greatly as a result of this internship.”
Outside of her internship, Konradova is absorbing a new culture as she lives in Vienna for the first time. Going about a day in a country where you don’t speak the native language, she says, “gets you into funny situations, like when you ride with someone in an elevator after greeting them in German and pray that they don't start chatting with you.”
As she learns the ebb and flow of daily life in a new city, she’s doing the same with a career path she might end up sticking with.
“I knew I wanted to take a stab at journalistic work in Europe, but instead of simply interning with a news organization, I was intrigued by the issue of censorship and press freedom,” she said. “My work with SEEMO is a good sample of what I might end up doing eventually.”
“Summer Centered” is a series exploring our students’ Center-funded summer work.