Story of an Orphan in Russia, written at MDI Training

Dates: 24-28 November 2013

Country: Russia, Saratov

saratov_workshopIt was a compelling story: the young boy, who lost his mother at six, was taken away from his alcoholic father at 12 and spent the next four years in an orphanage. But Alexei’s problem were not over when he finally left the orphanage, even though he was determined to make his way in a world that had given him a tough start.

As an orphan he was entitled to a government flat but bureaucratic delays and incompetence meant there was a queue. A long queue.  Five years on and Alexei is still waiting for his flat. The wait could go on for another five years.

Angry and frustrated that the government is failing to deliver on its promises to orphans, Alexei has moved in with friends and staged a series of one-man protests outside government buildings. He has won a wide network of support and is now campaigning not just for his rights but those of orphans all over Russia.

Alexei’s story was told vividly by Anton Kass, one of the 16 journalists on a Media Diversity Institute (MDI) workshop in Saratov on diversity reporting. His powerful piece was supported by a good use of statistics on orphans and comment from experts and other groups.

Anton’s success was one of many on the five-day course held on 24-28 November to train journalists in how to cover stories on the broad themes of diversity and inclusion in an interesting, balanced and responsible way.

The course was run by trainers David Harrison, of the MDI, and Natalia Bitten, who is based in Moscow.

After two days of intensive training the journalists were set the task of finding and writing stories about marginalised individuals whose experience was both personal and yet typical of many others in a similar situation in Russia today.

Other examples of strong stories produced by the journalists included the student rebuilding her life after recovering from heroin addiction; the homeless man who fears he will die this winter; and the mother campaigning for justice after her son died mysteriously in prison after being jailed for a crime he did not commit.

The training included talks by three speakers who campaigned for marginalised groups and included a presentation of MDI monitoring of media in the region.

It was one of a series of workshops run by the MDI and in partnership with Russian Union of Journalists within the project “Fighting Discrimination in Russia through tolerant and inclusive reporting.”

The training continues with the journalists set the task of producing three more stories each over the next few months.

The Media Diversity Institute (MDI) work is supported by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

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