Visitors from Chechnya Learn From Journalists in Maine 

Visitors from the Russian republic of Chechnya are learning about life in the U.S. during a trip to Maine. Friday, they stopped by a radio station in Bangor, with freedom of speech on their minds. In a room full of local journalists, it’s not surprising the conversation is about the ability to report the news.It’s they way they do it that’s fascinating for this group from Chechnya.Andrey Fink, a facilitator for the group, says they wonder about “How journalists are capable to say what they want to say and they have no limits and censorship from the government.”Two members of parliament, one a journalist, and the coordinator of a humans rights organization from Chechnya are visiting Maine through a U.S. Exchange program called Open World.Fresh off two civil wars, Chechnya is in the process of rebuilding.Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are developing ideas. Anne Gabbianelli, News Director for Zone Radio Corp, says “To learn that journalists can be killed for doing their jobs. You just can’t even fathom that. And yet these people are still very vibrant and very steadfast and still doing their job and representing their country, even though their lives can be at risk. “Dr. Barry Rodrigue, a professor at USM, has worked in Chechnya and is a local ambassador for the visitors. “By coming here to Maine, oddly enough, people are able to talk more freely here than they could back in their home country, because many of the hostilities and animosities are absent here.”The group is also learning about local government, education, law enforcement and more. And the people of Maine are giving them something to think about, too. Gabbianelli says, “As one of the gentlemen from the parliament said, he thought Americans had their head above the clouds and he found out completely otherwise.”Fink says, “We all see that people are pretty much the same. They have the same values and if our politicians could deal with the same efficiency as people’s democracy, people’s diplomacy, that would be great. It would be better, it would be easier for all of us.”This is the second time a delegation from Chechnya has come to visit Maine.