Filip Láb on Charles University's new specialisation 'Totalitarianism and Transition'

Charles University, Prague joined the Mundus Consortium in 2020, so last year was the first time that applicants could apply to study in Prague for their second year! Our first batch of students will hit the "Totalitarianism and Transistion" specialisation next year, but in the meantime we sat down with Filip Láb - the Erasmus Mundus Journalism coordinator in Prague to tell you more about our new partner and the course offer at Charles University!

Filip Láb is the Erasmus Mundus Journalism coordinator at Charles University

Mundus Journalism: Filip, welcome on board! For those who don’t yet know you, could you tell us a bit about yourself and your background.

Filip Láb: My background is divided between journalism and photography. I have always been interested in photojournalism. I actually studied journalism and media studies at our faculty and at the same time I also studied photography at the academy for performing arts in Prague. I was always trying to combine these two worlds and so I became a photographer for the media.  I changed my career when photojournalism started going through somewhat of a crisis and I started putting my energy into the faculty and was the Vice Dean of the faculty for 7 years.

Mundus Journalism: How did Charles University became part of the programme in 2020?

Filip Láb: The story is pretty simple really. Myself and Alice - the Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences - were at the ICA Conference in Prague in May, 2018 and we met Henrik Bodker who was Head of the Board of Studies for Mundus Journalism at that time. We introduced him to our Faculty and we talked about our potential participation in the Mundus programme. He explained that the Consortium was looking for new partners and the rest, as they say, is history. We’re in the right place at the right time and because we were able to get everything sorted in such a short period of time we came on board and here we are now. We were lucky because everything aligned, the administration were so helpful, and we felt surrounded by a lot of great people so the whole process was really easy.

Mundus Journalism: So, tell us about the ‘Totalitarianism and Transition’ course which you’ve put together for the next cohort of Mundusians.

Filip: Well, firstly, it’s an entirely new program so we’re really excited about it! The course is based on our areas of expertise at Charles University as transformation is a big topic for many of our colleagues. There are a lot of interesting things going on in the region of central and eastern Europe in post-totalitarian countries right now. Indeed, transition is a big topic around the world right now, so whilst the course focuses on the media and history of countries in central and eastern Europe, we’re excited to put this into the bigger context with the insights that Mundusians will bring from their own countries. It’s somewhat universal, so a lot of the processes we’re seeing and researching are happening in other states and regions around the globe so we think that lots of students will find this topic really relevant.

Mundus Journalism: Right now we’re in the middle of the application period, so we’re sure that applicants will want to know what the main differences are between the course taught in Prague and the specialisation in Amsterdam. Can you enlighten us?

Filip: Looking at other specialisations, we really wanted to offer something different and play to our strengths. We have some very strong video and radio facilities and offer summer schools for journalism students, so we wanted to open these facilities up for Mundus students too and give them the opportunity to explore different practical aspects of transition and how it affects journalistic practices and so we have incorporated a module which allows students to create their own journalistic products. They can shoot videos, take photographs or create multimedia projects so we want to equip them with knowledge and theoretical frameworks whilst also giving them the chance to practice journalism.

MJ: Since this is a new course, can you tell us about the teaching staff who will teach Mundusians at Charles University?

Filip: Well firstly, there’s Dr. Alice Nemcova Tejkalova who is the Dean of the Faculty. She’s a former journalist and so she had a lot of input in bringing the Mundus Journalism to Prague, and putting the course together. We also have Jan Jirák, the founding father of Czech Media Studies, on board. He started all Media Studies programs in the Czech Republic and will teach one of the theoretical courses about the Media in Central Europe. There’s also Nico Carpentier - who is a Swedish professor. He was working in Uppsala and moved to Prague to join our institute around 10 years ago. He is a superstar in his field and he has come on board as a thesis supervisor. We’ve really tried to put together the best team we could and so we’re really looking forward to the arrival of the new Mundus students.

MJ: Could you give us some insights into the different modules on offer?

Filip: The first two modules - ‘Media in Post-Totalitarian Countries’ and ‘Contemporary History of Post-Totalitarian Countries’ are theoretical courses. These will give students up to date insights into the media systems of post-totalitarian countries and explore the history of central and eastern Europe to shed light on why the media operates in the way it does.

The ‘Post-Digital Photojournalism’ module looks at the current state of photojournalism and explores the crisis that the field is in right now due to digitalisation and globalisation. This module is aimed at helping students to explore possible solutions to this crisis. Some people have returned to traditional film photography, there’s also slow photojournalism and people are trying new approaches. There’s also a practical aspect, which means that students can take their own photographs, develop them in a dark room, we have one of the last dark rooms in the city, and even shoot videos with drones, so they can try out the latest technology and find out what works for them.

The Audio-Visual Journalism module is taught by Václav Moravec - Czech Republic’s most well-known TV anchor for political debates. During the first part of the course, the Mundus students will go on a number of excursions to public and private news TV broadcasters and attend lectures to gain editorial and technological knowledge in the field of TV journalism. There’s also a practical part of the course which involves TV studio and field work!

MJ: And finally, can you tell us what the Master Thesis looks like?

Filip: We don’t have really strict rules about the Masters Thesis. Most theses in our faculty are around 80 pages but we don’t have an upper limit. It’s a research project, so it consists of the theoretical part, and your own research.

Thanks so much, Filip, we’re really excited for the first groups of Mundusians to come to Prague!

If you’d like to find out more about the specialisation in Prague, have a look at all of the course descriptions here. Follow our Instagram and Facebook page to stay tuned and follow our journey across cities and specialisation of the programme!

We’ve also put together a City Guide for you to find out more about living, working and studying here. All you need to do is get your application in for the ‘Totalitarianism and Transition’ specialisation before January 10th, 2020, 12:00!