February 23, 2015 Print

During the International Students for Liberty Conference held Feb. 13–15 in Washington, D.C., Atlas Network hosted a competition to advance the battle of ideas for freedom on international campuses and among international student groups. Out of the 12 people who competed, Ratko Nikolic from Serbia won for his proposal to develop a semester-long investigative journalism program.

“[Serbia needs] a mechanism for putting pressure on the government for more transparency and less corruption, and I think the media is a very important mechanism for this, because without it the people cannot even know what the problem is,” Nikolic said.

Ratko Nikolic presents his proposal to develop a semester-long investigative journalism program in Serbia.

During the competition, Nikolic represented the newly founded Serbian organization Center for Anti-Authoritarian Studies, which has a mission to promote libertarian ideas through art, culture, and the media.

In light of recent censorship efforts by the Serbian prime minister, accompanied by his public conflicts with investigative journalists and critics, the Center for Anti-Authoritarian Studies wants to develop a semester-long investigative journalism 101 educational program. It would consist of lectures on the basic knowledge and skills required by the journalism profession, with a hands-on component that would pair participants with mentors from established media outlets while they each write their own article about a relevant topic in the country. The primary goal of the program would be to create a body of trained, proactive investigative journalists who would write about relevant issues from a libertarian perspective. This program would promote the values of liberty among the Serbian people and contribute to the pressure for greater transparency and reduced corruption in the country. 

Atlas Network team pictured with grant competition winner Ratko Nikolic of Serbia. From left to right: Autumn Lansford, Ratko Nikolic, Daniel Anthony, Matt Warner, Cindy Cerquitella.

Atlas Network awarded Nikolic a $1,000 grant for his proposal. Other noteworthy project proposals included one by Peter Yakobe, from Atlas Network partner Centre For Free Market Enterprise in Malawi; and another by Stoyan Panchev, from Atlas Network partner Bulgarian Libertarian Society in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Yakobe proposed to develop and organize a Southern African regional conference to expose students from eight Southern African countries to the ideas of freedom.

Peter Yakobe from Malawi-based Centre for Free Enterprise

“This conference is going to [inspire the students] that it is themselves who are supposed to strive and be entrepreneurs and make things for themselves [rather] than waiting for the government to do things for them, and they’re going to learn about [the] need for them to advance liberty in their respective countries; so we are hoping that by the end of the conference the students will be fired up, ready to spread liberty in their respective countries,” Yakobe said.

Panchev proposed to develop a campaign against the whitewashing of socialist-era oppression and economic destruction in Bulgaria.

“We want to challenge the predominant narrative at one of the biggest universities in Bulgaria which is very pro socialist, and we want to do that in a way that will attract the attention of students,” Panchev said. “So we’re going to do a guerilla marketing campaign. We’re going to expose to [today’s students] what Marx actually wrote, because we believe that a lot of [students] wouldn’t like it if it wasn’t sugarcoated by left wing professors.”

Stoyan Panchev, from Atlas Network partner Bulgarian Libertarian Society in Sofia, Bulgaria

Bulgaria’s University of National and World Economy — formerly known as the Karl Marx Higher Institute of Economics — is home to a large statue of Marx and filled with his admirers, who pay tribute to the ideals of socialism and collectivism. Panchev hopes to use this guerilla marketing campaign to shed light on the real details and implications of Marx’s ideology in order to help the next generation of students understand that it is not consistent with personal freedom and liberty.

The competition was conducted as part of Atlas Network’s training program, Atlas Leadership Academy. As a lead-up to the final proposal part of the competition, Atlas Network’s Daniel Anthony and Matt Warner presented hands-on best practices in the areas of strategic planning and fundraising. The competition highlighted the importance of the battle of ideas for freedom — an idea that Atlas Network’s founder, Antony Fisher, promoted vigorously.