The Rise and Fall of the International Organization of Journalists Based in Prague 1946–2016
Useful Recollections, Part III
paperback, 546 pp., 1. edition
published: december 2020
recommended price: 450 czk
This is a unique history of what in the 1980s was the world’s largest association in the media field. However, the IOJ was embroiled in the Cold War: the bulk of 300,000 members were in the socialist East and developing South. Hence the collapse of the Soviet-led communist order in central-eastern Europe in 1989–91 precipitated the IOJ’s demise.
The author – a Finnish journalism educator and media scholar – served as President of the IOJ during its heyday. In addition to a chronological account of the organization, the book includes testimonies by actors inside and outside the IOJ and comprehensive appendices containing unpublished documents.
Challenging the totalitarian narrative that still prevails in the media and popular-history environment (at least in the Czech Republic), it pictures the IOJ as a new example of the permeability of the Iron Curtain and operability within the limits of the communist dominion. In a way, this particular history also contributes to the deconstruction of the classical Cold War temporalization; while the Velvet Revolution was an important milestone, the story carried on with many personal and mental continuities. The book also proposes new contexts, in which future research could be set: the theme of information and communication technology employed by the IOJ or the organization’s commercial enterprise. These framings could draw from current historical research that focus on the expert technocratic way of governance and the idea of the “long transition” between socialism and capitalism.4 The IOJ could provide an interesting example for an international dimension of this approach.
Even though Kaarle Nordenstreng’s book presents the IOJ’s institutional history in a traditional way, it sheds light on many interesting facts and brings up ideas for further research, for which it can serve as an overview and as a starting point. As such, it is a significant contribution to the developing field of Cold War internationalism and to the understanding of what “Communist Geneva” was.
Mikuláš Pešta (Czech Journal of Contemporary History XXVIII/3)
The Rise and Fall of the International Organization of Journalists is a capital piece of work that is not possible to read through in one sitting. It contains a lot of information that will open the eyes of even the most knowledgeable, doing it in both ways – as a documental evidence and as a personalized account.
Epp Lauk (Central European Journal of Communication vol. 14 NO 1(28): Spring 2021)