Biographies of Presenters

Portrait of Nina Ognianova.

Nina Ognianova, Program Coordinator, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) 

Before joining CPJ as Europe and Central Asia research associate in December 2003, Nina Ognianova worked as a staff writer for the International Journalists’ Network, the media-assistance Web site of the nonprofit International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) in Washington, D.C. She covered the countries of Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe. In September 2003, Ognianova coordinated an ICFJ conference, which was held in her native Bulgaria, for Balkan investigative journalists about covering the problems of human trafficking. Ognianova earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications from the American University in Bulgaria and a master’s degree from the Missouri School of Journalism--Columbia. While in Missouri, Ognianova was on the editorial staff of the magazine of the International Press Institute, Global Journalist, where she also published articles. Ognianova is a native Bulgarian speaker, fluent in Russian, and proficient in Macedonian, Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian, and Italian. She was promoted to senior research associate in January 2006 and became program coordinator in June 2006.

Portrait of Oleg Panifilov.

Oleg Panfilov, Director, Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations (CJES)

Oleg Panfilov was born in 1957 in Tajikistan. In 1979 he graduated from Leninabad State Pedagogical Institute (formerly Khudzhandh University). He initially worked in a village school, then, from 1979 to 1989, he worked as a research fellow at the Institute of History at the Tajik Academy of Sciences. From 1989 to 1990 he worked at the Tajikistan Fund of Culture as a senior expert. Since 1974, he has also worked as a journalist. He has presented the program Pamiat’ proshlogo on Tajik television, worked as a correspondent for the newspaper Komsomolets Tadjikistana, the radio station Yunost’, the news agency Associated Press, and as a correspondent for Nezavisimaia gazeta and Gazeta wyborzca (Poland). Between 1995 and 1997 he served as deputy editor-in-chief for the journal Tsentral’naia azia (Sweden). Since November 2000 he has been writing materials for and presenting the program Authorities and Media on Radio Liberty. From 1994 to February 2000 he headed the monitoring service at the Glasnost Defense Foundation. Between 1994 and 1997 he served as a human rights expert in UN-lead peace talks in Tajikistan.

  • Graduate of the International School of Human Rights, Warsaw (1992).
  • Author and editor of 23 books (by July 2003). He has published more than 2000 articles in papers and journals around the world and written scripts for 8 films.
  • Laureate of the Russian Union of Journalists' prize (1995).
  • International Film Festival Grand Prize "Obraz very" (1993).
  • Medal of the Zoroastrian College of Bombay (1991).
  • At the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations since February 2000
Portrait of Alexey Simonov.

Alexey Simonov, President, Glasnost Defense Foundation

Alexey Simonov currently serves as president of the Glasnost Defense Foundation, working on the issues of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Born in 1939, he completed Moscow State University in 1964. In 1970, he completed a graduate degree in cinematography and began working for the Ekran film collective. Between 1970 and 1991 he directed 20 musical and documentary films. From 1991 to 1995 he worked as a dean and professor at the Institute of Cinematography. Since 1991, he has been the chairman of the board and president of the Glasnost Defense Foundation. He is the author of many articles on issues relating to the freedom the press.

Portrait of Fred Weir.

Fred Weir, Christian Science Monitor

Fred Weir, a Canadian-born journalist, has lived in Russia for the past 20 years as correspondent for a variety of Canadian, US and other news organizations. He travelled widely in Europe and the Middle East during the 1970’s, and lived on an Israeli kibbutz 1973-74. He received an honours history degree from the University of Toronto in 1984, and a teaching diploma from the Ontario College of Education in 1986. Weir moved to the USSR in 1986, to write about Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika campaign for a left-wing Canadian weekly, the Canadian Tribune. The next year he married a Russian, Mariam Shaumian, and ended up staying permanently with his family. The couple has two children, Tanya, 18, and Charles, 6, both of whom are Russian citizens. Mariam works as editor of the monthly corporate magazine and quarterly catalogue of Mercury, the leading Russian retailer of luxury goods. The family maintains a flat in Moscow, but recently built a house in Razdori, a village about 10 km outside Moscow, where they now live year-round.

Portrait of Igor Zevelev.

Dr. Igor Zevelev, Washington Bureau Chief, RIA Novosti

Dr. Igor Zevelev is Washington Bureau Chief of RIA Novosti, Russian News and Information Agency. Prior to joining RIA Novosti in 2005, Dr. Zevelev was a Professor of Russian Studies at the George Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Germany. 
Dr. Zevelev received his doctorates from Moscow State University (kandidat nauk) and the Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences – IMEMO (doctor nauk). He was Head Research Associate at IMEMO, where he had also served as Head of Department and Deputy Director of the Center for Developing Countries. Dr. Zevelev taught at the University of Washington, UC Berkeley, San Jose State University, and Macalester College. He was a Fellow at The Woodrow Wilson Center (1996-97) and a Senior Scholar at the US Institute of Peace in 1997-98.

Dr. Zevelev has written five books and numerous articles on the politics of Russia, Asian countries, human rights, international relations, and security issues. Among his books are Russia and its New Diasporas (Washington, DC: The United States Institute of Peace Press, 2001), in English and Global Security Beyond the Millennium: American and Russian Perspectives (co-edited with Sharyl Cross, London: Macmillan Press, 1999), in English; The most recent publication is Power and Influence in the US-Russian Relations: Semiotic Analysis (co-authored with Mikhail Troitsky, Moscow: NOFMO, 2006), in Russian.

Portrait of Andrei Zolotov.
Andrei A. Zolotov Jr., Editor, Russia Profile (

Andrei Zolotov, Jr. graduated from the Moscow State University's School of Journalism (M.A., 1992). During his studies, spent a year as an exchange student at Sarah Lawrence College (Bronxville, New York) and a year as a visiting scholar at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism (New York City). He began his journalistic career in 1992 as a translator and fixer at the Moscow bureau of The Christian Science Monitor. Worked as the CSM bureau manager from 1994 to 1996. From 1995 to 2003, Zolotov served as Moscow correspondent for Geneva-based news and features agency Ecumenical News International (ENI). In 1997, he joined the staff of Moscow's leading independent English-language newspaper, The Moscow Times, where he covered politics, media and religion as
a senior staff writer. Mr. Zolotov's coverage of the takeover of NTV and TV-6 television companies, as well as other aspects of the country's media policies earned him the reputation as an expert on media issues. He has been interviewed by leading international broadcasters, such as BBC, CNN, PBS and NPR and contributed opinion pieces to The Christian Science Monitor, Nezavisimaya Gazeta and other publications. Mr. Zolotov is also recognized as an expert in Russia's religious affairs and global developments in regard to Orthodox Christianity.

In 2003, Mr. Zolotov left The Moscow Times and ENI to develop a new project - Russia Profile ( It is an analytical on-line and print magazine in English covering Russia's trends and developments, which is published by Independent Media publishing company (publisher of The Moscow Times, The St. Petersburg Times, Vedomosti and 11 magazines in Russia) in conjunction with RIA Novosti.

John Templeton European Religion Journalist of the Year (1997)
Carnegie Media Fellowship at Duke University (1999)