In Winter Park, Croatian journalists have fun while they learn |

In Winter Park, Croatian journalists have fun while they learn

Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi Daily News
ALL | Sky-Hi Daily News

Dr. Mike Muftic and his wife Felicia Muftic of Fraser showed four distinguished Croatian journalists around Grand County on Sunday.

During “A Project for Croatia” the reporters are learning about the 2008 United States elections throughout three weeks. In Denver they met with campaign staff, journalists and government officials.

Afterwards, they were able to get a feel for small town politics in Winter Park, while enjoying the scenery and restaurants in the mountain community. They also learned about tourism and the ski business.

“It’s a day-off for fun,” Felicia Muftic said before the event. “We’ll have a lot of conversations and fun.”

Mike Muftic is a Croatian native and he and his wife visit the country at least once a year.

“By bringing (the Croatians) to the Unites States they can learn about our politics, our way of life,” Mike Muftic said. “Now when they go back they can teach (their countrymen) about Democratic life.”

The State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program and the Institute of International Education helped organize the trip to bring the journalists and a State Department interpreter to the United States. The Meridian International Center arranged the program.

As Institute volunteers ” and with Felicia on the Regional Advisory Board, which provides hospitality ” the Muftics said they were happy to have the journalists stay with them.

Croatia has a “non-permanent” seat on the United Nations Security Council and could gain membership in both NATO and the European Union.

The project was organized to increase knowledge of foreign policy issues as Croatia’s international presence grows, according to the International Visitor Leadership.

Topics the Croatians are discussing include: presidential and legislative campaigns and strategies; primaries and caucuses; the role of political parties; and the media’s role in campaign coverage.

They also are learning about U.S. foreign policy, the policymaking process and lobbyists and interest groups involved in government; press freedom issues; and the role religion plays in U.S. public life.

The Muftics said this is a good time for them to visit because this election will make history. The next president could either be the first black man, woman or oldest person in the White House, Felicia Muftic said.

“This will be interesting for them,” she said. “(Croatia) is a very homogeneous society.”

The country emerged from communism about a decade ago and is a parliamentary democracy.

“The state still owns the media but they’re still fairly free,” she said.

A majority of Croatia’s 4.5 million population is Catholic, 13 percent belongs to Orthodox faith and 1 percent is Muslim. The country’s most important industry is tourism.

“It is one of the most beautiful countries to visit,” Felicia Muftic said. “The coastline is one of the most beautiful in the world.”

The Croatians already has been to Washington and New York; their next stop is Philadelphia.

The journalists include: Janko Bekic from Slobodna Dalmacija daily newspaper; Alenka Juricic from Novi List daily newspaper; Tina Lakic Prizmic of Jutarnji List daily newspaper; and Editor Elizabeta Gojan of World News Desk, Croatian Television (HTV).

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