Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
IWPR Azerbaijan country director Shahin Rzaev presents a certificate to Guler Mehdizade, a reporter for the Bizim Yol newspaper. (Photo: IWPR)
Audience discussion after screenings of films made by project participants. (Photo: IWPR)
An awards ceremony hosted by IWPR’s Azerbaijan office celebrated the achievements of journalists who took part in two-year multimedia training project.
As well as screenings of the trainees’ work, the event was an opportunity to publicise the achievements of the Strengthening Civil Society in Azerbaijan project as it came to a close.
Twenty-five trainees were awarded certificates of excellence at the final event.
The project, funded by the US State Department, saw the creation of eight citizen journalism centres around Azerbaijan, and a cycle of training sessions, reporting missions and round-table discussions. The 80-plus trainees included professional reporters as well as citizen journalists, bloggers, students and school pupils.
Their work was showcased on a specially-created website called Civil Forum, which ended up with more than 180 articles, 90 short films, three longer documentaries, and 40 photographic slideshows.
Gular Mehdizade came to the training sessions as a working reporter for the Bizim Yol newspaper, and came away with new skills.
“I knew nothing about making documentaries, but this project gave me the chance – as part of a team – to make a film about street children,” Mehdizade said.
Ulviyya Alikhanova, a journalism student in her third year at Baku State University, said the IWPR training provided the hands-on experience that was missing from her academic course.
“There are no lecturers in our faculty who can teach you how to do it in practice,” she said. “It’s hard to learn how to be a journalist from theory alone. IWPR gave me an opportunity to practice, and I wrote several articles and even shot a short film.”
One of the trainers, Tahmina Tagizade, said she was gratified when trainees acquired skills in areas completely new to them.
“At times it was hard to teach video techniques to people who might never have held a camera in their hands. But I was delighted every time I saw the results,” she said.
Seymur Kazimov, who taught the print journalism side of the course, said the focus on people living outside the capital Baku was particularly useful.
“Many media projects are organised just for journalists and bloggers from Baku. Traditional and citizen journalists in the provinces often get ignored,” he said.
Another trainer, Aynur Elgunesh, agreed with this point, adding that “the project gave them a platform where they could publish their material and get paid for it, which was very helpful for provincial and fledgling journalists”.
Bahaddin Haziyev, editor-in-chief of Bizim Yol, said he was impressed by the quality of the pieces appearing on the Civil Forum website and had republished many of them in his own paper.
“It will be sad if the website ceases to be active when the project is over. The project helped produce professionals. Three of the participants are currently working for my newspaper,” he said.
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