Caucasus: May ‘09

IWPR-supported radio programme in war-torn part of Georgia got officials to deal with local problems.

Caucasus: May ‘09

IWPR-supported radio programme in war-torn part of Georgia got officials to deal with local problems.

Tuesday, 23 June, 2009
The Kvira radio programme, set up eight months ago by IWPR and Georgia’s Trialeti radio station, prompted the authorities in Shida Kartli to tackle problems in the war-affected region, say local people and officials.

IWPR supported the launch of Kvira in November 2008 and continued to assist the programme for eight months. During this period, 12 programmes have been broadcast, focusing on issues relevant to refugees from last August’s Russian-Georgian war.

“The Kvira programme with its format, technical features and the quality of content is the equal of all the leading radio stations,” said Dimitri Avaliani, editor of the regional department at the 24 Saati daily newspaper.

“Since the war, which affected the Shida Kartli region most of all, the programme has been the most unbiased, reliable and interesting source of information.”

Production of the radio programme required intensive preparation. All necessary equipment was provided for Trialeti radio’s news service, and staff members were trained.

“The coverage of issues of concern for refugees and all who suffered from the war was very demanding,“ said Lika Shamugia, director of Trialeti.

“It was very sad for all of us when IWPR’s assistance programme finished at the end of the May. It helped us to grow professionally and to produce a high quality product.”

IWPR also supplied Trialeti with a huge music database, programme management software and licensed editing software.

During the eight months of the project, journalists and technical staff passed through ten IWPR workshops. They also participated in missions, round tables and other events organised by IWPR outside the scope of the assistance project.

“The programme, right from its first day, was closely followed by local government officials and the refugees as well,” Shamugia said, adding that many of the issues raised by the station were immediately tackled by the authorities.

The latest Kvira programme is a good example of how the local administration responded to the problems it discussed.

After the programme, the government subsidised electricity payments for 24 villages close to the de-facto border with South Ossetia. Also, in the village of Karaleti, repairs on houses damaged in the fighting were resumed.

As Kvira reported, families affected by the fighting were only spared utility fees until the end of 2008.

“From the first of January 2009, benefits were suspended on utility payments,” said Irina Truskova, a resident of Nikozi village.

“Our family economy was destroyed by the war, we lost our primary source of income, therefore we were unable to pay these utility bills.”

Lado Vardzelashvili, governor of the Shida Kartli region, immediately responded to the Kvira report detailing these families’ financial difficulties.

“I applied to the ministry of energy, and until the end of 2009 the state will pay for 150 kilowatts electricity for all families of the Shida Kartli region,” he said, going on to praise the journalists’ work.

“It is very important for us that journalists remain active to ensure timely delivery of information on humanitarian and other programmes for refugees… Also we, as a local government, need objective information on the problems of refugees.”

Families were in no doubt that his intervention was a result of Kvira’s work.

“We applied to the local government several times for help with our utility bills. However, there was an answer to our requests only after the issue was reported about on the Kvira radio programme,” said Manana Egadze, a resident of Viti village.

The programme also found that the rehabilitation process for houses damaged or destroyed during the war had also been suspended, much to the anger of the villagers.

“It’s been almost one year since the war ended. The government replaced only several windows in my house, the burnt floor is still there, and the water supply remains a problem. We sleep in a shelter where we used to keep food,” local resident Nunu Basilashvili told Kvira.

Alexander Veshapuri, a specialist in the Gori city administration’s department of economy and infrastructure, began working on solutions to the problems mentioned in the programme right away.

Villagers were in no doubt over who had informed the government about their problems.

“We no longer expected a response from the government, but after the report on the Kvira programme, we are all hopeful we can return to our houses soon,” said Nodar Buadze, a resident of Karaleti village.

Journalists from the station also found making the programmes pleasurable, and were delighted by the immediate responses their work produced.

“It was an unforgettable, indescribable feeling seeing how the government shifted from mere words to concrete actions after our reports were broadcast,” said Lado Bichashvili, a Trialeti journalist.

“Working with IWPR gave us invaluable experience and knowledge. Eight months of intensive training and workshops gave us more than years of work and studies before.”

IWPR staff praised the programme, saying it had shown the power of radio in Georgia.

“The programme was an intermediary between the population and the government,” said Nino Gerzmava, IWPR’s radio projects manager.
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