Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Caucasus: Oct/Nov ‘09

IWPR Karabakh workshop participants find out how web journalism can enhance work of journalists and activists.
By IWPR
Journalists and refugee representatives in Nagorny Karabakh who attended an IWPR workshop on multi-media and citizen journalism have spoken enthusiastically about the new skills they have acquired.


As a result of the training in Stepanakert, from October 23-25, each of the ten participants now has their own blog and Facebook account, which they use to communicate new developments within their respective organisations and communities to social networks.


During the workshop, participants made videos on the problems facing Armenian refugees from Azerbaijan and some posted them on their blogs and a YouTube channel created as part of the workshop.


“The seminars on citizen journalism helped both professional reporters and non-journalists get acquainted with computer and web tools which they have never used before,” said Gegham Vardanyan, who led the training session.


“Citizen journalism is important in Nagorny Karabakh. There are no powerful media in Karabakh, so the internet remains the main tool for information dissemination.


“With the help of such workshops, ordinary people realise that they can become journalists for several hours or for a day and disseminate information in order to defend their civil [and other] rights and launch media campaigns.”


Workshop participants spoke enthusiastically about the event.


“Before coming here, I already had some knowledge about internet journalism, citizen journalism, blogs, etc. I was hoping to get more information about them, and thanks to the workshop organisers and the trainer I have gained a lot of new skills, found out new websites where I can fully share my knowledge, thoughts and skills I possess - experience that I have and already have exchanged here with the rest of the participants,” said Armine Hareyan from Radio Hay.


Ruzanna Avagyan, from the Karabakh refugee association NKR Refugees, said, “After the training session, I stopped being afraid of the internet as a source of information. I have learnt so many useful things from the IWPR workshop. Now that I know what blogging is, I go online and read all the information that is useful for me and my job.


“For us, these kinds of training sessions are really important. I would ask IWPR to come to Karabakh more often to run training sessions, which are useful not only for journalists, but also other ordinary citizens of Karabakh, students and high school attendants.”


The internet market in Armenia is growing fast. Statistics from the International Telecommunications Union for 2008 show that around 172,000 people are connected to the web, over 6 per cent of the total population.


Armenian new media sites offer a variety of content – and most feature RSS, video, and interactive features.


Leading media outlets have blogs for inviting comments about articles. In 2008, there were between 1000-3000 active blogs in Russian, Armenian and English. Video blogging is also developing rapidly.


IWPR’s Armenia office made multi-media/citizen journalism one of its main priorities in 2009 and developed a programme of training and support for Armenian journalists and representatives from refugee communities.


The programme began with training on blogging for journalists participating in an IWPR reporting mission covering the Yerevan municipal elections at the end of May. Journalists were able to post their election reports on a special blog set up and moderated by the United States-based organisation IREX (http://caucasusreports.wordpress.com/).


IWPR recognised that refugees, together with NGOs that promote their rights, often have problems reaching large audiences in Armenia and Nagorny Karabakh. To help address this, a two-day workshop on internet theory and practice was held in Yerevan on July 25-26 for refugees from the Karabakh war.


Participants from refugee settlements were shown how to use the internet to voice their concerns and opinions about issues affecting their communities. During the training session, the participants were shown how to use basic multi-media tools. As a result, they were able to produce three small videos about the Karabakh conflict.


“It is important that people who have something to say can voice their opinions to a large audience, and some participants at the workshop really had their own views on refugees and Armenia-Azerbaijan relations issues,” said Arthur Papian, one of the workshop trainers.