New Georgian Reporting Network

An IWPR reporting project inspires participants to set up their own journalism network.

New Georgian Reporting Network

An IWPR reporting project inspires participants to set up their own journalism network.

Friday, 27 November, 2009

IWPR’s two-year Georgia Regional Media Network project has now finished but has created a network of regional journalists who will continue to work together in an independent group.

“We have already drawn up our organisation’s statutes, defined the initial number of journalists to be members of the regional media network, elected those to sit on the management and supervisory boards,” said Tea Zibzibadze, an active member of the network working in Kutaisi. “We have also identified priorities for our organisation to work on.

“We’ve divided powers and functions among the network members. The next stage is seeing the organisation get registered and presented.”

The presentation of the network is scheduled for September.

“The main aim of the Georgia Regional Media Network was to promote the development of regional media and to support democracy in the country,” said Maia Ivelashvili from Akhaltsikhe, who is a member of the network’s management board.

“We will also aim to cover issues relating to ethnic and religious minorities and refugees, as well as problems in the unrecognised republics and areas close to the administrative borders, and to ensure that the reports reach readers on time.”

Some 15 journalists from Georgia’s eight regions participated in IWPR’s Georgia Regional Media Network project, which recently ended. The new network, being created on the foundations of the IWPR project, will be open to as many journalists as apply to take part in it, its leaders said.

“That the Georgia Regional Media Network has decided to continue operating is not known to a broader public yet,” said Zaur Dargal, who is one of the founders of the new network.

“I am certain that many journalists will want to join our network. When the project was still under way a lot of my colleagues told me they would be glad to participate in IWPR-organised events.

“Many journalists were upset not to have been included among the project participants. In our case, the number of participating journalists will not be limited.”

Georgian journalists often have had little experience of working as part of a network. Up to now, all such journalist groups have been products of grant-supported projects, which means they effectively stopped functioning as soon as their funding had run out.

“This is the first time in the past ten years that a network has started to live a new life after the demise of the project it was part of,” said Irma Zoidze from the Georgian region of Ajara. “We have taken over an established business from IWPR.

“Now, we need to show whether we are able to preserve the contacts forged by the project coordinators and to justify the trust that’s been placed in us.”

Marika Tsikoridze, who is one of the initiators of the idea to breathe new life into the network, said, “In the two years that the project has been under way, we encountered the problems faced by refugees and minorities so often that we decided to make protection of these people’s rights one of our priorities.”

“Also, we need to protect each other,” said another member of the network, Tamuna Shonia from the region of Samegrelo. “Cases of journalists having their rights violated occur frequently in developing countries. Georgia is no exception. But journalists have rarely shown solidarity towards each other, only coming out with protests when their personal safety is threatened.

“Apart from improving our professional skills, IWPR has taught us to support each other. If we stand side by side and help one another, then I am sure no one will try to silence us as some groups do now.”

Natia Ardbelava, also a member, from the region of Shida Kartli said, “We acquired heaps of knowledge and experience while taking part in the Georgia Regional Media Network. Now we are ready to pass this knowledge on to others. We’ve already talked to students in a number of regions. We are going to teach them everything that we’ve learnt from the IWPR trainers.

“With the help of the IWPR trainers, we have been developing our training programme. They will also provide support for our trainers. Enthusiasm is not in short supply here, and I am sure many people will be eager to join our network.

“By working effectively, we will pay thanks to IWPR and show them that the two years they worked with us have not been wasted.”

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