Sopho Bukia | Institute for War and Peace Reporting


Sopho Bukia

Sopho Bukia
IWPR-trained journalist

I was born in Moscow in 1979. My father was working there as a football coach, and my mother is a chemist. We returned to Tbilisi for good on March 31, 1991, the very day that Georgia held a referendum on independence.

Some 98 per cent of the population voted in favour, my parents among them. It was a romantic time, and everyone was optimistic about the birth of this new Georgia. But that only lasted a few months until civil war started and the territorial conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

In Tbilisi, I went to a Georgian-language school, having studied in Russian in Moscow. I remember how ashamed I was not to know the Georgian language, and I worked at it day and night. Within six months, I was fluent.

In such dramatic times, I felt there was only one job I wanted to do. When I left school, I went straight into the journalism faculty of the Tbilisi State University. After that, I worked in the newspaper 24 hours for a few years, and then moved to IWPR, where I gained considerable experience.

I first came to IWPR as a participant in the Caucasus network of journalists. This programme organised training for journalists every three months in the various countries of the South Caucasus. It was the most interesting and useful course I have ever taken. The sessions completely changed my approach to journalism, and people noticed the improvement in my writing.

IWPR completely changed my career path too. I worked as editor of IWPR's Caucasus Reporting Service in Georgia, and as a consequence had to communicate regularly with professional editors in London. Every article became a master-class for me in writing and editing. I also gained contacts across the whole Caucasus, including in the conflict zones.

Now I work as Caucasus and conflict editor of Liberal, a Georgian magazine and I cannot overstate the importance to my work of the contacts I gained through IWPR.

Liberal is the only Georgian magazine that Abkhaz and Ossetian journalists are happy to work for. I am proud to say this is mainly because of me, and because of the experience I earned at IWPR, and the high reputation that everyone who works at IWPR gains.

Of all the articles of my time at IWPR, I am proudest of How the Georgian War Began, which we wrote directly after the war of August 2008 using journalists from Tbilisi and Vladikavkaz and an editor from London.

We tried to lay out the tragic chain of events that led to the start of the war in South Ossetia in 2008. Working on that article, particularly in those days when the tragic events were still being played out, was not easy.

However, I am very proud of the piece we came up with. This was one of the first attempts anywhere to create an objective image of what happened and the journalists of the BBC, when they came to Georgia later, used it as the basis of their own report.

For me, being a journalist is above all an interesting job, being first to know and investigate events. One of the most interesting parts of working for the Caucasus Reporting Service was preparing articles jointly with journalists from the other side of a conflict. This work showed that professional journalists can and must work together to report events objectively.

Stories by the author

Sopho Bukia
27 Oct 15
Government accused of trying to silence major broadcaster.
Sopho Bukia
8 Apr 15
Opinion poll shows ruling bloc less popular than before, but some say it’s normal to tire of a government after a couple of years
Georgian president Giorgi Margvelashvili. (Photo: Georgian president’s press office)
Sopho Bukia
25 Sep 14
President and prime minister in public row over who should attend United Nations meeting.
Worshippers at an Armenian Apostolic Church service in Georgia. (Photo: Armenian Apostolic Church in Georgia)
Sopho Bukia, Arpi Harutyunyan
7 Aug 14
Claims that Armenians were target of ethnic attack are disputed by eyewitnesses.
Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani (left) at the ECHR  in Strasbourg. (Photo: Georgian justice ministry website)
Sopho Bukia
7 Jul 14
Human rights court says Russia engaged in “collective expulsion” of Georgians.
Georgian president Giorgi Margvelashvili (left) on Tbilisi's Europe Square. (Photo: Georgian  president's website)
Sopho Bukia
24 Apr 14
As interior minister claims opposition wants to copy Ukraine unrest, a pro-Moscow movement grows.
Georgian health minister David Sergeenko. (Photo: Georgian health ministry website)
Sopho Bukia
4 Mar 14
Regulations aim to clamp down on illegal trade and stop people devising their own cures.
Stalin stared down on the people of Gori until his statue was removed in 2010. There are now plans to put it back by December 2013. (Photo: Gilad Rom/Flickr)
Sopho Bukia
30 Sep 13
Deep divisions on latest campaign to bring back monuments to dictator.
Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev. (Photo:
Sopho Bukia
22 Aug 13
Russian prime minister talks of improving relations five years after 2008 war, but makes it clear there will be no compromise on key issues.
Georgian interior minister Irakli Garibashvili. (Photo: Minister's official Facebook page)
Sopho Bukia
28 Jun 13
Minister in charge of police at the time says he had no part in “inhuman” acts of torture.