Radio Show Helps Fix Georgian Refugees’ Problems

Officials say programme has enabled them to tackle difficulties faced by those uprooted in Georgia conflicts.

By IWPR - Caucasus

11 May 11

A radio programme produced by IWPR’s refugees retraining and employment initiative in Georgia has played an important role in getting the authorities to address the problems affecting displaced people.

The initiative has seen young leaders from refugee settlements provided with a course of intensive coaching in radio journalism and then given the opportunity to work as reporters on Refugees’ News, a monthly radio show focused on covering refugee-related issues.

The project’s participants are refugees from the Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti and Shida Kartli (regions abutting Georgia’s breakaway republics Abkhazia and South Ossetia, respectively), who have been employed by the programme’s local bureaus in Zugdidi and Gori. The radio programme will this year be broadcast on five more stations across the country.

“Before I joined the project I had never had anything to do with radio journalism,” one of the project participants Irina Isakia said. “After a year of intensive training and working with real journalists, I’ve developed all the skills a reporter needs to do his or her job professionally.”

Goga Aptsiauri, coordinator of the IWPR project, said Refugees’ News has not only given participants a source of income and raised awareness of the problems plaguing refugee communities, but will also enable the newly trained journalists to act as peace brokers by promoting constructive dialogue and conflict resolution.

Head of the Abkhaz government-in-exile Tornike Kilanava said he was grateful to IWPR for implementing the refugees retraining and employment initiative.

“The refugee students involved in the project have often come to us to verify the accuracy of this or that piece of information when working on their reports,” he said. “There have been many cases, when a report, once aired, prompted action that eventually led to solution of a problem.

“I’ve watched the refugee reporters growing up professionally, becoming better skilled.

“All our staff and the whole army of refugees are devoted listeners of this radio show. We wait impatiently for the last Sunday in every month, when the programme goes on air with yet another set of reports on issues of concern to refugees.”

“I congratulate the Institute for War and Peace Reporting on the success of its project and wish more young refugees got a chance to work with the organisation. These children need help to get fully integrated into the society… As for me, I am open for cooperation and always ready to help.”

Officials in Zugdidi also acknowledged the important role the programme has played in bolstering participants’ confidence and getting refugee problems addressed.

“A project like yours is vital for young refugees, as by giving them a chance to develop new skills and work it allows them not to feel isolated from the rest of the society,” the head of the culture service Madona Jabua said. “The radio programme brought to light problems that had for years remained overlooked, and many of the problems have now been solved thanks to it.”

Over the past year, the project has produced a total of ten episodes of Refugees’ News, with contributions from 12 refugee reporters living in Samegrelo-Zermo Svaneti and Shida Kartli.

“The project proved immensely beneficial to me,” one of the project participants Jilda Kardava said. “I graduated from a journalism faculty, but it had little to offer to its students, which is why [until I joined the project] I’d had a vague idea of what being a journalist meant and was in the dark about reporting genres.

“Having taken the training course, I now feel far more confident. What I liked most about the training workshops is that we produced real reports, putting all the theoretical knowledge we gained into immediate practice. And so working in accordance with international journalism standards has gradually become our habit.”

Refugee reporter Nino Margania said she appreciated the training materials IWPR provided, “Written in a precise and clear manner, the materials made the learning process easy for us. We’d used books by soviet-era authors as our manuals, and then IWPR presented us with some really nice books, which I still read on a regular basis.”

Another trainee journalist Natia Meladze said she’d had very little experience of handling technical equipment before the project but subsequently became quite proficient.

“Thanks to IWPR’s project, I have not only mastered international journalism standards, but also have learnt to work using the latest radio equipment,” she said. “At the beginning, we were given audio recorders, which became objects of envy for many experienced local journalists. I mastered audio editing techniques and made such conspicuous professional progress that one of the local televisions invited me to work for it.”