Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Georgia? What is Free Press Unlimited doing there? Georgia, a country with few independent and critical media but with recurring armed conflicts, for instance concerning the breakaway regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia. A country where political interests dominate news content and reports are largely focused on the capital Tbilisi. While most conflicts root in the different regions of the country. Free Press Unlimited works together with local partners to strengthen independent media and to establish access to independent information for people outside the capital, especially for those whose lives are affected by the conflicts.

Parliamentary elections are scheduled for October 2012. Albana Shala, Programme Coordinator at Free Press Unlimited: 'The people of Georgia are deeply divided. But since they know the taste of democracy, they want to keep deciding about their lives again and again. The propaganda machines of both the ruling coalition, lead by the United National Movement party of president Saakasjvili, and Ivanishvili's opposition coalition Georgian Dream are currently working at full speed. The ruling parties do everything they can to maintain their power; they want to convince the citizens that a new election victory is deserved. The opposition also tries to gain power. They respond to the longed-for democratic change and the dissatisfaction Georgian people feel about corruption and unemployment. '

These political developments also affect the media and partners of Free Press Unlimited. Many regional television stations no longer report about politically sensitive issues. Shala: 'They feel they are under pressure. Some directors have already been replaced, other stations have been sold. A small part tries to remain critical and continues telling the truth.' One of them is Natia Kuprashvili, journalist and Executive Director of Free Press Unlimited's partner organisation Georgian Association of Regional Broadcasters (GARB). Shala: 'The political struggle puts pressure on her and her team in their studio in Tbilisi. But above all they remain driven journalists who want to share their stories, who want to be the first to tell about events in the many different regions of Georgia,'

Another partner of Free Press Unlimited, Radio Atinati, can be found in Zugdidi, a city on the border with Abkhazia. The initiators of Radio Atinati want to improve the life of the people in the region and to keep people on both sides of the border in close contact with each other. The young radio producers cover a wide range of topics; projects for school children, broadcasts for internally displaced people and women in need. Free Press Unlimited supports Radio Atinati with equipment to strengthen the radio signal and to improve the use of new media. So Radio Atinati can reach as many people as possible.

Free Press Unlimited will start an unique training project for journalists in Tbilisi in September 2012. The trainees will be from Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Young journalists with an open mind. Marinka Vukojevc, Project Officer at Free Press Unlimited: 'The project is an unique cooperation between the three countries because it focuses on collaboration and not on the ongoing conflicts in Southern Caucasus. We want to help young journalists in the region to face the future with confidence. Georgia is the best place to do this project. Armenians and Azerbaijani are reluctant to travel to each others country, but Georgia is seen as a neutral country. The journalists will develop multimedia productions under the supervision of experienced trainers from the Caucasus, the Netherlands and United Kingdom. The use of multimedia is a whole new form of journalism for the participants. Hopefully it will enable them to get their messages across.'