The Conference on Independent Media Development in Georgia was held at the Caucasus Institute for Peace. The results of the Independent Media for Civil Integration project were presented at this conference, which was organised by the Georgian Regional Broadcasters’ Association, Caucasus Institute for Peace, Democracy and Development, Caucasus Journalists Network, Regional Press Mutual Support and Development Fund, Georgian Regional Media Association, Kvemo Kartli Independent Journalists Association Samtskhe Javakheti Independent Journalists Association and Georgian Regional Radio Network.
The Independent Media for Civil Integration project started in 2007 and initially focused on the Samtske-Javakheti and Kvemo-Kartli regions Euro 600,000 was allocated for the project by the European Union and it was conducted by the Caucasus Intitute for Peace, Democracy and Development.
Paata Gurgenidze, for the Caucasus Journalists Network, said that the aim of the project had been the developement of free media in the two regions and the South Caucasus in general. "All the people involved in this process have been observing the media enviroment, training local journalists and helping them undertake different journalitic activities alongside some international organisations. However the project did not try and address the needs of local newspapers, and this became a very problematic and important issue. After the August 2008 war in particular many regional newspapers stopped publishing due to the financial crisis. All the organisations gathered here and also regional newspapers tried to find a way to resolve this the situation and have found it,” Gurgenidze said.
The local newspaper situation will be addressed by another assistance fund. The first sum of money for this has been allocated by the European Union (Euro 20 000). Nato Gubeladze, a regional media representative, told The Messenger, "This fund will give interest free loans. To obtain such a loan a newspaper should present a plan saying why the loan is needed which must be accepted by all the trustees of the fund. The fund has not offered any loans yet as some technical issues are being resolved and we are also developing our monitoring system which will determine whether these funds have been used correctly. All members of the fund will pay a membership fee, which is not significant sum. The fund will not only provide financial assistance, we will share experience as well,” Gubeladze said. She added that regional media outlets have many problems and it would be very nice if commercial firms advertised in local newsparers as well, as sales alone cannot support them.
Other participants of the meeting expessed their opinions on what the fund’s future aims and activities should be. "Regional problems are not reported by the national media, they only talk about natural phenomena in the regions like floods. But only a change in the general media environment will strengthen the regional media. All NGOs and Government structures should work on this. All such funds should be self-sustaining, but this can happen only after the media enviroment changes in the country,” Ia Mamaladze, head of the Georgian Regional Media Assosiation, stated. Mamaladze is a candidate for the Georgian Public Broadcaster’s board, and all the people at the meeting expessed their great support for her candidacy as her membership of the GPB board will increase national interest in the regional media.
Kvemo-Kartli region has a more serious media problem than Samtske-Javakheti, Manon Bokuchava, from the Kvemo-Kartli Independent Journalists Assosiation, told The Messenger. "There have been several attemps to establish newspapers and other media outlets in the region but they have not been given licences. It seems the Government is not interested in having a free media in our region. We do not need the Government’s assistance, the most important assistance it could give would be to stop obstructing us. Regional journalists are highly qualified and excellent writers who desire to highlight regional issues. The fund is a real step forward for the regional media,” Bokuchava said.