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21.01.2010 04:31

Open Society Georgia Foundation's Harvest 2009 and Plans for 2010

David Mchedlidze
Media Discusions

Supporting democracy in Georgia is now as important as 10 years ago. Independent Georgian media, absolutely necessary for the development of democracy, suffers like earlier. Therefore the projects focused on its sustainability and advancement are gladly funded by international institutes and private donors. The Open Society Georgia Foundation was one of the pioneers having displayed interest in the independent Georgian media. Today only very few means of media, with considerable history, have been left unfunded by the aforementioned Foundation.

The Open Society Georgia Foundation awarded grants last year, media projects are going to be funded this year too. Media.ge talked over the issue to Khatia Jinjikhashvili, Programmes Coordinator, the Open Society Georgia Foundation.

- Last year we funded tens of projects, the total budget topped USD 900. Our priorities are posted on the Website and include five main directions we used to run in the previous year.

- What was the most important project funded by you?

- Cooperation with regional media was highly important to us. Regional media today suffers financial hardship. It is in need for resources for further advancement. We tried to render assistance within our abilities, based on the proposed projects. In addition a contest was announced for regional TV channels, we were to award five grants but the submitted applications were so good we decided to recognize six winners. Due to the grants the awarded TV channels launched new programmes or continued the production of existing ones. We wanted the programmes to be fit to local interests. In order to secure high quality of the TV projects we provided consultants for the TV companies.

In addition, we assisted several local newspapers having proposed innovative projects. In particular, two independent Kutaisi-based newspapers submitted a project on the joint distribution of press.

Besides, we funded the projects by Georgian Regional Radio Network (GRRN). The Network is made up of four radio stations producing corporative radio programmes which is highly important since the projects of a kind are conducive to the formation of journalists' unions. Last year we funded the project by the Regional Media Association. The goal of the project is the registration of findings in the violations of journalists' rights and their inclusion into a common database. We believe the database is going to be a reliable source featuring a clear picture of the current situation in Georgia in regard to the protection of journalists' rights. In addition we provided financial backing to the project by the Press Association headed by Lasha Tughushi, Editor-in-chief, the Rezonansi newspaper. The Association unites several leading newspapers, within the project they work jointly on the improvement of the press distribution.

- As far as I am concerned the Foundation funded a project oriented on online media development...

- Online media is one of our priorities. Last year we awarded five grants for the advancement of the Websites of print media editions.

- Funding of a project and its implementation is not the same thing...

- As a rule the media organizations having been awarded grants provide interim reports featuring the level of implementation of the goals set in advance. We conduct the final monitoring on the project we are though unable to fully control the expenditure and the level of the work completed within the grant. The project on the paper is far more attractive than the goal achieved. We try to have better results, this is to say the consultants provided by us work with the grantees; in addition we conduct trainings conducive to better implementation of the projects.

- Last year your Foundation was engaged in the development of blogging, are you content with the outcome?

- As regards new social media last autumn, for the first time in Georgia, we conducted a New Media Forum at Mtatsminda Park. Through the Forum we aimed at presenting the possibilities of new media to the traditional media as well as to NGOs and just ordinary individuals concerned. As of mentioned above, we can keep no full control over the grants awarded. Unlike other projects New Media Forum was our inner project. Almost the whole staff of the Foundation worked on it. From my point of view it's high time the Foundation carried out more projects on its own. It will enable us to follow the goals set by us step by step.

The Georgian blog catalogue is one of the most important projects implemented within the social media field. We are proud of it. We are more than content with the result. O Media Group having worked on the project is manned with young bloggers. They are very well aware of the field. Following numerous formal and informal meetings we decided to launch a blog catalogue. Keen interest in the catalogue is a proof of the success of the project. I am one of the faithful readers of the catalogue.

- What are your priorities for 2010 and the projects to be implemented?

- Our priorities practically never change, but journalism education is being focused on. In a short while we are going to kickstart consultations what to be particularly done. We think of essentially working in three directions such as development of libraries; invitation of foreign experts to individually work with universities; and the third direction includes publication of manuals. The journalism manuals are mainly translated into Georgian but we insist on the publication of Georgian manuals elaborated by Georgian journalists and being fit to the Georgian reality. Notwithstanding a high number of professional journalists in Georgia the up-to-date methodology of the production of the manual is not well mastered. In addition we plan to invite foreign pundits to instruct Georgian authors in this regard.

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