We, Georgian and Abkhazian journalists crossed the border of the unrecognized republic of North Cyprus of Turkey together. Local border guards put stamps in our passports after 20-minute interview. From Erjan airport we departed for the city of Famagusta. In Turkish the name of the city is Gazimagusha. First thing that surprised us was that vehicles drive on the left side of the road here. The given tradition has remained since British colonization that continued until 1959. Ossetian colleagues joined us later at Sky Venus Hotel. The peacekeeping journalism training at Famagusta University continued for 5 days with participation of Georgian, Abkhazian, Ossetian, Armenian and Azerbaijan journalists.
The organizers have not chosen North Cyprus as the site for holding the training accidentally. Here is a little briefing on the history of the given unrecognized republic. Cyprus is divided into two - Greek and Turkish parts. Military clashes between Greek and Turkish communities caused by ethnic differences started back in 1963. In 1974 Turkish military forces entered the northern part of the island and occupied it. Greek population was evacuated from the city of Famagusta. There is a district called Varosha in the city, which is known as the Ghost Town. After the occupation the Turks blocked the district and everything remains as it was there until today. Greeks cannot return, journalists are not allowed into the district and even from far away you can see that the abandoned town is turning to ruins with time. On the first day of arrival to Cyprus they took us to the entrance to Varosh; filming was prohibited. Not a single human being has entered Varosha for last 38 years and no one has taken anything from there. I managed to take a couple of photos at which the signs of war are still well seen on apartment houses.
Famagusta is known for another legend also. There is Othello Tower in the city. According to the legend Othello's and Desdemona's tragedy took place in that tower. Shakespeare used the given legend in his masterpiece. Tragedy, violence, cruelty, war and bloodshed has been experienced in the Caucasus just like it all happened in Cyprus.
'From Violence to Peace' this was the motto of the participants from the beginning of the training for peacekeeping journalists. Journalists found common language soon. They started thinking about mutual initiatives and projects. Specific project will be discussed at the end of the training. Sukhumi photo-reporter Ibrahim Chkadua believes journalists should not become a weapon of propaganda for politicians and that their only mission is to work for the sake of society.
"Journalists often become a weapon in the hands of politicians. A robber may have a knife and cause damage to others while a scalpel in the hands of surgeon is a solution of specific problem. We may become such surgeons in current situations, who would find solutions to specific problems existing between our countries and peoples," Ibrahim Chkadua said.
Foreign trainers believe there is nothing special in peacekeeping journalists; there are good and bad journalists. It is important to act according the professional standards, be unbiased, objective and serve the interests of the society. Head of 'Studio Re' Mamuka Kuparadze believes a team of professional and independent journalists has gathered in Famagusta and they all can do a lot of good for the society.
Tskhinvali blogger Maria Plieva believes that the societies on different sides of conflict are in informational vacuum and this is the main problem that has to be solved. She believes trust between journalists must be higher which will significantly increase the quality of media products.
"When there will be confidence between journalists they will be able to easily check information with each other and the reports will not be rumor-oriented and based on lies by certain politicians,» Maria Plieva says.
Training has been organized by the Conflict and Negotiations International Research Center and the European Center for Minority Issues. According to conflict scientist Giorgi Khutsishvili there is no problem of communication between media representatives; mutual understanding is achieved fast as political issues are never discussed at this type of meetings.
"Attitude is very positive and participants get used to each other well. They do not have a problem of understanding each other in many issues. We do not discuss political issues," Giorgi Khutsishvili says.
UN development program (COBERM) and German Marshall Fund in the USA are the project donors. Journalists from the Caucasus will also go to Nicosia, which is also divided into two parts. By preliminary information we will go to a buffering zone and will not be prohibit to film and take photos.