South Caucasus Journalists enhance their Skills in Conflict Sensitive Journalism & Social Media

Media plays an enormous role in conflict transformation process and social media tools have proved to be rather efficient in cases when exchange of information and mutual awareness is extremely limited in societies across conflict lines. New media tools not only serve as fast and least costly means of sharing information but also act as online platforms for dialogue, cooperation and networking between civil societies across conflict divides. These and other related issues were covered during the six-day training workshop on Conflict Sensitive Journalism & Social Media organized by Caucasian House – Georgia during 29 August – 5 September, 2012 in Istanbul, Turkey. This event brought together 16 journalists from South Caucasus region including Abkhazians, Armenians, Azerbaijanis, Georgians and South Ossetians.

In the first part of the workshop participants learned about the effective means of using social media as a peace journalism tool. Training program was designed in a way to allow participants gain more theoretical knowledge and new practical skills. “This workshop gave me new skills which I will use while reporting on conflict-related issues. I will start a blog which will be devoted to peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict…” – stated one of the training participants from Armenia, Diana Karapetyan.

Specific topics covered during the first part of the workshop included: use of social media in the South Caucasus states, examples of the effective use of social media in other post-conflict societies, blogging, effective Facebook, Twitter, Youtube engagement tactics, mobile reporting, data security issues, data copyright issues, and other platforms for engagement such as crowd-sourcing and mapping. “I am very happy with the training. I clearly see more opportunities that open up while using the online platforms that I have not been actively utilized in past…” – stated one of the Georgian participants, Giorgi Amariani.

Project Coordinator from the Abkhaz partner, Angela Pataraya, also positively assesses the training stating the following: “This training also gave me more experience in utilizing online resources. By communicating with journalists from all over the South Caucasus I learned a lot about the problems they face and how they address them. This reassured my belief that such exchange of information, knowledge and opinions is extremely important, especially when it comes to adequate reporting in conflict-affected societies.”

Second part of the training covered conflict-sensitive journalism. During the sessions participants were introduced to the concept of the conflict-sensitive journalism and examples of unbiased and biased reporting. Participants also had a chance to write articles, which were discussed in the group and feedback shared to the authors. “For me the most interesting were the last days of the workshop when we were discussing examples of various articles written by other journalists and actually had a chance to write articles ourselves…” – noted South Ossetian participant, Fatima Plieva.

The first part of the training focusing on social media tools was led by Onnik Krikoryan, a British journalist, blogger and media trainer who currently is the Caucasus Editor for Global Voices. Second part of the training on conflict-sensitive journalism was conducted by Salla Nazarenko, the Executive Director of Finnish Foundation for Media, Communication and Development. Finally, participants also brainstormed on ideas for possible future initiatives in smaller teams that were eventually discussed in the larger group.

This training workshop was organized within the framework of the Project Sustainable Cooperation through Education and Networking implemented by the Caucasian House – Georgia in partnership with an Abkhaz NGO, World without Violence. The initiative was developed as a result of joint efforts of Georgian and Abkhazian civil society activists, who came up with the project idea during the South Caucasian Summer School in Istanbul, in August 2011 also organized by Caucasian House - Georgia. The present project is funded by the German Marshall Fund Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation/Robert Bosch Stiftung, Open Society Georgia Foundation and the South Caucasus Regional Office of the Heinrich Boell Foundation.