The BBC World Service Trust are about to give members of minority ethnic groups in Georgia two new community-based radio stations. They are being set up as part of the Making Waves project to promote the rights of Armenian and Azeri minorities living in the enclaves of Javakheti and Kvemo-Kartli.
With a radio station in each region, local people will be able to voice their opinions, receive key information and play an active role in the democratic process. The stations will improve coverage of cultural, ethnic and religious issues.
Experienced broadcasters from the BBC are working alongside local journalists and volunteers to develop their broadcasting and management skills. Simon Derry, Media Development Director of the BBC World Service Trust, described the project: "We want to demonstrate the role the media can and should play in building bridges between communities.
"Training is critical to the success of the project. We will train at least 120 journalists and media managers in diversity reporting and provide media skills workshops for Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) workers active in Georgia. We hope this will help to shatter existing stereotypes, improve communications between the media and NGOs and help the Georgian media to connect with minority groups."
The first round of journalism training for community members in both regions is already completed; the location for one of the broadcasting stations has been identified and the project was officially launched in July. At the launch event in Tbilisi, Making Waves was warmly welcomed by representatives of the republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Levon Hokbyan, counsellor to the Armenian embassy in Georgia, said: "It is vital that the thirst for information in this region is satisfied. The fact that the stations will be multi-lingual means that people who do not know Georgian will be able to listen to programmes in the language they understand." Elkhan Polukhov, first secretary of the embassy of Azerbaijan in Georgia, added: "It is hard to underestimate the project's importance for the integration of minorities in Georgia and for social and political developments in the country."
Making Waves is funded by the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), a European Union programme that aims to promote and support human rights and democracy in third world countries, with support from the British Embassy in Georgia and the UK Government's Global Conflict Prevention Pool.
Project partners assisting with implementation are Studio Re (Georgia) and IREX Europe.