Monday, June 23, 2008

Regional media seminar in Nagorno Karabakh

This was originally published in August 4, 2007 Armenian Reporter.

Through a media seminar, regional journalists get their
first-ever glimpse of Nagorno-Karabakh

by Emil Sanamyan

STEPANAKERT, Karabakh – For two weeks this July journalists from throughout the Caucasus were in Nagorno Karabakh for a seminar organized by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), a London-based non-governmental organization.

The formal reason was training – with a special guest lecturer shipped in from Northern Ireland – and the seminar’s more than a dozen participants did go through several grueling days of sessions on subjects like conflict resolution and collaborative writing. They also covered the presidential elections, meeting candidates, officials, voters and touring polling stations around Karabakh.

But the IWPR seminar also provided most of these journalists with a first-ever opportunity to see Karabakh. “There is practically no information about Karabakh in Georgia,” says Dmitry Avaliani, a former IWPR staff member and now editor for 24 Hours, one of the largest Tbilisi dailies. “We recently had a premier of a Georgian-made film Journey to Karabakh, set during the war here [in the early 1990s],” says Mr. Avaliani. “And so my friends were seriously wondering if it was safe for me to come here.”

Salla Nazarenko has since April led the IWPR’s Cross Caucasus Journalism Network – a three-year project funded by the European Commission, through which the seminar was organized, and involving more than fifty journalists from around the Caucasus.

“Nowadays people [in the Caucasus] do not have much of an opportunity to travel in their own region,” says Mrs. Nazarenko, who is originally from Finland and is now based in Tbilisi. “There is a lot of hate speech, a lot of propaganda,” she said. The IWPR is hoping to break those stereotypes through exchanges such that organized in Stepanakert.

Still, there were no Azerbaijani participants. “The official opinion of the Azerbaijani government is that people should not come here,” says Mrs. Nazarenko. “So we did not want to put people at risk of problems back home.”

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