Kakheti Information Center, which covers the events taking place in the Kakheti Region through its online newspaper www.ick.ge since 2009, was established in 2008. Before the establishment of the Center the founders of the organization were publishing regional newspaper Imedi, which was closed down due to financial problems.
"After the government-financed institutions were forbidden to subscribe to our newspaper, our revenues sharply fell, circulation also shrank and eventually management decided to shut down the newspaper" - Head of Kakheti Information Center Gela Mtivlishvili says.
The team continued to work online. With the financial assistance from Open Society Georgia Foundation they launched online newspaper www.ick.ge and started to implement various projects.
Currently the Center is working on three projects: Investigative Journalism Team in Kakheti is the name of one of the projects under which the journalists of the Center investigate human rights violations and corruption cases in the region. The project is supported by Eurasia Partnership Foundation under its project titled Strengthening the Role of Media in Georgia as a Watchdog Institution; the project is funded by European Union.
Project titled Daily News and Photo Reports in Kakheti is funded by Open Society Georgia Foundation and the goal of the project is to prepare photo reports from up to three hundred villages of Kakheti region. Besides, the employees of the Center produce video and photo reports on human rights with the support from US Embassy in Georgia. They have already presented their works in Tbilisi, Velistsikhe and Kachreti.
Kakheti Information Center's website publishes regional news, video, audio and photo reports every day. The website focuses on politics, economy, public affairs, environmental issues, culture, sport etc. However, the Center mainly focuses on human rights.
"We produce stories from the villages where other media outlets can't or won't go. We're especially interested in frontier villages. We're interested in human stories; we cooperate with the Office of Public Defender, nongovernmental organization 42nd Article of Constitution and Human Rights Center. We're often the initial source of information about human rights violations in our region for them" - Gela Mtivlishvili says.
According to him, authorities often respond to the news disseminated by the Center. "For example as soon as we covered the story about the assault on a person in Sighnaghi criminal investigation was launched. The authorities used the video published on our website as evidence" - Mtivlishvili says.
Journalists of Kakheti Information Center are working in all the districts of the Kakheti region. The Center has its special correspondents in Pankisi Gorge and Saingilo region (west Azerbaijan). The Center actively cooperates with Telavi State University.
According to journalist of the Center Natia Danelishvili, journalists' work is impeded by lack of access to public information. She says Kakheti Information Center demands public information from local administrative agencies almost every day. According to the report published on December 10, 2009 70-80% of applications concerning public information filed in Kakheti public offices were coming from the Information Center.
According to Natia Danelishvili, as of November 20, 2010 Kakheti Information Center has filed more than 200 applications demanding public information. The Center has applied to public institutions 14 times with administrative complaints due to their failure to respond to the applications on time or refusal to hand out public information. Once the journalists of the Center even filed a lawsuit against a court for hiding the statistical information, they filed the complaint in the same court and won the case. In total Kakheti Information Center has applied to courts 12 times during the last 3 years, it won 10 cases out of those 12.
"In comparison with the previous years, situation with access to information in 2010 has worsened dramatically. We often receive public information demanded by us but it's usually too late - the information is no longer valuable; sometimes the answers are incomplete and we have to file complaints" - Natia Danelishvili notes.
The Center has 27 employees including 10 journalists. Apart from publishing the news online the organization also disseminates news among its subscribers.
"Online newspaper is free of charge and readers can read our exclusive stories on our website. We also send news digests to our subscribers few times a day. The digests include both our exclusive materials and also news published by other media outlets concerning Kakheti region. Besides, certain subscribers also use packages that for example include the results of surveys on topics that are interesting to them. We also send photos and video materials depicting various events to our clients" - Gela Mtivlishvili says.
The Center's website has an average of 500 unique visitors a day. However, the news published by the website is often used by other news agencies as well, consequently, much more people learn about the contents of the site.
Kakheti Information Center has new computer equipment, audio recorders and video and photo cameras.
The Center plans to introduce few novelties. According to Gela Mtivlishvili, they're going to issue a new monthly bulletin soon. They also plan to launch a blog, prepare reports from courtrooms and produce a joint news analytical program with one of the local TV stations.