On the scheduled time I arrived at the Gori Center for Democratic Involvement. Kids were waiting for me with papers scattered on a round table and peeping into them. I guessed they had been prepared in advance and they would be bombing me with questions. My expectation was met – they gave lots of questions. They were curious to know everything about current situation in Georgian media, problems to tackle, level of freedom, ethical standards.
Domestic NGO Biliki works on children’s issues. The organization has got a studio offering teenagers the ABC of journalism, afterwards they start publishing articles in the newspaper published by the NGO, and ultimately they make one-minute documentaries about their peers. The studio is re-staffed on an annual basis.
May 3 is World Press Freedom Day. In this regard the studio students decided to meet me, somehow I showed no interest to find out what criteria they applied to single me out. Eka Qotolashvili, head of the journalism studio offered Q&A format. I accepted, of course, on one condition, to give a few questions at the end of the meeting. We reached agreement and the questions started to flow. Traditionally they wanted to learn more about my work and past professional experience but this time I am not going to waste your attention on it. The following part was a way more interesting. On Press Freedom Day teenagers showed interest into the level of freedom in Georgian media. I answered frankly – compared with some Asian countries the environment is better but we are too far from Europe in this regard. And I also clarified that to be welcomed into European family freedom of media will be one the criteria they would pay ttention to and hence decide whether to accept us or not.
“What is the reason of having partly free media,” the teenagers asked. “The reasons are numerous. Policy makers think a bit differently about media, some of journalists have been made into the tools of political struggle and under the circumstances many of my colleagues feel quite comfortable,” I answered. I also told them that as long as media is applied as a political tool and it fails to turn into free business we are not going to make any progress. I recommended them to read online edition Media.ge reporting on the pulse beating of journalism. You will find the researches being posted on the web portal interesting, I said, and they will make you understand what kind of media we have. Teenagers discussed the risks this profession implies. They remember well that during the war in 2008 three journalists were killed and many were injured in our region.
“Journalism is among 10 most dangerous jobs. Reporters get killed not only during wars but during peace times as well,” I said. “Why so?” they asked. “Because some dislike their professional activities for the problems they encounter as a result,” I tried to explain everything in the language comprehensible to them.
Eventually we talked about journalism ethics. By the way, teenagers are already aware of the articles of the Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics and they are pleased that a separate article is dedicated to children’s rights therein. ‘What’s the use of the Charter?’- one of the students asked. We need it to raise our responsibility and gain reliance. Then they mentioned simulated Kronika news program, how frightened they were then. Kids can guess so well what journalism standard is, there was no need to provide additional clarification, we got one another very well. And finally the time for my questions came: “Do all of you want to become journalists?” Only two of them said yes, others are thinking of other jobs but they are curious to learn more about our job, therefore they go to the Biliki journalism studio. “What would you recommend?” – they asked. “Read much, give many questions, so that to be well informed and afterwards raise public awareness,” I said. I also recommended them to pay attention to grammar, since a lot of mistakes flow from TV affecting our ears. ‘Grammar is being taught until the 7th form. If the teacher finds it necessary, we take some notes,’ the teenagers told me. It surprised me. I recollected my Georgian language teacher who made us write down spelling rules in a separate notebook. And now no much attention is being paid to grammar. “Work more on yourselves, and you will make less mistakes,” I recommended the youngsters.
Before saying good-bye I said – ‘If not journalists, I know, you will be at least active journalists and that makes me very happy.’ The kids are really active, they crave to learn much, they give lots of questions, and it’s a work half done. I seldom find myself as a respondent, not an easy task. I did learn a bit more from the youngsters, probably they too picked up something. That’s the way we, the Biliki journalism studio students and me, spent World Press Freedom Day. We wished one another luck and said good-bye. I am still thinking about the questions they posed.