Prior to the meeting I felt nervous, kept looking towards the door thinking – if they didn’t show up a one-month work would be a waste of time and efforts.
Preliminary talks with the representatives of political parties operating in Gori was a success but past experience with broken promises was still frightening me. This time everyone kept his/her word. The leaders of political parties arrived at the Gori-based Center for Political Involvement on time. The representatives of the United National Movement were a bit late but the presentation of the project was about to start. The representatives of the coalition Georgian Dream, United National Movement, New Rights, Georgian Party, Christian-Democratic Movement and Nino Burjanadze – Democratic Movement showed up at the Center to get aware of the Civic Development project. The following meeting at 15:00 hrs was attended by NGO and media representatives.
11 cities nationwide are involved in the Citizen Journalist for Transparent and Fair Elections project. Active citizens and professional journalists will be trying to obtain and disseminate information in the pre-election period, on the E-day and in the post-elections days about the developments in the country. Saba Tsitsikashvili and Rezo Okruashvili will be working as the project journalists. Saba is the editor of Shida Kartli Information Center. Rezo is heading the Khalkhis Gazeti (People’s Newspaper). Both are highly experienced in the election coverage. Moreover, the journalists employed at their editorial offices will be occupied with gleaning info. I am the project coordinator and I am responsible for the provision of information to as more people as possible.
The meetings in Gori will be attended by 120 people in total. The main idea of the project is to - let active citizens – citizen and professional journalists cover the forthcoming elections in a coordinated manner. The information provided by citizen journalists will be verified by professionals to deliver utmost precise and objective information to the society. Citizen journalism is taking first steps in our country. Any person is a potential citizen journalist and can contribute a great deal to the coverage of elections in a comprehensive, transparent and fair way. Unfortunately professional journalists cannot be everywhere all the time but a citizen can always be in a place where an event is taking place. In a jiffy the citizen might turn into a journalist and provide valuable information to the society. There is already a space http://cdi.org.ge in place for that purpose.
I think 110 articles prepared in 11 towns (10 articles per town) across the country will provide public a clear picture about the pre-election preparation process, the problems being similar or different in towns, the resources governmental or opposite parties hold, the type and frequency of violations in the election process.
In the scope of the project, in addition to the articles, three in-depth TV stories and two short documentaries will be produced.
In the course of the meetings, according to CDI’s Director Ia Antadze, the citizens are offered participation in the project, system of obtaining and disseminating information.
“Provided citizens happen to get some interesting info about violations or other election-related issues the data should be sent to a common information bank on the CDI website. We are willing to collect every piece of information. I am sure the more information we get from different towns there will be a better possibility to hold elections in a peaceful way,” said Ia Antadze.
CDI is highly experienced in covering elections in a coordinated manner. The journalists representing 12 towns nationwide were taking part in the 2008 parliamentary elections. This year professionals will be joined by citizen journalists.
The presentation was followed by Q&A. The questions touched upon the mechanism for the verification of data, reliability of sources, excusive materials. The project revived keen interest among policy makers as well as NGO sector since every individual can become a journalist and get honorarium.
CDI will be organizing similar meetings in other towns too. The project is being supported by the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF).