An IWPR report on Georgian spy case causes furore

Institute for War and Peace Reporting
March 20 2009

An IWPR report on Georgian spy case causes furore.

By IWPR staff (20-Mar-09)

A Caucasus Reporting Service, CRS, article, describing the arrest in
Georgia of two ethnic Armenians charged with spying for Russia, caused
a stir locally, with more than 50 local and international online
outlets reprinted it.

It was the highlight of a month in which a survey of local and
international reporters provided a snap-shot of IWPR’s contribution to
journalism in the region.

The Georgian spy case article, Georgia Accused of Bullying Ethnic
Armenians (;s=f&o=349859&a mp;apc_state=henh),
was extensively covered in a Radio Liberty report that relied heavily
on the IWPR investigation.

`The authoritative British non-governmental organisation, the
Institute for War and Peace Reporting, dedicated a comprehensive and
interesting article to the arrest of Akobjanian and Minasian,’ said
the Radio Liberty report, which abounded in quotations and extracts
from the IWPR article.

It called attention to the fact that IWPR contributors were the first
to bring to light the information that the two Armenian campaigners
were accused of being Russian agents.

Radio Liberty also cited an extract from the IWPR article in which the
Georgian minister for reintegration, Temur Iakobashvili, told IWPR
that Russian secret services had intensified espionage activities in
Georgia since the August war, hiding themselves within NGOs.

Elesewhere, Maria Raudet, a reporter with the German-French TV-channel
Arte who plans to produce a series of articles about Georgia, called
the IWPR Tbilisi office, seeking to meet journalists who had written
articles for IWPR on the state of the armed forces and on refugees
from Knolevi village, whom IWPR reported were being forced to return
to their homes.

`We’ve read quite interesting reports on the themes that interest us
on your website, and we would like to cooperate with you very much,’
Raudet said.

IWPR was also mentioned several times in the Armenian and Azerbaijani
press, not only because of republications, but also because
journalists were referring to IWPR as a source.

After IWPR published a comprehensive report on religious minorities in
Armenia and in Karabakh, the editor of Iravunk newspaper, Hovhannes
Galajyan, referred, negatively, to IWPR in an article on possible
changes in legislation concerning religious minorities in Armenia.

IWPR had written a `heartbreaking article about the sects in Artsakh
where the government perceives them as it should: as serving the
interests of foreign special services’, he said.

IWPR articles, meanwhile, remain a means of exchanging information for
parties in conflict.

The correspondent in Georgia for Radio Liberty, Eka Kevanishvili, said
IWPR was the only source of unbiased information about the situation
in Abkhazia for Georgian readers. `All other information that has been
reaching us is politicised or distorted,’ she said. `CRS articles give
us a real idea of what is going on in Abkhazia, which I value.’

Since the Russian-Georgian war in August 2008, the level of
communication with Tskhinvali-based journalists has been poor but is
gradually improving.

`Participation in IWPR projects gave me something that many Georgian
journalists would not even dream of having after last year’s August
war,’ Malkhaz Gagua, a deputy editor of Rezonansi newspaper
said. `It’s been a year since I got acquainted ` thanks to IWPR ` with
Ossetian journalists, and we are now working on a joint article.

`The theme we are covering is sensitive, but there have been no
conflicts between us so far.’

One of CRS’s goals is to give local journalists a chance to write
articles free of censorship, a benefit they don’t often enjoy as
reporters in the local media.

`On the IWPR website I read materials which I can never read in any
other local newspaper,’ Ruzan Gishyan, a Yerevan State University
Student, said.

Arif Yunus, head of the conflict resolution department of the
Institute for Peace and Democracy in Azerbaijan, said, `Journalists
here, even if they know how to work and what to write about, have no
real possibility to sell their articles. IWPR gives them a chance to
assert themselves as journalists, to produce objective articles.’

Naira Melkumyan, a freelance journalist in Armenia, said that IWPR
`offers a good opportunity to Armenian journalists to realise their
potential and write objectively about events’.

CRS articles serve as examples of how balanced and unbiased material
should be written, say observers.

`The authors in Azerbaijan have managed to find and share unique
material from the very thick of the events,’ Chuck Rice, country
director of the International Center for Journalism, in Azerbaijan,
said. `They should be used at workshops to teach young journalists how
to write good reportage.’

`I read with interest nearly all the articles by IWPR that refer to
Armenia. They are not only balanced but sometimes contain novel
information,’ said Tatul Hakobian, a journalist on the Armenian
Reporter newspaper.

`This could serve an example for the Armenian journalist as to how a
news story should be written for example.’

`IWPR articles are the only source from which we get unbiased
information about developments in places from where we were displaced
[though] I would wish to see articles accompanied by photos and video
footage,’ Kerim Kerimli, a refugee from Shusha and chair of a
committee for protection of rights of displaced persons, said.

CRS articles are also frequently used as models of balanced reports in
colleges. `It is very difficult to find balanced articles in the local
media,’ Natia Kuprashvili, journalism lecturer at the Alma Mater
college in Tbilisi, said.

`I often refer to CRS articles in my lectures, as I know my students
believe these are examples of how a good article should be written.’

`As an editor on the look-out for interesting themes, I often read
IWPR articles,’ Nino Japiashvili, editor of the magazine Tskheli
Shokoladi, in Tbilisi, said.

`IWPR frequently covers marginal themes that have long been forgotten
by society while your coverage of running themes is invariably
interesting and different from anyone else’s.

`IWPR articles are examples of adherence to western journalistic
standards, something the Georgian and other Caucasus media lack so

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