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Radio Tavisupleba Media School Prepares the Next Generation

Georgia -- Students of Radio Tavisupleba Media School in Tbilisi, 21Feb2013
Earlier this year, U.S. Ambassador to Georgia Richard B. Norland hosted the graduation ceremony for the first class of the Multimedia Reporting Program at the Radio Tavisupleba Media School in Tbilisi, Georgia.

The graduates were aspiring journalists of all ages and academic and professional backgrounds who wished to gain further knowledge and experience in the field.

The school's mission statement declares that its purpose is to “support the growing needs of a transitional democratic society in the Republic of Georgia.”

Martina Vashakmadze, chief of RFE/RL’s Tbilisi bureau and the head of the Media School, said it is open to “journalism school graduates, veteran journalists seeking to adapt to the new media environment and those individuals who are interested in changing their careers to journalism.”

The School offers two programs: the Multimedia Reporting Program is a one-year certificate program open to 20 students annually; an internship program, Learning By Doing, is a two-month program in which students get hands-on journalism experience. Applicants for both programs must be fluent in the Georgian language, but a background in journalism is not required.

Maradia Tsaava, a member of the February graduating class, worked in theatre as a writer before enrolling in the school. Reflecting on the program’s benefits, she said, “the most valuable thing I got is that now I realize the responsibility to millions of people when spreading and sharing the information, and after these two semesters I truly understand what journalism is.”

The certificate may have not opened the door to a journalistic career just yet, but Tsaava now has the skills, and the confidence, to land a job. “Unfortunately, I'm still working in a theatre and I couldn't find any job as a journalist at this time, but I'm sure, I'll get one,” she said.

During the one-year program, students produce content for different media outlets, including RFE/RL's Georgian Service, using the latest tools of the trade under the supervision of RFE/RL journalists in Georgia and from Prague. In addition, the school has brought outside experts and non-RFE/RL journalists to Tbilisi to conduct modules in photojournalism and video editing.

Vashakmadze says that 17 students have been selected from 42 applicants so far for the Multimedia Reporting program's next class, observing that “the program is quite competitive.”

According to Freedom House, the international, nongovernmental monitoring organization, Georgia’s media is only “partly free” and the working environment for journalists is highly politicized. Cases of violent attacks against journalists who speak out against government officials have been reported in 2012.

Radio Tavisupleba Media School first opened on March 14, 2012 at the Multimedia Education Center, a state-of-the-art purpose-built facility in Georgia’s capital. It shares its name with the local name of RFE/RL’S Georgian Service and is a joint project with USAID and IREX.

- Huzan Balay