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Georgia's Celebrity Blogger

Georgia -- RFE/RL blogger and political correspondent Ia Antadze, 2009
Georgia -- RFE/RL blogger and political correspondent Ia Antadze, 2009
Ia Antadze is the most popular blogger in Georgia, and she came to journalism by accident. Trained in philology at Tbilisi State University, Antadze was first lured into the reporting world by an acquaintance in the newspaper business.

“My decision to pursue journalism was not a matter of inspiration.” Antadze explains. “At that time I had been a teacher for 10 years. An editor in chief of the daily paper Kavkasioni asked me to try working as a beat reporter for the Georgian Parliament. I agreed and started my life as a journalist. This was 1995.”

Since that time, Antadze has become a driving force in Georgian journalistic discourse, writing for various print publications over the years and – of course – for Radio Free Europe. Oft-described as provocative and controversial, Antadze is nevertheless universally respected.

“She is controversial because she is often critical of the government,” says RFE’s Georgian Service Director David Kakabadze. “But she is also very honest. Even her enemies acknowledge this.”
But she is also very honest. Even her enemies acknowledge this.”

This reputation has bolstered Antadze’s popularity. Every post on her RFE blog receives an avalanche of responses, often numbering in the hundreds and thousands. Recently, Antadze began hosting a weekly broadcast in which she interviews a guest chosen by readers of her blog. Guests include government officials, opposition leaders, and even in one case a student protestor. Following the interviews, interviewees submit to an online question and answer session, which in one case lasted for close to six hours.

The online chats are an extension of Antadze’s journalistic philosophy. “She considers citizen journalism a model of democracy,” says Kakabadze. “She is very passionate about her blog because it allows a direct dialogue with readers. She responds to almost every comment, carries around her laptop day and night. Ia is truly dedicated.”

Antadze’s dedication to her profession extends beyond the blogosphere. She is the Chairperson of the Civic Development Institute (CDI), an NGO founded in 2005, which supports the development of free media, and also sponsors educational and environmental projects. In 2009, with the support of the European Union, CDI drafted the “Charter of Journalistic Ethics,” which has thus far been signed by 178 journalists within Georgia.

Still, it is Antadze’s ubiquitous blog presence for which she is most known. Sometimes divisive, but always insightful, Antadze has been a leading figure in the Georgian internet revolution. Writing under the Radio Tavisupleba banner – and primarily about politics -she encourages debate and discussion in a country where it is often considered anathema.

In a recent post, entitled “Being Moderate or Being Honest,” Antadze writes about government influence on the Georgian news media. She laments the fact that journalists are often censored or forced to tow the government line, attributing recent government attempts to create public debate as a ruse. The blogosphere, she maintains, is the only unrestricted venue in which to find reasoned, democratic debate.

Says Antadze, “Because TV in Georgia is mostly controlled by the government - through the owners and through the licensing system - Georgian society lacks a real source of information about current affairs. This gap has been partly filled by the blogosphere, which has developed in Georgia over the past two years. Now, there is no important subject that is being discussed without the participation of the people.”

As the conversation continues in Georgia, RFE’s Ia Antadze is leading the debate. The dialogue couldn’t be in better hands.

- John C. Cleveland