The United States is stepping in to help Georgia restore key radio and television stations bombed and looted during recent hostilities with Russia. The assistance will help the stations resume broadcasting reliable and unbiased news to residents, according to the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital. Together the stations had been reaching 30 percent of Georgia before the conflict began.
In Abkhazia, one of Georgia’s disputed regions, most information has been strictly controlled by the region’s authorities. During recent Russian bombing and looting by Russian forces and others, Voice of Abkhazia’s broadcast towers in the cities of Gori, near South Ossetia, and Zugdidi, outside Abkhazia, suffered damage. The station had provided an alternative to the media controlled by Abkhaz authorities.
The US Embassy awarded a grant to Voice of Abkhazia allowing it to replace one of its bombed transmitters and replace several other damaged parts. With that assistance, the station was able to go back on the air.
Looting of broadcast stations in Georgia left several without equipment needed to reach the public. The grant was one of the embassy’s Democracy Commission grants, which award up to $24,000 to nongovernmental, nonprofit organizations working to pursue democratic development. The money supports specific efforts to bolster media, civil society, conflict resolution and human rights protection.
Another station in Zugdidi, Radio Atinati, broadcasts to about 500,000 listeners. The station is the only professional and independent radio station in the region. Before the presidential election in January 2008, the station broadcast candidate debates and offered unbiased analyses of the campaign.
Russian bombing destroyed the station’s antenna and transmitter, and Russian soldiers raided the facility, stealing a transmitter, amplifier, switching system, FM signal processor and other equipment, forcing the station to cease operations. With a Democracy Commission grant, the station is replacing the equipment and plans to flip the on-air switch soon.
The embassy also is helping Radio Trialeti resume broadcasts. That station’s facilities in Gori were extensively damaged by Russian bombing, and Russian soldiers looted much of the remaining equipment, including generators. The station is the only local radio broadcaster in the Shida Kartli region, which has a population of 450,000 residents. That includes 30,000 people newly displaced from their homes in villages near South Ossetia.
TV Trialeti, the only local television news source in Gori and Shida Kartli, received a grant to replace computers, camcorders and a transmitter.
(Source: US Department of State)