Georgian media talk disaster risk

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United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction - Regional Office for Asia and Pacific
Tornike Koshkadze chief editor from the Pirweli web news agency. (Photo: UNISDR)
Tornike Koshkadze chief editor from the Pirweli web news agency. (Photo: UNISDR)

TBILISI, 9 November 2015 - Reporters from main TV, radio and print media organisations in Georgia met over the weekend to discuss reporting on disasters as part of a growing global effort to improve disaster risk communication as called for in the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, adopted earlier this year.

The training for 25 journalists was organised by the State Security and Crisis Management Council of Georgia and UNDP, with the support of UNISDR, discussed ways to improve the quality of disaster media coverage after Tbilisi was badly affected, last June, by heavy flooding which killed 19 people and caused more than US$45 million worth of damage.

The event was considered as the worst disaster event in Georgia since the earthquake in 2002, with images of tigers, monkeys and hippopotamuses escaping from the flooded city zoo broadcast all over the world.

“After what happened in June, we felt that there was an increasing demand from the public to know more about disaster risk reduction issues and an urgent need to sit with journalists to get more in depth reporting on the causes of disasters and not just on their effects,” said Giorgi Ghibradze, Director of the National Crisis Management Center.

“This media training was very much needed and we will continue working with media as they are essential partners to build more resilience in Georgia,” he added.

Discussions which also involved some 20 disaster risk management practitioners and experts highlighted the importance of prevention and mitigation measures to avoid natural and man-made hazards turning into disasters and gave reporters a general overview of who is doing what in their country regarding disaster risk management.

“Georgian journalists do not have many opportunities to get trained on these issues and I am very happy to have attended this workshop as I will certainly cover and approach disasters in a very different way next time”, said Nino Maisuradze, Chief editor of Radio OK who attended the two day workshop.

Disaster risk reduction has also become a stronger priority in Georgia as the government has just agreed on a national plan to implement the new Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction adopted in Japan last March.

“Disaster risk reduction is a main priority in Georgia and it is important for us to communicate well with the media to avoid miscommunication and to gain their support as we need them, said also Zviad Katsashvili, Director of the Emergency Management Agency who said he enjoyed the discussions and learned a lot about how media work.

On the second day, the media participated in a crisis management simulation exercise and played the role of government representatives managing a 6.5 earthquake in the southern part of the country.

“When we put media in the shoes of government representatives, they realize how difficult it can be to manage a crisis and to communicate about it,” said Stuart Harrison who is currently helping the government of Georgia to improve its crisis management systems. “The simulation today also showed the critical role of media in any emergency crisis and why they need to be involved not only when disasters strike but long before they happen.”

The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction adopted in Japan last March calls for strengthening the utilization of media to support national measures for disaster risk communication and encourages the media to be active in raising public awareness and understanding of disaster risk, disseminating early warnings and stimulating a culture of prevention.

UNISDR has already trained more than 150 reporters all over the world on disaster risk reduction issues and will continue to do it in the years to come, to achieve the essential goal of the Sendai Framework, which is the substantial reduction of disaster risk and losses in lives, livelihoods and health.

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