Internally displaced people's settlement in Tserovani, Georgia. Photo courtesy of the Estonian Foreign Ministry.

FEATURE

International Reporting Fellow to Report on Displaced Persons in the Republic of Georgia

March 28, 2019

Kaitlyn Johnson (MSFS’20) has been selected as the Pulitzer International Reporting Fellow for summer 2019. Her project will take her to the Republic of Georgia, where she plans to interview displaced people (DPs) and the governmental, non-governmental, and religiously affiliated agencies working to resettle them.

The fellowship, made possible through a partnership between the Berkley Center and the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting, offers one student annually the opportunity to pursue a journalistic project that investigates or illuminates the religious dimension of an international issue, bringing to light what is often overlooked, untold, or misunderstood.

As this year’s fellow, Johnson plans to travel to Tbilisi and Zugdidi, two territories in Georgia that have received hundreds of thousands of DPs fleeing the northern territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which have been de facto independent since 1992. Escaping the frozen conflicts and political turmoil, many former inhabitants have fled the territories into Georgia proper.

Georgia, hoping to someday regain control over Abkhazia and South Ossetia, has worked hard to integrate the DPs, especially by providing services and housing. Numerous NGOs, government offices, and religiously affiliated organizations have worked to support and resettle these individuals. 

Through her project, Johnson aims to uncover how Orthodox Christianity— widely shared among DPs—plays a role in DP resettlement. She also hopes to tease out how the complicated politics of the Georgian and Ukrainian Orthodox Churches vis-à-vis the Russian Orthodox Church factor into church missions regarding DPs.

Johnson’s work will take place over the summer with a roughly three-week trip to Georgia where she will conduct interviews. Upon her return, she will work closely with Pulitzer Center staff and mentors to craft journalistic pieces that report on the experiences of DPs. As part of the fellowship, Johnson will receive assistance from the Pulitzer Center in trying to place articles in high-profile news outlets.

Johnson will also have the opportunity to participate in the Pulitzer Center’s Student Fellows Washington Weekend 2019, where fellows from across the country gather to share their experiences and receive practical advice on pursuing careers in journalism, and she will become part of a growing network of budding international journalists, which includes Georgetown’s last year’s fellowship winner, Julia Friedmann (SFS’19). Read more about Friedmann’s project on religion in the Colombian civil conflict and peace accords, including her article in Religion News Service.