Nothing has changed in view of freedom of media and speech in self-proclaimed South Ossetia and Abkhazia after change of governments, although part of journalists in Tskhinvali believed that Tibilov’s government should be more liberal and democratic than the previous one. The given hope vanished quite soon. There is no independent media organization in de-facto South Ossetia. All newspapers and televisions are funded from the budget and government actively interferes with editorial policy. Irina Kelekhsaeva from Tskhinvali works for Ekho Kavkaza Radio. According to her, no new faces have appeared in the government and Tibilov gathered around him staff of former President Ludvig Chibirov. This means talking about freedom of media is senseless.
“Term new government does not exist for me and many others here. Authorities from previous government stayed in offices in the new government. There are no new faces there unlike Georgia where the Chamber of Ministers has been completely changed. That is why I, as a journalist, cannot speak about some kind of “fresh air” here. There is the same stagnation including in media sphere,” Irina Kelekhsaeva says.
Only 2 independent newspapers are published in Abkhazia and with great problems. Rest of the media is State-owned there too. Nuzhnaya Gazeta Editor Izida Chania claims that journalists of independent media organizations are not able to obtain public information and quite often their under pressure.
“It is always hard to work for independent media. It is good for journalists when government swears at us. This means we work fruitfully. Problems that journalists face in Abkhazia are not specific and they exist in many other places. It is availability of public information and problem of court disputes. We live with all this. This is my job, which I have chosen for myself,” Izida Chania says.
According to Izida Chania, the Law on Press in Abkhazia is not liberal. The Law includes Article on Slander, which local authorities often use against journalists. Independent journalists want MPs to exclude the given Article from the Law, but their attempts are a failure. Along with that Chania believes that another serious problem in Abkhazia is impossibility of professional growth of journalists.
“When there are only 2 independent newspapers in a country and rest of media is State-owned, it is impossible to use Laws otherwise. The environment that it exists in is useful for State media,” Izida Chania clarified.
Irina Kelekhsaeva says that there is no freedom of speech in Tskhinvali and journalism is believed to be a dangerous profession.
“They still do not like free journalists and free opinion in our country. I have worked during Chibirov’s and Kokoiti’s period and work now. Different opinion is not only being ignored here, but it is even oppressed sometimes,” Kelekhsaeva clarified.
Critical and independent journalists are oppressed in self-proclaimed Abkhazia and South Ossetia. They are being threatened and there are even facts of physical abuse. Doors of all State structures are closed for them and they are even counted enemies.