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Journalist questioned in South Ossetia for ‘violating dignity’ of ruling party

7 August 2017
Tamara Mearakishvili (rferl.org)

A journalist and activist in South Ossetia has been accused of ‘violating the dignity and honour’ of the ruling party, Ekho Kavkaza reports. She claims the interrogation is aimed at halting her cooperation with foreign media outlets.

Tamara Mearakishvili from the town of Akhalgori (Leningor) was questioned in the Prosecutor’s Office on 31 July after a senior party member filed a complaint for ‘violating dignity and honour’ of the ruling United Ossetia party. South Ossetian president Anatoly Bibilov heads the party.

The complaint, according to Mearakishvili, relates to an article she was interviewed for published in Ekho Kavkaza, RFE/RL’s Russian language service covering Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In it, Mearakishvili speaks of cronyism in South Ossetia, detailing the appointment of members and supporters of United Ossetia to official institutions following Bibilov’s April election victory.

Mearakishvili claims that investigators tried to intimidate her into stopping her cooperation with foreign organisations and media outlets.

‘Why won’t you get married? Who sustains you? Do you have health problems? When will you stop cooperating with Ekho Kavkaza?’, an investigator asked, according to Mearakishvili.

She claims to have declined to respond to the questions, as they were not connected to the complaint.

‘After this, the investigator got even more irritated and started insulting me’, Netgazeti, a Tbilisi-based media outlet quoted her as saying.

After Mearakishvili refused to answer questions, she was released and has not been summoned back for interrogation.

On 8 June, Mearakishvili was allegedly abducted by South Ossetia’s security service — the KGB. Early reports said she was dragged into a car by men dressed in civilian clothes; witnesses claim the car belonged to the South Ossetian KGB. The purpose of the alleged abduction is not clear, as she has so far abstained from talking about the incident.

Mearakishvili is a veteran journalist from South Ossetia who has been recognised for her work in peace reporting by the European Union Monitoring Mission.

According to Netgazeti, for whom Mearakishvili contributes, she frequently participates in conferences about conflict and peacebuilding initiatives in Tbilisi and elsewhere.

For ease of reading, we choose not to use qualifiers such as ‘de facto’, ‘unrecognised’, or ‘partially recognised’ when discussing institutions or political positions within Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and South Ossetia. This does not imply a position on their status.

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