South Ossetian journalist ‘under pressure’ from authorities

21 February 2018
Irina Kelekhsayeva (Facebook)

A journalist in South Ossetia says she is facing pressure from the authorities, for an article about an alleged disagreement between the South Ossetian leader and an influential Russian investor. After her office was searched, Irina Kelekhsayeva says she was asked to leave her job.

Kelekhsayeva, who works for South Ossetian state-owned TV and radio station Ir, claims that on 19 February, six people in civilian clothes searched her office at Ir without an official warrant.

According to Ekho Kavkaza, for whom she also contributes, Kelekhsayeva identified some of them as members of the State Security Service and the personal security service of President Anatoly Bibilov.

She said the management of Ir called her to request her resignation later that day. ‘I answered that I really love my work, I don’t see any grounds for leaving, and I will not resign’, she said.

Controversial article

Kelekhsayeva claims that even before the search, there were attempts to discredit her on Facebook.

In a 16 February article for Ekho Kavkaza titled — ‘How the President and an investor fell out’ — Kelekhsayeva detailed a reported disagreement between Bibilov and one of the largest investors in South Ossetia Taymuraz Bolloyev. Bolloyev heads the BTC Group, a Russian clothing company.

Kelekhsayeva said the director of Ir had been instructed to fire her on 18 February, but had initially resisted; she says she now fears this has changed.

Kelekhsayeva told OC Media on 21 February that this was not the first time she had faced pressure from the authorities for her work, but that ‘they have never behaved so stupidly and hysterically before’.

‘One of the least free places in Europe’

Akhalgori (Leningor) based journalist Tamara Mearakishvili, who has been a vocal critic of the authorities, was charged with ‘violating the dignity of and honour’ of the South Ossetian ruling party, United Ossetia, in August last year.

Mearakishvili says she has been under ‘unofficial house arrest’ since then, and has been unable leave South Ossetia because of the charges against her.

[Read on OC Media: Journalist’s house searched for ‘extremist literature’ in South Ossetia]

In the latest edition of American rights group Freedom House’s Freedom in the World report, South Ossetia was ranked as one of the least free places in Europe, along with Crimea and Azerbaijan.

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.

Fierce, independent journalism

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