PRAGUE, 27 February, Caucasus Times- Freelance journalist and editor Alan Tskhurbayev is facing pressure from officials in Russia’s turbulent North Caucasus. Mr Tshurbayev was conducting a meeting for journalists in the North Ossetian capital of Vladikavkaz when police burst into the room and began seizing documents.
Police from the “economic crime section” claimed they had a search warrant and demanded that participants show their papers. The journalists defended Mr. Tskhurbayev as police searched the room, seizing a computer and a number of documents.
Mr. Tskhurbayev, who helps manage an independent journalism network and commissions articles from freelance journalists, is now being accused of working in the North Caucasus illegally, a charge he strongly rejects.
At the time of the raid on February 11, 2008, Mr. Tskhurbayev was collaborating with the Moscow-based Centre for Journalism in Extreme Situations and the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting.
Tskhurbayev also works as a reporter for Radio Liberty in the North Caucasus and for the influential Russian news website, gazeta.ru.
IWPR is an international media development organisation supporting free and fair media in areas of crisis and transition, with operations in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Eurasia. Its Caucasus Reporting Service, published in English and Russian, is a rare and internationally respected source of information and analysis from the North Caucasus, with more than six thousand subscribers
Both organizations are worried about the threats this situation poses to Mr. Tskhurbayev and the implications this has for the already perilous state of independent journalism in the North Caucasus, Europe’s most turbulent region.
“The North Caucasus is practically an information black hole, and good journalism is essential to bring accountable governance and peace to that region. The Russian authorities should cease their continuing harassment of media there,” said Anthony Borden, Executive Director of IWPR
In 2007, Valery Dzutsev, who also helped manage an independent journalism network in the region, was investigated by the police for alleged tax evasion and two of his office computers were seized. The case never came to court and Mr. Dzutsev is currently enrolled in a Fellowship programme in the United States.