Hard times for the free press and opposition candidates in South Caucasus. As elections are approaching, there’s a turn of the screw in the policy towards dissidents.
In Azerbaijan it effects most the free press of the Nakhchivan region, where the “Nasibov case” is raising the concern not only of civil society but also of international organizations and foreign representatives. The Nasibov couple, both distinguishable journalists and activists in the sphere of human rights protections, are undergoing a period of persecution, with their pc, house, office confiscated. Il’gar Nasimov, correspondent for radio Freedom, is at present under detention.
Other journalists are facing the same problem. Just to mention some, the correspondent of the opposition newspaper Azedliq, Mohammed Rzaev has been summoned at the Ministry of Internal Affair; Elman Abbasov got his stuff withdrawn, and during a police search in his house it seems that the an officer placed a flesh card there, later assuming that it contains documents for which the journalist has to answer personally.
In Georgia Imedi TV, a not pro-government channel was allowed to go back on air. But practically it’s impossible, since, as its General Director Bidzina Baratashvili pointed out, equipment is very seriously damaged, all equipment for satellite connection and broadcasting is absent, the control room is demolished.
Meanwhile the list of candidates for the 5th of January Presidential election is taking shape. Right now 5 out of 13 candidates have been registered, but other six are waiting for the Election Commission, by 11th of December, to check their list of minimum 50 000 signatures to be allowed to compete. The present candidates are the incumbent President, Michail Saakashvili, Levan Gachechiladze (United Opposition), David Gamkrelidze (New Rights), Shalva Natelashvili (Labours), Georgij Maisashvili (Future Party), who was at first rejected and then admitted to run for presidency (for details www.newsgeorgia.ru/geo1/20071208/42113233).
Restrictions to candidature seems to be at work in Armenia, as well, where Raffi Hovanisyan saw his name deleted (once more) from the list of those who are running for presidency on the 19th of February. His Heritage party, which is playing an important role as an opposition party in the National Assembly, will not present another candidate and will support an opposition candidate. The opposition itself didn’t manage to express a unique leader, although most votes will probably be cast on the former president Levon Ter Petrosyan. A1+, the tv channel that was already closed in the past, is promoting his speeches as much as possible, but many fragments of the opposition parties (Orinats Yerkir, National-Democratic Union, the Communist Party) will not stand by him.
Finally, the long wave of Russian Duma elections reached the South Caucasus, and effected especially Georgia, where the Minister for Conflict Resolution David Bakradze expressed his annoyance for the fact that in Ossetia and Abkhazia Russian elections were held, and for the words of Boris Gryslov, who committed the Duma to decide over the annexation of the two regions in January (Rustavi 2 TV, 3rd December news).
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