South Ossetian journalists on problems with obtaining information from government officials
The journalists in South Ossetia claim they have problems getting information and comments from official structures.
Many journalists say they find themselves in a vicious circle. Under the Law on Access to Information, journalists should be provided information by the agency press service. However, it often takes the latter so long to respond to the journalists’ request for information that the information loses its relevance. When journalists try to contact the heads of departments, they refer to the law and send the journalists back to the press service.
The ‘Ekho Kavkaza’ (Echo of the Caucasus) online media outlet has found a couple of opinions on this problem.
Yuri Beteev, owner of the ‘AlaniaInform’ website:
“The managers on the ground don’t quite understand that they shouldn’t see themselves as small rulers who think: ‘It’s my organization and I do whatever I want to do.’ In fact, the more information is available, the easier it will be to relieve tension in society. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that we’ve had two popular protests and civil campaigns. If those events had been covered by the state TV channel, there would have been fewer questions in society and there would have been more public trust in the state broadcaster.”
MP Amiran Dyakonov believes that the existing situation is entirely the journalists’ fault:
“You should know your rights and fight for them. Just take a law and put it right in front of a government official. Tell him/her: “You have to provide this information to me, otherwise you will be held liable for non-compliance with the law.”
According to Allan Djussoev, an expert, journalists should realize that there are certain objective reasons for restricting their right to obtain information:
“Let’s take, for example, a trial. Some issues relating to a person’s private life may be discussed during the court session, even if it’s an open one. No one is willing to publicly display the details of their private life. I think that video recordings in court shouldn’t be allowed.”
Irina Yanovskaya, chairperson of the Journalists for Human Rights NGO, told JAMnews as follows:
“South Ossetia has as many as two laws forcing a public official to provide information to journalists. Regrettably, none of these laws are fully effective. It won’t be very nice if a journalist files a claim against a public official or his/her press service, because we have a small community where everybody knows each other. However, it’s seems there is no other way out.”