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Radio “Liberty” Already in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali

November 3, 2009

Andrei Babitski Will Be Appointed Head of “Echo of the Caucasus”

Ana Sheshaberidze

Last night, radio-program “Echo of the Caucasus” was first broadcasted by the Radio “Liberty”. This program is in Russian because it has been prepared for Abkhazia and so called South Ossetia. The Human Rights Center had the pleasure to meet the director of the Georgian branch of Radio Liberty Davit Kakabadze to speak about the new program.

-When was the idea of the radio program “Echo of the Caucasus” born in Radio “Liberty”?

 -The idea was born two years ago but the concrete form of the program was prepared later. Then, unfortunately the war started but it did not influence our idea; I cannot say that the war delayed or encouraged our working on the project.

-What is the specificities and length of that program?

-The program lasts from 10:00 pm to 11:00 pm; it is daily informational-analytic program which is not different from the programs of the Radio Liberty. The program will be about politics, economics, culture, social issues. We will have interviews, round tables, reportages, etc. Listeners of the Radio Liberty will not hear anything new. The language of the program will be Russian because it is broadcasted in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali district; so we chose Russian language. Otherwise we should have had to prepare different programs in Abkhazian and Ossetian languages. Furthermore, this program will be interesting not only for local residents but for Georgia as a whole, and particularly for the listeners in the regions close to conflict zones. Not only local issues will be discussed in the program but issues important for the entire region and problems of international importance as well.

-Radio “Liberty” has its central office in the capital of Czech Republic; will the “Echo of the Caucasus” be transmitted from Prague?

-Yes, it will be transmitted from Prague. Five people are working on the project; we will have correspondents in Tbilisi, Sokhumi and Tskhinvali. Supposedly, we will have a correspondent in Moscow too however working process on the program has not finished yet and we are looking for people.

-Where the Radio Liberty will broadcast exactly; did not you encounter problems in broadcasting in Abkhazia?

-People in the entire region will be able to listen to the radio Liberty through short frequencies. We hope eventually we will manage to broadcast on FM diapason too. Currently, we are broadcasting the program on FM with the support of the Radio “Mtsvane Talga” which covers entire Georgia including part of Abkhazia and Ossetia. However, in order to have high-level broadcasting we should have FM partners both in Sokhumi and Tskhinvali though we could not find any yet; hope we will find somebody soon.

-Have you agreed broadcasting with the authorities of Abkhazia and South Ossetia?

-No, we have not because we do not have practice of agreeing with local authorities. We have never agreed our activities with the government of Georgia or authorities of separatist regions. Our radio broadcasts in Iran in Persian language without agreements; can you imagine reaching any agreement with the government of Iran? So, we do not work based on agreements.

-Who will be journalists of the program?

-Famous journalist Andrei Babitski will be head of the project; he is expert in Caucasian issues. You might know, he has been working on the Northern Caucasus but he moved from the Russian office of Radio Liberty to us and will be head of this project. We have not finished working on agreements with journalists. Thus, I will not mention the names of journalists yet. One thing I can state now that Abkhazian and Ossetian journalists will work in the project.

-How are you going to work in Abkhazia when the de-fact government is speaking about preventing the broadcasting?

-Of course we cannot exclude the possibility that journalists will face some problems in the region. It is not new for the correspondents of the Radio Liberty. Our journalists have always worked in difficult environments. I mentioned Iran where it is very difficult to work but anyway they manage to… The same can be said about our correspondents in Turkey where our journalists are permanently intimidated. Despite similar difficulties they work and Radio Liberty worked during Soviet Union too, when cooperation with our radio was dangerous for everybody’s life.

-What do you think about the statement of the Abkhazian authority?

-I do not think this method is right but they are entitled to make decisions and it is up to them to stop broadcasting or not in the territories they control. It is an old method and Radio Liberty has experience in it. During the Soviet Union the authority used to cut the frequency of the Radio Liberty but listeners managed to get the information anyway. This method will be more ineffective today as there are alternative sources for getting information – internet and texts of the programs can be read and listened. I think such a decision of the de-facto government would be ineffective and they will not do it.

-According to our information the website of the radio program started working today; what kind of website will it be?

-The materials broadcasted in the program will be posted on the website in written form. We will also publish the information in the internet which will not be announced on radio. The website will have forums where every listener will be able to express his/her opinion. Besides the text of the radio-programs we will post audio-recording of the program on the website and people will be able to listen to the programs on internet too. We will have audio-archive to listen old programs. The website will have photo-gallery; all in all, visitors of our website will be able to use all service of modern internet websites. The website will have Russian link 

-What do you expect from this program? Do you think it will change something?

-Our aim is to inform people about the current situation. It is an utmost importance for people to get complete information about various events. We do not have illusions that the program will change the political situation however exchange of information will teach people to listen to each other and make them more tolerant to opposing opinions. It is a first step toward dialogue and our work is to inform the society and to build bridges between societies.