On August 31, Freedom House published its narrative summaries on the state of freedom in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, which are an addition to the Freedom in the World 2017 report. The document ranks the two regions under the category of “related and disputed territories.”
The Abkhazia report summary lists “deeply flawed criminal justice system and discrimination against ethnic Georgians” among the problems in the region, also mentioning instances of political violence, such as a Sokhumi explosion of an opposition lawmaker’s car in April, and the opposition’s attempts to storm the interior ministry in July.
The report also speaks of the region’s ethnic Georgian residents’ lack of documents from the Abkhaz authorities, precluding them from voting in the April local elections.
At the same time, the report says there is “significant opposition and civil society activity” in Abkhazia, adding that “while local broadcast media are largely controlled by the government, there are some independent print and online outlets.”
While Abkhazia is designated by Freedom House as a “Partly Free” territory, South Ossetia is designated as “Not Free.” The latter’s summary speaks of the local media’s control by the authorities, “who also restrict or closely monitor civil society activity,” while “the judiciary is subject to political influence and manipulation.”
The report states that “the territory remains almost entirely dependent on Russia, and Moscow exerts a decisive influence over politics and governance,” and that “in October, leaked e-mails suggested that Russian officials carefully managed the legislative process in South Ossetia, adding to perceptions of extensive control by Moscow.”
The Freedom House document also says that “the local authorities continued to impose restrictions on critical journalists and media outlets during the year,” and added that “in October, the chief prosecutor’s office banned two websites for slandering government officials and brought criminal charges against two journalists and an internet user on similar grounds.”