TBILISI, DFWatch — South Ossetia – a breakaway region of Georgia – is ranked among the world’s most repressive regimes by Freedom House.
Freedom House, a non-governmental organization, has published a new report called ‘The Worst of the Worst: The World’s Most Repressive Societies 2012′.
According to the report there are more than 1.6 billion people all over the world – 23 percent of the world’s population – who are living under repressive regimes.
One of the territories on the list is South Ossetia, a region currently under Russian control, but still disputed following the Russia-Georgia war in 2008. A few countries have recognized the region’s independence, while most of the world considers it part of the republic of Georgia.
“In South Ossetia, repression is reinforced by Russian influence to keep the breakaway republic separate from Georgia,” the report says.
Among independent countries, Belarus, Burma and Chad are on top, while three disputed territories are presented separately. Among those, South Ossetia is on top, while Tibet and Western Sahara are presented with a status of Not Free.
Freedom House has a scale of points from 1 to 7, where 1 means Free and 7 means not Free. So-called South Ossietia received 7 points for political rights and 6 points for civic liberties.
The chapter about South Ossetia recounts the presidential election for a de facto president, which took place in late 2011 and which had several rounds in 2012.
The report says that officials threatened opposition figures and changed the legislation in order to restrict certain candidates from participating.
“The political standoff took place in a general atmosphere of intimidation and occasional violence, with both Russian officials and the South Ossetian leadership suggesting the annexation of the territory by Russia.”
According to the report, Russia still exerts a dominant influence on South Ossetian politics.
“Before the 2008 war with Georgia, the territory reportedly hosted a large scale smuggling and black market activities.”
The part of the report dealing with civil liberties says that online and print media are controlled by separatist authorities and private broadcasts are prohibited, while independent or opposition journalists are harassed.
“The de facto border with Georgia was tightened in 2011, with several Georgians subjected to detention by Ossetian and Russian border guards,” the report says. “Russian authorities have prevented ethnic Ossetians from entering Georgia, but travel to Russia is unimpeded.”
An independent investigation by the European Union found that the 2008 war was started by Georgia. Before the war, people were able to travel almost unimpeded in and out of the region known as South Ossetia.