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RFE/RL Begins Russian-Language Program To South Ossetia, Abkhazia

PRAGUE/TBILISI -- RFE/RL's first Russian-language news program to the Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia began today.

The new one-hour program, called "Ekho Kavkaza" (Echo of the Caucasus), airs seven days a week from 1800 to 1900 GMT and features on-the-ground reports from journalists in both regions as well as news and analysis from RFE/RL's Russian and Georgian services.

Georgian Service Director David Kakabadze, who supervises the program, says, "We're extremely eager to bring accurate news and responsible discussion of critical issues to a region where people are exposed to a lot of misinformation."

He added that the program is not just for listeners in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, but in other parts of Georgia, as well, because they "get very little accurate information about those [two] regions."

As today's first broadcast goes on the air, a Russian-language website is being launched simultaneously that features a live audio stream of the program along with videos, news, photos, and analysis.

According to Freedom House's 2008 Freedom of the Press Index, "Authorities in the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia restrict media freedom despite the legal protections for it. Local and foreign journalists are frequently intimidated and detained, and there is little access to local or foreign information in these regions."

RFE/RL's Georgian Service, known locally as Radio Tavisupleba, went on air in 1953 as part of Radio Liberty's broadcasts to the Soviet Union.