Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Caucasus: Nov ‘07

CCJN’s first workshop in Chechnya gave visiting journalists a glimpse of post-war life.
Seven journalists from Armenia, Azerbaijan, the unrecognised republic of Abkhazia and the autonomous republic of North Ossetia and Chechnya took part in the first joint mission and workshop to Chechnya in November.

The workshop was organised as a part of Cross Caucasus Journalism Network Project, a three-year programme funded by the European Union, EU, and other donors.

The aim of the visit was to give the journalists an idea of what Chechnya is like today, after two bloody wars that destroyed so much of the autonomous republic.

“During the night we could hear sounds of machine guns, but nobody pays attention to that any more,” said Anaid Gogoryan, a workshop participant from Abkhazia.

“Chechnya is nowadays more peaceful than neighboring Ingushetia and Dagestan.”

During the four days in Grozny, journalists met politicians, experts, the speaker of the parliament, the prosecutor-general and others.

At a round-table meeting, entitled on “Journalism and Politics”, journalists discussed the role of journalists in politics, and asked if they should even participate?

During other meetings, journalists discussed the reconstruction of the republic and a range of reforms, as well as political life of Chechnya.

When walking in the streets of Grozny, the journalists witnessed the strength of the personality cult of current president Ramzan Kadyrov, as well as that of his father, Akhmat Kadyrov.

Political analyst and historian Edilbek Khasmagomadov compared the dependence of Chechen officials on President Kadyrov to the patron-client relationship system of Ancient Rome.

Whereas speaker of the parliament Dukvakha Abdurakhmanov criticised the European political tradition of allowing a president to stay in office for no more than two terms of four years.

“A leader needs 22 to 28 years to accomplish all his reforms,” Abdurakhmanov told journalists.

He also added that Kadyrov has been able to change the reputation of the Chechen people in the eyes of Russians.

“All the people dream of independence, but there are different kinds of independence. The most independent person in the world in my opinion is Bill Gates,” said Abdurakhmanov.

The journalists also managed to witness at first-hand the impact of Kadyrov’s authoritarian rule on everyday life.

During the four days in Grozny, the president issued a decree that restaurants cannot work later than 7 pm, which meant the journalists had to revise their daily schedules as they had to have dinner earlier than planned.

Kadyrov’s attitudes towards women became even more evident, when the female journalists talked to local people.

“I will never marry a girl that wears trousers,” a young man in the street told the group.

After returning to their homes, the journalists wrote pieces for their newspapers.

“People [in Abkhazia] liked my stories,” said project participant Anaid Gogoryan from Sukhumi.

“They appreciated me having been to Grozny, because otherwise all the information comes through television, which does not always tell the truth. These kinds of visits are very useful for us.”

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