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Latynina vs. the Georgian Opposition

Yulia Latynina, the famously sharp and acerbic Russian political commentator, has really stirred up some strong reactions in both Georgia and Russia with a recent column published in Novaya Gazeta, which argued that any other leader in Georgia other than Mikheil Saakashvili (with the exception of Irakli Alasania) would lead to catastrophe.  Upon publishing the article, even Dmitry Muratov, editor of the newspaper, included a disclaimer to make clear that this opinion was exclusively coming from Latynina and not the paper.

Blogging at Window on Eurasia, Paul Goble has summarized the conclusions of a pretty strong statement issued by four Georgian academics which have taken issue with her position.  Interesting stuff – these aren’t usually people who fight each other.

The four scholars say that they welcome the interest of a distinguished foreign journalist in their country, but at the same time, they “note with regret” that Latynina’s treatment of their country is only “the position of a journalist” rather than of a government or academic specialist and, what is still worse, is “superficial” and “extremely one-sided.” (…)

“Free media are a necessary component of democracy,” as a journalistlike Latynina must know. But Georgia today “does not satisfy a singleone of the recognized international norms of media freedom:”transparency, limited concentration, professional journalism, andprotection of the right of journalists to report the facts.

“Ajournalist” like Latynina, they continue, “who fights for democracy inher own country should agree with us that in relation to the oppositionwhich has quite naturally a different opinion , the powers that beought to treat as loyal [rather than view as traitorous] just as thisis in all democratic states.” (…)

“Saakashvili is truly following the path marked out by Putin, inparticular concerning the establishment of unlimited control over themedia.” But despite Moscow’s behavior, they add, Russians “do notdeserve a president like Saakashvili.”