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FOUR JOURNALISTS KILLED, OTHERS INJURED IN SOUTH OSSETIA CONFLICT

Four journalists were among hundreds killed in fighting between Russia and Georgia that began on 8 August 2008. Meanwhile a fierce cyber-war between the two countries resulted in blocked websites and television stations.

Cameraman Stan Storimans of Dutch television RTL-4 died and the station's Moscow correspondent was injured during Russian bombing of the Georgian town of Gori on 12 August, said Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Earlier in the day, RSF and the International News Safety Institute (INSI) reported that an unnamed Georgian reporter and his driver were killed when a shell hit their vehicle in Gori's main square.

One day earlier, Giga Chikhladze, head of Alania TV, and Alexander Klimchuk, head of the Caucasus Press Images agency and a correspondent for Itar-Tas, were killed in the breakaway republic of South Ossetia, apparently at a roadblock of pro-independence fighters.
Russian "Newsweek" reporter Orkhan Dzhemal said the journalists were attacked by South Ossetian militia after entering the conflict zone from Georgia, reported the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
At least nine journalists - including five Russians, two Turks and two from the Tbilisi-based English-language newspaper "The Messenger" - have been injured, CPJ said. RSF added that Russian military detained four Turkish television journalists, two each from NTV and Kanalturk, for several hours on 12 August.

The conflict was fought online as well as in the field, after Georgia attacked South Ossetia on 7 August and Russia retaliated. Weapons included filtering and distributed-denial-of-service attacks, in which millions of connection requests overloaded and crashed websites' servers.

Russian hackers attacked Georgian government sites, including those of President Mikheil Saakashvili and the foreign ministry, which moved to a commercial blogging site. Many Georgian online news media are also blocked, including Rustavi 2, Civil.ge, Media.ge and Interpressnews.ge Civil.ge reportedly relocated to a blogging domain of Google, which denied an accusation that it had removed data about Georgia.

Georgian authorities decided on 11 August to "combat disinformation" by cutting all access to Russian TV station broadcasts. Georgia's leading Internet service provider (ISPs), Caucasus Online, blocked access to the main Russian-language news websites by filtering the Russian domain name ".ru".

Russian hackers have also attacked Day.az and ANS.az, two regional news portals based in Azerbaijan.

RSF condemned the many violations of online freedom of information. "With newspapers and radio and TV stations putting out very little independent news, the Internet is a vital tool for the public, so these attacks must stop at once."

Visit these links:
- RSF on killings: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=28147
- CPJ: http://tinyurl.com/5saea3
- International News Safety Institute: http://www.newssafety.com/
- RSF Internet: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=28167
- ARTICLE 19 report on Russian coverage of North Caucasus conflicts (PDF): http://tinyurl.com/69q7f7
- Google embroiled in conflict: http://tinyurl.com/62za5t
- Russian bloggers at the front: http://tinyurl.com/6yzfuw
- Russia claims media bias: http://tinyurl.com/5d3u3g
Photo: Dutch TV cameraman Stan Storimans (courtesy Reuters/RTL NIEUWS)

(13 August 2008)

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