Voice of Russia host fired after criticism of South Ossetia president

Russian journalist Maxim Shaligin, a presenter on pro-government radio station Voice of Russia has been fired for criticising the outgoing president of South Ossetia.

Maxim Shalygin was sacked on 14 November, just ten minutes before his show was due to begin. He and his colleagues say he was discharged after speaking out against South Ossetia president Eduard Kokoity.

“Why do you let spin doctors with doubtful reputation rule the country and actually supervise presidential elections,” Maxim Shalygin appealed to Kokoity on the air. He expressed an opinion that Kokoity supported Kremlin favourite candidate Anatoly Bibilov,in the ongoing presidential election.

Voice of Russia head Andrey Bystritsky refuted the allegation of firing Shalygin because of the criticism he subjected Kokoity to. He told journalists Shalygin was a “freelancer who never could be discharged de jure”. Bystritsky added Shalygin was no longer employed by Voice of Russia because he suddenly stopped fulfilling “creative requirements”.

Alexey Simonov, head of Russian human rights organisation Glasnost Defense Foundation said he was upset by both sides: Bystrytsky and Shalygin.

“If Shalygin didn’t meet Voice of Russia’s conditions, he wouldn’t have had access to live broadcast. Still, Shalygin appealed to Kokoity in a tone characteristic of spin doctors rather than journalists,” Siminov said.

The first round of presidential elections was held in South Ossetia — the self-declared state in South Caucasus — on 13 November. The second round will be held on 27 November. The two main competitors are Anatoly Bibilov, whom political scientists consider pro-Kremlin, and  local opposition leader Alla Jioyeva.