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RFE/RL Review October 29, 2004

The Best of RFE/RL Broadcast Service Reporting
Week of October 23-30, 2004

RFE/RL journalists in Prague and Kyiv have expressed solidarity with colleagues at TV Channel 5 -- an RFE/RL affiliate partner and the only television station remaining in Ukraine not controlled by the government -- who have been on a hunger strike since Monday, October 25 to protest political persecution and harassment of the station.
The group, including Channel 5 news anchors and senior executives, has been in daily contact with RFE/RL. Ukrainian Service reports about the group and spreading protests among other journalists against government censorship have been quoted widely by local Ukrainian media.
On October 28, the Service reported on a walkout by seven leading journalists at pro-government TV Channel One Plus One to protest government restrictions on the news. Another group of over 100 Ukrainian journalists from pro-government media also protested against censorship and government interference on October 28.
RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service is planning expanded live broadcasting for the important Sunday presidential election in Ukraine. More than 70 correspondents throughout Ukraine will be working on the election coverage. RFE/RL English-language coverage of the election in Ukraine can be found at, while Ukrainian-language reports can be read on the Ukrainian Service's website,

** The Director of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, Alexander Narodetsky, may be reached by email at <>.

Amid tight security, Radio Free Iraq continues to provide its listeners coverage of political developments in Iraq relevant to the upcoming national elections, scheduled for January 2005. RFI's Baghdad correspondent Jumana Obeidi was at a press conference October 27 featuring controversial politician Mithal Al-Alousi, who announced the creation of a new political party, the 136th to be created since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Al-Alousi had been a senior official in Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress party before he was dismissed last month, after Al-Alousi went to Jerusalem to attend an international conference on the future of Iraq. Radio Free Iraq broke that story and followed the aftermath.
At the press conference, Al-Alousi reported on the conference in Israel and outlined his new party's political agenda which, he said will include working with international organizations to help rebuild Iraq. Al-Alousi said the party plans to send representatives to the forthcoming international conference in Al-Sharm al-Sheikh.
Radio Free Iraq's report on the press conference (in Arabic) may be heard at The service's original interview with Al-Alousi, following his visit to Israel, may be heard (in Arabic) at

** The Acting Director of Radio Free Iraq, Sergey Danilochkin, may be reached by email at <>.

Kosovo Public Television relied heavily on RFE/RL coverage of the October 23 general election in UN-administered Kosovo. RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service (SSALS) aired comprehensive updates all day on the voting, with statements from international monitors, Albanian and Serb voters and nonvoters, and local officials.
SSALS correspondents in RFE/RL's Prishtina and Belgrade bureaus worked closely to produce local reporting on the election in a three-part feature -- part one, from the Serb enclave Gracanica in Kosovo, focused on the almost-zero turnout of Serb voters and why they did not go to the polls; part two, filed from Prishtina, addressed the issue of why ethnic Albanian and other non-Serb voters did go to the polls; part three featured interviews with Serbs who did vote in the town of Mitrovica.
An SSALS comprehensive election reaction piece from Belgrade (in Albanian), by veteran SSALS broadcaster Srdjan Kusovac, was broadcast on Kosovo Public Television in prime time on October 23. Kusovac was also invited to appear on the program to deliver the report.
SSALS was one of the first media to tell listeners of results, provided by the Prishtina-based Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms and the Democratic League of Kosova (LDK), which revealed that Kosovar President Ibrahim Rugova had won the Kosovo general elections. Rugova has given RFE/RL several interviews over the years and visited the Broadcast Operations Center in Prague in 1999.
SSALS coverage of the Kosovo elections is available on the service's Albanian-language webpage and the main SSALS website,

** The Director of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service, Omer Karabeg, may be reached by email at <>.

RFE/RL's Tajik Service on October 27 aired interviews with Tajik independent journalists, who objected to the evaluation of the level of press freedom in the country by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). RSF released its annual press freedom index on October 26 (, which ranks Tajikistan as having the most free media environment in Central Asia.
The editor-in-chief of the independent "Ruzi Naw" newspaper, Rajabi Mirzo sharply criticized the report, saying that it "helps the Tajik government to increase pressure on independent media." He said it is nonsense to welcome the media situation in Tajikistan, when several newspapers cannot be published there and have to ask the Kyrgyz-based Freedom House printing enterprise to print their papers. He also said that independent journalists in Tajikistan live in constant fear -- "you never know what will happen to you after the next article you publish," Mirzo said. On the other hand, Umed Bobokhonov, the head of Asia Plus Media Holding, agreed with the RSF rating, saying that except for a few minor things the media situation in Tajikistan is much better than elsewhere in the region.
The Tajik service also interviewed an official at Reporters Without Borders in Paris, Soria Blatmann, who noted that the press freedom index is a general estimate and only a general indicator of the situation in the country.
The Tajik Service's report on the RSF report (in Tajik) can be found on the service's website,, by selecting the news archive for 27 October.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Tajik Service, Massoumeh Torfeh, may be reached by email at <>.

On October 26, RFE/RL's Belarus Service led its program with news of a CIA report, posted to the CIA's website on October 6, that documents illicit arms deals between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and Belarus, as well as other countries. According to the report, "Belarus was the largest supplier of sophisticated high-technology conventional weapons to Iraq from 2001 until the fall of the Regime. Complicity in this illicit trade was exhibited at the highest levels of the Belarusian Government."
The Service spoke to several of the Belarusian officials cited in the report, getting their reactions and denials, as well as a statement from the Belarus Foreign Ministry. Interviews were also conducted with members of the Belarus opposition, on their views of the CIA report.
The Belarus Service's coverage of the CIA report and of Belarusian responses to it can be found (in Belarusian) on the service's website, at and

** The Acting Director of RFE/RL's Belarus Service, Bohdan Andrusyshyn, may be reached by email at <>.

RFE/RL's Belarus Service was the first media in Belarus to report that U.S. President George W. Bush, on October 20, signed the Belarus Democracy Act into law and to provide reaction from Belarusian government officials and opposition groups to the new U.S. law.
The legislation, passed unanimously in the U.S Congress earlier this month, is designed to promote democratic development, human rights and the rule of law in Belarus, as well as encourage the consolidation and strengthening of Belarus' sovereignty and independence. The Act also bans the US government from providing loans, credit guarantees, financing or other financial assistance for Belarus, excluding humanitarian assistance, until Belarusian authorities conduct a thorough inquiry into the disappearances of Lukashenka opponents, release political prisoners and end persecution of the independent media and pro-democracy organizations.
Belarus Service reporting on the Belarus Democracy Act can be found on the service's website, at and

** The Acting Director of RFE/RL's Belarusian Service, Bohdan Andrusyshyn, may be reached by email at <>.

For the past week, RFE/RL's Belarus Service has provided its listeners international reaction to that country's disputed October 17 parliamentary election and referendum. Statements by the European Union, OSCE and the U.S. Department of State were aired, as well as an open letter of condemnation sent by Czech President Vaclav Klaus to Belarus President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and an interview with former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
In his letter, Klaus wrote that "present-day Europe has no place for violations of human rights, persecution of the political opposition and cruel suppression of demonstrations, all of this leading your country into international isolation." In contrast, RFE/RL also carried favorable assessments of the election and referendum by the Belarusian government, the Russian Foreign Ministry, Duma and CIS observers.
Belarus Service reporting on reaction to the October 17 election and referendum (in Belarusian) can be found on the service's website, at

** The Acting Director of RFE/RL's Belarusian Service, Bohdan Andrusyshyn, may be reached by email at <>.

RFE/RL's Uzbek Service provided listeners, for the first time, the story in his own words of Ruslan Sharipov, the independent Uzbek journalist and former prisoner of conscience who was forced to leave Uzbekistan. An Uzbek Service correspondent in Prague spoke with Sharipov by phone in California, in a lengthy interview that aired on October 25.
In August 2003, Ruslan Sharipov was imprisoned for five and a half years on trumped-up charges of homosexuality, in an attempt to silence his criticism of Uzbek authorities and the policies of President Karimov. Under pressure by of international human rights groups, Sharipov's sentence was reduced. Sharipov was released from prison in March 2004.
Ruslan Sharipov told RFE/RL that Uzbek law enforcement officials forced him to leave Uzbekistan. On June 28, he flew from Tashkent to Moscow, where he received an International Red Cross Passport and applied for political asylum with the U.S. Embassy. Sharipov was flown to the U.S. with his family on October 21.
Sharipov expressed concern during the interview about other political prisoners in Uzbekistan and said President Karimov's regime suppresses human rights and freedom of speech in Uzbekistan. Sharipov said he will continue in exile to work for human rights and press freedom in Uzbekistan: "As long as Karimov's regime exists in Uzbekistan, press freedom will be inhibited, human rights will be violated. Every one of us must try to change this."

** The Director of RFE/RL's Uzbek Service, Adolat Najimova, may be reached by email at <>.

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Copyright (c) 2004. RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. "RFE/RL Review" is a weekly compilation of the best programming produced by the 19 services of the RFE/RL broadcast network. RFE/RL broadcasts more than 1,000 hours of programming a week in 28 languages to 20 countries in Eastern Europe, Russia, the Caucasus, and Central and Southwestern Asia.

Managing Editor: Sonia Winter <>

For more information about any of the stories mentioned in "RFE/RL Review," or to learn more about RFE/RL, please contact Martins Zvaners at <> or by calling +1-202-457-6948.