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RFE/RL Review March 4, 2005


The PDF version is available at http://www.rferl.org/reviews/

RFE/RL REVIEW
The Best of RFE/RL Broadcast Service Reporting
-----------------
Week of February 26-March 4, 2005


RFE/RL COVERS RELEASE OF THE ANNUAL STATE DEPARTMENT HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT The U.S. State Department's annual report on the state of human rights around the world traditionally is a big story for all RFE/RL services. The 2004 report, released on February 28 (http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2004/index.htm) is especially relevant for RFE/RL's broadcast region, as it features sharp criticism of the human rights record in Russia, Belarus, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and other Central Asian countries. The Russian Service discussed the contents of the report with Freedom House representative Arch Puddington (http://www.svoboda.org/ll/hr/0305/ll.030105-1.asp) and organized roundtables on media restrictions and other curtailments of civic freedoms featuring well-known human rights activists such as Ludmila Alexeeva. Radio Farda, broadcasting in Persian to Iran, programmed extensively on the report and reaction to it, including an interview with Iran's former UN Ambassador. Numerous violations in nearly a dozen countries cited in the report were cases of government campaigns against RFE/RL and harassment and beatings of RFE/RL reporters. In Turkmenistan, for example, the State Department report noted that a number of RFE/RL correspondents suffered arrests and one correspondent was "brutally beaten" in Moscow by agents from the Turkmen National Security Ministry. A sampling of RFE/RL country programming on the 2004 human rights report follows:

> Uzbek Official Rejects, Uzbek Journalists Confirm Report Findings RFE/RL's Uzbek Service aired a broadcast, March 2, prepared by its Tashkent bureau, which reviewed the State Department's critical assessment of an authoritarian Uzbek state where abuses by police are systematic, soliciting official Uzbek reaction to the report in an exclusive RFE/RL interview with the Uzbek President's Press Secretary, Sherzod Kudratkhodjayev. He rejected the U.S. criticism, asserting that Uzbekistan is a country in transition and that "no country in the world or in the region can claim to have full democracy". RFE/RL correspondents also spoke to opposition Erk Democratic Party activist Otanazar Oripov, who said that this year the U.S. State Department's annual report is more critical of Uzbekistan than it was in previous years (http://www.ozodlik.org/domesticreports/policy/uz/2005/03/B88BB513-7FE5-4BB6-BAB3-7F4AB62B0E3C.asp) On March 3, the Uzbek Service broadcast a second story focusing on the media situation in Uzbekistan. An RFE/RL correspondent interviewed several independent journalists, all of whom said they experienced harassment, intimidation and restrictions in pursuing their journalistic work. The most recent example was the case of Uzbek journalist Ulugbek Haydarov. In late February, the journalist told RFE/RL about a press conference he had attended with a regional Governor, who harshly criticized U.S. policy. After the Uzbek Service aired this program, the Governor's office began a campaign of harassment and threats against Haydarov.

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


> Ukrainian Service Program on Racial Discrimination Human rights dominated programming on RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, due to an attack on an African American diplomat in Kyiv on March 2. He was singled out among a group of tourists and beaten by skinheads because of his color. The service interviewed a spokesman at the Ukrainian foreign ministry, Dmytro Svystkov, who said Ukraine deplores all acts of racism and xenophobia and will do everything it can to fight racism. Svystkov expressed concern about the incident and said a police investigation is under way. Looking into the history of skinhead attacks in Ukraine, RFE/RL interviewed Tetiana Yablonska, coordinator with the Ukrainian-American Bureau for the Protection of Human Rights. She mentioned a recent similar incident involving skinheads at a synagogue. Yablonska said Ukrainian authorities should have done more after that incident and it might have prevented the present one. The U.S. State Department's 2004 report on human rights in Ukraine notes incidents of racially motivated violence against persons of African or Asian heritage, as well as frequent police harassment of racial minorities. RFE/RL explored the experience of a mixed married couple to report on racial bias. A Ukrainian woman, married to a Tanzanian and living in Kyiv with their two children, told the Ukrainian Service of hardships her dark-skinned children experienced, including bullying at school and harassment by police. The Ukrainian Service's report can be found at http://www.radiosvoboda.org/article/2005/3/F15076CB-8711-4B86-8BF8-7E020E2BD7A8.html

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


> UN Human Rights Rapporteur Calls for Action By International Community on Belarus In covering the U.S. State Department's annual human rights report, RFE/RL's Belarus Service contacted UN Human Rights Rapporteur Adrian Severin in Minsk for comment. He said, in an exclusive interview aired March 1, that human rights abuses in Belarus are an international as well as an internal problem and pose a threat not only to the safety and security of the country, but to the safety and security of the whole region. Severin called on the international community to take concerted action, suggesting that a major international conference should be convened. He agreed with the US assessment that Belarus' human rights record has worsened in recent months and was pessimistic about improvement any time soon (http://www.svaboda.org/articlesfeatures/politics/2005/03/30dbaa3d-4cc6-49e9-9ea1-7e1b96662f35.html) RFE/RL's broadcast to Belarus quoted the US report which said the Belarusian government "has continued to deny citizens the right to change their government through a transparent democratic process," and that "opposition political parties and movements were subjected to increased pressure through both judicial and extrajudicial measures." The report noted that press freedoms were restricted and that law enforcement officials "used excessive force" against individuals and journalists peacefully protesting election processes (http://www.svaboda.org/articlesfeatures/politics/2005/03/208213dd-d5a7-4894-b9dd-9f286c7943a5.html) In other reaction interviews, a pro-government parliamentary deputy Siarhiej Kascian said the report shows that "the US would like to install its own government in Belarus" (http://www.svaboda.org/articlesfeatures/politics/2005/03/b7de634f-f6ee-445e-9efc-df30edaa8683.html) while human rights activist Ludmilla Hraznova said the report is evidence that "a dictatorship, in the fullest meaning of the term, is being installed in Belarus".

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


> Armenians Agree--Media Rights Violated RFE/RL interviewed a wide range of Armenians for their comments on the US annual human rights assessment and found most agreed that their government restricts freedom of expression. RFE/RL correspondents in Yerevan spoke to Armenian Ombudsman Larisa Alaverdian who said the US assessment was detailed and accurate. In the program broadcast March 1, the Armenian Service cited portions of the section on Armenia, including an item on Armenia's Kentron television which was pressured by the government in October 2004 into dropping a news and current affairs program produced by RFE/RL.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Armenian Service, Hrair Tamrazian, may be reached by email at <tamrazianh@rferl.org>.


> Azerbaijani Service Human Rights Report Overshadowed by Journalist's Murder RFE/RL broadcasts to Azerbaijan on the State Department's 2004 human rights report started March 1 with a special interview with Michael Kozak, US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Comments and responses to the report in Azerbaijan were overtaken by a new violation shocking to many Azerbaijanis -- the March 3 murder of a well-known Azerbaijani journalist, Elmar Husseinov, outspoken editor of the independent "Monitor" journal. Committee to Protect Journalists official Alex Lupis , speaking to RFE/RL after hearing the news said that "press freedom (in Azerbaijan) has continued to decline over the last two years, ever since President Ilham Aliyev took office, and we're calling on him (Aliyev) to ensure that this case is aggressively investigated and prosecuted." Husseinov, 39, was gunned down in the stairwell of his apartment building as he returned home on the evening of March 2. The unknown killer escaped. RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service broke the news in a live broadcast that night and was widely quoted by Azerbaijani media the next day. RFE/RL was the first reference on Google March 3 for news about Husseinov. The service continued to report latest developments to listeners in live broadcasts, interrupted with special updates, expert commentary and exclusive interviews. Leader of the opposition 'Azerbaijan Social Forum, Eldar Namazov, and leader of the Popular Front Party, Ali Kerimli, speaking on the night of the murder to RFE/RL's Baku correspondent said: "Nobody is able to frighten and silence us. If anybody thinks that with this kind of act they can frighten us, they are mistaken..."Elmar [Husseinov] is the victim of state terror. Everyone should know that and should not be afraid of saying that. We will either force them [the authorities] to bring the perpetrators to justice, or we will force them [the authorities] to resign." The next day, March 3, the service aired an interview with an official in President Aliyev's office, Ali Hassanov, who said: "this murder is a blow against Azerbaijan, against the image of the state. It damages our international image in the year of a parliamentary election..... The Azerbaijani government is among those who would have the least interest in (carrying out) this murder. And Azerbaijan government will take all actions to reveal this crime." An estimated 10, 000 people lined the streets for the funeral ceremonies March 4. RFE/RL's correspondent was there and recorded this statement by U.S Ambassador to Azerbaijan Reno Harnish "Elmar's murder reminds us all of the vital responsibility that democratic governments and societies have, to protect those people dedicated to the achievement of its best interests. Media freedom, democracy, and the rule of law are these interests."

** The Director of RFE/RL's Azeri Service, Abbas Djavadi, may be reached by email at <djavadia@rferl.org>.


CHECHEN SEPARATIST LEADER OUTLINES PEACE TERMS IN RFE/RL INTERVIEW Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov, one of the most wanted men in Russia, writes that 30 minutes with Russian president Vladimir Putin would be enough to stop the decade-long conflict in Chechnya. In an interview conducted via email with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, he gave a broad outline of peace terms he said could be acceptable to both sides in response to written questions posed by RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service. Maskhadov's answers in the Chechen language were received on Friday, March 4 via the Internet. He said it is his firm belief that Putin is getting bad information about the situation in Chechnya from his commanders and does not really know what is going on. Maskhadov said: "We have been suggesting that a 30-minute fair, face-to-face dialogue should be enough to stop this war, to explain to the president of the Russian Federation what the Chechen people do want -- I'm sure he doesn't even know that -- and also to hear from Putin personally what he wants, what Russia wants in Chechnya." Maskhadov said a peace dialogue could begin with agreement on the following points: "guaranteeing the security of the Chechen people and protecting Russia's regional and defense interests in the North Caucasus. If we are able to open the eyes of our opponents, the Russian leaders, peace can be established." Asked about the extent of his authority in Chechnya, Maskhadov said: "I don't think that there are any units on Chechen territory that would ignore my orders. I don't think there are such units in Ingushetia, Dagestan, Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachayevo-Cherkessia either. This not just empty talk but reality. All military units on Chechen territory and in the neighboring countries are under the subordination of Chechen resistance." An analysis of the Maskhadov interview, in English by RFE/RL Online Journalist Liz Fuller, can be found on the RFE/RL website at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2005/03/c8bf5cc0-d91f-4dac-9185-a451b1124b1d.html The Russian government has labeled Maskhadov a terrorist and refused to deal with him. It has also announced a $10.3 million reward for his capture. Maskhadov was elected president of Chechnya in 1997 and removed from power in fierce fighting with the invading Russian army in 1999. RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service broadcasts 2 hours of programming a day in the Avar, Chechen and Circassian languages to the North Caucasus region, produced in Prague and transmitted to listeners via satellite and shortwave transmission. North Caucasus Service programming is also available via the Internet, at http://www.rferl.org

** The Director of RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service, Aslan Doukaev, may be reached by email at <doukaeva@rferl.org>.


ACTIVE WEEK FOR RADIO FARDA Radio Farda, the joint RFE/RL-Voice of America 24/7 Persian-language broadcast for Iranian youth, had a busy week, with significant news to cover on the domestic, international and democracy promotion fronts. A sampling of the stories covered by Radio Farda last week: * Radio Farda sent a correspondent to Beirut to cover the tumultuous events following the assassination of Lebanon's former Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri. Our correspondent interviewed prominent opposition leaders, including former president Amin Gemayel. Radio Farda had live coverage of the historic protests on February 28, which culminated in the resignation of the Lebanese government. It also assembled experts to talk about emerging democratic trends in the Middle East. Well known Iranian regional experts discussed the significance of developments in Lebanon, Egypt and elsewhere to highlight the first signs of a possible political change in the Middle East.

* Farda covered the student protests at Tabriz University, in the capital of Western Azerbaijan province and interviewed a local journalist, who took a grave risk in telling Farda listeners about the protests and demands of the students.

* Farda interviewed women activists in Iranian Kurdistan, who attempted to form an NGO to defend human and women's rights. The authorities turned down their request and prevented the formation of this NGO. The reasons mentioned for the ban were nothing more than vague accusations against two of the founding members.

* Radio Farda continued in-depth coverage of the Iran nuclear issue, as well as President Bush's trip to Europe and latest developments regarding U.S. policy towards Iran. Our correspondents reported on these issues from various countries, including Britain, France, and Syria. Experts and analysts interviewed on Farda helped illuminate daily coverage of this important international story.

* Farda ended the week with a report on the signing of an agreement on the sale of Russian nuclear fuel to Iran. Reports from Moscow and interviews with experts around the world offered our listeners a good understanding of this key development.

** The News Director of Radio Farda, Mardiros Soghom, may be reached by email at <soghomm@rferl.org>.


RADIO FREE IRAQ INTERVIEWS MEMBERS OF NEW GOVERNMENT As the difficult task of forming Iraq's new interim government dragged into a second month, the people involved in the negotiations and those tipped for government positions continued to share insights into the process with Radio Free Iraq in a series of exclusive interviews. A sampling follows: * On February 27, RFI aired excerpts of a press conference in Baghdad by Ibrahim al-Ja'fari, leading candidate for prime minister, speaking about the special status of Kirkuk, said there is no prescription on how to best stabilize the region and that it will take time and effort to produce a solution covering "the realities of its demography � in the variety of its population, of its religions and confession streams, and of its political [allegiances]."

* Hoshyar al-Zebari, Iraqi foreign minister and a candidate in the parliamentary elections for the Kurdish Unity List, assessed in an exclusive interview for Radio Free Iraq the meeting between Ibrahim al- Ja'fari and Kurdistan Democratic Party leader Mas'ud Barzani at the Salah al-Din resort on Tuesday 1 March 2005: Al-Zebari said: "This cabinet must be built on the base of national consensus, not on a winner-takes-all principle after these elections." He said the meeting between Ibrahim al-Ja'fari and Mas'ud Barzani was "good and positive." and that the Kurdish side had not laid down any conditions. "In fact, more than anything else, it was a consultative dialog. As far as we in the Kurdish Unity List are concerned, [we are looking] from one side at leading personalities but the most important will be the policies followed and conducted by the new leadership."

* Another interview broadcast March 1 was with Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulum, member of the Coordination Committee of the United Iraqi Alliance, who was in a group that recently visited Iraqi Shi'a leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Al-Najaf. Al-Ulum spoke with RFI about al- Sistani's call for unity: "It was a positive encounter where His Eminence offered several instructions and advices relevant to the political work. Among the most important of them was his exhortation to keep the unity of Iraqis and to work collectively for the defense of the rights of Iraqis in general." He quoted Al-Sistani as saying that "the law of majority and minority must be given a precise respect. The minority must respect the opinion of the majority and the majority must respect the feelings and rights of the minority. This must become the guarantee of political progress" Al-Ulum said Al-Sistani also stressed that that it was necessary to give Iraqi women an active role in the political field as well as it was necessary to give an active role to young people and to be interested in them."

* In an interview aired March 2, Dr. Al-Ulum confirmed in an interview in Baghdad that the negotiations are going well. He said, "The negotiations were, as a whole, positive. We think there was a number of hot issues that cannot be solved in a moment but can be solved gradually and dealt with thoroughly in the coming time," adding that difficult problems such as the situation in Kirkuk will be resolved in time: "I expect that the Kurdish brothers do understand the situation, the political process, and the sensitivity of conditions. Therefore, if there is the Kirkuk issue or other issues that can be solved according to the provisions of the Transitional Administrative Law, then they will be dealt with in the coming time but they must not be an obstacle for progress in the political process."

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


EXPLOSION, ELECTION PROTESTS FEATURED IN RFE/RL KYRGYZ BROADCASTS Radio Azattyk, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, is keeping correspondents in half a dozen Kyrgyz cities on high alert, covering protests and preparations for the country's March 13 second round of parliamentary elections. Big news on March 3 was an explosion at the apartment of opposition leader, former foreign minister Roza Otunbayeva, who has given a number of exclusive interviews to RFE/RL. The service carried her statement, which attributed the explosion to government intimidation tactics, as well as the government's denial of responsibility (http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2005/3/9B896875-B96D-4954-811E-45B523C156E6.html) Otunbayeva is one of the four people barred from being a candidate in the parliamentary elections--the main cause of several weeks of daily protests throughout Kyrgyzstan. Radio Azattyk has covered the rallies extensively, interviewing both opposition leaders and government spokesmen, as well as talking to eyewitnesses. Radio Azattyk was the sole Kyrgyz language radio to broadcast on the nationwide protests across the country (http://www.azattyk.org/rubrics/politics/ky/2005/02/5B745885-3DE9-48DB-85F8-13F9FE4F445B.asp) (http://www.azattyk.org/rubrics/politics/ky/2005/02/C9B68FC5-6D9C-460A-84A4-325AFEE2F005.asp) After the February 27 election round, protests shifted from demands for fairness in the registration of opposition candidates, to complaints about election irregularities and even demands for RFE/RL broadcasts to be resumed. Kyrgyz government-owned transmitters stopped sending RFE/RL Kyrgyz language programs on UKW and medium waves Feb. 24, at 6 AM EST (4 PM Bishkek time, noon Prague time), two hours before regular programming was to begin. Upset listeners flooded the switchboard of the Bishkek bureau asking why they cannot get "Radio Azattyk" on the dial. Protesters now carry placards calling for Radio Azattyk, which broadcasts five hours daily and is the leading foreign broadcaster in Kyrgyzstan with a weekly listenership of more than 12 percent of the population. The service has expanded short-wave broadcasting to compensate for the loss of UKW and MW frequencies. On February 27, RFE/RL correspondents reported from all the major constituencies across the country, including Osh, Jalalabat and the remote town of Naryn (http://www.azattyk.org/rubrics/politics/ky/2005/02/0EE1C466-D82A-4C9B-92FF-B877F5578C37.asp) In Bishkek, an RFE/RL correspondent got an exclusive interview with candidate Bermet Akayeva, daughter of the president. She denied charges of manipulation and fraud connected to her candidacy and that of her brother Ardar, saying: "we are participating [in this election] in a democratic way. The president did not appoint us either as a minister or governor. We are competing [for parliamentary seats] ourselves in a transparent way." Akayeva did not get enough votes in the first round and will be running again on March 13 (http://www.azattyk.org/rubrics/society/ky/2005/02/3F97D6D3-1701-4B13-BBE9-2075DFAE9A35.asp) In another scoop, the Kyrgyz Service reported for its evening live show on early results of the elections from the premises of the Bishkek Government House, ("the White House") where the Central Election Commission (CEC) held a press conference to announce first results. Local, state-owned media were not broadcasting live and aired the news much later. The next day, Radio Azattyk in its morning live show featured opposition figures, and pro-government representatives discussing the results. Later programs carried the sharply differing assessments with OSCE and opposition criticism of irregularities and praise by the Kyrgyz government and observers from CIS states. (http://www.azattyk.org/rubrics/politics/ky/2005/02/B016E971-91A2-472A-B32F-4E9B69FA3EB9.asp) (http://www.azattyk.org/rubrics/politics/ky/2005/02/442D16D8-E4AF-489B-A170-D7164BA7264E.asp) (http://www.azattyk.org/rubrics/politics/ky/2005/02/63E1F1A0-AC9A-4564-97A1-3135246E4177.asp) (http://www.azattyk.org/rubrics/politics/ky/2005/03/5699D9D8-1E34-4984-BFEA-E103D59D45CA.asp)

** The Director of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, Tyntchtykbek Tchoroev, may be reached by email at <tchoroevt@rferl.org>.


ELECTION DAY AND POST-ELECTION COMPLAINTS COVERED ON RFE/RL TAJIK BROADCASTS RFE/RL's Tajik Service had a network of 15 correspondents posted throughout Tajikistan on February 27--Election Day-- reporting on turnout and monitoring the polls. RFE/RL correspondents in neighboring countries with significant Tajik minorities reported on diaspora voting in Moscow, Tashkent, Kabul and Bishkek. It was the most comprehensive election radio coverage in the Tajik language for Tajiks, prompting the Dushanbe bureau of the BBC to send congratulations to RFE/RL's Dushanbe bureau the next day. In the days following the February 27 parliamentary election, RFE/RL programs focused on the continuing debate about the election process and complaints of opposition parties in several roundtable discussions. The participants included leaders of Tajikistan's four opposition parties who have refused to accept the election results, the head of the Tajik Electoral Commission, the OSCE representative in Dushanbe, as well as the Dushanbe-based representative of the International Crisis Group, and the visiting chief of international election monitors from Vienna. International bodies rated the election process as improved over previous years, with many irregularities but overall not significant enough to invalidate the election. (For a report in English on the election, visit http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2005/2/DDD7E316-B8D6-4D54-A91F-40784FB05B79.html) A special youth program dealt with the same issues inviting young people to express their views and feelings about the election. Overall the tone was negative with many saying they did not trust the system and did not take part, others that they had seen evidence of rigging and felt the pro-Rakhmonov results were preordained. Some young participants said the elections in neighboring Kyrgyzstan on the same day were more free and more genuine. The Kyrgyz correspondent of the Tajik Service filed a report comparing the two elections. RFE/RL broadcasts 6 hours daily to Tajikistan on shortwave. Live programming was not possible on election day because of poor telephone lines, which are the only means of communication with the Prague broadcast center available to the service. But the comprehensive coverage continued the service's pre-election programming strategy of examining major social aspects and political issues. In addition to bringing to listeners interviews and discussions with all leading candidates, the service explained the differences in their platforms, looked at the position of women in elections, the role of the media and international organizations, what illegal parties like Hizb-ut Tahrir do during elections, how poets and writers help create change. Exclusive interviews and expert comments were posted on the service's special Tajik Elections page (in Tajik: http://www.ozodi.org/special_election.aspx, in English http://www.rferl.org/specials/tajikelections), as well as profiles of candidates, and synopsis of their parties and positions. Numerous comments to the site praised its usefulness, especially to Tajiks living abroad who used it as a guide to voting.

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


RFE/RL COVERS MARCH 6 PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS IN MOLDOVA RFE/RL's Romania-Moldova Service focused on the final days of election campaigns by Moldova's fractured opposition movement and President Vladimir Voronin's ruling communist party. The Moldovan President made an unannounced visit on March 1 to Kyiv, where he met with his Ukrainian counterpart, Viktor Yushchenko. In another surprise encounter, covered by RFE/RL, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili briefly visited Chisinau on March 2, where he met with an opposition leader at the end of his visit and told him he had come to support the Moldovan people, not President Voronin. Other opposition leaders interviewed by RFE/RL said they were disappointed that Saakashvili had not spent more time with more representatives of the opposition. On March 6, RFE/RL had correspondents at key points on the ground in the Moldovan capital Chisinau and in the northern and southern provinces of Moldova, as well as on the river border with the separatist Transdniester region. RFE/RL also monitored turnout of voters in diaspora. About 30,000 Moldovan citizens living abroad were expected to vote at Moldovan embassies in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Romania, Ukraine and Moscow. In Moldova itself, an estimated 2.3 million voters were expected to go to the polls to elect 101 parliamentary deputies who will subsequently elect the president. RFE/RL's Chisinau correspondent, in an informal survey reported many voters seemed ignorant about political choices. In a typical response to his question "who will you vote for and why," one Moldovan citizen said: "We should vote for Voronin--because he is the president."

** The Director of RFE/RL's Romania/Moldova Service, Oana Serafim, may be reached by email at <serafimo@rferl.org>.


RFE/RL FIRST ON KOSOVO TV WITH ETHNIC ALBANIANS AND SERBS The Kosovo unit of RFE/RL's South Slavic & Albanian Languages Service hosted a televised roundtable discussion on interethnic relations, tackling sensitive questions of interaction between ethnic Serbs and Albanians. The program aired February 28 on Kosova Public Television in Pristina, the capital of the Kosovo province in Serbia. The program ran at prime time, introduced as "Special from Radio Free Europe." RFE/RL's Pristina bureau chief Arbana Vidishiqi moderated the debate with participants Lutfi Haziri, Minister of Local Governance, Randjel Nojkic, Kosovo Serb representative and Alex Anderson, head of the International Crisis Group's project in Kosovo. A studio audience of students directed several questions to the participants, focusing mostly on issues of independence for Kosovo, when the so-called 'final status' negotiations might begin, how the talks will proceed and how to improve relations between ethnic Serbs and ethnic Albanians. The RFE/RL moderator was scrupulous in giving equal time to each side. The debate attracted a great deal of attention because of the rarity of direct, face to face discussion between the two ethnic groups. It was repeated on TV a few days later, transcribed and widely quoted in local press.

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


RFE/RL CULTURE SCOOP EASES BELGRADE-PRISTINA TENSIONS RFE/RL's South Slavic & Albanian Languages Service (SSALS) broke the news in an exclusive interview February 25 that the Kosovo Minister of Culture has invited his Serb counterpart to visit Pristina. Minister Astrit Haracija suggested the groundbreaking visit during the SSALS interview, saying: "Let's set an example for others, because Kosovo cannot ignore Serbia as Serbia cannot get rid of Kosovo. Our two nations will cooperate normally in the near future as part of a larger European family." Haracija spoke about the letter of invitation he had sent to Serb cultural minister Dragan Kojadinovic on SSALS's regular Friday program "Culture in the Region," hosted by Branka Mihajlovic (transcript available at http://www.slobodnaevropa.org/article/2005/02/26/359d7216-293b-4bab-8517-376ab33387ee.html) In a separate RFE/RL interview Kojadinovic accepted the invitation, saying somebody has to take the first step: "We could meet in March although it might be an awkward time because of memories of the 2004 March rioting in Kosovo," he said, adding "actually, I would like to come to Kosovo as a free citizen, not with heavy bodyguard protection. I would like to walk around the city without restrictions," he told RFE/RL. The initiative, thawing long frosty relations comes against a backdrop of conflict and misperception between Serbs and Albanians that have strained their communications for years. Kosovo has been under United Nations auspices since 1999, when Serbian forces were expelled after the NATO air strike. The two ministers have agreed to focus on establishing communications at their first meeting and then discuss cultural exchanges between Pristina and Belgrade. Following this line, in the same program, RFE/RL established a radio bridge between a popular ethnic Albanian actor, Enver Petrovci, and a Serb playwright in Belgrade, Zeljko Hubac who has asked Petrovci to produce and star in his new play. Petrovci said on the RFE/RL program that he appreciates the courage of his Belgrade fans in inviting him to perform there, given the tensions between Serbia and the Kosovo province.

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


RFE/RL INTERVIEWS TOP MACEDONIAN POLITICIANS RFE/RL's Macedonia unit of the South Slavic & Albanian Languages Service (SSALS) completed February 27 a series of exclusive interviews with leaders of the main political parties. The interviews were broadcast separately throughout February ahead of local elections in Macedonia scheduled for March 13. They included conversations with Arben Djaferi, leader of the DPA Albanian Democratic Party, Nikola Gruevski, leader of the VMRO DPMNE Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization ; Vlado Buckovski, leader of the Social Democratic Party and Macedonian Prime Minister, and Rafiz Aliti, vice president of the Democratic Union for Integration. All agreed that violence is unacceptable if the country intends to meet the standards for joining the EU and NATO. Prime Minister Buckovski acknowledged that his government holds the biggest responsibility for the March election to be carried out peacefully and meeting democratic standards. The leaders of opposition parties have accused the ruling coalition of pressuring voters. The government denied this accusation. The RFE/RL interviews were top news in domestic media. Local radio and TV stations quoted all four interviews in their prime time shows. Almost all Macedonian and Albanian daily newspapers published excerpts from the interviews. Transcripts of the interviews can be found at the Macedonia unit's website, http://www.makdenes.org

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


WHAT REALLY HAPPENED TO PROPERTY OF SERB REFUGEES FROM CROATIA RFE/RL's South Slavic & Albanian Languages Service (SSALS) Sunday, February 27, aired an exclusive report on Serbian refugees from Croatia who were defrauded when trying to reclaim property, they had been forced to abandon in Croatia. The number of potential victims might be in the thousands. The houses they left were sold, mostly below price and often the owners got no money at all for their property. The illegal sales were not carried out directly but through various middle brokers and agencies, mostly from Serbia. Croatian authorities have begun an inquiry into the case in order to find out if the State Agency for Real Estate (APN), which was in charge of selling real estate owned by Serbs, might be responsible for the injustices. One of the refugee families told SSALS Croatian correspondent: "We wanted to sell our house through one agency from Novi Sad (Serbia), and we asked for an evaluation of the real estate from the APN. The first estimated price was 60 thousand Euros, then 40 thousand, than 30 thousand Euros. In all that mess, we didn't know what was going on. My mother went to the APN office in Zagreb and there they told her that the house had been already paid for in October and that the money had been picked up in December." The SSALS report was reprinted and widely quoted in local media. The SSALS report on the plight of the Serbian refugees can be found at http://www.slobodnaevropa.org/article/2005/02/28/f126d2d5-f844-41da-a8fd-d09519c7f53d.html

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


RADIO FREE AFGHANISTAN ON WOMEN'S DAY On Saturday, March 5, Radio Free Afghanistan aired a live roundtable discussion, moderated from Prague, called "New Era, New Generation"' in honor of Women's Day, celebrated in Afghanistan on March 8. The program highlighted major issues for Afghan women four years after the fall of the Taliban regime. Guests in Radio Free Afghanistan's Kabul studio were the new governor of Bamiyan province, Habiba Sorabi--the first woman in Afghanistan to be governor of a province--a Kabul University professor and a representative of the Afghan Ministry of Youth, as well as the editor-in-chief of the Afghan women's magazine "Aine Zan" (Women's Mirror). A report in English on the women's roundtable can be found on the Radio Free Afghanistan website, at http://www.azadiradio.org/en/roundtable.asp

** The Acting Director of Radio Free Afghanistan, Alexander Lukashuk, may be reached by email at <lukashuka@rferl.org>.


RFE/RL in the News

AWARD FOR RFE/RL KYRGYZ SERVICE DIRECTOR Kyrgyz service director Tyntchtykbek Tchoroev was recognized as "The Best Son of Kyrgyzstan Living Abroad" in 2004 by the monthly magazine "Zamandash" (Contemporary). "Zamandash" said Tchoroev was awarded the title because of his work at RFE/RL, providing objective information about Kyrgyzstan to that country and to Kyrgyz around the world, and at the same time, keeping the Kyrgyz people informed of international events. "Zamandash," an independent Kyrgyz language magazine, is printed in Novosibirsk, Russia and is very popular among Kyrgyz businessmen, intellectuals and emigres in Russia. It is also distributed inside Kyrgyzstan.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, Tyntchtykbek Tchoroev, may be reached by email at <tchoroevt@rferl.org>.

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Copyright � 2005. 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's central News and Current Affairs journalists and RFE/RL's Online Journalists. 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.

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