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RFE/RL Review July 29, 2005

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The Best of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Reporting
July 16-29, 2005

RADIO FREE IRAQ AIRS INTERVIEW WITH SUNNI CONSTITUTION DRAFTER ONE DAY BEFORE HE IS MURDERED... Radio Free Iraq aired on July 18 Baghdad correspondent Salma Mikha'il's exclusive interview with leading Sunni Arab member of the constitution- drafting committee Mijbal al-Sheikh Issa, who was also secretary general of the Movement for Decision-Making [Harakat al-Qarar] and a member of the Iraqi National Dialogue Council [Majlis al-Hiwar al- Watani al-Iraqi] -- one day before Issa was gunned down with two companions as they left a Baghdad restaurant.
In what turned out to be his last broadcast, Issa advocated multiple voting districts. He said that "falsifications may affect one single list [of voters] more than it would affect a system of multiple voting districts, where more control can be imposed on the problem. We live in this country where many cases of falsifications [occur] and also changes happen in reality and in law. That is why I think the system of multiple voting districts represents all Iraqis. The system of one district is not appropriate for Iraqis. It has no equivalent anywhere across the Middle East."
Regarding governorates, Issa told Radio Free Iraq: "I wish the system of multiple voting districts to be widely introduced so that every governorate, not only Baghdad, becomes two constituencies. The reason is that some kind of demographic or social change has happened between various population groups. For instance, in Kirkuk, there are our Sunni Arabs, Turkomans, Kurds, and Christians. It is possible that all of them enter a different district, or it is possible that we give a certain amount of freedom to the citizen so that he or she knows whom to choose in the elections. It is true we are in the framework of a newly established system but the open system [of a single district] would lead to more problems for which we have no mechanisms [to solve]. In any case, I believe that the system of one district has failed and that religious and racist attitudes become apparent in the system of one district while they would not appear in the system of multiple districts."

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

...REPORTS ON IRAQ PRIME MINISTER MEETING WITH FAMILIES OF CHILDREN KILLED IN SUICIDE ATTACK... Radio Free Iraq aired a report July 22 on Prime Minister Ibrahim al- Ja'fari's meeting that day with families of children killed in a suicide attack in Baghdad on July 13 (audio at RFI correspondent Ahmad al-Zubaydi was present at the meeting and quoted Al-Ja'fari as saying that "If by killing our children they (insurgents) want to make us miserable, weak, broken and run away from our responsibilities, we must show them, before God and before our people, that these acts will only strengthen our faith. We must give the victims what is their due and we must prevent further bloodshed -- the killing of people and children."
Asked about the trial of Saddam Hussein, Al-Jaafari said, "We are in favor of due process. The judiciary is independent of the executive and legislative. But all branches, the executive, legislative and judiciary, should understand that they derive their legitimacy from the Iraqi people. The law should be enforced and we will impress on the judiciary to speed up the investigation and reach a just verdict."

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

...EXAMINES IMPACT OF DRAFT CONSTITUTION ON WOMEN... Women's groups in Iraq have protested against some passages of the current draft constitution that they find "degrading for women." RFI Baghdad correspondent Salma Mikha'il asked Jawad al-Maliki, a member of the Constitution-drafting Committee for his comments on the issue.
In an exclusive interview broadcast July 25 (audio at, Al-Maliki said: "We (the drafting committee) have laid down a formulation that woman has equal rights and duties as a man in official and political affairs. Yes, there may be some affairs related rather to the personal status [i.e. common term for the regulations of religious identity, marriage, divorce, and inheritance in Muslim countries] where a man has a different position than a woman. There is, however, equality in political affairs." Al-Maliki also defended the proposed 8-year limit for quotas designed to facilitate the participation of women in national politics, saying "we think that eight years is sufficient for women to get ready for equal competition with men."
Iraqi National Assembly member Ms. Asma' al-Musawi criticized the 8-year limit in an interview for the program, stating that "Proportional participation of women must be anchored as a law, or as a paragraph in the Iraqi law on elections. However, if we suppose there is a wrong social concept in the Iraqi society, it means there must be a deadline set [for the quota]. I really do support the deadline. But - - should it be set after two, three, four, or five election terms [lasting four years each]? This has been stirring discussions among various female movements. We have to admit, anyway, that a deadline must be set, so that the Iraqi society realizes after [the quota is raised] that Iraqi women have their place not only in kitchen but also in medicine, industry, agriculture, civil engineering, and other areas of science [and technology], and that they are at the same time able to advance to politics. And, they will manage it themselves. Yes, there must be there a special paragraph laid down that would take women's special conditions into account."

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

...LOOKS AT WOMEN'S RIGHTS UNDER ISLAMIC LAW RFI's weekly 'Her Issues' program was devoted July 25 to a discussion of women's rights under Islamic law (audio at
RFI Baghdad correspondent Asma' al-Sarraj spoke to lawyer and journalist Sattar al-Dylaymi, who said "Islamic law does not speak about rights. Islamic law is a system of orders and prohibitions. For this reason, I cannot speak about rights. All the new constitution says is that all freedoms and rights are performed in accordance with the law. That means it will be granted as privilege to the next National Assembly to define the meaning of a freedom, what is accepted and what is not allowed. Consequently, these freedoms will be shackled. We will find ourselves asking: What is allowed? It will not be the other way round [i.e. to ask: What is not allowed?], can you spot that? Islamic law in these affairs is, strictly speaking, an ideological system sufficient just for oppressing a human, wiping off and in the end erasing his or her humaneness." He added that "the United States has come with the slogan of liberating Iraq and the Americans called their war Operation Iraqi Freedom, but we are finding out now that it became the freedom for clergymen in dictating to people and oppressing them."
Al-Dulaymi also stated that the draft constitution is inconsistent, as it asserts the equality of men and women while also being established within the framework of Islamic law, or Shari 'a: "Islam does not respect the rights of woman; Islam perceives woman as a secondary being. There is an enactment in the new constitution, or in the draft to be presented in the few coming days, saying that the constitution provides for the rights of woman and her equality to man in economic, social, and political affairs on condition that it is not contradictory to Islamic law." Al-Dulaymi warned that "the monopolization of the correct understanding of religious text by clerics is a highly dangerous issue. Do not forget that Islamic law is fourteen centuries old. The commandments it includes represent a society, and the life of a society, in its time.

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

RFE/RL BROADCASTS EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH UN SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ABOUT PLIGHT OF AFGHAN WOMEN RFE/RL Central News correspondent Golnaz Esfandiari gained an exclusive interview with UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women Yakin Erturk on July 26, about her recent trip to Afghanistan ( Erturk traveled to Kabul, Herat and Kandahar and met with judges, prosecutors, aid workers and women in prisons and shelters to assess their situation. The interview was broadcast by Radio Free Afghanistan and other RFE/RL language services and re-printed on other websites, including the Geneva based Relief Web (
Erturk told RFE/RL that violence against women remains a daunting problem in Afghanistan, with forced marriages serving as the primary source of the violence. "Little girls as young as 6 years old can be married off in return for bride money," she said. Esfandiari also contacted the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), which estimates that between 60 percent and 80 percent of marriages in the country are forced marriages that the woman has no right to refuse.
Erturk, a sociology professor at Middle East Technical University in Ankara who was appointed to the UN human rights post in August 2003, said Afghanistan was unique among the countries she had visited in the context of her duties because it lacked any kind of social and justice system that could intervene and improve the treatment of women. For the majority of Afghan girls and women, there is no escape from sexual abuse and beatings. Officials often subject female victims to further humiliation before returning them to the abusive environments from which they fled. But, Erturk said, Afghanistan's new constitution offers some hope in providing for equal rights between men and women. It is a "promising sign," she said.

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

KYRGYZ SERVICE COVERS RUMSFELD VISIT RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, known locally as Radio Azattyk, gave in-depth coverage of US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's July 25-26 visit to Bishkek with roundtable discussions, analyses and a string of exclusive interviews.
On the eve of his July 25 arrival, the service broadcast a roundtable discussion of the purpose of Rumsfeld's visit that gave a hint of the eventual outcome. Participants were Arslan Anarbayev of the Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry, Omurbek Abdyrakmanov, member of the Constitutional Council, and Kyrgyz policy expert Karybek Baibosunov. Anarbayev said that military and technical cooperation with the United States tops the bilateral agenda. Abdyrakmanov spoke in support of the Ganci airbase at Bishkek's Manas airfield and other American bases in Central Asia and said that the American base in Kyrgyzstan serves Kyrgyz security interests.
Acting Kyrgyz Defense Minister Ismail Isakov gave an exclusive interview to Radio Azattyk's Bishkek correspondent Aidanbek Tashkenbaev, outlining a broad agenda. According to Tashkenbaev, "Not only this issue (the Ganci air base), but also other issues will be discussed including economic issues, security issues, and the process of democratic developments in Kyrgyzstan. A comprehensive and wide range of issues will be on the agenda."
Kyrgyz Parliament deputy Kubatbek Baibolov speaking July 25 to Radio Azattyk's Cholpon Orozobekova in Bishkek observed that, "Our new government, of course, is in a very delicate situation now. First of all, it has to bear in mind the interests of Shanghai Cooperation Organization member states. On the other hand, the Kyrgyz government has to maintain good relations with the United States which is helping our democracy, our country from the beginning... In our situation it is better to maintain the Ganci air base in our region for some time." Kyrgyz parliament speaker Omurbek Tekebayev said live on Radio Azattyk's morning show July 26 about the Ganci air base said that "for now the presence of the U.S. base in Kyrgyzstan is necessary."
In a sampling of other opinions, correspondents for Radio Azattyk spoke with former MP and member of Kyrgyzstan Communist party Orozbek Duisheev, who said that if the situation in Afghanistan improves, American troops should leave Kyrgyzstan. "We are closer to the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization member-states), Russia, China and other neighbor countries," Duisheev said. Kengeshbek Duishebayev, Justice Party leader and former acting interior minister and supporter of ousted president Akayev, favored Russian interests in Kyrgyzstan. He told Radio Azattyk that the Ganci airbase is needed for Kyrgyzstan and that it is important for Kyrgyzstan to balance the American interests at Ganci with the Russian airbase at Kant -- "We should carry out a balanced policy with all the states," Duishebayev told Radio Azattyk correspondent Burulkan Sarygulova.
English-language reports on the Rumsfeld visit can be found on the RFE/RL website, at and

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

KYRGYZ SERVICE BREAKS NEWS OF REFUGEE DEPORTATION RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service continued its near-daily coverage of the plight of Uzbek refugees who fled to Kyrgyzstan after the mid-May slaughter at Andijon with reports on the July 29 UN-organized transfer of Uzbek refugees to Romania. The service has sent its correspondents to report from the refugee camps and interview government officials and human rights activists Bishkek.
Kyrgyz Service correspondent Kanat Subakojoev kept watch at Manas airport and informed listeners that 440 Uzbek refugees were being moved to Romania, including 14 of the 29 people held in pretrial detention in the southern city of Osh. A UN representative told him that a Boeing 747 was waiting for the refugees and that 11 detainees from Osh had been granted refugee status. Earlier, on July 28, Kyrgyz foreign minister Rosa Otunbayeva told the Kyrgyz Service that the fate of the remaining Uzbeks in Osh was under discussion.
Kyrgyz human rights activists were urging Kyrgyz authorities to transfer all the Uzbek refugees to a third country, without giving Uzbek security forces any chance to return the Osh detainees to Uzbekistan as requested by the Karimov government. A Kyrgyz Service correspondent reported that protesters picketed the Kyrgyz prosecutor general's office on July 28 and that a group of human rights activists met with prosecutor general Azimbek Beknazarov, persuading him to release at least 14 of the 29 refugees to travel to Romania.
In Romania, RFE/RL correspondents picked up the story and continue to follow the fate of the Uzbek refugees.
An English-language report on the refugee tranbsfer can be found on the RFE/RL website, at

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

AZERBAIJANI SERVICE INTERVIEWS REP. CHRISTOPHER SMITH RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service July 26 broadcast an exclusive interview with U.S. Representative Chris Smith (R-New Jersey), Vice-Chairman of the House Committee on International Relations and Co-Chairman of the US Helsinki Commission. Smith spoke about the parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan scheduled for this November and the resolution he co- sponsored on Azerbaijan. Passed by the U.S. House of Representatives July 20 by a vote of 416:1, the nine-point resolution calls on the Azerbaijani government to hold free and fair elections, drawing attention to the many irregularities in the presidential election last October.
During the telephone interview, Smith told RFE/RL broadcaster Kenan Aliyev that "there is a deep and abiding concern that, especially with the (Azerbaijani) election law not having been conforming with the OSCE standards, that it's very likely that we will not get a free and fair election (in Azerbaijan). And that is very disturbing to many of us. We believe that the people of Azerbaijan deserve the best government that they elect, not one that has been elected by way of fraud." The interview (audio and text) was posted to the Azerbaijani Service's website, at

** The Director of RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service, Abbas Djavadi, may be reached by email at <>.

TURKMEN SERVICE EXAMINES FATE OF NIYAZOV'S NEWEST PRISONER A major story for RFE/RL's Turkmen Service was the sudden fall from grace of Rejep Saparov, head of the Presidential Administration of Turkmenistan and a formerly-close political associate of President Saparmurat Niyazov. Saparov was arrested recently and put on trial in July to face corruption and bribery charges of. Turkmenistan's Supreme Court found him guilty and sentenced him to 20 years in prison.
In a July 28 broadcast about the case, the Turkmen Service interviewed a friend of Saparov's and members of the Turkmen opposition to obtain their views on Saparov's imprisonment. NurMuhammad Khanamov, representing the Republican Party of Turkmenistan from exile in Vienna, said Saparov likely was involved in corruption, but that the real reason for his imprisonment was political. Khanamov, interviewed by Turkmen Service broadcaster Mohammad Tahir, said Niyazov feared that Saparov was becoming a potential rival and got rid of him by putting him in prison. Tahir also interviewed Haji Gorban, a former friend of Saparov's who is currently living in Kabul where he works as an advisor to the Afghan Minister for Ethnic and Border Issues. Gorban was carefully noncommittal in the interview, saying only that he has not had recent contact with Saparov and that, when he knew him, "He was a nice man. In my understanding, he was an intelligent man."
Because of the repressive nature of Turkmen society under Niyazov's rule, RFE/RL's Turkmen Service must operate with no local bureau or local network of correspondents. It broadcasts six hours of programming a day to Turkmenistan via shortwave, mediumwave and satellite frequencies.

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

SOUTH SLAVIC SERVICE REVIEWS RISING EXTREMISM IN SERBIA, CROATIA RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service (SSALS) aired a comprehensive program on July 24 on the rise of neo-Nazi extremism in Serbia and Croatia.
SSALS correspondents in several Serbian cities reported on buildings they had observed had been defaced with fascist symbols, and on a boisterous celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Serbian branch of the international Nazi association "Blood and Honor" that was held with no interference by authorities.
A similar trend is apparent in Croatia, where members of the "Domobran" (Croatian Home Guard, reborn from a movement that collaborated with the Germans during WWII) have appeared at public events in black uniforms, wearing the symbol "U" on their caps to mimic the World War II-era pro-Nazi Ustasha movement. "Domobran" head Zeljko Stipic denied that the organization preaches ethnic hatred during an interview with RFE/RL: "We are not Nazis, but only nationalists who fight for the interests and protection of our own nation." Croatian writer Predrag Matvejevic, quoting Bertold Brecht, said in an interview with RFE/RL that "The womb which gave birth to fascism, to the Croatian, pro-Nazi, Ustasha regime, is still fertile."
Mladen Obradovic, the head of the Serbian ultra-nationalist youth organization "Obraz" (Visage) told RFE/RL that "the patriotism of Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic cannot be called into question." Mladic and Karadzic have both been indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal at The Hague as war criminals. Obradovic said in the interview that Serbia can survive as a nation only if the Orthodox faith is its core and national awareness runs high. Serbian filmmaker Goran Markovic, told RFE/RL that these ideas stem from decades of growing fascism in Serbia: "Whilst Nazism in the recent past was simmering under the surface, now it comes into the open."

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

SERBIAN HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST BEATEN AFTER RFE/RL INTERVIEW A Serbian lawyer and human rights activist was severely beaten after he gave an interview to RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service (SSALS), pointing out that many war crimes in Serbia have not been publicly acknowledged, investigated or prosecuted.
In the original interview broadcast in June, Tatomir Lekovic, a lawyer and associate of the Humanitarian Law Centre (FHP) said crimes against Albanian civilians in Kosovo by Serb paramilitary units are still being swept under the carpet. He said people were murdered and buried in mass graves and some of the corpses were later excavated and moved to other locations to conceal evidence of the atrocities. "Unfortunately, the Serbian public has still mostly failed to admit the crimes Serbs committed against members of other nations," Lekovic told RFE/RL.
After the broadcast, he received several phone threats and was harassed when he appeared in public. On July 21, he was attacked in downtown Kragujevac, his home town, and hospitalized with broken ribs and a head injury. Interviewed later by local media, Lekovic said "the threats intensified after the interview I gave to Radio Free Europe in June about arresting war criminals and members of the [Serbian] Scorpions paramilitary unit. I received threats by phone, as well as via the Internet and as text messages" (

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

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT DISCUSSES REFORM WITH RFE/RL Moldovan president Vladimir Voronin gave a wide-ranging interview to RFE/RL's Romania-Moldova Service about Moldova's foreign policy and plans for domestic political and economic reform. RFE/RL's bureau chief in Chisinau Vasile Botnaru interviewed Voronin for more than one hour in the president's office on July 26. Voronin spoke about the ruling Communist Party, saying "it will remain a left-wing party" and that Moldovan Communist doctrine will be based on the practices of other left-wing parties, including the Communist Party of China. He also expressed thoughts on the roots of the Transdniester problem and his preferred solution -- enlisting the European Union and the U.S. to help persuade Russia to remove its troops from the Transdniester. A transcript of the interview is posted on RFE/RL's website in English at and; the interview audio in Romanian, as broadcast in four parts from Jul 26-29, can be found at
The interview was widely quoted in the Romanian and Moldovan press all week, as well as by Russian and Ukrainian media outlets and news agencies. The Romanian dailies ZIUA and AVEREA reprinted the full transcript of the interview, while other newspapers quoted excerpts. ** The Director of RFE/RL's Romania/Moldova Service, Oana Serafim, may be reached by email at <>.

BELARUSIAN SERVICE INTERVIEWS EXPELLED AMERICAN RFE/RL's Belarusian Service followed the expulsion from Belarus of Terry Boesch, a professor from the United States who was teaching international law and business at Belarusian State University and had lived in Minsk with his family since 2003. Belarusian government officials told Boesch, without explanation and with only five days notice, that he had to leave the country; on July 18, Boesch was deported with his family to Lithuania. RFE/RL contacted university officials, police and the interior ministry but none gave reasons for the expulsion.
A Belarusian Service correspondent covered Boesch's departure at the train station and gained an exclusive interview with him in Vilnius July 19 ( Boesch said Belarusian State University has been undergoing a process of "continued politicization" and isolation from international contacts following the appointment of former education minister Vasil Strazhau as rector in November 2003: Boesch said the new rector eliminated at least three longstanding international programs and abolished the position of pro-rector for international relations. "The Belarusian State University, to my knowledge, is the only university now in Europe without an international relations vice-president or vice-rector," Boesch said.
While in Belarus, Boesch concentrated on humanitarian and academic work. Aside from teaching activities, the 40-year old professor helped arrange volunteer academic activities, exchanges for Belarus students, visits of guest lecturers and English-language programs. He attributed his expulsion from the country to President Lukashenka's efforts to reduce international presence ahead of next year's presidential elections.
An English-language report on the Boesch expulsion can be found on the RFE/RL website, at

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

RFE/RL in the News

RFE/RL GAINS NEW MEDIA PARTNER IN AZERBAIJAN RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service inaugurated a new partnership July 25 with Azerbaijan's Space Radio, an independent broadcaster heard nationwide that ranks as one of the three most-popular radio stations in the country. Baku-based Space Radio is broadcasting a one-hour daily program produced by the Azerbaijani Service on 104 FM, from 8 until 9 PM local time. A typical one-hour program consists of a half-hour of news and a half-hour of analyses and regular features. On the weekends, the mix changes to provide 15 minutes of news and 45 minutes of features.
The first program on July 25 was broadcast live from Prague and included news reports from Baku and Prague, interviews and segments on business, sports, and youth. Four features followed, dealing with the reasons behind a dispute between the Interior Ministry and police in Baku; the ongoing investigation of a journalist's murder, discussion of a report on torture in Iranian prisons, and a roundtable with an American analyst (participating from Washington, D.C.) and an analyst in Baku, talking about the opposition in Azerbaijan and its support from abroad.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service, Abbas Djavadi, may be reached by email at <>.

AWARD FOR RFE/RL'S AZERBAIJANI SERVICE Azerbaijan's Education Ministry has bestowed an award on RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service for its reporting on educational themes. The "Decree of Honor" award was given to the service July 16 by Education Minister Misir Mardanov, in recognition of a series of reports aired since March about college entrance testing and requirements, changes in the educational system, reforms, reports from schools in the country, and discussions by students, teachers, parents, and authorities. The citation said the award is given to RFE/RL for "objectively reflecting work done in the area of education."

** The Director of RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service, Abbas Djavadi, may be reached by email at <>.

REP. CHRIS SMITH (R-NEW JERSEY) ON RFE/RL: Congressman Smith made the following statement during his July 26 interview with RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service (see article above):

"I have been in Congress now for 25 years. I have been on the International Relations Committee and the chairman of the Human Rights Committee for eight years now and vice-chairman of the full committee. RFE and Radio Liberty play, I should say, an extraordinarily important service to people who are espousing the human rights, free and fair elections throughout the European region. It gives people hope, it gives them access to information they would otherwise be denied. And 'Without hope people perish,' it says in the Bible. And I think, by having information, those who are suffering in jails in places like Belarus and elsewhere are given that sense that there are rungs in the ladder and some day they will climb out of their dictatorships. And for places like Azerbaijan and elsewhere it does give people an unvarnished look at what is really going on and how they are viewed in the rest of the world and I think that is important that they get that kind of feedback. Our early founders have made clear that the importance of free press which RFE/RL helps provide in areas where it is less than free or not free is as important as judiciary, the legislative branch, and the executive branch. It is extremely important to have a free press and RFE/RL plays that role. And I backed that up, frankly, as a member of Congress, continuing to push for additional funding for this important broadcast service. I remember when I was growing up the mantra was the Iron Curtain is not sound-proof. The information which is critical to reform and human rights promotion is provided by RFE/RL."

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Copyright (c) 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 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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