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RFE/RL Review November 4, 2005


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RFE/RL REVIEW
The Best of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Reporting
-----------------
October 22-November 4, 2005


EDUCATION MINISTER GOES "FACE TO FACE" WITH TAJIK SERVICE LISTENERS The Tajik Minister of Education, Abdujabbar Rahmanov, accepted the RFE/RL Tajik Service's invitation to be the first guest on the service's new interview series, "Face to Face With The Minister." The 30-minute debut program, broadcast on November 3 (http://www.ozodi.org/forumarticle/2005/10/5C03A633-49B5-4624-B2FC-8E28DB2B290C.html), was produced by Dushanbe Bureau chief Mirzonabi Kholikov and is part of an effort to give Tajik Service listeners more information about their leaders, as well as offer them an opportunity to ask tough questions of those leaders. The program opened with an introduction of Minister Rahmanov and short profile of his work, followed by the Minister's outline of his top priorities in his post. The program then turned to a series of stringer reports describing the main problems facing the education sector in key regions of Tajikistan and archival material from officials outlining many of the challenges facing Tajikistan's education system. Listeners -- teachers, students and ordinary people from throughout the country -- were given a chance to ask questions of the Minister or to express their views on thegood and bad aspects of the the educaiton system, to which the Minister was asked to respond. Respond he did. Minister Rahmanov acknowledged that the overall situation in Tajikistan's schools as "in deep crisis," noting that the Ministry of Education was trying to deal with such difficult issues as corruption in all layers of the education system; a shortage of textbooks; the exceptionally low salaries currently paid to teachers; a shortage of thinkers and writers in Tajikistan whose books could be published as textbooks; and the challenge of building a European-style educational system that enforced a rigid separation of education from religion and was not used for the purposes of promoting one or other religion.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Tajik Service, Massoumeh Torfeh, may be reached by email at <torfehm@rferl.org>. The Tajik Service's website is at http://www.ozodi.org/; English-language news about events in Tajikistan can be found at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarchive/country/tajikistan.html


BELARUS SERVICE ANALYZES PROPOSED EXTREMISM LEGISLATION... The Belarusian parliament accepted the first reading of legislation designed to restrict the activities of groups considered by the government of Alyaksandr Lukashenka to beextremist organizations. The bill mentions a wide range of organizations as potential sources of extremism -- political parties, non-governmental, religious organizations and individuals -- and would grant Belarusian law enforcement agencies expanded rights of surveillance; the power to suspend or disband suspected extremist groups; allow authorities to prevent publication in the media of "extremist" materials and prohibit funding or other support for extremist groups. While introducing the bill, Belarusian KGB deputy chairman Vasil Dzemyantsey justified the need for such legislation by claiming to have uncovered a "rising incidence of anti-social manifestations, including that of extremist nature, in the activity of politicized groups of the Republic of Belarus and some foreign non-profit organizations, public and religious figures and the non-state media" as well as "instances of illegal financing by foreign organizations of politicized extremist organizations, the distribution of provocative information products destabilizing the social and political situation in the country." Dzemyantsey further claimed that foreign intelligence agencies have been setting up "information centers" to prepare the ground for a change in the constitutional system in Belarus. In addition to organizing a roundtable to analyze the bill and its implications, RFE/RL's Belarus Service provided its listeners audio of Dzemyantsey's presentation, as well as reactions of two former speakers of Belarusian parliament - Stanislau Shushkievich and Miachaslau Hryb (http://www.svaboda.org/articlesfeatures/politics/2005/10/1479F0A8-A02B-44D6-BAA8-5BD51B65C19F.html). Both parliamentarians teermed Dzemyantsey's allegations "absurd" and geared toward further suppression of activity of opposition political parties and NGO's. The service also interviewed opposition party representatives including United Civic Party leader Anataol Lybadezka, who said the bill is "another step toward martial law in Belarus" (http://www.svaboda.org/articlesfeatures/politics/2005/10/D60C50EF-7003-4E54-A99A-065CC4FB0031.html) and former Belarusian KGB colonel Valery Kostka, who said the bill had everything to do with coming elections next year and that its broad language would equip the government with additional levers to stifle the opposition (http://www.svaboda.org/articlesfeatures/politics/2005/10/ECFDCCBE-109F-47D7-A236-27918005DBC3.html), as well as a spokesman for the Belarusian Association of Journalists. The service also secured comment on Dzemyantsey's allegations from the Polish Foreign Ministry and the U.S. Embassy in Minsk, which denied the charges of increased intelligence activity in Belarus (http://www.svaboda.org/articlesfeatures/politics/2005/10/33C339B9-D09F-4F06-B9D7-A520EB582487.html).

** The Acting Director of RFE/RL's Belarus Service, Bohdan Andrusyshyn, may be reached by email at <andrusyshynb@rferl.org>. The Belarus Service's website is at http://www.svaboda.org/; English-language news about events in Belarus can be found at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarchive/country/belarus.html


...BELARUSIAN INVOLVEMENT IN OIL-FOR-FOOD SCANDAL The October 27 final report of the UN's Independent Inquiry Committee into the Iraq "oil-for-food" scandal (http://www.iic-offp.org/story27oct05.htm) implicated several Belarusian companies and political parties. RFE/RL's Belarus Service sought commenbt on the report's allegations from the Belarusian Foreign Ministry, BelMetalenergo and the other companies implicated. Most of those contacted refused to comment; others denied the allegations (http://www.svaboda.org/articlesfeatures/politics/2005/10/32277148-8662-497D-A44A-134DBF78DC0F.html, http://www.svaboda.org/articlesfeatures/politics/2005/10/EB2A664B-D6F1-41BC-BE6B-05F284D0BC47.html). Also had interview with Belarusian businessman who used to do business in Iraq, who said it was entirely possible that some companies sent kickbacks in violations of oil-for-food rules. Belarusian economist and United Civic Party deputy chairman Jaraslau Ramanchyk told Belarus Service correspondent Valer Kalinouski that an independent commission (consisting of president's adm, parliament and NGOs) should be formed to investigate the allegations brought by the committee, which was chaired by former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker (http://www.svaboda.org/articlesfeatures/economics/2005/10/4B375BAC-FBFF-43B8-97C1-B750D419BE0.html).

** The Acting Director of RFE/RL's Belarus Service, Bohdan Andrusyshyn, may be reached by email at <andrusyshynb@rferl.org>. The Belarus Service's website is at http://www.svaboda.org/; English-language news about events in Belarus can be found at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarchive/country/belarus.html


KYRGYZ SERVICE REPORTS ON CONSTITUTION REFORM DEBATE... Public debate over the proposed draft of a new Kyrgyz Constitution will begin on November 10, and continue until December 25 when a Constitutional Council will meet to bring the process to a conclusion. RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service broadcast programs looking at the spectrum of opinion in Kyrgyzstan concerning the ongoing effort to reform the constitution. Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev has suggested that the current presidential/parliamentary system of authority is suitable for Kyrgyzstan, but proposed that the position of prime minister be abolished in the future and that the president be considered the head of the government. Bakiev also suggested that that some parliament seats should in the future be elected on the basis of party lists -- a system discarded during deposed President Askar Akayev's rule following the February 2003 referendum on the Constitution. The Kyrgyz Service aired a series of reports about the constitutional reform politicians, NGO leaders and others, and provided detailed coverage of the work of the Constitutional Council. Former MP Toktokan Boronbaeva told the service that Kyrgyzstan isn't ready for a parliamentary system, because of the poor level of political development found among the parties and individual deputies. Kyrgyz scientist Kusein Isaev, on the other hand, disagreed, arguing during an interview that Kyrgyzstan should adopt the parliamentary system in the next 2-3 years, or experience a repeat of the experiences of the last 14 years. Other leading opinionmakers to share their views on constitutional reform with the Kyrgyz Service included Security Council Secretary Miroslav Niyazov (October 26); parliamentarian Muratbek Mukashev, NGO heads Aziza Abdrasulova, Jyldyz Joldosheva (October 26); politician Begish Aamatov (October 27); "My Country" Party Coordinator Galina Kulikova, Constitutional Council Member Omurbek Abdrachmanov, MP Kubatbek Baibilov, Kyrgyzstan Communst Party chair Klara Ajibekova, Ar Namys (Dignity) Party Leader Emil Aliev (November 2) and others shared their thoughts on the Constitutional reforms with the listeners. To read more coverage of the Kyrgyz constitutional debate, please visit the Kyrgyz Service's website at http://www.azattyk.org/rubrics/politics/ky/2005/11/8624DE54-F2CE-410E-BE49-935E4D880DFF.asp and http://www.azattyk.org/rubrics/politics/ky/2005/10/3EB0D7AC-CF9E-468D-AF9D-20313080096B.asp

** The Director of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, Tyntchtykbek Tchoroev, may be reached by email at <tchoroevt@rferl.org>. The Kyrgyz Service's website is at http://www. azattyk.org/; English-language news about events in Kyrgyzstan can be found at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarchive/country/kyrgyzstan.html


...CONTINUING KYRGYZ PRISON CRISIS The Kyrgyz Service continued its ongoing coverage of the riots that have gripped Kyrgyzstan's prison system since mid-October and resulted in the deaths on October 20 of parliamentarian Tynychbek Akmatbayev and two others. On November 1, clashes between security officers and inmates at that same prison, Moldovakasymovwere sparked by the attempted removal of around 20 prisoners, including criminal gang leader Aziz Batukayev. In a series of riots at five prisons, located near Bishkek, Osh and Jalalabad, four people were reportedly killed and several others injured. The service aired interviews and commentaries on the situation with officials, inmates and their relatives and human rights activists, including Justice Minister Marat Kaiypov (October 27, November 1, 3); Kyrgyzstan's ombudsman, Deputy Sadyk Sherniyaz (October 31); Kyrgyz penal department press secretary Sergei Sidorov; Prison #3 near Bishkek operative group head Imankul Bektaev; Prison #25 in Osh commandant Samidin Satarov (November 1); Edil Baisalov, the head of the NGO coalition "For Democracy and Civil Society" (October 30) and others. The service also interviewed health officials about conditions in Kyrgyz prisons and on the treatment of inmates infected with HIV. Additional Kyrgyz Service coverage of the prison riots can be found at http://www.azattyk.org/rubrics/security/ky/2005/11/274E8421-E12A-4FEB-ACF9-DDC1DB107FE4.asp, http://www.azattyk.org/rubrics/security/ky/2005/11/9950C14A-6FB9-43D9-99D2-5E725356770E.asp, http://www.azattyk.org/rubrics/society/ky/2005/11/AFD4CD66-A4D4-4F33-892C-7D3CE06172D9.asp, http://www.azattyk.org/rubrics/society/ky/2005/11/B5241EB2-EBDC-4AA8-BDD1-8D35DA2EB5DD.asp, http://www.azattyk.org/rubrics/society/ky/2005/11/E2F489FE-B9CD-4811-930D-A52C625A2B51.asp, http://www.azattyk.org/rubrics/society/ky/2005/10/5B50F5D9-2CF8-4A8D-8CC1-8AB4D7AB3CA4.asp, http://www.azattyk.org/rubrics/society/ky/2005/10/EBA229D4-6345-4964-88FB-E35B97DFC1C3.asp

** The Director of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, Tyntchtykbek Tchoroev, may be reached by email at <tchoroevt@rferl.org>. The Kyrgyz Service's website is at http://www. azattyk.org/; English-language news about events in Kyrgyzstan can be found at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarchive/country/kyrgyzstan.html


TURKMEN SERVICE INFORMS LISTENERS ABOUT LEGISLATIVE SESSION... RFE/RL's Turkmen Service -- the only independent broadcast media providing Turkmen-language coverage to listeners in this isolated Central Asian state -- provided coverage of the October 26 session of the Halk Maslahaty, or Peoples Council, Turkmenistan's 2,500 deputy- strong supreme legislative body, which meets at least once a year. The service's coverage focused on the fate of presidential elections, which the Council decided, almost unanimously, would not be considered before 2009 -- despite hints by the Turkmen leader, Saparmurat Niyazov (also known as "Turkmenbashi", or Father of the Turkmen) that he might not stay on indefinitely. The only "no" vote on the proposal to defer any discussion of elections until 2009 came from Niyazov himself. Some observers told the Turkmen Service that including the possibility of elections on the Council's agenda was a sop thrown to Western critics of Turkmenbashi's authoritarian dominance over both the parliament and the People's Council. According to Alexei Mukhin, director of the Political Information Center in Moscow, "[Turkmenbashi] tried to show himself as a real democrat". Russian political analyst Artem Ulunyan told the service that Niyazov is not yet ready to give up his position as "president for life," but does understand that some day he will have to give his power to somebody else. According to Ulunyan, there are two possible successors -- one is his son Murat, the other is the head of his personal security, Akmurad Redjepov. "The second one is much more realistic," Ulunyan said. The service's "Turkmen Diary" program also reviewed another issue discussed at the Peoples Council -- the foreign policy of Turkmenistan. Niyazov told the Council that Turkmenistan faces no foreign policy challenges -- ignoring recent resolutions and statements issued by the UN General Assembly, OSCE and U.S. State Department criticising human rights violations in Turkmenistan. According to Artem Ulunyan, "Niyazov wants to show himself as a successful policymaker. He wants his people to believe in him; but outsiders know pretty well that Turkmenistan has problems with neighboring countries and the international community." Political analyst Andrei Piontkowsky noted, during an interview with the Turkmen Service, that Turkmenistan has also been isolating itself from the post-Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) grouping, as demonstrated by its recent decision to downgrade its CIS membership to associate status.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Turkmen Service, Alexander Narodetsky, may be reached by email at <narodetskya@rferl.org>. English-language news about events in Turkmenistan can be found at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarchive/country/turkmenistan.html


...INDEPENDENCE DAY CELEBRATIONS, ACHIEVEMENTS RFE/RL's Turkmen Service also provided its listeners with analysis linked to the celebration, on October 27-28, of the 14th anniversary of Turkmenistan's Independence. Service correspondents reported from Ashgabat about the celebration, noting that participants in the anniversary events looked happy and seemed to enjoy the Independence Day parade organized at the presidential palace, concerts and other holiday events. The service looked back on the past 14 years of independence and asked, what positive and negative developments had taken place? According to the newspaper "Neitralny Turkmenistan," the country does not sugffer from any ethnic conflicts; the social life of Turkmen residents has improved; the people enjoy natural gas, electricity, and salt free of charge; and the average salary in Turkmenistan increased to $150. Some observers, however, told the Turkmen service that the country has suffered several negative developments as well. The head of the Central Asia department at the CIS Institute in Moscow, Andrei Grozin, said that Turkmenistan's iron curtain still exists, and that gas production has decreased. According to Farhat Ilyasov, a sociologist from Turkmenistan now based in Moscow, people'slives have been dramatically affected by a lack of support in the state budget, and most people suffer from depression. Batyr Muhamedov, a lawyer from Turkmenistan also now in Moscow, told the service that the crisis resulting from the country's lack of human resources has become chronic problem for the Turkmen government. The service also broadcast a "man-on-the-street" interview, asking people in the streets of Prague what they know about Turkmenistan. While many of those asked knew that it was one of the former republics of the Soviet Union and now was ruled by a dictator, the answer the Turkmen Service correspondent heard most was "Nothing".

** The Director of RFE/RL's Turkmen Service, Alexander Narodetsky, may be reached by email at <narodetskya@rferl.org>. English-language news about events in Turkmenistan can be found at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarchive/country/turkmenistan.html

RFE/RL In The News

ROMANIA/MOLDOVA SERVICE BROADCASTERS WIN UN MEDIA PRIZES Three Chisinau-based RFE/RL Romania/Moldova Service correspondents were awarded 2005 UN Media Prizes, according to an October 26 release issued by the co-sponsors of the prizes, the UN Mission in Moldova and the Chisinau-based Center for Independent Journalism (http://www.un.md/news_room/pic_2005/Premiile%20ONU%202005_26oct.doc). RFE/RL Chisinau Bureau chief Sergiu Praporscic was awarded First Prize in the Radio Journalism category, for his work on the weekly program "Know Your Rights", while correspondent Elena Cioina was awarded Third Prize for her social issues reporting and correspondent Valeria Vitu's work on environmental problems in Chisinau was given Honorable Mention. The work of the RFE/RL journalists was recognized from a pool of 40 journalists from throughout Moldova (including Transnistria) who submitted more than 190 articles broadcast between November 2004- September 2005 for judging.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Romania/Moldova Service, Oana Serafim, may be reached by email at <serafimo@rferl.org>. The Romania/Moldova Service's website is at http://www.europalibera.org/; English-language news about events in Moldova can be found at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarchive/country/moldova.html


AZERBAIJANI SERVICE CORRESPONDENT WINS ENVIRONMENTAL JOURNALISM AWARD Baku-based RFE/RL Azerbaijani Service correspondent Rovshan Qanbarov was awarded one of three "Best Environment Journalism Investigation" prizes by the Tbilisi-based "Caucasus Environment Magazine" (http://www.cenn.org/new_competition/env_investigation.htm, http://www.azadliq.org/corresreports/domestic/az/2005/10/422498B4-EBF1-4032-8CE4-05AAAAF9FAA0.asp). Qanbarov was recognized for his report "The Year of Sheep," on the impact of uncontrolled growth in sheep farming on the environment in Azerbaijan (http://www.cenn.org/new_competition/rovshan_article.pdf). According to "Caucasus Environment Magazine" editor-in-chief Catherine Nakashidze, the award jury evaluated entries from 30 journalists working in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. Prizes were awarded to one journalist working in each of the three countries.

** The Acting Director of RFE/RL's Georgian Service, David Kakabadze, may be reached by email at <kakabadzed@rferl.org>. The Georgian Service's website is at http://www.tavisupleba.org/; English-language news about events in Georgia can be found at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarchive/country/georgia.html


SOUTH SLAVIC MIDNIGHT PROGRAM GAINS REGION-WIDE POPULARITY Media and institutions from several countries have shown unsolicited interest in the content of the RFE/RL South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service's (SSALS) magazine-style music/sports/politics program "Monday Midnight," produced in Prague by SSALS broadcaster Srdjan Kusovac and producer Brano Likic and in Belgrade by RFE/RL correspondent Nebojsa Grabez and contributor Petar Janjatovic -- one of the leading rock critics in the former Yugoslavia. On November 2, national Radio Television Montenegro began re- broadcasting parts of the program, after a listener (until then unknown to the RFE's staff) contacted SSALS by e-mail to request audio from some of the previous broadcasts, which he later offered to the managers of the Montenegrin radio. At about the same time in late October, the leading Serbian daily newspaper "Politika" contacted the editors of "Monday Midnight" with an offer to promote the program content and advertise it free of charge. The Vladimir Vysotsky Museum in Koszalin, Poland also requested, in late October, a copy of one of Kusovac's musical and political topics of the week from July, that had been dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the death of Russian poet, singer and dissident Vladimir Vysotsky (http://www.slobodnaevropa.org/article/2005/07/23/4d094149-7516-4de5-a2e9-950766067e90.html). Beginning in May 2004, the South Slavic service started broadcasting special musical items as a part of its Saturday Regional Program. At the same time, the Midnight program was reshaped, with political content shortened and content refocused on music, sport, culture and other topics more appealing to young people.

** The Director of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service (SSALS), Omer Karabeg, may be reached by email at <karabego@rferl.org>. The SSALS website in Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian is located at http://www.slobodnaevropa.org; English-language news about events in Serbia and Montenegro can be found at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarchive/country/serbiaandmontenegro.html


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