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RFE/RL Review December 16, 2005


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

RFE/RL REVIEW
The Best of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Reporting
-----------------
November 19-December 16, 2005


RADIO FREE IRAQ COVERS HISTORIC PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION... Radio Free Iraq assigned correspondents to a dozen major cities in Iraq, including two Sunni strongholds, to report on the voting in the December 15 parliamentary election. In Baghdad, seven RFI correspondents reported live from the polling stations. Travel was restricted throughout the country and within cities; as a result, RFI correspondents were not able to move around freely. They were still able to provide comprehensive coverage of the historic vote, sending interviews and reports by phone to the Prague broadcast center. The service began broadcasting at 8AM Prague time with prepared material, which was followed by special live election programming during the regular evening broadcast from 4 to 9PM. RFE/RL's English language news department also had two correspondents in the region, looking at the voting of expatriates and foreign reaction.

** The Director of Radio Free Iraq, Sergey Danilochkin, may be reached by email at <danilochkins@rferl.org>; the Acting Executive Producer of RFE/RL's Central Newsroom, Nenad Pejic, may be reached by email at <pejicn@rferl.org>. Radio Free Iraq's website is at http://www.iraqhurr.org/; English-language news about events in Iraq can be found at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarchive/country/iraq.html


...FOLLOWS UPS AND DOWNS IN ELECTION CAMPAIGNING When the Iraqi election campaign turned violent on December 6, RFI correspondent Abd al-Khaliq Sultan was on the scene in Dohuk. His coverage of the gunfire between demonstrators and police outside a building used by the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU) and burning of KIU offices included an interview with Dohuk governor Tamr Ramadan, broadcast December 7. Ramadan attributed the violence to "a group of zealous youth," noting that "tranquility and stability have always been typical for Dohuk governate" (http://www.iraqhurr.org/realaudio/correspondents/2005/12/20051207182653.ram) Kurdistan regional president Mas'ud Barzani condemned the incident, in a statement read during the broadcast that stressed, "All people and parties in Kurdistan are free within the limits of law," and that no one will be allowed to violate the freedom of political parties. RFI's Abd al-Khaliq Sultan noted that when the incident in Dohuk happened, similar demonstrations also took place in the cities of Zakho, Aqra, Bardarash, and Al-Amadiya that were also accompanied by arson at KIU offices. In Irbil, RFI interviewed KIU official Abu Bakr Karwani for his comments on the Dohuk incident. Karwani said it was "A clear and scandalous violation of the election law" that resulted in several deaths, scores of injuries and some arrests. Karwani said, "At this moment, raids and pursuit of Kurdistan Islamic Union members are going on," sparked by the KIU's decision to enter a separate candidate list in the parliamentary elections and withdraw from the umbrella Kurdistan Coalition List. Karwani added that "Our entry into the political scene on a separate list was perceived as a crime," because "There is no solid foundation for the culture of democracy and respect for the opinion of others in Kurdistan."

** The Director of Radio Free Iraq, Sergey Danilochkin, may be reached by email at <danilochkins@rferl.org>. Radio Free Iraq's website is at http://www.iraqhurr.org/; English-language news about events in Iraq can be found at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarchive/country/iraq.html


...GIVES MICROPHONE TO IRAQIS A Radio Free Iraq (RFI) broadcast on December 6 gave Iraqis a chance to speak out and compare their lives under Saddam Hussein and since the fall of his regime in April 2003. RFI Baghdad bureau chief Nabil al- Haydari interviewed more than half a dozen randomly chosen Baghdad residents and found all, without exception, deeply concerned about security and the lack of personal safety. Several, however, described their economic situation as better than before and were hopeful for the future. Here's a sampling of what they told Radio Free Iraq: * male: "By God, the situation now is no good. Anywhere you go, you never know if there is a car bomber or a terrorist or something... Everybody is under threat." * female: "Well, only the security has somehow become worse than it should be. But regarding economic stability, it is good now. Especially we, the civil servants, can feel the difference..." * male: "The previous era, the era of Saddam, was totally different from any other era. This poor security situation is a result of the actions that the regime of Saddam Hussein was undertaking... Then the economic situation was poor, without any gleam of good hope. At present, the economic situation is still dawdling but there is a gleam of good hope. We hope it will be only better, God willing, with an elected government and with honest and dedicated people whose hands are clean." * male: "It used to be better before [the regime change] because there was security and there were no arrests by Iraqi and U.S. forces. The life before was safer. Even when there were arrests, they were justified. It was a tyranny before, and now it is again a tyranny." * male: "I expect we will get stability, security, and prosperity in our country... God willing, in the days to come -- after we crush the terror, expel intruders, our minds get united, and the mouths talking sectarianism button up -- our homeland will become prosperous and stabilized. Our children will see what we have not seen and what we have been deprived of." * female: "Earlier, I could normally go out shopping at any time, even at night. Now, I cannot go out. When I go out, I never know if I will come back. There is no security, and nothing is sure. We have money, but what we do not have is calm minds."

** The Director of Radio Free Iraq, Sergey Danilochkin, may be reached by email at <danilochkins@rferl.org>. Radio Free Iraq's website is at http://www.iraqhurr.org/; English-language news about events in Iraq can be found at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarchive/country/iraq.html


KAZAKH SERVICE PROVIDES COMPREHENSIVE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION COVERAGE On December 4, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service pre-empted regular programming to provide eight hours of continuous live coverage of Kazakhstan's presidential election, with 26 correspondents reporting from major centers throughout the country. In addition to updates from polling stations on voter turnout and exit poll results, the program included interviews with voting citizens and election monitors. In Astana and Almaty, students said teachers were supervising their voting and had told them if they didn't vote they would be kicked out of their dormitories. Teachers interviewed by RFE/RL admitted, in the live broadcast, that their actions were illegal. OSCE statements, as well as those by other human rights groups and observers were aired by RFE/RL as soon as they were made public. Ordinary citizens, political observers, politicians, parliamentarians and experts shared their views and opinions on RFE/RL's airwaves the following day, analyzing and discussing the process and results. President Nursultan Nazarbayev's re-election, with an astonishing 91 percent of the vote, was described as flawed by OSCE observers. Bruce George, the coordinator of the OSCE election observer mission and Audrey Glover, the observer mission leader from the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), told a news conference in Astana December 5 that " the presidential election in Kazakhstan did not meet a number of OSCE commitments and other international standards for democratic elections" and that "the Kazakhstan authorities did not provide a level playing field for a democratic election... whereby the candidates could enjoy equal treatment and opportunities to campaign, so that voters could make an informed choice." To sample Kazakh Service coverage of the election, please visit: http://www.azattyq.org/rubrics/domestic/ka/2005/12/CBC9A6B9-1BB7-4B8E-9BB4-F0059C48B769.asp; http://www.azattyq.org/rubrics/domestic/ka/2005/12/0E9E9668-07FD-4FF0-AEC2-D1522EC2F61A.asp; http://www.azattyq.org/rubrics/domestic/ka/2005/12/5D1639B6-B114-4DC8-8FA0-D7EF92D92C6B.asp; http://www.azattyq.org/rubrics/domestic/ka/2005/12/974779FF-5482-4479-9E1A-49A7F2B3F4C4.asp; http://www.azattyq.org/rubrics/domestic/ka/2005/12/53DD0D04-05F9-4B29-8AC5-F42D3916266B.asp; http://www.azattyq.org/rubrics/domestic/ka/2005/12/14B74C70-9F98-482A-B55A-3370B19BFE41.asp; http://www.azattyq.org/rubrics/domestic/ka/2005/12/29AC4805-6E55-42A8-916E-10D4892B0D2C.asp; http://www.azattyq.org/rubrics/domestic/ka/2005/12/EBE28F2B-CAC9-4933-B670-928CFBAB5D8B.asp; http://www.azattyq.org/rubrics/domestic/ka/2005/12/4E123AA1-C75E-4CF2-9187-4B992F3D06E3.asp; http://www.azattyq.org/rubrics/domestic/ka/2005/12/E3BD7489-4DA5-4820-8A4D-6EECACD1FBEF.asp English-language reporting on the election can be found at RFE/RL's special "Kazakhstan Votes 2005" page at http://www.rferl.org/specials/kazakh_votes; photos of the voting can be seen at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2005/12/84be79b5-3269- 4260-b6e4-633e22e981a2.html

** The Director of RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, Merhat Sharipzhan, may be reached by email at <sharipzhanm@rferl.org>. The Kazakh Service's website is at http://www.azattyq.org/; English-language news about events in Kazakhstan can be found at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarchive/country/kazakhstan.html


CENTRAL ASIAN SERVICES CLOSELY FOLLOW KAZAKH ELECTION The December 4 election was closely followed by other RFE/RL Central Asian services, and multilingual broadcasters from the Kazakh service provided expert commentary to other language broadcasts. Kazakh Service Director Merhat Sharipzhanov took part in the Russian Service's December 5 news and current affairs program, while a Kazakh Service broadcaster who speaks Uzbek participated in a discussion of the election broadcast by RFE/RL's Uzbek Service. RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service gave extensive coverage to the December 4 presidential election in neighboring Kazakhstan. A Kyrgyz Service correspondent was at the Kazakh embassy in Bishkek on election day to report on expatriate voting, while the following day, during the service's live morning show, RFE/RL Kyrgyz Service broadcaster Ulan Eshmatov interviewed Edil Baisalov of the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society who served as an independent observer at the Kazakh polls. Baisalov told the Kyrgyz Service there were some election irregularities, when local authorities put pressure on university students to go to the polls and vote as ordered. Kyrgyz Service coverage of the Kazakh presidential election can be found at http://www.azattyk.org/rubrics/politics/ky/2005/12/59E25259-6F70-4CA4-9794-1CF4DD2F1CD4.asp; http://www.azattyk.org/rubrics/politics/ky/2005/12/6B7E0ADF-DCAB-40BA-BCE5-FF78E6AF1392.asp; http://www.azattyk.org/rubrics/politics/ky/2005/12/20103E8B-B228-43B5-80E6-490A3E4CE462.asp; http://www.azattyk.org/rubrics/politics/ky/2005/12/44B1AF02-B7C5-4D0F-93EB-73F3C517D8B3.asp; http://www.azattyk.org/rubrics/politics/ky/2005/12/9C8BC68C-2B39-4A92-A4A6-7FE4D7655EEF.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


KAZAKH SERVICE REPORTS PRE-ELECTION DEPORTATION OF FOREIGNERS... RFE/RL's Kazakh Service managed to get comprehensive coverage of an unexpected sweep operation against foreigners that took place a week before the December 4 presidential election in Kazakhstan (http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2005/11/65ACB48B-7FB5-432A-9000-04ED94A5EFCF.html). Almaty police officially arrested and deported about 550 foreign nationals -- especially Kyrgyz and Ukrainian citizens, but also Uzbeks, Tajiks, Chinese and others. Almaty Interior Affairs spokesperson Arman Zhusanbay told RFE/RL that the foreigners had been detained and deported as illegal immigrants without proper documents. Representatives of human rights groups in some of the countries concerned said the number of deported persons was in fact higher. Kyrgyz NGO representative Aziza Abdirasulova of "Kylym Shamy" told RFE/RL that, on November 26 alone, 215 Kyrgyz nationals legally working and living in Kazakhstan's largest city, Almaty were illegally deported by Almaty City police. A young Kyrgyz trader, Eshengul, working at the central market in Almaty said in an RFE/RL interview that she knew half a dozen of those taken away and all had proper documents. She said several trucks were loaded to capacity with Kyrgyz traders. A Tajik trader in Almaty told RFE/RL that police came to the market and surrounded the traders from all sides. He said, "About 70 Tajik traders were detained. Later on about 40 of them were taken away, others escaped such fate for money they offered to the police as bribes." Kazakh Service coverage of the sweep operation can be found at http://www.azattyq.org/rubrics/domestic/ka/2005/11/385360AC-E967-4120-91E4-FA794E153561.ASP

** The Director of RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, Merhat Sharipzhan, may be reached by email at <sharipzhanm@rferl.org>. The Kazakh Service's website is at http://www.azattyq.org/; English-language news about events in Kazakhstan can be found at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarchive/country/kazakhstan.html


...ARREST OF UKRAINIAN OBSERVERS A RFE/RL Kazakh Service correspondent was present when Almaty immigration police arrested six young Ukrainians who had been invited by a youth group in Kazakhstan to observe the December 4 presidential election. RFE/RL Almaty bureau chief Kenzhebek Nurkasen reported that police confiscated their passports and forced the Ukrainians to get into a police car. They were taken to the Department of Interior and interrogated for several hours. Although the Ukrainians had valid visas, three of the six were told their stay was being cut short and they had to leave the country. One of those arrested, Nazar Zelenko told RFE/RL the group had been living in Almaty for several weeks and had come at the invitation of the independent "Youth Information Service of Kazakhstan." An English-language report on the Ukrainian expulsions can be found at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2005/12/F8C89AE9-4C34-4C61-9ACA-EE11106DAC09.html

** The Director of RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, Merhat Sharipzhan, may be reached by email at <sharipzhanm@rferl.org>. The Kazakh Service's website is at http://www.azattyq.org/; English-language news about events in Kazakhstan can be found at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarchive/country/kazakhstan.html


BELARUSIAN SERVICE FOLLOWS DEVELOPMENTS WITH NEW MEDIA LAW RFE/RL's Belarusian Service aired several stories in late November about a draconian new media law approved by the Belarusian parliament. An RFE/RL correspondent was present at the House of Representatives when it was called into session late on Friday, November 25 to vote on what Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka described an "urgent matter". Under the guise of "national security," the legislation imposes criminal penalties of up to two years in prison on anyone found by the authorities to be as spreading "false information" about Belarus or discrediting the country by "providing a foreign power or international organization with false information about the political, economic, social, military and international situation in the Republic of Belarus, the legal position of citizens in the Republic of Belarus, and its government agencies." RFE/RL interviewed opposition leaders in Belarus (http://www.svaboda.org/articlesfeatures/politics/2005/11/068CD5EB-3056-47EE-9130-EE2574F448C7.html and United Civic Party leader Anatol Liabedzka, http://www.svaboda.org/articlesfeatures/politics/2005/11/762FF109-6EA4-4DD0-8FB8-CE67568259F7.html) and parliamentarians from the neighboring countries of Poland (deputy Bohdan Klich, http://www.svaboda.org/articlesfeatures/politics/2005/11/43536C51-D021-4DFE-A293-53B0ECE2A468.html), Lithuania (deputy Vaclav Stankievich, http://www.svaboda.org/articlesfeatures/politics/2005/11/959000AA-1810-4960-8256-0CE1364637B8.html) and Sweden, as well as human rights activists and independent newspaper editors to get their reaction to the legislation. Programs also included comments from some of the Belarusian parliamentarians who had voted for the legislation. The Belarusian Service also prepared round table discussions that analyzed the implications of the law; a frequently expressed view was that the new media law is designed to stamp out any sign of a budding "color revolution" in the country.

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


TAJIK SERVICE INTERVIEWS US AMBASSADOR... RFE/RL's Tajik Service aired on December 2 an exclusive interview with US Ambassador to Tajikistan Richard Hoagland. Tajik Bureau Chief Mirzonabi Kholikzod spoke to Hoagland after he attended a meeting with senior government officials at the Ministry of Justice to protest pressure on non-government American organizations. Hoagland said he had also had separate meetings on the issue with Tajik president Imomali Rakhmonov, the ministers of Justice and Foreign Affairs and members of parliament, as well as representatives of major youth organizations. Hoagland told RFE/RL that the topics discussed during the meetings included bilateral relations, trade, development and reform, as well as a newspaper article that accused the American Bar Association of trying to infuse youth in Tajikistan with "western" values. Hoagland stressed in the RFE/RL interview that "every American and international NGO works according to the laws of Tajikistan" and that "Tajikistan is a free and open society. We have often heard President Rakhmonov say he wants to build a modern, democratic society based on the rule of law, and we believe him."

** 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


... RELEASED JOURNALIST... RFE/RL's Tajik Service gained an exclusive interview with Tajik journalist Jumaboy Tolibov, the same day he was released from prison December 16, after serving nearly five months of a two-year sentence (http://www.ozodi.org/news.aspx?DD=16&MM=12&YY=2005). Tolibov was imprisoned amid international outcry on charges of failing to meet his obligations as a government employee after he published three articles criticizing local authorities for corruption. In the telephone interview with RFE/RL, he read a prepared statement and then expressed gratitude to international media, RFE/RL and human rights groups for continuing to publicize his case. When RFE/RL asked whether he was mistreated in prison, the telephone connection was interrupted.

** 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


...GEORGE SOROS ON COLOR REVOLUTIONS In an interview aired December 13, billionaire philanthropist George Soros spoke in New York with RFE/RL Tajik Service reporter Latif Latifi about his meeting with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov (an English- language transcript and audio links can be found at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2005/12/8091E6DB-6BB7-403A-BBF4-F3DA64F21D7F.html). Soros said it was "a very frank discussion because, you know, he has been told by [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin that the Soros foundations are working to bring about color revolutions. And I tried to explain to him that this is a mistaken interpretation." Soros said he told Rakhmonov that: "Revolutions are a sign of failure. It means there is a lack of good institutions and the population is fed up. Having a revolution does not make up for that democratic deficit. Making up for it takes a long time and it requires constructive work and not revolutions."

** 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


KYRGYZ SERVICE FIRST WITH PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION RESULTS... RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service brought listeners an exclusive live interview with the chairman of Kyrgyzstan's Central Election Commission, Tuigunaly Abdyraimov the morning of November 28, in which he tallied preliminary results of the parliamentary by-elections that took place the previous day. Abdyrov disclosed that former foreign minister Roza Otunbayeva lost in her district to Janysh Kudaibergenov, head of a Finance Ministry agency to develop Kyrgyzstan's non-banking sector. Abdyraimov said the count wasn't completed yet, but it was already clear that Tuigunaly had won with more than twice as many votes as Otunbayeva. He also announced that former Chief Prosecutor and Akayev- era opposition leader Azimbek Beknazarov won in his by-election race, gaining a parliamentary seat in the southern region of Jalalabat.

** 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


...MARKS AIDS DAY... RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service marked UN International AIDS Day on December 1 with reports on the fight against the disease. According to official statistics, less than 1,000 people have the HIV virus in Kyrgyzstan, of whom about 20 percent are women. The service broadcast a package of information about the disease and efforts to combat it. The service also broadcast interviews with Kyrgyz citizens and officials at the Kyrgyz AIDS Center, who said the southern city of Osh has the largest number of HIV-infected people. Students at Osh State University held a march and a rally December 1 to raise awareness of the problem. RFE/RL's Osh correspondent covered the event, as well as a sports competition and AIDS concert that evening. Kyrgyz Service reporting on AIDS Day can be found at http://www.azattyk.org/rubrics/society/ky/2005/12/FF6A9DF5-B124-403D-B6E5-7990DDC4044F.ASP and http://www.azattyk.org/rubrics/society/ky/2005/12/FD41FC4C-FD0B-4865-8EE1-3571E638A022.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


...ASKS TOUGH QUESTIONS OF SUPREME COURT The Chairman of the Kyrgyz Supreme Court, Kurmanbek Osmonov was the RFE/RL Kyrgyz Service's special guest on the "Inconvenient Questions" program aired simultaneously on November 30 on Kyrgyz State Television and the Kyrgyz Service (http://www.azattyk.org/programs/round_table/ky/2005/12/CA7043CF-F306-4828-AA00-E805EEC8EB94_1781753.RAM). RFE/RL Bishkek Bureau Chief Kubat Tabaldiev moderated, asking tough questions about the independence of the Kyrgyz justice system and why the Supreme Court changed its mind on several important cases after president Akayev was ousted in the March 2005 revolution. He also asked Osmonov about forthcoming constitutional reforms. Osmonov said elements of proportional, as well as majority representation should be combined for future parliamentary elections in Kyrgyzstan.

** 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


SENATOR MCCAIN INTERVIEWED BY GEORGIAN SERVICE RFE/RL's Georgian Service contacted U.S. Senator John McCain (R- Arizona) in Phoenix on November 23, to get his views on the situation in Georgia two years after the Rose Revolution that ousted president Eduard Shevardnadze. Prague-based broadcaster Salome Asatiani asked McCain about the impact of the 2003 Rose Revolution in Georgia. McCain noted, among other things, that the mass public protests in Georgia inspired similar action in Ukraine in 2004 and Kyrgyzstan this spring.

** The 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


ARMENIAN SERVICE REFERENDUM BROADCASTS BATTLE SIGNAL LOSS RFE/RL's Armenian Service provided extensive coverage of a controversial national referendum on constitution change that took place on November 27. Morning programs consisted of live reporting on the two-thirds voter turnout and numerous complaints of voting irregularities. The evening programs, featuring roundtables with well- known political analysts, election officials and international experts, were dedicated to referendum issues -- but were not heard on-air. RFE/RL transmission in Yerevan ended unexpectedly at around 7:30 PM local time, when the affiliate station carrying RFE/RL's program lost signal due to what it said was a technical problem. The director of the Armenian Service's Yerevan bureau, Hrach Melkumyan, told an Arminfo correspondent that the signal from Prague to Yerevan had been normal, but that broadcasts of the radio station in Yerevan ended on all frequencies all at once. The Yerevan bureau was flooded with complaints from upset listeners --but local media tried to help by carrying the full transcript of the Armenian Service's Sunday night discussion in the papers the next day, November 28. In following days, RFE/RL continued to broadcast a debate about the referendum results, which gave a suspiciously high 93 percent approval rate to the government-supported constitutional change. The Armenian Service reported that Central Election Commission Secretary Tsovinar Khachatrian on November 30 dismissed as "unlawful" opposition demands to invalidate the official results of the disputed referendum. A group of about 20 opposition parties threatened to intensify protest demonstrations unless the commission overturned the results. The service also carried statements by Council of Europe and local monitors, who questioned the credibility of the official high turnout and the by the U.S. State Department, which on November 29 called on the Armenian government to investigate reports of fraud.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Armenian Service, Hrair Tamrazian, may be reached by email at <tamrazianh@rferl.org>. The Armenian Service's website is at http://www.azatutyun.am/; English-language news about events in Armenia can be found at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarchive/country/armenia.html


RUSSIAN SERVICE INTERVIEWS SENIOR POLITICIAN... RFE/RL's Russian Service interviewed Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov on November 24, about voting and Russia's election process, the justice system and other domestic issues. The interview, aired on the service's evening information "Time of Liberty" program, was conducted in Mironov's office by Mikhail Sokolov of RFE/RL's Moscow bureau. RFE/RL invited two other journalists to participate, representing the Spanish daily newspaper "El Pais" and the Russian "Vedomosti" weekly. A transcript of the interview can be found on the service's website at http://www.svoboda.org/ll/polit/1105/ll.112405-11.asp

** The Director of RFE/RL's Russian Service, Maria Klein, may be reached by email at <kleinm@rferl.org>. The Russian Service's website is at http://www.svoboda.org; English-language news about events in Russia can be found at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarchive/country/russia.html


...GIVES VOICE TO BANNED ANCHORWOMAN... Russian Ren-TV anchor Olga Romanova went to work as usual on the evening of November 24, but never got to her office. Without warning, Romanova was barred from entering the building and moderating her evening talk show. RFE/RL contacted Romanova on her cell phone as she was trying to gain admittance that evening and broadcast live the dispute at the entrance. Romanova, a prize-winning journalist and one of the most popular anchors in Russia could not go on the air with her own RenTV program, but was the main voice on RFE/RL's late night "Facets of Time", hosted by Russian Service broadcaster Vladimir Kara- Murza (http://www.svoboda.org/ll/grani/1105/ll.112405-1.asp). RenTV, one of the few remaining independent media, was recently sold. The new majority shareholders are the Russian "Severstal" steel giant and the RTL European media conglomerate.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Russian Service, Maria Klein, may be reached by email at <kleinm@rferl.org>. The Russian Service's website is at http://www.svoboda.org; English-language news about events in Russia can be found at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarchive/country/russia.html


...TALKS TO HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST SERGEI KOVALEV Russia's leading human rights activist Sergei Kovalev continues to make headlines in support of that cause. Kovalev, in an exclusive interview with RFE/RL Russian service correspondent Anna Kolchina in December, said that fighting for human rights is his profession and his destiny (http://www.svoboda.org/ll/soc/1205/ll.120905-9.asp). He said his main motivation in becoming a dissident in 1966 was "shame -- the desire to consider oneself a decent person... to be a free person," and that Soviet dissidents recognized their "ethical incompatibility with the regime, with the horrors that surrounded us, and with the constant lies." Kovalev's first action for human rights was taking part in a protest against the trial of writers Andrei Sinyavskii and Yulii Daniel. He spent years in prison, in labor camps, in internal exile. Later in the 1990s Kovalev monitored events in Chechnya. Most recently, he was detained in November for participating in a demonstration against fascism.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Russian Service, Maria Klein, may be reached by email at <kleinm@rferl.org>. The Russian Service's website is at http://www.svoboda.org; English-language news about events in Russia can be found at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarchive/country/russia.html


NORTH CAUCASUS SERVICE FOCUSES ON CHECHNYA ELECTIONS The North Caucasus Service aired a special program on November 27, devoted to the parliamentary election in Chechnya. The one-hour live show, moderated by Prague-based Avar, Chechen and Circassian broadcasters, featured reports by four RFE/RL correspondents in various parts of the restive territory as well as interviews with local people and expert analyses. Unlike reports carried on state-controlled media in Russia, the North Caucasus Service broadcast that there was little evidence of high voter turnout. Chechens who spoke to RFE/RL challenged the official figure that put voter participation at 66 per cent. Those interviewed said many people came to the polling stations not to vote, but to attend concerts organized by the Election Commissions. Russian President Vladimir Putin called the elections the final building block in the reconstruction of all public institutions in the war-torn region. However, Russian human rights activists denounced the elections as a "farce". Oleg Orlov of the Russian human rights organization "Memorial," who spoke to the North Caucasus Service from Moscow, questioned whether it is appropriate to hold elections in the republic in the first place: "The mounting terror in Chechnya is, of course, state terror," he said. "You have to understand that the people of the Chechen Republic are now frightened and suffering from state terror at the hands of the same people who are organizing and conducting these so-called elections in the Chechen Republic."

** The Director of RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service, Aslan Doukaev, may be reached by email at <doukaeva@rferl.org>. English-language news about events in the North Caucasus region can be found at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarchive/subregion/northcaucasus.html


RADIO FREE AFGHANISTAN SPOTLIGHTS VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN In late November and early December, Radio Free Afghanistan broadcast a series of programs about domestic violence against women to mark International Day of Non-Violence against Women on November 24. The broadcasts, prepared by Kabul Bureau-based Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent Nida Farhat, dealt with the widespread phenomenon of beatings, obedience requirements and forced marriages. Farhat interviewed Minister of Women's Affairs Masooda Jalal, who spoke about the recent killing of well-known poet Nadia Anjoman by her husband. Jalal announced on the program that a school is being named after Anjoman. Farhat also interviewed women who were able to speak, for the first time, of their suffering. In one interview, a battered wife said, "In Afghanistan women's rights are denied. I myself am making a living for my four kids, and at nights there is beating, no sleep, and despair. What is this? Who is listening to a woman's voice? Nobody."

** The Director of Radio Free Afghanistan, Akbar Ayazi, may be reached by email at <ayazia@rferl.org>. Radio Free Afghanistan's website is located at http://www.azadiradio.org/; English-language news about events in Afghanistan can be found at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarchive/country/afghanistan.html

RFE/RL in the News

BAD NEWS IN UZBEKISTAN... RFE/RL's bureau in Tashkent was effectively closed December 12, when the Uzbek government refused to renew accreditation of the bureau and its correspondents and suspended the individual accreditations of correspondents from the Tajik, Turkmen and Kazakh services (http://www.rferl.org/releases/2005/12/376-121205.asp). The news, broadcast by the Uzbek Service in the afternoon of December 12, met with an almost immediate response. Phones started ringing in RFE/RL's Tashkent bureau with messages of support for RFE/RL from individual listeners and organizations. Several groups faxed statements and sent e-mails to RFE/RL's broadcast operations center in Prague, including Uzbek opposition parties-in-exile in Sweden and the U.S. The Democratic Congress for Uzbekistan based in the United States condemned the Uzbek government's action, calling it "a violation of free speech and listeners' right." Journalists from the BBC and other media expressed similar views. Vladimir Masyutin, Editor-in-Chief of the Paris-based Russian language publication "Slavyanskiy Bazar," wrote in an e-mail to the Tashkent Bureau that, while he and his colleagues did not agree with everything said on RFE/RL Uzbek broadcasts, they always found interesting the open and direct views expressed. "You deserve respect," Masyutin wrote, adding, "We, as many of your listeners do sincerely hope you will soon resume operations." The Uzbek Service now prepares all of its broadcasts in Prague, with no contributions from its Tashkent bureau. Previously, about half a dozen original reports were filed daily from the bureau, or about 50 percent of all Uzbek Service programming. News of the Uzbek government's action was widely condemned by international human rights groups and media organizations, including the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters, Reporters Sans Frontieres and the United States Mission to the OSCE.

** The Acting Director of RFE/RL's Uzbek Service, Sojida Djakhfarova, may be reached by email at <djakhfarovas@rferl.org>. The Uzbek Service's website is at http://www.ozodlik.org/; English-language news about events in Uzbekistan can be found at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarchive/country/uzbekistan.html


...GOOD NEWS IN AFGHANISTAN Radio Free Afghanistan is the most popular station in the country, according to a recent survey. Conducted by the InterMedia Survey Institute in August and September, the survey found that more than three quarters of the Afghan radio listeners polled nationwide tune in to Radio Free Afghanistan on a weekly basis (for more on the survey, see http://www.rferl.org/releases/2005/12/373-011205.asp). RFE/RL began broadcasting to Afghanistan on January 30, 2002 with three hours of programming in both the Dari and Pashto languages. Now, RFE/RL in partnership with VOA broadcasts around the clock to Afghanistan on a 24-hour single stream.

** The Director of Radio Free Afghanistan, Akbar Ayazi, may be reached by email at <ayazia@rferl.org>. Radio Free Afghanistan's website is located at http://www.azadiradio.org/; English-language news about events in Afghanistan can be found at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarchive/country/afghanistan.html,

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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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