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RFE/RL Review October 31, 2006

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The Best of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Reporting
October 1-31, 2006

RUSSIAN SERVICE COVERS MURDER OF ANNA POLITKOVSKAYA... RFE/RL's Russian Service in comprehensive coverage aired news reports, analyses and world reaction to the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, prominent independent journalist and critic of the war in Chechnya. From the first reports of her death on October 7, through the funeral ceremony three days later and beyond, the Russian Service provided listeners news and analysis of Politkovskaya's work and the impact of her untimely death. The first word of Politkovskaya's death was broadcast live in the late afternoon of October 7, interrupting the "Topics of the Week" program ( The Russian Service pre-empted regular programming to follow with a special show hosted by Elena Rykovtseva, featuring a re-run of Politkovskaya's last interview given to RFE/RL October 5. It was also her last public interview and aired on the Russian Service's October 5 "Press Hour" program (; an English transcript of the Politkovskaya interview can be accessed at ( RFE/RL journalists who had known and worked with Politkovskaya also appeared on the special program. October 7 broadcasts included live reports from Politkovskaya's apartment building and exclusive interviews with Amnesty International in London, a Council of Europe official in Strasbourg, Russian human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin ("It's terrible that people get killed in Russia for their views," and former presidential advisor Georgi Satarov ("a new step towards the Chechenization of Russia,"
On October 8, the Russian Service continued with a live report on a commemorative ceremony on Pushkin Square ( and on-air interviews with liberal politician Grigoriy Yavlinsky ("Russia became a head shorter,", leading human rights activist Lev Ponomarev ("We have to follow in her footsteps,", and Russian Journalists' Union chairman Igor Yakovenko ("The only hope lies with an independent investigation,"
On October 9, the Russian Service gave listeners insight into early theories on the motive for Politkovskaya's murder ( ), and continued to gather reaction from friends and colleagues of Politkovskaya, including "Democratic Union" leader Valeriya Novodvorskaya ("They'll kill off anyone they can't shut up!", Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations chairman Oleg Panfilov ("They will never reveal the whole truth"), and prominent television host Nikolai Svanidze (
On October 10, a Moscow-based Russian Service correspondent reported live from Politkovskaya's funeral (, and interviewed Andrei Uglanov of the "Argumenty i Fakty" publication.

...LOOKS AT NEW POLITICAL PARTY... RFE/RL's Russian Service took a look in an October 30 broadcast at a new political grouping of three parties -- the nationalist Motherland party, the Party of Pensioners, and the Party of Life. They decided to merge, shortening the new name to "A Just Russia: Motherland, Pensioners, Life." Delegates elected Sergei Mironov, head of the Party of Life, as leader of the new alliance.
Mironov, who presides over the upper house of parliament, gave an exclusive interview to the Russian Service, during which he described the new party as a "leftist political force in hard opposition" to Unified Russia, which currently holds more than 300 of the Duma's 450 seats. But, Mironov added, the new entity is staunchly pro-Putin.
Vladimir Pribylovsky, head of Moscow's Panorama think tank, said in the broadcast that "Unified Russia is the right-wing pro-Putin party and A Just Russia is the left-wing pro-Putin party." He said, "Together, they should gather over half, or two-thirds, of the votes at the State Duma elections. That's the aim." According to Pribylovsky, "the party was created by the presidential administration to snatch the center-left electorate."
Moscow Carnegie Center analyst Nikolai Petrov told the Russian Service that "This project is far from completion and its main problem -- which it has already experienced and which will continue to grow in the future -- is [achieving] a real merger of three very different political forces in the regions... the federal base, the main party for this alliance, is the smallest of the three, the Party of Life. So the Party of Life's leadership claims will be contested in many regional organizations. Conflicts are inevitable" (; full transcript in Russian at

...50TH ANNIVERSARY OF HUNGARIAN REVOLUTION Most RFE/RL language services commemorated in October 23 programming the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution with archive audio material, interviews with survivors and historians. The Russian Service dedicated the October 23 "Time of Liberty" show to the anniversary. It included interviews with Hungarian Public TV journalist Zoltan Vig, historian pro-rector of Moscow Humanitarian University Dmitry Bak and Austrian photo journalist Richard Lessing, who was in Budapest 50 years ago (

** The Director of RFE/RL's Russian Service, Maria Klein, may be reached by email at <>. The Russian Service's website is at; English-language news about events in Russia can be found at

RICH PROGRAMMING ON RFE/RL ENERGY CONFERENCE A two-day conference of senior politicians and international energy experts provided a wealth of broadcast material for RFE/RL. The Prague Energy Forum, October 23 and 24, organized by RFE/RL in partnership with the Warsaw-based Institute for Eastern studies, attracted broad media attention with participants from countries in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. In addition to news coverage, correspondents from RFE/RL's Central Newsroom gained exclusive interviews with more than a dozen senior politicians and diplomats from RFE/RL's broadcast region and produced ten stories used widely by most RFE/RL language services. They included three features on the Iran nuclear crisis, one on Russia's energy policy and another on worsening media freedoms in Russia, as well as reports on Russia-Georgia tensions, and global energy security.

** The Director of Communications-Europe and Broadcast Regions, Virginie Coulloudon, may be reached by email at <>; RFE/RL Interviews can be accessed at

RFE/RL TALKS TO RUSSIAN ENERGY EXPERT... RFE/RL correspondents at the Prague Energy Forum, organized by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in partnership with the Warsaw-based Institute for Eastern Studies October 23-24, gained an interview with Yelena Telegina, a member of the board of the Association of Russian Crude Oil Exporters and former board chairwoman of Rosneft.
Telegina was positive about energy relations between Russia and Europe, saying economic cooperation is good and that: "for Russia, Europe is the priority supply market. So it's hard to talk about serious possible problems here. Many issues are raised by politicians. Politicians tend to present this process from a different angle. But I nonetheless think that the interests of businesses and the interests of consumers will prevail over political disagreements."
Telegina was less reassuring about Russia's energy policy with former countries of the former Soviet Union, stating that she cannot exclude "that this situation (energy crises) may happen again temporarily," and that "this simply shows that relations between Russia and former Soviet countries are not regulated." Telegina said "now, sudden attempts to increase prices look like political pressure. This is not quite right: there have to be lengthy negotiations; prices should be agreed on gradually. I think that Gazprom and our partners should display more flexibility and not be so harsh."
She noted that Russia's own gas needs are rising with the need to produce more electricity and that "the decision was made to develop exports and supply the Russian market with alternative energy resources such as atomic energy and coal. So from the point of view of energy security, Europe need not worry. Russia is ready to fulfill its obligations" (

...NEW UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT... Shortly after being elected president of the 61st session of the United Nations General Assembly, Sheikha Haya Rashed al-Khalifa spoke to RFE/RL correspondent Nikola Krastev about UN priorities and what it is like to be the first Muslim woman elected to such a position. In the interview, broadcast by most RFE/RL services in early October, al- Khalifa said her previous experience as a diplomat and lawyer helps in her dealings with UN member states: "I have to take care of the interests of every member state and to try to bring them together and to make their point of view understandable to the other parties in order to reach a solution... I have to discuss, and to convince, and to bring them together to reach the minimum-order consensus on the issues. We have also to be realistic. The target for us and for all the member states is to reinforce this organization and to make it a strong and efficient institution through the decisions and resolutions which will be taken." Al-Khalifa said she has started new negotiations on UN reform, the new Human Rights Council and Peace Building Commission, and strategies to counter terrorism. She said her immediate challenge as president is to bring member states to compromise and agreement on a terrorism convention (

...ESTONIAN, LATVIAN PRESIDENTS Toomas Hendrik Ilves gave an exclusive interview to RFE/RL's Brussels correspondent Ahto Lobjakas October 9, shortly after he was elected president of Estonia. Ilves, a former RFE/RL analyst and broadcaster, spoke about the priorities of democratization in Estonia and relations with Russia. He said Estonia, as well as other neighbors of Russia, have not yet figured out what to do about "a large, powerful country that a priori views democratization on its borders as a security threat? Belarus is in no way treated as a security threat, [but] having democratic elections in Ukraine is viewed as a security threat or as a threat against national interest. I don't think any of us, anywhere, have figured out what do with that. We persist in pretending that we're dealing with a country just like us. On the other hand, it doesn't behave just like us, unfortunately..." Ilves noted there is still "a residuum of Soviet thinking" in Estonia and that a "civil society" is not fully developed there. He said "economic reforms can be carried out fairly quickly," but "democratization takes a much longer time... and institution building, looking back, turns out to be far more important than anyone thought." Ilves said that "ultimately, unless you have the rule-of-law side worked out, privatization will simply lead to the kinds of situations you have in Russia and Ukraine" (
Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga spoke with RFE/RL in an October 10 session with other media members in Prague on the sidelines of the 10th annual Forum 2000 conference. In wide-ranging comments, she said Latvia, as a neighbor of Russia is concerned about the current tensions between Russia and Georgia and that Georgians are now "reliving the sort of things that the Baltic countries went through ten years ago." She said "there is a nervousness in the air... because among neighbors we would like to have dialogue and the ability to follow international rules and procedures of international contact." Vike-Freiberga said disrupting postal services and deporting people "is certainly not in the repertoire of good neighborly relations." On developments inside Latvia, she said Latvia is fast developing European standards and values to catch up and integrate with the rest of Europe, and that Latvians, after the turbulence of the Soviet past, are happy to embrace a boring political stability. Asked about the NATO summit taking place in Riga November 28 - 29, Vike-Freiberga said Latvia supports an open-door policy for NATO and forces in Ukraine that want to make the country's defense compatible with NATO. But she said it is up to Ukrainians to decide whether they want to join NATO and so far "the political will and the popular acceptance of the idea that still has been a stumbling block in Ukraine" (

** The Executive Producer of RFE/RL's Central Newsroom, Deborah Seward, may be reached by email at <>; RFE/RL English-language news reports can be found at

RUSSIAN SERVICE AIRS COMMENT ON FREEDOM HOUSE REPORT... RFE/RL's Russian Service asked Christopher Walker of the U.S.-based Freedom House to comment on the erosion of media freedoms in Russia and the negative assessment in this year's "Worst Of The Worst" report issued by Freedom House. He spoke to RFE/RL correspondent Claire Bigg at the Prague Energy Forum, organized by RFE/RL in partnership with the Warsaw-based Institute for Eastern Studies. In the broadcast aired October 25, Walker said the Russian government's "effort to control national broadcast media started already three or four years ago, such that today in Russia there really is no independent voice that reaches the wider country at all." He said a worrying development is intensifying pressure on newspapers: "what they've done recently which is particularly troubling is they've taken a closer look at the print media, and there have been some ownership takeovers in just the last few months which are very troubling, the most recent of which was "Kommersant." One can presume that this is being done in advance of the 2007-08 elections, and it really is bad news for the independent media in the country." Walker noted that "the intensification of autocratic politics and repression in Russia really deserves consistent and vocal responses from the democratic community, including North America, the European Union, and beyond. Silence could be interpreted as acceptance or acquiescence, and therefore it's critical to keep a vocal and consistent voice on these issues (

** The Director of RFE/RL's Russian Service, Maria Klein, may be reached by email at <>. The Russian Service's website is at; English-language news about events in Russia can be found at

...UKRAINIAN SERVICE AIRS US OFFICIAL'S COMMENTS ON DEMOCRATIC PROGRESS Former US Ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer gave an exclusive interview to RFE/RL's Jan Maksymiuk, commenting on the current political and energy situation in Ukraine. In the wide-ranging conversation, recorded on the sidelines of the Prague Energy Forum on October 24, Pifer said the surprising return of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych to power was "the result of a free and fair democratic process" and that Ukraine now has more independent media, a strong opposition and a stronger nongovernmental organization sector than before. He said, "There are different manifestations that are good for Ukrainian democracy" and that "the fact that Ukraine has moved from a supra-presidency model to a parliamentary-presidential model, is probably a good thing." Pifer said that on controversial unresolved issues such as the NATO membership action plan "it may be very important that the two Viktors -- President Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yanukovych -- are going to have to come to terms together if they want to produce coherent policy that moves Ukraine forward. And that's going to be a challenge for both of them. But it'll be important for Ukraine that they meet that challenge." Asked about gas prices, Pifer said "Ukraine ultimately needs to be prepared that it's going to have pay world market prices for energy... and therefore begin adapting toward that. Because once Ukraine is paying global prices, it reduces the amount of political leverage that Russia may have over Ukraine. If Ukraine's getting a special deal, there will be that temptation for the Russians to exploit that question" (

** The Executive Producer of RFE/RL's Central Newsroom, Deborah Seward, may be reached by email at <>; RFE/RL English-language news reports can be found at

RUSSIAN SERVICE PROVIDES DAILY COVERAGE OF RUSSIA-GEORGIA DISPUTE... The Russian Service continued to monitor daily developments in the Russia--Georgia crisis, working with other services on the story. When a Georgian citizen died at Moscow airport during the first wave of deportations of Georgians from Russia, the Russian Service gathered reaction, interviewing Russian Duma deputies ( On October 8, the "Myths and Reputations" program featured a segment entitled "Myths about Georgia in Russian culture," featuring cultural figures from both nations -- ( When Russian authorities searching for illegal immigrants began compiling lists of Moscow schoolchildren with Georgian names, an RFE/RL Moscow correspondent interviewed Evgeny Bunimovich, head of the educational committee of the Moscow city Duma ( The Russian Service's October 15 "Face to Face" program featured an interview with famous Georgian writer and director Rezo Gabriadze ( A representative of the Georgian Orthodox patriarchy in Russia accepted an invitation to appear on the Russian Service's October 19 "From the Christian Point of View" talk show ( The Russian Service also covered the decision by several young members of the Yabloko party to officially change their last names to Georgian names as an expression of support for Georgia ( and the sad story of Elena Gedevanishvily, a world-ranked young Georgian figure skater who was deported, with her mother, from Moscow, where she was training (

** The Director of RFE/RL's Russian Service, Maria Klein, may be reached by email at <>. The Russian Service's website is at; English-language news about events in Russia can be found at

...GEORGIAN SERVICE GIVES VOICE TO ETHNIC RUSSIANS IN GEORGIA... The spying row and crisis it sparked in Russian-Georgian relations dominated Georgian Service broadcasts in October. During an October 11 broadcast, an RFE/RL correspondent in Tbilisi spoke with ethnic Russians in the Georgian capital about the expulsion of hundreds of alleged Georgian illegal immigrants from Russia. In a typical response, 61-year-old Sergei Davidov said he was depressed by this "family quarrel" and that "we have a very bad confrontational situation." A schoolteacher, originally from St. Petersburg, said she is getting calls from Russia, asking her not to believe everything she hears: "They say 'we love Georgia and Georgians... our friendship is strong and eternal.'" The broadcast also offered a quote from Georgian Education Minister Kakha Lomaia, who said Georgia will not retaliate or respond in kind with expulsions of the estimated 68,000 ethnic Russians who live in Georgia.

...GEORGIAN DEPORTEES... After being deported from Russia, some of the expellees went to Minsk, Yerevan and Baku. RFE/RL's Central News and Armenian, Azerbaijani, Belarusian, Russian and Georgian Services worked together to bring listeners comprehensive coverage of the issues and eyewitness accounts of the deportations.
Maguli Legishvili told RFE/RL her family was given ten days to leave. She said Russian authorities told her: "You are citizens of Georgia. Go to your Saakashvili." Another Georgian said he and his family had to leave after living in Moscow for 11 years. Some admitted to being illegal immigrants, but many deportees told RFE/RL their papers were in order and Russian authorities had no justification for expelling them (;

...GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKER Speaker of the Georgian parliament Nino Burjanadze gave an exclusive interview to RFE/RL correspondents at the 10th annual Forum 2000 in Prague about the growing conflict between Moscow and Tbilisi.
During the interview, aired October 10, Burjanadze said: "Every person in Georgia has had a very negative reaction concerning what the Russians are doing against Georgia and the Georgian population and the Georgian state. I'm not even speaking about the blockade and the [past] sanctions that Russia decided to put against Georgia, when they banned Georgian wine and Georgian mineral water and Georgian agricultural products, and when they cut all possibilities of cooperating in a normal way. But what they're doing now -- this is real xenophobia against Georgians... it's really unbelievable that in the 21st century it's possible to deport people only because they are Georgians, and to forbid children to study at school only because of their Georgian origins."
Burjanadze also urged greater involvement of the international community in the crisis, saying, "If Russia continues like this -- just violating all civilized and democratic norms -- then every country, despite Russia's energy resources, should react in an adequate way." She said "Russia, because of its oil dollars, has the feeling now that everything it does will be excused because Europe is very seriously dependent on Russian energy resources... Everyone in Europe should understand that Georgia and Ukraine are at the crossroads now. We are in trouble, and we need your support. If there is no support -- if Russia continues like this -- then you [Europe] should know that today it's Georgia, tomorrow it will be Ukraine, the day after tomorrow maybe they will cut gas or energy resources or they will use some kind of energy or other pressure concerning Czechs, or Balts, or other countries. So you should do everything to put Russia in a civilized framework. To force Russia to be really democratic and predictable -- a success story. This is in everyone's interests. Democracies don't fight with each other like this. We really want to have Russia be a democratic, predictable neighbor" (

** The Director of RFE/RL's Georgian Service, David Kakabadze, may be reached by email at <>. The Georgian Service's website is at; English-language news about events in Georgia can be found at

RFE/RL LAUNCHES "AL-QAEDA IN BOSNIA" SERIES RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service (SSALS) October 9 aired the first of a 17-part series entitled "Al Qaeda in Bosnia: Myth or Real Threat?" The program is the fruit of extensive research by broadcaster Vlado Azinovic, who has a Ph.D. in modern Bosnian history. The key question the series tries to answer is whether Bosnia has become a base for the recruitment and training of Al Qaeda fighters. During the Bosnian war of the 1990s, "mujahadeens" fought with the Bosnian army, and many of them stayed in Bosnia and were granted Bosnian citizenship when the war ended. Unconfirmed reports said they had several training camps in Bosnia. After 9/11, the United States persuaded the Bosnian government to strip the Al-Qaeda fighters of Bosnian citizenship and deport them back to Arab countries, but some managed to stay and are still living in Bosnia. The series broadcast over two weeks, examined how the ideology of radical Islam was introduced in Bosnia and featured interviews with more than 30 international and local experts, witnesses and officials.

** The Director of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service (SSALS), Omer Karabeg, may be reached by email at <>. The SSALS website in Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian is located at, in Albanian at and in Macedonian at; English-language news about events in Bosnia- Herzegovina can be found at

RADIO FREE AFGHANISTAN REPORTS DEBATE OVER STRIKE ON MADRASAH... Pakistan's October 30 strike on an Al-Qaeda linked madrasah in the Bajaur tribal region near the border with Afghanistan was a major story on RFA for several days, with the impetus it gave for armed protests and widespread debate. In addition to Afghan views, the service aired an interview on October 31with Hasan Askari Rizvi, an independent political analyst in Lahore, Pakistan. Speaking with RFE/RL correspondent Ron Synovitz, he said: "there is resentment all over Pakistan... but the demonstrations are limited to certain areas of the Northwest Frontier Province and the tribal areas. In the rest of the country, we don't really have serious disturbances" and that "only the Islamist parties are demonstrating... and accusing the United States for what has happened."
Rizvi said "there is a lot of tension between the local population in that region and Pakistani security" and that a peace agreement between the Pakistan government and local tribal chiefs due to take effect in a few days now "has disappeared" (

...BROADCASTS FIRST TRILINGUAL CALL-IN SHOW On October 12, Radio Free Afghanistan for the first time broadcast a call-in show conducted in three languages: Dari, Pashto and English. Two Radio Free Afghanistan journalists in Prague hosted the two-hour show which after the news featured as its first guest NATO/ISAF spokesman in Afghanistan Mark Laity, who came to Radio Free Afghanistan's Kabul bureau. He said Radio Free Afghanistan is an extremely reliable, trustworthy medium and has very high listenership. Two interpreters standing by in the Kabul bureau translated questions and answers from listeners live on the air. The show was able to accommodate 11 questions and comments from the dozens who called, both from inside Afghanistan and other countries. Listeners expressed a variety of views, some supporting, others critical of NATO operations in Afghanistan. Most listeners were concerned about the killing of civilians in NATO actions against the Taliban and other terrorist groups. Listeners also questioned NATO's role in the reconstruction process around the country.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan, Akbar Ayazi, may be reached by email at <>. Radio Free Afghanistan's website is located at; English-language news about events in Afghanistan can be found at

BELARUS SERVICE TALKS TO SAKHAROV PRIZE WINNER MILINKEVICH Belarusian opposition leader Alyaksandr Milinkevich gave an interview to an RFE/RL Belarus Service correspondent in Minsk on October 26, shortly after being awarded the Sakharov Prize, the European Union's top human rights award. He said in the interview that "this prize is an award to the thousands and thousands of people who demonstrated, especially this past spring, their courage and determination to fight for their dignity and for Belarus. Thus, I don't intend to claim this award as my own. The award will support those who were repressed during the presidential elections campaign." Milinkevich called the award a great morale booster for Belarus' democratic forces.
The European Parliament cited Milinkevich's struggle against authoritarianism and for democracy in Belarus in the decision to give him the award. European Parliament President Josep Borrell said he told Milinkevich earlier this year that the European Parliament supports him and "all those who, like him, fight to promote democracy and the rule of law and respect for human rights in Belarus, and it is for this reason that, today, the Conference of Presidents agreed to award him the 2006 Sakharov Prize, and we congratulate him for this" (

** The Director of RFE/RL's Belarus Service, Alexander Lukashuk, may be reached by email at <>. The Belarus Service's website is at; English-language news about events in Belarus can be found at

GEORGIAN SERVICE FOLLOWS DEVELOPING EU TIES RFE/RL's Georgian Service aired an interview October 31 with Giorgi Baramidze, Georgia's state minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration, who was in Brussels to meet with EU representatives and NATO officials. Baramidze said in the RFE/RL interview that his most important discussions were about establishing free trade between Georgia and the EU. He said because of the crisis with Russia, "we are asking the European Union to accelerate [the] process [of starting] negotiations on free trade," that "Georgia is one of the advanced countries of Europe's Neighborhood Policy and if Georgia falls [from] pressure from Russia, this would be a serious problem for the European Union. It would send a very, very bad message to any Neighborhood Policy countries." Baramidze said that lost trade with Russia is costing Georgia "at least 1.8 percent [in annual] real GDP growth, and 60 percent of our exports [have been lost], and [Georgia has lost] 50 percent of [its] custom tariffs [income]" (

** The Director of RFE/RL's Georgian Service, David Kakabadze, may be reached by email at <>. The Georgian Service's website is at; English-language news about events in Georgia can be found at

ARMENIAN SERVICE COMMEMORATES PARLIAMENT SHOOT-OUT RFE/RL's Armenian Service October 27 aired a program commemorating the seventh anniversary of the shooting in Armenia's parliament in Yerevan that left eight people dead, including the prime minister, the parliament speaker and six ministers. An RFE/RL correspondent, sent to cover a question and answer session, was at the scene in 1999 and recorded the sound of gunshots and shouting in Armenian: "Bastards, you sucked the people's blood," as five gunmen sprayed the politicians with bullets. The archive tape was aired during the commemorative program, along with an exclusive RFE/RL interview with current Armenian Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, who was in 1999 chairman of the Republican Party, a member of the ruling coalition headed by the assassinated Prime Minister, Vasgen Sarkisian. The Armenian Service also aired interviews with parliamentary speaker Tigran Torossian and opposition leader Stepan Demirchian, son of the assassinated parliament speaker, Karen Demirchian. The commemorative package also included an analytical discussion of the trial of the gunmen and what happened afterwards. All five were arrested, convicted and sentenced; several have died in prison under suspicious circumstances.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Armenian Service, Hrair Tamrazian, may be reached by email at <>. The Armenian Service's website is at; English-language news about events in Armenia can be found at

KYRGYZ SERVICE ASKS HARD QUESTIONS ON ECONOMY Kyrgyz First Deputy Prime Minister Daniyar Usenov was the guest October 25 on the popular television show "Inconvenient Questions," a weekly program produced by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service. Usenov fielded tough questions about stalled constitutional and economic reform and increasingly vocal criticism by Kyrgyz opposition forces. Usenov on the show was equally tough, rejecting all accusations by the opposition and insisting that his government is improving the economic situation in Kyrgyzstan (

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

TAJIK SERVICE GETS COMMENT ON BOUCHER VISIT... RFE/RL'S Tajik Service closely followed the visit of U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Richard Boucher to Dushanbe October 5 and had a correspondent present when Boucher met with a small group of journalists after his meeting with Tajik president Imomali Rakhmonov. Boucher told reporters that the discussion had focused on regional U.S. energy projects and the upcoming Tajik presidential election.
RFE/RL also spoke to several opposition leaders and political analysts who expressed concern that a positive tone in Boucher's remarks suggests the U.S. is softening its pro-democracy stance towards the nations of Central Asia, in return for economic benefit. A senior member of the Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan, Hikmatullo Saifullozoda told RFE/RL that Boucher's meeting with Rakhmonov focused on economic issues, rather than politics. Independent political expert Ismael Rahmatov said cooperation between Dushanbe and Washington against Islamic terrorism is more important than improving Tajikistan's poor record on freedom and democracy. The deputy chairman of Tajikistan's Democratic Party, Rahmatullo Valiev told RFE/RL he hoped the U.S. is closely watching the Tajik election campaign and will press for fair, free, and transparent presidential elections on November 6 (

...FOCUSES ON ELECTION CAMPAIGN... Coverage of campaigning for the November 6 presidential election in Tajikistan dominated RFE/RL broadcasting in October. The Tajik Service interviewed leading candidates and heads of the major political parties, including the Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP), Tajikistan's only registered Islamic party. Muhiddin Kabiri, newly appointed IRP chairman in September, gave an exclusive interview to RFE/RL early October, explaining why his party had decided not to field a candidate in the upcoming election. Kabiri said there is a widespread perception that the IRP is undemocratic and would take the country backward and IRP political opponents "claim that if the Islamic Renaissance Party won, Tajikistan would become a second Afghanistan." A leading authority on Islam in Tajikistan, Hoja Akbar Turajonzoda, who said he supports incumbent president Imomali Rakhmonov, told RFE/RL in the broadcast that "Tajik society is not ready for a person with a spiritual background to become head of government ...the region is not ready for an Islamist to become president [in Tajikistan, and... Russia in particular would not allow or agree to an Islamist head of state in Tajikistan."
RFE/RL's Tajik Service is broadcasting daily candidates' positions, party programs, and information and analysis listeners need to make as informed a decision as possible at the polls. Analysts interviewed by RFE/RL most agree that President Imomali Rakhmonov will be easily reelected. So far five candidates have registered with the Central Elections Commission, none of them from opposition groups. Saidahmad Qalandar, head of an independent think-tank, told RFE/RL that Tajikistan's opposition parties have failed to use the seven years since the last presidential election to strengthen their position and establish an alternative to Rakhmonov. But former chairman of Tajikistan's Constitutional Court Ashurboy Imomov said the poor showing by the opposition was due to the government's restrictive, undemocratic practices. He noted that several potential political leaders are serving long-term jail sentences, others have left the country, and mass media are tightly controlled by the state (;
In another program, aired October 4, the Tajik Service looked at a split in the Democratic Party, with one faction deciding to boycott the November 6 election in protest against the undemocratic environment in Tajikistan and bias of the Central Elections Commission. At a roundtable discussion with two candidates from pro-government parties, the Tajik Service moderator asked each to explain the difference between their platforms and the policies of the incumbent president, neither was able to give a clear answer (;;

...SPARKS PROTEST WITH REPORT ON WEBSITE BLOCKAGES After RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported October 12 that Tajikistan's Communications Ministry had requested that five independent websites be blocked, a firestorm of protest erupted in the mass media and the government retreated from its decision. The Tajik service was the first media outlet to report the Ministry's request and stayed on the story, interviewing internet providers in Dushanbe, website owners, telecommunication officials, press watchdogs, journalists, and Internet users in Tajikistan. The head of Tajikistan's National Association of Independent Media, Nuriddin Qarshiboev, said the move was "linked to the ongoing campaign for the presidency and the government is trying to limit access to alternative sources of information for Internet users." The owner of two sites that were blocked, who now lives in exile in Moscow, told RFE/RL that these sites could have an impact on the elections and that the Tajik elite does not want to have any critics. (; The Tajik service was also first to report the news that the authorities had relented and decided to reopen the websites (

** The Director of RFE/RL's Tajik Service, Massoumeh Torfeh, may be reached by email at <>. The Tajik Service's website is at; English-language news about events in Tajikistan can be found at

RFE/RL in the News

"THE ECONOMIST" ON COLD WAR SURVIVORS An item in the October 28 edition of "The Economist" titled "Let each stand in his place" notes that RFE/RL's budget was "slashed" in the 1990's after the fall of communism, "but RFE/RL continues trenchant coverage of Russia and has launched new services in Arabic and Persian."

CZECH PREMIER MAKES NEWS AT RFE/RL Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek held a separate press conference at RFE/RL's broadcasting operations center in Prague October 23 after delivering opening remarks at the Energy Forum, a two-day international conference on energy and security, organized jointly by RFE/RL and the Warsaw-based Institute for Eastern Studies. Topolanek's statement that the European Union should reduce dependency on Russian oil and gas was widely quoted in Czech and European press.

TATAR-BASHKIR SERVICE PRAISED BY TATAR PRESIDENT Tatar president Mintimer Shaimiev at this year's second World Congress of Russians Abroad praised RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service, calling it "a unique all-Tatar media outlet, which has been covering Tatar communities worldwide for years." Shaimiev commented at the opening of the Congress October 24 in St. Petersburg. He said that Russia broadcasts in 35 languages to different parts of the world, but has never had a single federal channel for Tatars, the largest ethnic group in Russia after Russians.

RFE/RL MACEDONIAN TV SHOW GAINS NEW OUTLET On October 8, the ALSAT (Albanian Satellite Television) network began to carry RFE/RL's "Sunday TV Interview" for its Macedonian audiences. The program airs in prime time every Sunday. ALSAT is the second nationwide television network in Macedonia to broadcast "Sunday TV Interview", joining Channel Five, which has carried the program since January 2006. "Sunday TV Interview" is also seen on eight municipal TV stations in the region. Transcripts of "Sunday TV Interview", in Macedonian, may be read at

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