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Media Matters: March 28, 2003


28 March 2003, Volume 3, Number 12
AFGHANISTAN
RFE/RL REPORTER ORDERED OUT OF HERAT... Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent Ahmad Behzad, along with a group of journalists including Masud Hasanzada of Voice of America (VOA) and one from the BBC, announced on 24 March that they will leave Herat Province for one week and abstain from covering the region to protest Governor Ismail Khan's recent crackdown on the media. The weekly "Takhasus" and the monthly "Shugufa," along with several journalists from newspapers in Herat, proclaimed they will join the protest, citing Ismail Khan's verbal abuse of Behzad on 19 March. Behzad has also said that he was detained for six hours and physically assaulted by Herat security chief Nasim Alawi and two police officers. Before the journalists left the province, Alawi told Behzad on 24 March that Ismail Khan demanded explicitly that Behzad leave Herat immediately. In an interview with Radio Free Afghanistan on 24 March, Behzad said that journalists and writers from most media outlets in Herat have signed an open letter to President Hamid Karzai asking him to intervene to oppose Ismail Khan's efforts to stifle the press. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 March)

...AS HERAT'S GOVERNOR RESPONDS... On 21 March, Ismail Khan condemned the coverage of alleged human rights violations in Herat by Afghan "slaves of the media" at a ceremony marking the Afghan New Year, or Norouz, an RFE/RL press release asserted on 25 March. "Those Afghans from our city, through the BBC and Radio Free Afghanistan, harm the dignity of our people," Ismail Khan was quoted as saying, "I would like to tell them that just like those who served the Russians and benefited from them, they too will meet the same end." In response to a question concerning Ismail Khan's accusations, President Karzai's spokesman Sayed Fazl Akbar said on 23 March that he does not think that the reporting of the BBC and Radio Free Afghanistan on the issue was biased and he can see no reason for such accusations. CC

...AND JOURNALISTS' GROUP PROTESTS INCIDENT. The Commission for the Establishment of Liberal Journalism in Afghanistan has protested the treatment of Behzad and asked the authorities of the Afghan Transitional Administration to "take measures to restore respect for the journalists" and to establish a committee to investigate the incident, Radio Afghanistan reported on 25 March. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 March)

BELARUS
GROUPS CALL FOR REOPENING OF ZAVADSKI CASE. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Belarus Association of Journalists on 24 March called for reopening the official investigation into the disappearance of Dzmitry Zavadski, a Minsk-based cameraman for the Russian television station ORT, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported on 24 March. Zavadski disappeared on 7 July 2000. On 27 February, the official heading the inquiry informed Zavadski's wife that the authorities have decided to stop looking for him because "he has not yet been found." CC

JOURNALIST RELEASED ON PAROLE. A district court in Zhlobin, Homel Oblast, decided on 21 March to release Pavel Mazheyka on parole, Belapan reported. The same day, Mazheyka left the "open-type corrective" facility where he had been held and took a train to Hrodna. The court's decision does not annul Mazheyka's sentence. He has to register with the criminal administration inspectorate in Hrodna and may be returned to a corrective facility by a court finding of two or more minor civil offenses committed within the five months and eight days remaining until the end of his term. Under law, prisoners may be released on parole after serving half of their term. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 March)

GEORGIA
SUPREME COURT THREATENS INDEPENDENT TV STATION FOR CORRUPTION REPORTS... The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on 21 March voiced its concern that the Georgian Supreme Court has published a statement requesting that the prosecutor-general conduct a criminal inquiry into "60 Minutes," a biweekly investigative news program on the independent, Tbilisi-based television station Rustavi-2. CPJ charges that the request came in retaliation for the station's reporting -- using hidden cameras -- on alleged corruption within the judiciary and the police. The statement was printed in the 10 March edition of the state-owned Tbilisi daily "Sakartvelos Respublika." The prosecutor has not yet responded to the court's request. CC

...IN PREPARATION FOR PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS? The Supreme Court's threatening statement against Rustavi-2 appears to be part of a campaign of government harassment to discredit the station ahead of parliamentary elections set for October, the CPJ charged on 21 March. Government-owned media, including the daily "Sakartvelos Respublika" and Channel 1 television, have disseminated reports over the last several months attacking "60 Minutes" for its continuing investigative reports on alleged official corruption. CC

COURT TO RULE ON LIBEL SUIT AGAINST INDEPENDENT STATION SOON. Rustavi-2 also faces a 10 million-lari ($4.6 million) criminal-libel lawsuit in the Supreme Court brought by former Culture Minister Valeri Asatiani, CPJ reported on 21 March. Asatiani filed the suit against the station after the 1 April 2000 broadcast of "60 Minutes," which featured a convicted criminal who accused Asatiani of ordering him to murder the minister's business partner. The Supreme Court is planning to issue a ruling in the case on 10 April. Current or former government officials angered by the program's aggressive investigative reporting on government corruption have filed numerous suits in lower courts, CPJ reported. CC

IRAQ
RESPECT FOR FREE EXPRESSION URGED. As the U.S.-led coalition began its military operation against the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, 20 IFEX members in 16 countries endorsed an appeal urging all countries in the conflict to refrain from targeting journalists, to ensure the free flow of information, and to respect the rights of journalists under international law, an IFEX communique reported on 25 March. The IFEX members called on all sides to recognize the need for a free flow of information during this conflict and to restrain from censoring or interfering with the media's reporting, even when journalists travel under military protection. "We also recommend that journalists and media not working under military protection give priority to safety measures, including only working from secured areas and using 'pooling' arrangements between different media to reduce risks," the statement said. CC

CONCERN OVER U.S. THREAT TO TARGET TRANSMITTERS... On 24 March, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) criticized a U.S. threat to target Iraqi state radio and television. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld indicated on 23 March that the United States might target Iraqi television and radio stations for air strikes. Rumsfeld's comment came after Iraq paraded five captured U.S. soldiers on television, a report that was relayed on 23 March by the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera satellite network. While criticizing the Iraqi action, IFJ said that "targeting Iraqi media will only open the door to reprisals against hundreds of foreign media staff working in Iraq." Broadcast media -- even when state-controlled -- should not be targeted, according to the IFJ. CC

...AS COALITION FORCES MAKE GOOD ON THAT THREAT. Coalition air strikes targeted the studios of Iraq State Television on 25-26 March, knocking it off the air until broadcasting could be restored using backup equipment, Al-Jazeera television reported on 26 March. The Pentagon confirmed the bombing, according to Al-Jazeera, which also reported that broadcasts were resumed shortly after the bombing with the aid of mobile transmitters. An Al-Jazeera correspondent in Baghdad was unable to confirm the bombing on 26 March, telling an anchorwoman at the Qatar-based studio: "Not a single Iraqi official has confirmed the report that the television station was destroyed. Television transmission was cut, but no one at the time knew if this was scheduled or not, since Iraq Television does not transmit round the clock." He confirmed, however, that transmissions had resumed. The correspondent said reporters are taken to view "select sites" that thus far have been limited to "civilian" sites bombed by coalition forces. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 March)

AN ARMY OF JOURNALISTS, NEEDING PROTECTION. The IFJ noted on 23 March that, according to United States military sources, there have been at least four incidents involving members of the news media who came under Iraqi fire after crossing the border from Kuwait to Iraq. The U.S. military has also allegedly received reports of journalists being detained by Iraqis and possibly wounded by Iraqis. There are 2,074 registered members of the news media in Kuwait and Iraq -- 529 of whom are embedded with coalition forces -- but the IFJ believes there are "many more news staff in the field." The IFJ called for "restraint" by news outlets in deploying their reporters and asked that the military "give priority to protecting all journalists, not just the privileged minority who are 'embedded' and traveling with the forces." CC

CPJ CONCERNED THAT IRAQIS ARE DEPLOYING JOURNALISTS AS SHIELDS... International journalists evacuated the Al-Rashid Hotel in Baghdad on 20 March after receiving reports that the hotel was a likely target of a U.S. air strike because of the alleged presence of a military bunker beneath the hotel, the CPJ reported the same day. Due to this report, a large number of journalists had previously left the Al-Rashid Hotel and moved to the Palestine Hotel, which is further from government buildings. Journalists who went to the Palestine Hotel last week told CPJ the Iraqi authorities ordered them to return to the Al-Rashid Hotel on 19 March without explanation. While larger news organizations, such as CNN and the BBC, resisted and were allowed to stay put after threatening to leave the country, others reluctantly returned to the Al-Rashid. On 20 March, after learning of warnings from an unidentified Western government to leave the Al-Rashid immediately, the journalists rushed back to the Palestine Hotel. Some journalists suspect human shielding as the reason behind Iraq's orders. Pentagon spokespeople would neither confirm nor deny that the hotel was a target, saying only that Baghdad is a dangerous place for journalists. Reportedly, Iraqi officials ordered journalists to stay in their hotels during the attacks and instructed them not to leave their hotels unless accompanied by government escorts. CC

...AND LEAVING IRAQ IS MADE DIFFICULT. Many journalists have departed Baghdad in recent days, citing safety concerns, the CPJ reported on 20 March. Iraqi authorities allegedly delayed or prevented some reporters from leaving Iraq because they had not complied with proper exit procedures. A spokeswoman for "The New York Times" told CPJ that reporter John Burns and photographer Tyler Hicks could not secure a newly required "currency-clearance certificate" and, therefore, had not left for Jordan. Other U.S. news outlets encountered similar bureaucratic hurdles while trying to exit the country. Some were delayed for hours, while others were forced to return to Baghdad. CC

TWO JOURNALISTS KILLED. Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) journalist Paul Moran was killed on 22 March in an apparent suicide-bomb attack in northeastern Iraq, the CPJ reported on 23 March. Moran was killed when a man detonated a car bomb at a checkpoint near the town of Gerdigo. ABC correspondent Eric Campbell was injured by shrapnel in the incident. The bombing was reportedly directed at fighters from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, a group of Kurdish fighters who had just taken over the surrounding area from the rival Ansar al-Islam organization, the CPJ said. Foreign journalists in northern Iraq had recently received warnings from the U.S. State Department and Kurdish intelligence officials that Ansar al-Islam might target journalists, the CPJ reported on 23 March. On the same day, Terry Lloyd, a war correspondent with Britain's ITV, was killed near the southern Iraqi city of Imam Anas when the vehicle in which he and colleagues were traveling came under fire, CPJ said. Two of Lloyd's colleagues, camera operator Fred Nerac and translator Hussein Othman, are still missing. The IFJ has asserted that Lloyd, 50, was killed by "friendly fire" from anti-Iraq coalition forces, and it has urged a full inquiry into the incident, according to an IFEX communique on 25 March. CC

CNN CREW EXPELLED FROM IRAQ. On 21 March, Iraqi officials expelled the U.S. cable news network CNN from Baghdad, the CPJ reported the next day, according to an IFEX communique on 25 March. Reporters Nic Robertson and Rym Barhimi, as well as a producer and a cameraman, were ordered to leave the country and departed for Jordan. The CPJ noted that the Iraqi authorities have expelled five journalists from the country since the war began. Four of them worked for CNN, which Iraqi officials accused of being "worse than the American administration," according to Nic Robertson, one of the expelled reporters. CC

CROATIAN JOURNALIST EXPELLED FROM IRAQ. On 23 March, Iraqi officials expelled a Croatian freelance journalist from Baghdad the day after he conducted a live interview with CNN, which was expelled from Iraq on 21 March, the CPJ reported on 24 March. Robert Valdec had been in Baghdad for three weeks reporting for various Balkan news outlets. CC

BAGHDAD RADIO SWITCHING FREQUENCIES TO COUNTER U.S. JAMMING. Baghdad is repeatedly changing its radio frequencies in an effort to counter "America's psychological and propaganda warfare," Tehran radio reported in the hours after the U.S.-led coalition launched its attack on Iraq on 20 March. Iran's IRNA later cited Iraqi dissident sources as saying that Baghdad has both fixed and mobile radio stations for this purpose. American Commando Solo II missions are broadcast from Pennsylvania Air National Guard EC-130E aircraft on AM, FM, and other frequencies. Tehran radio added that the United States started broadcasting on the Radio Baghdad frequencies soon after the attack commenced, so Al-Shabab, Baghdad, and Sawt al-Jamahiriyah radios have changed their frequencies. An earlier announcement from Tehran radio, citing Reuters, said the U.S. Army had taken control of the Iraqi frequencies, with an Arabic-speaking announcer stating, "The attack on Iraq has begun." ("RFE/RL Iraq Report," 21 March)

MEDIA URGED TO RESPECT INTERNATIONAL LAW IN POW COVERAGE. The IFJ on 24 March warned journalists to be aware of possible violations of international conventions that might arise from broadcasting footage of prisoners of war (POWs). The IFJ said the media are under tremendous competitive pressure in covering the war, and this might erode their ethical duty to do no harm and, in particular, to maintain respect for humanitarian legal standards. CC

KAZAKHSTAN
WEEKLY STRUGGLES IN UST-KAMENOGORSK. Dmitrii Nikiforov, the owner of a newspaper in Ust-Kamenogorsk in northeastern Kazakhstan, told his weekly's story in the 21 March issue of U.S. daily "The Grand Forks Herald." The nearest printing press is in Russia, 966 kilometers away, through a lawless countryside where men with guns can demand "tolls" of $10-$30 from passing trucks. Then there are bribes for the border guards. Nikoforov's paper, "Ustinka Plus," is one of 13 local papers in Ust-Kamenogorsk, a city of 246,000. It controls 20 percent of the city's advertising market, but there are few businesses that want to advertise. Either businesses are so big as to form virtual monopolies with little need to advertise, or they are too small to understand how to use advertising. Without its own subscription department, "Ustinka Plus" doesn't even know exactly who its readers are or what they want, Nikiforov said. CC

MACEDONIA
OSCE MISSION TO SUPPORT LOCAL MEDIA ASSOCIATIONS. A three-week training program to assist the development of media associations in the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia was launched on 24 March by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Mission in Skopje, according to an OSCE press release (http://www.osce.org/news). CC

MOLDOVA
PRESIDENT PROMULGATES LAW ON TELERADIO MOLDOVA. President Vladimir Voronin on 20 March signed into law a bill approved by parliament earlier this month on Teleradio Moldova, Flux reported the next day. Meanwhile, broadcasts of Romanian Television's Channel 1 were resumed in Moldova on 21 March, after an interruption of more than eight months and prolonged negotiations with the Romanian authorities on ways to finance the broadcasts. Finally, Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev was quoted by Flux as saying on Moldovan Television on 22 March that the Chisinau local radio station Antena C has adopted a "reactionary position" aimed at "destroying the Moldovan state," and that the country's leadership "cannot remain indifferent" to that position. Tarlev said radio and television stations that have violated the constitution or laws must be held accountable. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 March)

PRIVATE RADIO STATION BACK ON AIR. The private Voice of Bessarabia radio station resumed broadcasts on 26 March, Infotag reported. Valeriu Saharneanu, one of the owners of the station, who is also chairman of the Union of Moldovan Journalists, said at a press conference the same day that the 10 December decision by the Coordination Board for Electronic Media to suspend the Voice of Bessarabia broadcasts on the grounds that it had failed to obtain a "technical license" was a measure that was "too severe" and "undeserved." He said the station is independent, as it does not belong to any political party. Board Chairman Ion Mihailo said nothing prevents the station from resuming regular broadcasts now that it has fulfilled the conditions for receiving a broadcasting permit. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 March)

POLAND
PRESIDENT WANTS MEDIA FREED FROM 'POLITICAL INFLUENCE.' President Aleksander Kwasniewski announced on 22 March that he will not accept the annual report of the National Radio and Television Broadcasting Council (KRRiT), the daily "Rzeczpospolita" reported. "It is inevitable" that Robert Kwiatkowski will resign from his post as chairman of Polish public television, according to Kwasniewski. "It is necessary to free the public media from political influence. Everyone should understand that this is in their interest," the president added. It is generally believed that beginning in 1997, the KRRiT -- and, consequently, Polish public television and radio -- have been dominated by people associated with the Democratic Left Alliance and the Peasant Party. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 March)

BROADCASTING AUTHORITY HEAD RESIGNS. Juliusz Braun, head of the KRRiT, resigned his chairmanship on 25 March but said he will keep his seat on that nine-member body, PAP reported. Braun said his vision of Poland's public life and media runs counter to that of KRRiT Secretary Wlodzimierz Czarzasty and "some important politicians" from the ruling Democratic Left Alliance who, he claimed, are seeking to limit freedom of the press. Earlier this month, Braun told a parliamentary commission that the work on amending a media law last year involved some "shady dealings" on the part of some KRRiT members. President Kwasniewski immediately called on Braun and the entire KRRiT to step down. "It is a step in [the] right direction," presidential minister Dariusz Szymczycha said of Braun's decision. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 March)

RUSSIA
REPRESSIVE MEDIA MEASURE WINS INITIAL APPROVAL. Legislators on 21 March passed a presidential bill that amends several laws regulating media coverage of elections, Russian media reported. The bill passed with 245 votes in favor and 160 against, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 24 March. Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov spoke in favor of the bill, which Yabloko, the Union of Rightist Forces, and the Communist factions opposed. The bill has been harshly criticized by media advocates and others who fear that the media will be afraid to offer even unbiased commentary on elections lest they are accused of covert campaigning. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 March)

DOES MEDIA ANSWER TO THE GOVERNMENT? The Russian media scene has been characterized by a new wave of media centralization and control by the Kremlin in the first three years of President Vladimir Putin's administration, according to a new report written for the European Journalism Centre. By buying up majority stakes in media outlets, controlling media licenses, and by failing to clarify vague media-ownership laws, the Russian authorities have again successfully brought the media into direct subservience to the government, the report contends. In addition to summarizing current Russian media developments, the report outlines the press, audio-visual media, news agencies, journalism organizations, and online media in Russia. For the complete text of the report, see http://www.ejc.nl/jr/emland/russia.html. CC

MEDIA STATISTICS UNVEILED. According to information made public by the Russian Media Ministry on 19 March, there are 6,715 electronic media outlets, 38,060 newspapers, 12,907 magazines, and 993 Internet sites currently registered in Russia, the 17-23 March issue of the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations' "Russia Weekly Report" reported. The Media Ministry reported that 21.5 million copies of newspapers are distributed in Russia annually. Russia's largest newspapers are "Moskovskii komsomolets," "Komsomolskaya pravda," "Sport-ekspress," "Trud," "Rossiiskaya gazeta," and "Gudok." Over the past two years, the Media Ministry reported on 19 March, one-third of all regional newspapers received funding from the federal budget. CC

LOCAL NEWSPAPERS GAINING PROMINENCE IN INFORMATION MARKETPLACE? According to the Media Ministry's data, national newspapers have comprised 14.7 percent of the new media outlets launched in recent years, compared to over 80 percent for regional, interregional, and municipal newspapers, RosBalt reported on 25 March. Deputy Media Minister Vladimir Grigorev said this data "allows us to say the local press is becoming an inspiring and serious information force." According to the ministry, just 10 years ago, the central press dominated the information field. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 March)

RUSSIAN TV GEARS UP TO COVER IRAQ WAR. With the start of the war in Iraq, Russia's central television stations increased their news coverage, the 17-23 March issue of the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations' "Russia Weekly Report" reported. The four national channels -- RTR, ORT, NTV, and TVS -- have reporting teams in Baghdad, which are living at the Russian Embassy. According to RIA-Novosti, there are currently 26 Russian reporters in Iraq. CC

MUFTIS WANT VIOLENT FILMS OFF AIRWAVES... The Council of Muftis of Russia has appealed to federal and regional authorities and shareholders in media companies to stop showing U.S.-made and other films that "depict cruelty, the cult of force and pleasure, vices, erotica, pornography, depravity, and violence," RosBalt reported on 24 March. The appeal was adopted by an extraordinary plenum of Muslims in Moscow on 22 March. At the same time, plenum participants, representing 29 regional spiritual administrations, spoke out against conducting protests against the war in Iraq. According to the agency, the religious leaders believe such activities "only destabilize the situation in the government." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 March)

...AS LEGISLATORS WANT VIOLENCE OFF NEWS SHOWS. State Duma Deputy Valerii Galchenko (People's Deputy) has announced that in the fall the Duma will examine a bill that bans the showing of violence against people or animals during television news programs, Ekho Moskvy reported on 24 March. Galchenko is one of the authors of the bill. In an interview with the station, Russian Academy of Television President Vladimir Pozner spoke out against the bill. "It is a great misfortune when people who understand nothing about television start to push forward legislation on television," Pozner said. "Doctors, not auto mechanics, should perform operations. It is necessary that the television community itself struggle with violence on the air and work out its own rules. [Broadcasters] do not need some State Duma deputies interfering in the process." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 March)

VOICE OF RUSSIA WILL BROADCAST 24/7 FROM BERLIN. Russian state radio's Voice of Russia (http://www.vor.ru) is expanding its broadcasting location in Berlin, pressetext.Europe reported on 24 March. The AM station will soon broadcast from the German capital 24 hours a day. The station will soon be broadcasting to the Near and Middle East via shortwave, and a new Internet broadcast-distribution system is under preparation. CC

SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO
MANY QUESTIONS ON DJINDJIC ASSASSINATION REMAIN UNANSWERED. Most Serbs appear pleased with the police handling of the case of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic's assassination, the BBC reported from Belgrade on 26 March. But more members of the judicial branch have been sacked or have resigned over corruption allegations than have police, the correspondent added. The ongoing state of emergency, moreover, has served to muzzle any discussion in the media of the extent of corruption and mafia penetration into public life. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 March)

UZBEKISTAN
NONGOVERNMENTAL JOURNALISTS' ORGANIZATION REGISTERED. The Uzbek authorities have registered an independent association of journalists in Bukhara Oblast, centrasia.ru reported on 26 March. This is the first time a grassroots journalists' NGO has been able register in Uzbekistan. The Bukhara group, called Zhurnalist (the same word is used in both Uzbek and Russian), includes print and broadcast journalists. Zhurnalist Chairman Asatillo Kudratov told centrasia.ru that the mission of the group is to defend and consolidate the rights of journalists. Kudratov was quoted as saying that some 100 media workers in Bukhara Oblast have indicated interest in joining the organization, and international donors have already promised funding. Two newly formed independent journalists' groups in Tashkent have been unable to register so far because, according to the report, they did not wait to be registered before starting to function, thereby arousing the ire of the authorities. Since the official abolition of censorship in 2002, journalists in Uzbekistan -- while expressing doubts that censorship will completely disappear -- have started trying to fulfill the role of "watchdogs of democracy," with, as the centrasia.ru report says, limited success so far. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 March)

TV ACCUSES FOREIGN MEDIA OF DISTORTED REPORTING ON UZBEK PRISONS. In its Sunday review of the week's events on 23 March, Uzbek state TV complained that foreign news agencies have recently been putting out "distorted" reports that religious and political prisoners are being tortured in Uzbek prisons. The broadcast specifically mentioned an RFE/RL report on conditions at the notorious Jaslyk prison camp in the desert in a remote part of Karakalpakistan. Since it was opened in the late 1990s, the Jaslyk camp has been noted for poor conditions and a high death rate among prisoners. Many people convicted of religious extremism have been sent to Jaslyk. A recent report prepared for the UN Commission on Human Rights called for the Jaslyk camp to be closed. In response to the UN report, Uzbek authorities have acknowledged that isolated cases of torture occur in detention facilities in Uzbekistan, but have denied torture is used routinely. The 23 March broadcast painted a rosy picture of conditions at the Jaslyk camp, claiming that inmates are allowed to read Islamic religious literature and to pray five times a day. It also asserted that international human rights organizations were always welcome to visit Uzbek prisons. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 March)

PRESIDENT DECRIES RUSSIAN TELEVISION'S PANIC-MONGERING ON IRAQI WAR... According to the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) on 25 March, although President Islam Karimov's pro-U.S. stance on the Iraq war is reflected in the Uzbek media, a high proportion of Uzbeks watch Russian television, which reflects Moscow's antiwar position. Unofficial data suggests that most Tashkent residents -- 2 million people -- have satellite dishes or cable that enables them to watch most Russian television channels. The situation is similar in most major cities. Only in the countryside does Uzbek television predominate. Since Karimov watches Russian television, he is well-aware of what most Uzbeks are watching. "Russia's media are broadcasting material that spreads panic, such as declarations that World War III has begun and that the world will never forgive America," Karimov complained. CC

...IN ON-AGAIN, OFF-AGAIN RELATIONSHIP WITH RUSSIAN TV. President Karimov has restricted Russian broadcasts in Uzbekistan in the past, the IWPR reported on 25 March. A report on TV-6 in 2001 that claimed that a bomb from Afghanistan had destroyed an Uzbek house in Termez led to a ban on all private cable networks relaying the channel for almost a year. A year later, after TVS aired a report on child labor in the cotton fields of Samarkand Oblast, local leaders were lambasted for giving reporters access to the area, and, since then, interviews with foreign reporters have been banned. On 6 March, NTV was taken off the air for two days after it reported -- erroneously -- that Karimov had died. CC

REGIONAL
BELARUS, RUSSIA TO FORM UNIFIED INFORMATION SPACE. Russian Media Minister Mikhail Lesin and Belarusian Information Minister Mikhail Padhayny on 21 March signed a plan for the creation this year of a unified information space encompassing the two countries, the 18-24 March issue of the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations' "CIS Weekly Report" reported. The agreement includes provision on the exchange of legal documents in relation to the press, book publishing, and broadcasting. CC

NEW BOOKS AND WEBSITES
'REGARDING THE PAIN OF OTHERS.' Susan Sontag's new book "Regarding the Pain of Others" is a history of photographs of war and violence, "The New York Times" reported on 23 March. The book explores viewers' reactions to these photographs. Some are "consumers of violence as spectacle, adepts of proximity without risk," while others are still shocked by "atrocious images" of extreme cruelty. Sontag puts such viewer reactions in a wider context. "It is absurd to identify the world with those zones in well-off countries where people have the dubious privilege of being spectators, or declining to be spectators, of other people's pain.... There are hundreds of millions of television watchers who are far from inured to what they see on television. They do not have the luxury of patronizing reality," Sontag writes. CC

USEFUL SECRETS? The March-April issue of the "Columbia Journalism Review" ran an article entitled "In a Run-Up To War, How Do We Report Intelligently on Intelligence?" Viewing the protection of "sources and methods" as the "who and how" of intelligence, the article poses a series of key questions on how the media treats intelligence matters. For the full text, see http://www.cjr.org/year/03/2/gup.asp. CC

JOURNALISM GRANTS AND FELLOWSHIPS
APPLICATIONS SOUGHT FOR EDITORS' INTERNSHIP IN U.S. Editors from developing countries are invited to apply for 10 fully paid five-week fellowships in the annual International Journalism Exchange. Applicants must have at least five years' newspaper experience and proficiency in English. The program is sponsored by the American Society of Newspaper Editors and administered by the International Center for Journalists. The deadline for applications is 1 June for the 20 September to 25 October program. For more, see http://www.icfj.org/ff-asne.html. CC

SCRIPPS HOWARD SEMESTER IN WASHINGTON PROGRAM. The Scripps Howard Semester in Washington Internship Program brings three foreign students each year to Washington, D.C., to work at the Scripps Howard News Service. Interns must be fluent in English. Foreign participants are selected by the International Center for Journalists. The deadline for the June-August term is 1 April. CC

END NOTE
WAR IS HELL, SO HOW MUCH SHOULD THE PUBLIC SEE?

By Breffni O'Rourke

War is hell. And modern communication technologies now have the capability to distribute images of the horrors of war more quickly and widely than ever before. The war in Iraq is once again sparking debate about exactly what should be carried by the media, and what, if anything, might be too shocking for the public to see. Are gruesome pictures of mutilated bodies or dying soldiers tasteless sensationalism, or do such pictures bring home the real cost of war in a necessary way? And what about the propaganda value of such material?

Death in war has never been a pretty sight. The packed rows of bodies on the field at Waterloo, corpses strung out on barbed wire along the Somme, and the charred remains of tank crews at Tobruk were all stark reminders to different generations of the true cost of war.

Before the advent of cameras, however, eyewitnesses were the only ones to see the ugliness of the battlefield. Starting in the mid-1800s, photographs were taken during wartime, but the number of people that saw these images was relatively small. During World War I and World War II, restrictions on journalists and official censorship often prevented a broad public from seeing such images.

But modern technology has changed all that. Today, in the U.S.-led war in Iraq, hundreds of journalists are "embedded" in front-line combat units. They share the danger of combat with the soldiers. The often gruesome sights and sounds of battle can be transmitted around the world in real time to billions of people.

But should such images be shown? Is the privacy of the dead and dying being violated for commercial sensationalism? Does the public -- including children -- need protection from such images? Or is suppression of this material a "sanitization" of war, a move to hide its true horror from the public so they will not turn against particular wars?

. "It's important for citizens here in the United States -- and I would suggest around the world -- to see as complete a picture as possible, as reasonably as we can," said Bob Steele, a senior faculty member at the Poynter Institute, a leading U.S. mid-career training center for journalists. "That includes videos of casualties, videos and pictures of POWs. We should be thoughtful and professional in the way we use these images, but if we do not present that side of what is happening in the war, we will be 'shortchanging' the citizens, who have a responsibility to respond to what is going on."

A case in point is the recent showing on Iraqi television of captured and dead American soldiers. The images were then relayed through Qatar-based Al-Jazeera television and were used in part or in whole by television stations around the world and as still photographs in many newspapers. In the United States, in particular, there was controversy over the images. U.S. television networks aired, at most, only part of the footage. Matt Lauer, an anchorman for the NBC television network, called the video footage "extremely, extremely disturbing."

In Europe, France's broadcast regulatory agency summoned Al-Jazeera to complain on the grounds that the film violated the Geneva Convention on prisoners of war. Al-Jazeera has an agreement with the agency to broadcast throughout the European Union. Al-Jazeera pointed out that pictures of Iraqi prisoners had previously been widely used by Western media outlets.

The Vietnam War was the first conflict to be brought into the living room each day by television, and television's raw images of the fighting are considered to have helped swing U.S. public opinion against the war.

Senior analyst Kirsty Hughes of the Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels says she expects the media to play a powerful role in the war in Iraq as well. "The press is clearly important, and it impacts enormously at a time like this on how people view the war, how people respond to the war," Hughes said. "They are looking at the pictures. They are not necessarily listening to what the political leaders are saying. They are watching the TV, listening to the radio, or reading the newspapers, and I think the longer the war goes on, the more powerful the media will be."

British photographer and writer Eamonn McCabe also notes the impact of the modern media on the public. "Now we have this 24-hour coverage," McCabe said. "People are watching television 24 hours a day, like some almost-obscene film. [But] these films don't last an hour and a half; they last for weeks."

Distinct from the question of what is right and proper for the public to see and hear is the issue of the propaganda value of how things are reported. For instance, an editorial that appeared in Britain's conservative "The Daily Telegraph" on 25 March lamented the Western media's concentration on mishaps by allied forces, which -- as the daily put it -- "paint a picture that must delight [Iraqi President] Saddam Hussein." In other words, "The Daily Telegraph" is worried that coverage of the Iraq war could provide comfort for Baghdad.

On the other hand, Inayat Bunglawala, an official with the Muslim Council of Britain, writing in London's "The Times" on 25 March, referred to Al-Jazeera images of Iraqi civilian casualties and posed the question: Is this the "liberation" that the United States "promised the Iraqi people"?

"Inevitably," Hughes said, "pictures of wounded civilians, especially children, or dead children, are going to be both true pictures of the horrors of war and also used for propaganda purposes. I think the media has to put them in their proper context, and then, in that sense, one can avoid the propaganda element."

Breffni O'Rourke is a Prague-based RFE/RL correspondent.

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