Accessibility links

Media Matters: April 7, 2003

7 April 2003, Volume 3, Number 13
CPJ REPORTS 500 CASES OF REPRESSION IN 120 COUNTRIES IN 2002. The number of journalists behind bars rose sharply in 2002, while heightened awareness of journalist safety and a decline in the number of global conflicts last year contributed to a decrease in the number of journalists killed, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported in its annual "Attacks on the Press" on 26 March (see "End Note" below). The report documents some 500 cases of media repression in 120 countries, including assassinations, assaults, imprisonments, censorship, and legal harassment. Although the number of journalists behind bars rose in 2002, there were some positive episodes. In Russia, imprisoned military journalist Grigorii Pasko was released in January before completing his full term "for good behavior." The entire text of the report will be available on 31 March at CC

AL-JAZEERA BARRED FROM NASDAQ. The Nasdaq stock exchange in New York has rejected accreditation applications from business correspondents Ammar Shankari and Ramzi Shiber, who work for the Qatar-based satellite channel Al-Jazeera, the CPJ reported on 26 March. The two journalists applied for accreditation after the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) pulled their press accreditations on 25 March, claiming it wanted to reduce the number of journalists on the exchange floor and to give priority to financial networks and their reporters. The Al-Jazeera journalists were the only reporters expelled from the NYSE. A Nasdaq spokeswoman confirmed that the journalists' applications were denied, but would not provide further comment. The "Los Angeles Times" quoted Nasdaq spokesman Scott Peterson on 25 March as saying that "in light of Al-Jazeera's recent conduct during the war, in which they have broadcast footage of U.S. POWs in alleged violation of the Geneva Convention, they are not welcome to broadcast from our facility at this time." The spokeswoman told CPJ that she could neither "confirm nor deny" Peterson's statement. In a 30 March editorial, "The New York Times" labeled the Nasdaq decision "repugnant," pointing out that "Al-Jazeera is the only independent broadcasting voice in the Arab world, watched by 35 million people." CC

FBI INVESTIGATES HACKER ATTACK ON AL-JAZEERA SITE. The FBI has initiated an investigation into a hacker attack on the website of Qatar-based Al-Jazeera satellite television (, pressetext.Europe reported on 28 March, citing the BBC. Hackers had apparently used a fake entry in the name service to direct traffic from the site to another website. Visitors who tried to log onto the site saw U.S. flags bearing the message "Let Freedom Ring," and visitors to the Arabic website were redirected to a pornographic website. The station has called the incident an attack on the freedom of the press. While the Arabic site has gone up again, the relaunch of the regular English portal will be delayed until April, the BBC reported. CC

KABUL ADMINISTRATION 'INCENSED' BY TREATMENT OF JOURNALISTS IN HERAT... Deputy Minister of Information and Culture Abdul Hamid Mobarez said on 26 March that the Afghan Transitional Administration is "incensed by the way in which newsmen are treated in Herat" and demanded that authorities in that province allow reporters to "resume their work," "The Kabul Times" reported. Mobarez said laws guaranteeing press freedoms in Afghanistan are in full force, and he urged Herat Province Governor Ismail Khan to "revise his attitude and restore freedom atmosphere in the ancient city of Herat." Alluding to reports that Ismail Khan has targeted journalists critical of his administration, Mobarez asked why other officials should be immune from criticism when Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai, for instance, accepts it. Mobarez was responding to reports of the assault and detention -- allegedly on Ismail Khan's orders -- of a reporter for RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan on 19 March, "The Kabul Times" reported. Ismail Khan has labeled as "traitors" Radio Free Afghanistan reporter Ahmad Behzad and correspondents who have supported him, "The Kabul Times" reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 March)

...WITH SENTIMENTS ECHOED BY INFORMATION AND CULTURE MINISTER. Information and Culture Minister Sayyed Makhdum Rahin expressed concern over the Behzad case and the ensuing protests of other journalists, Radio Afghanistan reported on 27 March. Rahin said he is in contact with authorities in Herat Province to ensure that journalists are free to carry out their work. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 March)

HISTORIC BOOKS RECEIVE A HELPING HAND. In order to save Afghanistan's historic literature, New York University has began a program to digitize all books and pamphlets printed in that country from 1871 to 1930 in what is called the Afghanistan Digital Library project, "The New York Times" reported on 29 March. Most of Afghanistan's surviving historic documents are scattered in private hands or in libraries around the globe. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 April)

PARLIAMENT SHELVES DEBATE ON MEDIA BILL. At the request of the Armenian government, the parliamentary leadership on 31 March postponed until 15 April a scheduled debate on a controversial media bill, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau and Noyan Tapan reported. No reason was given for the postponement. Meanwhile, some journalists congregated outside the parliament building on 31 March to protest the bill, criticizing it as "undemocratic" and accusing the Armenian leadership of seeking to restrict freedom of speech. The bill requires media outlets to disclose their sources of funding and empowers courts to demand that journalists reveal their sources of information. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April)

KRISHNA BOOKS TO BE DESTROYED AS RELIGION OFFICIAL DENIES CENSORSHIP. Twenty thousand copies of a Hare Krishna booklet imported into Azerbaijan in 1996 and held by customs since that time have been earmarked for destruction by the State Committee for Relations with Religious Organizations (SCRRC), Forum 18 News Service reported on 28 March. SCRRC Chairman Rafik Aliyev has recently denied that religious literature is censored in Azerbaijan. CC

FORMER PREMIER SUES JOURNALIST. On 26 March, former Premier Viktor Orban filed a lawsuit against journalist Laszlo Juszt, "Nepszabadsag" reported. The suit was filed one week after a court ruled against Juszt in a lawsuit brought by FIDESZ Deputy Chairman Laszlo Kover that obliged Juszt to issue an apology for having claimed that the FIDESZ official used pejorative terms in reference to Jews. In the same article, published in the daily "Nepszava" in October 2002, Juszt alleged that Orban has also used anti-Semitic language in public. The former premier's lawyers said the allegation has no basis, offends his dignity, and could damage Orban's reputation. Juszt's lawyer said the claim is based on facts and noted that Hungarian courts have yet to admonish anyone for using anti-Semitic language. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 March)

BBC CAMERAMAN KILLED IN IRAQ. Kaveh Golestan, an Iranian freelance cameraman on assignment for the BBC, was killed on 2 April in northern Iraq after stepping on a landmine, the CPJ reported. Golestan accidentally detonated the mine when he exited his car near the town of Kifri, John Morrissey of the BBC's foreign desk told CPJ. The cameraman was part of a four-member BBC crew that included Tehran bureau chief Jim Muir, producer Stuart Hughes, and a translator. Hughes' foot was injured, and he was later treated by U.S. military medics. Golestan, who was also a well-known still photographer, often worked with the BBC out of its Tehran bureau. Golestan is at least the third journalist killed since the military operation in Iraq began on 19 March. Last week, a fourth journalist died in northern Iraq after falling off a hotel roof in an apparent accident. CC

CPJ MEETS WITH U.S. CENTCOM IN TV-TARGETING INQUIRY... As part of its ongoing inquiry into the 25 March bombing of Iraqi State Television, CPJ representatives met on 2 April with the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) in Doha, Qatar, the CPJ reported on 2 April. CENTCOM informed CPJ that the United States carried out the attack because "the same transmitting equipment being used for radio and television reports is being used for command and control; any time [the Iraqi military] wants to give orders, they transmit via the broadcast signal." CENTCOM alleged that "radio and TV transmitters are being used to give command and control for things like antiaircraft batteries." The CPJ is continuing its investigation into the incident and has asked for a full explanation from U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. CC

...AND INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION PETITIONED TO INVESTIGATE AS WELL. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on 2 April called on the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission to investigate the U.S.-led coalition's bombing of Iraqi State Television as a possible violation of international humanitarian law. The RSF request is the first time the commission has been petitioned since it was set up in 1991 under the First Additional Protocol of the Geneva Conventions with a mandate to investigate any alleged major violation of international humanitarian law. RSF called on the Berne-based commission to seek consent from all sides to investigate the bombing of Iraqi television headquarters and the Iraqi Information Ministry building on 25, 29, and 30-31 March. Although no one was reported injured, the ground floor of the ministry was badly damaged. CC

FOUR MISSING JOURNALISTS ARRIVE IN JORDAN... Four journalists -- freelance photographer Molly Bingham; Johan Rydeng Spanner, a freelance photographer with the Danish daily "Jyllands Posten"; and correspondent Matthew McAllester and photographer Moises Saman, both with "Newsday" -- who were missing in Iraq since 24 March have been released and sent to Jordan, the CPJ reported on 1 April. The CPJ was unable to learn where the journalists were held for eight days. CC

...AS TWO OTHERS MISSING, FEARED DEAD. The International Press Institute (IPI) on 3 April expressed concern that the U.S.-led coalition is not conducting inquiries into the circumstances of two Independent Television News (ITN) journalists who disappeared on 22 March. According to IPI, the ITN crew was traveling in two jeeps marked "TV" on 22 March when they came under heavy fire near Basra. ITN reporter Terry Lloyd was killed in the incident. Cameraman Daniel Demoustier was injured, but managed to escape. French cameraman Frederic Nerac and Lebanese interpreter Hussein Othman, who were traveling with the ITN team, are missing and are feared dead. After the attack, Demoustier said the ITN crew realized they were driving toward Iraqi lines, turned back, and allegedly were fired upon by coalition tanks. The U.K. Defense Ministry and CENTCOM subsequently announced plans to conduct inquiries into the disappearance of the two journalists. An official inquiry into Lloyd's death has been concluded, although without a determination on responsibility for his death. The IPI called on the United States and Great Britain to carry out a complete investigation of this incident and to make their findings public as soon as possible. CC

TWO IRANIAN JOURNALISTS RELEASED FROM IRAQI DETENTION... Two Iranian journalists -- television producer Ali Montazeri and cameraman Abdel Reza Abbasi -- who were reportedly detained by plainclothes Iraqi officers have been released and are en route to Tehran, said Salwa Khazem of the Dubai Business Channel, for which the journalists were working, the CPJ reported on 26 March. The journalists were detained earlier this week after arriving in Iraq from Iran by boat, Khazem said. Sultan Sulieman, an editor for Al-Hayat-LBC in Beirut, for which the journalists were also on assignment, told the CPJ that soldiers in civilian clothing detained the journalists, who were filming on Iraq's Al-Faw Peninsula. CC

...AND TWO REPORTERS ARRESTED BY IRAQI AUTHORITIES... The Iraqi authorities have placed Australian reporter Peter Wilson and photographer John Feder under house arrest at the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad for alleged passport violations, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) reported on 2 April. Both reporters have had their satellite phones confiscated and are prohibited from filing stories. CC

...WHILE ANOTHER WANTS TO RETURN TO IRAQ. The IFJ on 2 April called on the Iraqi government to allow Australian journalist Ian McPhedran to return to Iraq following his expulsion from Baghdad. McPhedran said he was told by officials he had "broken the rules" and must pack his bags, pay his bills, and leave the country. Reportedly, McPhedran has already left Iraq. CC

COALITION ASKED TO INVESTIGATE ATTACKS ON JOURNALISTS. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on 31 March accused U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq of showing "contempt" for journalists covering the war in Iraq. The RSF called on coalition authorities to conduct an internal investigation into the treatment of the press and to publicize the results. Four non-embedded journalists -- two Israelis, Dan Scemama and Boaz Bismuth, and two Portuguese, Luis Castro and Victor Silva -- accused U.S. military police of giving them "the worst 48 hours in our lives" after arresting them on 25 March while they were sleeping near a U.S. unit between the towns of Karbala and Najaf. Although they were carrying press cards, they were allegedly threatened, mistreated, and held in a jeep for 36 hours without being able to communicate with their news organizations or their families. CC

CENTCOM BRIEFING FOCUSES ON COALITION BROADCASTS TO IRAQI PEOPLE. A U.S. CENTCOM briefing on 1 April in Doha, Qatar, focused on the delivery of coalition information to the Iraqi people through television and radio broadcasts. Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, deputy director of operations at CENTCOM, told reporters that the United States has been conducting radio broadcasts into Iraq 24 hours a day since around 17 February on five frequencies. The United States is also operating a television station. British forces, he noted, have recently launched radio broadcasts in southern Iraq. "Recent captures of enemy prisoners of war say that the broadcasts are readily accessible and they are also very popular," Brooks added. In addition to the radio and television broadcasts, CENTCOM is continuing with its leaflet campaign, adjusting messages to the Iraqi people as warranted, Brooks said. Asked why the broadcasts have not led to high-ranking military defections, Brooks replied, "The regime is still present in many areas, and it is the regime and the brutality of the regime that keeps many people from taking the steps that they would like to take." He added, "This is a very high-risk proposition for military leaders who would decide they're not going to fight for the regime, or civilians that would rise up against the regime." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April)

KUWAITI PAPER REPORTS IRAQ PLACING TRANSMITTERS IN HOLY SITES. Iraq has placed television transmitters in the shrine of the Musa Kadhim (Seventh Imam of Shia Muslims) in Khadimayn, near Baghdad, IRNA reported on 27 March, quoting the Kuwaiti daily "Al-Ray al-Amm." The Kuwaiti paper claimed Baghdad is trying to provoke U.S. and U.K. forces to attack the shrine and thus enrage Iraq's Shia population. The report added that the transmitters allegedly placed in the shrine were made in Germany and imported via Syria. It is not clear from the report whether the transmitters in question were imported prior to the outbreak of the current conflict on 20 March. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 March)

COURT CONVICTS TWO IN NEWSPAPER ARSON CASE... Almaty's Medeu Raion Court has sentenced two unemployed men to three years' imprisonment for their role in setting fire to the offices of the independent newspaper "Delovoe obozrenie respublika" in March 2002, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on 26 March. Meierbek Uristinbekov and Muhitdin AbduAliyev must also pay court costs and compensation to Muratbek Ketebaev, a founder of the consulting firm that published the newspaper. The court asserted that the arsonists were paid to set the fire by "a person resembling Ketebaev." A separate case has been opened against the alleged contractor of the arson attack. The international human rights community and foreign observers of the media scene in Kazakhstan have pointed to the "Delovoe obozrenie respublika" case as evidence of the harassment of the country's independent and opposition media, implying that the authorities might have been involved in the attack. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 March)

...BUT PUBLISHER AND EDITOR WILL APPEAL RULING... Ketebaev and "Delovoe obozrenie respublika" Editor Irina Petrushova plan to appeal the court's decision, the CPJ reported on 28 March. They do not believe that Uristinbekov and AbduAliyev are responsible for the crime. Petrushova was the recipient of the CPJ's 2002 International Press Freedom Award. CC

...AND PAPER HAS LONG HISTORY OF HARASSMENT. Editor Petrushova has since changed the name of "Delovoe obozrenie respublika" to "Assandi Times" after a court order for the closure of her newspaper, the CPJ reported. The weekly "Delovoe obozrenie respublika" and Petrushova have long been subjected to politically motivated harassment, including receipt of an anonymously sent funeral wreath in March 2002. Two months later, a few days before the paper's firebombing, a decapitated dog's corpse was found at the office. In July 2002, the Almaty Interdistrict Economic Court ordered the liquidation of the firm PR-Konsalting, which publishes the newspaper. The court found that PR-Konsalting had continued to publish the paper despite an 10 April court ruling that suspended it for allegedly violating administrative regulations such as failing to display the date the paper was registered and its registration number. CC

PRESIDENT ASSESSES PRESS FREEDOM. Speaking to the first session of the Public Council on the Mass Media on 31 March, Nursultan Nazarbaev warned that freedom of speech does not mean a lack of control, or convey the right to damage reputations, or free the media from their responsibility to society, reported. Listing Kazakhstan's achievements in guaranteeing freedom of speech, Nazarbaev included the recent law on the mass media, the abolition of censorship and of the state monopoly in the media, tax breaks for broadcast and print media, and the distribution of government procurement orders to both state and private media. The president asserted that 80 percent of Kazakhstan's media are independent and asked that the media work in partnership with government officials. He expressed the hope that disputes between the state and the media can be dealt with in a civilized way. The country's independent journalists would likely disagree with much, if not all, of Nazarbaev's assessment, seeing it as justification for restrictive government policies and harassment of critical journalists. The council was set up in December, and it comprises government officials, representatives of the mass media, and parliamentarians. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 April)

TEMPORARY MEDIA COMMISSIONER WILL NOT ISSUE NEW BROADCAST LICENSES. Kosova's temporary media commissioner announced on 28 March that no new broadcast licenses will be issued until a new body, the Independent Media Commission, has been established, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) reported in a press release. The independent institution of the temporary media commissioner was established on 17 June 2000. It acts as the regulatory agency for broadcast media and is responsible for the implementation of a temporary licensing regime. CC

HIZB UT-TAHRIR LITERATURE FOUND IN NORTH. Quoting Kyrgyzstan's National Security Service, the pro-government daily "Vechernii Bishkek" has reported that leaflets produced by the banned Muslim extremist organization Hizb ut-Tahrir were recently distributed in the major towns of Issyk-Kul Oblast in northern Kyrgyzstan, according to on 2 April. More than 100 leaflets were handed in to the security service in Cholpon-Ata, the major resort on Lake Issyk-Kul, alone. Five young people were reportedly detained on suspicion of having been involved in distribution of the leaflets, but were released when nothing was found during searches of their homes. Despite the efforts of the authorities, Hizb ut-Tahrir has apparently gained many adherents, and its literature appears regularly in southern Kyrgyzstan, usually seen as the most pious part of the country. In August 2002, the National Security Service said Hizb ut-Tahrir had extended its activities to northern Kyrgyzstan, launching a recruitment drive in Chu, Issyk-Kul, and Naryn oblasts. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April)

CD-PIRACY RATE REMAINS HIGH. During a visit to Latvia on 19 and 20 March, Universal Music International Vice President Thomas Hedstrom claimed that Latvia has the highest level of music piracy of the 10 EU candidate countries, BNS reported. Although official data show that pirated music comprises some 70 percent of the retail music market, Hedstrom said the actual percentage might even reach 90 percent. He suggested that Latvia should follow Estonia's example and stiffen penalties for traders in pirated music, as well as set punishments for purchasers. ("RFE/RL Baltic States Report," 31 March)

GOVERNMENT EXPANDS TAX ON BOOKS. Despite objections from Finance Minister Valdis Dombrovskis, the government decided on 17 March that to place a 5 percent value-added tax (VAT) on the purchase of textbooks, science literature, children's books, and first editions of translations from foreign languages as of 1 January 2004, LETA reported. These books are currently exempt from VAT, but there is an 18 percent VAT on the purchase of other books. Dombrovskis had called for the imposition of a 9 percent VAT. ("RFE/RL Baltic States Report," 31 March)

FREE (HATE) SPEECH? The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has agreed to continue investigating the appeal by Danute Balsyte-Lideikiene for an alleged violation of her right to free speech, BNS reported on 19 March. Lideikiene claims that a Vilnius court decision to fine her 1,000 litas ($250) and to confiscate all copies of the 2000 Calendar of Lithuania that she compiled and published violated her right of free speech. The Vilnius court ruled that comments and statements in the calendar reflect a radical nationalist ideology and contain anti-Semitic phrases. ("RFE/RL Baltic States Report," 31 March)

JOURNALIST'S BODY IDENTIFIED. The remains of journalist Iosif Costina, who disappeared in June last year, have been identified by Costina's dentist, who was able to recognize dental work he performed on Costina some time before he vanished, Mediafax reported on 26 March. Costina's remains were found last week near a railway track in a village in the vicinity of Timisoara. Some tranquilizers were also found near the body, and media have speculated that they were planted there in an attempt to make it look as though Costina committed suicide. Costina was an active participant in the 1989 Timisoara uprising, was active in attempts to publicly identify former Securitate informers, and was working on a book on the Timisoara underworld. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 March)

ANTI-U.S. RATINGS GAME? No Russian media outlets support the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, "The Moscow Times" reported on 2 April. The more popular outlets -- such as the dailies "Moskovskii komsomolets," "Komsomolskaya pravda," and television stations ORT and RTR -- are most explicit in their anti-U.S. statements, while other media outlets attempt to provide more balanced coverage. According to RFE/RL's Russian Service television analyst Anna Kachkaeva, the media are turning the war into a ratings game. RTR beat its competitors by being the first to report the 20 March start of air strikes, while the next day ORT began around-the-clock war coverage. A few days later, "The Moscow Times" reported, television channels upped their rhetoric. For example, ORT several times used the term "occupation forces" to describe the U.S. and British troops. Although NTV and TVS provide heavy coverage of global antiwar protests, they still attempt to deliver more balanced coverage, in Kachkaeva's view. Newspapers have few reporters in the war zone and rely on Moscow-based journalists for news and opinion pieces that are generally long on sympathy for the Iraqis and short on "triumphal statements uttered by U.S. and British generals," according to "The Moscow Times." CC

RUSSIAN EXPERTS ANALYZE WASHINGTON'S FAILURE TO WIN THE INFORMATION WAR. Participants in a roundtable discussion of the military campaign in Iraq broadcast on Russia's ORT on 26 March concluded that the United States has so far failed to win the "information war" against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, in part because Iraqi spokespeople have learned from their mistakes during the 1991 Gulf War. In addition, Iraq has enjoyed both covert and overt media and public support from Germany, France, Russia, and China, noted Major General Aleksandr Sharavin, director of the Moscow Institute of Military and Political Analysis. Moreover, political scientist Aleksandr Tsypko said the official line of the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush has come under strong partisan criticism from U.S. media outlets that he alleged are sympathetic to the Democratic Party. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 March)

RUSSIA RESPONDS SHARPLY TO U.S. ACCUSATIONS OF POOR PRESS-FREEDOM RECORD. The Media Ministry on 1 April denounced an annual report by the U.S. State Department that criticizes Russia for its human rights record and, particularly, for violations of press freedom, and RIA-Novosti reported on 2 April. "The Media Ministry sarcastically receives efforts by the U.S. foreign-policy agency to present Russia as a country without a free press," the ministry's press release said. "The statements of American officials claiming that there are limitations of the rights and freedom of [Russian] citizens to access information have a particular piquantness against the background of the ongoing military operation of American forces in Iraq. Concerning the behavior of U.S. spokespeople in explaining the military conflict, we have all been witnesses to the biased distribution of information and to violations of the rights of journalists leading to the delusion of the American people." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April)

SPAM BECOMES TOOL IN CAMPAIGN BATTLES. The latest in dirty tricks being used by political operatives is spam, or unwanted and unsolicited electronic mail, reported on 27 March. According to the website, the latest example of this occurred on 26 March when an e-mail purporting to be from Yabloko Duma Deputy Sergei Mitrokhin was widely distributed. Mitrokhin's staff denied that he sent the message and described it as an attempt to discredit him in the eyes of the Internet community. Unified Russia has also been a target. A large number of Runet users received a large e-mail in the name of the pro-Kremlin party. According to "Vedomosti," tens of thousands of Internet users received an e-mail informing them about a drive to recruit new members for Unified Russia that included a false address for the sender. The party's Moscow office said the party had nothing to do with the e-mail and that it is taking all possible measures to identify the "provocateurs." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 March)

SUCCESSOR PUBLICATION TO 'NOVYE IZVESTIYA' TO APPEAR IN MAY. Many of the staff of the now-defunct newspaper "Novye izvestiya" will work at a new daily called "Rezonans" that will appear in May, "Gazeta" reported on 31 March. The last issue of "Novye izvestiya" appeared at the end of February, and the new publication will have a new editor in chief, Valerii Yakov, and a new sponsor, the Alyans group, which is headed by Musa Bazhaev. Yakov was deputy editor of "Novye izvestiya." Former Editor in Chief Igor Golembiovskii will become the head of a new publishing group called Mediapressa, which is owned by Yakov Soskin. Valerii Yakov told "Gazeta" the affair has ended with each party getting what it wanted and that the journalists have only fond memories of former "Novye izvestiya" owner Boris Berezovskii. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 April)

CONTROVERSIAL RELIGIOUS SCHOOL TEXTBOOK UPHELD BY COURT. A Moscow district court on 24 March upheld an earlier decision by Moscow prosecutors, who twice refused to bring charges of inciting ethnic strife against the editor and publisher of the textbook "Fundamentals of Orthodox Culture," the Jewish Telegraph Agency (JTA) reported on 30 March. The textbook, which is recommended for use in Russian public schools by a joint panel of experts from the Education Ministry and the Russian Orthodox Church, argues that Jesus died because Jews were seeking "earthly well-being and power over other peoples" rather than spiritual values, according to JTA. The textbook authors have indicated that a second edition will take into account the views of human rights activists. Other religious leaders -- most notably Muslims -- have also voiced opposition to the introduction of the study of Orthodox Christianity into the curriculum of public schools. The textbook on Russian Orthodoxy was introduced last year in some Russian schools as part of a course on religious culture for sixth-graders. Although schools may choose whether to adopt the course, those that do are allowed to require students to take it. A document from the Education Ministry that outlined the basic elements of the course -- and opened the door to the controversial textbook -- was made public last fall. The Russian Orthodox Church is the only nonstate organization that has prepared its own textbook for use in public schools, the JTA noted. CC

IRAN DONATES 1,000 BOOKS TO KAZAN UNIVERSITY. The cultural representation of the Iranian Embassy in Russia on 26 March presented 1,000 Persian books to the Institute of Oriental Studies at Kazan State University, TatarInform reported the same day. ("RFE/RL Tatar Weekly," 28 March)

PROSECUTOR IN JOURNALIST'S SLAYING CASE SUSPENDED. Sinisa Simic, the public prosecutor responsible for the stalled investigation into the April 1999 killing of daily "Dnevni Telegraf" Editor in Chief Slavko Curuvija, has been temporarily suspended from his duties, the CPJ reported on 26 March, citing local press reports. Parliamentary speaker Natasa Micic, who also acts as Serbian president, ordered Simic's suspension on 21 March as part of a government crackdown on judges and prosecutors with suspected links to members of the powerful Zemun mafia clan that allegedly orchestrated the 12 March assassination of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic. Simic was suspended two days after police arrested Deputy Public Prosecutor Milan Sarajlic. After Sarajlic's detention, Interior Ministry officials reported that he had confessed to being on the payroll of the Zemun mafia clan and allegedly had been obstructing inquiries into various killings, including the slaying of Curuvija. Rajko Danilovic, a lawyer representing the Curuvija family, told the CPJ on 26 March that "Simic was suspended because he wasn't careful enough in his supervision of Sarajlic." CC

MEDIA OUTLETS LINKED TO ASSASSINATION PLOT? Unidentified Serbian police sources told AP in Belgrade on 1 April that they are "closing in" on Milorad Lukovic "Legija," the former leader of the elite Red Berets unit and the prime suspect in organizing the 12 March assassination of Serbian Prime Minister Djindjic. Police noted the assassination "clearly points to a conspiracy led by war criminals and war profiteers...all from the ranks of [former President Slobodan] Milosevic's regime." Elsewhere, the government pledged to investigate charges that some media outlets might have had links to police, security, or criminal elements involved in the killing, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 April)

ON AGAIN, OFF AGAIN. Turkmenistan, which on 19 March suspended daily two-hour retransmissions of Russia's ORT, resumed them after a six-day break, AP reported on 25 March. No explanation was offered either about why they were taken off the air or about why they were restored. Russian programming offers almost the only information about the war in Iraq -- or foreign news in general -- available to Turkmen citizens. Last week, Turkmen mass media offered extensive coverage of the Norouz holiday, which spanned 20-22 March according to a presidential decree. Programming featured with folk dancing and song festivals, but very little about the military operation in the Persian Gulf. ("RFE/RL Central Asia Report," 28 March)

PRESIDENT WANTS TESTS OF 'SIMPLY NONEXISTENT' MELNYCHENKO TAPES. President Leonid Kuchma told journalists in Kyiv on 26 March that the secret audio recordings allegedly made in his office by his former bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko should be examined in Ukraine and in accordance with Ukrainian laws, UNIAN reported. At the same time, Kuchma stressed that the Melnychenko tapes are "simply nonexistent," adding that now this topic is of interest only for the "Ukrayinska pravda" website and the politicians who gravitate to it. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 March)

MARTIAL MEDIA MATTERS. Authorities in Uzbekistan have made sure that only pro-U.S. views about the military operation in Iraq -- which Tashkent shares -- are being expressed in the country's mass media. Other views, such as statements issued by Russia, China, France, and Germany, are simply not broadcast or published in Uzbekistan, and there has been no coverage of global antiwar protests. Foreign Minister Sodyq Safaev is said recently to have summoned the editors of major media outlets and instructed them not to report on the war from a pro-Russian point of view. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 March)

IFJ LAUNCHES 2003 EUROPE PRIZE. On 18 March, The IFJ launched on 18 March its "Europe Prize: Journalism for a Changing World," the first truly Europe-wide prize entirely organized and judged by journalists, according to an IFJ press release. The Europe Prize seeks to promote excellence in journalism and foster wider awareness of the contribution that Europe makes to global social, environmental, and economic issues. The 2003 edition -- cofunded by the Network of European Foundations' European Drug Policy Fund -- will be awarded for reports on social, economic, and political impact of drug policy in Europe. See for more details. CC

FELLOWSHIPS FOR THREATENED SCHOLARS. The Institute of International Education (IIE), the Open Society Institute, and the Scholars at Risk Network invite applications for 2003-04 academic-year fellowships from IIE's Scholar Rescue Fund, which supports scholars who are threatened with human rights violations. Academics, researchers, and independent scholars from any country, field, or discipline can qualify. Up to 25 fellowships will be awarded for 2003-04. Applications should be submitted no later than 23 April. See CC

JOURNALISM FELLOWSHIP IN CANADA. The organization Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) announced on 27 March its second annual Donner/CJFE Journalist-at-Risk Fellowship. CJFE, Massey College, and the Donner Foundation offer the fellowship for the 2003-04 academic year. It covers expenses for a foreign journalist to spend eight months at Massey College of the University of Toronto. Deadline for applications is 25 April. For more, contact Joel Ruimy at CC

INTERNET FREE-EXPRESSION CONFERENCE. Press freedom on the Internet is under threat and could be further weakened by proposals being considered for the World Summit on the Information Society in December, says the World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC). In response, the WPFC is holding a conference in New York in June to rally support against such proposals. The WPFC is inviting journalists, media executives, lawyers, information service providers, and public-policy makers to the conference where a joint statement opposing any restrictions on Internet press freedom will be issued. For more, see CC

CIS MEDIA CONFERENCE. Journalists and media experts from Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia will take part in a 9-10 April conference in Kyiv on the media situation in the former Soviet countries. The European Institute for the Media will hold the conference with the Independent Association of Broadcasters of Ukraine and the Ukraine branch of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. For more, contact CC

INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM CONFERENCE IN DENMARK. The second international conference on investigative journalism and computer-assisted reporting is scheduled for 1-4 May in Copenhagen, Denmark. Conference organizers plan to form the first global network of investigative reporting associations. Journalists from 43 countries will study cross-border journalism, convergence and journalism investigations, and the latest methods of investigative reporting. Speakers from 35 countries have confirmed participation. See CC


By Antoine Blua

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on 26 March released its annual report on threats to press freedom around the world. According to the media watchdog, the number of imprisoned journalists rose sharply in 2002, while a decline in the number of global conflicts last year contributed to a decrease in the number of journalists killed.

In January 2002, a court in China sentenced journalist Jiang Weiping to eight years in prison. Jiang was arrested in December 2000 after writing a series of articles for the Hong Kong monthly "Qianshao" (Frontline) about corruption in northeast China. Although U.S. government and United Nations officials have demanded Jiang's release, there has been no progress in his case. Jiang is one of 39 journalists now imprisoned in China, making it the world's leading jailer of journalists for the fourth year in a row.

Jiang's case is one of hundreds highlighted in the CPJ annual report on the world's changing press freedom landscape. "Attacks on the Press in 2002" documents some 500 cases of media repression in 120 countries last year, including assassinations, assaults, imprisonments, censorship, and legal harassment.

Alex Lupis is the Europe and Central Asia coordinator at the CPJ, a New York-based nonprofit organization dedicated to defending press freedom worldwide. He said the CPJ report notes three general trends. First, the number of journalists imprisoned in retaliation for their work rose sharply for the second year in a row. "There were 136 journalists in jail at the end of 2002, which is a 15 percent increase from 2001, and a shocking 68 percent increase since the end of 2000, when only 81 journalists were imprisoned," Lupis said. "China is the world's leading jailer of journalists for the fourth year in a row now. They arrested five more journalists over the past year, and by the end of 2002 had some 39 journalists behind bars."

Secondly, the report found that 19 journalists were killed worldwide in 2002 as a direct result of their work, a sharp decrease from 2001, when 37 were killed. Lupis points out last year's figure is the lowest since the CPJ began tracking such deaths in 1985. According to a press release, a decline in the number of global conflicts last year contributed to the decrease. "Most of the journalists killed in 2002 were not covering conflicts, but were instead killed in retaliation for reporting on sensitive political issues, like government corruption in countries like Colombia, the Philippines, Russia, and Pakistan," Lupis said.

Third, Lupis noted, government officials are increasingly invoking "national security" concerns to legitimize new restrictions on the press and limit access to conflicts. The most prominent example was Russia's clampdown on the press following the disastrous Moscow theater hostage crisis in October. More than 120 hostages died after Russian forces used an opiate-based gas to incapacitate the Chechen fighters who had taken over the theater. Since then, Lupis stressed, the Kremlin has maintained a "very aggressive" policy of managing and restraining independent journalists.

Soria Blatman is the specialist for Europe of the Paris-based press watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF). She noted that the greatest limitations on press freedom in Europe in 2002 occurred in Russia. "We saw, for example, after the hostage-taking episode in Moscow, that Russian media have been punished for their coverage of this episode and, generally speaking, for all matters regarding Chechnya," Blatman said.

Broadly speaking, the trend in the former Soviet republics is negative and getting worse, Lupis maintains. This trend, he added, does not only materialize in government obstruction of media activities, but also in government unwillingness to punish individuals who retaliated against journalists. "Turkmenistan remains a horrible place [for journalists]," Lupis said. "We have no reports of any independent journalism there. Belarus, of course, [also] remains a horrible place. Several journalists were imprisoned last year in retaliation for criticizing President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. And, of course, press freedom conditions in Kazakhstan deteriorated significantly because of a state-sponsored campaign to intimidate journalists who criticized the government." In Uzbekistan, Lupis said, the government has maintained a firm grip on media outlets, although censorship was officially abolished in May 2002.

A report on European media freedom that was presented at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in January mentions instances of violence and murder against reporters in Armenia, Georgia, and Macedonia. Legal harassment in the form of defamation lawsuits or very high fines is also mentioned as a threat to the existence of a free media in countries such as Azerbaijan, Belarus, Croatia, Russia, Ukraine, and Poland.

The PACE report calls the number of journalists attacked or murdered in Russia and Ukraine "alarming." Tytti Isohookana-Asunmaa is the PACE rapporteur on freedom of expression in the media in Europe. "In some Eastern and Central European countries, there are difficulties with physical violence, because we know that, for instance, in Russia and in Ukraine, journalists have been killed...and some other [forms of] harassment happen constantly," Isohookana-Asunmaa said.

Although the number of journalists in prison rose in 2002, Lupis points out that there were some positive trends in press freedom, mostly in Central Europe. He says these came about largely as a result of efforts by regional governments to join organizations such as NATO and the European Union. "In Slovakia last year, they suspended parts of their criminal defamation laws," Lupis said. "In the Czech Republic [last] summer, there was an assassination attempt against a journalist, and the police responded quite strongly, which really stands in contrast to how the police have responded to such situations in the Balkans and in the former Soviet Union."

In July, Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov granted the Asia Plus news agency a broadcasting license, which it had been seeking for years. Lupis also characterizes that move as positive.

Antoine Blua is a Prague-based RFE/RL correspondent.