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Media Matters: July 25, 2003

25 July 2003, Volume 3, Number 28
ISSUES OF PRO-MUJAHEDIN PUBLICATION CONFISCATED FOR CRITICIZING AFGHAN LEADER. Copies of the latest issue of "Payam-e Mojahed" have been confiscated from the weekly's distributors, allegedly at the order of Defense Minister Marshall Mohammad Qasim Fahim, one of the publication's patrons, "Erada" reported on 20 July. According to the report, the issue, the date of which has not been reported, attacked Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai as "powerless" and claimed the real power in Afghanistan rests with "the United States, Britain, and the United Nations." The article reportedly criticized Karzai's extension of an apology to Pakistan following the 8 July storming of the Pakistani Embassy in Kabul. "Payam-e Mojahed" belongs to the Jamiat-e Islami party of which Fahim is a member. The weekly supports the role of former Afghan mujahedin in the current administration and is critical of people who have come from outside to assume leadership roles in the country. "Payam-e Mojahed" Editor in Chief Abdul Hafiz Mansur affirmed on 20 July that copies of his weekly, which included an article entitled "From Exaggeration to Reality" written by well-known Afghan political commentator Haqshenas, were "collected" by the Afghan authorities, Iranian state radio's Mashhad-based Dari service reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July)

EMBATTLED TV STATIONS LOSE TENDER BIDS... Armenia's National Television and Radio Commission rejected on 18 July bids by the A1+ and Noyan Tapan TV stations for broadcasting licenses, Noyan Tapan reported. A1+ was deprived of its original frequency in April 2002 and lost a bid for an alternative frequency last month. In the most recent tender, it bid for three frequencies, but was not awarded any of them. Noyan Tapan bid for one frequency, which was awarded to EV TV, which rebroadcasts CNN programming in English. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July)

...'SURPRISING' DEPUTY PARLIAMENT SPEAKER... Tigran Torosian expressed his surprise in a 19 July statement about a recent decision by the National Television and Radio Commission rejecting three bids for broadcasting frequencies by the independent A1+ television company, according to Arminfo, as cited by Groong. Torosian added that it "is clear that the television companies that will continue broadcasting by the commission's decision are much inferior to the A1+ television company, both in professional and creative terms." He noted that it was "strange" for the commission to justify its denial solely on financial grounds. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July)

...AS OSCE CRITICIZES FAILURE TO ENABLE INDEPENDENT TV STATIONS TO RESUME BROADCASTING. Freimut Duve, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) high representative for the media, issued a statement on 21 July deploring the outcome of the most recent tender for Armenian television frequencies, in which bids by the outspoken independent broadcasters A1+ and Noyan Tapan were rejected, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Duve said the fact that neither company was able to broadcast for more than a year limits "the Armenian public's ability to watch and listen to a broader range of opinion and diverse reporting." He said the tender outcome constitutes further proof that "freedom of expression in Armenia continues to be restricted." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July)

THE MEDIA AND ELECTIONS. Congratulating the Azerbaijani media on 22 July, National Press Day, the head of the OSCE Office in Baku, Ambassador Peter Burkhard, underlined the importance of free media for Azerbaijan's democracy, especially on the eve of presidential elections. Speaking to Azerbaijani journalists, he noted some positive changes in the media field, such as the abolition of the Ministry of Information and the freezing of newspaper debts to the state-owned printing house. But the OSCE Office in Baku is concerned about a significant increase in acts of violence against journalists, especially during unauthorized rallies, meetings, and demonstrations as well as the continuing defamation suits against independent newspapers and violations of journalists' right to access to information. The ambassador noted, "Having free and fair elections is not only about casting votes in proper conditions, but also about having adequate information about parties, policies, candidates, and the election process itself so that voters can make an informed choice." The head of the OSCE Office also urged Azerbaijani media outlets to ensure that the full range of political opinion is reflected in the media and to report on the election in a professional and ethical manner. CC

PRESIDENT EXPLAINS CLOSURE OF RUSSIA'S NTV. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka appeared live on Russia's NTV on 19 July to comment on his government's recent decision to shut down the NTV offices in Minsk, Belapan reported. The government alleged defamation during the network's coverage of the funeral of Belarusian writer Vasil Bykau. Belarusian authorities were angered by NTV correspondent Pavel Selin's report that Bykau's widow had trouble obtaining a residence permit and that police mounted obstacles to the funeral procession. Lukashenka said a government commission probed the NTV allegations and demonstrated that they were false. Lukashenka added that the Russian broadcaster would have been allowed to remain in Belarus if it had offered an apology. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July)

SUSPENDED NEWSPAPER VOWS NOT TO SURRENDER. Svyatlana Kalinkina, editor in chief of the suspended independent "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta," said on 22 July that articles by her journalists will continue to appear in other publications, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Kalinkina added that Russia's "Novaya gazeta" is expected this week to publish a special issue carrying materials by "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" staff. The state-run printing house Slonimskaya Drukarnya invalidated its contract for printing the private "Mestnaya gazeta Shag" in Baranavichy after the latter published "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" materials last week. Belarusian authorities have thus suspended or blocked the publication of eight of the country's independent periodicals in the past two months: "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta," "BDG. Dlya sluzebnogo polzovaniya," "Predprinimatelskaya gazeta," "Ekho," "Salidarnasts," ""Mestnaya gazeta Shag," and "Navinki" ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July)

MEDIA ENFORCE MEASURES AGAINST EXPLICIT SONG LYRICS. The Council on Electronic Media (SEM) on 21 July reminded radio and television stations they are not allowed to play music and video clips with explicit lyrics between 6:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m., "Standart" reported. The SEM cited a passage of the Law on Radio and Television that bans broadcasts of "cynical content" unless an advisory warning of such content is first aired. Stations that fail to comply with the regulation will face fines of $1,150 to $8,600. The SEM enforced the passage in reaction to the growing number of Bulgarian-language rap songs and videos with vulgar lyrics and explicit content. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July)

OVERSIGHT BODY SELECTS NEW CZECH TELEVISION DIRECTOR. The Czech Television Council voted on 16 July to appoint current news director and anchorman Jiri Janecek as the state broadcaster's new director, local dailies reported, filling a vacancy that arose when Jiri Balvin was dismissed in November. Janecek defeated a list of applicants that included acting Director Petr Klimes, whose half-year tenure has seen a marked rise in the station's ratings. Janecek, a 13-year veteran of Czech Television who went into the selection process as a clear favorite, was expected to assume the post at midnight on 17 July, according to "Mlada fronta Dnes." "I would like to revive Czech Television," Janecek told CTK after the announcement. He vowed to resist pressure from both unions and politicians, and identified his priorities as implementing a new management structure and laying down advancement guidelines to motivate employees. The station has been plagued by dissent and acrimony since employees launched a strike in late 2000 to protest a highly politicized appointment to head the station ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July).

GOVERNMENT REPORT RULES CANADIAN JOURNALIST DIED FROM BEATING... A report on the 11 July death of Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi that was presented to the presidential cabinet on 20 July determined that she died as the result of a physical attack, according to IRNA. A naturalized Canadian who was born in Iran, Kazemi was photographing the families of political prisoners in front of Evin Prison on 23 June when she was detained by the authorities. The inquiry into her subsequent death while in custody was headed by the Intelligence and Security (MOIS), Interior, Islamic Culture and Guidance, and Justice ministries. The report did not, at least according to IRNA, identify the party responsible for the beating that led to her death. Government spokesman Abdullah Ramezanzadeh said on 20 July that the full report would be released the next day, "Iran Daily" reported on 21 July. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July)

...AS LEGISLATOR SAYS JUDGE RESPONSIBLE FOR CANADIAN'S DEATH. Parliamentarian Mohsen Armin, who is a member of the Mujahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization, told the legislature on 20 July that Tehran chief prosecutor Said Mortazavi is responsible for Zahra Kazemi's death, ISNA reported. Armin said Mortazavi issued the warrant for Kazemi's arrest, and after two days of questioning she was handed over to the police for more questioning. She told the police she was hit in the head while at the Prosecutor's Office. Later that day, Mortazavi had her returned to his office, and several hours later he asked the MOIS to take her. MOIS personnel told Armin that they declared Kazemi's arrest unnecessary, but Mortazavi refused to send her home. At midnight on 26 June, she was transferred to a hospital and the next day she slipped into a coma, according to Armin. He said Mortazavi should explain why Kazemi was arrested and added, "I declare that Judge Mortazavi and his supporters should be removed from power and a court should investigate their actions." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July)

JUDICIARY TO PROBE ITSELF IN JOURNALIST CASE... Judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi-Shahrudi announced at the weekly meeting of judiciary officials on 21 July that the Tehran prosecutor-general should promptly and legally investigate the death of Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, Iranian state radio and IRNA reported. An official report presented to the presidential cabinet on 20 July determined that Kazemi died of a cerebral hemorrhage caused by a blow she sustained while in custody. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July)

...AND JUDICIARY SPOKESMAN DEFENDS TEHRAN PROSECUTOR. Judiciary spokesman Gholam-Hussein Elham on 22 July rejected questions about Tehran chief prosecutor Said Mortazavi's involvement in the inquiry into the death of Kazemi, ISNA reported the next day. Kazemi might have suffered the cerebral hemorrhage that led to her death while in the prosecutor's custody. Elham said the Prosecutor's Office is acting legally when it detains someone suspected of violating the law and then questions that person. An investigation is required if the suspect dies, Elham said. In addition, he said the Prosecutor's Office has completed its work and any further work is within the jurisdiction of the military court, IRNA reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July)

OTTAWA WANTS FOLLOW-THROUGH ON JOURNALIST'S DEATH... Canadian Foreign Minister Bill Graham described Kazemi's death as a "horrific act" and said the Iranian government's report raises serious questions, Reuters reported on 21 July. "We now ask the Iranian government to take the next step and proceed with the full and swift prosecution of those responsible for Ms. Kazemi's death to clearly demonstrate...that its officials are not allowed to act with impunity and to deter any future violations," Graham said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July)

...AND DEMANDS RETURN OF REMAINS. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said on 21 July that only the Iranian judiciary can decide on the final destination of Kazemi's remains, dpa reported. Both Kazemi's son, Stephan Hachemi, and her mother, Ezat Kazemi, want her remains to be returned to Canada. Ottawa shares this view, with Foreign Minister Graham saying: "There should be no further delay in having her remains returned to Canada. It is unacceptable that authorities in Iran continue to refuse to accept the agreed wishes of the family." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July)

CANADIAN PHOTOJOURNALIST BURIED IN IRAN. Zahra Kazemi was buried in her hometown of Shiraz on 23 July, IRNA reported. IRNA on 22 July quoted a fax from Kazemi's mother, Ezat Kazemi, in which she said, "In order to prevent any misuse of the tragic incident, I want my beloved daughter's body buried in Shiraz." Stephan Hachemi, the photojournalist's son, told reporters in Montreal on 22 July that his grandmother told him the authorities "forced" her to authorize the burial in Iran, Reuters reported. According to dpa on 22 July, the family said Tehran wants to avoid a Canadian autopsy of the body. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July)

OTHER JOURNALISTS JAILED, INTERROGATED. Issa Saharkhiz, the managing director of "Aftab" monthly, was released on bail late on 17 July, ISNA reported. Saharkhiz was imprisoned on 15 July after appearing before a court in Tehran to face a complaint about a text published in August-September 2002; bail was set at 150 million rials (about $18,750). "Iran" reported on 21 July that Abolqasem Golbaz, the managing director of the monthly "Guzarish," has been arrested on charges of propagandizing against the system, spreading lies, presenting a black picture (siah nemai) of the internal situation, and justifying the overthrow of the system. Golbaz has been sent to Evin Prison, and journalists Nadir Karimi and Ismail Amini, as well as photographer Hojatollah Sepahvand, have been summoned for questioning. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 and 22 July)

TEHRAN POSTPONES UN RAPPORTEUR'S VISIT. An anonymous Iranian Foreign Ministry official said on 15 June that Tehran has postponed the visit of Ambeyi Ligabo, the UN's special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, IRNA reported. Ligabo was scheduled to visit Tehran on 17-27 July, and the official said the postponement was connected with the difficulties in arranging interviews. ("RFE/RL Iran Report," 21 July)

TEHRAN, HAVANA DENY INTERFERING WITH U.S.-BASED SATELLITE BROADCASTS. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said during a 21 July press conference that Tehran and Havana have not held talks on jamming satellite-television broadcasts originating in the United States, dpa reported, citing IRNA. Cuba's Foreign Ministry denied in a 19 July statement that it is blocking broadcasts from the United States meant for a third country, RFE/RL reported. Cuban jamming activities are limited to blocking U.S. radio and television signals that are intended for the Cuban people, according to the statement. Cuban National Assembly of People's Power President Ricardo Alarcon on 17 July said recent reports of Cuban interference with satellite communications to Iran are part of a new anti-Cuban maneuver, Havana's official AIN news agency reported. Jamming of Persian-language satellite-television stations intensified on 6 July, when VOA Television began broadcasting a new program to Iran. This has also affected the broadcasts of private Los Angeles-based Persian-language satellite-television stations. International media reported on 11 July that the jamming appears to originate in Cuba. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July)

POLICE CLOSE DOWN NEWSPAPER. A special investigative unit of the Iraqi police closed down the offices of "Al-Mustaqillah" newspaper on 21 July, arresting the newspaper's office manager, according to a press release posted on the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) website ( "'Al-Mustaqillah' newspaper published on 13 July a clearly inciteful [sic] article entitled 'Death to all spies and those who cooperate with the U.S.; killing them is religious duty,'" the press release stated. "'Al-Mustaqillah' newspaper has chosen to threaten the basic human rights of Iraqi citizens, especially the right to life and the right to live without fear or threat," it stated, adding, "The CPA and the Iraqi Police Service therefore judged that 'Al-Mustaqillah' poses a significant security threat to Iraqi citizens, placing it in violation of international humanitarian law, as well as in breach of CPA Order Number 14 'Towards a Free Iraqi Press.'" That order can be viewed on the CPA website. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July)

SOME ELECTORAL COMMISSIONS WANT PROTECTION AGAINST SLANDER. Members of election commissions meeting on 21 July at the electoral district, raion, and polling-station level in Almaty have proposed that a draft law on elections include provisions to protect the honor and dignity of commission members against unfounded accusations, reported the same day. Reportedly, Central Election Commission (CEC) Chairman Zagipa Balieva, who attended the meeting, approved the proposal. Participants in the meeting, which was organized by the electoral commission of Almaty's Auezov Raion, also called for more rights for the media in election campaigns. Balieva told that the CEC plans to organize more such meetings to collect further recommendations from polling-station commissions. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July)

KAZAKHSTAN REPORTS TO EU ON DEMOCRATIZATION PROGRESS... The Commission for Cooperation Between the European Union and Kazakhstan met in Brussels on 22 July to discuss Kazakhstan's progress in democratization, the rule of law, and the implementation of international human rights standards, RIA-Novosti reported. Human Rights Watch (HRW) had appealed to the EU on 21 July to insist that Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, which reported the same day, be pressured to accelerate their progress in these areas. The commission issued a communique stating that Kazakhstan, which aspires to the OSCE chairmanship in 2009, needs to put greater effort into the process of democratization, including freedom of the media and public organizations. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July)

...AS FOREIGN MINISTRY SAYS KAZAKHSTAN MEETS U.S. REQUIREMENTS ON HUMAN RIGHTS. Kazakhstan's Foreign Ministry issued a press release on 22 July asserting that the country meets U.S. congressional requirements in the areas of democracy and human rights, so the U.S. administration need not curtail financial aid, and Interfax-Kazakhstan reported. Kazakhstan found itself on a list of recipient countries suspected of committing gross violations of human rights. Such countries were given until 15 July to improve their implementation of international human rights standards in order to continue receiving U.S. assistance. The ministry said that the U.S. State Department has certified Kazakhstan's performance in a letter to the congressional appropriations committees. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July)

PRESIDENT PARTICIPATES IN ROUNDTABLE WITH OPPOSITION. Askar Akaev took part in a roundtable on 19 July that included government officials, representatives of pro-governmental and opposition political parties, nongovernmental organizations, and the media, and Deutsche Welle reported. The situation of the media was included among discussion topics. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July)

EU SATISFIED WITH PROGRESS ON DEMOCRATIZATION... The European Union Commission for Cooperation Between Kyrgyzstan and the EU met on 22 July to hear a Kyrgyz report on the progress of democratization, Deutsche Welle reported. The 1999 EU-Kyrgyz cooperation agreement placed particular emphasis on democratization, human rights, and freedom of expression. At the end of the meeting, an EU representative told journalists that the commission is satisfied with Kyrgyzstan's human rights record, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July)

...AFTER HRW CALLS ON EU TO INCLUDE DEMAND TO DECRIMINALIZE LIBEL. In a letter sent to the European Union on 21 July, HRW appealed to the EU to place particular emphasis on improving human rights in Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service and reported on 22 July. The HRW letter asked that the Kyrgyz authorities be urged to permit an international investigation into the killing of demonstrators by police in Aksy Raion in March 2002; to free opposition politician Feliks Kulov, who is jailed after being convicted of abuse of office charges that the opposition says were politically motivated; and to decriminalize libel, thereby preventing officials from using the courts to stymie investigations of corruption charges. The letter also asked the EU to require the Kyrgyz government to make specific commitments on improving the country's unsatisfactory human rights performance. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July)

EFFORT TO OPEN CHECHEN WEBSITE UNSUCCESSFUL. Parliament deputy Petras Grazulis's efforts to begin running the Chechen pro-independence website Kavkaz-Tsentr from his apartment in the parliamentarians' residence failed on 16 July, "Lietuvos rytas" reported on 18 July. Lithuanian telephone workers discovered that the phone lines leading to Grazulis's fifth-floor apartment had been cut on the third floor. Grazulis accused the State Security Department (VSD) of cutting the lines at Russia's request, which a VSD representative called "absolute nonsense." The parliament's chancellery had told Grazulis that he has no right to set up the website's server in his apartment, which is state-owned. Grazulis countered that he did not sign any agreement with the apartment building that would limit his activities and said he intends to file a complaint to the police. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July)

OPPOSITION WANTS TO DISCARD CONTROVERSIAL MEDIA BILL. Several opposition parties declared on 21 July that they want the Sejm to vote down a planned media bill on 22 July, PAP reported. The bill, which has provoked much controversy in Poland and gave rise to the so-called Rywingate bribery scandal, has passed its second reading in the Sejm. Under parliamentary procedure, the bill can only be killed through a vote rejecting the legislation. Earlier the same day, Prime Minister Leszek Miller said on Polish Radio that the government will ask the Sejm either to suspend work on the bill or to withdraw it from the legislative process. Sejm speaker Marek Borowski suggested that he will dispose of the bill by putting it on hold until the end of the Sejm's current term in 2005. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 July)

PROMINENT INGUSH JOURNALIST KILLED IN MOSCOW. An unknown person killed Ingush journalist Alikhan Guliev on 18 July near his home in Moscow, Russian media reported. Guliev, who worked for a regional television station in Ingushetia and as a stringer for TV-Tsentr and "Kommersant-Daily," was well-known for his analytical reports about Chechnya and Ingushetia, reported on 19 July. Guliev had also publicized critical materials about former Ingush Interior Minister Khamsat Gutseriev, RTR and NTV reported. In response to an appeal from Guliev, the Supreme Court of Ingushetia last year annulled the registration of Gutseriev as a candidate for republican president for violating campaign rules. Investigators are looking into possible political, personal, and economic motives for Guliev's killing. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July)

...WHO HAD BEEN SUBJECTED TO PREVIOUS ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT. On 23 July, the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) called for a thorough investigation into the 18 July killing of reporter Alikhan Guliev in light of a previous attempt on his life last year in the Russian republic of Ingushetia. Guliev was killed by two bullets in the back as he entered his apartment in northern Moscow. Last year, Guliev moved to Moscow in an effort to escape attempts on his life. In Ingushetia, Guliev had worked for the public TV station GTRK and the paper "Severnyi Kavkaz." Following Guliev's lawsuit against former Ingush Interior Minister Gutseriev for violation of electoral law during the run-up to Ingushetia's 16 April 2002 presidential election, gunmen fired at his car on 27 March 2002, RSF reported. The supreme court upheld the reporter's suit on 5 April and disqualified Gutseriev from the election, ruling that he should have resigned as minister before running for president. In a December 2001 article in "Severnyi Kavkaz," Guliev accused Gutseriev of diverting public funds for his election campaign. CC

DO THE SECURITY AGENCIES PREFER JAZZ? Independent radio station Ekho Moskvy went off the air temporarily without warning on 15 July during a discussion of the Yukos scandal on a program hosted by Editor in Chief Aleksei Venediktov, Russian media reported on 16 July. According to, the show went off the air just as Venediktov was sharply criticizing the activities of law enforcement officials during and after the arrest of Menatep head Platon Lebedev. Venediktov continued speaking, not realizing that he wasn't being heard beyond the studio. When he realized that broadcasting had been interrupted, he switched to playing some jazz and broadcasting was resumed. He told that the broadcasting interruption was not the fault of the station and that it had been "ordered." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July)

GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL CONFIRMS HIS DEPARTURE. Aleksei Volin, deputy head of the government apparatus, confirmed on 17 July that he will leave government service, Russian media reported. Volin has been responsible for the government's information policy. According to, Volin's departure was not unexpected; Volin's views did not always coincide with those of the government. For example, he publicly expressed his disagreement with the increasing role of the state in the mass-media sector. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July)

TV-6 LOSES ANOTHER COURT BATTLE. The Constitutional Court upheld on 18 July a lower-court decision to close the Moscow Independent Broadcasting Company (MNKV), the company that owned TV-6, Russian media reported. On 11 January, the presidium of the Supreme Arbitration Court upheld a 27 November decision ordering the company's liquidation. At the time of the January decision, TV-6 shareholder and self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovskii said he would take the case to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July)

MORE JOURNALISTS ON TRIAL IN REGIONS. Newspaper workers in Perm picketed on 17 July outside a court room where two reporters from the local newspaper "Zvezda," Konstantin Bakharev and Konstantin Sterlyadev, are being tried for divulging state secrets, reported. Bakharev and Sterlyadev published a series of articles on the local drug trade that attracted the attention of local Federal Security Service (FSB) officers. According to an earlier report, the journalists have not been told which state secrets they disclosed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 February 2003). The reporters' colleagues at "Zvezda" fear that Bakharev and Sterlyadev face the real possibility of having to serve prison time. In Velikii Novgorod, a municipal-court trial began against "Russkoye veche" Editor in Chief Pavel Ivanov, who is facing charges of inciting interethnic hatred, Interfax reported. Ivanov published a series of articles last year allegedly "exposing a Jewish-Masonic conspiracy of Novgorod authorities against the people." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 July)

PERM JOURNALISTS BEAT THE RAP. A Perm Oblast court on 22 July acquitted two newspaper journalists, Konstantin Bakharev and Konstantin Sterlyadev, who were accused of divulging state secrets, reported. The court found that the two reporters from the local daily "Zvezda" acted within the parameters of their professional responsibilities. According to, the subject of the reporters' articles on the drug trade was a man named Gelii Bogdanov, who was convicted of narcotics trafficking in 1999. In 2001, he was reportedly recruited by the Interior Ministry to act as an informant, but he had reportedly already been recruited by the FSB. The series of articles by Bakharev and Sterlyadev started with one entitled "Super Agent With the Nickname Artem." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July)

'DIFFICULT CONDITIONS' SEEN FOR ALTERNATIVE PRESS IN BASHKORTOSTAN. In an interview with "Moskovskie novosti," No. 28, Tatar National Front Chairman Zagir Khakimov said Bashkortostan is "far from being as politically stable as the republican media frequently indicate." According to Khakimov, "police arbitrariness, particularly with regard to relations with the [political] opposition, has created more difficult conditions for the alternative press." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 July)

WRITERS WARN AGAINST CREEPING CONSERVATISM IN THE SCHOOLS. A group of prominent cultural figures has written a letter to Education Minister Vladimir Filippov in which they warn that a tradition of great Russian writers who opposed tyranny and totalitarianism is being consigned to oblivion and eliminated from the curriculum of Russian schools, and the BBC reported on 19 July. Over the last couple of years, antitotalitarian works by writers such as Boris Pasternak, Andrei Platonov, Anna Akhmatova, and Osip Mandelshtam have been removed from required-reading lists, while Soviet literary icons such as Mikhail Sholokhov continue to be taught. Recent pedagogical materials on literature show clear "conservative trends" toward undoing efforts over the last decade to condemn totalitarianism, the intellectuals' letter said. The letter was signed by writers Vladimir Voinovich, Fasil Iskander, Andrei Voznesenskii, and Rimma Kazakova, among others. Commenting on the changes to the school curriculum, rock star Andrei Makarevich told Ekho Moskvy that the authorities are working to restore the cult of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and predicted that within five years Stalin will be viewed as a heroic figure by young Russians. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July)

OVERCOMING THE 'DIGITAL DIVIDE'? In 2000, the now-embattled oil giant Yukos gained a lot of press with its project, which was aimed at overcoming the "digital divide" in Russia by opening 50 regional Internet-education centers before 2005. According to the proposal, about 500,000 schoolteachers and 10 million students will acquire Internet and computer skills at these centers. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July)

BRITISH AMBASSADOR CALLS FOR DEMOCRATIZATION OF MEDIA. Outgoing British Ambassador to Serbia and Montenegro Charles Crawford said that, as an OSCE member, his country supports the OSCE insistence that the Serbian media must be democratized. Speaking to Radio B92 on 17 July, Crawford said that there are too many controversies in the relations between the media and the authorities. CC

LEADERS CALL FOR BUGGING CASE TO BE RESOLVED. Slovakia's three highest-ranking elected officials agreed at a meeting on 16 July that the investigation into the "Sme" wiretapping scandal must continue, CTK reported. President Rudolf Schuster, Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda, and parliament speaker Pavol Hrusovsky agreed that the probe into the wiretapping in December 2002 of Alliance for a New Citizen (ANO) Chairman Pavol Rusko and an editor from the Slovak daily "Sme," halted by military prosecutors due to a lack of evidence, must be resumed. "I trust that it [the case] will be thoroughly investigated. The investigation must not be stopped," Schuster said. Dzurinda called the wiretappings "mafia practices and a flagrant violation of the law" and expressed surprise that the investigation was halted. Dzurinda previously rejected calls by opposition Smer leader Robert Fico to dismiss Slovak Intelligence Service (SIS) Director Ladislav Pittner, who assumed that post in April, after Vladimir Mitro resigned over fallout from the bugging scandal. "When I decide to act, I do so, but on the basis of facts, not of politicking," Dzurinda said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July)

TWO ALLEGED HIZB UT-TAHRIR ACTIVISTS ARRESTED. Two more alleged activists of the illegal Muslim extremist movement Hizb ut-Tahrir have been arrested in Tajikistan, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 July, citing the Tajik Interior Ministry. One of the detainees was reported to have been caught distributing leaflets in the town of Chkalovsk in northern Tajikistan, while the other was arrested in central Tajikistan's Kofarnihon Raion. According to the ministry, the second detainee was allegedly the leader of a Hizb ut-Tahrir group in the raion. The two arrests bring the total of Hizb ut-Tahrir activists arrested in Tajikistan this year to 30. According to the Tajik security service, 12 of those arrested have been tried and convicted. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 July)

CINEMA RETURNS TO SOUTH AFTER A DECADE. After a 10-year absence, cinema returned to southern Tajikistan via a human rights film series organized by the OSCE Field Office in Kulyab. Since mid-May, the screenings have attracted some 6,500 people in the cities of Kulyab and Nurek. The documentaries and film features, held jointly with hukumats (mayors' offices), were screened in three more cities before July. Free tickets were handed out by city offices and schools. In Nurek, a schoolteacher instructed her students on how to behave in a cinema, since this is the first time many Tajik children had been to one. Local movie theaters opened their doors for the first time since the breakup of the Soviet Union. "This is an interesting time for people in Nurek," said the city's chairman, Sharifkhon Samiev. "The movie festival is serving a double purpose: it is a major event in Nurek's social and cultural life, and it promotes human rights and the rule of law." CC

OSCE CONDEMNS LEGISLATIVE PROPOSAL TO CURTAIL JOURNALISTIC FREEDOM... The OSCE on 15 July formally protested a move by Ukrainian lawmakers to prohibit journalists from publicizing state secrets. Ukrainian parliamentarians hope to make it an offense for journalists to obtain or publish what the media proposals term "confidential information that is the property of the state." Alexander Ivanko, a spokesman for the OSCE, notes that many Western countries penalize officials who divulge confidential information about the state. But sanctions are not directed at journalists or other media professionals who publish that information. The proposals have raised concerns among Ukrainian journalists and democracy advocates, who say the plan fails to define clearly what constitutes such "confidential information." They are also worried that it will be the government and state security forces -- and not the judiciary -- who will determine what represents a breach of the proposed regulations and what does not. The proposals, which still need to be approved by Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma to be passed into law, give intelligence forces the power to search, investigate, and arrest journalists suspected of violating the regulations. The proposed punishment ranges anywhere from fines to imprisonment. ("RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 22 July)

...AS EXPERTS CITE HOW IT VIOLATES UKRAINIAN LAW. Tania Katyuzhynska is a lawyer working for IREX Pro Media, a U.S.-funded organization that runs a legal-defense and education program for journalists in Ukraine. She too criticized the vagueness of the proposals, and said journalists are fearful the government can label any information it chooses as "confidential." "The thing that disturbed journalists the most are the [proposed] changes in the information law, which state that the definition of possession and use of documents containing confidential information that is state property will be decided by the cabinet of ministers," Katyuzhynska said. That, Katyuzhynska said, runs contrary to the Ukrainian Constitution. "These changes in the law which envisage that the regulations will be decided by the cabinet of ministers contradict the Ukrainian Constitution, which is based on the precept that responsibility -- whether civil or criminal -- should be defined by law. She said the proposals also contradict current laws -- including one passed earlier this year -- which allow journalists to publish state or commercial secrets if it is in the public interest. She also noted that the changes were advocated by Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych with the open backing of the head of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU). ("RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 22 July)

STAFF OF NEWSPAPER RESIGNS OVER CENSORSHIP ORDER. The entire staff of the Uzbek newspaper "Mokhiyat" has resigned to protest an order from the publication's new director to stop publishing articles critical of the government, reported on 17 July. The newspaper belongs to the NIA Turkiston-press news agency. Sa'dulla Hakim became director of the agency last month. According to the report, Hakim formerly served as the head of the presidential information office. "Mokhiyat" journalists said that immediately after he took over the directorship, Hakim began to censor the contents of the newspaper. The journalists asserted that previously "Mokhiyat" was the only newspaper in Uzbekistan trying to report the truth. Recently, President Islam Karimov called on the media to be more critical in their reporting. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 July)


By Breffni O'Rourke

The story ends in a field beside a forest in Oxfordshire, England. Or it might be more accurate to say the story begins there. A body lies on the ground, its left wrist cut. A bottle of painkillers is found beside the body, which is that of a distinguished-looking man in his 50s. It is later confirmed that the body is that of David Kelly, a British scientist and expert in biological warfare who was once a UN arms inspector in Iraq. He apparently committed suicide on 18 July after coming under what his family called intolerable pressure from a parliamentary inquiry. That panel was examining whether the British government had exaggerated the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Kelly had been publicly identified as the main source for a story in late May by British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reporter Andrew Gilligan. Gilligan's story quoted a senior intelligence official as saying the government had spiced up the dangers posed by Baghdad in order to justify going to war. Testifying before the committee, Kelly acknowledged he had spoken with Gilligan but suggested he had not been the main source for the information. Several days after his death, the BBC issued a statement saying he had indeed been the story's principal source, but the BBC maintains that it was not responsible for unmasking Kelly.

The BBC's director of news, Richard Sambrook, defended the story from criticism. "The BBC believes we accurately interpreted and reported the factual information obtained by us during interviews with Dr. Kelly," he said. Sambrook said the BBC will fully cooperate with the government's planned inquiry into Kelly's death. Sambrook stressed that while the BBC is "profoundly sorry" at what has happened, it believes it was right to place Kelly's views in the public domain.

After its report about the exaggeration of intelligence, the BBC came under a barrage of criticism from the British government. And since Kelly's death, it has had to endure more attacks, this time concerning accusations that it may have "sexed up" its own stories based on Kelly's comments to Gilligan, which it had stood by throughout the controversy. The BBC as also been criticized for revealing Kelly as the source of its story, even after his death.

The Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) says government pressure on the BBC is far too great. IFJ spokeswoman Sarah de Jong said: "We feel that the British government is definitely putting undue pressure on the BBC as such. And we feel that the government's action is flying in the face of growing recognition in Europe that journalists' right to protect sources is actually contained in human rights law, and the British government is one of the very few governments which fails to recognize that."

De Jong defended the decision of the BBC to run the Kelly claims, saying the public broadcaster was doing what it is supposed to do. "Any media here in Europe, especially in public broadcasting, have a unique role to play, and part of the media's role is to have an investigative role, and to criticize and question the acts of their own governments," she said.

Observers note, however, that there are several points where the BBC's judgment and accuracy can rightly be called into question. First, Gilligan's initial report on 29 May described Kelly -- without naming him -- as a senior intelligence official involved in preparing the "exaggerated" government dossier. Kelly was not an intelligence officer and apparently was not involved in the actual preparation of the report. Secondly, as he was not a member of Blair's inner circle, Kelly would not necessarily be able to confirm firsthand that the report had been exaggerated on the orders of Blair aides. Third, there is the question of whether the BBC should be running uncorroborated, single-sourced stories at all. Gilligan has reportedly been taken off reporting duties until the inquiry is held into the Kelly affair.

In Paris, the organization Reporters Without Borders agrees that the British government is placing an excessive amount of pressure on the BBC. But spokeswoman Soria Blatmann described the Kelly case as a difficult one. "On the one side, in fact, you have a journalist with only one source, although the BBC itself says it needs three sources to make up reliable information. On the other hand, you have the source, a [reputable] scientist, who is independent of the media," Blatmann said.

The London-based magazine "Index on Censorship" points out that in November, a new media regulatory measure will come into force in Britain. "Index" editor Judith Vidal-Hall points to potential threats to the BBC's independence in the wake of the Kelly case. "There is a proposal now from various people that the BBC is no longer a responsible, trustworthy institution [and that] therefore it must come under the control of this new office Offcom, the Office of Communications. That would be a disaster," Vidal-Hall said.

Vidal-Hall said she does not believe the integrity of the BBC has been compromised by the Kelly case. But she points to another potential threat to its independence: "Next year, the BBC's license as a public broadcaster is up for renewal, and for the first time in the history of this organization, since 1922, instead of calling it 'license renewal,' which indicates an automatic process, it's called 'license reconsideration.' I think there has been huge pressure on the BBC from this government."

British Prime Minister Tony Blair received news of Kelly's death while on an Asian tour. Even before the news, Blair's government had been embattled over the accuracy of the intelligence it had used to justify starting the war on Iraq. Blair said a full inquiry will be held into the Kelly affair, and that although he would accept blame for any wrongdoing by the government, he would not resign. "There is now a proper process that can take place in a proper way where someone wholly and independent will look at the facts, will investigate them and will then make the judgment. And then, after those judgments are published, then of course, we can all discuss what the results of those judgments are. And I think that is the right way to proceed," Blair said.

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