18 August 2003, Volume
U.S.-BASED NGO IREX CEASES ACTIVITY IN BELARUS.
As a result of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry's rejection last month of the International Research and Exchanges Board's (IREX) application to renew its registration, the U.S.-based nonprofit organization was forced on 7 August to cease all of its operations in Belarus, Belapan reported. The Belarusian Foreign Ministry on 7 July notified IREX, which has a representative office in Minsk and has operated in Belarus for six years, that it was denying an accreditation-extension request filed by the office in June. The ministry cited irregularities allegedly revealed by the State Control Committee, among other things, as grounds for that decision. IREX considers that decision politically motivated and aimed at restricting access to independent and unbiased information in Belarus. According to IREX lawyer Iryna Auchynnikava, the organization filed a complaint with the Supreme Economic Court against the Foreign Ministry, but the court refused to consider it. The office on 6 August petitioned the court's chairman to reverse that decision, Auchynnikava said. Foreign members of the office's staff are expected to leave Belarus within days. However, Auchynnikava added, IREX will continue its attempts to contest the Foreign Ministry's decision in court. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August 2003)ACTIVISTS LAUNCH 'FREE INTERNET' CAMPAIGN.
Charter 97, the civic group that operates a news website at http://www.charter97.org, launched a "Free Internet" campaign last week in an effort to preempt what it fears may be the possible closure of nongovernmental Internet sites in Belarus. "The public is literally a few steps away from a total information blockade," Charter 97 said in a press statement on 14 August. Local reporters covering the campaign, however, were skeptical that the "blockade" was imminent. Websites continue to function freely, including http://www.charter97.org, which is updated daily. Yet with the closure of a number of leading independent newspapers in the last year, editors have increasingly relied on the Internet to publish their news and views and are vulnerable to attack. In a recent interview with the newspaper "Obozrevatel," Information Minister Mikhail Podgayny equated webmasters of independent news sites with pornographers. The government has already "penetrated" opposition websites, Oleg Bebenin, Charter 97's press secretary, told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service. He said that website owners and users should band together now to protect their sites before it is too late. The government has frozen websites in the past, and is now requiring users of Internet cafes to present their passports. "Belarusians are increasingly without independent media, so they are looking for information on the Internet. The [visitors'] statistics for our site as well as Radio Liberty's are evidence of this," said Bebenin. CAF
COMMERCIAL-TELEVISION DISPUTE ENTERS NEW PHASE...
U.S. tycoon Ronald Lauder's Central European Media Enterprises (CME) has launched a new and potentially devastating arbitration claim against Czech broadcaster TV Nova, "The New York Times" reported on 9 August. CME chief executive Fred Klinkhammer told "The New York Times" that his company is seeking lost profits related to its 1999 ouster, when then-Director Vladimir Zelezny effectively discarded the station's foreign investors in 1999. "The New York Times" reported that the new claim totals $275 million; but Czech dailies "Mlada fronta Dnes" and "Pravo" of 9-10 August reported that the claim totals 31 billion-35 billion crowns ($1 billion-$1.23 billion), including expected revenues until TV Nova's broadcast license expires in 2017. CME already won a $355 million judgment in May over Czech authorities' failure to prevent Zelezny from pulling the plug on CME and its associated service provider, CNTS. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 August 2003)...AS U.S. INVESTOR HOPES TO WIN BACK CZECH HEARTS.
Klinkhammer told "The New York Times" on 8 August that if CME wins the new arbitration case before a Vienna panel, it will keep only the $72 million that he argues TV Nova still owes it and will return the remaining $203 million (that figure was subsequently disputed by Czech media reports) to the Czech treasury. "Czech citizens are entitled to a significant lowering of the burden brought upon them" by the actions of the previous Czech Radio and Television Broadcasting Council, Klinkhammer said. A spokesman for TV Nova called the lawsuit an attempt to "bribe" the Czech state into "killing" TV Nova. CME's Prague director, Jan Vavra, said that his company "would welcome" a "clear opportunity to get a new [Czech] television license," according to "Mlada fronta Dnes" of 9 August. TV Nova's owners have pledged to fight the claim, the paper added, conceding that a loss in this case would likely bankrupt the company and cost it its license. ('RFE/RL Newsline," 12 August 2003)COURT REDUCES SENTENCE OF 'MEIN KAMPF' PUBLISHER.
A Prague district court mitigated a previous sentence handed down against the publisher of a Czech translation of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf" on 11 August, CTK and dpa reported. The publisher, Michal Zitko, was given a 22-month suspended sentence and three-year probation for defaming the Jewish people. The court also threw out a 2 million-crown ($71,000) fine Zitko had been ordered to pay. The same court had imposed a longer suspended sentence and the fine in 2001, but that decision was quashed by the Supreme Court, which also overturned his conviction for propagating. Zitko vowed to appeal the new sentence, while the prosecution said it is also considering an appeal. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 2003).
NEWSPAPER CHIEFS APPEAR IN COURT...
The managing directors of the Iranian dailies "Kayhan," "Siyasat-i Ruz," and Etemad" -- Hussein Shariatmadari, Ali Yusefpur, and Elias Hazrati, respectively -- appeared in court on 13 August to face complaints against their publications, IRNA reported. Shariatmadari had to answer questions relating to a complaint filed by the Blood Refining and Research Company. Yusefpur had to explain a report in his newspaper about the resignation of Science, Research, and Technology Minister Mustafa Moin-Najafabadi. Hazrati faced questions stemming from a complaint about an insulting photo and article that was filed by the Armed Forces General Headquarters. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 August 2003)...AS DOES NEWS AGENCY HEAD.
IRNA reported from Tehran on 12 August that its chief, Abdullah Nasseri, has been called to assist the court concerning coverage of the death of Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi in "Iran," the daily newspaper produced by IRNA. Kazemi was arrested on 23 June for taking pictures at Evin prison and died on 11 July of a cerebral hemorrhage. The paper is charged with spreading lies, making false reports, and creating adverse publicity for the Islamic establishment. Its managing director, Abdulrasul Vasal, was interrogated at length by the presiding judge on 11 August and was instructed to provide proof of assertions by its reporter and statements made by some members of the parliament. Abdullah Ramezanzadeh, a government spokesman, said he hopes the investigation will bring this matter to a close and stated that the government will do its best to expose the cause of Kazemi's death and whoever is responsible. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 August 2003)JOURNALISTS STAGE SIT-IN.
The Journalists Association held a sit-in to mark Iran�s Journalist Day and to protest their plight, IRNA reported on 9 August. Rajab-Ali Mazrui, who heads the journalists' guild, announced the same day that his organization has sent a letter to Iran's judiciary asking to meet with imprisoned reporters. Azam Taleqani, secretary of the Islamic Revolution Women's Society, announced on 9 August that she will hold a sit-in near Tehran's Evin prison on 12 August to protest government officials' failure to provide answers in the Kazemi case, ISNA reported on 9 August. Islamic Culture and Guidance Minister Ahmad Masjid-Jamei said on 9 August that his ministry is drawing up a draft document on the professional security of journalists, IRNA reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 August 2003)
U.S. TROOPS SHOOT DEAD REUTERS CAMERAMAN.
U.S. troops shot dead Reuters cameraman Mazan Dana as he filmed outside the Abu Ghraib prison in western Baghdad, Reuters reported on 17 August. The prison had earlier been under mortar attack. Dana's last footage shows a U.S. tank driving toward him outside the prison. Soldiers evidently mistook the camera he had shouldered for a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, a spokesman for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told Reuters yesterday. Reuters soundman Nael al-Shyoukhi said that before the shooting, the crew had requested and then been denied permission to speak to an officer, indicating that U.S. troops knew of the crew's presence. Since war began in March, 17 media workers have died in Iraq and two are missing. A seasoned war reporter, Dana, 43, was awarded an International Press Freedom Award in 2001 by the Committee to Protect Journalists for his work in Hebron where he was repeatedly wounded and beaten. He is the second Reuters employee to die since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. CAFU.S. MILITARY EXONERATES TANK CREW IN DEATH OF UKRAINIAN JOURNALIST IN IRAQ.
U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a news release on its website (http://www.centcom.mil) on 12 August that the U.S. tank that fired on the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad on 8 April -- resulting in the deaths of Ukrainian Reuters cameraman Taras Protsyuk and Spanish Telecinco cameraman Jose Couso -- was deemed to have acted appropriately under the circumstances. Kyiv had officially requested that Washington probe circumstances surrounding Protsyuk's death (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April 2003). The tank crew "properly fired upon a suspected enemy hunter/killer team in a proportionate and justifiably measured response," according to CENTCOM, which added, "The action was fully in accordance with the Rules of Engagement." The crew reportedly discovered only after it fired a single, 120-millimeter tank round at the building that the structure was the Palestine Hotel. CENTCOM expressed regret over the deaths of the journalists. "The journalists' death at the Palestine Hotel was a tragedy and the United States has the deepest sympathies for the families of those who were killed," CENTCOM said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 2003)CPJ TROUBLED BY RESULTS OF PALESTINE HOTEL INQUIRY.
In a 12 August statement in response to the CENTCOM report, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a nongovernmental group promoting media freedom around the world, says it continues to question events surrounding the shelling of the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad. CPJ has conducted its own investigation into the incident and says CENTCOM has not yet fully addressed the issue of whether U.S. troops were aware they were firing on journalists. The organization is calling upon CENTCOM to make public its full report, which has been classified. CPJ's study is based on interviews with about a dozen reporters who were at the scene, including two embedded journalists who monitored military radio traffic before and after the shelling occurred. These accounts suggests that the attack on the journalists, while not deliberate, was avoidable. Pentagon officials, as well as commanders on the ground in Baghdad, knew that the Palestine Hotel was full of international journalists and were intent on not hitting it, the CPJ's report says. CPJ filed requests for further information under the Freedom of Information Act but the Defense Department did not supply any materials except public transcripts already available. In a 14 April letter to the CPJ, Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke said, "coalition forces were fired upon and acted in self-defense by returning fire" and that news organizations had been warned that Baghdad was "particularly dangerous." The CPJ report can be viewed at http://www.cpj.org/Briefings/2003/palestine_hotel/palestine_hotel.html CAFAL-JAZEERA CREW INJURED IN GRENADE ATTACK.
A cameraman for the Qatar-based satellite channel Al-Jazeera and his assistant were injured on 10 August, during a grenade attack on U.S. troops in Baghdad, CPJ reported on its website the same day (http://www.cpj.org). Cameraman Hussein Ali Hassan and his assistant Mustafa Hazem suffered shrapnel wounds to their legs after an assailant (or assailants) dropped a grenade from a 10th-floor window at Baghdad University, Al-Jazeera assistant producer Ziad Ajlouni told CPJ. The blast reportedly also wounded two U.S. soldiers. Ajlouni said that U.S. forces had invited the Al-Jazeera team to cover troops distributing furniture to the university. Both Hassan and Hazem were taken to a hospital for treatment and were later released with minor injuries. CAF
ANALYSTS SEE MOVE TO RESTRUCTURE POLLSTER AS ATTACK ON FREEDOM OF INFORMATION.
A number of leading experts on 11 August commented in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" about reported government efforts to establish a new management board for the All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM), one of Russia's leading polling agencies (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August 2003). At a press conference on 5 August, VTsIOM Director Yurii Levada said forces within the Kremlin are pushing to name a new board for the center, which is a state enterprise despite its wide reputation for independent analysis. Center for Political Technologies Director Boris Makarenko told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" that VTsIOM should have been privatized long ago. He noted that in recent years VTsIOM has enjoyed complete freedom in its research and has gained an international reputation for accuracy and responsibility. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 August 2003)ECOJOURNALIST LOSES ANOTHER COURT CASE.
The Moscow Municipal Court on 12 August upheld an earlier decision by Moscow visa and passport authorities to deny a passport for foreign travel to Grigorii Pasko, a former military journalist and environmental activist (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 July 2003). Last month, a lower court also upheld that decision. Pasko told Interfax that he will now appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court. Pasko was convicted of espionage in December 2001 and was released on parole in January 2003. He continues to appeal his espionage conviction as well. Pasko had been invited overseas by Reporters Without Borders and Amnesty International. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 2003)NOTED JOURNALIST SAYS HE'S QUITTING TV.
Well-known television journalist and former editor in chief of NTV, TV-6, and TVS Yevgenii Kiselev told Ekho Moskvy on 10 August that he will no longer be involved in covering politics as a journalist. "Working as a political analyst after the amendments to the election legislation have been adopted is senseless," he said. He also denied rumors that he plans to run in the 7 December State Duma elections. Instead, Kiselev said he will make documentary films. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 August 2003)TVS JOURNALISTS HEADING BACK TO FORMER OLIGARCH?
Former TVS journalist Vladimir Kara-Murza and "Kukly" creator Viktor Shenderovich have started to create replicas of their old programs for RTVi, which belongs to former oligarch Vladimir Gusinskii, "Moskovskii novosti," No. 31, reported. RTVi, or International Russian Television, is based outside of Russia and, according to the weekly, satellite television is not well developed within Russia. In an interview with the weekly, however, Shenderovich said that he had received no offers to work for any domestic Russian television channels, either federal or private. He declined to speculate about whether there exists some kind of ban against hiring him. He said that he might now only be seen on RTVi, but in September he will begin hosting a Sunday talk show on RFE/RL. In May 2000, NTV announced that it had agreed with the Kremlin to remove the puppet caricature of President Vladimir Putin from Shenderovich's "Kukly." An NTV spokesman told dpa at the time that the Kremlin has asked producers to remove the puppet, which had an extremely large nose and wore the red neckerchief of the Soviet-era Young Pioneers organization ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 August 2003)
INVESTIGATORS IN PHONE-TAP CASE INTIMIDATED.
Military prosecutors probing an incident involving illegal phone-tapping of journalists at the daily newspaper "SME" earlier this year by the Slovak Intelligence Service (SIS) have themselves been intimidated just two days after the case was reopened, "The Slovak Spectator" reported in its 11-17 August edition, citing the daily "Pravda." The investigators reportedly received threatening calls on their cell phones and said they were themselves monitored, "Pravda" reported, citing sources close to the investigation. The phone-tapping incident was a factor leading to the dismissal of former SIS chief Vladimir Mitro. The scandal erupted in January when Pavol Rusko, head of the ruling Alliance of a New Citizen (ANO), received a tape containing a conversation he had had with a "SME" reporter. In a front-page editorial in July, "SME" Editor in Chief Martin Simecka called the practice of phone-tapping a "cancer" and said that without democracy, freedom, and protection of privacy, "the government's reforms will be worthless." The Slovak Syndicate of Journalists said such practices "are a threat to democracy, media independence, and free journalism" and called for further investigation. CAF
LAWMAKER REQUESTS PROTECTION FOR WITNESSES IN GONGADZE CASE.
Hryhoriy Omelchenko, head of an ad hoc parliamentary commission to investigate the 2000 murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, has asked the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) to guarantee the safety of individuals who come forward with information about the case, Interfax reported, quoting the Ukrainian media watchdog Mass Information Institute (IMI). Omelchenko specifically asked that the SBU provide protection to SBU officers who reportedly helped former police officer Ihor Honcharov collect material on the Gongadze murder. Honcharov, who is regarded as a key suspect in the Gongadze case, died in police custody on 1 August. Honcharov reportedly managed to give the IMI a 17-page handwritten letter in which he claims to possess information about Gongadze's killers, including audio recordings and a confession that he said he wanted to reveal to investigators in the presence of independent witnesses. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 August 2003)
JOURNALIST SENTENCED FOR HOMOSEXUALITY...
Uzbek journalist and homosexual-rights activist Ruslan Sharipov was given a 5 1/2-year prison sentence by a Tashkent criminal court on 13 August after he pleaded guilty to charges of homosexuality and corruption of minors, centrasia.ru reported the following day. His trial was held behind closed doors. Human rights activists in Uzbekistan and abroad assert the case is politically motivated. They reported that Sharipov had fired his lawyer, changed his plea, and offered to retract his writings critical of the Uzbek government because he feared for the safety of his mother. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 15 August 2003)...AS RSF SAYS HE WAS UNDER PRESSURE.
Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has voiced concern about the trial of Sharipov, believing he is the victim of torture and coercion, and has called for his release in a statement issued on the organization's website (http://www.rsf.org) on 15 August. Although Sharipov has repeatedly denied the sexual abuse charges since his arrest on 26 May, he is alleged to have confessed on 8 August during his closed trial. Sharipov reportedly announced his intention to plead guilty and ask President Islam Karimov for a pardon. He also refused to see his mother, the only person linked to him who is allowed to attend his trial, and his lawyer. Human rights activist Vasila Inoyatova from the organization Ezguilik said Sharipov told her during a 27 May prison visit that he did not know the alleged victims, RSF reported. Sharipov's lawyers claim the boys were beaten, threatened by police, and forced to falsify their testimonies against Sharipov. "In view of the unrelenting repression of independent journalists and press-freedom defenders in Uzbekistan, everything indicates that Sharipov was arrested on false and sordid pretences designed to rid the authorities of a bothersome, dissident voice," RSF Secretary-General Robert Menard said in a letter to President Karimov. CAF
ROUNDTABLE ON BALKANS MEDIA.
RFE/RL's 14 August "South Slavic Report" features a program of RFE/RL's Radio Most, "Media Kings Forever," with Jovanka Matic, media researcher for the Belgrade Institute of Social Sciences, and Besim Spahic, head of the Journalism Department at the School of Political Sciences of Sarajevo University. (See http://www.rferl.org/southslavic) The new Democratic Opposition of Serbia government has failed to deliver the media autonomy they promised, and has begun to pressure the media, says Matic. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, media control is dispersed across the representatives of the international community, the government of the Croatian and Muslim federation, the Republika Srpska, and the 10 cantons, "but one thing is clear: no government whatsoever will ever leave the media alone," says Spahic. CAFNEWS BROADCASTERS TO CONVENE IN FALL.
Broadcast news industry professionals from around the world will return to Dublin, Ireland on 21-23 October for News World International, a conference for newscasters to discuss current trends in the field. The three-day event at the Burlington Hotel has plenary sessions, workshops, and thematic roundtables. For more information about the event, which has been run since 1995, see http://www.banffmedia.com/newsworld/ CAF
OPEN SOCIETY INSTITUTE LAUNCHES 'FREEDOM OF INFORMATION' SITE
The Open Society Justice Initiative, a program supported by philanthropist George Soros, has dedicated the first issue of a new online newsletter to freedom of information (FOI) (see http://www.justiceinitiative.org/publications/justiceinitiatives). The newsletter contains an account of Bulgaria's new FOI legislation and reports from a recent conference on FOI laws in southeastern Europe held by ARTICLE 19, the Open Society Institute, and the Croatian Helsinki Committee. CAF
'BETTER TO DO WITHOUT THE PANORAMA'
By Robert Coalson
In June, the journalists of "Zerkalo SP," the only private newspaper in the Moscow Oblast town of Sergiev Posad, appealed to State Duma Deputy Sergei Mitrokhin (Yabloko) to save their paper. The state-monopoly local distributor had refused to distribute "Zerkalo SP" since March, unilaterally tearing up a long-standing contract. The unfortunate business dispute happened to arise literally days after "Zerkalo SP" published a long critical article about Sergiev Posad Mayor Vasilii Goncharov, who is now gearing up to run for a third term in office.
Mitrokhin told the Social Information Agency that the situation with "Zerkalo SP" is a mirror image of what happened on the federal level with NTV, TV-6, TVS, and "Obshchaya gazeta," in which "business structures" were used to mask the work of the authorities in shutting down independent media. "If society does not respond adequately to this challenge, top-down censorship and oppression will be instated in the country," he said.
Similar scenes are being played out throughout Russia, although few of them are ever reported. In Pskov in June, local Communist Party activists picketed the state-controlled local television channel, an affiliate of VGTRK, the national state television and radio company. "The state-controlled mass media -- especially television -- says that there is freedom of speech and the absence of political censorship in this country," read a declaration that the protestors presented to the authorities. "But in reality we constantly run up against one-sided freedom." The protestors called on the station to provide fair and balanced coverage of all political players.
In St. Petersburg, as soon as former Governor Vladimir Yakovlev was promoted to Moscow in June, the management of the local municipally-controlled television station was also replaced. "For people who were inconvenient for [City Hall], the channel exercised political censorship," Duma Deputy Igor Artemev (Yabloko) told Regnum on 24 June. There is no reason to suspect that the new leadership will do anything but display loyalty to a new master.
In Moscow on 4 July, Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) leader Boris Nemtsov unveiled for journalists his party's new "door-to-door" strategy in the regions. He admitted that the strategy had been adopted because the party could not count on getting any coverage in the national media "because of strict censorship," regions.ru reported. On 16 June, SPS's branch in Vologda launched its own newspaper, "Vologodskaya pravda." "The situation with freedom of speech in Vologda compelled us to do this," local SPS leader Ivan Dzhukha told regions.ru. "There is strict censorship on the part of the authorities against publication of any positive information about inconvenient political forces."
On 10 August, noted telejournalist and former NTV, TV-6, and TVS General Director Yevgenii Kiselev announced that he is quitting journalism. "The profession of political analyst after the adoption of amendments to the election laws...has become senseless," Kiselev said in an interview with Ekho Moskvy.
The election-law amendments prompting Kiselev's withdrawal from the political arena came into force in July and have caused much consternation among journalists and civil-society activists. When they were first introduced in the Duma, a public commission denounced them as "a serious step on the road to transforming freedom of the press from a constitutional institution to an empty declaration." The amendments, the commission said, seemed designed "quickly to liquidate publications and broadcasters that are not controlled by the authorities and to deprive citizens of the possibility of receiving objective information." The experts concluded that the changes will leave many with the unenviable choice of either becoming a mouthpiece for official propaganda or -- as Kiselev has chosen -- boycotting the elections altogether.
Under the guise of combating dirty political tricks, the new election-legislation amendments forbid the media from disseminating any information that could positively or negatively influence voter attitudes toward any party or candidate during the election campaign. Sergei Bolshakov, a member of the Central Election Commission (TsIK), told "Vremya-MN" on 10 July that the law "directly forbids any preference for anyone, even indirectly." The media, in Bolshakov's words, is reduced to "informing voters about the announced goals of the parties (for example, in their campaign programs), and about actions that they promise to undertake in case of victory. It is not for the mass media to argue with one or another proposal of a party's program or to incline the voter one way or another. That is for other parties."
In the same issue of "Vremya-MN," legal expert Leonid Kirichenko pointed out that the new law is written in such a way as to give the authorities maximal discretion in implementing it. Under the law, the election commission "has the right" to take measures, rather than is "obligated" to do so. "The commission may" take action, rather than "must." A violation "may serve as grounds for rescinding registration," rather than "must result in the withdrawal of registration." Kirichenko notes that these formulations, which were drafted by Duma legislators with the goal of making the 7 December elections as amenable to them as possible, allow the authorities to treat each media outlet as a separate case -- that is, to have one standard for media friendly to the authorities and another for the rest.
Moreover, the wording of the section banning any information that could positively or negatively influence voters is so general that almost anything could fall under it. An article about Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov mentioning that he also heads the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party, for instance, could easily be considered unlawful electioneering. Under the law, the TsIK could shut down a media outlet ostensibly for propagandizing Unified Russia in such a way, when the commission really resents the outlet's evenhanded coverage of the Communist Party or some other opposition group. Doing so would enable the TsIK to appear impartial.
Speaking to political leaders in Moscow on 11 July, President Vladimir Putin said: "A society divided into small interest groups is not capable of concentrating on the implementation of big national projects.... We should agree on a common position if we want to develop our country. ...Such serious...work must be done together, through the consolidation of Russia's leading political forces and intellectual resources." These comments, with their many hidden illusions to the idea of "unity," are exactly the kind of thing that could land a media outlet in court on charges of promoting Unified Russia.
In its 10 July issue, "Vremya-MN" produced a series of six similar passages that could easily appear in Russian papers and asked a range of lawyers, activists, journalists, and politicians to judge whether they would be legal under the new law. The results, as one might have expected, were complete disagreement on almost every point, demonstrating the looming danger of the new amendments.
Boris Denisov wrote in "Yezhenedelnyi zhurnal," No. 79, that the "best censor is the internal [censor]." He noted that editors in the Soviet era would ask themselves, for instance, is it all right to publish a panorama of Moscow from the famous Lenin Hills, or is it necessary to get the approval of the military? "How can we tell?" Denisov said they would reason. "Better to do without the panorama."
The new law -- as Kiselev's declaration shows -- is producing the same thoughts. "It is enough to scare a few editors and fire a few journalists and then everyone will be afraid," lawyer Yevgenii Tarlo told "Vremya-MN." That seems to be the government's campaign strategy.
Robert Coalson is an editor for RFE/RL's "Newsline."