1 February 2002, Volume
RFE/RL BEGINS BROADCASTING TO AFGHANISTAN.
On 30 January, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Inc. launched broadcasting to Afghanistan in the Dari and Pashto languages. RFE/RL President Thomas A. Dine noted that RFE/RL already has a sizable audience among ethnic minorities that listen to RFE/RL's daily broadcasts in the Farsi, Uzbek, Turkmen, and Tajik languages. Radio Free Afghanistan will initially provide two hours of original broadcasts to Afghanistan daily, plus one hour of repeat programming. The first 30 minutes of each broadcast are in Pashtu, followed by 30 minutes in Dari. The programs will be broadcast to Afghanistan via shortwave and on a joint RFE/RL-Voice of America mediumwave broadcast stream administered by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the U.S. agency in Washington that oversees American international broadcasting. Although RFE/RL operated a "Radio Free Afghanistan" service broadcasting in Dari and Pashto from 1985 until 1993, the services were closed as part of a general restructuring of RFE/RL operations. U.S. legislation approved in December 2001 appropriated funds to resume the Afghan broadcasts as part of the post-11 September U.S. war on terrorism. 15 people will be hired to fill Prague-based Afghan Service staff positions, while plans call for 20 stringers to report from Afghanistan's eight largest cities. In the next two months, RFE/RL plans to open a Kabul bureau. Afghan Service stringers will also be based in Islamabad, Tehran, Tashkent, Dushanbe, Ashgabat, Bishkek, Almaty, New Delhi, Ankara, Moscow, London, New York, and Washington. Reporting will be enhanced by reports on Afghanistan from free-lancers in RFE/RL's Tajik, Uzbek, Persian, and Turkmen services. Live and on-demand RealAudio of the Dari and Pashto broadcasts to Afghanistan is available on RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan website, located at http://www.rferl.org/bd/af/. (RFE/RL Press Release, 30 January)
MEDIA UPROAR OVER KIOSK SELL-OFF.
After protests from newspaper editors who claimed that government plans to privatize 306 of the country's kiosks by 15 January would sound a death knell for their publications, the government has postponed its plans. These kiosks are the property of the state newspaper distribution agency Aimamul that is heavily in debt to Armenian printing houses. Newspaper sales have plummeted in Armenia -- the national total is a mere 50,000 copies -- and most papers are not delivered outside Yerevan. According to the Yerevan Press Club, an impoverished population and an inefficient distribution system account for the low number of newspaper sales. According to other experts, since the four opposition newspapers sell about 20,000 copies a day -- twice the totals of the more official papers -- the reason for poor sales may lie elsewhere. About 45 percent of the daily run of the state-funded government paper "Aiastani Anrapetutsiun" remains unsold. (Institute for War and Peace Reporting Service, 25 January)
POLICE SHELVE COMPLAINTS BY GOVERNMENT, WEEKLY 'RESPEKT.'
Police on 25 January announced that they have decided to shelve the complaints launched against each other last October by the government and "Respekt" Editor in Chief Petr Holub, CTK reported. Government office head and Minister without portfolio Karel Brezina, who launched the complaint against the weekly in the name of the cabinet, said through a spokeswoman that he has not received "any official information" on the decision and thus would not comment on it. Holub said he will appeal the decision. Holub added that he is prepared to withdraw the appeal if Prime Minister Milos Zeman would publicly declare that the complaint against the weekly was not launched in an attempt to restrain the freedom of the press, but was the result of "a sudden state of irritation." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 January)TEENAGERS VIDEOTAPE DESECRATION OF JEWISH CEMETERY.
Police spokesman Radek Galas said on 22 January that police have discovered a group of teenagers who vandalized the old Jewish cemetery in Uhrineves, some 15 kilometers southeast of Prague. The group videotaped the act of destroying some 50 tombstones, AP reported. The boys, aged 14 to 16, later showed the videotape to friends. Galas said the action was "planned in advance" and the perpetrators "knew well what they were doing." The videotapes show them jumping on the tombstones and shouting "Judenmord" (Murder of Jews) and "Sieg Heil," the Nazi victory cry. Galas said only two of the group will be prosecuted on grounds of "defamation of a race" and "incitement to hatred" because the others are underage. The charges can result in a sentence of up to three years imprisonment, but due to their young age the two face a maximum sentence of 18 months in prison, if convicted. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January)INTELLECTUALS RALLY BEHIND SENTENCED 'MEIN KAMPF' PUBLISHER.
Several hundred people have signed a petition condemning the prosecution of Michal Zitko, the publisher of a translation of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf," Zitko told CTK on 28 January. The signatories include writer Arnost Lustig, political scientist Bohumil Dolezal, film director Antonin Kachlik, as well as Freedom Union-Democratic Union Chairwoman Hana Marvanova. Zitko appealed in November 2001 against a verdict that sentenced him to three years in prison with a five-year probation, and fined him 2 million crowns ($54,400). The signatories say the verdict is "an attack on the freedom of speech," and that Hitler's book cannot serve to support "any contemporary [political] movement." In related news, Holocaust Day was marked in the Czech Republic on 27 January, and for the first time representatives of the country's Jewish and Romany communities observed the day in a joint ceremony. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January)
ARE FOREIGN REPORTERS BIASED?
The research organization Kontroll Group, made up of university students, denied on 22 January that the right wing influenced its study published in the 9 January issue of "Magyar Nemzet" regarding foreign correspondents working in Budapest. In the study the group argued that Budapest-based foreign correspondents are biased against the government and Prime Minister Viktor Orban and have left-wing or liberal-party preferences. The group's spokeswoman, Reka Horvath, denied in "Nepszabadsag" that the group has any connection with right-wing radical journalist Istvan Lovas, who has recently defended the group and its study. Foreign correspondents have already written to Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi objecting to comments about them, saying that the analysis is not based on facts. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January)
FIVE INDEPENDENT PAPERS CALL FOR HALT TO REPRISALS...
The editors of the newspapers "Res Publica," "Aghym," "Moya stolitsa-novosti," "Litsa," and "Tribuna" addressed an appeal on 28 January to the country's leadership to end the repression of the independent press, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. They condemned as persecution and a violation of the law the refusal by the state-owned publishing house Uchkun to publish "Moya stolitsa-novosti" and the weekly "Res Publica," the 29 January issue of which was banned on 23 January by a Bishkek district court ruling. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January)...AS STATE PUBLISHING HOUSE ORDERED TO RESUME PRINTING INDEPENDENT PAPER.
Bishkek's Arbitration Court ruled on 29 January that the state-run Uchkun publishing house must continue to print the newspaper "Moya stolitsa-novosti," RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported the following day. Uchkun informed the paper's editors on 19 January that it would not print further issues as the paper had not yet signed a contract for 2002. "Moya stolitsa-novosti" recently published several articles criticizing President Askar Akaev's son-in-law, Adil Toigonbaev. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 January)
JOURNALISTS DEPLORE CENSORSHIP.
At a 28 January meeting with Josette Durrieu, head of a Council of Europe monitoring mission to Moldova, Moldovan journalists lashed out against what they called "draconian censorship" in the country. After coming to power last year, the Communist authorities have tightened the grip over the national broadcaster, and are using it to "misinform" the general public, journalists said. At the meeting with Durrieu, Igor Burciu, editor in chief of "Flux" daily, said he had received numerous threats from the authorities that his publication will be closed for its anti-Communist stance. Over the past year, journalists and media assistance organizations have frequently deplored growing limitations on media freedoms in Moldova. ("Moldova Media News," 30 January)STUDY ON MEDIA TRENDS PUBLISHED.
An overview of the most recent media development trends in Moldova is provided in a study, which was released in January. Produced by the Moldovan Journalists' Union (UJM), "Mass Media in Moldova" reports on the problems of local and national print and broadcast media, along with media ethics, media legal framework and the state of journalism education in the country. The publication, available in Romanian, Russian and English, was funded by the Soros Foundation-Moldova and the U.S. embassy in Chisinau. For more, contact UJM at firstname.lastname@example.org (Moldova Media News, 30 January)
METROPOLITAN FILES SUIT AGAINST PAPER.
On 19 January, Montenegrin Metropolitan Amfilohije announced he will file a libel suit against the Podgorica daily "Vijesti" over its report on his Orthodox New Year speech. "Vijesti" printed the Orthodox Church leader's speech with the title "Citizens of Duklja should be nailed to the Vezirov Bridge with a hammer." Amfilohije claimed in a radio B92 interview that the sentence was a quote from a folk legend concerning the cursed Emperor of Duklja and was in the context of calling for peace, love, and progress. ("ANEM Media Update," 19-25 January)
POLISH TELEVISION TO LAY OFF 1,000 IN 2002.
Polish Television spokesman Janusz Cieliszak said on 24 January that more than 1,000 employees in the company will lose their jobs in 2002, PAP reported. Cieliszak explained that the redundancies are the result of a crisis in the advertising market and a drop in license-fee revenues. The public Polish Television currently employs 5,930 people. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 January)
NEW AND OLD TEAMS AT TV-6 TO BATTLE FOR BROADCASTING RIGHTS...
In an interview with "Kommersant-Daily" on 25 January, First Deputy Media Minister Mikhail Seslavinskii said that his ministry will examine the question of whether or not TV-6 will be allowed back on the air only after a liquidation commission for the station's sister company, Moscow Independent Broadcasting Corporation (MNVK), is formed, and only if that commission appeals to the ministry to restore the license. The deadline to submit an application to participate in the tender for the station is 7 March. Meanwhile, journalists currently working for the embattled channel officially registered a limited liability company called TV-6 on 24 January, Interfax reported. At the same time, the team of journalists that worked for TV-6 prior to its takeover by former NTV personnel is also forming a new legal entity and hopes to compete in the upcoming tender, Mikhail Ponomarev, the former editor in chief of TV-6's information service, told reporters on 24 January. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 January)...AS LESIN SEEN TO PLAY KEY ROLE IN TENDER COMMISSION DECISION...
In an interview with "Kommersant-Vlast" on 22 January, ORT journalist and member of the tender commission that will decide who wins the license, Vladimir Pozner, said he believes that the current TV-6 crowd has a reasonable chance to win the tender. However, Pozner acknowledged that the decision could swing the other way depending on whether or not Media Minister Mikhail Lesin is dismissed, whether the commission retains its current membership, and whether a "strange new" law on issuing licenses is observed. Pozner added that he believes that "trying to detach TV-6 from Boris Abramovich [Berezovsky] was the only correct option." He continued, "The entire struggle surrounding NTV first, then TV-6 -- even though it was called a dispute between managing entities -- was actually a struggle between [Media-MOST head Vladimir] Gusinsky and Berezovsky." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 January)...AND PUBLIC IS FAIRLY INDIFFERENT, ZYUGANOV IS NOT.
In a poll conducted among 1,500 people nationwide, the Public Opinion Foundation found that only 51 percent own televisions that could pick up the frequency on which TV-6 operated, Interfax reported on 24 January. In addition, some 63 percent of respondents in the poll said that they were not interested in the ongoing controversy over the station. The poll was conducted on 19 January, two days before the channel was shut down. Thirty-one percent of respondents said that they were following TV-6 developments, and 37 percent said they believed politics was behind the court order to liquidate the company. Meanwhile, Communist Party (KPRF) leader Gennadii Zyuganov told RFE/RL's Russian Service on 24 January that he considers the government's decision to shut down TV-6 as "bigotry and an arbitrary act with no justification." On 24 January, lenta.ru cited the BBC as reporting that more than 1,000 Internet users have logged on to read TV-6 news programs on the ntvru.com website. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 January)TV-6 JOURNALISTS ASKED TO BOYCOTT TENDER...
Eduard Sagalaev, the chairman of the National Association of Television and Radio Broadcasters, told RTR on 27 January that he has received assurances from Media Minister Lesin and All-Russia Television and Radio Broadcasting Company head Oleg Dobrodeev that the Russian government will not participate in the tender for TV-6's broadcasting license, ntvru.com reported. According to Sagalaev, TV-6 will remain a commercial rather than a state-run television channel. He added that a number of Western investors are ready to invest money in the Russian television market. Meanwhile, "Moskovskie novosti" Deputy Editor Lyudmila Telen told Ekho Moskvy radio on 25 January that the next issue of her publication will publish an appeal calling for TV-6 journalists to boycott the tender for the broadcasting rights. Telen said, "An unfair and unlawful action is being taken against the highly professional TV-6 team...and in this situation corporate solidarity should play a role." She added that it is unfortunate that Russia's journalists have not shown greater solidarity. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 January)...AS CHANNEL NOW OFFERS ALL SPORTS, ALL OF THE TIME.
Anna Klimenko, the general director of NTV-Plus, told ITAR-TASS on 25 January that viewers of TV-6 will get 17 hours of sports programming per day from her television company. According to Klimenko, NTV-Plus offered the programs on 22 January at the request of the Media Ministry. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 January)RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT EXTENDS LOAN TO ORT...
Prime Minster Mikhail Kasyanov announced on 28 January that the government will extend the terms of the $100 million loan provided to ORT by the state-run Vneshekonombank, smi.ru reported. In December, the management of ORT sent President Vladimir Putin a letter saying it had no funds to repay the government loan and requesting that he intervene. ORT officially has the status of "public television," although 49 percent of its shares are controlled by the state and semi state-owned entities. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January)...AS STS TELEVISION TAKES OVER REGIONAL NETWORKS.
Since the closure of TV-6, its partner radio stations in Novosibirsk, Vologda, Orel, Kaluga, and eight other provincial Russian cities have been relaying STS television broadcasts, strana.ru reported on 28 January. The STS television company is owned by StoryFirst Communications, which is controlled by media magnate Rupert Murdoch and the Russian holding company Alfa Group. STS broadcasts entertainment programs and no news, and has officially announced that it will not take part in the tender for TV-6's broadcasting rights. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January)PRESIDENT PROPOSES NATIONAL SPORTS CHANNEL...
At a session of the presidium of the State Council on 29 January, President Putin ordered the government "to examine the opportunities for creating a federal television sports channel," Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko told reporters in Moscow. When asked whether the new sports channel might be broadcast on channel six, Matvienko answered that this is "a technical question." The same day, Leonid Tyagachev, the president of Russia's Olympics Committee, held his own press conference during which he declared that his committee needs its own sports channel. Shamil Tarpishchev, vice president of the committee, said that it is possible that his group will create a company that could participate in the tender for TV-6's broadcasting rights. Meanwhile, NTV-Plus has been providing sports programming for TV-6 since that station went off the air. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 January)...AS SPORTS CHANNEL EYES TV-6'S FREQUENCY...
LUKoil head Vagit Alekperov and Russian Olympics Committee President Leonid Tyagachev have signed a cooperation agreement under which the oil major will be an official partner of the Olympics Committee and be allowed use of its official logo, Interfax-AFI reported on 30 January. However, the same day, LUKoil announced that it will not participate in the tender for TV-6's broadcasting rights, although it did not discount the possibility that one of its sister companies, such as LUKoil-Garant, might do so, according to polit.ru. The same day, the TV sports channel 7-TV announced that it intends to participate in the TV-6 tender, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Deputy Prime Minister Matvienko said she thinks it would be expedient to establish a new federal sports channel on the basis of the 7-TV station, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 January)...AND MOSCOW COURT REJECTS TV-6 COMPLAINT.
Also on 30 January, a Moscow arbitration court rejected a complaint by the Moscow Independent Broadcasting Corporation (MNVK), TV-6's parent company. MNVK had complained about court bailiffs' actions in turning off the station's electricity on 21 January. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 January)'THE WORD NO LONGER MATTERS.'
Writing in "Novaya gazeta," Russian sociologist Boris Kagarlitsky observed that the Kremlin's destruction of media mogul and former Kremlin insider Boris Berezovsky's TV-6 "means that media resources no longer wield any influence over politics in Russia." In today's Russia, according to Kagarlitsky, the "era of battles with words is over...the warring sides are going to use different weapons against one another: The word no longer matters. Only strength does." ("Novaya gazeta," No. 6)BEREZOVSKY'S BUSINESS PARTNER STRIKES BACK AT FSB...
Badri Patarkatsishvili, the business partner of Boris Berezovsky who has been accused by the Federal Security Service (FSB) of embezzling Aeroflot funds and using them to help finance "terrorists," struck back in a letter published in "The New York Times" on 30 January. Patarkatsishvili compared Putin with former Peruvian strongman Alberto K. Fujimori, who in 1997 forced independent Frecuencia Latina TV owner Baruch Iher to leave Peru after he had criticized Fujimori's regime. "Similarly, the Russian Federal Security Service -- the real power behind President Vladimir V. Putin -- declared war against NTV and TV-6 for reporting on carnage in Chechnya," Patarkatsishvili wrote. "Thus, Boris A. Berezovsky, Vladimir V. Gusinsky, and I, owners of the independent Russian networks, are living abroad and are facing extradition requests on trumped-up charges." He expressed optimism that, as was the case in Peru, the Russian people "will eventually reject the transformation of their country into a banana republic." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 January)...AS OLIGARCHS REPORTEDLY PLAN TO SET UP SURROGATE TV BROADCASTER IN GERMANY...
"Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 29 January that Boris Berezovsky and Vladimir Gusinsky have a new plan to broadcast TV-6 programs from Cologne in Germany. According to the daily, under the plan several dozen of TV-6's best journalists would move to Germany to begin broadcasts to the world's Russian-language audience, while another group would remain in Russia to prepare the program on location. "Argumenty i fakty" also reported on 23 January that Gusinsky intends to start a Russian-language television channel in Cologne, and is ready to invite TV-6 journalists to work there. Meanwhile, "Vremya novostei" reported that so far it appears that only the current team of TV-6 journalists headed by Yevgenii Kiselev and the old team headed by Mikhail Ponomarev are planning to participate in the tender for the station's broadcasting rights. According to the daily, REN-TV, which is owned by Unified Energy Systems and Moskoviya, which is controlled by oligarch/Senator Sergei Pugachev, do not intend to participate. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January)...BUT TV-6 OFFICIAL FLATLY DENIES ANY PLANS TO MOVE TO GERMANY.
TV-6 press spokesperson Tatyana Blinova said on 29 January that recent news reports about TV-6 journalists working in Germany have no real basis. According to Blinova, no one plans to transfer either a large or small group of journalists to Germany -- the issue "has not been raised and is not being discussed." At the same time, Blinova confirmed that a representative office for the television company Inter-TV, which is part of the Media-MOST group, is based in Cologne. In addition, Inter-TV has already begun broadcasting programs to Russian-language audiences in Israel, Europe, and the United States. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 January)LIBERAL DEPUTY PREDICTS DAYS OF INDEPENDENT MEDIA IN RUSSIA ARE 'NUMBERED'...
Human rights activists have called on the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to examine the situation around TV-6, Interfax reported on 28 January. They argue that the conditions under which the station went off the air violate both the European Convention on Human Rights as well as Russian legislation. The human rights groups include Civic Assistance, the Information Center of the Human Rights movement, For Human Rights, and the Union of Russian Journalists. Meanwhile, State Duma deputy Viktor Pokhmelkin told Ekho Moskvy radio on 28 January that he believes that the days of independent media such as Ekho Moskvy, "Kommersant-Daily," and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" are "numbered." Pokhmelkin predicted that Russian authorities will not provoke a direct clash, but will instead make attempts to achieve "a political reorientation of the independent media." In an interview with "Novoye Vremya" on 27 January, TV journalist Vladimir Pozner said he will conclude that the "dangerous hour" for freedom of speech in Russia has been reached if the tender for the TV-6 broadcasting license is not held fairly. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January)...AS LIBERAL FIGURES DEFEND KREMLIN'S IDEA OF 'FREE SPEECH.'
In a throwback to the best of Soviet traditions, the Russian mass media are trying to rally public opinion by publishing statements from prominent liberal public figures in support of the Kremlin in its conflict with TV-6. Thus, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 25 January printed an opinion piece by Aleksandr Bovin, a former Russian ambassador to Israel and present dean of the journalism faculty at the Russian Humanitarian University, who wrote that "the freedom of speech is first of all the responsibility for what are you saying," and that the mark of a good journalist is not "good writing" but "good thinking." Meanwhile, the world-famous cellist Mstislav Rostropovich told "Izvestiya" on 25 January that "too many in Russia misunderstand freedom of speech, misuse it, and insult Russia's president." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 January)KREMLIN SPOKESMAN WARNS RFE/RL.
The Kremlin's spokesman on Chechnya, Sergei Yastrzhembskii, said in an interview published in "Gazeta" on 28 January that the Russian government will carefully monitor Radio Liberty broadcasts to Russia and could revoke RFE/RL's broadcasting license in Russia if its coverage is deemed to have taken a "biased and prejudiced form." The comments were an apparent response to RFE/RL's plans to open a North Caucasus Service in late February, which will broadcast in the Chechen, Avar, and Circassian languages. Yastrzhembskii said the Russian Constitution and laws impose "certain restrictions on the mass media in Russia, of which the lawyers and journalists of RFE/RL are well aware," which provide for an official warning from the Media Ministry and the possible revocation of the broadcasting license should that warning go unheeded. Yastrzhembskii said the Media Ministry and Department of Information of the presidential administration will be tasked with monitoring RFE/RL's "behavior." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January)FEDERATION COUNCIL PRESS SERVICE CHIEF SACKED.
After serving on the Federation Council staff since 1994, the chief of its press service was fired in January. Interviewed by "Moscow News," the journalist said that "authorities are isolating themselves from society.... It is very unwise for leaders to cut off feedback to public opinion and particularly to ignore media attacks." (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Bulletin, 14-20 January)RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH WANTS TO CREATE ITS MEDIA HOLDING.
Addressing State Duma deputies on 28 January, Vladimir Siloviev, the head of the Publishing Council of the Russian Orthodox Church (RPTs), said that the church is interested in creating its own mass media concern that would include television, radio, and print outlets, RIA-Novosti reported the next day. Meanwhile, cleric Dmitrii Smirnov told parliamentarians that RPTs seeks to remove from Russian Television "all that we dislike." He said that "70 percent of the population is Russian Orthodox and, therefore, they should have 70 percent of airtime devoted to their [cultural] values." The two clerics also stressed that RPTs enthusiastically supports the public appeal made by Patriarch Aleksii II on 26 January for a course on the "foundations of Russian Orthodox culture" to be introduced in all state schools. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 January)FEDERAL PROPAGANDA EFFORT AMONG MUSLIMS STYMIED BY LACK OF FUNDS?
Ravil Gainutdin, the chair of the Muslim Religious Board for European Russia, has alleged that financial difficulties at RTR and Kultura were behind the recent failure to air a number of Islam-related programs, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 30 January, citing islam.ru. Gainutdin revealed that he has persuaded executives at Kultura to resume one program, while his board has allocated $4,000 to maintain the "Voice of Islam" program on Radio Rossii. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 January)ACTIVISTS CONTINUE TO PROTEST PASKO SENTENCE.
Some 30 local environmental activists held a protest in Kaliningrad on 25 January in support of former military journalist Grigorii Pasko, who was recently convicted of espionage, Interfax-Northwest reported. On 26 January, some 20 activists from the Democratic Union held a protest in Moscow's Pushkin Square to show their support for Pasko and journalists from TV-6, Interfax reported. Democratic Union leader Valeria Novodvorskaya told RFE/RL's Moscow bureau that while she doesn't believe their action will yield any concrete results, the demonstrators wanted to express their views as citizens. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 January)NEW JOURNAL REVIVES TRADITION OF LIBERAL JOURNALISM.
A group of journalists and philosophers in London have launched the new independent Russian-language magazine "Kolokol," which is modeled after the journal by the same name that was printed there from 1857-65 by Russian revolutionary democrats Aleksandr Herzen and Nikolai Ogarev, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 29 January. In its first issue, the publisher proclaimed that the magazine will rise up against those "who talk about the dead end of Western civilization without making a single step toward it." And against those "who are building a new Russian ideology based on Soviet arrogance, Russian drunkenness, and Asian state paternalism." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 January)PRIME MINISTER LAUNCHES 'ELECTRONIC RUSSIA' PROGRAM.
On 29 January, Mikhail Kasyanov signed into law the federal program "Electronic Russia," which is intended to double the number of Internet users in Russia over the next five years and to integrate the country's educational and government systems into the Internet, "Vechernyaya Moskva" reported. The program also envisages the standardization of Russian Internet publications through the introduction of an obligatory format that would require information about the publisher, its state-issued license, a copyright disclaimer, and content annotation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 January)U.S. EMBASSY ACCUSED OF INTERFERING IN JOURNALIST'S TRAVELS.
Aleksandr Budberg, a journalist with "Moskovskii komsomolets" who was planning on accompanying presidential envoy to the Volga federal district Sergei Kirienko to the United States, was denied an entrance visa, Russian agencies reported on 29 January. According to Interfax-Eurasia, the U.S. Embassy promised to resolve the situation on the 29 January, but Kirienko's press service noted that the part of the visit devoted to negotiations on chemical weapons would have already been completed by that time. The website polit.ru, citing an unnamed source in the Foreign Ministry, reported that the refusal was "not accidental and resulted from a conscious decision by the [U.S.] Embassy." Budberg visited the U.S. in November to cover President Putin's trip there, and according to the website he believes that the situation with his visa could be connected with a change of personnel in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 January)
SERBIAN BROADCAST LEGISLATION FURTHER DELAYED.
"Serbia's much-delayed new broadcast legislation has hit a new snag," Deputy Prime Minister Zarko Korac said on 24 January. Korac said that the Serbian government had asked that legislation on telecommunications be tabled at the same time as the Broadcast Act. Korac added that the issue of legislation was overshadowed by the question of whether the Yugoslav federation would survive. ("ANEM Media Update," 19-25 January)RADIO/TV SERBIA JOURNALIST SUES WEEKLY...
On 19 January, Miodrag Popov, a former Radio Television Serbia journalist, filed suit against the weekly "Reporter"; Vladimir Radomirovic, the editor in chief of its Yugoslav edition; and journalist Petar Lukovic over an article entitled "Everybody to The Hague." The article, written by Lukovic in November 2001, recalled Popov's work as a journalist and state media editor during the Milosevic regime. ("ANEM Media Update," 19-25 January)...AND CULTURE MINISTER SUES ANOTHER WEEKLY.
On 19 January Branislav Lecic, the Serbian minister of culture, brought suit against the Belgrade weekly "NIN" and journalist Radmila Stankovic over a 6 December article which claims that there is a "growing rumor among actors and other artists that the minister of culture is using his position to stage his play in Serbia and Europe by giving aid to theatres and then collecting the same money as a fee for the performance." ("ANEM Media Update," 19-25 January)RTS DIRECTOR PLEDGES TO STAND BY THIRD CHANNEL.
The director of Serbian state television told the Belgrade daily "Glas" on 22 January that he has no intention of letting Radio Television Serbia's third channel go under. Aleksandr Crkvenjakov said the state broadcaster would "cooperate with some strong media company and retain partial ownership." He also said, "We are currently negotiating with three foreign partners, and if the sale goes ahead, everything must be finished a year after the adoption of the broadcast law." The director denied media reports that negotiations are underway with Russian media tycoon Boris Berezovsky. ("ANEM Media Update," 19-25 January)
DEPUTY PROSECUTOR: FALSE STATEMENT ON INTERNATIONAL GONGADZE COMMISSION.
During a 25 January interview with Interfax, Deputy Prosecutor-General Oleksiy Bahanets announced that the Council of Europe had decided not to create an international commission of inquiry into journalist Heorhiy Gongadze's disappearance and murder, because it would be contrary to Ukrainian law. According to the Paris-based media watch group Reporters without Borders (RSF), the deputy prosecutor-general's statement is false and his announcement as another ploy by the Ukrainian authorities to delay identification of Gongadze's murderers. Although Antanas Valeonis, chairman of the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers and Lithuanian foreign affairs minister, acknowledged that Ukrainian law currently does not allow for the creation of a commission of inquiry, he has not said that such a commission would not be created. Three Ukrainian members of parliament are currently drafting a bill to create the needed legal framework to enable foreign investigators to work in Ukraine. Moreover, on 24 January, Council of Europe Rapporteur for Ukraine Hanne Severinsen wrote to the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers asking that a swifter process to form the independent commission of inquiry. RSF recalls that on 27 September 2001, the Council of Europe recommended the creation of an international commission of inquiry and noted that such a commission would have to be ratified by the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers in order to be efficient. Furthermore, Bahanets announced on 28 January that he would ask the German authorities to carry out a third expert evaluation of the corpse that was found in Tarachtcha. He did not specify the identity of the organization that would perform the autopsy, nor did he indicate when the autopsy might take place. RSF believes that a new autopsy will not serve as a substitute for a genuine independent investigation of the journalist's disappearance and murder. For further information, contact Jean-Christophe Menet at email@example.com or see http://www.rsf.fr (Reporters without Borders Press Release, 30 January)OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER CONSTRAINED TO CHANGE PRINT SHOP.
"Ukrayina Moloda" reported on 26 January that the Kyiv-based newspaper "Vecherniye vesti," which is linked to opposition leader Yuliya Tymoshenko, has been forced to look for a printing house in Lviv since the editorial staff could not find a printer in the capital. "Print shop directors spoke to us in a normal manner by phone until we named ourselves. The name of our newspaper automatically meant an end to the conversation. Some promised to call us back, but it was obvious that they would not," "Vecherniye vesti" Editor in Chief Oleksandr Lyapin commented. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 January)U.S. SANCTIONS AGAINST UKRAINE OVER CD PIRACY TAKE EFFECT...
The previously announced U.S. trade sanctions against Ukraine for its inability to curb compact disc piracy took effect on 23 January. The Ukrainian parliament on 17 January hastily passed a law regulating the production of CDs. UNIAN quoted Kenneth Fairfax, an official from the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, as saying that the U.S. authorities received the text of the law on 21 January and are currently analyzing it. Fairfax said the sanctions may be lifted in time if the law satisfies the United States. Fairfax said, however, that the adopted law provides for "insignificant penalties," adding that "they will come as no more than an irritation for those who make millions of dollars annually" from CD piracy, STB Television reported. Under the sanctions, the U.S. will apply higher duties on $75 million worth of metals, shoes, and other goods exported from Ukraine. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January)...WHILE KUCHMA DECRIES THEM AS 'PRESSURE.'
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma told journalists on 22 January that he is inclined to sign the recently passed bill on the production of CDs in Ukraine, Interfax reported. At the same time he said, "No country in the world has the kind of law the U.S. is demanding from us." And he added: "So what is it? Cooperation or simply pressure? I regard this as pressure." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January)UKRAINE TO DISCUSS TRADE SANCTIONS WITH U.S. OFFICIALS.
Deputy Prime Minister Vasyl Rohovyy and Finance Minister Ihor Yushko are to hold consultations on the U.S. trade sanctions against Ukraine with U.S. officials during the World Economic Forum in New York next week, AP reported on 24 January. Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko told Interfax the same day that Kyiv is currently "clarifying" the reaction of the U.S. side to Ukraine's law against CD piracy that was passed earlier this month. The U.S. trade sanctions over what the U.S. sees as Ukraine's inadequate measures to curb CD piracy took effect earlier this week. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 January)MINISTER PESSIMISTIC OVER U.S. TRADE SANCTIONS.
Economy Minister Oleksandr Shlapak told ICTV Television on 24 January that the U.S. sanctions over CD piracy will cost Ukraine $51 million and "thousands of jobs." Shlapak added that U.S. trade sanctions from the Soviet era, which are still in force, suggest that there will be no swift end to the sanctions even if Ukraine fully complies with the demands of the international music industry. "The [Jackson-Vanik] amendment was passed by the [U.S.] Senate in 1974. It was aimed against the Soviet Union for violating the right of its Jewish citizens to emigrate. But this problem has long been solved in Ukraine, while the amendment is still in place. This shows how conservative the Americans are on economic issues," Shlapak noted. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 January)
NEW ONLINE WEEKLIES ON PRESS FREEDOM.
On 23 January, the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations (CJES) released the first issue of its weekly analytical bulletin of events in the Russian media. In addition to an analysis of the socio-political situation, the bulletins will present a brief overview of violations of the rights of journalists and the media in seven areas: killings; kidnappings and disappearances; attacks; arrests and detentions; judicial persecution of journalists; various forms of pressure on the media; and censorship. The bulletin is available in Russian at http://www.cjes.ru/bulletin/ and in English at http://www.cjes.ru/bulletin/index-e.php to CJES subscribers. In Russian, there are special bulletins on Uzbekistan (at http://www.cjes.ru/bulletin/special/001.php), on the Transdniester (at http://www.cjes.ru/bulletin/special/002.php), and on Karabakh (at http://www.cjes.ru/bulletin/special/003.php).
CONCERNS ABOUT THE SERBIAN MEDIA
By Patrick Moore
The removal of Slobodan Milosevic from power in the fall of 2000 has led to changes that have often imperfect at best. In the cases of the army and police, for example, old structures are by and large still in place, but with loyalties shifted to Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica or Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, respectively.
Changes in the media, too, have not been all they might have been. Those who hoped that the Belgrade daily "Politika" might try to regain its former reputation as one of the best dailies in Eastern Europe were disappointed. Instead, it has gone from being the mouthpiece of Milosevic to being the same for Kostunica.
And there are criticisms that could be made of the media in general. One is that they remain focused to a large extent on personalities and individuals rather than on themes, issues, and analysis. If Serbian political culture is ever to break out of the mold of personality-based -- as opposed to program-based -- political parties, the media will need to set the stage.
Another problem is the lack of investigative journalism. Milosevic's Serbia was a kleptocracy if there ever was one, and many of the subsequent leaders have not been free of scandal or at least of rumors of wrongdoing. Several political murders were committed under Milosevic that are very well known at home and abroad. But journalists have for the most part failed to go after these stories as many of their Western counterparts might have done.
Gordana Susa, who heads the Independent Society of Serbian Journalists (NUNS), recently pointed out that the post-Milosevic authorities have not implemented promises to change media legislation. She stressed that such reforms are needed as part of an overall process to bring Serbian legislation in line with European standards. Appearing with Susa at a Belgrade conference were Tamara Sretanovic and Vesna Sladojevic, who said that pressures by local political authorities cost them their jobs at TV Kragujevac and Novi Sad's Apolo TV, respectively.