19 April 2002, Volume
PREPARATIONS FOR WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY.
Information to help commemorate the 3 May World Press Freedom Day is available at http://www.wan-press.org, the website of the World Association of Newspapers. WAN represents 18,000 newspapers; its membership includes 71 national newspaper associations, individual newspaper executives in 100 countries, 13 news agencies and seven regional and worldwide press groups. The information packet includes interviews with press-freedom heroes, maps and statistics on the press-freedom situation worldwide, essays from leading journalists and print-ready advertisements promoting press freedom. Terrorism and the risk to press freedom of preventive regulations and other restrictions are the focus of this year's World Press Freedom Day campaign. The 2002 package (in English, French, Spanish, German, and Russian) includes: details of the killings of 58 journalists in 2001 and news on dozens of journalists in prison, and political cartoons against press freedom repression by Michel Cambon. (World Association of Newspapers, 17 April)EURASIAN MEDIA FORUM TO BE HELD IN ALMATY.
At a press conference in Almaty today, coordinators of the Eurasian Media Forum told journalists that the forum will be held in Almaty on 25-27 April. International organizations, local media-holdings, institutions, and leading media outlets are reportedly organizing the event. International news agencies are expected to cover the forum as well. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev and visiting Iranian President Mohammad Khatami will take part in the opening ceremony of the forum. ("RFE/RL Kazakh Report," 18 April)
JOURNALISTS LAUNCH NEWS BULLETIN.
Afghan journalists working with support from the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) and Media Action International (MAI) have just launched the "Afghan Recovery Report," a free service providing local media outlets and the international community with news from local sources. The "Afghan Recovery Report" is produced as part of IWPR's training work with the Afghan print media. The free report will appear in English, Dari, and Pashtu, both online and via e-mail. Articles will be syndicated in the local-language print media. IWPR has two international trainers (in Kabul and Peshawar) who host daily training workshops and individual sessions for journalists and editors from state and private media. This three-month pilot phase is being funded locally in Kabul by the British Department for International Development as part of a two-year project. For more, see http://www.iwpr.net/index.pl?afghan_index.html. Contact: Afghan Project Coordinator Jamila Aman at email@example.com.
FOREIGN MINISTER REACTS TO CRITICISM OVER CLOSURE OF TV STATION...
In a statement released on 10 April, Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian defended the closure of the independent television station A1+ stemming from the tender for its broadcast frequency, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The foreign minister dismissed the recent criticism by the U.S. and nongovernmental organizations, accusing them of "neglecting" the Armenian legal requirement for radio and television tenders, and adding that "freedom of speech is being respected in Armenia." The statement follows a similar reaction by President Robert Kocharian in defense of the closure . The demise of the popular independent television station has become the focal point of the country's political opposition in recent weeks. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April)...AS OPPOSITION DEMONSTRATION CALLS FOR PRESIDENT'S RESIGNATION...
Nearly 10,000 demonstrators staged a march through central Yerevan on 12 April to demand the return of the country's A1+ independent television station, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Organized by the increasingly united opposition, the demonstrators marched on the presidential residence and called for the resignation of President Kocharian, accusing him of closing down a media outlet that could criticize his policies. The A1+ closure has emerged as the one issue capable of galvanizing the often-divided opposition, as evidenced by the 14 opposition parties that organized the demonstration. The opposition is planning to wage a campaign of "civil disobedience" with continued demonstrations in order to apply pressure on the Armenian government. A1+ has been off the air since early April after a state broadcasting commission awarded its frequency to an entertainment company tied to Kocharian's government. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 April)...AND PROTESTERS DEMAND PARLIAMENT CONVENE TO DISCUSS A1+ CLOSURE...
Over 200 demonstrators protested in front of the Armenian parliament on 15 April to demand that the legislature convene a special session to review a government commission's decision to award the broadcast frequency of the country's main independent television station, A1+, to Sharm TV, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Organizers of the protest pledged that they will force the parliament to dissolve the government's National Commission on Television and Radio and to revise current legislation governing the country's media. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April)...WHILE OPPOSITION EFFORT TO RESCUE A1+ ISSUE FAILS IN PARLIAMENT...
After garnering the required number of signatures to force a special session of parliament, the opposition attempt to pass its proposed amendments to the law on the media failed to gain a quorum of the 131-seat legislature on 16 April, according to RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau. The opposition is seeking to reinstate the suspended A1+ independent television station and replace the government-appointed broadcasting commission. The move was blocked by the parliament's largest faction, the Unity bloc, and the pro-government Armenian Revolutionary Federation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April)...AND COURT HEARING ON A1+ LAWSUIT DELAYED.
A lawsuit brought by the A1+ staff against the National Commission on Television and Radio was delayed in a ruling by a Yerevan court on 16 April, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The Court of Economic Arbitration ordered a delay until 23 April. The lawsuit contends that the governmental commission illegally awarded the independent television station's frequency to the Sharm media group in the 2 April tender because of the group's links to President Kocharian's government. Edith Khachatourian, the commission's attorney, said the "A1+ TV company was never deprived by anyone of its right to broadcast; it simply failed to win the tender...[because] another company submitted a better proposal." A1+ lawyers charge that under Armenian law, the government was required to hold simultaneous biddings for all available frequencies. Several nongovernmental organizations have accused Kocharian of "blatantly abusing the frequency licensing system in an attempt to silence a critical media voice." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April)CRIMINAL CASE AGAINST OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER EDITOR DISMISSED.
The criminal charges against Nicol Pashinian, the editor of the "Haykakan zhamanak" daily, were dismissed by Armenian prosecutors on 11 April, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The editor, linked to the country's political opposition, was facing criminal charges of slandering a government official after he published a derogatory caption under the photograph of Hovannes Yeritsian, the head of the Armenian Civil Aviation Agency, last November. The case against Pashinian strengthened after a March ruling allowed the prosecutors to build their case until finally being dismissed for lack of evidence of criminal intent. The case has been widely criticized by leading parliamentarians and other journalists as a move against the opposition media and a threat to the freedom of the media. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 April)
STATE PRINTER REFUSES TO PRINT MAGAZINE.
The "Azerbaijan" state printing house has refused to print "Monitor" magazine, explaining that it had received an order from the presidential administration, according to Elmar Huseinov, the magazine's editor, as cited by the Turan news agency. "Monitor" began publication in 1996, but was closed by court order in 1998. One issue of the magazine was published on 6 April, but since then the printers have refused to print the magazine. ("Azerbaijan Weekly Analytical Information Bulletin," 18 April)JOURNALIST HARASSED.
Ulviya Tairgyzy, a reporter for the paper "Azadlyk," was "insulted" by Baku Deputy Mayor Rauf Panakhov while she was at work. After that, Panakhov ordered his subordinates to take her to a police station. The paper's Editor in Chief Rovshan Hadzhiyev asked law enforcement agencies to open a criminal case against Panakhov. The reporter has also received telephone threats over her articles about the destruction of houses in Baku ordered by the city authorities. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Report," 8-14 April)MEDIA STATISTICS FOR 2001.
There were 518 registered mass media in the country during the year 2001, including 372 newspapers (of these, 60 were local), 113 magazines, 25 information agencies, and eight TV and radio companies. Read full report at http://www.juhiaz.org.
MINSK DISMISSES WARSAW'S CONCERN OVER MEDIA FREEDOM CURBS.
Noting "a campaign in Poland in defense of freedom of speech in Belarus," the Belarusian Foreign Ministry denounced "attempts to bring bare emotions into an issue that falls solely in the domain of law, and to exert pressure on independent judicial bodies in Belarus," Belapan reported on 10 March. "Such approaches are not welcome in any democratic state, not excluding Poland," the ministry added. Minsk was responding to a statement by the Polish Foreign Ministry expressing its concern over the court proceedings against journalists of the closed Belarusian weekly "Pahonya." The Belarusian ministry explained that "Pahonya" violated the press law, ignored repeated warnings, and was closed down following a court decision. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April)ARTICLE 19 SLAMS MEDIA-RELATED BILLS.
On 16 April in Minsk, experts of Article 19, a worldwide media watchdog, criticized Belarus's draft laws on media and information security as well as provisions of the Criminal Code pertaining to freedom of expression, Belapan reported. Federica Prina of Article 19 suggested that libel and defamation suits, which the government uses as a tool to control the spread of information, should be transferred from criminal to civil legislation. She pointed out that severe punishments imposed as a result of such cases are intended to intimidate journalists. According to Prina, the Criminal Code articles designed to protect the head of state and senior officials from libel contradict the European Convention on Human Rights, which provides for greater protection of ordinary people as compared to civil servants. Meanwhile, Belarusian Information Minister Mikhail Padhayny said the same day, "We are not ashamed of this bill [on media] before the international community, nor are Belarusian citizens." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April)HUNDREDS LOSE JOBS IN STATE TV.
Svetlana Zemtsova, head of the planning division of Belarusian state television, who was recently dismissed, sent an open letter to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in which she complained that in an "unprecedented and unexplained reduction of the work force" over 200 people had been fired from the television within two weeks. Zemtsova noted that Belarusian television is "in disarray because the personnel is gripped by fear and panic." ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly Report," 8-14 April)
CANDIDATE FOR STATE NEWS AGENCY DISCREDITED.
Bulgarian newspapers reported on 11 April that Stoyan Cheshmedzhiev has been involved in a number of scandals. Cheshmedzhiev was proposed to be the new director of the state news agency BTA by members of the ruling coalition composed of the National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS). "Dnevnik" reported that Cheshmedzhiev was involved in shady financial transactions in his hometown of Varna, where Cheshmedzhiev heads the local radio station Radio Varna. "Standart" and "Monitor" published a Darik Radio interview with a former employee of Radio Varna in which the employee accused Cheshmedzhiev of sexual harassment. Meanwhile, the parliament's Media Commission on 10 April refused to vote on the dismissal of incumbent BTA Director Panayot Denev. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April)PARLIAMENT STARTS VOTE ON CLASSIFIED INFORMATION PROTECTION LAW...
With the votes of the ruling majority of the NDSV and the DPS, as well as those of the opposition Socialist Party (BSP), the Bulgarian parliament on 17 April passed large sections of a draft law on protecting classified information, Bulgarian media reported. The new law would provide for various degrees of secrecy regulated by a five-member Commission on Classified Information, whose members will be nominated by Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski. Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi urged the lawmakers to pass the bill into law as soon as possible, saying NATO experts have described it as among the best legislation on the matter among NATO applicant countries. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April)...AND IS TO CLOSE DOWN COMMISSION ON STATE SECURITY RECORDS.
With the passage of a classified information law, the Commission on State Security Records will be disbanded, Bulgarian media reported on 17 April. The commission headed by Metodi Andreev has been regulating access to the state security records, thus enabling the public to learn about individuals' involvement in the communist secret services. "A major opportunity to seek national consensus on how to deal with the former State Security records has been missed," BTA quoted Andreev as commenting on the proposed law. Andreev is considering sending letters to the Council of Europe, the European People's Party, and to U.S. President George W. Bush. Nadezhda Mihailova, who heads the conservative opposition Union of Democratic Forces, called the expected disbanding of the commission a warning signal. "The public wants to know the truth about key figures of the executive and the other branches of power," Mihailova said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April)
PREMIER'S ADVISER WINS APPEAL IN 'RESPEKT' CASE.
Miroslav Slouf, chief adviser to Prime Minister Milos Zeman, won a lawsuit against the weekly newspaper "Respekt" on 16 April, CTK reported on 18 April citing the daily "Pravo." A Prague appeals court upheld an October 2001 lower court ruling ordering the weekly newspaper to apologize to Slouf for statements it published in September and October 2000. "Respekt" had written that a visit by Zeman to the United States was cancelled because Slouf posed a security risk. The weekly also wrote that Milan Jedlicka, a Czech-American who allegedly helped with preparations for Zeman's trip, had served time in U.S. prisons for cocaine dealing and was suspected of involvement in the murder of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency officer. "Respekt" also wrote that Slouf was involved in "mysterious" business deals during a visit to Iraq in 2000. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April)
TELEVISION OFFERS AIRTIME TO MEDGYESSY.
Hungarian Television (MTV) is offering Socialist prime-ministerial candidate Peter Medgyessy an opportunity to broadcast a campaign speech, MTV News Director Peter Csermely said on 10 April, "Nepszabadsag" reported. MTV aired a speech on 9 April by Prime Minister Viktor Orban. The daily reported that Csermely and MTV President Karoly Mendreczky said the network will not broadcast another full-length speech by Orban until it airs a speech by Medgyessy in full. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April)
ISLAMISTS ARRESTED FOR DISTRIBUTING LEAFLETS.
Reuters reported on 15 April that two men were arrested in the southern Kazakh town of Turkestan for distributing Hizb-ut-Tahrir literature. They were caught carrying 78 leaflets calling for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate in Central Asia and a holy war against Israel. It was the third time since mid-2000 that activists had been arrested in southern Kazakhstan while passing out the outlawed party's leaflets, Reuters said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April)
EXPLOSION ROCKS EDITORIAL OFFICE OF 'THE COMMUNIST.'
An explosion ripped through the door and several windows of the editorial office of "The Communist" newspaper in the early morning hours of 11 April, Flux reported. The office's night guard suffered a mild concussion in the blast. President Vladimir Voronin visited the office in the morning to show his support to the staff of the newspaper. Investigations are still under way.("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 April)PREMIER'S OPINION ON THE STATE LANGUAGE CONSTRAINED BY POSITION.
Vasile Tarlev said on 12 April that his opinion regarding Moldova's state language would be different if he were not in office, Flux reported. Tarlev explained at the Academy for Economic Studies to an audience of students from several universities that he cannot violate the Moldovan Constitution, which indicates that the state language is Moldovan. The prime minister, who claimed he is neither a communist nor a member of the Communist Party, assured the students that the government does not intend to file charges against participants of the Grand National Assembly on 31 March in court because they all have the right to an opinion, be it on the denomination and status of the state language or on the nature of the current government. He also claimed that he did not order the use of force against the protesters or hinder the access of various citizens outside Chisinau who wanted to participate in the assembly. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 April)
MEDIA LAW INCORPORATES EU STANDARDS.
A proposed media law currently being drafted by the government of Montenegro establishes an important statement of intent by incorporating the principles and legal precedents of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), says Article 19. The group has published a report suggesting further improvements to the law, which has recently been released for public comment and is slated to replace the 1998 Law on Public Information. Article 1 of the draft law states that the clauses in the law "shall be interpreted in compliance with the principles contained in the European Convention for the Protection of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms and shall be governed by the precedence law practice of the ECHR." This is important, says Article 19, because it recognizes the ECHR's strong position on the important function of the press in a democratic society. In its report, the group also outlines concerns about parts of the draft law that continue to restrict free expression. It says several provisions containing generally accepted restrictions on free expression, such as bans on hate literature, should be removed and applied to general laws governing all sectors of society, not just the media. Article 19 also says a defamation provision giving individuals the right to sue writers and journalists who allegedly insult them is too broad and should be removed. To view Article 19's full report, e-mail: Europe@article19.org or see http://www.article19.org.
PARLIAMENT NAMES PUBLIC RADIO CHAIRMAN.
Parliament on 17 April named interim Radio Romania Chairman Dragos Seuleanu as the new chairman of the state radio network, Romanian media reported. Seuleanu was approved by a vote of 260 to 96. After taking his oath of office, Seuleanu said the radio will be a politically neutral institution. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April)
PASKO TRIAL RECORD FALSIFIED?
The minutes of the court session on the case of military journalist Grigorii Pasko reached the Military College of the Russian Supreme Court, his defense attorney said. Pasko's defense attorneys found 889 discrepancies between what had been said at the trial and what had been noted in the official trial record . The Pacific Fleet Court Justice, however, agreed to only 93 discrepancies. Pasko's defense insists that the trial record be made consistent. The chairman of the Military College, Major General Nikolai Petukhov, said that the appeal will be studied within a month and then sent to the college for a ruling. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Weekly Report," 8-14 April)TWO JOURNALISTS ATTACKED.
Yan Svider, a journalist with the opposition newspaper "Vozrozhdeniye Respubliki," was attacked on 12 April by two unknown assailants in the city of Cherkessk in the Karachaevo-Cherkessiya Republic, according to local and international reports. The region's deputy prosecutor told the Russian news agency RIA-Novosti that the assailants beat the 55-year-old journalist with metal rods. He was hospitalized with a head injury and broken arms and legs. The editor of "Vozrozhdeniye Respubliki" and the prosecutor's office believe that Svider may have been attacked for his work as a journalist. The newspaper is linked to the Vozrozheniye Respubliki political movement, which is in opposition to President Vladimir Semyonov of the Karachaevo-Cherkessiya Republic. In a separate incident, Igor Rodionov, editor of the daily "Moskovskii Komsomolets na Altaye," was assaulted on 10 April by three unknown assailants in the Siberian city of Barnaul, according to local press reports. Attackers beat and stabbed Rodionov, but did not take his valuables, making robbery an unlikely motive. Rodionov has undergone surgery and remains in stable condition; his colleagues believe his assault may be related to his work, local sources report. Rodionov's paper is noted for its investigative reports on influential local figures. On 11 April, the paper's staff met with the regional prosecutor who plans to monitor the investigation personally. For more, see http://www.cpj.org. (Committee to Protect Journalists press release, 12 April)PRESIDENTIAL AIDE OUTLINES MASS-MEDIA REFORM...
Aleksei Volin, the deputy chief of the presidential staff, told Ekho Moskvy radio on 12 April that technological advances will eventually make state ownership of mass-media outlets inefficient and unnecessary, strana.ru reported. Volin said that, if in the near future viewers have 300 digital television channels at their disposal, it will be meaningless to control only one of those channels. The state should instead employ 10 producers to develop television programming and shows, he added, thus ensuring itself a role in television media. This system would allow the state to announce tenders of companies and to provide various informational programs. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 April)...AND CALLS FOR NEW MEDIA LAW.
In the same Ekho Moskvy interview, Volin said that before the restructuring of relations between the state and mass media can occur, a new law on mass media should be adopted. The current Law on Mass Media, implemented in 1990, is "hopelessly obsolete," he said. On 12 April, strana.ru quoted Media Minister Mikhail Lesin as saying that the present law does not distinguish between publishers, editors, and proprietors of the mass media. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 April)TV-6 MANAGER WINDS UP AT RTR.
Anton Zlatopolskii has been appointed general director for the Russian Television (RTR) channel and Pavel Korchagin was named RTR's chief producer, Interfax reported on 16 April. Zlatopolskii previously served as first deputy director of VGTRK, a position he will retain. Korchagin was most recently executive director of TV-6. He had worked at RTR previously before becoming general director of TNT, according to the agency. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April)ONE OLIGARCH DROPS OUT OF TV-6 CONSORTIUM.
Kakha Bendukidze, general director of the United Machine-Building Factories (OMZ), has decided to drop out of the founding board of Media-Sotsium, which recently won the tender for TV-6 broadcasting rights, "Izvestiya" reported on 15 April. OMZ Information Director Andrei Anufriev said Bendukidze's decision was based on "purely pragmatic reasons" -- he did not agree with the new company's business plan. According to the daily, Bendukidze may be only the first of the businessmen needed to finance the new operation to leave. Around $10 million needs to be raised as the required capital for the company, "Izvestiya" reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April)TV-6 HEAD PREPARED FOR DEPARTURE OF MORE OLIGARCHS.
The recent departure of Bendukidze from Shestoi Kanal, which won the broadcasting rights to TV-6, is symptomatic only of a continuing reshuffling rather than a significant event, according to a media analyst with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau. The analyst said on 17 April that many businessmen -- like Bendukidze -- do not agree with the business plan for TV-6. The same day, Shestoi Kanal General Director Yevgenii Kiselev described Bendukidze's withdrawal as "just another episode in this entire story," Interfax reported. And he said that he "will not be concerned" if one or two more shareholders leave the company. He added, "Besides Vladimir Gusinsky, NTV initially had two key shareholders, including Aleksandr Smolenskii and Oleg Boyko. But who remembers this now?" ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April)YUKOS SEARCHES FOR 'INTELLECTUAL HELL-RAISERS.'
According to Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovskii, the high level of education of Russia's population differentiates it from "Third World" countries, but "Russia needs people who are ready to insist on their own point of view, who are intellectual hell-raisers." Among the groups supporting Open Russia's agenda is the Federal Internet Organization and the New Civilization youth project, which was started five years ago to "help post-Soviet adolescents adapt to the democratic way of life," according to the "Novye Izvestiya" on 16 April. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April)RUSSIAN MILITARY TRAINING JOURNALISTS FOR CONFLICT ZONES.
"Vremya MN" reported on 17 April that Russian journalists working in conflict zones are being offered the chance to undergo military training to learn how to fire all types of weapons. According to the daily, Anatolii Kvashnin, chief of the armed forces' General Staff, worked out the program together with the Union of Journalists and the Association of Military Press. According to the daily, the professional charter of Russian journalists does not differ from world standards in that "a journalist realizes that his professional activity stops the moment he [or she] takes up arms." However, the newspaper suggests that Russian journalists are now following in the steps of TV reporter Aleksandr Nevzorov, who took up weapons in Vilnius in January 1991, winning the adoration of the Russian military at the time -- the military and journalists have now "become comrades in arms." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April)IS TATARSTAN 'FEATURED' AS NEW SPAWNING GROUND FOR TERRORISM?
Russia's Prosecutor-General's Office is preparing a request to U.S. authorities for their assistance in investigating the case of three Russian citizens who are accused of being members of the Taliban and are currently incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, ntvru.com reported on 15 April. The three men are Almaz Sharipov of Chally, Tatarstan; Ravil Gumarov of Ufa, Bashkortostan; and Rasul Kudaev of Kabardino-Balkaria. According to the site, the three men were involved in Islamic groups before they left Russia. Both Sharipov and Gumarov are ethnic Tatars. Meanwhile, the Kazan-based "Zvezda povolzhya" reported on 11 April that, inspired by the news reports about the two Tatars, Moscow-based media have launched an information war against Tatarstan, which as a result is constantly being featured by federal television channels as a seat of terrorism, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April)WHERE WILL LIMONOV STAND TRIAL?
On 15 April, the Prosecutor-General's Office announced it had completed the investigation into the case of the leader of the National Bolshevik Party (NPB), Eduard Limonov, who stands accused of the illegal purchase of weapons and terrorism, gazeta.ru reported on 16 April. If convicted, the writer may face up to 20 years in prison. On 15 April, the Deputy Prosecutor-General Vasilii Kolmogorov endorsed the indictment drawn up by the investigators of the Federal Security Service (FSB) who launched the investigation, and a Prosecutor-General's Office spokesman told gazeta.ru that in the near future Limonov's case would be brought to court. The investigation committee of the FSB insists on trying Limonov's case in the remote city of Gorno-Altaisk, the capital of Altai Republic, where he was arrested on 7 April 2000 On 8 April 2001, Deputy Prosecutor-General Kolmogorov ordered the suspect to remain in custody pending trial. Several days later, the writer was transported to Moscow's high-security Lefortovo prison. The head of the Moscow NPB told gazeta.ru that Limonov still denies all charges against him. On 15 April, the Prosecutor-General's Office forwarded case materials to the Supreme Court, which is now to decide on the venue. Limonov's supporters agree that if their leader's case is heard in Altai, they will not be able to save him from lengthy imprisonment. "We will have to hire new lawyers, and besides, it is really unclear how the  witnesses will be summoned. How will they be transported to Altai?" NPB members ask. (gazeta.ru, 16 April)SIBERIAN PAPER GIVEN OFFICIAL WARNING ON ANTI-SEMITIC ARTICLES.
The State Inspection Office of the Media Ministry sent a warning to the editor in chief of the paper "Kurs" in Belovo, Kemerovo Oblast, for repeated publication of reports headlined "Judeo-Masonic News." The oblast administration's press service says that the authors of this publication are in violation of Article 51 of the Mass Media Law. The letter warns the editor that unless his paper "faithfully abides by media legislation" its reports "may lead to fomenting ethnic and religious intolerance and hatred." If, during the course of one year, the paper fails to comply with this request, there may be legal grounds for a court ruling to close down the paper. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Weekly Report," 8-14 April)TV CREW CAPTURES FOOTAGE OF SVERDLOVSK CAMPAIGN TACTICS.
A local television crew was attacked in Yekaterinburg on 14 April, the day that elections were being held to the oblast's legislative assembly, ITAR-TASS reported. The crew was filming a representative of a candidate, whom the agency did not identify, who was offering voters money to make the "correct" choice. The candidate's campaign workers then tried to seize the TV crew's camera and broke a window on the crew's vehicle. The election was declared valid after it was determined that more than 25 percent of registered voters participated. According to preliminary results the following day, the bloc supported by Governor Eduard Rossel was leading with almost 30 percent of the votes, according to RFE/RL's Russian Service. The Unity and Fatherland bloc had 17.5 percent of the vote, while the Communist Party appeared to be in third place with more than 7 percent. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 April)ALCATEL, SVYAZINVEST FORM JOINT VENTURE.
Alcatel and Svyazinvest signed a memorandum of understanding on 3 April establishing a joint venture to manufacture optical fiber in Russia. This makes Alcatel, the world leader in optical networking, the first Western company planning to manufacture high-technology fiber with a Russian partner for the booming Russian telecommunications market. Svyazinvest accounts for a significant amount of optical-fiber purchases in Russia because it includes several Russian service providers and the largest long-distance carrier, Rostelekom. ("RFE/RL Business Watch," 16 April)LYUDMILA PUTINA AGAINST REFORMS OF RUSSIAN LANGUAGE.
Speaking in St. Petersburg on 16 April at a forum devoted to the Russian language, President Putin's wife, Lyudmila Putina, said reforming the language would be untimely because the language is still in the active stage of its development, Russian news agencies reported. Putina, a philologist by education and the head of the National Committee on the Russian Language, also said that the Russian language is an important vehicle for promoting Russian economic and political interests abroad. St. Petersburg University rector Lyudmila Verbitskaya said at the same forum that she is very concerned by the misuse of the language by Russian politicians. She announced that, especially for them, she and her colleagues have prepared a dictionary outlining the proper usage of 200 of the most popular Russian idioms used by those politicians. She added that they need to learn the proper usage of "at least 800, but that would be too many for them." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April)CZECH PREMIER CALLS RUSSIAN JOURNALISTS 'IDIOTS.'
Czech Prime Minister Zeman turned on Russian journalists at the close of his four-day visit to Moscow, CTK reported on 17 April. The Russian Internet news agency apn.ru had reported that Zeman, during a meeting with former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, discussed sensitive financial issues involving Russian President Putin. The agency reported that Zeman, a Social Democrat, promised $20 million to Gorbachev's Russian Social Democratic Party if he could convince Putin to join. During a press conference at the offices of "Izvestiya," Zeman said that, "Although I have heard a lot of pieces of disinformation in the Czech press, this is a record," adding that the reporters who work for apn.ru are "the biggest idiots among journalists." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April)MEDIA MINISTER SHARES EXPERIENCE ON MASS MEDIA WITH CHINESE COLLEAGUES.
Mikhail Lesin said after his negotiations in Moscow with Xu Guang Chun, the director of China's State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television, that they have agreed to sign a partnership agreement for radio and television broadcasting and will establish an ad hoc commission on mass media affairs, RIA-Novosti reported on 16 April. Meanwhile, the news agency reported that the ministry's press service has announced that Xu will sign a cooperation agreement between ORT and Central Television of China, as well as similar agreements with the All-Russian Television and Radio Company (VGTRK), and the RIA-Novosti state news agency. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April)TRANSPARENCY, KREMLIN-STYLE.
The Kremlin-connected website strana.ru is now monitoring the transparency of federal and regional authorities with the official paper "Rossiiskaya gazeta" and the Mediasoyuz journalists' union, noted "The Moscow Times" on 17 April. Strana.ru ranked 434 government agencies around Russia based on their willingness to provide information. Over 1,000 journalists from Mediasoyuz graded the responses on a scale of 1 to 23 based on their public relations services, websites, rules of accreditation, and responses to information requests. The transparency index is at http://www.strana.ru/stories/02/04/08/2719/128316.html. The Moscow region came out the big loser, with the regional Duma and the governor's administration both scoring 0.03 to tie with the Tartarstan Arbitration Court for last place. Other key factors in the ranking were the frequency of news conferences and press releases, the number of refusals to provide information, and conflicts with journalists. The most open government body was the Economic Development and Trade Ministry with 16.76 points, and the next best was the presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District with 16.74 points. The FSB took 37th place with 8.31 points. The average score for federal bodies was 11.08 points, while regional bodies on average scored 2.25 points. President Vladimir Putin's administration was not included in the survey. ("The Moscow Times," 17 April)A WHO'S WHO, RUSSIAN-STYLE.
The strana.ru team spent 18 months compiling data for a new project: "Russian Authority," a who's who directory of the nation's politicians and government workers. The directory, at vlast.rambler.ru, is a joint project between strana.ru and the Rambler search engine. It attempts to give the public access to information on government officials on the federal level and in the country's regions. Rambler was the initiator of the project, while strana.ru journalists gathered the information. More than 5,422 personalities from more than 700 governmental bodies are featured in the directory, which went online last week. The directory is divided into five subsections: President, Parliament, Government, Judiciary, and Regions. All of the sections contain biographies of government officials and their contact information. Some pages have a special link allowing Internet users to write to the officials, although only 28 percent of them have e-mail addresses. ("The Moscow Times," 17 April)
CPJ: NEW BROADCAST LAW SHOULD BE PASSED SOON...
In a 17 April letter to the Serbian National Assembly, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) expressed "strong support for the Serbian parliament's efforts to safeguard press freedom." On 4 April, the Serbian government approved the draft Broadcast Law and sent it to the Serbian parliament for urgent consideration, according to local press reports. The law would establish an independent supervisory Broadcast Agency which would also allocate broadcast licenses. In addition, the law would transform state-run Radio Television Serbia (RTS) into a public broadcasting service with greater independence from the Serbian government. CPJ remains concerned that vaguely defined provisions in the law to restrict speech deemed to promote hatred or discrimination could potentially be abused to curtail political dissent -- despite the need to address the key issue of incitement to violence. (Committee to Protect Journalists press release, 17 April)...DUE TO MARKET DOMINANCE OF LARGE MEDIA OUTLETS.
CPJ notes that "the Milosevic-era regulatory framework for broadcast media has not been significantly modified during the last 18 months." Therefore, the system "continues to favor larger media outlets that back the government, to the detriment of press freedom and the broader process of democratization in Serbia." During the transition period in late 2000, influential independent television stations such as TV Pink and BK TV rapidly switched allegiance from the Milosevic regime to high-ranking officials in the new government. In this way, major formerly pro-Milosevic media outlets still dominate the media market since they were allowed to retain their national broadcast frequencies, giving such broadcasters an unfair advantage in the ad market. In contrast, the independent media -- after "a decade of physical abuse, legal harassment, heavy fines, and periodic confiscation of property under Milosevic," without government patronage "lack the financial means to compete in the new market." As a result, the passage and effective implementation of the draft broadcast law is "desperately needed to ensure that a broad array of independent broadcasters can survive financially during this difficult period of transition," CPJ notes. (Committee to Protect Journalists press release. 17 April)CONSTITUTIONAL COURT WILL FILE SUIT AGAINST MAGAZINE.
The Federal Constitutional Court will file criminal charges against the editor in chief and journalists of the weekly "Vreme" over articles about the court and its judges. A statement issued by the court on 8 April alleged that the magazine had published lies about the court and its judges. According to the daily "Blic" on 8 April, the Federal Court said that unacceptable pressure had been applied to its judges by some state officials and that the media had been abused for this purpose. ("ANEM Media Update," 6-12 April)CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATS PLAN TO SUE PAPER.
On 10 April, Christian Democratic Party of Serbia leader Milan Protic announced that his party would bring criminal charges against the Belgrade daily "Nacional." Protic accused the paper of "leading a shameful and organized campaign against our party." ("ANEM Media Update," 6-12 April)INCONCLUSIVE INVESTIGATIONS INTO MURDERS OF TWO JOURNALISTS.
On 11 April, the Independent Association of Serbian Journalists marked the third anniversary of the death of journalist Slavko Curuvija. The association condemns the fact those responsible for Curuvija's killing -- as well as those behind the murder of Jagodina journalist Milan Pantic -- have not yet been brought to justice. ("ANEM Media Update," 6-12 April)
FIRST ROMANY PRESS AGENCY OPENS.
The first Romany press agency opened on 15 April in Kosice, eastern Slovakia. The Roma Press Agency's aims, according to a TASR report on 15 April, are to change the negative image of the Roma community in the media and to lead the way for future coexistence between the minority Roma and the rest of the population of Slovakia. Roma Press Agency head Ivan Hriczko said a team of Romany journalists will provide information about "reality, not about sensationalized problems." The agency will operate as a civic association and will publish materials on its website (http://www.rpa.sk). Meanwhile, TASR reported the same day that a new illegal Romany settlement has been set up in a clearance zone in Kosice. About 150 Roma live there without water canalization. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April)ROMANY JOURNALIST ACCUSED OF ASSAULTING POLICE OFFICER.
Romany journalist Denisa Havrlova, with whom a police officer refused to shake hands until she showed him a "sanitary card," has been charged with "assaulting a public servant," TASR reported on 16 April. The policeman initiated criminal proceedings against the journalist after the incident was reported in the media. The office of the regional prosecutor in Presov, eastern Slovakia, made the decision to press charges. According to the prosecutor, there is evidence that the journalist insulted and spoke ill of the policeman. A witness to the incident said that after the police officer refused to shake hands with Havrlova, she called him a racist. The case is now in the hands of an investigator. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April)
OPPOSITION JOURNALIST ARRESTED.
Ukrainian police on 15 April detained Oleh Lyashko, the editor in chief of the opposition newspaper "Svoboda," in Cherkasy (central Ukraine), AP reported. Lyashko's deputy Oleh Meklyayev told the agency that, following Lyashko's failure to appear last week at a court hearing to counter charges that his paper defamed a senior prosecutor, police attempted to apprehend him at Svoboda's printing house. Lyashko prevented police from entering the premises, saying he was busy preparing the paper for publication. On 15 April, when Lyashko appeared in court to defend his paper, police jailed him. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April)JOURNALISTS' ORGANIZATIONS LOBBY COUNCIL OF EUROPE ON GONGADZE CASE...
On 12 April ,the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) of the UK and Ireland, Reporters without Borders (RSF) and the Institute of Mass Information (IMI) of Ukraine appealed to the chairman of the committee of ministers of the Council of Europe to push forward an international inquiry into the Heorhiy Gongadze case. A joint letter from the four organizations calls on Lithuanian Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis, the current chairman of the committee of ministers, "without further delay and in accordance with the Parliamentary Assembly's recommendation 1538 (2001), formally to ask member countries to send investigators to participate in the inquiry." The appeal also seeks an assurance from Valionis "that the independent inquiry will be established" before the Council of Europe gives Ukraine a clean bill of health on press freedom and other issues. In September 2001, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe called for the formation of an international commission after Ukrainian law enforcement bodies failed to investigate the killing. (National Union of Journalists, 18 April)...AS FBI EXPERTS LEAVE WITHOUT NEW CLUES IN GONGADZE CASE.
The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv has said the FBI experts invited by the Ukrainian government to help solve the murder of independent journalist Heorhiy Gongadze were denied access to evidence, Reuters reported on 16 April. "Ukrainian law enforcement officials asserted that Ukrainian law prohibits sharing any information that is not in the public domain, and said they were unable to discuss any aspects of the case, share evidence, or conduct a joint site inspection," the embassy said in a statement. During their visit from 8-15 April, the FBI agents met officials from the Prosecutor-General's Office, the Interior Ministry, and the Security Service. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April)EDITOR ATTACKED, JOURNALISTS BEATEN.
A man attacked, robbed, and beat Yevgeniya Stanislavskaya, deputy editor in chief of the paper "Podoliya" which is published by the regional administration. In a separate incident in Zaporizhya, troopers of the Interior Ministry Yaguar special force attacked Dmitro Brovkin and Stanyslav Yefremov, journalists of the opposition TV station Khortitsa, breaking their TV camera and beating them. The journalists complained to the police who refused to open a criminal case. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly Report," 8-14 April)KYIV-BASED TV LOSES BROADCASTING LICENSE.
The National Council for Television and Radio Broadcasting has refused to prolong the Kyiv-based UTAR television's license for broadcasting on the 37th channel, UNIAN reported on 17 April, quoting UTAR's News Editor Leonid Voyevodyn. Answering a question on whether the refusal to prolong the license was in any way connected to the station's opposition stand, Voyevodyn said the station was not in opposition but was impartial and sought objective and unbiased news coverage. Meanwhile, opposition leader Yuliya Tymoshenko commented the same day that UTAR's loss of its license is connected with the authorities' campaign for "clearing out" the independent media that refused to "service" only pro-presidential forces during the parliamentary election campaign. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April)
POET FACES NEW THREATS.
Poet and columnist Yusuf Dzhumaev -- recently released from two months of imprisonment -- faced new threats and acts of persecution. Police officers entered his house in the Bukhara region and searched it. They warned his wife that Dzhumaev must return home at once or face arrest in Tashkent where he is in hiding. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly Report," 8-14 April)