26 April 2002, Volume
AIRWAVES KEEP CHANGING.
Afghan Deputy Defense Minister Abdul Rashid Dostum instructed the domestic broadcasting agencies in Balkh, Faryab, Jowzjan, Samangan, and Sar-i-Pol provinces on 15 April to improve their standards, Mazar-i-Sharif's Balkh Radio reported. Dostum also called for the use of universally accepted standards of journalism that bypass partisan or personal interests and for improved technical standards. The relevant commission held its first meeting on 17 April, according to Balkh Radio. Meanwhile, Kabul television is increasing its activities and is now on the air for five hours a day, Almaty's Khabar TV reported on 16 April. And four days earlier, Radio Netherlands reported that humanitarian and informational programs are being broadcast by a system known as Special Operations Media System-B (SOMS-B). According to the Joint Interoperability Test Command's website, SOMS-B is a tactically deployable ground radio and television broadcasting system for use by Army Psychological Operations (PSYOPS) forces. It provides self-contained ground tactical capabilities that can be moved rapidly and can operate for extended periods with limited support. ("RFE/RL Iran Report," 22 April)
PRESIDENT DEFENDS CLOSURE OF A1+ INDEPENDENT TV STATION...
Robert Kocharian on 18 April defended the closure of the popular A1+ independent television station, RFE/RL'S Yerevan bureau reported. A presidential spokesman proposed an end to the recent tension over the issue by recommending that the A1+ channel enter a bid for another frequency, adding that the station "has real chances of returning to the air." The spokesman also defended the closure, arguing that "the commission acted within the boundaries of the law." The A1+ station was forced from the air on 2 April after losing its broadcast frequency in a controversial tender overseen by the presidentially appointed National Commission on Television and Radio, and has legally challenged the decision. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 April)...OPPOSITION CONVENES NEW DEMONSTRATION...
Up to 5,000 people participated in a 19 April demonstration in Yerevan convened by 13 opposition parties to protest the closure of the independent A1+ television station, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The station was forced to cease broadcasting on 2 April after losing a tender to retain the frequency on which it broadcast. It was the third consecutive Friday protest against perceived measures by the Armenian leadership to muzzle independent broadcasters. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April)...COURT REJECTS APPEAL BY EMBATTLED TV STATION.
The Armenian Economic Court rejected on 23 April an appeal by the independent TV station A1+ to be allowed to resume broadcasting pending the outcome of its appeal against the ruling of a presidential commission that awarded A1+'s frequency to the rival TV station Sharm in a controversial tender earlier this month, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The management of A1+ and many opposition politicians are convinced that the commission's decision was unfair and intended to silence the station, which was critical of the present Armenian leadership. The nine-man commission insists that Sharm submitted a stronger bid than did A1+. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 April)
NEW MEDIA LAW PRAISED.
Azerbaijan's revised Law on Mass Media, enacted on 16 March, is "very liberalized [and] is regarded by journalist unions as the best media law" among the CIS countries, the Journalists' Trade Union reported (JuHI). The organization recently posted the law (in English) on its website (http://www.juhiaz.org). The revised law removes several provisions that previously restricted press freedom. Newspapers no longer need to be registered or licensed by the government, effectively allowing anyone to set up such publications, JuHI said. It also takes away the government's right to restrict the distribution of mass media outlets without a court's permission. (IFEX Communique, 23 April)DEFENSE MINISTRY TAKES EMBATTLED JOURNAL TO COURT.
A department of the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry has brought a libel suit against the journal "Monitor," Turan reported on 19 April. The ministry argues that an article published in "Monitor" on 6 April insults Defense Minister Colonel General Safar Abiev by claiming that he was behind the criminal case brought against former naval Captain Djanmirza Mirzoev, who was sentenced last November to eight years' imprisonment on charges of instigation to murder. Mirzoev had for years tried to publicize corruption with the Defense Ministry. "Monitor" was forced to suspend publication in 1998, and the 6 April edition was the first to be published since then. On 12 April, "Monitor" founding editor Elmar Huseinov told Turan that the Ekspress publishing house has refused to print any further editions of the journal. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April)PAPER TO APPEAL FINE.
A Baku court ruled in favor of Dzhamil Sultanov, the head of Azlotereya company, and ordered the opposition paper "Azadlyg" to pay a fine of 10 million manats as compensation for slander. The paper intends to appeal the court ruling because it has evidence that the cars in the company-sponsored lottery were obtained illegally. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Newsletter," 15-21 April)
PRESIDENT WANTS 'INTERNATIONALIST' TEXTBOOKS.
Alyaksandr Lukashenka met on 24 April with a group of authors who are writing new textbooks on literature, history, and social sciences, and ordered them to be ready with draft versions of these textbooks by September 2003, Belarusian Television and Belapan reported. He said the textbooks introduced in the early 1990s -- after Belarus became independent -- should be reworked since "the small group that was [then] in power thought differently from the people or even our intelligentsia and social elite," Belarusian Television reported. "There should be no nationalism. One should take into account that we are not only mild-mannered people but also...absolutely internationalist people.... What has nationalism to do with this? We are now suffering because of [nationalism]. It needs to be taken into account, it's a conceptual thing," Lukashenka advised the authors. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 April)NTV CORRESPONDENT IN BELARUS GETS OFFICIAL WARNING.
Belarus's Foreign Ministry on 24 April warned Russia's NTV correspondent in Minsk, Pavel Selin, over the allegedly "biased and unsubstantiated information" he presented in NTV-aired reports from Belarus earlier this month, Belapan reported. The ministry demanded that Selin make apologies and refute his reports, and threatened to cancel his accreditation if he goes on with "such activities." Belapan has not been able to contact Selin for comments but conjectures that the warning is linked to Selin's reports on a recent wave of emigration from Belarus and an opposition rally on 19 April. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 April)ARTICLE 19: NEW REPORT ON FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION.
A report titled: "Instruments of Control: A Collection of Legal Analyses of Freedom of Expression Legislation in Belarus" (April 2002) is available online at http://www.article19.org on the homepage, under "news" or by going to the "Europe" page and searching the publications. To obtain a printed copy, e-mail email@example.com (IFEX Network, 24 April)
INVISIBLE KARADZIC PUBLISHES A BOOK.
Sinisa Djordjevic, who is Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic's adviser on matters relating to The Hague, said in Banja Luka on 22 April that nobody in the Republika Srpska knows where Radovan Karadzic is, "Vesti" reported. Djordjevic stressed that SFOR would have arrested him by now if he were on Bosnian Serb territory. Meanwhile in Belgrade, representatives of the IGAM publishing house presented to the public a new book -- a play by Karadzic called "The Situation." A spokesman for the publisher added that it is no coincidence that the work has appeared just at the time that Belgrade has called on indicted war criminals to turn themselves in. The play is a spoof on politics and politicians and takes place in the garden of a run-down cafe in Bosnia. Reuters reported that the play has five characters -- a waiter, a would-be leader, an image-maker, a representative of the international community, and a behind-the-scenes voice of a Muslim who advises the foreigner. At the book presentation, Radovan's brother Luka said Radovan's "security detachment is doing its utmost to prevent any contacts with head hunters, and it is doing so successfully." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April)
TV DOES NOT BROADCAST CEREMONY HONORING CONCENTRATION CAMP REVOLT.
After the ceremony at the Jasenovac concentration camp on 21 April to honor the hundreds who died in an ill-fated break out attempt by some 600 inmates on 22 April 1945 -- in which Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan took part -- the Croatian Helsinki Committee (HHO) protested the failure of Croatian Television (HTV) to broadcast the ceremony, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The HHO noted approvingly that HTV has regularly covered ceremonies honoring the Croats killed by the communists in 1945 and called for similar attention to be shown to the memory of the Jasenovac victims. Thousands of Serbs, Jews, Roma, and opposition Croats died there at the hands of the pro-Axis Ustashe during World War II. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April)
HAVEL VETOES RADIO LAW.
President Havel on 23 April vetoed a law on the Czech Radio Council that was approved by the Chamber of Deputies on 9 April, after overriding Senate objections to the law, CTK reported. Havel's objections are similar to those voiced by the Senate, namely that the Czech Radio Council should be elected by both chambers of the parliament rather than by the lower house. Presidential spokesman Ladislav Spacek explained that the law has "the same conceptual faults" as a similar law on the Czech Television Council, which Havel promulgated last year because at that time Czech Television was "in a tense situation." This does not apply to the current situation at Czech Radio, Spacek said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 April)CONSTITUTIONAL COURT TO CONSULT ECHR ON 'MEIN KAMPF' PUBLISHER'S CASE.
Constitutional Court Deputy Chairwoman Eliska Wagnerova told CTK on 23 April that the court will consult the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg in connection with the appeal by "Mein Kampf" publisher Michal Zitko against his sentencing by a lower Czech court. Wagnerova said the Czech Constitutional Court will ask the ECHR for a "comparative study" of similar cases in other European countries. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 April)
TWO MEDIA OUTLETS SUBJECTED TO BURGLARIES.
In Kutaisi, the private TV company Kutaisi was burglarized, which Director Temura Gadabadze attributed to politics. The office of the Anti-Corruption Journalistic Group was also burglarized; its members believe that this is due to a confrontation between the group and the National Movement, one of the country's leading political parties. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Newsletter," 15-21 April)
FREEDOM HOUSE CRITICIZES STATE INFLUENCE ON MEDIA...
The U.S.-based Freedom House, in its annual report on the media around the world, said Hungarian media is "free" and the print media generally lively and diverse. However, the report noted that pro-government newspapers have received preferential treatment from Prime Minister Victor Orban's cabinet -- in the form of advertisements placed by state-run companies -- and had easier access to exclusive governmental information. The report also said the government has abused the law by establishing media boards for radio and television exclusively made up of its own supporters, which has given the cabinet undue influence in the appointment of radio and television officials and in providing information. The report noted that out of the country's five television stations, three are state run and that "the state media generally covers political issues in a biased manner." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 April)...WHILE MTV PRESIDENT REFUSES TO QUIT.
Hungarian Television (MTV) President Karoly Mendreczky said on 23 April that he will not heed the demand of the Socialist Party to submit his resignation, Hungarian media reported. The Socialists said Mendreczky is responsible for the broadcast on 18 April of a 40-minute supportive report on the FIDESZ electoral campaign, which was followed by a critical report on the campaign of the Socialists. They also said the network's newscast the same day (the last that election coverage was permitted ahead of the 21 April ballot) gave excessive coverage to FIDESZ. Mendreczky told reporters that the results of the elections will not affect MTV and that the media law prevents his dismissal, to which two-thirds of the MTV board must agree. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 April)
DEFEAT OF UN RESOLUTION CRITICIZED.
The Paris-based media watch group Reporters without Borders (RSF) "condemned" the defeat of a resolution condemning Iran at the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva. Although several imprisoned journalists have been released on bail in recent weeks, on 23 April, RSF noted its grave concern about another journalist, 71-year-old Siamak Pourzand, who is ill and whose family has not had news of him in several weeks. In addition, RSF Secretary-General Robert Menard said he was "outraged" at the "perverse" failure to condemn Iran for the first time in 19 years at the just-completed UNHCR meeting in Geneva. "Everyone knows the regime holds freedom of expression up to ridicule on a daily basis," he noted. Twelve journalists are in jail in Iran, making the country the largest prison for media workers in the Middle East. RSF has placed Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, on its list of international press freedom predators. Pourzand's family has not had news of him since his sister visited him at the Amaken detention center, near Tehran, in early March, when he seemed very ill. For more info: firstname.lastname@example.org or http://www.rsf.fr (Reporters without Borders, 24 April)INTERNET PROVIDERS PROTEST NEW REGULATIONS.
The Telecommunications Company of Iran (TCI, which is part of the Ministry of Post, Telegraph, and Telephone) denied in a 17 April bulletin that it has restricted public access to the Internet, according to IRNA. TCI explained that any regulatory changes are meant to prevent foreign firms or their local middlemen from "accruing undue financial benefit which [is] contrary to international standards and could also result in a negative balance of payments with foreign countries." Internet Networks Employers Guild head Mustafa Mohammadi told RFE/RL's Persian Service that TCI is trying to recoup the losses it suffers when people make inexpensive international calls over the Internet. Mohammadi said that in this way TCI would gain complete control over telephone communications in Iran. An open letter from the Internet Networks Employers Guild, furthermore, called on President Mohammad Khatami and the Supreme Cultural Revolution Council to reconsider its most recent Internet-related regulations and the related public-sector monopoly over Internet service providers (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 25 March 2002). The open letter asked why the guild is not trusted to maintain and properly use the information resources developed by its members, "Bonyan" reported on 13 April. Khatami was urged to "reconsider and amend" the regulations that he signed. Moreover, the letter encouraged Khatami to prevent implementation of the new regulations; invite private-sector representatives to participate in the relevant committees and in the Supreme Cultural Revolution Council; publish all information on Internet regulations; and call on the parliament to formulate new regulations and laws. ("RFE/RL Iran Report," 22 April)PROVINCIAL DAILY CLOSED; JOURNALISTS IN COURT.
The Tabriz general court on 16 April revoked the publication license of "Shams-i-Tabriz" weekly and sentenced publisher Ali Hamed Iman to seven months in jail and 74 lashes, according to IRNA. Iman has 20 days to appeal the sentence. Iman said on 17 April that he has not been formally notified of the sentence, adding that once he is formally informed of the sentence he would protest it, "notwithstanding the fact that I am not optimistic about mitigation of the sentence at the appeal court," IRNA reported. Charges against Iman included publishing lies, stoking ethnic tensions, and insulting Islamic sanctities and officials. He has had run-ins with the law before. Also on 16 April, former "Azad" managing editor Mohammad Reza Yazdanpanah-Fadai was summoned to court on the basis of a complaint made by former Law Enforcement Forces counterintelligence chief General Gholam-Reza Naqdi, "Azad" reported. Naqdi had made the complaint in the year beginning on 21 March 1999 after "Azad" published a story about Naqdi and the torture of Tehran district mayors -- Naqdi and several of his junior officers were tried for using force to extract confessions from the mayors, who were being held on corruption charges. Naqdi was acquitted of the torture charges but was found guilty of slander (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 19 July 1999). Naqdi eventually was relieved of his duties with the LEF, but rather than being dismissed he was appointed as deputy chief of Depots and Support and Industrial Research Division of the Armed Forces ("RFE/RL Iran Report," 22 April)
MINISTER ORDERS ALMATY POLICE TO STOP INTIMIDATING MEDIA...
Kazakh Internal Affairs Minister Kairbek Suleimenov reproached officers of the ministry's directorate in Almaty for attempting to intimidate the independent media by issuing a false statement that criminal charges are being brought against Aleksandr Shukhov, chief editor of the newspaper "Karavan," Kazakh Commercial TV reported on 18 April. At a press conference in Astana, Suleimenov denied that Shukhov has been accused or even interrogated, and said that information to this effect was maliciously disseminated by Almaty police, who acted without approval from their superiors in order to damage Shukhov's reputation. Suleimenov promised to "sort this out" with the directorate in Almaty, which refused to comment, Kazakh Commercial TV reported. It was the second- straight day that Suleimenov has slammed the police for abusing their office. Both "Karavan" and Kazakh Commercial TV are owned by Alma-Media and have been under government pressure since last November, when both outlets were temporarily suspended. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 April)...POLICE BEAT JOURNALIST IN PAVLODAR.
Askar Shomshekov, chief editor at Irbis television station in the city of Pavlodar, said police beat journalist Kanat Tusupbekov at police headquarters on 19 April. Shomshekov said Tusupbekov was targeted because he distributes "Respublika," a newspaper which reports on government corruption. Pavlodar police chief Dulat Toigambaev denied the allegations, saying Tusupbekov was not brought to the station that day. The Kazakh organization Journalists in Trouble said the incident was typical of the treatment of journalists in the country. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April)TAN-TV CHANNEL FACES MORE PROBLEMS.
On 23 April, Bakhytzhan Kilibaev, general director of TAN-TV, held a press conference in Almaty claiming that his channel could not start broadcasting due to "nontechnical reasons." According to Kilibaev, a week ago his technicians fixed the technical problems. "But," Kilibaev said that "the Ministry of Communications is reluctant to officially allow our broadcasts" and is convinced that his station's problems are due to its updates on the situation of the former governor of Pavlodar Oblast, Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov, and of former Kazakhstan Minister of Trade and Industry Mukhtar Abliyazov. The two former Kazakh officials -- leading members of Kazakhstan's opposition Democratic Choice movement -- were detained on charges of alleged financial misdeeds. ("RFE/RL Kazakh News," 23 April)
COMMUNISTS SUBMIT DRAFT ON TELERADIO MOLDOVA'S DEMOCRATIZATION.
A draft law submitted to the parliament on 19 April by parliamentary speaker Evgenia Ostapchuk stipulates that the country's president, the parliamentary speaker, and the premier are to each be granted one hour every month to present their views on Moldovan radio and television, while parties represented in the legislature would benefit from 30 minutes each for the same purpose. According to Infotag, extraparliamentary formations would be granted 20 minutes on the radio and 10 minutes on television. Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) parliamentary group leader Stefan Secareanu said in response that the government's proposal "infringes on democratic norms" because it does not respect Teleradio Moldova's independence, and PPCD Chairman Iurie Rosca said the draft is part of the "populist measures" being attempted ahead of the Strasbourg session. In turn, the PPCD submitted a draft providing for the transformation of Teleradio Moldova into two autonomous and independent companies, one for the radio and the other for television. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April)
OPPOSITION PARTY SLAMS PROPOSED MEDIA-LAW CHANGES.
Law and Justice leader Lech Kaczynski said on 23 April that the changes in Poland's media law proposed by the ruling Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) would allow the SLD to monopolize the media market in communist-era style, PAP reported. Kaczynski warned that the SLD's proposals threaten to strengthen the position of Poland's public television at the cost of commercial broadcasters. "This way, the SLD would have influence over the private media and hold practical hegemony over the entire market," he added. In particular, the controversial amendments forbid issuing more than one license for nationwide broadcasting to one broadcaster and ban the owner of a nationwide daily from obtaining a license for nationwide broadcasting. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 April)PUBLIC TELEVISION TO CUT WORKFORCE BY 17 PERCENT.
Polish public television chief Robert Kwiatkowski said on 22 April that his company's net profit this year will be below 20 million zlotys ($5 million), compared to 31.7 million zlotys in 2001, PAP reported. Kwiatkowski added that expected layoffs will affect some 1,000 people out of the 5,900-member workforce. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April)
LESIN SAYS TWO NATIONAL TV CHANNELS TO REMAIN STATE-OWNED.
Russian Media Minister Mikhail Lesin told journalists in Moscow on 18 April that the government has no intention of privatizing the second national television channel, RTR, or the educational and entertainment channel Kultura, Russian news agencies reported. Also, the state will retain ownership of the government newspaper "Rossiiskaya gazeta." Lesin added that the issue of the sale of the state's 51 percent ownership of the first national channel, ORT, will be reviewed in the fall. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 April)GAZPROM AGAIN DELAYS DECISION ON FATE OF EKHO MOSKVY.
Gazprom has again decided to postpone any decision about the fate of its media holdings, Ekho Moskvy Information Service Director Vladimir Varfolomeev told reporters on 23 April, RosBalt reported. According to Varfolomeev, the subject of its media holdings was not even discussed at a session of the company's board of directors the previous day. Last month, after a meeting with Gazprom-Media head Boris Jordan, Ekho Moskvy Editor in Chief Aleksei Venediktov announced that Gazprom had agreed to examine and decide on the procedure and timing for the sale of the media entity's assets at the next Gazprom board meeting, which was then scheduled for 5 March. And last summer, Union of Rightist Forces leader Boris Nemtsov charged that the leadership of Gazprom had promised to resolve the issue of its shares in Ekho Moskvy at its next board of directors' meeting; however, "soon it will be a year," Nemtsov noted at the time, "and the problem has yet to be resolved." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 April)FSB INDICTS FORMER OFFICER WHO AUTHORED BOOK ON APARTMENT-BUILDING BOMBINGS.
The Investigative Department of the FSB finished its investigation of the agency's former Lieutenant Colonel Aleksandr Litvinenko and handed his case over to the Military Prosecutor's Office, Russian news agencies reported on 23 April. Litvinenko's lawyer, Vadim Svistunov, said he will file an appeal against the FSB's motion as the Litvinenko defense was not informed about the completion of the investigation and had no access to its indictment materials. Litvinenko, who is accused of abuse of office and theft of explosive materials, publicly stated in a press conference in Moscow in 1998 that the FSB's leadership asked him to kill media magnate Boris Berezovsky. Following his revelations, Litvinenko was dismissed from the FSB, arrested, and became the subject of a criminal investigation. However, in 1999, the Moscow Garrison Military Court found him not guilty and he was released from custody. In 2000, Litvinenko left Russia and received political asylum in Britain, where he co-authored a book on the role of the FSB in the apartment-building explosions in Moscow and Volgodonsk in August-September 1999. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 April)LOCAL COURT REFUSES TO FREE SUTYAGIN PENDING INVESTIGATION'S OUTCOME.
A raion-level court in Kaluga Oblast refused on 22 April to free from custody Russian political scientist Igor Sutyagin, who has been accused of espionage, RIA-Novosti reported. Sutyagin was arrested in October 1999, and a local court sent his case back for additional investigation in December 2001. Sutyagin, a scholar at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of the U.S.A. and Canada, was arrested in October 1999 on charges of passing secret information on Russia's combat readiness to the United States. He maintains that all his reports were based on publicly available information. The Kaluga court said that it could not release Sutyagin because he might hide, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April)JOURNALIST SENTENCED TO LABOR CAMP FOR LIBEL.
Yana Vyrobova, editor of a local newspaper in Sverdlovsk Oblast, was sentenced by a local court to 1 1/2 years of corrective labor and a deduction of 15 percent of her income to be sent to the government for defaming the honor and dignity of the chairman of the Sverdlovsk Oblast government, Radio Mayak reported on 22 April. Because Vyrobova is the mother of an underage child and this is her first conviction, she is eligible for an amnesty and will not have to serve time. According to the station, Vyrobova is unrepentant and said that if the editorial office of her newspaper receives similar information again, they will publish it. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April)DUMA APPROVES INQUIRY ABOUT RFE/RL'S STATUS IN RUSSIA.
The Duma on 24 April approved by a vote of 347 to one a parliamentary inquiry to Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov on RFE/RL's status in Russia, Russian and international media reported. The inquiry was initiated by Sergei Shishkarev of the People's Deputy group and submitted by the Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee in response to RFE/RL's North Caucasus Languages Service's broadcasts in the Avar, Chechen, and Circassian languages that began on 3 April. The inquiry asks Kasyanov to provide information on how RFE/RL acquired its registration to broadcast in Russia and whether there are any bilateral agreements in place that would allow Russia to set up English- and Spanish-language radio broadcasts to the U.S. According to the statement, RFE/RL's North Caucasus Languages Service's broadcasts are a "gross interference in Russia's internal affairs" that can "further destabilize the situation in the region." Russia's Interior Ministry recently announced that it is forming a new "counterpropaganda" agency to broadcast into Chechnya so residents of the republic can "receive firsthand reliable information instead of listening to reports of Radio Liberty and speeches of rebel ringleaders on foreign channels," ITAR-TASS reported Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov as saying on 12 April. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 April)MEDIA LAW AMENDMENTS DECRIED.
The Public Council for the Freedom of the Press has issued a statement urging that the Federation Council, the Russian parliament's upper house, and President Vladimir Putin to reject amendments to the Media Law passed by the State Duma. The "legally unsound and inconsistent amendments will give rise to more confusion and favor unfair competition and corruption," according to the council. In banning the use of "names of intellectual property objects" in the titles of newspapers, magazines, and broadcast programs the Duma has forgotten that novels, operas, and newspaper articles also fall into this category. The council also believes that the ban on using "synonymous" names is "dangerous." The amendments are dangerous because they would enable administrative bodies to act in an arbitrary fashion, the council maintains. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Report," 15-21 April)PAPER FOUND TO 'FOMENT INTOLERANCE.'
The Press Ministry concluded that the editorial board of the paper "Russkie Vedomosti" had violated the Media Law by publishing material fomenting intolerance and hatred of the peoples of the Caucasus. In one article, experts found more than 100 such violations. The warning is the ministry's third to the paper. Two earlier warnings were issued in 2000 and 2001 for extremist, nationalist, and anti-Semitic material. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Report," 15-21 April)EDITOR'S HOME BOMBED IN NOVOCHERKASSK.
On 14 April, a homemade bomb went of at the door of an apartment of A. Yasenik, editor-in-chief of the paper "Vecherniy Novocherkassk." No one was injured. Before this incident, the paper and the mayor of Novocherkassk filed numerous court cases against each other. According to the newspaper staff, the bombing is an effort to silence the journalists. The paper has run articles on oblast procuracy investigations which found that in 2001 the mayor's office conducted illegal privatization of city facilities. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Report," 15-21 April)POLICE ATTACK ALTAI RADIO REPORTER.
On 16 April, A. Vedernikov, director of the Biysk office of Yevropa Plyus and Russkoye Radio, published a statement in the Altai krai media accusing police officers of a criminal assault. The statement says that Vedernikov and two guards were attacked by unknown men on 16 April. The drunken attackers loaded the three men into the baggage compartment of a car and took them to the city's police headquarters where they were beaten and ordered to confess to having committed various crimes. After 10 hours, the reporter was released, while the guards were kept for nine more hours. Vedernikov has filed a complaint with city officials, the krai governor, and the Siberian federal district's presidential envoy, demanding an investigation, payment of damages, and protection from possible future attacks by police. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Report," 15-21 April)POLICE BEAT JOURNALIST IN KARELIA.
On 15 April, A. Farutin, editor-in-chief of the newspaper "Karelia," was taken to a police station where he was subjected to a severe beating. He was not released from police custody until he agreed to sign a statement that he would not bring charges against the police. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Report," 15-21 April)OFFICIAL PROBE OF ATTACK ON JOURNALISTS IN YEKATERINBURG.
The Sverdlovsk oblast Ministry of the Interior has opened a criminal investigation into the attack on the Studiya-41 camera crew as it was covering by-elections in Yekaterinburg. Journalists were trying to film several young men who were offering money to people in exchange for voting for a certain candidate. The journalists said in their official complaint that attackers smashed the company's car's windows and beat their cameraman. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Report," 15-21 April)VLADIVOSTOK TV STATION FACES MAJOR STAFF PROBLEMS.
Twenty staffers have sued OTV-Prim company, owned by the krai administration, in a Vladivostok court demanding that they be paid 10 months worth of back wages. The TV station's new president, appointed by the krai administration, decided to hire new reporters. Most new reporters are seen as having favored Vladivostok Governor Sergei Darkin during his election campaign. A krai official said that "an audit check has revealed numerous significant shortcomings in the company's operation," while former staffers believe that they lost their jobs for political reasons and that the authorities need "tame television" in the runup to regional elections. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Report," 15-21 April)
ORGANIZATIONS URGE PASSAGE OF BROADCAST LAW.
The Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) urged the Serbian Parliament to pass a draft Broadcast Law approved by the government on 4 April and has been passed to parliament for urgent consideration. (ANEM) said the law would have a far-reaching impact on public broadcasting and democratic development in Serbia. IJNet reports that the OSCE and the Council of Europe have also urged the Serbian Parliament to pass the draft law, with the OSCE saying it meets internationally accepted standards. However, the government of Vojvodina, a province in Serbia, claims that the proposed law will curb minority rights and make it more difficult for provincial broadcasters such as Radio-Television Novi Sad to obtain licenses. The drafting of the law was assisted by Media Center-Belgrade and the Yugoslav Committee of Lawyers for Human Rights. For more info: http://www.anem.opennet.org and http://www.ijnet.org/Archive/2002/4/12-12274.html. (IFEX Communique, 23 April)'POLITIKA' REFUSES TO PRINT OBITUARY.
On 15 April, the Belgrade daily "Politika" refused to publish obituaries for former Serbian Interior Minister Vlajko Stojiljkovic submitted by the Socialist Party of Serbia. "Politika's" editor-in-chief told Beta that the paper did not wish the obituaries to be used for "political propaganda...or...to incite hate speech." It was reported that the rejected obituaries claimed that Stojilkovic was killed by those who adopted the law on cooperation with The Hague war crimes tribunal. Stojiljkovic committed suicide in front of parliament. ("ANEM Media Update," 13-19 April)
SCHUSTER ASKS POLITICAL PARTIES FOR 'CORRECT' COMPETITION, WARNS JOURNALISTS.
Slovak President Rudolf Schuster called on all parties to conduct a "correct" pre-election campaign, TASR reported on 18 April. According to Schuster, the coming elections will be the most important since the Velvet Revolution of 1989. He said the more tough and less ethical the campaign is the worse the conditions for NATO and EU membership Slovakia will become. He criticized Slovak journalists for being too focused on HZDS leader Vladimir Meciar. "It would be good if you would leave him alone," he said, though also noting that Meciar still holds influence in Slovakia and that anyone "who underestimates this, makes a big mistake." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 April)
MEDIA LAW AMENDED WITHOUT PUBLIC CONSULTATION.
The Tajik parliament approved a bill amending the Press and Other Media Law. Local journalists believe that before the draft was passed it should have been discussed by the public. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Newsletter," 15-21 April)FOREIGN MINISTRY PROTESTS RUSSIAN PRESS ARTICLE.
The Tajik Foreign Ministry sent an official note to the Russian Embassy in Dushanbe on 18 April protesting the publication by "Nezavisimaya gazeta" three days earlier of an article discussing Tajikistan's geopolitical options, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 19 April, quoting Foreign Ministry spokesman Igor Sattarov. The article claimed that following the defeat of the Taliban, some 1,500 members of the clandestine Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan have taken refuge in three oblasts of Tajikistan. The newspaper further predicts new tensions between various Tajik regional groupings, noting that representatives of the southern regions predominate in the present leadership while politicians from the north, who are favorably oriented toward Uzbekistan, are excluded from positions of power. The paper discusses Tajikistan's participation in the international antiterrorism coalition, which it interprets as evidence that Dushanbe intends to strengthen military cooperation with France and the U.S. at the expense of Russia, which for the past decade has been its main -- if not its only -- partner in that field. Sattarov specifically rejected as untrue the allegation that the Tajik leadership has refused to provide alternative accommodation for Russian military units that it has asked to move from Dushanbe. In his address to parliament on 22 April, Rakhmonov called again for raising economic cooperation with Russia to the same level as military cooperation, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April)NEW MEDIA CENTER TO SET UP.
"Third Power," an NGO in northern Tajikistan, plans to organize a Media Resource Center in northern Tajikistan. For more, contact Parvona Firouz at: email@example.com
NIYAZOV NAMES WOMAN EDITOR-IN-CHIEF -- ON PROBATION.
President Saparmurat Niyazov appointed Anagul Narlyieva editor-in-chief of the paper "Nesil" with a trial period of six months. If she does not perform satisfactorily she will be dismissed with no other job offered to her, it was reported. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Newsletter," 15-21 April)PAPER SEIZED, BUT NEWS SPREADS.
Many copies of the Moscow-based paper "Komsomolskaya Pravda" -- which carried an article deriding the situation in a country led by a president calling himself "Turkmenbashi," the Father of Turkmen -- were seized. But the article was disseminated via xerox and was on the newspaper's website, though very few people in Turkmenistan have Internet access. Some of those who read the article were ordered by the National Security Committee not to tell anyone what they had read it. The state-run Turkmentelekom company, the country's sole Internet-provider, blocked access to the article. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Newsletter," 15-21 April)AUTHORITIES CLOSE DOWN NUMEROUS WEBSITES.
Since early 2002, the Turkmen authorities have closed access to numerous websites such as "Vremya Novostei," Yevraziya, TsentrAziya, Deutsche Welle, fergana.ru, Ekho (Azerbaijan), and two sites of the exiled Turkmen opposition, Erkin Turkmenistan and Gundogar. Ideological control agencies define what foreign websites are available by subscription. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Newsletter," 15-21 April)
TESTIMONY DISAPPEARS IN MURDER CASE OF JOURNALIST.
In the case materials of the murder of Ihor Oleksandrov, director of the TOR TV company in Slavyansk, the official statements made by Oleh Solodun and Mykhailo Serbin, former officials of Kramatorsk's interior division, have disappeared. The men, who insist that the reporter's murder was politically motivated, regard the loss of the documents as "deliberate" and "designed to mislead the investigation." ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Newsletter," 15-21 April)SEVASTOPOL POLICE TO RUN HOTLINE FOR REPORTERS.
In Sevastopol, Crimea, the city police will keep a telephone hotline for journalist to report threats to and attacks on them and their families. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Newsletter," 15-21 April)OPPOSITION JOURNALIST RELEASED FROM JAIL WITH TRAVEL BAN.
Oleh Lyashko, the editor in chief of the opposition weekly "Svoboda" in Cherkasy, was released from jail on 23 April on a written pledge not to leave the city, Interfax and UNIAN reported. Lyashko was detained on 15 April for allegedly resisting police, who confiscated the entire print run of his newspaper. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 April)ELECTION MEDIA BLITZ FAILS.
Prominent lawyer and journalist Myroslava Gongadze, speaking at RFE/RL in Washington, D.C. on 18 April, noted that voters in the 31 March parliamentary election in Ukraine "broke a barrier" in post-Soviet countries by ignoring manipulation of the mass media that elsewhere has skewed election results. Gongadze, who tracked media coverage of the campaign, noted that a study by the "Freedom of Choice" coalition of Ukrainian NGOs and Transparency International Ukraine (http://www.vybory.org.ua/indexe.shtml) (as of 22 April) found that nearly $7 million was spent by all of the parties contesting the election on advertising. Of the top six biggest spenders, three failed to earn a single seat in the parliament, and the biggest spender -- the United Social Democratic Party of Viktor Medvedchuk at $2.1 million -- earned the smallest vote total of those parties that qualified for seats under proportional representation. Gongadze raised concerns about the "tremendous pressures" exerted against journalists by owners of media outlets to support "the tastes of the owners," which "took precedence over informing the public." There is also evidence, Gongadze said, that the current presidential administration pressured mass media owners to support its candidates. Public distrust of the media has grown in Ukraine, Gongadze said, as a result of distorted election coverage. This has prompted journalists in recent days to call for a re-evaluation of professional standards and to seek ways to restore their credibility. Gongadze noted that 174 journalists ran for public office in this round of local and parliamentary elections. She said, however, that many of them continued their media work while campaigning. Having failed to remove President Kuchma through massive street demonstrations last year, Gongadze said that Ukrainians turned to the ballot box to voice their opposition to President Kuchma and his policies.JOURNALISTS CALL FOR FAIR ELECTIONS.
Ukrainian journalists attending a conference on journalist ethics and the 31 March parliamentary elections signed an appeal calling for fair elections. According to the head of the Ukrainian Commission for Journalistic Ethics, Volodymir Mostovoi -- who is also the editor-in-chief of the weekly "Zerkalo Nedeli" -- journalists who work for pro-state media outlets "neglect [their] professional ethical standards." ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Newsletter," 15-21 April)ELECTION INVALIDATED IN CONSTITUENCY OF KUCHMA'S OPPONENT.
The Central Election Commission on 19 April invalidated the parliamentary ballot in constituency No. 35 (Dnipropetrovsk Oblast), where Oleksandr Zhyr, the chairman of the temporary parliamentary commission investigating the murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, appeared to have a good chance for re-election. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April)BROADCAST LICENSES REALLOCATED.
The Ukrainian TV and Radio Broadcast Council rejected YuTAR company's application to extend its license. YuTAR president Nina Khlus regards this decision as biased and plans to appeal the ruling in court. The National TV and Radio Broadcasting Council also named independent TV-5 the winner of the tender for a Zaporizhzhya channel which previously had been used by the Khortitsa company, which had been critical of local authorities. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Newsletter," 15-21 April)
Baghdad Uses Satellite TV To Intimidate Exiled Opponents
By Charles Recknagel
The phone call that Faiq Sheikh Ali, an exiled writer in London, received from Iraq early this year should have been a happy one. On the line was one of his close relatives telling him to watch Iraqi satellite TV because family members would be appearing on it soon. That would give him a rare chance to see and hear his loved ones, whom he has not met in person for more than 10 years. But if the message sounded appealing, the tone of the caller's voice -- flat and emotionless -- assured Ali that seeing his family on TV would be anything but pleasant.
Ali described the call in a recent interview with Radio Free Iraq correspondent Sami Shoresh: "I have two brothers with me in London. The Iraqi security forces arrested my family [in Iraq] and spoke with them about my situation. They told my family members: 'Contact your sons in London and tell them that you will appear on Iraqi satellite television on such-and-such a day.'" When Ali watched the Iraqi satellite channel at the appointed time, he saw his mother, two sisters, and a brother nervously take turns denouncing him in a video made in their house in Najaf, south of Baghdad. His mother, dressed in the dark robes traditionally worn by women in the south, said, "Your father died because of your activity...you have to think about us." His younger brother sat uncomfortably beside his mother. "I don't want to say 'hello' to my brother...I don't know him," he said. At another point in the 25-minute ordeal, a younger sister also spoke up. "Please Faiq, you have to think that you have a sister in this country before you do anything," she begged. Ali recalls his relatives also said that they no longer regard him as part of their family and that the government can kill him without any regrets or anger on their part. The frightened family members then disappeared from the screen and the satellite channel resumed its usual programming, which mostly features idyllic portraits of Iraq under President Saddam Hussein.
The Ali family's brief moment on TV marked the third time Baghdad has used its satellite television channel to reach out and intimidate exiled opponents. In recent months, the families of the London and Damascus representatives of the largest armed opposition group operating in southern Iraq -- the Iran-based Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) -- have also been shown on the channel. Those families, too, called on their kinsmen to give up politics.
The television broadcasts are the latest twist in a long-standing Baghdad policy of pressuring political opponents by attacking their families. In the past, the most common method has been to arrest and imprison the relatives of those the regime deems a threat. Thousands of families with sons or fathers active in Kurdish, Islamist, communist, or other opposition groups have been routinely put in prison for varying lengths of time -- with women and children jailed apart from men. The detentions can include beatings as well as other forms of abuse. At times, the regime has also used rape of female relatives to intimidate opposition figures. In June last year, Najib al-Salihi, a former army general who fled Iraq in 1995 and joined the Iraqi opposition, received a videotape showing the rape of a close relative by intelligence agents. Immediately afterward, the general received a call from the Iraqi intelligence service threatening to publicize the tape if he continued opposition activities. Instead of complying, al-Salihi publicly denounced the regime for using rape as a political tactic. In doing so, he broke with the more usual custom of keeping silence over the rape of relatives because it is often seen as a shame to the family.
Britain's daily "Independent" newspaper reports that the video of the Ali family was taped in mid-January when a convoy of black Mercedes cars and Land Rovers suddenly appeared in front of the family home at 7 am. The visitors included a group of armed men -- some in black masks -- and two Iraqi TV crews. The paper, which does not divulge its source of information, reports that "whenever the interviewer was dissatisfied with [the family members'] replies, they were forced to repeat their words. The whole process took five hours." Despite the threats to his family which were implicit in the events, Ali says that he refuses to be intimidated by the broadcast. He told Radio Free Iraq that he will continue to criticize the regime of Saddam Hussein for its human rights record. "Saddam's regime thinks that after this crime against my family, I will give up the struggle and stay at home and give up any political and media activities against the regime. But that conception is wrong and unrealistic because I will continue my struggle."
Ali has written newspaper articles critical of Hussein and a book about assassinations by the Iraqi security services. He recently participated in a debate on the widely watched Arab satellite channel Al-Jazeera -- based in Qatar -- in which he said that the "first terrorist in the world is Saddam, not Osama bin Laden" -- a statement which may have prompted the action against his family.
Ali practiced law in Iraq until the failed Shiia uprising against the Iraqi leader in the south of the country following the 1991 Gulf war. After taking part in the rebellion he was forced to flee and has lived the past nine years in London. In 1996, his father was arrested four times and died soon after his last release. The "Independent" reports that his family suspects he was poisoned.