3 June 2002, Volume
ENSURING POST-SOVIET PRESS FREEDOM.
Press freedom is in a precarious state throughout the countries of the former Soviet Union, said a panel of experts who called on 26 May for more expertise and aid to help the independent press become viable businesses. The European Institute for the Media joined experts from Russia, Armenia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Moldova, and Belarus in a seminar at the World Newspaper Congress and World Editors Forum, organized by the World Association of Newspapers (WAN). The panelists described various current press problems: censorship, legal harassment, corruption, poverty, economic manipulation, lack of advertising, and even beatings and murder. WAN has asked major development institutions to make the development of the press an investment priority. The Paris-based WAN, represents 18,000 newspapers; including 71 national newspaper associations, newspaper executives in 100 countries, 13 news agencies and nine regional and worldwide press groups. (World Association of Newspapers, 26 MayMIXED STATUS OF WORLD NEWSPAPER INDUSTRY...
The newspaper industry faced major challenges in 2001 but performed well in many markets, according to the annual survey of world press trends published on 27 May by the World Association of Newspapers. The survey of 69 countries showed that: global newspaper sales were up 0.46 percent in 2001 from 2000; ad revenues dropped 7 percent in 2001 in real terms, but the newspaper share of the global ad market stabilized for the first time in 15 years. The 2002 "World Press Trends" survey reveals: in 2001, newspapers in 30 percent of countries surveyed report increased daily sales over the previous year, 50 percent report increased nondaily circulation, and 63 percent reported increased Sunday sales. The picture for dailies in Central Europe and the Baltic countries was mixed: circulation increased in Latvia (+6.5 percent), Hungary (+2.5 percent), and the Czech Republic (+1.3 percent) but fell in Croatia (-17.1 percent), Estonia (-1.5 percent), and Slovakia (-7 percent). While Croatia's daily circulation tumbled last year, its ad revenues showed spectacular growth, up 53.7 percent. There appears to be a link between prosperity and media usage; where prosperity increases, TV consumption falls, while press consumption increases. (World Association of Newspapers, 26 May)...WHILE GROWTH OF ONLINE EDITIONS STABILIZES.
The rapid growth in the number of online editions has stabilized, with only 50 more on-line newspaper editions in 2001 than in 2000 (2959 compared with 2909 from countries reporting this information). The 2001 figure is a 120 percent increase over 1997. At the same time, many newspaper websites are enjoying dramatic growth in terms of traffic, for example, "Lidove noviny," and "iHned," in the Czech Republic, with 228 percent and 130 percent annual growth respectively. Nineteen countries, including the Czech Republic, Lithuania, and Estonia, reported increases in Internet ads in 2001; six countries said Internet advertising had fallen, and three reported no change. The "World Press Trends" 2002 edition is on the WAN website at http://www.wan-press.org/bookstore/wpt2002.html or at e-mail email@example.com. The full report also includes news on: nondaily publications; ad expenditure forecasts; current and future newsprint data; employment trends; top-selling titles in each country, press tax rates and conditions; subsidies and ownership regulations. (World Association of Newspapers, 26 May)NEWSPAPER PUBLISHERS DEMAND BETTER COPYRIGHT PROTECTION.
The world's newspaper publishers have called on copyright policymakers to remove obstacles that prevent or hinder the development of newspaper companies in the online and digital media environment. The WAN board, together with the European Newspaper Publishers' Association, said existing copyright regulations had become "a serious obstacle for newspaper publishers to exploit their content in a reasonable and economically viable fashion." "Publishers are either prevented by law from using their content as they wish, or obliged to pay several times for the same content when this is published in a form other than on paper," they said in a resolution which was passed on the eve of the World Newspaper Congress and World Editors Forum, the annual meeting's of the world's press. The statement goes on to note that "news websites have achieved great popularity.... Newspaper publishers need stronger protection in copyright law for their business investment in preparing and producing this content. The scope of these rights cannot be limited to the printed version of a newspaper." For more, see http://www.wan-press.org. (World Association of Newspapers, 26 May)PRESS FREEDOM: 'BULWARK AGAINST VIOLENCE AND HATRED.'
Western democracies are undermining freedom of expression in the mistaken belief their actions will aid the fight against terrorism, according to WAN on 27 May. WAN called for a reversal of the current trend, and more support for independent news enterprises to better inform the public. WAN said that the "fight against terrorism may relegate press freedom to the background, when actually it is one of our best bulwarks against violence and hatred." For more, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. (World Association of Newspapers, 27 May)
INTERNEWS TRAINING RADIO JOURNALISTS.
Internews has begun training 16 radio journalists from across Afghanistan at a new facility in Kabul. Training is concentrating on radio reporting and production, including writing for radio, package making, computers, and using a microphone. Participants are also leaning to use digital recording equipment. Workshop participants come from various regions of Afghanistan, including Herat, Kandahar, Jabal Saraj, Khost, Gardez, Jalalabad, Mazar-i-Sharif, and Kabul. Internews will also conduct onsite training at radio stations across Afghanistan and plans to design courses in Kabul at the request of the journalistic community and provide equipment to radio stations. The project is funded by a nine-month grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Internews also manages the Open Media Fund for Afghanistan, set up with donations from author Ahmed Rashid, the George Soros Open Society Institute, the AOL-Time Warner Foundation, the Markle Foundation, and Dow Jones and Company. The fund has awarded or announced grants of over $80,000 for newspapers and magazines in Afghanistan. Internews Network is a U.S.-based nonprofit corporation with offices in 24 countries which assists media development in developing societies. For more, contact Internews Afghanistan, e-mail email@example.com, or see http://www.internews.org/afghan_media/.
NEW PAPER FOUNDED BY A1+ TV.
The managers and journalists of A1+ TV, which lost its frequency (see "RFE/RL Media Matters ," 24 May 2002), have set up a newspaper named "Aib-Fe," after the channel's daily news program. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly Report," 20-26 May)
SECOND TV CHANNEL TO START ON 25 JUNE.
Belarus's second national television channel, ONT, is scheduled to go on the air on 25 June, Belapan reported on 27 May. The channel's logo will appear on the frequency currently used by Russia's ORT television network, but ORT programs will remain on the air. The only program produced by ONT will be a newscast called "Our News," which will follow ORT's news program "Vremya." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 May)WIFE OF MISSING CAMERAMAN UNDER SURVEILLANCE.
Svetlana Zavadskaya, the wife of missing ORT cameraman Dzmitry Zavadski, said that several plainclothes policemen searched her house in Minsk on 20 May. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly Report," 20-26 May)PROSECUTOR PROTESTS COURT DECISION.
On 24 May, the editorial board of the independent paper "Nasha Niva" received an official letter from the Belarusian Prosecutor-General Viktar Sheyman which protested the recent Higher Economic Court verdict which had overturned an official warning to the paper early in 2002. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly Report," 20-26 May)
OPPOSITION APPEALS TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OVER LAW ON CLASSIFIED INFORMATION.
Fifty-seven legislators of the opposition coalition United Democratic Forces (ODS), the ruling National Movement Simeon II (NDSV), as well as independent members of parliament appealed to the Constitutional Court on 29 May over the new law on classified information, mediapool.bg reported. According to the ODS legislators, the new law violates the constitutional right to information and makes it impossible to inform the public about the involvement of individuals in the communist secret services. The deputies also criticized as unconstitutional the provisions of the new law that rule out the possibility for individuals to appeal against administrative acts that bar them from the access To information. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 May)
BIS DENIES HOARDING BOOK ON MINISTER'S STB FILE.
The Czech Security Information Service (BIS) on 27 May denied allegations by the tabloid "Super" that its officers hoarded copies of a book that its authors claim is Czech Foreign Minister Kavan's communist secret-police file, CTK reported. The tabloid claims the BIS has purchased copies of the book published in 2000 in order to prevent them from reaching readers, and cites former BIS officer Vladimir Hucin as saying he did so himself on orders from the BIS Prague headquarters. Hucin said the book was bought by the BIS "in large numbers." But BIS Deputy Director Jaroslav Jira said in response that Hucin was lying. "After the book was distributed to booksellers, we bought six copies in Olomouc and about five in Prague in order to include it in our library reserves," Jira said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 May)
NGO LEADERS CRITICIZE STATE POLICY AS 'REJECTION OF DEMOCRACY'...
On 20 May, 17 leading Georgian NGO activists and journalists expressed their "deepest concern" about a recent "wide-scale attack on democratic values and institutions." The statement claims that the Georgian government has recently adopted a policy of "rejection of democracy" which "could lead the country to autocratic governance or to insurrection and violence." The activists point to President Eduard Shevardnadze's "recent statements and actions," as well as "inhibitions on the free media, nongovernmental organizations, political opposition, and religious minorities" along with the "cultivation of violence in public life." It is ominous that President Shevardnadze speaks about the "phenomenon" of Joseph Stalin and has voiced his "concern" about the "unfair, ungrateful, biased" attitude towards this "titan." Moreover, the president has referred to Stalin's activities as a "remarkable historical example for today's world leaders." CC...RESTRICTIVE DRAFT LAWS...
The Ministry of Justice has prepared amendments to the Criminal Code which would establish extended prison terms for the vaguely defined offense of "defamation of honor and dignity of governmental officials" and would set higher penalties for the defamation of officials than for defamation of ordinary citizens, according to the 20 May statement. In addition, the government has tried to block the draft Law on Freedom of Speech passed by parliament in its first hearing in 1999. According to experts from the Council of Europe, adoption of this law would bring Georgian legislation into compliance with the European Convention and the case law of the Strasbourg Human Rights Court. The Georgian authorities have also qualified as "betrayal of the homeland" and "actions directed against the national interests" such NGO activities as dissemination of information about human rights violations among the international community, criticism of the president and the government, and the fight against corrupt high-ranking officials, in the words of the 20 May statement. CC...AND STATE EFFORTS TO CONTROL THE MEDIA.
The creation of this [restrictive] political environment is promoted by the state controlled media. The government tries to delay the reform of taxpayer-financed state television into a public broadcasting system independent from the state. The most recent phase of the anti-free-speech struggle began in October 2000 when Ministry of State Security officers invaded the Rustavi-2 TV company. This police action was "met with a rebuff by society" and President Shevardnadze's resignation was the chief demand of mass protests in defense of free speech, the 17 activists who signed the 20 May statement assert. CC
RELATIONS WITH U.S. A BANNED MEDIA TOPIC.
On 27 May, the Paris-based journalists' watchdog group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) protested the ban by the Iranian Judiciary on publishing articles about relations between Iran and the U.S. RSF called for the ban to be lifted at once. "This censorship violates the freedom of expression of journalists and the right of Iranians to be informed, and also shows that foreign policy remains the exclusive domain of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who controls the Judiciary," said RSF Secretary-General Robert Menard in a letter to the head of the Judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi Sharudi. The ban was announced on 25 May after the reformist daily "Noruz" said that in recent months there may have been informal contacts between top-level Iranian and U.S. officials in Nicosia or Ankara. The issue of Iran's relations with the U.S. has split the Iranian regime, in the context of the U.S. struggle against terrorism in the region. The Iranian authorities have decreed that merely mentioning the subject would constitute an "offense against national interests." Some reformist journalists in Iran have deplored the ban. "Noruz" editor Mohsen Mirdamadi, who has already been prosecuted for his articles, protested this restriction on political discussion. Mirdamadi, who is also a reformist member of parliament and is close to reformist President Mohammad Khatami, maintained that any discussions between Iran and the U.S. should be held "in the open." For further information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or see http://www.rsf.fr. (Reporters Without Borders, 28 May)
JOURNALISTS CONDEMN REPRISALS AGAINST INDEPENDENT PUBLICATIONS...
At a press conference in Almaty on 23 May, the heads of Kazakhstan's Union of Journalists, the Interfax office in Kazakhstan, and an NGO that defends media freedom issued a statement condemning the reprisals earlier this week against the newspapers "Sol-Dat" and "Respublika," Interfax reported. Union of Journalists Chairman Seitkazy Mataev characterized 2002 as the worst year for the media in Kazakhstan since the country became independent in 1991. Reuters quoted a journalist for an Almaty-based youth tabloid as saying, "After all these terrible events I am afraid even to come to work." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May)...AS U.S. EXPRESSES CONCERN.
U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said in Washington on 23 May that U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan Larry Napper has informed the Kazakh leadership of Washington's concern over the attacks on "Sol-Dat" and "Respublika" and urged "an independent and transparent investigation," Reuters reported. "We urge Kazakhstan's political leadership to take appropriate action to protect and advance democratic development, a free press, and the rule of law," he added. On 29 May, U.S. Representative Robert Wexler told journalists in Astana that during talks earlier that day he urged Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev to take further steps toward democratization, including embarking on a dialogue with the independent media, Interfax reported. RFE/RL's Kazakh Service quoted Wexler as saying Nazarbaev "strongly reaffirmed" his commitment to media freedom. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 and 30 May)POLICE BLAME HOOLIGANS FOR ATTACKS ON NEWSPAPERS.
Almaty City spokesman Rakhimzhan Taizhanov told journalists late on 23 May that the attacks on 21 and 22 May on the newspapers "SolDat" and "Delovoe Obozrenie-Respublika" were the work of hooligans and burglars, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. On 23 May, U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan Larry Napper met with "Delovoe Obozrenie-Respublika" Editor in Chief Irina Petrushova and visited the paper's burned-out office. Napper also met with unnamed Almaty city officials and expressed his concern over the attacks on the two newspapers, urging the city administration to conduct a full investigation. On 24 May, the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists issued a statement condemning the attacks and accusing the Kazakh authorities of "waging a war" against the independent media, forumkz.org reported. Interfax on 27 May quoted a spokesman for Kazakhstan's Foreign Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev as rejecting as an attempt to damage Kazakhstan's international reputation "rumors" that the Kazakh authorities were behind the reprisals. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 May)COURT RULES ON CLOSURE OF FIREBOMBED NEWSPAPER.
The Almaty City Economic Court ruled on 27 May that the independent newspaper "Delovoe-Obozrenie-Respublika," whose editorial offices were destroyed by a firebomb on 22 May, should cease publication and be closed, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported on 28 May. According to the court's verdict, the editorial board of "Delovoe Obozrenie-Respublika" failed to comply with a court ruling handed down in April to suspend its operations due to its alleged failure to show the exact days it is published. The newspaper had continued publication in spite of that ruling. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May)SIX TV LICENSES TO BE REVOKED.
The Kazakh Prosecutor-General's Office announced its intention to have the license of Tan TV channel revoked. The TV and Radio Frequency Distribution Commission suggested to the Transport and Communication Ministry that courts revoke broadcasting licenses from five TV companies, Irbis and TV 6 na 6 in Pavlodar, Teletek in East Kazakhstan Oblast, the Ekibaztuz City TV Company, and Astana-based Era. The license of AlvaTV was suspended for three months. Licenses have been withdrawn from those who flagrantly overstepped the law while other studios have been warned, commission members claim. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly Report," 20-26 May)
NATO, KOSOVAR DAILY QUESTION MACEDONIAN VERSION OF BORDER INCIDENT.
NATO Task Force Fox Commander General Heinz Georg Keerl told journalists on 24 May that he doubts the Macedonian version of a border incident that occurred two days earlier near the police station at Straza, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported on 27 May citing Makfax from Skopje. "Monitor" also quoted the Prishtina daily "Koha Ditore," which commented that neither Task Force Fox troops nor the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK) had reported the incident. The newspaper suggested that the Macedonian authorities may have fabricated the incident in order to discredit Kosovar institutions. On 23 May, the Kosova parliament passed a resolution saying that it does not recognize the border agreement between Belgrade and Skopje. UNMIK chief Michael Steiner immediately declared the resolution invalid. The U.S. and OSCE agreed with his decision. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 May)MULTIETHNIC RADIO LAUNCHES ROMANY AND ASHKALI PROGRAMS.
Radio K began broadcasting in Romany and Ashkali on 27 May. The new programs, which are an addition to broadcasts provided in the Albanian and Serbian languages since the station opened in September 2001, address community concerns for each group. The new broadcasts were launched by Adem Demaci, a well-known advocate for ethnic tolerance, and the new spokesperson of the OSCE mission in Kosovo, Poul Smidt. Visit http://www.osce.org/news for related links, documents, news and photos. For more, contact the OSCE mission in Kosovo at email@example.com. CC
GOVERNMENT TO REFORM BROADCAST COUNCIL?
On 22 May, the Kyrgyzstan Security Council described as "biased" the coverage of events related to the arrest of parliamentarian Azimbek Beknazarov by the government television channel. As a result, the Security Council has decided to reform the National Television and Radio Council. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly Report," 20-26 May)BISHKEK PAPER FINED BY DJALALABAD COURT.
In response to a request by the Kyrgyz prosecutor-general, a court in Djalalabad imposed a fine of 200,000 soms on independent paper "Kyrgyz Rukhu" along with second fine for the same amount on Akybai Sooronbaev, chairman of a farming cooperative. In 1997, Sooronbaev had written a report critical of the current prosecutor-general who was then a local Djalalabad prosecutor. No newspaper representative was invited to the court session. Furthermore, Kyrgyz media law was violated by holding the trial in Djalalabad and not in Bishkek where the paper is registered. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly Report," 20-26 May)
GROUP SEEKS TO SET UP PUBLIC TELEVISION.
A group formed by journalists, intellectuals, and lawyers announced on 29 May that it intends to set up a Public Television Company (CTP), Infotag reported. The group said that in its initial stage, CTP will broadcast programs prepared by local journalists who work for other companies and will reach audiences only in Chisinau. Journalist Vasile Butnaru, a member of the group, said the CTP could become an alternative to the proposed transformation of state-owned Teleradio Moldova into an autonomous public broadcasting authority. He said CTP will be modeled after the BBC and be governed by a similar code of ethics. Lawyer Ruslan Uskov said CTP is to be financed with donations from private sponsor companies and proceeds from commercials. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 May)
A photographer from the news magazine "Monitor" was attacked in front of the Socialist People's Party (SNP) headquarters in the Montenegrin town of Niksic on 21 May. When SNP supporters pushed photographer Mensud Krpuljevic inside party headquarters, officials seized his film. ("ANEM Media Update," 18-23 May)
THREE EDITORS DEPRIVED OF PASSPORTS.
The World Association of Newspapers has condemned actions by Polish authorities that prevented three prominent editors and publishers from attending the World Newspaper Congress and World Editors Forum in Bruges, Belgium, in late May. Three chief executives of the Polish national daily "Rzeczpospolita" -- Grzegorz Gauden, Elzbieta Poniklo, and Piotr Fratczak -- have had their passports withdrawn by a Polish court in a dispute involving Presspublica, the publishing company of "Rzeczpospolita." Presspublica has been accused of acting to the detriment of the company in a printing agreement with another Polish publication. The three executives have been placed under police surveillance and had their passports confiscated. WAN called on the Polish authorities to immediately return the passports of Poniklo, Gauden, and Fratczak and to put an end to the police surveillance. (World Association of Newspapers, 26 May)
CABINET MEMBER TO SUE 'LE MONDE.'
Government Secretary-General Serban Mihailescu told Mediafax on 25 May that he will sue the French daily "Le Monde" correspondent in Romania who, he claims, libeled him in an article published in the daily on 23 May. The article is generally critical of Romania and devotes particular attention to the country's endemic corruption. It also said Mihailescu's nickname is "Mickey Baksheesh." Prime Minister Adrian Nastase also referred to the "Le Monde" article in a teleconference with prefects on 24 May, saying that some politicians in Romania "are in the habit of sending us signals via the foreign media." He said he would not mind this were it not for the fact that "it is not only Romanians who read those articles" and the country's reputation suffers as a result. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 May)PRESIDENTIAL OFFICE WAVERS ON CONTROVERSIAL 'IMAGE STRATEGY' DOCUMENT.
President Ion Iliescu on 28 May and early 29 May vehemently denied that the Supreme Council for National Defense (CSAT) has debated a document dealing with "counter-strategic options" for combating media reports that harm Romania's image. He described a report published in the daily "Jurnalul national" on 28 May on the alleged document as "a provocation" and "a dangerous diversion." However, later on 29 May, Iliescu said that while CSAT never dealt with the issue, it had "discussed ideas" on how to respond to "internal or external accusations against Romania." Public Information Minister Vasile Dancu admitted on 28 May that his ministry is involved in "elaborating" a document on such "counter strategies." Finally, presidential adviser Ioan Talpes, whom the report described as being in charge of the initiative, first denied its existence but retracted his denial on 30 May, claiming that a search in his archives led to the discovery of the document that was submitted by an "analytical group" three months earlier. But according to Mediafax, Talpes said the document has not been forwarded to President Iliescu. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 May)
BUSH AND PUTIN MEET MEDIA LEADERS.
U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in the Kremlin with the Russian-American Media Entrepreneurship Dialogue (RAMED), AP reported on 25 May. According to William Dean Singleton, chairman of the Newspaper Association of America, U.S. newspaper publishers are ready to develop an investment fund of up to $50 million for those Russian media companies which have shown a viable, independent economic model. Singleton, vice chairman and chief executive officer of MediaNews Group Inc., represented the Americans at the meeting along with Edward O. Fritts, president and chief executive officer of the National Association of Broadcasters. "Media cannot be independent without economic viability, and that viability must come without government participation," Singleton said, according to a text of his remarks provided by the newspaper association, AP reported. Yet, according to "The Washington Post" of 26 May, the Kremlin meeting with the media executives lasted four minutes: Singleton spoke for two minutes, as did a Russian reporter. Neither Bush nor Putin responded to their comments and no media coverage of the event was permitted, the "Post" reported. Bush said on 24 May he had discussed with Putin "the important role of free press in building a working democracy," AP reported on 25 May. CCWHAT IS RAMED?
RAMED was launched by Presidents Putin and Bush in November 2001, AP reported on 25 May. Its goal is to foster better business conditions to support the growth of independent journalism. RAMED working groups are addressing industry constraints and solutions; in June their recommendations will be sent to the U.S. and Russian governments. In April, the American coordinators -- the National Association of Broadcasters, and the Newspaper Association of America -- hosted Russian media outlets at their annual conventions. RAMED groups have addressed issues including: industry oversight of ratings, readership and circulation audits; a comparison of the regulatory and legal environment for commercial media and Russian state-run media outlets; American experience in cross-media partnerships, new TV network-affiliate relations, and future transition to digital and HDTV formats. (AP, 25 May)LESIN WARNS OF 'CERTAIN MEASURES' AGAINST RFE/RL.
Russian Media Minister Mikhail Lesin has warned that "certain measures may be taken against Radio Liberty in response to the editorial policies of its broadcasting to Chechnya," ITAR-TASS reported on 29 May. Lesin told the Federation Council on 29 May that since RFE/RL began its Chechen-language broadcasts one month earlier, the ministry had closely monitored them. Lesin claimed that "interference in Russia's internal affairs in Chechen territory" was "already much in evidence," and said that his ministry "would take certain measures to end to such intervention." CCTWO RUSSIAN FILMS EXTOL THE VIRTUES OF WAR...
Two of the most popular films in Russian movie theaters this spring are "Voina" (War) and "Zvezda" (Star) which extol fighting for Mother Russia amid blood, gore, and modern visual and sound effects, AP reported on 31 May. "Voina'' is set in Chechnya today and shows Chechen fighters beheading a Russian soldier, while "Zvezda'' shows Soviet troops advancing towards victory in World War II. Both films mine Russian patriotism and deny the enemy a human face, according to the AP. (AP, 31 May)...AS CHECHEN CONFLICT ALSO INSPIRES HOLLYWOOD...
Chechnya is the setting for several Hollywood films, the AP reported on 31 May. Russell Crowe in "Proof of Life'' orchestrates a hostage release in Chechnya. The screen version of Tom Clancy's "The Sum of All Fears'' includes a biological weapons attack in Chechnya. In another forthcoming film, Harrison Ford will play American aid worker Fred Cuny who disappeared in Chechnya in 1995 under mysterious circumstances. (AP, 31 May)...AND FRENCH 'CHECHEN LULLABY.'
A French independent film, "Chechen Lullaby," made by Georgian director Nino Kirtadze early last year, depicts the human tragedy of the Chechen conflict as seen through the eyes of four veteran reporters. Although shown on French and German television last fall, it has yet to have commercial distribution in the United States. CCBASAEV SAYS HE IS ALIVE (OR WAS ON 15 MAY).
Chechenpress.com on 24 May featured a lengthy interview that field commander Shamil Basaev gave on 15 May to the PRIMA information agency, thereby refuting the 30 April statement by Russian Army Chief of General Staff General Anatolii Kvashnin that Basaev has been killed. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May)NEW WEBSITES DEVOTED TO FOREIGN POLICY DEBUT.
On the eve of the U.S.-Russia summit, state-run national television channel RTR unveiled a new website (http://summit.rtr-vesti.ru/news) that features news, information, analyses, and multimedia materials about the event. Meanwhile, Nikita Ivanov, a close associate of Kremlin political adviser and spin master Gleb Pavlovskii, launched another site devoted to foreign affairs. The website (http://www.nlvp.ru/) is called the National Laboratory of Foreign Policy, and its goal is to find "the zone of Russia's responsibility in the new world order" and to present a "multipolar world as a positive alternative to the dangerous delusion of a unipolar world." The site is also promoting conceptual publications and books by Russian and foreign authors, including such titles as "An Introduction to Geopolitics" by Konstantin Gadgiev and "The Practice of Globalization: Games and Rules of New Epoch" by Mikhail Delyagin. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May)MEDIA IGNORES BUSH'S CRITICAL REMARKS.
Most of the major Russian broadcast and print media noted the passage in President Bush's 23 May speech to the German Bundestag in which he called on the West to "throw off old suspicions and realize our common interests with Russia." They also emphasized Bush's statement that "for all the problems and challenges, Russia is moving toward freedom -- more freedom in its politics and its markets; freedom that will help Russia to act as a great and just power." But most outlets omitted to report Bush's remark that Europe will only welcome a "Russia at peace with its neighbors, respecting the legitimate rights of minorities." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May)LESIN EXPLAINS FEDERAL MEDIA POLICY.
Media Minister Lesin told a conference of regional media editors on 28 May that the government is not planning to pull out of the Russian media market completely, Interfax reported. At the same meeting, Lesin denied that Russian Public Television (ORT) and Russian Television and Radio (RTR) are government-run channels. "ORT is a company in which the state owns 38 percent of the shares," he explained. And, according to the agency, All-Russia State TV and Radio Company head Oleg Dobrodeev said that beginning next season, ORT will not receive any money from the federal budget. The two-day conference was organized by the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May)EMBATTLED WEEKLY FIGHTS BACK.
In a column in "The Moscow Times" on 29 May, commentator Yulia Latynina writes that "Novaya gazeta," which recently lost a defamation lawsuit, has uncovered new information about the plaintiff. The plaintiff in the case, Mezhprombank, won damages of 15 million rubles ($482,000), an amount that would have ruined the weekly financially. However, Latynina discovered that Mezhprombank transactions -- which the bank claimed resulted in a loss of 15 million rubles because of an article in the weekly that cast doubt on the bank's stability -- were themselves illegal "interested-party" transactions. In fact, all of the companies were shell companies controlled by Mezhprombank or its shareholders. Shell companies are often used to launder money. Latynina writes that "by laying out the operations of its tiny partners in court documents, Mezhprombank exposed the darkest secret of any Russian bank -- the inner workings of its own 'washing machine.'" As a result of this discovery, the weekly has requested a new court hearing and asked that the authorities pursue criminal fraud charges against Mezhprombank. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May)RESPECTED INDEPENDENT WEEKLY POISED TO LOSE MANY STAFF MEMBERS.
At the end of May, many journalists with the weekly newspaper "Obshchaya gazeta" plan to leave the publication since it is scheduled to be sold then, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 May. The weekly's long-time editor Yegor Yakovlev reportedly wants to work on other projects, according to the agency. Workers will meet with the unidentified new owners on 30 May for the first time. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 May)NEW GERMAN TV FILM ON KITOVA CASE.
German TV's Moscow correspondent Udo Lielischkies has recently produced a film about journalist Olga Kitova from Belgorod Oblast who was convicted to 2 1/2 years in prison for her reports on corruption cases in the regional government. A microsite in German on the Russian media situation plus the film is available as a stream for dsl or isdn-users: http://www.wdr.de/themen/politik/1/russische_treibjagd/index.jhtml. CCMINISTER'S VISIT OFF-LIMITS FOR VOLOGDA REPORTER.
On 17 May, local officials did not allow a reporter for the Ekho Vologdy radio station the possibility of covering Economic Development Minister German Gref's visit to Vologda oblast. He was not allowed to be present at the airport where Gref arrived and then he was denied access to the oblast government building to attend Gref's news conference, although he had received accreditation. The police officer on duty said he had instructions from the local head of the government's property department. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Weekly Report," 20-26 May)HOW ORTHODOX IS RELIGIOUS BROADCASTING?
According to the Interregional Association of Christian Television and Radio Journalists, Russian Orthodox Church officials obstruct broadcasts of other religious confessions, especially in remote areas. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Weekly Report," 20-26 May)COURT UPHOLDS LIBEL SUIT BY MOSCOW HOSPITAL...
On 20 May, Moscow's Nikulinsky Intermunicipal Court upheld the libel suit brought by the Sklifosovsky Ambulance Institute against MAKF(P)-Media, the founder and publisher of the paper "Versiya." The court told the paper to refute various allegations in the article "Sklifosovsky's Liver" in its issue 45 in 2001, particularly claims that the death rate in the institute had been showing an alarming annual increase, partly due to doctors' errors. "Versiya's" attorney said that the court had upheld only that part of the suit where journalists had refused to name their sources who were institute personnel who feared for their jobs. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Weekly Report," 20-26 May)...WHILE ULYANOVSK COURT CONSIDERS CONVICTS' LIBEL SUIT.
In Ulyanovsk Oblast, the courts are considering unusual cases. Inmates of the Novoulyanovsk prison -- who escaped in January -- are demanding that local journalists pay them fines. According to the inmates, reporters in Ulyanovsk had harmed their honor and dignity by claiming that the runaway convicts were infected with the AIDS virus. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Weekly Report," 20-26 May)
LACK OF LEGAL REFORM IN MEDIA ENCOURAGED BY GOVERNMENT?
"The fact that the laws which should regulate the media field still haven't been adopted tells us that either the authorities have abandoned the media or that they like the inherited system," media analyst Snjezana Milivojevic told the daily "Blic" on 20 May. ("ANEM Media Update," 18-23 May)POLITICIANS PRESS THE PRESS?
The new Belgrade authorities are attempting to control the flow of information to the media and making sure that some information is never published, the editor in chief of Beta agency said on 23 May. ("ANEM Media Update," 18-23 May)PRINT MEDIA 'YELLOW PRESS' IN 'RACE FOR PROFIT.'
There is no open repression of media in Serbia, although indirect pressure continues via legal actions against certain companies, the head of the Belgrade-based NGO Civic Initiative, Miljenko Dereta, said on 20 May on TV Pirot. He said that the Serbian "print media have become a yellow press" dominated by "a race for profits, which are seen as being generated only by scandals. When there is no real scandal, the media begin to generate one." Dereta also pointed out that he was against those who had abused the media under the former regime "getting away unpunished." His NGO is "urging a law on lustration, but are facing fierce resistance." ("ANEM Media Update," 18-23 May)STATE MEDIA EDITOR SUSPENDED.
The editor in chief of Radio Television Serbia's culture and entertainment division, Ivona Zivkovic, was suspended from her duties on 23 May on suspicion of damaging the reputation of the state media by publishing the allegedly libelous article "Parallel Worlds of Change in Radio Television Serbia" by "Glas javnosti." ("ANEM Media Update," 18-23 May)JOURNALISTS' ASSOCIATION PROTESTS LAWSUITS.
On 21 May, the Independent Association of Serbian Journalists issued a protest about the large number of lawsuits recently launched against journalists in southern Serbia. The association alleges that proceedings have been launched by leading supporters of the Milosevic regime in an effort to prevent journalists from conducting their work. ("ANEM Media Update," 18-23 May)LIBEL CHARGES DROPPED AGAINST NEWS AGENCY.
On 21 May, the Simpo Holding Company withdrew libel charges against the director, editor in chief, and Vranje correspondent of the Beta news agency. The charges were brought in October 2001 over information published by Beta about a building planned by Simpo's president, former Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Dragomir Tomic. ("ANEM Media Update," 18-23 May)ANNIVERSARY OF JOURNALIST'S DEATH COMMEMORATED.
On 22 May, the eastern Serbian community of Jagodina observed the first anniversary of the murder of Milan Pantic, the local correspondent for Belgrade daily "Vecernje novosti." A committee was formed to set up a Milan Pantic award. ("ANEM Media Update," 18-23 May)
LOW SALES OF SERBIAN PRESS.
Serbian newspapers which have recently appeared on newsstands in Ljubljana are not selling well. The poor sales are attributed to the paper's late arrival in Slovenia. ("ANEM Media Update," 18-23 May)
REPORTER FIRED FOR INVITATION FOR FOREIGN TRAINING.
Yelena Myatieva, a reporter of the daily "Neitralnyi Turkmenistan" in the city of Tashauz, was informed that her contract has been ended. Her colleagues believe that the real reason for this step is that she had received an invitation to attend a journalism workshop in Sweden. All journalists who have attended workshops abroad have been dismissed from their jobs. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly Report," 20-26 May)OFFICIAL RESPONSE TO OSCE REPORT: 'NO CENSORSHIP.'
Turkmen officials said that the OSCE Media Representative Freimut Duve's report on the situation of the media in Turkmenistan relies on data received from "so-called independent journalists and experts whose names are withdrawn for reasons of their security, as the report says." The official response alleges "there is no censorship of the kind depicted in Duve's report" in Turkmenistan. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly Report," 20-26 May)
DONETSK PROSECUTOR APPEALS VEREDYUK'S ACQUITTAL.
The Prosecutor-General's Office in Donetsk has appealed to the Ukrainian Supreme Court the recent acquittal of Yuriy Veredyuk, who was charged with the murder of Ihor Aleksandrov, the director of TOR TV. The Ukrainian Interior Ministry is convinced that Veredyuk was involved in Aleksandrov's murder, but the victim's family disagrees with that opinion. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly Report," 20-26 May)TO ERR OR NOT TO AIR?
The Kyiv and YuTAR television and radio companies and the Kontinent radio station -- whose broadcast license applications were denied by the Ukrainian Television and Radio Broadcast Council -- accused the council of violating the law. In response, council Directors Boris Kholod and Viktor Leshik claimed that the companies had been in breach of broadcast regulations. According to Leshik, TV and radio companies have filed nearly 30 suits against the council. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly Report," 20-26 May)RADIO STATION TOLD TO BREAK TIES TO RFE/RL.
The Ukrainian TV and Radio Broadcast Council has ordered the Dovira radio station to drop its relationship with RFE/RL. Dovira Director Serhiy Sai-Bodnar said that the station has a license valid until 2007. The Broadcast Council then issued a warning to the station for relaying Russkoe Radio programs; Dovira plans to contest this warning in court because it has not relayed Russkoe Radio programs. Sai-Bodnar believes that official pressure on the Dovira radio station is due to the fact that it relays RFE/RL programs. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly Report," 20-26 May)