7 June 2002, Volume
JOURNALISTS, LAWYERS GRAPPLE WITH BROADCAST LICENSING LAW.
A seminar on the application of broadcast legislation was held on 31 May, reports the Yerevan Press Club. The event was organized by the recently established Foundation of Assistance to Freedom of Speech. Journalists, lawyers, human rights activists, NGO and media organization representatives, as well as deputies to the National Assembly took part. The participants analyzed the legal aspect of the broadcast-licensing competitions recently announced by the National Commission on Television and Radio, and discussed the discrepancies between the law on TV and radio and the procedure for holding licensing competitions as approved by the National Commission. Although invited, no officials, except the press secretary of the Ministry of Justice, took part in the discussion. ("Yerevan Press Club Newsletter," 25-31 May.)CLOSED TV STATION TO LAUNCH NEWSPAPER.
The staff of the independent TV station A1+, which was forced to cease broadcasting in April after its broadcast frequency was awarded to a rival station in a controversial tender, plan to launch a daily newspaper within the next two weeks, A1+ Director Mesrop Movsesian told RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau on 3 June. Movsesian said that the daily will be funded by A1+ and the recently founded Armenian Fund for Press Freedom, and its content "will be the same program reproduced on paper with the same style, same position." A1+ has a reputation for critical but objective coverage of internal political developments. The paper will be named "Ayb-Fe" after the station's popular news program. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 June)
JOURNALIST ASSAULTED FOR INSULTING PRESIDENT'S SON.
Mubariz Djafarli, who writes for the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat," was attacked and beaten late on 4 June by two men who alluded to his less-than-flattering references in a recent article to President Heidar Aliev's son Ilham, Turan reported on 5 June. The Committee for the Rights of Azerbaijani Journalists has demanded that the Prosecutor-General's Office open an investigation into the attack. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June)
POLICE CLASH WITH 100 PROTESTERS AT NEWSPAPER TRIAL.
Two journalists from Belarus's last all-Belarusian-language independent newspaper "Pahonya," closed down by authorities last year, Editor in Chief Mikola Markevich and reporter Pavel Mazheyka, have been on trial in recent weeks in Hrodno, in sessions twice postponed, reports Radio Racya citing the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ). BAJ said police clashed with about 100 protesters massed outside a courtroom to support the two journalists, who are accused of libeling President Alyaksandr Lukashenka prior to last fall's elections by contrasting him unfavorably with independent candidates. Mikhail Pastukhov, a BAJ representative, said police beat dozens of people unable to make their way inside. It was not known whether anyone was seriously hurt. "The room was too small to hold everyone and police were standing guard with automatic weapons. Several people who tried to get in were beaten up," Pastukhov said. A senior police official denied force was used: "There was nothing special at the court. A crowd is a crowd and the room was small. We had to maintain order. But there was no fight with police." They face up to six years in prison on charges of defaming Lukashenka. (Radio Racya, 6 June)SOCCER FANS PROTEST LACK OF WORLD CUP COVERAGE...
About 150 angry soccer fans gathered in Minsk on 3 June to protest the lack of World Cup coverage on Belarusian television, calling it an insult to a soccer-loving country, AP reported the same day. Protesters complained that the government-run broadcaster, Belteleradiokompaniya, had not bought rights to World Cup coverage from the German company Kirch Media, which has worldwide television rights for the event. Belarus was expecting to receive broadcasts from Russia's ORT and RTR television, which spent some $40 million to purchase the rights to show the event within Russia. Russia lacks the right to broadcast the games to Belarus, and thus canceled its planned transmissions to its western neighbor. Belarus would have to pay Kirch Media about $500,000 to purchase broadcast rights, although the national broadcaster claims not to have the money following its expenditures for broadcast rights to recent events such as the Winter Olympics and the World Ice Hockey Championship. As a result, the only place Belarusians can see World Cup games is in bars that provide satellite coverage. The charge for entry is on average 10,000 Belarusian rubles ($6), which is too expensive for most people in the impoverished country. Protesters became particularly upset when they found out that the World Cup is being broadcast without authorization in isolated North Korea. Yegor Rybakov, a representative of the state-run television company, said that coverage on national television will begin with the quarterfinals on 15 June, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June)...AS PARLIAMENTARIANS PROPOSE SOLUTION...
Members of the Belarusian parliament suggested on 3 June that Belteleradiokompaniya raise money among soccer fans to pay the $500,000 necessary to purchase World Cup broadcasting rights, Belapan reported the same day. Deputy Vasilii Khrol said: "There are at least 1 million [soccer] fans in Belarus. If everyone donates $0.50, the problem would be solved.". According to Belapan, Vintskuk Vyachorka, the leader of the Belarusian Popular Front opposition party, said that if Belarus were a democratic state, it would have a business sector capable of paying for the broadcasts. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June)...AND NATIONAL TV YIELDS TO IRATE FANS, BUYS WORLD CUP RIGHTS.
Belarusian television will begin broadcasting World Cup soccer matches on 8 June, Belteleradiokompaniya head Yegor Rybakov told reporters in Minsk on 6 June, Belapan reported the same day. Rybakov said that Belarus's only national television channel signed a deal for the rights to show the games with the German company Kirch Media, which owns the worldwide broadcast rights for the World Cup, earlier that day. Under the deal, the games will have to be broadcast in Belarusian only ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 June)
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)
CHARGES AGAINST TV HEAD DROPPED.
All criminal charges launched against Czech Television General Director Jiri Balvin have been dropped, Czech media reported on 3 June. In May, Balvin was charged with purchasing broadcast equipment in July 2001 without holding a public tender. Czech Television was fined 2.5 million crowns ($77,346) as a result. Balvin has insisted that all transactions made under his supervision were legal. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 June)
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)PRESIDENT ORDERS INVESTIGATION INTO REPRISALS AGAINST MEDIA.
Addressing the Almaty city administration on 30 May, President Nursultan Nazarbaev ordered the Prosecutor-General's Office to take under special control the ongoing investigation into the reprisals last week against two independent newspapers, Interfax reported. He said those responsible must be found and brought to justice as soon as possible. Also on 30 May, the European Union representation in Kazakhstan issued a statement criticizing reprisals in recent months against several independent media outlets, Interfax reported. Speaking the same day at a press conference in Moscow, Rozlana Taukina, who heads the Independent Media Association of Almaty, said 22 independent media outlets have been closed in Kazakhstan over the past month. She said Nazarbaev has charged the National Security Committee with intimidating independent journalists to prevent the circulation of any information on the ongoing investigation into Nazarbaev's Swiss bank accounts, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 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)U.S. CONGRESSMAN URGES KAZAKH LEADERSHIP TO EMBARK ON DIALOGUE WITH INDEPENDENT MEDIA.
U.S. Representative Robert Wexler told journalists in Astana on 29 May that during talks earlier that day he urged Kazakhstan's President 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," 30 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)CUBREACOV ASKS THAT FORMER PARLIAMENT CHAIRMAN, NEWSPAPER EDITOR BE QUESTIONED OVER HIS KIDNAPPING.
Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) Deputy Chairman Vlad Cubreacov on 31 May asked Chisinau prosecutor Petru Bobu to question former parliament Chairman Dumitru Diacov and government newspaper "Moldova Suverana" Editor Ion Gonta over allegations they have made regarding his disappearance, Flux reported. On 30 May, Gonta published an editorial arguing that Cubreacov was kidnapped and held captive by PPCD Chairman Iurie Rosca. Cubreacov argued that Gonta must be directly or indirectly involved in his kidnapping, since he claimed to know the exact address of the place he was held prisoner. Diacov has declared that he knew "approximately a month [before Cubreacov's reappearance]" that the deputy was alive. Reacting to Gonta's editorial, ruling Party of Moldovan Communists parliamentary group leader Victor Stepaniuc called the editor's accusations "exaggerated" and suggested Rosca should sue Gonta. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 June)
ANALYSIS OF DRAFT LAW ON PUBLIC BROADCASTING.
Article 19, the London-based media freedom organization, has issued a report analyzing the latest drafts of the Broadcasting Law and the Law on Public Broadcasting Services as published in March and April 2002, respectively, by a ministerial working group. The draft Broadcasting Law aims to regulate independent broadcasting in Montenegro, while the draft Law on Public Broadcasting Services establishes a national public service broadcaster. Article 19 raises concerns about government bodies which could interfere with freedom of expression in the licensing process. Under the draft, a Broadcast Agency Council is to be established. The members will be nominated by five different groups -- the government, the University of Montenegro, broadcasters associations, human rights NGOs, and journalism NGOs -- and in such a small body, this could still leave a public perception that the government has too powerful a sway. The report can be found at http://www.article19.org/docimages/1297.doc. (Ifex.org, 30 May)
PROSECUTORS CHARGE RADICAL AGRARIAN WITH SLANDER.
The Appeals Prosecutor's Office in Warsaw has filed a lawsuit against Self-Defense leader Andrzej Lepper, charging him with slandering five politicians, PAP reported on 30 May. Speaking in the Sejm last November, Lepper accused Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski, and Civic Platform politicians Andrzej Olechowski, Donald Tusk, and Pawel Piskorski of accepting illicit payments from businessmen and gangsters. "I don't worry, I'm not going to disavow anything," Lepper commented, adding that "I'll repeat in the court what I said in the Sejm." The Sejm lifted Lepper's parliamentary immunity in January, making it possible for prosecutors to bring him to court. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May)
EXTREMIST POLITICIAN BROUGHT TO COURT FOR SPREADING FALSE INFORMATION.
Prosecutors have decided to charge extremist senator and Greater Romania Party Chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor with spreading false information, Mediafax reported on 30 May. Tudor claimed last September that Hamas terrorists were trained in Romania. Prosecutors said Tudor's "untrue information" seriously harmed Romania's international relations. The Supreme Court will try Tudor's case. If found guilty, the senator faces one to five years in prison. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May)RSF CONDEMNS 'FIERCE ANTIMEDIA CAMPAIGN.'
In a letter publicly released on ifex.org on 30 May, the media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urged Romanian President Ion Iliescu and Prime Minister Adrian Nastase to end the government's attacks on national and foreign media. "This fierce antimedia campaign is tarnishing Romania's image much more than the news stories themselves," wrote RSF Chairman Robert Menard. On 28 May, the daily newspaper "Jurnalul national" published a document on Supreme Defense Council (CSAT) letterhead, entitled "Plan to Counter Attacks Against Romania," accusing the media of "harming the country's reputation" and paying "too much attention to corruption scandals, rackets concerning people smuggling and international child adoptions." The plan recommended searching out hostile websites and networks to "take action against them with effective technology" and proposed setting up a nationwide system to combat harmful images of the country, involving various government agencies, including intelligence, and establishing a "national center to monitor media behavior" run by the president's national security adviser, Ioan Talpes, formerly head of Romania's foreign intelligence service. The authorities claim that journalists are waging a "news war" against Romania (see "RFE/RL Media Matters," 3 June 2002). (Ifex.org, 30 May)PRESIDENT CRITICIZES MEDIA OUTLETS.
Romanian President Iliescu harshly criticized local media outlets on 4 June, Romanian Television reported. He said he is "amazed" by journalists' "talent to distort" his declarations. He added that he cannot understand the reasons for such behavior, but believes it could be due to the "lack of information, lack of culture, or malevolence." Iliescu made the comments in response to repeated questions related to possible early elections next year. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June)
RESPECTED INDEPENDENT WEEKLY TO LOSE STAFF, CHANGE COURSE.
Many journalists with the weekly newspaper "Obshchaya gazeta" were intending to leave the publication as it was being sold to Leibman-Media, a St. Petersburg publishing house, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 May. "Obshchaya gazeta" was founded by Editor in Chief Yegor Yakovlev on 19 August 1991 as a reaction to the closing of 11 Moscow publications during communist hard-liners' attempt to stage a coup. Yakovlev apparently wants to work on other projects, according to ITAR-TASS. But the newspaper was suspended until August or September, apparently due to the need to conduct an audit and draft a new concept for the publication, reported Glasnost Foundation, an independent news agency, on 4 June. For the past few years, Moscow city authorities have been providing funding for the newspaper, said Glasnost Foundation, describing Yakovlev as having attributed his decision to sell the newspaper to serious financial problems. The real issue, according to the Glasnost Foundation, is a desire by Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov to sacrifice the intellectual opposition publication to prove his loyalty to the Kremlin. Publisher Vyacheslav Leibman told Ekho Moskvy on 30 May that he intends to make the paper more "fashionable" and to strengthen its editorial staff by bringing on journalists from "Kommersant-Daily" and "Versiya." The paper is noted for its critical coverage of the conflict in Chechnya and other sensitive issues. CAFEMBATTLED 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)EUROPEAN ROMA RIGHTS CENTER CONCERNED OVER ANTI-ROMA REPORTING.
The European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) sent a letter on 28 May to Media Minister Mikhail Lesin, distributed on Columbia University's Public Interest Law Network on 30 May, expressing concern at a recent outbreak of anti-Roma reporting in the Russian electronic and print media. A number of Russian media outlets carried items recently making a strong correlation between Roma and crime, i.e. narcotics dealing, and in some instances have appeared to encourage violence against Roma by state authorities, and discriminatory measures by landlords. Among articles cited was a threat in the 27 February issue of "Moskovskii Komsomolets" that ""beggars, fortune-tellers, tramps, swindlers who cheat citizens under the pretext of changing money, and simply excessively tiresome persons of Gypsy ethnicity will be expelled with disgrace from railway stations, markets, metro stations, and uninhabited buildings." Another piece in "Argumenty i fakty" claimed, "In only two-three years, the Gypsy settlement has become richer with red brick castles, while hospital wards have filled up with half-dead bodies in drug comas." The ERRC urged Minister Lesin to act as a moral authority by publicly calling upon journalists in Russia to refrain from anti-Roma speech in their published work. (Errc.org, 28 May)DUMA IS TO DEBATE NEW LAW CURBING EXTREMISM.
On 27 May, State Duma Legislative Committee Chairman Pavel Krashenninikov said that the Duma should pass a bill cracking down on extremism before the current session ends in early July. He told the press that the bill is scheduled to be presented for a first reading on 6 June. "We are behind Europe on this by 50 years," Krashenninikov said, pointing out that West European governments enacted laws against Nazi movements after World War II. "You can't buy 'Mein Kampf' on the streets of Berlin or Paris, but you can on the streets of Moscow," Krashenninikov said. He explained that the bill targets extremists as well as those who disseminate extremist material, including in the media. Some human rights advocates have expressed concern that in its current form, the law could be used against legitimate opposition parties. ("UCSJ Bigotry Monitor," 31 May)UPPER CHAMBER SPEAKER CALLS FOR NEW MASS MEDIA LAW.
Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov, speaking to journalists in Moscow on 30 May, called for an overhaul of the country's law on the mass media, Russian news agencies reported. According to RosBalt, Mironov said that "the current law does not reflect the realities of the times," noting that it was adopted in 1991. He said that the "economic and political situation" in the country has changed since then and that "the law should be neither harsh nor permissive." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May)KGB GENERAL TO OVERSEE STATE-RUN RTR TV NETWORK...
The top spokesman for Russia's powerful Federal Security Service (FSB) has been appointed to a new post overseeing the state-run RTR television network, reported the Washington Post Foreign Service on 6 June. Alexander Zdanovich, a lieutenant general in the FSB, will be charged with overseeing "security" for the television network, a new job that reportedly includes supervising coverage in Russia's 89 regions in advance of next year's parliamentary elections. The appointment was a reminder of how many influential jobs have gone to fellow veterans of the KGB during President Vladimir Putin's presidency. Zdanovich's tenure at the FSB was marked by clashes with the independent press and his defense of the controversial war in Chechnya. Human rights activists and liberals criticized Zdanovich's record of lying to the press and said they feared his new post would lead to more Kremlin control over a broadcast media already dominated by the state. "I think Zdanovich will be a political overseer," Yuri Schekochikhin, a liberal member of Russia's parliament, told the newspaper "Vedomosti." Aleksander Cherkasov, a member of the human rights groups Memorial, said Zdanovich's job at the FSB involved "making sure the media does not mention any uncomfortable or sensitive topics," and that he had often "voiced things which are not true to reality." (Washington Post Foreign Service, 6 June)...AND TAKE CHARGE OF RTR'S REGIONAL RELATIONS.
Zdanovich, a KGB veteran who joined the Soviet secret police in 1972, worked as the head of the FSB Public Relations Center 1995-99 and then as chief of a newly created entity called the Directorate of FSB Programs Promotion. He will be in charge of resolving conflicts between RTR's many regional subdivisions and local authorities, strana.ru reported. RTR's editorial content is controlled by the federal government and the views expressed on its programs frequently clash with the opinions and policies of local officials. Gazeta.ru speculated that the "unusual" appointment was made because "soon there will be a series of regional gubernatorial elections," where the network's subdivisions "might come under pressure from regional heads." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 June)PUBLIC DOES NOT OPPOSE CONSTRAINTS ON MASS MEDIA...
Fifty-seven percent of Russians believe that the mass media need some kind of state censorship, according to a poll carried out in May by monitoring.ru, ntvru.com and Ekho Moskvy reported on 30 May. According to the national poll of 1,354 people, women (61 percent) and the elderly (67 percent) are most likely to support the introduction of some sort of censorship. However, it is notable that 53 percent of respondents in the 25-34 age bracket also endorsed the idea. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 June)...AS YAVLINSKII EXPLAINS WHY.
Commenting on the monitoring.ru findings, Yabloko faction leader Grigorii Yavlinskii told Ekho Moskvy on 30 May that there is no need to introduce censorship, since the state already fully controls the major national television channels ORT and RTR. "Such topics as corruption, Chechnya, the import of nuclear waste, and inflation are simply not discussed on these channels," he said. Yavlinskii added that popular calls for censorship merely reflect the widespread perception that the media show too much violence and pornography. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 June)GOVERNMENT INTRODUCES LICENSING OF AUDIO AND VIDEO PRODUCTION.
Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has signed a decree regulating the licensing of audio and video production duplication rights, abnews.ru reported on 6 June. According to the document, the Media Ministry will be responsible for licensing the production and duplication of multimedia works on any medium, while the Culture Ministry will license multimedia products designed for presentation to mass audiences. The document requires that all video and audio productions should bear the name of the license holder and the license number. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June)TV-6 BACK ON THE AIR.
A team of journalists formerly of Boris Berezovsky's TV-6 channel returned to the air on 1 June on the TVS network, after their new company won a government bid for a new broadcast license, reported rferl.org on 5 June. Editor in Chief Yevgenii Kiselev -- who gained fame as host of the respected "Itogi" news program on Russia's NTV before moving to TV-6 -- told reporters that it is the first time since TV-6 was closed down by a controversial court order in January that his journalistic team -- nearly the same as the old team -- feels optimistic about their prospects. NTV, which Kiselev left after a takeover by the state-controlled Gazprom, was widely regarded as providing Russia's most professional standard of news. TVS will have roughly the same network of regional channels, broadcasting to 31 Russian cities. The TV-6 team's return on the new channel was made possible after Russia's Federal Broadcasting Commission unanimously awarded a license to the Media-Sotsium group, an alliance of journalists and political business heavyweights including the head of the Russian Chamber of Commerce Yevgenii Primakov and Arkadii Volskii, the head of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs. Some media reports suggested that Kiselev's team had a distinct advantage in having Kremlin-approved backers like Primakov, a former prime minister. Some observers suggest that Primakov's presence may serve as guarantee that Kiselev will be forced to temper his traditionally outspoken brand of news reporting. Kiselev says that Primakov will not interfere with the channel's editorial policy. ("Russia: TV-6 Journalists Return To Airwaves On TVS Television," rferl.org, 5 June)NTV'S BROADCASTING LICENSE RENEWED.
The government extended the broadcast license of NTV on 3 June, Western and Russian news agencies reported the next day. "After consultations and despite the fact that NTV's activities have sometimes violated current legislation, we decided to continue NTV's activities for another five years," Media Minister Lesin told journalists. Russian media had speculated that the ministry's delay in renewing the license and several public statements that cast doubt on the outcome were tactics intended to frighten the station and its general director, Boris Jordan. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 June)YAVLINSKII LOSES DEFAMATION LAWSUIT TO BASHKORTOSTAN PRESIDENT.
Moscow's Kuntsevo Municipal Court ruled on 5 June that Yabloko faction leader Grigorii Yavlinskii must publicly apologize to Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov for statements published during the 1999 election campaign in the republic and pay him 20,000 rubles ($645) compensation, RIA-Novosti reported. Specifically, Yavlinskii was ordered to publish a statement in the regional newspaper "Izvestiya Bashkirii" renouncing his assertion that Rakhimov is ruling a "feudal, patronage-based regime" characterized by "lying, stealing, and making concessions to bandits." These assertions were included in a flyer distributed by Yabloko throughout the republic. Yavlinskii's lawyer, Dmitrii Steinberg, called the verdict absurd and said he will file an appeal. He said that the court was trying to compel Yavlinskii to renounce his political convictions and that it is illegal to force him to issue an apology in a newspaper in which his initial statements did not appear. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June)YAKOVLEV, CHERKESOV FEUD HEATS UP.
The RosBalt news agency announced on 30 May that it had filed a libel lawsuit against Aleksandr Afanasiev, spokesman for St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev, and municipally controlled Channel 5 television, RosBalt and "The St. Petersburg Times" reported. The news agency is suing Afanasiev for statements he made earlier in May claiming that the news agency "belongs to and serves the interests of the Northwest Federal District presidential representative [Viktor Cherkesov]" and that it was "intended to discredit city administration officials." Afanasiev went on to claim that RosBalt's reporting had contributed to the death of Vice Governor Valerii Malyshev on 7 May. RosBalt's suit asks for an apology and 1,000 rubles ($32) in court costs. The news agency is headed by St. Petersburg journalist Natalia Chaplina, who is Cherkesov's wife. According to "The St. Petersburg Times," Cherkesov's office declined to comment on the suit and said that Cherkesov is "only to a certain extent" linked to RosBalt. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May)DUMA SAYS CYRILLIC ALPHABET SHOULD BE MANDATORY FOR ALL RUSSIA'S PEOPLES...
The State Duma adopted on 5 June in its first reading a bill making the Cyrillic alphabet obligatory for all ethnic groups in the Russian Federation, RIA-Novosti reported. Deputy Anatolii Nikitin (Communist) of the Nationalities Committee introduced the bill as an amendment to the law on the languages of the peoples of the Russian Federation. The amendment stipulates that all state languages of the federation and its constituent republics should use Cyrillic and that the use of any other graphical basis for alphabets must be affirmed by federal law. The government's representative in the Duma, Andrei Loginov, said he supports the amendment because "if everyone invents their own alphabet, it would bring the state to chaos." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June)...AND MOVES TO STOP FOREIGN SLANG INVASION.
Concerned that an invasion of foreign slang, including an estimated 10,000 English words, is corrupting the Russian language, the State Duma is considering a legislative crackdown, reported "The Christian Science Monitor" on 4 June. A bill drafted by the majority United Russia party aims to corral the roaming Russian language and purge it of sloppy, obscene, and alien elements that have been picked up during the loose years since the Soviet Union's collapse. It would set terms for punishing offenders who work in the media, in schools, and in government offices. Fines and administrative penalties are proposed for the most part, but serious offenders could have their broadcast or publishing licenses revoked. Nationalists, backed by some linguists and language specialists, have been warning for years that the Russian language -- which was carefully supervised and pruned in Soviet times -- is evolving out of control and could be inundated by the wave of foreign borrowings. Experts have even given the phenomenon an appropriately English label: "nyu spik" (newspeak). The English invasion includes "stop" instead of "ostanovityes" and "supermarket" instead of "universam" as well as "ofis" instead of "kabinet" and "Pi-aR" instead of "svyazi s obshchestvenostyu." ("The Christian Science Monitor," 4 June)
TWO TELEVISION EDITORS RESIGN.
Two editors at Slovak state television refused to moderate the regular Sunday political discussion after the management of the editorial office invited ANO party leader Pavol Rusko to participate in the program, TASR reported on 2 June. Three politicians from other parties were initially invited, but on 30 May the management of the editorial office ordered that Rusko be invited "to ensure the balance in the participation of all political parties in the program." The two editors said that such balance should not be sought by "inviting politicians for the first available program whenever they wish." According to Jan Budaj, the chief of the parliamentary culture and media committee, the committee should discuss the situation as soon as possible. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June)
SLIGHTED DOG-LOVER CLOSES MAGAZINE.
Last week in Sogdi province, local authorities banned the journal "Khudjand," a monthly publication of 1,000 copies which was a publication of the Khukumat province, reported the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations on 6 June. The monthly press run was prepared but never made it out of the warehouse. The move was evidently related to material published in the journal about officials who love animals. It was perceived as a reference to K.R. Kosymov, the chair of the city council in Khukumat who is known as a dog lover, and who apparently ordered the action against the publication. Editor in Chief Azam Sidki, a prominent Tajik writer and playwright, was hospitalized with a heart condition after the closure of the magazine. All the copies of the issue were destroyed. CAF
OSCE MEDIA REP ISSUES STUDY.
Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media Freimut Duve issued a country report on Turkmenistan at a news conference on 16 May in Vienna, taking precautions not to reveal the authors of the report so as to avoid retaliation in the OSCE's most closed police state. Not surprisingly, the study documents the state's total monopoly and control over the media, but reveals it is even worse than outsiders thought: autocratic President Saparmurat Niyazov, annoyed at increased advertising space in the media, has even decreed that all state-run newspapers must accept advertising free of charge. All new media are registered by presidential directive. Such control extends to all types of information from state bodies, who are mandated to write their correspondence on letterhead cautioning them against making copies. Except for the president, the government does not even have information or press offices. Both local and foreign journalists have been discouraged through beatings and intimidation and have been forced to leave the country. Court cases involving the media are virtually nonexistent -- they are already so tightly controlled that there are no disputes. One encouraging sign in the bleak media landscape is the report's confirmation of the anecdotal reports of foreign travelers, who say satellite antennas dot the countryside. Relatively cheap at $70-100, they enable individuals to receive from four to 200 television program including Russian channels like NTV and CNN. In 2000, all Internet providers lost their licenses, and only state-controlled Internet is available from one state provider. The few newspapers allowed glorify "Turkmenbashi" or "the Father of All Turkmen" Niyazov and provide glowing Soviet-style coverage of labor achievements and national holidays. The report can be found at http://www.cjes.ru/bulletin/special/008e.php. CAF
TOP TV EXECUTIVE FOUND DEAD.
Prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation into the suicide death of Ukrainian National Television Company deputy chief Andriy Feshchenko on suspicion that he was forced to take his own life, Ukrainian media reported. Feshchenko was found dead on 31 May inside his jeep on a street in Kyiv. Police also found a hunting rifle and a note from Feshchenko in the car, but the content of the note -- which has not been released -- prompted prosecutors to start looking for suspects who might have forced Feshchenko to commit suicide. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 June)ANTI-SEMITIC 'CLASSIC' REPRINTED IN KYIV.
Despite laws in Ukraine that have been used to restrict hate speech, Oriany, a Ukrainian publishing house, continues to churn out anti-Semitic books, reports fsumonitor.org. The latest example is a new edition of Matvey Shestopal's Soviet-era book "Jews in Ukraine" written in the spirit of the then-prevailing climate of state-sponsored anti-Semitism. The new edition of this book, published in 2002 with a print run of 1,000 copies, features a preface from Professor Vasily Yaremenko, who characterizes Ukrainians as "bowing down before the financial and ideological thugs of the Jewish camp. During the 1930s, as a rule, Jewish officials determined which churches to blow up. We now see how an anti-Ukrainian campaign is being strengthened in various media sources that are in the hands of Zionist circles." Shestopal's book accuses Jews of slave trading, encouraging alcoholism among Ukrainians, and trying to raise Judaism above Christianity. He also claims Jews organize "anti-Ukrainian pogroms" and blames them for the anti-Jewish pogroms that took place periodically throughout Ukrainian history. (Fsumonitor.org, 3 June)
BALKAN BOOK-BURNING DENOUNCED.
The Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) issued a statement on 30 May denouncing the burning of books from Balkan countries at the Book Exhibition of Thessaloniki on 28 May, an action apparently carried out by right-wing extremists following incitement by a television host known for his intolerance, according to a complaint received by GHM from Anasynthesi, a political organization of medical students at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. Among the books from Bulgaria, Romania, and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia were Vlach books, which were burnt apparently in a bid to claim Vlach is a language without a written tradition and that all Vlachs are Greeks. The books contained Vlach folklore, literature, and translations of the works of classic authors into Vlach. Also destroyed were books with the word "Macedonia" on their cover and rare books such as the four-language dictionary of Moschopolis (1802), in modern Greek, Vlach, Bulgarian, and Albanian. The GHM called on the public prosecutor to investigate the incident. (Greek Helsinki Monitor, 30 May)