Accessibility links

Media Matters: July 8, 2002


8 July 2002, Volume 2, Number 27
INTERNATIONAL
U.S. AID NEEDED FOR INDEPENDENT MEDIA WORLDWIDE. The global survey, "The Media Missionaries: American Support for International Journalism," conducted by American media analyst Ellen Hume for the Knight Foundation, noted that U.S. support for independent local media around the world is still needed. The report, available at http://www.ellenhume.com, found that new repressions against journalists in developing democracies threatened many gains of the $600 million in global media aid provided by American foundations and the U.S. government during the past decade. Most of the U.S.-sponsored media development aid to date has been underwritten by the U.S. government and by financier George Soros focusing on journalism capacity in former communist countries. Hume observed that in most former Soviet countries this support has not produced a viable independent media sector due to a weak advertising sector and subsequent diversion of "the media's mission from public to private ends." This year's focus for increased U.S. and foreign media aid are Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Middle East. Hume, active in international media training since 1993, was assisted by Joan Mower of the International Broadcasting Board of Governors, Whayne Dillehay of the International Center for Journalists, David Hoffman of Internews, Committee to Protect Journalists staff, Monroe Price of New York University, and others. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation commissioned the Hume report. (IJ Net, 1 July)

IFJ SEEKS APPLICATIONS FOR LORENZO NATALI PRIZE FOR JOURNALISM. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is seeking applications for the Lorenzo Natali Prize for Journalism, awarded to print or online journalists who demonstrate insight and dedication to reporting on human rights and development. The prize, administered by the IFJ, is sponsored by the European Commission. This year it will be presented to deserving journalists in five regions, including Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Each award is worth 10,000 euros ($9,800) and will be presented at a ceremony in Brussels on 15 November. The deadline for entries is 23 September. For more, see http://www.ifj.org/hrights/lorenzo/inpr.html.

AZERBAIJAN
LAW ON TV AND BROADCASTING CRITICIZED. In a 1 July press release, the Baku office of Internews highlighted alarming aspects of the law on television and radio broadcasting that the Azerbaijani parliament passed in the third and final reading last week. Internews pointed out that members of the national regulatory body to oversee broadcasting are to be appointed by the president, and that the law fails to outline the procedures for obtaining a broadcasting license. The electronic weekly "Azerb@ijan: A Weekly Analytical-Information Bulletin" noted in its 27 June issue that the law reduces from two months to seven days the time frame within which a television station must cease broadcasting if a court rules on its closure. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July)

BELARUS
U.S. PROTESTS CONVICTION OF JOURNALISTS. The U.S. State Department issued a statement on 28 June condemning the conviction of Belarusian journalists Mikola Markevich and Pavel Mazheyka for libeling President Alyaksandr Lukashenka during the 2001 presidential elections, Reuters reported the same day. The statement called for the release of the men and the repeal of the laws that subject journalists to criminal charges. "The United States joins the OSCE and human rights groups in deploring the Belarus government's continuing pressure against independent media," the State Department said, adding that, "the sentences...are offensive to the universal principles of free speech and free press." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July)

JOURNALISTS SENTENCED FOR LIBELING LUKASHENKA... The 24 June verdict in Hrodna of Markevich to 2 1/2 years and Mazheyka to two years of "restriction of freedom" means that the journalists will not be placed in a regular prison but will have to live in guarded barracks, work at a factory or on a collective farm, and return to the barracks each day at an appointed time. The sentences are more lenient than the jail terms of the same duration that the prosecutor requested. The men have 10 days to appeal, which both have pledged to do. ("RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 2 July)

...TESTIFY ON FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION... The following are two quotes from Pavel Mazheyka's final statement: "We did not abuse freedom of expression because it is impossible to abuse something that does not exist in Belarus." "Freedom of expression in Belarus is guaranteed by laws. However, the freedom of a man who takes advantage of freedom of expression is not guaranteed by anything -- it is dependent, as I have experienced myself, on the whims of several people," as cited by the Charter-97 website (http://www.charter97.org). ("RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 2 July)

...AND 'LITMUS' NATURE OF OWN TRIAL. Markevich said in his final statement at his trial in Hrodna on 21 June: "The instigators and inspirers of this trial treat it as a sort of litmus test: Will society swallow this absurdity, will it keep silent over the persecution of the natural right of every one of us to criticize the authorities and express our attitudes toward the authorities? Or will it protest and prove that during the 65 years that have passed since [the Stalinist terror upsurge in] 1937 we have been immunized against lawlessness, violence, and treachery? Today, they [instigators and inspirers] still look at us, sounding us out time and again; they look at our reactions to their attempts to bring the country back into the USSR. Today, it is not the year 1937 yet. However, if society turns a blind eye to the danger, if it fails to note that cunning prosecutors are pulling it back into a concentration camp, into the gulag, then,... 'Appetite,' as people say, 'grows in the act of eating.'" Quoted by the Charter-97 website. ("RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 2 July)

ACTIVISTS ASK RUSSIA TO ASSIST IN INVESTIGATION OF MISSING CAMERAMAN. Belarusian activists and Russian lawmakers appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin on 1 July, asking him to order Russian secret services to assist in the investigation of disappearances of a number of well-known people in Belarus, AP reported the same day. Anatol Lyabedzka, leader of the Belarusian opposition United Civic Party, said Putin promised to raise the subject with Belarusian President Lukashenka. Belarusian opposition groups accuse Lukashenka's administration of involvement in the disappearance of television cameraman Dzmitry Zavadski. The groups claim that the missing people were targeted for their [peaceful opposition] to the authorities. Lukashenka has denied these charges. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July)

CZECH REPUBLIC
RFE/RL TO END FUNDING OF CZECH BROADCASTS. Thomas Dine, president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, announced on 2 July that funding for the Czech-language Radio Svobodna Evropa (RSE) will end later this year and by mutual agreement RFE/RL will dissolve its partnership with Czech Radio, which provides a frequency for the broadcast. Dine said RFE/RL's managing body, the Broadcasting Board of Governors in Washington, has decided not to renew financing for RSE in the new fiscal year which begins on 1 October. "It was an extremely difficult decision because Radio Svobodna Evropa has been a most important component of RFE/RL since it was founded more than half a century ago," Dine said, adding, "but we have new priorities and new financial burdens we have to carry in our budget that did not exist before 11 September." RSE is an U.S. nonprofit company, funded by a grant from RFE/RL. It was incorporated in Washington in February 1994. Later, a tripartite arrangement with Czech Radio, RFE/RL, and RSE was codified in an agreement signed in May 1996. In the partnership, Czech Radio provided majority funding and RFE/RL contributed about a third of RSE's annual budget. RSE currently produces more than 40 hours of political and educational programs weekly which are broadcast on Czech Radio 6, a frequency owned by Czech Radio. (RFE/RL, 2 July)

HUNGARY
DISTRICT COURT ORDERS WEEKLY TO RUN CORRECTION. The Pest Central District Court on 1 July ruled that "Magyar Hirlap" falsely interpreted the facts in a 3 June article that claimed that the Happy End company partly funded FIDESZ's election campaign and subsidized a party conference in 1999 to the tune of 10 million forints ($40,000). The court ordered the newspaper to print a correction on its front page within eight days. The court found that FIDESZ paid fees for services rendered and Happy End did not subsidize the party conference, "Nepszabadsag" reported on 2 July. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July)

SOCIALIST PARTY'S MEDIA HOTLINE DIALS UP A BAD START. The Socialist Party's telephone hotline, set up to receive complaints about bias on the part of Hungarian Television and Hungarian Radio, received about 50 calls on 27 June, its first day in operation, although the calls went to a wrong number, "Nepszabadsag" reported. The media apparently gave out an incorrect number in news reports about the hotline. The 50 callers who registered complaints objected to specific television and radio newscasts, and their criticisms will later be forwarded to the National Radio and Television Board's complaints committee. In a statement pegged to the setting up of the hotline, the Federation of Hungarian Electronic Journalists accused the governing party of "resorting to any means to subjugate the public media, thereby endangering the hard-won freedom of the press." The federation was established by the heads of the state-run media. It is headed by Janos Hollos, vice president of Hungarian Radio. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June)

IRAQ
SADDAM'S NOVELS BECOME PART OF SCHOOL CURRICULUM. The three allegorical novels said to have been written by President Saddam Husseyn are to be taught to Iraqi schoolchildren. "BBC On-line" on 23 June quoted the "Tikrit" newspaper as saying that they would be part of the school curriculum. The newspaper reported Education Ministry officials as saying "school debates on the content of the three novels will be encouraged so that pupils can develop creative and critical ways of thinking." The first novel, entitled "Zabibah and the King," tells the story of a leader, assumed to be based on Saddam, who avenges the rape of a beautiful woman, called Zabibah. The alleged rape is dated as being the day U.S.-led forces launched military action against Iraq in 1991. The second novel, "The Fortified Castle," is about an Iraqi military hero who escapes from an Iranian prison to return to study in Baghdad. There he falls in love with a Kurdish women who has left autonomous Kurdish areas of northern Iraq, presumably an allegorical reference to Kurds supposedly wanting to be ruled by Baghdad. When it was published in December 2001 it was hailed by state-run Iraqi Television as being "a great artistic work." The third novel is called "Men and a City" and was only revealed in March when it was also announced a fourth novel is on its way. None of the books carry Saddam's name but instead bear the inscription "A novel by its author." Analysts assume they are written by a team of Iraqi writers after outline ideas are approved by Saddam himself. In April a dramatized version of "Zabibah and the King" was put on at the Iraq National Theater in Baghdad as part of celebrations to mark Saddam's birthday. Plans have also been reported for a 20-part television series for Iraqi Television. ("RFE/RL Iraq Report," 1 July)

KAZAKHSTAN
DAUGHTER OF EDITOR OF OPPOSITION WEEKLY DIES MYSTERIOUSLY. The Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and its Damocles Network have expressed their great concern over the disturbing circumstances surrounding the death of the daughter of Lira Baysetova, editor of the opposition weekly "Respublika." According to RSF, Baysetova's daughter Leyla disappeared on 23 May, the same day her mother received a threatening phone call from a man she had a dispute with two months earlier. The caller reportedly said, "I've warned you, but since you've ignored what I said and you continue...." On 16 June, a man who claimed to be from the Interior Ministry told her that her daughter had been arrested for possession of 1.6 grams of heroin. Later, he said she had been hospitalized because she felt ill. Baysetova was not allowed to see her daughter in the hospital and on 21 June was informed that she had died. The journalist said her daughter's body showed signs of torture. Pressure had increased on Baysetova and her colleagues since she interviewed Geneva prosecutor Bernard Bertossa on 10 May about the Swiss bank accounts of several top Kazakh officials, including President Nursultan Nazarbaev. A week later, the headless body of a dog was found hanging over the entrance of the offices of the "Soldat" opposition newspaper, which was about to publish Baysetova's interview. On 22 May, the day the interview was published, unidentified men attacked the building, beating two employees, stealing computers, and smashing other equipment. The same day, the offices of the weekly "Respublika" in Almaty burned down after Molotov cocktails were thrown at the building. RSF notes that "Respublika" newspaper has regularly been subjected to threats due to its investigations into official corruption. The weekly has also printed many articles about the politically sensitive situation of the Uighur minority, according to the RFE/RL Kazakh Service. Its editor in chief, Baysetova, was attacked twice in 2000 and 2001. (RSF, 2 July)

MACEDONIA
MAJOR MACEDONIAN-LANGUAGE PAPERS MUM ON NEW ALBANIAN-LANGUAGE RULES... On 19 June, when the parliament adopted the last package of laws envisioned in the Ohrid peace agreement of August 2001, two of the three major Macedonian-language newspapers did not cover the story. This is quite amazing, since the laws deal with a number of key issues that helped spark the ethnic Albanian insurgency in early 2001. Perhaps most importantly, the package included new rules regulating the use of the Albanian language in all government institutions as well as in taking the census, which is slated for November 2002. ("RFE/RL Balkan Report," 28 June)

...WHILE ALBANIAN-LANGUAGE DAILY CLAIMS MACEDONIAN POLITICIANS HAVE 'AVERSION' TO ALBANIAN LANGUAGE. Before the constitutional provisions come into effect, the parliament has to adopt its own new rules that regulate the use of the Albanian language in its debates as well as in the written communications of the legislature. Also, the issue of the language used on passports for Macedonian citizens has caused much controversy in the parliament. Both issues are complicated by ethnic Albanian politicians' unwillingness to make more compromises and by what the Albanian-language daily "Fakti" called the ethnic Macedonian politicians' "aversion to the Albanian language." ("RFE/RL Balkan Report," 28 June)

ROMANIA
CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES PASSES AUDIO/VISUAL DRAFT LAW. Deputies adopted on 27 June a draft law on audio/visual regulations that could help Romania close the respective negotiation chapter with the European Union, Mediafax reported. The new regulations would impose restrictions on public television and radio stations regarding advertising, stipulating that advertisements not interrupt programs and not exceed 15 percent of airtime. Another provision requires that the government, and not the National Audio/Visual Council, daily determine the events covered by public television and radio broadcasters. The draft law is the first in Romania to ban the use of subliminal advertising. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June)

ROMTELECOM'S PLANS TO INVEST IN RURAL AREAS DERAILED. RomTelecom Technical Operations Executive Director Loannis Kyriakakis said on 27 June that high costs and the Romanian state, which owns a 65 percent stake in the company and is reluctant to provide funding, are holding back the development of infrastructure in remote areas, Mediafax reported. RomTelecom posted operational revenues of 235.9 million euros in the first four months of the year, a 2.5 percent increase over the same period in 2001, but registered net losses of 17 million euros. The company has invested heavily in revamping its infrastructure over the past two years, but the digitalization of the network is expected to be just 70 percent completed by 2003. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June)

RUSSIA
TELEVISION ON THE BRINK OF DISASTER. Testifying before the Federation Council's Information Policy Commission on 28 June, Russian Public Television (ORT) Director Konstantin Ernst said that "the majority of Russian television stations are on the verge of catastrophe as far as their technical equipment is concerned," RosBalt reported the same day. Ernst said that the country's television broadcasting system "is hopelessly outdated, and piecemeal repairs are proving more expensive to the channels than replacing it with contemporary equipment would be." He stated that most of the world has switched to digital broadcasting and that the analog equipment currently used by most Russian broadcasters is no longer manufactured. The commission's chairman, Dmitrii Mezintsev, said after the hearing that he agrees with Ernst's assessment and that he will try to secure state support for resolving the technical problems of the broadcast sector. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June)

ORT TO START U.S. BROADCASTS 'NEXT MONTH.' In an interview with Interfax on 28 June after taking part in a Federation Council information policy session, ORT Director Ernst said that "as early as at the beginning of next month, ORT will start broadcasting to the U.S." "We also broadcast in Europe, but we will start really covering Europe in autumn this year," he added. Ernst also spoke in favor of improving Russia's media laws so that they would present tougher regulations for the domestic market and thus protect Russian producers. (Interfax, 28 June)

EKHO MOSKVY'S FATE REMAINS UNCERTAIN. Shareholders of Ekho Moskvy elected a new board of directors on 29 June, Interfax reported. Board members include four representatives from Gazprom-Media, four from the radio's editorial staff, and one independent candidate, the director of the Moscow-based Higher Economic School, Yevgenii Yasin. Ekho Moskvy Editor in Chief Aleksei Venediktov retained his post, as did General Director Yurii Fedutinov. Gazprom-Media head Boris Jordan was unanimously elected head of the board, according to lenta.ru. Venediktov told Interfax that he is happy that for the first time "in 14 months, [the radio] has been able to put into practice agreements with Gazprom-Media," which "has waived its control over the board of directors of the radio station and its control over the station's editorial policy." However, he noted that the radio station is still waiting to find out how Gazprom-Media's parent company, Gazprom, will sell its shares in the station. According to Venediktov, this is supposed to happen before the end of the year. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July)

COVERING TRIAL OR OWN CONVICTIONS? Writing in "The Moscow Times" on 2 July, Moscow sociologist Boris Kagarlitskii observed that last week's acquittal of the six officers accused of the murder of young Moscow investigative reporter Dmitrii Kholodov, was "exceptional" since Russian courts "rarely acquit anyone" and that the acquittal means that "the court caved into pressure from the top brass." But on the issue of actual guilt or innocence, Kagarlitskii observes that the press was "split" between liberals and conservatives, with each side taking a priori positions. Unlike the "dozens" of journalists who have died in the past few years, Kholodov's death "acquired political significance," according to Kagarlitskii. This is because the young reporter worked for the mass-circulation daily "Moskovskii Komsomolets." Kholodov's murder made front-page news and the investigation, such as it was, also boosted the paper's sales. Savik Shuster's NTV show, "Svoboda Slova" (Free Speech), has given a lot of airtime to all sides, even featuring a focus group on the celebrated case -- boosting the costs of its ads. Yet, notes Kagarlitskii, reporters were not allowed into the courtroom during the trial and so the public -- along with the press -- could only feed on conjecture. CC

DUMA DEPUTIES APPEAL TO COURT ON BEHALF OF PASKO. A group of Duma deputies have sent a letter to Supreme Court Chairman Vyacheslav Lebedev asking him to reconsider the four-year prison sentence handed down to naval officer, military journalist, and environmental activist Grigorii Pasko that the court recently upheld, Interfax reported on 1 July. Information Policy Committee Chairman Boris Reznik (Russian Regions), who is one of the signatories of the letter, told the news agency that he is convinced Pasko was convicted illegally. On 28 June, a group of activists from Memorial and other human rights organizations held a protest meeting in central St. Petersburg in defense of Pasko, RFE/RL's St. Petersburg correspondent reported. Former political prisoner Vyacheslav Dolinin said Memorial intends to fight not only for Pasko's freedom but also to bring to justice those who are responsible for imprisoning him. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July)

LOCAL NEWSPAPER COMPLAINS ABOUT NEW CITIZENSHIP LAW. The Astrakhan-based newspaper "Komsomolets Kaspiya" wrote recently that the new federal law on citizenship will not rid the oblast of undesirable immigrants, nns.ru reported on 1 July. The new law came into force as of 1 July, and although would-be citizens must demonstrate their knowledge of the Russian language and the country's constitution, the law will not help the oblast free itself of "Tajik gypsies," according to the newspaper. In order for that to happen, the paper said, other laws will need to be strengthened. The newspaper appears twice a week and has a print run of about 45,000. Last year, Astrakhan Oblast Governor Anatolii Guzhvin appealed to federal authorities for "special efforts to regulate immigration," following the appearance around the oblast of a number of shantytowns populated by Tajik migrants. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July)

RSF PROTESTS 'PRESSURE' ON INDEPENDENT PAPER IN NALCHIK. On 28 June, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) protested "extensive official pressure and obstruction" against the editorial staff of the independent weekly "Adige Heku," its distribution network, and its editor in chief and founder, Valerii Hataschukov. After "Adige Heku" was launched in early 2001 in Nalchik, the capital of the Russian republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, it has battled constant official efforts to block its printing and distribution, reports RSF. Since it is not part of the state-controlled distribution system, the paper is often confiscated from the independent street vendors who sell it. In January 2002, Kabardino-Balkaria President Valerii Kokov stood for re-election despite a two-term limit stipulated in the Russian Constitution. Hataschukov was detained several times after his paper ran articles about opposition candidates and labeled Kokov's candidacy as illegal. Police repeatedly asked him who was funding the paper. The paper has not been able to publish since then, due to frequent threats against its staff. In a related incident, Nur Dolay, a reporter for the weekly "Courrier International," was attacked on 29 May. She was in Nalchik writing an article about a government opponent and friend of Hataschukov. Two armed men broke into Hataschukov's apartment, where Dolay was staying, gagged and bound her, and then searched for cassettes of her reporting. Dolay was released the next morning by someone who had an appointment with her. (RSF, 28 July)

'ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE' FOR LOCAL JOURNALISTS TO MEET VOLGA FEDERAL DISTRICT ENVOY AND HIS APPARAT. The Nizhnii Novgorod-based telecommunications company Volga recently conducted an interactive survey of its viewers, asking them, "How would you evaluate the activities of Sergei Kirienko as presidential envoy?" Only 7.6 percent of respondents viewed his work positively, 46.7 percent viewed it negatively, and the remaining 45.7 percent believed they hadn't really seen his work, although Kirienko has now been the Volga Federal District presidential envoy for two years. Since coming to Nizhnii Novgorod, Kirienko has been a visible figure on the city's political scene. He speaks at, or is at least present at, nearly all significant events in the region. But his omnipresence gives a false impression of accessibility: It is almost impossible for local journalists to meet with him, for example, according to Oleg Rodin of RFE/RL's Russian Service, who is based in Nizhnii Novgorod.. The envoy's press center is happy to distribute information via electronic mail or through its website, www.kirienko.ru, but all requests to interview Kirienko or his aides are turned down. Likewise, local officials in the oblast administration, deputies in the oblast's legislature, and high-ranking bureaucrats in law-enforcement agencies also find the envoy's office essentially off-limits. Former local leaders such as Anatolii Kozeradskii, a former chairman of the oblast legislature who now represents the oblast in the Federation Council; Sergei Obozov, a former chairman of the oblast government; Valerii Yevlampiev, director of the oblast's department for external relations for many years; and other well-known personalities from the region's nomenklatura, who now work in the envoy's apparatus, have effectively dropped out of sight. ("RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 27 June)

HOOKED ON THE INTERNET. "For my generation -- 30-year-olds -- the Internet has a global influence. The hero of my film told us about how after he got a computer at the age of 25, he could no longer lead a normal life. He said: 'I cannot go to the toilet. I cannot go out to my parent's house. I sit here all the time and my need for the Internet grows all the stronger, so that I economize on bread so that I can buy some new hardware for my computer.' He was a completely regular fellow...when we filmed him, we got the sense that he was in principle not fully in control of himself or his own emotions. He simply wasn't living. The second situation that we discovered occurred in a real family. I had known them a long time, and all was well: a 25-year-old husband and wife around the same age, a child about 1 year old. The situation was absolutely normal and friendly. But then at one point the husband said: 'I have found a virtual wife. Forgive me, dear, but I need to go to her.' He left them, went somewhere to either Kyiv or Moscow. Then he nevertheless returned, saying that no, it was simply a mistake, and for humane reasons she took him back. But after a month, he said, 'I have found still another virtual wife, but this time everything will be perfect' and left again. The problem is that this person was absolutely normal. I knew him for a long time, but he started to feel all of a sudden like some kind of Don Juan. As I began to dig further, I found that this was not the only case, but this is a fairly normal occurrence." These are excerpts from a documentary film, directed by Nadezhda Bolshakova, on Internet addiction. She was interviewed by RFE/RL's St. Petersburg correspondent on the "New Russian Voice" on 11 June 2002. ("RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 27 June)

'SKY-BLUE PORK FAT.' Vladimir Sorokin, a leading Russian avant-garde writer, has "lambasted" the pro-Kremlin youth group Moving Together, the UPI reported on 29 June. The group has filed a lawsuit charging the author and his publishing house, Ad Marginem, with the criminal offense of distributing pornography, Sorokin told the daily "Kommersant," but that Russian prosecutors had yet to decide whether they would open a criminal investigation against him. The Moving Together youth group staged a rally on 28 June against Sorokin. They first gathered in front of Russia's Culture Ministry with an unsuccessful demand for a meeting with the Russian Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi. (Although he is not a fan of Sorokin's works, Shvydkoi has said his own views do not mean that the author "must be ostracized and expulsed from literature.") Later that day, Moving Together went on to the Bolshoi Theater to protest the writer's recent deal with the theater to write an opera libretto for it. According to the UPI, Sorokin told "Kommersant" that Moving Together was "attempting to turn Russian culture into a castrated cat." Sorokin's latest novel, a futuristic fantasy called "Sky-Blue Pork Fat," contains scenes of intimate ties between former Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and his successor Nikita Khrushchev. The word "sky-blue" in Russian also means homosexual. If convicted, Sorokin could face a fine or up to two years in prison. CC

COPYRIGHT PIRACY IS 'RAMPANT.' "Copyright piracy in Russia is rampant, socially acceptable and often run by highly organized crime syndicates," Reuters reported on 30 June. Russia is one of 15 countries on the United States' "2002 Priority Watch List." According to a U.S. pressure group, the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA), last year total trade losses in Russia resulting from copyright piracy were about $849 million, up from the previous year's total of $637 million, according to Reuters. The lack of enforceable laws to halt copyright piracy is also a major obstacle to Russia's bid for World Trade Organization (WTO) membership, and the IIPA says if Russia is to join the WTO by 2003 it will need to launch a major effort to tighten its antipiracy laws and increase legal penalties. The IIPA 2002 report says that piracy in Russia accounts for 64 percent of the music industry, 80 percent of films, 83 percent of business software, and 90 percent of entertainment software. Pirated videos cost about one-third of the price of a newly released original. The IIPA reports that Russia's capacity for optical-media piracy -- music CDs, video games, video CDs, and DVDs -- increased last year, partly because production plants left Ukraine after it cracked down on the industry due to U.S. pressure. Some 17 optical-media plants are currently active in Russia, with a minimum annual production of 150 million units, according to Reuters. CC

TAJIKISTAN
HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS HAIL DROPPING OF CHARGES AGAINST JOURNALIST. In a letter to President Imomali Rakhmonov, the International Helsinki Federation has greeted the Tajik prosecutor-general's decision to drop the criminal case against Dododjon Atovulloev, editor of the opposition newspaper "Charoghi ruz," Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 1 July. The agency quoted Tajik Deputy Foreign Minister Salohiddin Nasriddinov as saying that the Tajik government has assured Freimut Duve, the OSCE representative on freedom of the media, that Atovulloev may return to Dushanbe and resume publication of his paper. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 July)

YUGOSLAVIA
GOVERNMENT WITHDRAWS BROADCAST BILL. On 1 July, the Serbian government withdrew draft broadcasting legislation scheduled for parliamentary consideration the next day. The government claimed that the reason it was withdrawing the bill was due to its many amendments, adding that after it had reviewed the amendments it would table the draft for urgent adoption. The "broadcasting bill, prepared by independent experts and revised by the government," claims ANEM, "was the first legislation to make a clean break with the totalitarian past...[towards] democratic standards in the socially vital sector of electronic media." Furthermore, ANEM states, the government has misinformed the public by claiming that as many as a thousand amendments to the broadcast bill have been put forward, whereas the actual total is 180. (ANEM, 1 July)

DO AUTHORITIES 'VICTIMIZE' DAILY? Borivoj Pajovic, legal representative for the Belgrade daily "Blic," claimed on 24 June that his paper had become the victim of the current authorities due to its independent and unbiased reporting. In addition, Pajovic said, "Blic" currently faces some 50 lawsuits brought by members of the former Yugoslav regime. ("ANEM Media Update," 22-28 June)

NOVI SAD TO FUND CERTAIN MEDIA OUTLETS. The Novi Sad municipal government announced on 25 June that it will provide a total of 36.5 million dinars ($546,000) of funding to certain media, in Novi Sad and Belgrade. Some 22 million of this total is slated for Novi Sad television Apollo. ("ANEM Media Update," 22-28 June)

WAR VETERANS ASSOCIATION CALLS COSIC COMPENSATION OFFER 'UNETHICAL.' On 28 June, Zoran Kosic, a representative of the association of war veterans, branded as "unethical" former Yugoslav President Dobrica Cosic's request that the monetary compensation he has demanded in his lawsuit against the Belgrade daily "Danas" be donated to the association. ("ANEM Media Update," 22-28 June)

REGIONAL
CPJ: JOURNALISTS IN SERBIA AND BOSNIA 'VULNERABLE TO VIOLENT ATTACK.' According to a report released on 27 June by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), members of the media in Serbia and Bosnia remain vulnerable to violent attack despite the advent of democratic reforms following the October 2001 ouster of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. The report, titled "Progress Denied," was published in the Summer 2002 edition of the CPJ's magazine, "Dangerous Assignments," and is available at http://www.cpj.org/Briefings/2002/Bosnia_Serbia_june02/BosniaSerbia_june02.html.

END NOTE
THE MURKY BUSINESS OF ARMENIAN MEDIA FUNDING

By Ruzanna Khachatrian

Aram Abrahamian needs an extra $3,500 each month to be a happy man. That amount of money, says the editor of "Aravot" (Morning), would spare one of Armenia's leading newspapers the headache of scrambling for funds to pay for its printing and other production costs. That is quite a sum for the newspaper, whose net monthly revenues from sales and advertising do not exceed $10,000. Where does Abrahamian hope to get such money? "From political, official, and business circles. Unfortunately, things are now not so good that I can get the entire sum from one source each month and live comfortably. I have to beg for the money," Abrahamian said.

Abrahamian's woes are typical for the vast majority of Armenian newspapers, which are far from being self-sufficient, let alone profitable. Their main preoccupation is how to close budget gaps arising from their poor commercial performance. Recourse to so-called "sponsors," their editors admit, is the most common way of staying afloat. But that tactic, as one Western media-watchdog group put it recently, leaves Armenia's print media "at the mercy of government officials and wealthy sponsors." No wonder that most publications have little incentive to improve the quality of their reporting, which still leaves much to be desired after 12 years of overall press freedom. Nor do they see an urgent need to become truly commercial by attracting more readers and advertisers. Most Armenian newspapers have extremely low circulations.

One newspaper claims to have emerged from this quagmire, however. The "Iravunk" (Right) biweekly, which is close to a small opposition party, prints the highest number of copies per issue: 15,000. It tends to present news from a leftist and somewhat nationalist perspective. Hovannes Galajian is its editor in chief. "Our main source of revenues is sales. That is followed by advertising. In normal economic conditions, it should be the other way around," Galajian said.

Such claims of self-sufficiency are dismissed as "fairy tales" by Gagik Mkrtchian, the editor of the "Hayots Ashkhar" (Armenian World) daily, a staunch advocate of Armenian President Robert Kocharian. "All newspapers have sponsors. One paper could cover 30 percent of its costs, another one 50 percent. But unfortunately, no media outlet can survive without sponsors," Mkrtchian said. Mkrtchian did not deny that his newspaper is funded by Defense Minister Serge Sarkisian, Kocharian's most powerful associate. And "Hayots Ashkhar" is not the only publication with which Sarkisian has had links.

Abrahamian stunned many in 1999 when he revealed that "Aravot" had been funded by the minister for the previous two years. He said the payments began in 1997 when Sarkisian was serving as national security minister in the administration of then-President Levon Ter-Petrossian, whom "Aravot" had always supported. The liberal daily has never forgiven Kocharian and his allies for forcing Ter-Petrossian to step down in February 1998, hence its hard-hitting coverage of the current regime. Abrahamian said that if the powerful defense chief offers to resume funding, he will "think" before accepting or rejecting the money. "Taking money for publishing a newspaper is the same as taking a stone for hewing. I don't see anything bad in it," Abrahamian said.

His comments are echoed by Nikol Pashinian, the young editor of "Haykakan Zhamanak" (Armenian Time), another leading pro-opposition daily. One of the country's best-selling periodicals, it prints only 3,500 copies a day to keep costs down. Pashinian said that 20 percent of the newspaper's costs are covered by "business circles," which he refuses to name. He says his sponsors do not decide on the content of the newspaper because they only want to "promote liberal values" in Armenia.

Armenia boasts seven national dailies, two biweeklies, and two weeklies, which among them offer a broad range of opinion. All but one are privately owned, belonging to their editors, staff, or political parties. At least six of them support Kocharian, despite occasionally criticizing some government policies. Their average print run is between 4,000 and 5,000, which is the main reason why they are unattractive to major advertisers. The latter prefer to deal with regional and national television stations that have far bigger audiences and are more profitable. Businesspeople who give cash to Armenian newspapers seem to be doing so for political considerations. Those who have close government connections are simply told by their political patrons to help the pro-presidential media.

Things are less certain in the case of pro-opposition media funding. The money appears to come mainly from opposition politicians or their cronies involved in business. This is especially true of "Aravot" and "Haykakan Zhamanak." The editors of these newspapers complain that many entrepreneurs are wary of placing advertisements in anti-Kocharian publications for fear of government retribution. "They are sponsoring us because we are saying what they can't say [openly]. In Armenia, the authorities can ruin any business within half an hour," Pashinian said. Gurgen Arsenian of the Arsoil petrol company and Khachatur Sukiasian, the owner of the SIL group, are thought to be among those businessmen. Both men built their fortunes under the former regime and are now independent members of the Armenian parliament. They admit "helping" some media, but deny having any political agendas, except the promotion of "liberal ideas." Sukiasian, who is one of Armenia's wealthiest persons, claims that publications with different political orientations frequently turn to him for assistance and that he never refuses them.

But such assistance comes at a cost. According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the severe financial constraints are limiting the influence and independence of the Armenian media. "Dire economic conditions proved to be the greatest obstacle for the independent media in Armenia," the CPJ said in its annual report on press freedom in Armenia, released in March. As a result, the report concluded, Armenian journalists "censored themselves and slanted their reporting in exchange for the financial support of wealthy patrons."

The closure in April of the main independent A1+ television station only exacerbates the dire media situation in Armenia. The existence of A1+ was a rare example of an Armenian media outlet achieving self-sufficiency through objective and unbiased reporting. The station, which was often critical of the authorities, lost its broadcast frequency to an entertainment company in a move that was criticized in the opposition media for being politically motivated. Kocharian has denied any interference in the frequency bidding.

Ruzanna Khachatrian is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Yerevan.

XS
SM
MD
LG