Accessibility links

Media Matters: July 12, 2002


12 July 2002, Volume 2, Number 28

NOTE TO READERS:
The next issue of "RFE/RL Media Matters" will appear on 26 July.
INTERNATIONAL
IFJ: POST-11 SEPTEMBER FREE-EXPRESSION FEARS CONFIRMED. Fears that the 11 September attacks on the United States and the subsequent "war on terrorism" would create a crisis for journalism and civil liberties have been confirmed, concludes a new report by the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). In October, an IFJ report based on a survey of its member organizations revealed fears of such an encroachment. Some eight months later, these fears have been confirmed, IFJ says in its report update. The "war on terrorism" has "created a dangerous situation in which journalists have become victims as well as key actors in reporting events," states IFJ. "Inevitably, it has created a pervasive atmosphere of paranoia in which the spirit of press freedom and pluralism is fragile and vulnerable." In addition to the deaths of nine journalists in Afghanistan, the report documents a range of negative effects on media around the world. In Ukraine, parliament has adopted an antiterrorism law with provisions that "amount to a severe restriction on freedom of expression." In May, the European Parliament agreed to allow European Union member states to pass laws giving authorities regular access to people's telephone and Internet communications, a change which IFJ says would have been "unthinkable" before 11 September. (Report available at http://www.ifj.org/ifjfrontpage.html)

GLOBALIZATION SEEN AS CHALLENGE FOR WORLD SUMMIT ON INFORMATION SOCIETY. On 5 July, the IFJ, which represents over 500,000 journalists in over 100 countries, set out its action plan for the UN World Summit on Information Society slated for Geneva in 2003 and Tunis in 2005, and called for globalization to respect the social and professional rights of journalists. The action plan recalls essential principles for media: respect for the journalist's right to report and the right of citizens to receive quality information, the protection of journalists and media workers, the promotion of pluralism, and actions to counter concentration of media by a few powerful corporations. In a world of growing globalization and digitalization, media professionals are concerned by issues including protection of authors' rights, defense of public service broadcasting, secure working conditions and solidarity with developing countries. (International Federation of Journalists, 8 July)

AFGHANISTAN
KABUL BROADCASTING CHIEF REFUSES TO GO. Abdul Hafiz Mansur, the head of Kabul radio and television, rejected an order to vacate his office from Information and Culture Minister Rahim Makhdum, according to 2 July newspaper reports. Mansur is being dismissed because he imposed a ban on female singing on radio and television. "I didn't ban this," he said, according to "The Daily Telegraph," "but Islam bans this. This is a matter for the country's Supreme Court. We are an Islamic society." There also is speculation that Mansur played a major part in filing a blasphemy complaint against former Women's Affairs Minister Sima Samar. ("RFE/RL Iran Report," 8 July)

ARMENIA
'YERKIR' NEWSPAPER JOINS THE WEB. An electronic version of "Yerkir," the official weekly of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation-Dashnaktsutyun party, was launched on 1 July (http://www.yerkir.am). (Yerevan Press Club Newsletter, 5 July)

'ECOLOGICAL JOURNAL OF ARMENIA' LAUNCHED. The first issue of "Ecological Journal of Armenia" has been published by the Tatev Science and Education Complex. (Yerevan Press Club Newsletter, 5 July)

AZERBAIJAN
NEW LEGAL CASE AGAINST 'MONITOR' MAGAZINE. Independent publication of the magazine "Monitor" began in May. Due to official harassment, the magazine is now published only in samizdat form but reportedly remains popular. On 9 July, "Monitor" was to stand trial in a Baku courtroom in a suit brought by the Ministry of Defense. The ministry is requesting that the magazine pay a fine of 300 million manats and that a criminal case be brought against Eynulla Fatullayev, the journalist who wrote an article in the magazine describing his experiences in the Azerbaijani army. (Institute of Peace and Democracy, 4 July)

BELARUS
OPPOSITION CALLS FOR PROBE INTO CAMERAMAN'S DISAPPEARANCE... Belarusian opposition activists rallied in front of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's office in Minsk on 5 July, demanding an international investigation into the disappearance of television cameraman Dzmitry Zavadski two years ago, AP reported the same day. About 100 people staged a peaceful protest on Minsk's October Square to mark the 7 July anniversary of Zavadski's disappearance. In a statement distributed at the rally, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists also called on Belarusian authorities to agree to an international inquiry into the case. In March, a Belarusian court sentenced a former policeman to life in prison for several crimes, including the kidnapping of Zavadski. Zavadski's family, however, doubts the man convicted was actually the perpetrator. An investigator who worked on the Zavadski case fled Belarus last year and sought political asylum in the United States. He said the Belarusian government created a special agency charged with killing the regime's critics. President Lukashenka, however, has repeatedly denied these claims. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July)

...AS DOES OSCE'S DUVE. July seventh marked the second anniversary of Zavadski's disappearance at Minsk airport. The OSCE representative on freedom of the media, Freimut Duve, said he sympathizes with the family and friends of Zavadski and once again expressed his dismay that, after two years, many questions about the missing journalist have gone unanswered. Although earlier this year a Minsk District Court convicted two former agents of a Ministry of Interior special forces unit of kidnapping Zavadski, he has not been found and there are few credible details about the abduction. The OSCE representative called on Belarusian authorities to permit an independent inquiry to conclusively identify all responsible parties involved in Zavadski's disappearance. (OSCE Office on Freedom of the Media press release, 8 July)

IRAN
JOURNALIST'S 11-YEAR SENTENCE UPHELD ON APPEAL... Paris-based Reporters without Borders (RSF) on 9 July expressed its outrage over the confirmation of an 11-year jail sentence against 71-year-old journalist Siamak Pourzand for alleged subversion. The Iranian media reported on 7 July that the Tehran Appeals Court had confirmed the 11-year jail sentence Pourzand received on 3 May for "spying and undermining state security" and "having links with monarchists and counter-revolutionaries." Pourzand was detained by security police on 29 November and held for four months without access to a lawyer or doctor; he is reportedly in poor health. Pourzand, who headed Tehran's artistic and cultural center and was also a cultural commentator for several reformist newspapers that have since been shut down, was frequently interviewed by foreign radio stations. (Reporters without Borders press release, 9 July)

...AS 'PRESS' COURT CONTINUES. According to Reporters without Borders, many editors have been summoned by Court 1410, known as the "press court" in the past two months, including the editors of the papers "Mardomsalari," "Nowroz," "Aftab-e-Yazad," and "Toseh." Other journalists have been summoned by the Adareh Amaken section of the Tehran police force, which usually handles "social" offenses and is considered close to the intelligence services: Alireza Farahmand, a journalist with "Neshat" and "Tous" (both suspended); Iraj Jamshidi, editor in chief of "Eghtesad-e-Asia"; Esmail Jamshidi, managing editor of the magazine "Gardon." Nushabe Amiri and Hoshang Asadi, who both work for the film magazine "Gozarech-e-Film," have each been subjected to questioning about their supposed ties with what the regime terms "the subversive cultural front," to which Pourzand allegedly belonged. (Reporters without Borders, 9 July)

KAZAKHSTAN
PRESIDENT INSISTS MEDIA NOT SUBJECT TO RESTRICTIONS... President Nursultan Nazarbaev told a press conference in Astana on 5 July that 90 percent of the country's media is privately owned and that it is free to criticize authorities without risk of reprisal, Interfax reported. He added that such criticism "is normal," Reuters reported. Nazarbaev denied that any foreign journalists are restricted in their activities. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July)

...AS OPPOSITION EDITOR SENTENCED. On 4 July, an Almaty district court sentenced Irina Petrushova, editor of the opposition newspaper "Respublika-delovoe obozrenie," to 18 months' imprisonment on charges of illegal business activities, Interfax reported. Petrushova intends to appeal the sentence, though the court ruled that she qualifies for an amnesty and will therefore not be jailed. The premises of "Respublika-delovoe obozrenie" were firebombed in May. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July)

JOURNALIST ARRESTED IN ALMATY... Sergei Duvanov, a well-known independent journalist, was arrested by Kazakhstan secret police on 10 July and imprisoned for "insulting the honor and dignity of the president of Kazakhstan." His article, called "Silence of the Lambs" (http://www.kub.kz/portal/article.php?sid=1140), attempted to chronicle the Nazarbaev regime's attempts to block reporting about investigations by Swiss and American authorities into alleged bribery, money laundering, and corruption by the dictator, his family members, and close associates. The case has been widely reported around the world but suppressed in Kazakhstan, where even the reprinting of the facts has landed other journalists in jail or worse. Duvanov's computer, notes, and other research materials were also confiscated by government agents. Sources in the Kazakhstan state security apparatus have reportedly confirmed that Duvanov's arrest is in retaliation for this article as well as for his attempts to establish a group to monitor broadcasts of state-supported media, which are largely under the control of President Nazarbaev's daughter, Dariga Nazarbaeva. (Voice of Democracy, 10 July)

...AS ANOTHER SENTENCED IN PAVLODAR. A journalist who works for the independent Irbis TV Company, Kanat Tusupbekov, received a two-year sentence on 18 June in connection with his own beating, according to the Pavlodar branch of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights. The journalist had previously been subjected to severe beatings by local police which had led to his hospitalization. The journalist filed a complaint with the city prosecutor's office demanding prosecution, however, the prosecutor's office refused to file criminal charges against his attackers. Instead, criminal proceedings were brought against the journalist on the basis of complaint filed by the three men that beat him up in the restaurant. Tusupbekov told his colleagues that the police chiefs demanded that he withdraw his complaint. When the journalist refused, the case was submitted to a court. On 18 June, the Pavlodar city court found Tusupbekov guilty of beating up three men. He was sentenced to two years in jail. For more, e-mail: omaz@omaz.almaty.kz

KYRGYZSTAN
DJALALABAD GOVERNOR SUPPORTS FUNDING LOCAL TV. The newly appointed governor of the southern Djalalabad Province, Jusupbek Sharipov, on 6 July signed a special decree to provide the regional TV station additional 400,000 soms (about $9,000). According to the press service for regional administration, the annual budget of the station is about 1.5 million soms and 45 people are in its staff. ("RFE/RL Kyrgyz News," 6 July)

U.S. REPORTEDLY TO HELP ESTABLISH INDEPENDENT PUBLISHING HOUSE. The National Kabar Agency reported from Bishkek on 4 July that the U.S. State Department plans to help Kyrgyz journalists to build an independent publishing house in Bishkek. At present, all publishing houses are state-controlled, and occasionally nongovernment papers encounter problems using their facilities. ("RFE/RL Kyrgyz News," 7 July)

LATVIA
ETHNICALLY 'HOT' TV AD BARRED. Latvian State Television (LTV) refused to broadcast on 21 June a commercial of the Freedom Party that LTV General Director Uldis Grava claimed would kindle ethnic hatred, LETA reported the next day. The commercial shows a black man wearing a Latvian military uniform standing at the Freedom Monument with a caption that reads: "Today, Latvia's Defender, Tomorrow, Your Son-In-Law?" ("RFE/RL Baltic States Report," 9 July)

MACEDONIA
GOVERNMENT HALVES THE PRICE OF ITS NEWSPAPER. On 3 July, the World Association of Newspapers (WAN) and the World Editors Forum (WEF) expressed serious concern over a 50 percent reduction in the cover price of the government-owned "Vecer" newspaper in the run-up to elections. According to reports, the publishing house Nova Makedonija, which is 70 percent state-owned, has reduced the cover price of the daily "Vecer" from 10 denars (approximately $0.16) to 5 denars. While accepting that price reductions may form a valid part of publishing strategy, WAN and WEF expressed their concern that Nova Makedonija, one of the country's biggest loss-making companies, may in effect be "dumping" "Vecer" at the taxpayers' expense simply to increase pro-government coverage in the run-up to elections. (World Association of Newspapers, 4 July)

MOLDOVA
COUNCIL OF EUROPE OFFICIALS URGE AUTHORITIES TO TRANSFORM STATE BROADCASTER... On 5 July, the chairman of the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers called on President Vladimir Voronin to transform the state company TeleRadio Moldova into an independent public broadcaster. (Moldova Media News, 8 July)

...AND NEW DIRECTOR OF TV MOLDOVA DISCUSSES REFORM. On 28 June, Alexandru Grosu, the new director of TV Moldova, said he favors the transformation of the state broadcaster into a public company, but he did not provide a time frame. However, in a BBC interview, Grosu noted that the legal framework needed for this reform should not be adopted "overnight." Grosu was named director of TV Moldova after the previous director resigned in May. (Moldova Media News, 8 July).

TURKEY TO SPONSOR DEVELOPMENT OF BROADCASTS IN GAGAUZ REGION. On 30 June, the Turkish International Cooperation Agency provided a $100,000 grant to expand broadcasting in the Gagauz autonomous region. The grant will provide for the construction of radio relay lines in the region to increase of radio broadcasts in the Gagauz language in southern Moldova. At a later point, Turkish TV programs may be provided to Gagauz TV. Currently, several Turkish NGOs sponsor three newspapers and two children's magazines, Moldpres reported. (Moldova Media News, 8 July)

PARLIAMENT TO SANCTION JOURNALISTS FOR IMPRECISE COVERAGE. The Moldovan parliament on 21 June adopted a set of regulations that will make it easier to suspend the accreditation of parliamentary reporters. As of 21 June, parliamentarians who chair meetings will have the right to publicly reprimand journalists for publishing "inexact information about parliament activities." Failure to publish a retraction in the form suggested by the parliamentarian can lead to suspension of the reporter's accreditation to cover parliament, BASA Press reported. (Moldova Media News, 8 July)

RUSSIA
LOCAL JOURNALISTS BARRED FROM PUTIN VISIT TO FLOOD ZONE. Stavropol Krai journalists were not allowed to meet with President Vladimir Putin during his visit to the flood disaster area in southern Russia. Before he arrived in the village of Barsukovskaya, his guards turned away all local media journalists and photographers who, they said, had not been accredited with the president. Reportedly, only a select group of Moscow journalists was accredited. The "Stavropolskaya pravda" paper noted that Moscow journalists "tend to distort facts about the tragedy shamelessly, and the world will see our tragedy through their eyes." The paper also noted that at his recent meeting with the media, Putin called for stepping up the role of regional media and denounced the monopoly of central media. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Report, 1-7 July)

STRANA.RU MAKES IT OFFICIAL... Gleb Pavlovskii, head of the Effective Policy Foundation and an influential political consultant, has sold his website strana.ru and its affiliated projects -- including vesti.ru, smi.ru, ukraina.ru, inopress.ru, and kavkaz.strana.ru -- to state broadcasting company VGTRK, "Vremya novostei" and other Russian media reported on 4 July. Although several sources said the sale was motivated by the poor financial condition of Pavlovskii's projects, "Kommersant-Daily" and polit.ru speculated that the real reason might be Pavlovskii's loss of influence within the Kremlin. According to "Kommersant-Daily," Pavlovskii's colleagues in the Internet business are convinced that the so-called St. Petersburg group in the Kremlin, of which Pavlovskii is not a member, demanded an audit and arranged a hold on all expenditures on his projects. Staff of strana.ru confirmed that the foundation's media projects have been financially strapped and that they have not received their wages for three months. RFE/RL's Russian Service commented on 5 July that the merger has a certain logic. Under General Director Oleg Dobrodeev, VGTRK -- which runs RTR television, Radio Mayak, and other broadcast outlets -- is now making major inroads into the Russian Internet. It has been estimated that strana.ru and its related projects represent as much as 25 percent of the news-related Russian Internet. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July)

...AS STATE RUSSIAN TELEVISION GOES GLOBAL. VGTRK announced that two of its channels -- RTR and Kultura -- are available free of charge as of 1 July to audiences in Western Europe and the Middle East via the new Ekspress-3A telecommunications satellite, Russian news agencies reported on 2 July. The Ekspress-3A was launched last month. According to a VGTRK statement, the goal of the "RTR-Planet" project is to make Russian state television accessible to the widest possible Russian-speaking audience. In September or October, the channels will also be available via satellite in the Western hemisphere, including the United States and Canada. The project is similar to one launched in the 1980s by Soviet state television called "Moscow-Global." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July)

LIBERAL MEDIA BILL INTRODUCED. On 4 July, former Russian Press Minister Mikhail Fedorov, a law professor, introduced a new media bill on behalf of a group of State Duma members. The new liberal bill would institutionalize the concept of ownership of media outlets and redefine media. It would also set rules for media-market relations, protect the rights of advertisers, and ensure transparence of media's financial activities, according to the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations. The bill introduces the term "network media" (for the Internet) and sets rules for their registration. The authors of the bill believe that it should be up to the owners to decide whether to register the site as a media outlet with all relevant rights and duties. The functions and the status of state- and municipally run media are also defined. The bill's supporters will face tough pro-Kremlin opposition in parliament, the Center said, especially because the Press Ministry is drafting its own bill that will likely cater to conservatives and supporters of the information security doctrine. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Report, 1-7 July)

BELGOROD JOURNALIST ACQUITTED OF CRIMINAL CHARGES. On 3 July, the Russian Supreme Court partly acquitted Belgorod "Pravda" columnist Olga Kitova of three of the five charges against her. The accusations which served as the basis for the criminal case against her were thrown out of court. Kitova was the sole journalist and member of the oblast legislature who challenged the activities of Governor Yevgenii Savchenko, such as granting tax breaks to friendly businesses. In one of her articles, Kitova described the fate of five students falsely accused of raping another student; the fate of these students remains unclear. As a result, Kitova was accused of slander and beating police officers as they tried to arrest her. The oblast court handed out a 2 1/2 year suspended sentence that was reduced to 25 months by the Supreme Court. Well-known Russian defense lawyer Genrikh Reznik took up her case and said he will press for outright acquittal. For more on the Kitova case, see website and film of ARD-German Television and Radio Network-Correspondent Udo Lielischkies http://www.olgakitova.de. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Report, 1-7 July)

WRITER, NATIONAL BOLSHEVIK PARTY LEADERS GO ON TRIAL. Court proceedings against National Bolshevik Party leader and writer Eduard Savenko, commonly known by his literary pseudonym "Limonov," and five of his colleagues were held on 8 and 9 July in Saratov, Russian news agencies reported. Limonov and his colleagues are accused of acquiring weapons with the goal of preparing terrorist acts and creating illegal armed formations. Limonov and one of his colleagues, Sergei Aksenov, editor of the party's newspaper, are also charged with calling for a change in Russia's constitutional order, "Vremya novostei" reported on 9 July. Both court sessions were closed to the public. Following the hearing on 9 July, the judge ruled that the next session will be open and will take place on 9 September, giving Limonov's attorney, Sergei Belyak, additional time to prepare his case. Belyak argued that open sessions will be more beneficial for his client, gazeta.ru reported. Moreover, according to the court ruling, Limonov received authorization for a public defender, State Duma Deputy Victor Cherepkov (independent), to work alongside Belyak. Limonov was arrested on 7 April 2001. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July)

GAZPROM BUYS OUT GUSINSKII. Natural gas giant Gazprom announced on 9 July that it has acquired all the shares in its media holdings that formerly belonged to magnate Vladimir Gusinskii, Russian and Western news agencies reported. The company, which is 38 percent state-owned, refused to release details of the purchase but said that the deal was intended to make the properties more attractive to outside investors. Gazprom maintains that will divest itself of its media holdings by the end of the year. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July)

MORE FALLOUT FROM PUTIN PRESS CONFERENCE... Another regional journalist is under pressure following the Kremlin press conference with President Putin on 24 June. Dina Oyun from the website "Tuva Online" asked Putin about electoral fraud and mentioned the "unprecedented number of violations of election law" during balloting held in her republic. Oyun subsequently has been accused by "Tuvinskaya pravda," a local state-controlled newspaper, of "inflicting colossal damage on the republic." The chairman of the republic's election commission, Sholban Mongush, has asked the prosecutor's office to investigate Oyun, gazeta.ru reported on 8 July. However, Mongush told "The Moscow Times" that he only wants the prosecutor to locate Oyun so he can ask her questions about her allegations. However, he added that if she cannot prove her allegations, she will be punished for spreading damaging information. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July)

...AS NENETS 'JOURNALIST' UNMASKED AS PUBLIC RELATIONS SPECIALIST. Earlier, another journalist, Olga Cheburina, the editor of "Krasnyi tundrovik" in Naryan-Mar, was fired because of a question asked by one of the newspaper's correspondents, Aleksei Vasilevetskii, about Nenets Autonomous Okrug Governor Vladimir Butov's tussles with local prosecutors. Later it was reported that Vasilevetskii is a public-relations specialist based in Moscow who is allegedly on the payroll of a large Russian oil company and not that of "Krasnyi tundrovik," RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 6 July. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July)

AWARD-WINNING WRITER ON RUSSIAN MOB DEAD AT 51. Author and award-winning American journalist Robert I. Friedman, whose investigative reporting provoked death threats from the Russian mob, died of heart problems at the age of 51, AP reported. Friedman was a leading American expert on Russian mob infiltration of the United States. His book, "Red Mafiya: How the Russian Mob Has Invaded America," was published in 2000 despite death threats and a $100,000 price on his head. The Fund for Investigative Journalism established a Robert I. Friedman Investigative Journalist Award in his honor. ("Toronto Globe and Mail," 8 July)

MOSCOW CONCERNED ABOUT LANGUAGE RESTRICTIONS IN UKRAINIAN MEDIA. The Russian Foreign Ministry expressed concern on 9 July over a decision by Ukraine's National Council for Television and Radio Broadcasting to require that within the next year all domestically produced television and radio programs be in Ukrainian. Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko said at a briefing, "Basically this step limits the right of the millions of ethnic Russians who live in Ukraine and the many Ukrainians for whom Russian is their native language to receive information in their primary language," Interfax reported. Yakovenko added that such a measure contradicts the spirit of Russian-Ukrainian cooperation, as well as international standards for defending the rights of ethnic minorities, gazeta.ru reported. Yakovenko also expressed the hope that Ukrainian officials will take Russia's concerns over the issue into consideration. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July)

SERBIA
WITHDRAWAL OF BROADCAST LAW LINKED BY CRITIC TO ELECTIONS... The Serbian government withdrew its draft broadcast bill from parliamentary consideration to avoid losing control of the media as the elections approach, ANEM Chairman Veran Matic told the Belgrade daily "Blic" on 3 July. Matic added that reform of the state broadcast network would cut the connection between the executive power and journalists, depriving the authorities of influence on the formation of the broadcast control board. ("ANEM Weekly Update," 29 June-5 July)

...BEFORE BILL IS RESUBMITTED TO PARLIAMENT... The Serbian government on 5 July resubmitted the broadcast bill it had withdrawn from consideration a few days earlier. Under the new draft law, the oversight Broadcast Agency Board (BAB) would consist of nine rather than 15 members, as earlier stipulated. Most of the nine proposed new BAB members would be nominated by the government rather than by civil society representatives, as was previously the case. OSCE Media Freedom Representative Freimut Duve wrote to Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic expressing his concern over problematic aspects of the draft law. Duve's adviser, Aleksandar Ivanko, told B92 on 5 July that Duve also expressed to Djindjic his hope that the legislation would be adopted expeditiously. OSCE Ambassador Stefan Sannino also met with Serbian officials to press for adoption of the bill. ("ANEM Weekly Update," 29 June-5 July)

�AS LAWMAKERS REJECT ANEM-BACKED AMENDMENT. On 9 July, the Information and Culture Committee of the Serbian parliament rejected an ANEM-proposed amendment to the broadcast bill aimed at limiting state influence over the formation of the Broadcast Agency Council by giving civil society groups the right to nominate an additional member to the council. Under the bill submitted by the Serbian government to parliament, four of the nine members of the council would be nominated by the governments of Serbia and the northern province of Vojvodina, and four by the so-called civil society groups (university rectors; church and religious communities; broadcasters, journalists, film and theater artists, and composers; and local NGOs and relevant civil associations). The eight members would then nominate a ninth, from Kosova. The original bill, drafted with the support of the Council of Europe and the OSCE, envisaged a Broadcast Agency Council with 15 members, with only two government nominees. Through its amendment, the Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) had sought to strike a balance between those with the right to nominate members to the council. ANEM proposed that the Serbian parliament, which already has the right to vote on all eventual candidates, give up one nomination in favor of the association of film and theater artists and composers. This association would then be able to nominate its own candidate instead of sharing the right with the associations of public broadcasters and journalists. The amendment was eventually rejected by five votes to two, with one abstention. (ANEM press release, 10 July)

ILIC OPPOSED TO NGO INVOLVEMENT IN BROADCAST COUNCIL. New Democracy leader Velimir Ilic on 4 July spoke out against the involvement of nongovernment organizations in the proposed Radio Broadcasting Council. "If we allow NGOs to conduct this project under the new broadcast bill, it will be a disaster.... [F]oreigners who head certain NGOs would directly influence the country's administration and...the [foreigners'] intention is to destroy everything national. We cannot allow someone from the EU to tell us who is to run our media.... [T]he main aim of NGOs is to break Serbia up," said Ilic. ("ANEM Weekly Update," 29 June-5 July)

NEW COMMISSION TO SET UP REGIONAL TV CENTER. In late June, the Kikinda City Council ruled to set up a commission to establish a regional Kikinda-based television station. The commission will consider establishing a TV center as a joint stock company with the local government owning two-thirds of the shares. The commission will consist of local officials, the U.S.-based foundation IREX and the Yugoslav office of the OSCE. Its task will be to obtain the required licenses in preparation for adoption of new telecommunications legislation. The new station will broadcast Serbian and Hungarian-language programs to several municipalities. ("ANEM Weekly Update," 29 June-5 July)

PIRATE CD FACTORY RAIDED IN BELGRADE. A Serbian police spokeswoman said in Belgrade on 7 July that police have confiscated 750,000 pirated CDs and DVDs, mostly illegal copies of foreign productions. Police also seized equipment from Bulgaria for making the pirated editions. It is the biggest such haul in Serbian history. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July)

END NOTE
'BLACKLIST' CITES COUNTRIES WHERE PRESS IS ABUSED WITH IMPUNITY

By Don Hill

A journalists' watchdog group says in a new report that 21 countries in the world lead all others as places where criminals and government agents can, with impunity, threaten, abduct, kill, or torture journalists. The Damocles Network said that these 21 places include Russia, Iraq, Iran, the UN-supervised Serbian province of Kosovo, Tajikistan, and Ukraine.

The Damocles Network is a new offshoot of the Paris-based Reporters without Borders. Spokesman Jean-Christophe Menet described the network as the press watchdog group's judicial extension. "It's our judicial arm, I would say.... We used to protest against countries that did not protect freedom of the press. But we decided that there has to be some judicial actions when journalists are murdered, and when the cases are not investigated seriously," Menet said. Menet said the Damocles Network is ambitious in scope. "The network it refers to is a network of lawyers, of magistrates, of investigators, of contacts in many countries that Damocles is going to use to [try to] ensure that the investigations are carried out successfully," Menet said.

In announcing its "Impunity Blacklist," Reporters without Borders and its Damocles Network say that five journalists were murdered in Russia in 2001 and that a sixth, Vladimir Kirsanov of the independent "Kurganskie vesti," disappeared. The organizations say their own investigation into the Kirsanov case demonstrated, among other shortcomings, that Russian authorities failed to devote sufficient resources to solving the crime. RFE/RL correspondents sought without success today to elicit comment from Russian authorities.

The impunity blacklist also cites the Heorhiy Gongadze case in Ukraine, in which the editor in chief of an investigative online website disappeared. His decapitated body was discovered in November 2000. Reporters without Borders says the Prosecutor-General's Office and the Ukrainian Interior Ministry have "blocked any serious investigation."

In Kosovo, the blacklist report says that the international peacekeeping force administering the province has yet to "adopt the basic measures that will bring an end to the impunity still enjoyed by enemies of freedom of the press." Susan Manuel, chief spokesperson for UNMIK -- the United Nations Mission in Kosovo -- does not entirely disagree. "First of all, the problem that they [Reporters without Borders and Damocles] point out about witness intimidation applies to every violent-crime case here and not specifically to journalists," Manuel said.

Manuel said that UNMIK has conferred with journalists and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) about how to better protect journalists, and is slowly bringing about improvements in the Kosovar judicial system. "But it's not a great place for journalism. Threats do inhibit the performance, particularly of Kosovo-Albanian journalists here. I don't know what kind of law could reverse that because this is a problem across the board of the society. Witnesses are threatened. Judges are threatened. This is not a specific problem for journalists, although I agree that journalists cannot do certain kinds of reporting. They cannot name certain people. They are afraid. They have received threats," Manuel said.

Menet of Reporters without Borders said, "That's right, but, you know, in a country like this, where violence is such a commonplace [occurrence] between the communities, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, is a condition for the future of democracy."

Including Tajikistan on its impunity blacklist, Reporters without Borders asks, "Whatever has become of the investigations into the murder of the 32 journalists killed since 1992, including 18 who, without a doubt, were murdered because of their political opinions or of their work?" Okil Sultonkulov, spokesman for the Tajik Prosecutor's Office, reached in Dushanbe, told RFE/RL that investigators have open files on 40 to 50 murders, most committed during Tajikistan's 1992-97 civil war. Earlier this week, Mamad Mirzoev, head of the Tajik Interior Ministry's organized-crime department, told RFE/RL's Dushanbe bureau that Tajik President Imomali Rakhmomov has ordered that efforts be redoubled to solve the open murder cases of prominent people. "In any case, we must find who killed these people, why, and who ordered the murders, and we must find clear evidence and the perpetrators should be punished," Mirzoev said.

Despite its conclusions about Kosovo, the impunity report says the situation in Serbia proper has markedly improved since the government began cooperating with the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. It lists Serbia along with eight other countries, including Georgia and Turkey, where it believes "impunity is a way of life" but which are showing signs that deliberate steps are being taken to improve press freedoms. "One encouraging sign is that a Belgrade court found the former general director of Radio-Television Serbia, Dragoljub Milanovic, guilty of the deaths of 16 station employees, who were killed when one of the office buildings was bombed by NATO on 23 April 1999," the report read. Milanovic was sentenced to a 10-year prison term for having failed to inform his employees of imminent strikes on the building by the NATO alliance during the Kosovo conflict.

It also lists Afghanistan as a country that has "decided to confront the problem head-on and find a solution." It notes that President Hamid Karzai's government approved last month the creation of a Human Rights Commission whose principal mission is to look into past violations. "This step," the report concludes, "induces us to hope that those who murdered 10 journalists between 1992 and 2002 will not go unpunished." (Reporters without Borders can be found on the Internet at http://www.rsf.org; the Damocles Network at http://www.damocles.org.)

(Don Hill is a Prague-based correspondent for RFE/RL.)

XS
SM
MD
LG