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Media Matters: August 30, 2002


30 August 2002, Volume 2, Number 33
ARMENIA
WHY WERE NEWSPAPER'S PHONES DISCONNECTED? ArmenTel, Armenia's only telephone communication company, disconnected three telephones and a fax machine in the "Iravunk" newspaper's office on 21 August, allegedly for the use of illegal Internet links. The paper's editorial board regards this action as an act of revenge for its publication of numerous articles about ArmenTel's illegal activities. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly Report," 19-25 August)

LOCAL TV AND RADIO ORDERED TO PROVIDE NEWS TO GOVERNMENT. The country's National Television and Radio Commission sent local TV and radio companies a written directive that, in line with two laws, they should provide information on their programs, authors and advertisements. Shavarsh Kocharian, chairman of the parliamentary Science, Education, Culture, and Youth Commission, described the action as an imposition of censorship. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly Report," 19-25 August)

POET DETAINED FOR LEAFLETS. The police detained Dzhanik Adamian, 49 and unemployed, who glued leaflets to houses in the town of Ararat. The leaflets contained his poem claiming that President Robert Kocharian had been involved in the 27 October 1999 terror attack on the Armenian parliament. Armenian journalists, legal experts, and political analysts believe that this is the first such incident in the history of independent Armenia, setting a very dangerous precedent. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly Report," 19-25 August)

AZERBAIJAN
PRESIDENT ISSUES NEW EDICT ON PUBLICATION OF STATE SECRETS. The Azerbaijani official press on 28 August published a presidential decree in which Heidar Aliyev places on editors and journalists the responsibility for ensuring that they do not deliberately or inadvertently publish materials that contain state secrets, Turan reported. On 29 August, zerkalo.az expressed concern that the decree heralds a "witch hunt" against the opposition media and a new "cold war" between the authorities and the opposition press. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 August)

BELARUS
INDEPENDENT JOURNALISTS WANT INFORMATION MINISTER TO RESIGN. The Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAZh) has called on Information Minister Mikhail Padhayny to step down, accusing him of suppressing the freedom of speech in Belarus, Belapan reported on 27 August. In an open letter to the minister, the BAZh cited what it said was the illegal ban by Padhayny on printing the "Svobodnye novosti" independent weekly, following an appeal from one of the four founders of the weekly. The BAZh has also announced that it has collected 50,000 signatures under a petition to abolish the Criminal Code's Article 367 (slander against the president), Article 368 (insulting the president), and Article 368 (insulting government officials), which stipulate prison sentences for journalists found guilty of these offenses. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 August)

MINSK SEMINAR ON MONITORING LOCAL ELECTIONS PLANNED. The Council of Europe and Article 19, a London-based organization that promotes and protects free expression worldwide, are planning to jointly hold a seminar in Minsk on 26 and 27 September on the role of the media in local elections. The seminar is organized in cooperation with the Belarusian Association of Journalists, a professional group of over 900 journalists across the country.. For more information, contact Mario Oetheimer at the Media Division, Council of Europe, at mario.oetheimer@coe.int, or see http://www.humanrights.coe.int/media or contact Article 19: info@article19.org or the Belarusian Association of Journalists at baj@user.unibel.by or see http://www.baj.unibel.by.

POLICE LAUNCH HUNT FOR PROTESTERS AGAINST MERGER WITH RUSSIA. Police officers on 23 August arrested Yauhen Afnahel who, along with some 20 colleagues from the Zubr opposition youth movement, took part in a street protest in Minsk on 21 August against the merger of Belarus with Russia, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Police, who were not present during the protest, made the arrest after seizing videotapes of the rally from the Minsk bureau of Russia's NTV channel. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 August)

CZECH REPUBLIC
POLICE COMBINE SRBA INVESTIGATIONS. Czech police have decided to combine the investigations on former Foreign Ministry Secretary Karel Srba, CTK reported on 26 August, citing Srba's lawyer Miroslav Kriznecky. Srba, who is under detention, is being investigated on suspicion of having commissioned the murder of journalist Sabina Slonkova, as well as on suspicion of corruption. Kriznecky also told CTK that Srba suffers from depression and will be moved from the Plzen na Borech prison where he is currently held to a psychiatric prison hospital in Brno. Kriznecky said that after one month of detention, two weeks of which the lawyer said was in complete isolation, Srba has exhibited suicidal tendencies and suffers from claustrophobia. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 August)

BROADCAST COUNCIL VOWS SCRUTINY IN RUN-UP TO MEDIA MOGUL'S SENATE BID. Czech Radio and Television Broadcasting Council spokesman Pavel Barak on 28 August told CTK that the council will make sure that TV Nova Director Vladimir Zelezny does not abuse the private channel to promote his Senate candidacy. Zelezny, who recently announced he will run for a Senate seat in the elections scheduled for October-November, has been frequently criticized for promoting his own political views on the station, particularly in his weekly "Call the Director" program. "[If] suspicion arises that the law has been violated, the council will immediately take action...using all its legal powers," Barak said, according to the agency. Critics have accused the council of giving Zelezny, who is facing a number of criminal charges in connection with his TV Nova activities, an excessively wide berth in the past. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 August)

HUNGARY
'MAGYAR HIRLAP' SCORES WEEKEND SCOOP... "Magyar Hirlap" on 24 August published the names of 11 ministers and state secretaries who are alleged to have ties to the communist-era secret services. The daily published the names without the consent of the parliamentary commission leading the investigation in the matter. The list included five officials who worked in the cabinet headed by Viktor Orban between 1998-2002 -- former prime minister's office State Secretary Laszlo Bogar; Imre Boros, a former minister who oversaw PHARE funds; former Finance Minister Zsigmond Jarai; former Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi; and former Transport Minister Laszlo Nogradi. According to the list the following members of the Jozsef Antall government had ties to the communist-era secret services -- Bela Kadar, international economic trade relations minister from 1990 to 1994; the late Ferenc Rabar, finance minister from May-December 1990; Erno Raffay, former defense state secretary from 1990-93, and Laszlo Sarossy, agriculture political state secretary from 1990-93. The list also included Szabolcs Fazakas, trade minister under the Gyula Horn government from 1996-98; and Peter Medgyessy, finance minister from 1996-98 and current prime minister. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 August)

...AS POLITICIANS DENOUNCE PUBLICATION OF OFFICIALS WITH COUNTERINTELLIGENCE PASTS. Data Protection Ombudsman Attila Peterfalvi told "Nepszabadsag" of 24 August that personal data can only be made public with the consent of the person it involves and under the express authorization of the law. Karoly Herenyi, spokesman for the opposition Hungarian Democratic Forum, said that until the documents are proven authentic, his party will not comment on the matter, but that it is upsetting that while government leaders debate whether to publish the names of involved politicians, information "runs rampant through the press." FIDESZ deputy parliamentary group leader Tamas Deutsch said that "the goal of the commission [headed by Imre Mecs to investigate government officials' secret-service pasts] is to sling mud on as many people as possible -- if Peter Medgyessy cannot be cleared." He said FIDESZ is unaware of any members of the Orban cabinet being implicated. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 August)

POLICE INVESTIGATE WHETHER NEWSPAPER VIOLATED STATE-SECRECY LAWS. National police sources told "Nepszabadsag" on 22 August that police have ordered a supplementary probe into the newspaper's publication of documents pertaining to the secret service past of former PHARE Funds Minister Imre Boros. The police will investigate over the next 15 days whether "Nepszabadsag" violated laws on state secrecy or other laws by publishing the documents. Meanwhile, Boros said on 22 August that he will initiate legal proceedings in connection with the matter. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 August)

PARLIAMENTARIANS EXCHANGE ACCUSATIONS OVER MTV. FIDESZ deputy Annamaria Szalai told reporters on 22 August that state-owned media and freedom of the press are in peril in Hungary, "Magyar Hirlap" reported. The aim of the media-policy scenario "written in Koztarsasag Square" (the site of the Socialist headquarters) is to bring about the restoration of a 100 percent media monopoly, she claimed. In addition, she said, a political purge is under way at Hungarian Television (MTV), as "Koztarsasag Square has moved into Szabadsag Square" (where MTV headquarters is located). In response, Socialist Istvan Ujhelyi said FIDESZ fears not for freedom of the press but for some people linked to the party, as billions of forints disappeared from MTV during the term of the previous government. "The departure of [former Prime Minister] Viktor Orban's team from Szabadsag Square is going on loudly and hysterically, but the Socialist Party will remain in Koztarsasag Square and professionals will finally edit the programs," he concluded. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 August)

POLITICAL STRUGGLE CONTINUES AT HUNGARIAN TELEVISION. MTV executive Imre Ragats on 28 August said the station has paid 800 million forints ($3.2 million) to 42 advisers in recent years but has "no idea what kind of advice MTV received," the "Nepszabadsag" daily reported. Outlining the findings of an internal probe, Ragats said that right-wing journalist Istvan Lovas was paid 13.6 million forints and Andras Wermer, an unofficial adviser to former Prime Minister Viktor Orban, 6.5 million forints. Ragats said he has terminated the advisers' contracts. Regarding recent personnel changes, which the right-wing opposition calls "purges," Ragats said he sacked no one and that 44 staff members have left on their accord over the past 45 days. Others who left upon mutual agreement received severance pay totaling 210 million forints, he said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 August)

FORMER PREMIER CALLS FOR NEW RIGHT-WING 'SECOND MEDIA.' Former Prime Minister Viktor Orban told supporters in Hungary's southwestern town of Zalalovo on 23 August that a "second media" should be established so that messages from the right wing reach people every day. He said press freedom is in danger as 90 percent of print and electronic media support the left, Budapest dailies reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 August)

CHARGES BROUGHT FOR PUBLICATION OF ARROW-CROSS MATERIALS. The Budapest Prosecutor-General's Office recently pressed charges against Sandor Gede and Tibor Gede for publishing arrow-cross literature. (The Arrow Cross Party was an anti-Semitic fascist party led by Ferenc Szalasi that ruled Hungary from October 1944 to January 1945.) The Gede brothers were accused of fomenting hatred against a community and misusing personal data after they published anti-Semitic works in reprint editions, "Nepszabadsag" reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 August)

KAZAKHSTAN
INDEPENDENT REPORTER SUBJECTED TO BEATING. The International League for Human Rights (ILHR) is "extremely concerned" about reports of a brutal attack on Sergei Duvanov, an independent journalist from Almaty. According to local observers, at around 11 p.m. on 27 August, a phone call was made to Duvanov's mobile phone, which was answered by an unidentified man. He introduced himself as a policeman and said that Duvanov had been taken to a hospital after he had been attacked. According to local witnesses who later visited Duvanov in the hospital, his face was covered in blood and a large rectangle with a cross inside it was carved into his stomach. When Duvanov regained consciousness, he said that three masked men had attacked him as he was opening the door to his apartment. They beat him with rubber truncheons saying "You know what this is for, next time we'll leave you paralyzed." Duvanov suffered a skull trauma, concussion, and lacerations and contusions over his body. Due to recent attacks against opposition activists and journalists, the ILHR fears that this brutal attack upon Duvanov was made in retaliation for his criticism of Kazakhstan's high officials. Recently, criminal charges of "insulting the honor and dignity of the president" have been brought against Duvanov for publishing an article titled "Silence of the Lambs," on the alleged secret bank accounts of President Nursultan Nazarbaev and his family. If convicted, Duvanov faces three-year prison term. The ILHR also fears that this attack was designed to prevent Duvanov from participating in the Human Dimension Implementation Conference by the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) scheduled to take place in Warsaw on 9-19 September and to which he was invited jointly by ODIHR and the ILHR. (ILHR, 27 August)

RSF QUESTIONS REPORT ON SUSPICIOUS DEATH OF OPPOSITION JOURNALIST'S DAUGHTER. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Damocles Network question the official version in its 29 August release of a previously unpublished report on the suspicious death on 21 June of Leyla Baysetova, 25, the daughter of Kazakh opposition journalist Lira Baysetova. As for the police and judiciary explanations provided so far, RSF and the Damocles Network deem them too "riddled with discrepancies." On 16 June, while detained for illegal possession of drugs, the young woman was hospitalized in a coma; she died five days later. Officials claim that she committed suicide while suffering withdrawal symptoms. RSF and the Damocles Network sent a fact-finding mission to Almaty. Just before her daughter's untimely death, Lira Baysetova, the former editor in chief of the opposition paper "Respublika 2000," had published an interview in the daily "SolDat" with Geneva's former public prosecutor, Bernard Bertossa, who confirmed the existence of Swiss bank accounts of several senior Kazakh officials, including President Nazarbaev. She claims to have been the victim, on several occasions, of intimidation, including physical attacks and telephone threats, due to her investigation into corruption in Kazakhstan. RSF and the Damocles Network, in accordance with the wishes of the civil party, have proposed the assistance of independent experts in forensic medicine and toxicology to obtain a second expert opinion after the exhumation of the body. (RSF, 29 August)

COURT REVIEWS FORMER GOVERNOR'S CASE. The Pavlodar Oblast Court began reviewing on 28 August former Pavlodar Oblast Governor Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov's appeal of the seven-year prison sentence it handed down to him on 2 August, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service and Interfax reported. Zhaqiyanov was found guilty of abuse of office and embezzlement. He, the Kazakh opposition, and Western human rights watchdogs believe those charges were politically motivated and unsubstantiated. Officials from the U.S. and Greek embassies attended the 28 August court session, during which journalists were prohibited from using recording equipment. According to Interfax, the court will rule on Zhaqiyanov's appeal on 29 August. ("RFE/RL Newsline, 29 August)

IS RUSSIA HOSTING KAZAKH OPPOSITION RADIO STATION? Kazakhstan's National Security Ministry has established that Radio DAT, which describes itself as "the voice of democratic forces in Kazakhstan that are fighting for justice, the well-being of the people, human rights, and political freedoms," broadcasts not from the West, but from an unnamed town in the Russian Federation, forumkz.org reported on 29 August, quoting "confidential sources." Radio DAT (http://www.datradio.com) began broadcasting on shortwave earlier this summer in both Kazakh and Russian. According to the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, Kazakh journalist and public figure Bigeldin Gabdullin, a political refugee in the United States, served as anchor for Radio DAT's first broadcast. ("RFE/RL Newsline, 29 August)

MONTENEGRO
POLITICAL PARTIES REACH MEDIA-MONITORING AGREEMENT. On 23 August, representatives of Montenegrin parliamentary parties reached agreement on media and election legislation at a roundtable meeting attended by OSCE experts. Under the agreement, a special commission will be formed to monitor the work of state and independent media during the pre-election campaign, with each party contributing two members to the commission. Each political party will also be able to offer its own media experts to the commission, but they cannot be members of parliament. ("ANEM Media Update," 17-23 August)

RUSSIA
POPULAR CHAVASH JOURNALIST BEATEN TO DEATH. Outside his home in Cheboksary, the capital of the Chavash Republic, popular Chavash journalist Nikolai Vasilev was robbed and beaten to death on 18 August by unknown assailants. A friend who was with Vasilev during the attack managed to survive. Local journalists do not exclude the possibility that the attack was politically motivated, since Vasilev wrote numerous sensational articles in "Sovetskaya Chuvashia" where he was in charge of the paper's public and political life department. Although various slander suits had been filed against him, Vasilev proved that his reports were factual. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Weekly Report," 19-25 August)

CHECHEN JOURNALIST ATTACKED IN MOSCOW REGION. Chechen journalist Lecha Saligov, editor in chief of the paper "Spravedlivost" and aide to State Duma Deputy Viktor Cherepkov, was taken to hospital after he was attacked near his home outside the Dedovsk railroad station, Moscow Oblast, on 19 August. Saligov is now in serious condition in a Moscow hospital. Cherepkov told Interfax that shortly before the attack Saligov had published an article critical of an influential member of the Chechen diaspora. On 12 August, Saligov had sent a letter to Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov, presenting a chronicle of events that "brought the Chechens to a national disaster" and exposing the role that "Aslambek Aslakhanov, now a member of the State Duma, played in the coup in the Chechen-Ingush Republic in 1991." He asked Ustinov to open a criminal investigation into the coup. (For text of the letter, see the website of the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations at http://www.cjes.ru). ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Weekly Report," 19-25 August)

POLICE DETAIN TWO ARGENTINIAN JOURNALISTS IN CHELYABINSK. On 14 August, police officers detained two Argentinian journalists, their interpreter, and the head of a local environmentalist organization outside the village of Muslyumovo, in the Kunashak district of Chelyabinsk Oblast. The reporters were changed with a misdemeanor. They were videotaping cattle on the banks of a river polluted by radiation during the 1957 disaster at the Mayak enterprise. Two Federal Security Service officials were called to the scene. The reporters were kept at the local police station until 1 a.m. the next day. The police tried to take away the recording but journalists stood their ground in defending their right to collect information. According to the Movement for Nuclear Safety, this is far from the first time that police have kept strangers away from Muslyumovo. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Weekly Report," 19-25 August)

HOSTAGE-TAKING PLAN BY CHECHENS THWARTED? Chechnya's law enforcement agencies reported that a group of rebels that had been planning the abduction of journalists for ransom had been "neutralized" in Grozny on 25 August. The regional antiterrorist-operation headquarters had earlier warned of such rebel plans, since the Chechen fighters had shown interest in the insurance policies covering journalists accredited in Chechnya. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Weekly Report," 19-25 August)

LIBERAL NEWSPAPER BECOMES CONSERVATIVE. The liberal weekly newspaper "Obshchaya gazeta," which suspended publication after it was sold to St. Petersburg businessman Vyacheslav Leibman at the end of May, will be relaunched this week under the name "Konservator," Russian news agencies reported on 27 August. According to rtr-vesti.ru, the paper will initially be a 32-page weekly and the first issue will appear on 30 August. The new paper will be edited by Leonid Zlotin, who in 1997-98 edited the conservative daily "Russkii telegraf." According to "The Moscow Times," Leibman views the paper as the beginning of the Leibman Media Group, which will augment his other business interests in oil trading and hotel management. "The publishing business is logical and understandable within the framework of a holding company. There are corporate interests that need to be both protected and promoted," Leibman was quoted as saying. He also said that he will personally take a "most active part in forming the editorial policy," according to the daily. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 August)

DIRTY TACTICS PREVALENT IN KRASNOYARSK RACE. According to the Krasnoyarsk Krai Election Commission, Krasnoyarsk Mayor Petr Pimashkov has been the most frequent victim of "black PR" in the current campaign for krai governor, RosBalt reported on 28 August. The commission has investigated nearly 350 complaints so far, more than 80 percent of which involve accusations of mass-media violations of election laws. Just 7 percent of the accusations were leveled against candidates themselves. According to RosBalt, workers at Norilsk Nickel were handed leaflets urging Pimashkov to give back the money that oligarchs paid for his campaign. Pimashkov denies that he has received any contributions from oligarchs. A program called "Operation P" that alleges that Pimashkov's campaign is collecting compromising information about other candidates has been shown on local television in the krai several times. Pimashkov has asked prosecutors to file criminal charges against the film's producers. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 August)

MAYOR SHUTS DOWN HIS OWN PAPER IN NOVOVORONEZH. Vladimir Sinitsyn, mayor of the city of Novovoronezh, Voronezh Oblast, signed an order to shut down the paper "Moi Gorod." Not only is the paper the most popular in town, it was founded by the oblast Press Committee and the Novovoronezh City Hall. Sinitsyn sent a letter to the city duma on 19 August saying that a recent audit has revealed that the paper is losing money, which is why it must be liquidated. Now the duma must give its consent to the closure of a paper which has been publishing their decisions. The paper's editor, G. Volokhova, believes that by closing down the paper the mayor is putting an end to the conflict over the paper's financial reporting that had started in July. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Weekly Report," 19-25 August)

STAVROPOL COURT ORDERS PAPER TO APOLOGIZE. In Stavropol, a court ruled in a case brought by V. Lukashonok, chairman of the city's Chernobyl cleaners' organization and member of the city duma, against the city paper "Zhizn." Earlier this year, the paper had published an article alleging that Lukashonok had embezzled 50,000 rubles. The court ordered the paper to publish a refutation, and told the paper's founder to compensate moral damages. A libel suit has been opened against the author of the article. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Weekly Report," 19-25 August)

TRANSDNIESTRIAN MINISTER WINS SUIT AGAINST PAPER. The Transdniester "Interior Minister" V. Kurisko won his libel case against the paper "Komsomolskaya Pravda." A Moscow court found libelous the paper's report by F. Kulibaba, "The Republic of Sheriff," alleging that the minister had arranged over 40 contract killings through the Sheriff company. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Weekly Report," 19-25 August)

NEARLY ONE-THIRD OF SCHOOLS TO BE ONLINE BY 2003. By the middle of 2003, 31 percent of Russian schools will be connected to the Internet, strana.ru and other Russian news agencies reported on 27 August. Education Minister Vladimir Filippov made the announcement at a Moscow Internet conference. According to Filippov, 10.3 percent of schools are already connected. He also said that a number of regions have adopted measures to encourage teachers to incorporate new technologies into their programs. In Krasnodar Krai, Filippov said, teachers who do so can earn bonus worth up to 50 percent of their base salaries. "The Internetization of primary education in Russia is extremely important," Filippov said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 August)

THE PRESIDENT'S A HIT. A new, all-female band called Singing Together has taken the airwaves by storm with its new single, "A Man Like Putin," dpa reported on 24 August. "I want someone like Putin, full of strength, someone like Putin, who doesn't drink, someone like Putin, who will not shame me...," the song's lyrics run. According to the report, the group is the brainchild of Nikolai Gastello, a press spokesman for the Russian Supreme Court. "The music should help Russians to finally shake off depression and decadence," Gastello was quoted as saying. According to "Izvestiya" on 24 August, many Russian women particularly respect Putin for abstaining from hard liquor. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 August)

SERBIA
MEDIA MUST SHOW 'RESPECT.' The deputy speaker of the Serbian parliament, Gordana Comic, announced in the 23 August issue of "Pozarevac" that new media regulations will be completed in the near future. He said that "frequencies will be awarded to those who fulfill technical, programming, and ethical conditions," and emphasized that "the media will have to respect standards like the appropriate use of language, arguments, and adherence to the facts." Comic also proposed that an ethics commission be formed to fight the use of hate speech in the public domain. ("ANEM Media Update," 17-23 August)

NGOS NOMINATE CANDIDATES TO BROADCAST COUNCIL... On 21 August, representatives of 46 nongovernmental organizations nominated Law Faculty Professor Vladimir Vodinelic and Miljenko Dereta from the Citizens Initiative to represent NGOs on the new Serbian State Broadcast Council. The Serbian parliament will vote for one of the two nominees when the council is formed. ("ANEM Media Update," 17-23 August)

...AS DO MEDIA GROUPS. On 22 August, media analyst Snjezana Milivojevic was nominated to Serbia's new State Broadcast Council, along with Association of Serbian Journalists President Nino Brajevic. They were nominated by nine media groups and associations of film and theatre artists, and composers. The council will serve as a media-regulatory body, set up under the Broadcasting Law adopted by the Serbian parliament in July. Milivojevic was nominated by four groups, including the Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) and the Independent Association of Serbian Journalists; support for Brajevic came from the Association of Serbian Journalists. The council will have nine members, including four nominated by the Serbian government and Vojvodina. Under the new law, parliamentarians will make the final choice between Milivojevic and Brajevic, Radio B92 reported. ("ANEM Media Update," 17-23 August)

TV FEE DUE TO EU? On 23 August, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Zarko Korac announced the introduction of a monthly TV subscription fee of 210 Yugoslav dinars. He said that he is aware that this will be "a very unpopular measure," and that the Serbian government had wanted to avoid imposing this fee. According to Korac, "the European Union's position is very clear: if state television is a service for citizens, then they must finance it." The 23 August edition of the Belgrade daily "Danas" pointed out that one of the ruling coalition's pre-election promises had been to scrap the subscription. ("ANEM Media Update," 17-23 August)

FIRED EDITOR ACCUSES PARTNER OF SLANDER. The dismissed chief editor of the magazine "Bulevar," Mirko Sevic, said on 21 August that he will bring a slander suit against his partners in Panonia Press for having brought criminal charges of embezzlement against him. Sebic claimed that although he owned 35 percent of the firm, as of 10 August, he had been unable to gain entry into the firm's premises due to threats of physical violence. ("ANEM Media Update," 17-23 August)

GAY AND LESBIAN RADIO PROGRAM WINS AWARD. On 22 August, "Gayming", a pioneering gay and lesbian radio program, won the "Heimdahl" award for the development of media dealing with homosexuality. ("ANEM Media Update," 17-23 August)

TAJIKISTAN
MINISTER ACCUSES FOREIGN MEDIA OF UNHEALTHY REPORTING. Tajik Health Minister Alamkhon Akhmadov accused "certain foreign media" of disseminating false reports about the country's health services, in particular exaggerating the number of typhoid cases. Tajik journalists say, however, that the ministry does not provide information to the media. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly Report," 19-25 August)

UKRAINE
PRESIDENT ORDERS PRIME MINISTER TO CHECK PUBLIC ACCESS TO UNCLASSIFIED INFORMATION. President Leonid Kuchma told Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh to set up in central and local executive agencies directorates or divisions in charge of relations with the media and the public. He told the cabinet to find to what extent unclassified information is available to citizens. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly Report," 19-25 August)

CRIMEAN OFFICIALS TO ASK KYIV TO SOFTEN STAND ON UKRAINIAN-LANGUAGE BROADCASTING. City authorities in Sevastopol, Crimea, intend to ask the State Information Policy Committee to let "the region's information space develop in light of its ethnic specifics." They are concerned by the National Broadcast Council's ruling that television stations have one year to put in place programming only in the Ukrainian language. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly Report," 19-25 August)

KYIV OFFICIALS CONCERNED ABOUT MAYOR'S MEDIA IMAGE. On 22 August, the Kyiv city administration made a statement accusing unnamed "committed" media of working to discredit city authorities, particularly Mayor Oleksandr Omelchenko. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly Report," 19-25 August)

LVIV OFFICIALS URGE REPRINTING OF CENTRAL PRESS ITEMS. The Lviv Oblast administration's Press and Information Directorate sent editors of district newspapers a letter signed by directorate head Oksana Boikovich asking them to have their papers reprint numerous articles published in central newspapers that had aroused "significant public interest." ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly Report," 19-25 August)

DONETSK COURT RULES JOURNALIST'S DETENTION ILLEGAL. On 19 August, the Donetsk Oblast Appeals Court ruled that the detention of journalist Volodymyr Boiko by Tax Police investigators in June had been illegal. The oblast prosecution service closed the criminal case against Boiko because he had not committed a crime and one of its officials apologized to Boiko. Boiko intends to ask the Prosecutor-General's Office to open a case of illegal detention against the police. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly Report," 19-25 August)

CALL-IN RADIO PROGRAM TO INCREASE HIV/AIDS AWARENESS. Radio stations in six Ukrainian cities have launched a one-month series of call-in radio programs to increase awareness of HIV/AIDS, following a training program organized by Internews-Ukraine in early August. The project will enable radio listeners in Odesa, Donetsk, Lviv, Ternopil, Kremenchuk, and Kirovohrad to call in to their local stations to receive accurate information on HIV/AIDS from local NGOs, health officials, and local authorities, according to Internews. The programs are designed to increase public understanding of the risks of HIV infection, while increasing tolerance at the community level towards those infected and affected by the virus. For more, contact Pavlo Novikov at paul@internews.ua or see http://www.internews.kiev.ua.

UZBEKISTAN
PRESSING THE LIMITS OF OFFICIAL TOLERANCE. In July, the paper "Mokhiyat" published an article, "I'll Be Killed if I Say, I'll Die if I Do Not," by well-known journalist Karim Bakhriev about the public role of journalism. The author expressed his views as to the reasons that totalitarian and authoritarian regimes do not welcome the truth. The public and journalists viewed this article as part of the process of the country's recent elimination of censorship in the country. However, after publication of the article, presidential adviser Akhmadzhon Meliboev summoned the paper's editor Abdukayum Yuldashev, the paper's founder and Turkiston-Press director-general Zafar Roziev, and the paper's Deputy Editor in Chief Alisher Nazar. At this meeting, they had to sign a written promise never to allow the publication of another such article. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly Report," 19-25 August)

REPORT ON STATUS OF JOURNALISM ISSUED. On 22 August, on the eve of the country's 11th anniversary of independence, the Independent Journalists of Uzbekistan issued a report on the operation of Uzbek media and incarcerated journalists and writers. Uzbekistan remains the sole Central Asian country where people are persecuted and imprisoned for criticism, according to the report. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly Report," 19-25 August)

REGIONAL
TAJIKISTAN, UZBEKISTAN SIGN BROADCASTING AGREEMENT. Following talks in Dushanbe on 23 August, the prime ministers of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, Oqil Oqilov and Utkir Sultanov respectively, signed an agreement on television broadcasting, Russian news agencies reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 August)

'CULTURE CONTAINER' VISITS BALKAN CITIES. A youth project aimed at bridging the ethnic divide in postconflict regions will come to Mitrovica, a city split between its Albanian and Serbian populations. The mobile "culture container" is scheduled to be in the city from 31 August to 4 September. The culture container, consists of 16 sections covered by a seven-meter tent-dome where young people will work in workshops related to video, radio, newspaper publishing, photography, the Internet, and theater. In eight other cities visited by the project, youth newspapers, radio, and video groups were established. A similar approach is planned for Mitrovica. The youth effort, a project of the Fund in Defense of our Future, was initiated by Freimut Duve, the OSCE representative on freedom of the media. The project operates within the framework of the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe. Since June 2001, the project has visited nine cities in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Yugoslavia, and Macedonia. For more information, see http://www.mobile-culture.org or contact Achim Koch at a.koch@mobile-culture.org.

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THE COURT BATTLE FOR THE FUTURE OF UKRAINIAN TELEVISION

By Marta Dyczok

Ukraine's most popular independent TV station is fighting to stay on the air. 1+1 Television features a mix of entertainment and serious public affairs programming. It is also the country's only private national Ukrainian-language TV station. On 4 September, 1+1 TV will go to the Supreme Economic Court to attempt to reverse a lower court ruling. Kyiv's Economic Appeals Court ruled on 16 July that another TV company, AITI, is legally entitled to Studio 1+1's broadcast license, even though AITI lost its license a few years ago because it could not produce enough programming to fill its airtime.

This promises to be a lengthy legal battle with important implications for licensing procedures and foreign media ownership in Ukraine. Unlike similar struggles four years ago which took place behind closed doors, at least the Studio 1+1 battle is taking place before the courts and is being discussed in the media.

The current fight for 1+1 TV's license is part of a controversial relicensing of Ukraine's broadcast sector. The government regulatory agency, the National Council on Television and Radio Broadcasting, has been accused of numerous irregularities. Parliament passed a no-confidence vote on the outgoing council's activities on 4 July, reported the daily "Ukrayinska Pravda" on 19 July. Many TV and radio stations' licenses expired as of 2000, and the council has revoked a number of licenses under dubious circumstances. One such still-contested case is Radio Kontinent, which lost its license in 2001. The station aired some foreign broadcasts, including BBC and Deutsche Welle. More recently, on 20 June, the National Council ordered Kyiv's transmitting center to cut off the broadcast signal of Kyiv's oldest independent-minded local TV station, UTAR, which had just won a court case to keep its license, according to the European Media Institute.

The court ruling against 1+1 TV is particularly puzzling since it is a very successful private TV company. Since 1997, it has been broadcasting on Ukraine's Channel 2 (one of only four national TV channels). 1+1's popularity has grown steadily, because it provides Hollywood films, soap operas, sporting events as well as objective and interesting news programs, commentary, and information-talk shows. Up until the March 2002 parliamentary election campaign, 1+1 news and information programs were rated first or second in terms of quality and scope.

1+1 is one TV station that has major foreign non-Russian capital. Although media ownership is difficult to document, it is well-known that Russian companies now have effective control of most private TV stations in Ukraine, including, New Channel, Inter, and STB. Since Central European Media Enterprises Ltd (CME) owns a significant portion of 1+1, it is an exception to this trend. This parent company, set up by American businessman Ronald Lauder, has shares in TV and radio stations throughout Eastern Europe.

Foreign ownership of media is controversial in Ukraine, since legislation limits foreign capital in any media outlet to 30 percent. This law was passed in the early 1990s when Ukraine was disengaging from the centralized Soviet information infrastructure, and struggling to gain control of the airwaves on its territory. Russia inherited the USSR-wide TV Channel 1 and continued to broadcast throughout the former Soviet Union until the new countries established ownership and control of that channel on their territories. However, by the late 1990s most major new TV companies in Ukraine had managed to circumvent the legislation by registering shares to local partners. For example, STB was privatized in 1996, and soon afterwards 70 percent of the station's investment reportedly came from Russian sources. The highly respected New Channel is reported to be owned by Russian banks. Some reports claim that CME owns over 30 percent of 1+1, while on 26 August, ukraine.ru reported that CME controls 30 percent of the shares with the remaining 70 percent owned by 1+1 General Director Oleksandr Rodniansky. In a surprising move in April 2002, Rodniansky assumed the position of general producer with the Russian television station STS, although he claims this new responsibility will not effect his commitment to 1+1.

How television stations obtain broadcast licenses is another controversial issue in Ukraine. From the outset, 1+1 TV has faced allegations of bribery and unethical political maneuvers. The controversy dates back to 1997 when Perekhid Media, a Ukrainian-American joint-venture TV company -- which was a competitor for the Channel 2 license -- accused 1+1 and CME of using illegal methods to obtain the broadcast license. After failing to achieve recourse in Ukrainian courts, in April 1997 Perekhid Media filed a complaint with the Supreme Court of New York County citing tortious interference by Lauder and CME, according to the CME 1997 Quarterly Report. On 12 June 2001, "The New York Times" reported that Lauder and CME were under investigation in the U.S. for alleged violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for allegedly paying at least $1 million in bribes to Ukrainian officials to obtain the Channel 2 license.

Vadym Rabinovych is a mysterious figure in the 1+1 versus AITI saga. He was one of the first partners of 1+1 and is widely believed to have eased the way to obtain its license in 1996. After being declared persona non grata in Ukraine, Rabinovych emigrated to Israel. He returned to Ukraine -- as owner of 1+1's rival, the AITI TV company. In fact, the two television stations have been clashing in the courts for several years over whether 1+1 obtained its license to broadcast on Channel 2 in a legal fashion. AITI first filed suit against 1+1 in 2000, but in April 2001 Ukraine's Supreme Arbitration Court dismissed the case. AITI then took the case to a lower court, the Arbitration Court of Kyiv which ruled against 1+1 in February 2002, during the parliamentary election campaign.

Respected Ukrainian journalist Yuliya Mostova outlined a number of possible behind-the-scenes scenarios for the 1+1 versus AITI drama. Perhaps the battle between two TV companies is being manipulated by a third party who may want to buy 1+1 after its purchase price falls due to the scandal. (1+1 documents show that although the company is still profitable, its overall revenues decreased by 10 percent last year). Perhaps the struggle for control of the popular 1+1 is part of the pre-presidential election jockeying among Ukraine's power brokers. (Ukraine's presidential elections are scheduled for 2004).

Should 1+1 go off the air, Ukrainians will look elsewhere for TV programs. In many parts of the country, 1+1 was the only source of high-quality Ukrainian-language programs, so viewers will have to switch to Russian or Russian-language stations. This would lead to a decline in advertising revenue for Ukrainian TV stations, further reduction of quality, and greater dependence on Russian television, reported "Dzerkalo Tyzhnia." on 26 July. Finally, this would contribute to further ownership concentration of Ukraine's television sector in Russian hands.

Dr. Marta Dyczok is associate professor of political science and history, University of Western Ontario, Canada, and a fellow at the Centre for Russian and East European Studies, University of Toronto, Canada.

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