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Media Matters: September 6, 2002

6 September 2002, Volume 2, Number 34
OSCE HOLDS HUMAN RIGHTS AND DEMOCRACY CONFERENCE. Freedom of expression and press freedom in Europe and Central Asia will be examined at the "Human Dimension Implementation Meeting," organized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights in Warsaw from 9-19 September. Over 500 government representatives, international experts, and nongovernmental organizations are expected to take part in the conference. Freedom of expression and press freedom will be examined at a working session on 12 September, with the participation of OSCE Representative on Media Freedom Freimut Duve. Separate sessions held that day will also look at journalism in conflict situations and strategies to combat corruption. For the conference agenda, see

NOMINATIONS SOUGHT FOR NEW PRESS-FREEDOM AWARD. Journalists from European Union countries are invited to apply for a new award honoring media professionals in the service of press freedom. Launched by Reporters Without Borders' (RSF) Austrian section, the Press Freedom Award 2002 will honor a journalist for lifetime achievement with a prize worth 15,000 euros (about $14,950). A supporting prize will also be awarded to a journalist under the age of 35. For more information, contact RSF Austria at or see

SEMINAR ON MEDIA LAW. Article 19, the World Association of Newspapers, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the International Press Institute, and the World Press Freedom Committee took part in an international seminar in Kabul from 3-5 September aimed at encouraging the local government to adopt laws favoring press freedom and media pluralism, reports UNESCO. The seminar, supported by UNESCO, includes a meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Other participants include Internews, the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, Baltic Media Center, AINA Media and Culture Center, and the BBC. for more information, see or contact Martin Hadlow at UNESCO Kabul office at The seminar follows a July meeting at which civil-society representatives in Afghanistan issued recommendations on promotion of an independent pluralist media in Afghanistan (see

REGIONAL TV STATION APPEALS TO PROSECUTOR-GENERAL. The founder and executive director of a television station in the town of Abovian have complained to the Prosecutor-General's Office that the police investigation into an assault on them on 24 August lacks objectivity, according to Arminfo on 3 September, as cited by Groong. The two executives were attacked and badly beaten by young men whom they believe were hired for that purpose by Abovian Mayor Karapet Israelian in retaliation for criticisms aired by the station. The two told journalists on 3 September that Abovian police began investigating the assault only after they complained to Interior Minister Haik Harutiunian, and have rejected medical reports detailing the injuries the two sustained. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September)

TRUST IN PRESS PLUMMETS. Only 1.5 percent of Armenians currently trust the print media compared with 80 percent five-six years ago, Caucasus Media Institute Deputy Director Mark Grigorian told journalists in Yerevan on 3 September, Noyan Tapan reported. Grigorian attributed the current "crisis" in the Armenian print media partly to a fall in the purchasing power of the population and partly to the fact that much reporting on domestic political developments is dull and unreliable. Grigorian urged print journalists to be more analytical and investigative in their reporting. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September)

INTERNET PROVIDER SABOTAGED. Up to 4,000 Armenians have been deprived of their Internet access following deliberate damage to the fiber-optic cable of Arminco, one of the country's largest Internet providers, according to Arminfo on 3 September as cited by Groong. An Arminco official said the cable was severed in two places several kilometers apart within the space of five minutes on 2 September. Arminco threatened a lawsuit last month against rival Internet provider Armentel after the latter demanded that Arminco immediately vacate the premises it was leasing from Armentel. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September)

JOURNALISTIC ORGANIZATIONS CRITICIZE DECREE ON STATE SECRETS... In a statement released on 2 September, the journalists' union Yeni Nesil criticized President Heidar Aliev's 28 August decree on preventing the publication in the media of information containing state secrets, Turan reported. Yeni Nesil pointed out that the decree fails to define the concept of state secret, and that the relevant legislation should be revised. The international human rights watchdog Article 19 issued a statement on 30 August expressing concern that Aliev's decree places the responsibility for ensuring that such sensitive information is not published on individual media outlets. In order to do so, editors and journalists must consult a special presidential commission that is empowered to demand that journalists divulge the source of the information in question. Article 19 also noted that it is the responsibility of governments to preserve state secrets, not that of the media. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 September)

...WHICH DEFINES JOURNALISTS' DUTIES. When in doubt if material constitutes a state secret, journalists are obliged to turn to the special intergovernmental commission on preservation of state secrets headed by the presidential administration. This commission must give an official response to such inquiries within one week, the paper "Novoe vremya" reported on 29 August. If the commission determines that the material in question constitutes a state secret, it can demand that the source of this information be closed. In such cases, editors are obligated to comply. If they fail to do so, the commission can turn to the courts to demand that the editor reveal his or her sources. CC

OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER THREATENED AFTER PUBLISHING CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS. Aydyn Guliev, who is editor in chief of the opposition newspaper "Hurriyet," has appealed to the State Security Ministry for protection after receiving threats from unnamed senior officials and persons connected with Mubariz Panakhov, who heads the Sadarak customs office, Turan reported on 4 September. On 30 August, "Hurriyet" published an article claiming that profits from oil smuggled from the exclave of Nakhichevan to Turkey with the connivance of customs officials at the Sadarak border crossing have been channeled to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The Turkish government recently banned the import of oil from Nakhichevan. On 3 September, some 150 tanker drivers picketed the Turkish Consulate in Nakhichevan to protest the ban, which they say deprives them of their livelihood. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September)

ARE AMERICAN MOVIES GETTING ILLEGAL SCREENINGS ON AZERBAIJANI TV? The general director of the Azerbaijan International Film Company, Ali Humani, said on 28 August that ANS and ATV had ignored court rulings banning the showing of American movies on private TV stations in Azerbaijan. Humani claimed that his company, the country's only authorized representative of the U.S. film industry, has the exclusive right to show American movies in film theaters in Azerbaijan. Furthermore, according to Humani, ANS and ATV have also violated copyright agreements by airing American films sometimes even before they run in Azerbaijani cinemas. Humani said his company has filed another court case against these television stations in a further effort to halt this alleged practice, the Turan news agency reported the same day. CC

'SVOBODNYE NOVOSTI' REFUSES TO REMAIN NONPLUSSED, AFFIXES PLUS. Last month Information Minister Mikhail Padhayny suspended printing of the independent weekly "Svobodnye novosti," after a request from Syarhey Atroshchanka, one of the weekly's four co-founders. "Svobodnye novosti" had a circulation of 36,000 and was known for its criticism of the Belarusian government. Atroshchanka's request was widely publicized in the state media, particularly on Belarusian television. Atroshchanka claimed that the weekly became unprofitable and that the editorial staff operated only thanks to grants from the U.S. Embassy in Minsk. Atroshchanka also charged that the editorial staff received money for publishing articles and materials "ordered" by unidentified clients. "Svobodnye novosti" Editor in Chief Alyaksandr Ulitsyonak flatly denied Atroshchanka's charges, suggesting they were prompted by his intention to launch a separate publication, the weekly "Obozrevatel" (which Atroshchanka did last week). The Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAZh) has called on Padhayny to step down, saying that his ban on printing "Svobodnye novosti" was illegal. Meanwhile, Ulitsyonak and his staff -- to sidestep the printing ban -- have launched a new weekly under the name registered with the Information Ministry a year ago, "Svobodnye novosti-plus." At present, the new weekly has a circulation of 8,000 and is distributed only in Minsk, because the editorial staff have not yet managed to settle formalities for nationwide distribution. ("RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 3 September)

TWO JOURNALISTS START JAIL TERMS AS ANOTHER WEEKLY CLOSED. This month, journalists Mikola Markevich and Pavel Mazheyka of the independent weekly "Pahonya," which was closed by a court verdict last year, began serving their one-year sentences for libeling President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in "open-type correctional institutions" far from their home city of Hrodna. "Nasha svaboda" Editor in Chief Pavel Zhuk told Belapan on 27 August that his weekly will close down because the authorities are preventing them from publishing any further issues. A district court in Minsk on 2 August fined "Nasha svaboda" some $55,000 in a libel case brought by Anatol Tozik, chairman of the State Monitoring Committee. Zhuk said the verdict has ruined "Nasha svaboda," as the authorities seized the newspaper's equipment and froze its bank account. An attempt to publish a "Nasha svaboda" issue on 27 August failed after the money transferred to a printing house to cover the printing costs was intercepted by the authorities. ("RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 3 September)

IS FORMER FOREIGN MINISTER INVOLVED IN SRBA ILLEGALITIES? Czech Foreign Ministry official Vladimir Zavzal on 2 September confirmed that hundreds of thousands of crowns were found in a safe near former Foreign Minister Jan Kavan's office in 2000, CTK reported. He added that the money was given to the ministry's former secretary-general, Karel Srba, in Kavan's absence from the country, the agency reported. Zavzal, who on the same day was appointed the ministry's new secretary-general, thus confirmed a report first published by the weekly "Euro." Zavzal said he does not see any connection between that incident and the current investigation of Srba for the alleged contracting of a journalist's murder and corruption. Kavan told CTK that the 250,000 crowns ($8,090 at current exchange rate) involved was to be mostly used for financing a senate-election campaign. He said the rest was either his own money or money received from the ministry as allowance for his foreign visits. Kavan said Srba gave him the money after he returned to Prague and that he cannot see why the issue should surface now as a problem, the agency reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 September)

SOUTH OSSETIAN AUTHORITIES DENY GEORGIAN JOURNALISTS ACCESS TO PEACE TALKS. On 29 August, officials of the self-proclaimed Republic of Southern Ossetia denied access to Georgian journalists when they tried to cover peace talks in Tskhinvali between representatives of the Georgian and Ossetian sides as well as the combined peacekeeping forces and the OSCE, the Black Sea Press reported the same day. CC

FIDESZ PROTESTS GOVERNMENT'S CONTROL OF MEDIA. Tens of thousands of supporters of former Prime Minister Viktor Orban gathered outside state-run MTV television's headquarters on 30 August to protest what they claim is control over public media exercised by the ruling Socialist-Free Democrat coalition, Hungarian media reported. Orban told the crowd that "it is no longer enough to have a Socialist channel, we also need one based on civic and national values." He said that if parliament fails to pass such a bill the right-wing opposition must initiate a referendum on the matter. Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy told reporters on 31 August that one genuine public-service television network is enough and that "Those who need a television of their own should buy one." He also said that "a good, stable, predictable, and constructive opposition is needed in parliament," but dismissed Orban's proposal to set up right- and left-wing state-television channels as "legally and democratically absurd." Socialist Party Chairman Laszlo Kovacs and Free Democrat executive Ivan Peto also rejected Orban's proposal, stressing that FIDESZ has "occupied" MTV and driven it to bankruptcy. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 September)

HUNGARIAN TV STILL CONTINUES TO MAKE THE HEADLINES. Former executives at MTV, speaking on condition of anonymity, on 29 August told "Magyar Hirlap" that outside security companies were not hired to keep tabs on television employees but to ensure that no information was leaked from MTV headquarters. The officials were reacting to the findings of an internal probe at MTV, which alleged that in 1999 former MTV President Zsolt Laszlo Szabo issued orders to have companies and private individuals monitored. In other news, the right-wing Alliance for the Nation was to stage a demonstration on 30 August outside MTV headquarters to protest what they call a lack of press freedom nationwide. The keynote speaker at the rally will be Viktor Orban. Organizers said they will press for the resignation of MTV executive Imre Ragats, claiming that since he has held that office senior executives and program editors have been dismissed from their jobs or demoted. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August)

EXILES LEARN PR TECHNIQUES. A group of Iraqi exiles living in North America and Europe started a four-day course of media training at the U.S. State Department in Washington this week. The 17-strong group will be taught how to write opinion pieces, give speeches, and do television and radio interviews, CNN reported on 26 August. The intention, the station reported, is to help "make the case that the battle is not between the U.S. and Iraq, and to convey that the Iraqi people and Iraq's neighbors will be better off without Saddam." The funding for the media-training workshop came out of funds for the Future of Iraq project, a State Department spokesman said. It is not subject to the restrictions of the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, the spokesman made clear in a transcript of the briefing. The Smith-Mundt Act is a key public-diplomacy law, the State Department said, that "governs the dissemination abroad of information about the U.S., its people, and its policies." ("RFE/RL Iraq Report," 30 August)

JOURNALIST BEATEN. Independent journalist Sergei Duvanov was attacked and severely beaten by three men in the stairwell of his apartment building late on 28 August, Reuters and Interfax reported. He has been hospitalized for treatment. Duvanov, who has written widely on corruption and human rights violations, was summoned to the National Security Committee last month and subsequently charged with insulting President Nursultan Nazarbaev in an article chronicling persistent rumors that Nazarbaev and his entourage have clandestine foreign bank accounts totaling millions of U.S. dollars. Speaking in Washington on 29 August, U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher condemned the assault on Duvanov, which he said appears to be part of "a pattern of harassment of Kazakhstan's independent media," Reuters reported. In Astana, Nazarbaev condemned the beating of Duvanov as a "provocation" intended to discredit the country's leadership, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August)

INTERIOR MINISTER IMPLICATES JAILED OPPOSITIONISTS IN ATTACK ON JOURNALIST... Speaking at a press conference on 29 August, Interior Minister Qayirbek Suleymanov suggested that the assault the previous day on Duvanov may have been masterminded by the criminal associates of two well-known oligarchs recently sentenced to prison terms, but refrained from naming former Economy, Industry, and Trade Minister Mukhtar Abliyazov and former Pavlodar Oblast Governor Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Alternatively, Suleymanov said, the attacks may have been the work of the Kazakh opposition ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 September)

...WHILE OPPOSITION BELIEVES ATTACK WAS ORGANIZED BY SECURITY SERVICES. The opposition movement Democratic Choice for Kazakhstan and the Forum of Democratic Forces held a press conference on 3 September, where they stated that in their view the attack on Duvanov was organized by the National Security Committee (KNB). In July, after his article alleging that Nazarbaev holds a secret Swiss bank account was printed on a number of Kazakh websites, Duvanov was questioned by the KNB. According to these opposition groups, no one has been detained or found guilty of organizing or perpetrating previous similar attacks in Kazakhstan. ("RFE/RL Kazakh News," 3 September)

KAZAKH POWER MINISTERS MEET WITH JOURNALISTS. Interior Minister Suleymanov, National Security Committee Chairman Nurtai Dutbaev, Justice Minister Georgii Kim, Deputy Prosecutor-General Onalsyn Zhumabekov, and Minister of Culture and Social Accord Mukhtar Kul-Mukhammed met on 4 September with heads of independent media outlets to discuss recent reprisals against journalists, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Zhumabekov accused unnamed media outlets of distorting facts or publishing unverified information, while Dutbaev accused them of ascribing political motives to simple crimes and of seeking to drive a wedge between his committee and the Interior Ministry. During the meeting, Suleymanov said 11 attacks against journalists in Almaty have been "registered," adding that four of these cases had been "fully and successfully investigated" and two cases have been sent to trial. The remaining seven cases, according to Suleymanov, are still under investigation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September)

PARLIAMENTARIAN CALLS FOR 'DRASTIC MEASURES' AGAINST 'DIRTY PUBLICATIONS.' During the 4 September parliamentary session, a group of parliamentarians led by deputy Erasyl Abilqasymov, proposed discussions be held on the media situation in Kazakhstan and on new draft amendments to the media law. Abilqasymov said that he divided journalists in Kazakhstan into three categories: those who work for media outlets owned by oligarchs; those who are employed by newspapers funded either by foreigners or from abroad, such as former Kazakh Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin's paper "Soldat"; and journalists who work for periodicals by, as he put it, "our people," such as the paper "Karavan." Abilqasymov called for "drastic measures" to prevent "dirty publications, which insult President Nazarbaev's dignity and present Kazakhstan as a country which does not respect human rights." The deputy added that violence against journalists is "intolerable," saying that "reporters subjected to violent attacks can and should find justice in the courts." ("RFE/RL Kazakh News," 4 September)

MEDIA COMMISSION FINES DAILY. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) reported on 3 September that the Temporary Media Commissioner (TMC) of Kosovo imposed a new sanction of 17,500 euros (over $17,000) against the paper "Bota Sot" after the 24 July ruling of the Media Hearing Board. The TMC found numerous violations of UNMIK Regulation 2000/37 and its associated Code of Conduct and it received numerous complaints against the paper. The violations arise from articles on 7 and 8 June entitled "UNMIK Police Arrests Three People Who Tried to Kill Vesel Muriqi" and "The Case of the 'Prefect' and the Minister Ethem Ceku," and another article on 11 June entitled "Exclusive: Who is Behind the Case 'Prefect' in Peja When Four UCK Fighters, Supporters of Rugova Were Killed on June 1999?" CC

JOURNALISTS UNION PUBLISHES HANDBOOK ON ELECTION COVERAGE. The Macedonian Journalists Union (ZNM) presented its "Handbook on Election Coverage" to the public on 4 September, "Utrinski vesnik" reported. The handbook is intended as a guideline for providing "unbiased, independent, and correct information" about the elections to the general public. "It contains guidelines...that are meant to be truly useful rather than patronizing," ZNM Secretary-General Saso Colakovski said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September)

PRO-PPCD RALLY CALLS ON AUTHORITIES TO HALT MEDIA CENSORSHIP. A resolution approved at a rally organized in Chisinau by the Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) on 1 September called on the ruling Party of Moldovan Communists to put an end to censorship at national radio and TV broadcasters, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The rally also called for an end to attempts to impose communist ideology on society as a whole. Estimates of participation in the rally ranged from 4,000-15,000. PPCD Chairman Iurie Rosca accused authorities of having prevented people from reaching Chisinau to participate in the rally. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 September)

PUBLICATION ACCUSES PPCD OF ENCROACHING ON PRESS FREEDOM. Valeriu Renita, editor in chief of the publication "Sens," on 4 September told Infotag that on 31 August two bodyguards of PPCD Chairman Rosca assaulted a "Sens" employee who was distributing the publication on the streets. Renita said the bodyguards ordered the man to throw his copies of the publication in a garbage container and set them on fire. They also warned him against "selling this filth again" and threatened to beat him up if he does so again. Renita said a complaint has been filed with the Prosecutor-General's Office. He said law enforcement authorities must take measures against the "offensive against the freedom of the press." Infotag reported that Renita was earlier attacked in the pro-PPCD daily "Flux" for allegedly supporting the ruling Party of Moldovan Communists. Renita is also a member of the BASA-press managing board. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September)

DEBATE ON MEDIA LAWS POSTPONED. At the request of the Serbian People's Party, the Montenegrin parliament has postponed its debate on media legislation on 29 August. The parliamentary speaker's office told the Beta news agency that the Serbian People's Party had requested the postponement due to the 250th anniversary of the Moraca Monastery and a religious holiday. Parliament will debate the proposed media legislation that was drafted in association with the Council of Europe. ("ANEM Media Update," 24-30 August)

JOURNALISTS SEE PINK. The Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) protested the decision of one government agency to allow Serbia's biggest private television station, TV Pink, to broadcast programs on 12 frequencies in Montenegro, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Podgorica on 4 September. ANEM called the decision illegal and demanded its reversal. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September)

ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH LEADER MOVES TO LIMIT CLOUT OF RADIO MARYJA... Cardinal Jozef Glemp, the primate of the Roman Catholic Church in Poland, has issued a decree banning as of 1 October the operation of Radio Maryja bureaus at parishes in the Warsaw Archdiocese (which is directly headed by Glemp), "Rzeczpospolita" and other Polish media reported last week. At the same time, Glemp called on the clergy and believers in his diocese to support another Roman Catholic radio station, Radio Jozef. "The priest on the territory of his parish may not, without permission of the diocese authority, accept offers from other church institutions in the sphere of religious instruction or allow any fund raising. Otherwise, he runs counter to canonical law and undermines the unity of the church," "Gazeta Wyborcza" quoted from Glemp's decree. ("RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 3 September)

...IN EFFORT TO LIMIT ITS EXTREMIST VIEWS... Radio Maryja was started as a local radio station by Father Tadeusz Rydzyk in Torun in 1990; in 1993, the station received a concession for broadcasting nationwide. Today, Radio Maryja claims a regular listenership of 14 percent of adult Poles (some 4 million people) and touts itself as the most influential Catholic media outlet in Poland. Radio Maryja is notorious for its "Roman Catholic fundamentalism," nationalism, and opposition to Poland's membership in the European Union. It also actively participates in political campaigns in the country. Thanks primarily to support from Father Rydzyk's station, the far-right, ultra-Catholic League of Polish Families was able to win 38 seats in the Sejm in the parliamentary election on 23 September 2001. Glemp's decree suggests that the message aired by Radio Maryja does not necessarily concur with what the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy in Poland wanted to hear. ("RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 3 September)

...BUT WILL OTHER CHURCH LEADERS FOLLOW? It is not clear at present whether other Polish bishops will follow Glemp's example and try to squeeze out Radio Maryja bureaus from their dioceses. Radio Maryja's parochial bureaus were set up all over the country spontaneously by believers, following an on-air appeal from Father Rydzyk. Their operation is regulated by accords concluded between the Radio Maryja management and individual dioceses. The bureaus are involved in raising funds for the operation of Radio Maryja, as well as for other purposes advertised by the station. ("RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 3 September)

KREMLIN WEBSITE SPECULATES ON GOALS OF WESTERN SUPPORT FOR RUSSIAN MEDIA. The website, known for its Kremlin connections, ran an item on 2 September on "Western money: towards the politics of a donor community in Russia" featuring an interview with Mikhail Kalyuzhskii, administrative director for the IREX media program in Russia. Recognizing that Western funders had "literally saved many projects and organizations," the article claims that Russia's economic crisis is largely a thing of the past. The item says that Western funders -- who like to view themselves as "donors" -- actually have specific political aims in funding projects in Russia. The authors prefer the term "partnerships" to describe Western-funded projects in Russia. In his interview, Kalyuzhskii refers to three types of Russian-American media partnerships: IREX (the U.S. non-commercial organization International Research and Exchanges Board), the Soros Foundation (according to Kalyuzhskii it is "formally" a private U.S. foundation, but its Russian staff has "long made most of its tactical decisions") and the Russian-American Media Enterprise Dialogue (initiated by Presidents Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush in November of last year). Kalyuzhskii observes that government-funded foundations are capable of more "flexible responses" and "more interested in concrete results." CC

JOURNALIST RESISTS ABDUCTION ATTEMPT IN KARACHAEVO-CHERKESSIA. On 26 August, three masked men attacked and tried to abduct State Duma Deputy Magomet Tekeev, a journalist in Karachaevo-Cherkessia, in the village of Rimgorskoe, Malokarachaevskii Raion. They subjected Tekeev to a beating, but could not abduct him due to his fierce resistance. The three men escaped, but shot his aide dead. This was the second attack on Tekeev; the first assault occurred in the fall of 2000, a day before he registered as an election candidate. His aides believe that the latest attack is related to his articles in the paper "Zhizn." Ever since his days as editor of the local paper "Gorodskie novosti," Tekeev has exposed corruption, crime, and lawlessness in the republic, according to his staff. Tekeev attributes the attack to his work in the Duma. The republican prosecutor's office has opened an investigation. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Weekly Report," 26 August-1 September)

(DIS)INFORMATION WARS IN THE KRASNOYARSK GOVERNOR'S RACE. Aleksandr Uss, a front runner in the race for governor, tried to place an ad saying, "Here a New Article Smearing Alexander Uss Could Be Placed. We've Had Enough of This" in local newspapers. Krasnoyarsk papers such as "Moskovskii komsomolets," "Izvestiya," and "Zapolyarnaya pravda" would not run the ad and on 27 August Uss's headquarters asked the krai's election commission to charge the papers with infringement of electoral laws. On the other hand, Uss is the only candidate who gets a discounted price for his ads on the TVK TV station, an investigation by the election commission found. On 27 August, the commission filed a complaint about TVK's administrative violation. Meanwhile, a smear campaign has been launched against another gubernatorial candidate, Krasnoyarsk Mayor Petr Pimashkov. His electoral headquarters held a news conference on 28 August about a TV documentary "Operation P" that presents Pimashkov as a drunkard with presidential ambitions. Pimashkov's supporters said that the documentary is libelous and will bring suit against its producers, a news agency allegedly financed by another candidate. The prosecutor's office is looking into the matter. Although TV stations in Krasnoyarsk refused to air "Operation P," it was shown on 26 August in Minusinsk and in Nazarovo on 23 and 27 August. In a third incident, journalists were refused access to a news conference by A. Khloponin, another candidate in the governor's race. Only three companies hired by Khloponin were allowed to cover his 28 August news conference. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Weekly Report," 26 August-1 September)

MANY JOURNALISTS DENIED ACCESS TO PUTIN IN PRIMORE. The Vladivostok-based paper "Yezhednevnyie novosti" reported that tape recorders and cameras were taken from 25 local and 25 Moscow journalists invited to attend a 24 August meeting with President Putin in the city of Primore on the Pacific coast. An official told them that, because the meeting was informal, the president's remarks could not be attributed to him. On another occasion, reporters of the Vostok-Media news agency were not allowed to attend events with President Putin and North Korean leader Kim Il-Jong, although reporters had applied in advance to the Primore administration's press service for accreditation. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Weekly Report," 26 August-1 September)

COURT DENIES AVANT-GARDE WRITER'S SUIT. The Taganka Municipal Court in Moscow on 29 August dismissed a suit by writer Vladimir Sorokin alleging that the pro-Putin youth movement Moving Together had violated his copyrights by distributing excerpts from his novels at its rallies, Russian news agencies reported. The court also charged Sorokin's publisher 75,000 rubles ($2,420) in court costs. Lawyers for the plaintiffs said they will appeal the verdict. Sorokin and his publisher face criminal charges of distributing pornography based on a complaint filed by Moving Together ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August)

PROSECUTORS QUESTION SECOND WRITER IN PORNOGRAPHY PROBE. Writer Kirill Vorobev, known under the pen name Bayan Shiryanov, was questioned by prosecutors on 3 September in connection with an investigation into complaints that his works are pornographic, and other Russian news agencies reported. The investigation was started after a complaint by the pro-Putin youth movement Moving Together asserted that Vorobev's novel "Mid-Level Pilotage" is pornographic and promotes drug use. According to Vorobev's lawyer, "the meeting was fairly formal and was conducted in an atmosphere of goodwill." Vorobev's novel is currently undergoing literary analysis by experts from the Union of Writers and the Institute of the Russian Language. Based on the results of that analysis, a decision will be made concerning the possible filing of criminal charges. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September)

WRITER APPEALS TO PRESIDENT. The full text of an open letter from writer Viktor Yerofeev to President Putin was printed in "Vremya MN" on 5 September. In the letter, Yerofeev draws the president's attention to the recent actions against contemporary writers by the pro-Putin youth movement Moving Together. He notes that Moving Together has created a list of "harmful" writers and has interfered with the presentation of new books, in addition to urging criminal cases against writers Kirill Vorobev and Vladimir Sorokin. "Does not this violence against the creative personality remind you of Germany in the 1930s?" Yerofeev writes. He adds that he is not writing "in order to break off relations with the authorities, but so that the authorities would understand and think about what is happening in Russia. In the center of Moscow, books are being destroyed and writers are being brought into court. This situation is absolutely not normal." Yerofeev predicted that there will be "show trials" against writers this fall. Sorokin supports Yerofeev's initiative, reported. "All this reminds one of the dark times when writers were destroyed," he was quoted as saying. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September)

DARYAL-TV LOSES LICENSE; TENDER IN NOVEMBER. The Media Ministry will conduct a tender for the broadcasting license of Daryal-TV, Interfax and other Russian news agencies reported on 30 August. In July, an advisory commission recommended that the ministry not renew Daryal-TV's license after the channel had received a number of warnings for violations of media law. The tender will be held at the end of November and the cost for the license should be about $1 million. Interfax also reported the same day that, as expected, state-run ORT will participate in the tender. ORT's Public-Relations Director Igor Burenkov said that ORT will participate in every such tender until it is able to acquire an additional frequency. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August)

GAS GIANT ACCELERATES PROCESS OF SELLING MEDIA HOLDINGS. Gazprom intends to ask a court to lift the freeze on the shares of Media-MOST that it acquired from Vladimir Gusinskii, apparently in a move to speed up the sell-off of Gazprom-Media's holdings, reported on 3 September. According to NTV General Director Boris Jordan, the company's main task is "to rationalize and consolidate all its shares." "At present," Jordan added, "all these shares are on the balance sheets of different [Gazprom] subsidiaries and we need to consolidate all these packets so that the holding has direct control of 100 percent of NTV, 100 percent of NTV+, etc." Jordan said that he hopes this process can be completed and that NTV and other Gazprom-Media companies can be sold during 2003. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September)

KIROV GOVERNOR WINS LIBEL CASE. A raion court in Kirov Oblast ruled on 5 September that the independent newspaper "Novyi variant" and a journalist identified only as I. L. Veletminskii libeled Kirov Oblast Governor Vladimir Sergeenkov in an article published earlier this year. The court order the newspaper to pay Sergeenkov 5,000 rubles ($161) and Veletminskii to pay 1,500 for the article "The Governor Has Managed To Get the Cold Water Turned Off in Kirov," which alleged that more than 80 million rubles allocated by the federal budget to pay for city water had been misspent with Sergeenkov's consent. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September)

PENZA PAPER TOLD TO GO SLOW. On 8 August, the Penza weekly "Lyubimyi gorod" carried a front-page story about a car accident in the town of Gorodishche, blaming N. Antonov, deputy chief of the Federal Security Service's (FSB) oblast branch. Four days later, the weekly's editor in chief, A. Sharonov, was invited to the local FSB office for an informal chat. V. Dovzhenko, local FSB public-relations specialist, "mildly reproached Sharonov" for the article, insisting that Sharonov not speak to anybody about their meeting. Dovzhenko said that it is "wrong" to report road accidents involving FSB personnel because Western intelligence services will have a reason to engage in schadenfreude. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Weekly Report," 26 August-1 September)

KIROV PRESS COMMITTEE TOLD TO RETRACT PRESS 'GUIDANCE.' The Prosecutor-General's Office has acted on a complaint filed by the Media Ministry about a letter from the Kirov Oblast Press and Information Committee ordering local editors to selectively publish remarks of State Duma members. The Prosecutor-General's Office viewed the letter as an effort to impose censorship and ordered that the letter be withdrawn. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Weekly Report," 26 August-1 September)

NONPROFITS LAUNCH LEGAL PROGRAM FOR REGIONAL MEDIA. Four Russian nonprofit organizations -- Internews, the Press Development Institute, the Moscow Media Law and Policy Institute, and the Glasnost Defense Fund -- with support from the Soros Foundation Open Society Institute have announced plans for a 12-month legal examination and voluntary audit of regional Russian mass-media outlets. As of August, the new program offered legal advice to help bring regional media outlets into accordance with current Russian legal norms. Organizers hope that by ensuring conformity with federal and regional regulations, these outlets will be in a better position to secure their own independence and financial viability. The project will also allow for the creation of a new legal database, to include all the necessary documents and regulations pertaining to both print and broadcast media outlets. Experts will also help formulate model documents to familiarize the outlets with legal agreements, orders, and regulations. For more, see or e-mail Internews project director Victor Monakhov at, or see,, or CC

FOREIGN MINISTRY REACHES OUT TO THE ONLINE MASSES. Speaking to students of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov announced that his ministry has launched an Internet page devoted to Russian foreign policy in cooperation with the Interfax news agency, reported on 2 September. Ivanov said that any citizen can receive an answer to his or her questions about Russian foreign policy through the interactive website ( ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 September)

'SOMEONE LIKE PUTIN' COMPOSER TELLS WHAT IS COMING NEXT. In a long interview with on 5 September, composer Kirill Kalashnikov described how he wrote the music to the pop song "Someone Like Putin," the first release by the all-female band Singing Together that is currently receiving a lot of play on Russian radio stations. Kalashnikov said that he wrote the song in about an hour and that the song was not written "to convey some super-social meaning," but rather "from the perspective of light humor." As for the future, Kalashnikov said Singing Together will prepare a Spanish-language version of "Someone Like Putin" and an antiabortion song that "will speak of the positive role of motherhood and, maybe, if you think on a global level, influence questions of the demography of our country." Another song in the works will have "an antimilitary character," Kalashnikov said. Asked about the effect of "Someone Like Putin" on the public, the composer said: "We are not using nefarious methods to influence the conscious mind. Other agencies are doing that. We simply wrote a good, happy tune." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September)

PRIME MINISTER DENIES POSSIBLE 'POLITICAL INFLUENCE' ON DAILY. Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, reacting to an article in the 12 August "Der Spiegel" magazine about his close connections to Bodo Hombach -- former coordinator of the Stability Pact for Southeast Europe -- published a letter in the 26 August edition of the German weekly. Hombach is a key player in the WAZ media group and played an active role in its purchase of the Belgrade daily "Politika." Djindjic pointed out that the article, written by "Der Spiegel's" Belgrade correspondent, implied that his contacts with Hombach could lead to "possible political influence on 'Politika's' editorial staff." Djindjic denied this implication, and claimed that "with the privatization of the media my government wishes to guarantee the highest degree of plurality, and above all to raise the professionalism of reporting." ("ANEM Media Update," 24-30 August)

BROTHER OF SLAIN JOURNALIST SEEKS DISMISSAL OF POLICE MINISTER. On 28 August, the brother of murdered journalist Slavko Curuvija called on the Serbian parliament to replace Interior Minister Dusan Mihajlovic. According to Belgrade daily "Blic," Jovo Curuvija believes that Mihajlovic is the "main obstacle to finding his brother's killers." Slavko Curuvija was gunned down in front of his home in Belgrade on 11 April 1999. ("ANEM Media Update," 24-30 August)

PROSECUTOR SEEKS HARSHER PUNISHMENT FOR MILANOVIC. On 29 August, the Belgrade district prosecutor asked the Serbian Supreme Court to increase the term of imprisonment faced by former Radio Television Serbia General Director Dragoljub Milanovic. He currently faces a term of 10 years for jeopardizing public security and embezzlement. ("ANEM Media Update," 24-30 August)

THREE OFFICIALS OF JOURNALISTS ASSOCIATION RESIGN. Three officials of the Association of Serbian Journalists -- Dusan Drazic, Slobodan Bukvic, and Vjekoslav Radovic -- resigned on 29 August. They accused association president Nino Brajovic of "machinations." and that he had turned the association into "a branch of his private company" and that he charged journalism students "thousands of marks for an [unaccredited] education program." Brajovic dismissed the accusations, adding that the association's business records had already passed muster with financial inspectors. ("ANEM Media Update," 24-30 August)

GOVERNMENT APPOINTS NEW STATE NEWS AGENCY CHIEF. The Slovak government on 4 September appointed Peter Nedavska as the new director of the state-run TASR news agency, AP reported. Nedavska, 48, has worked for TASR for 24 years and was chosen from among four candidates. The government fired the previous director, Ivan Ceredejev, in June after Ceredejev purchased a BMW as an office car. The car cost 1.48 million crowns ($33,260) -- almost double the maximum allowed for state-agency directors' cars. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September)

NEW EMPLOYMENT STATUS FOR STATE BROADCASTERS THREATENS INDEPENDENCE? The International Press Institute (IPI), a Vienna-based media watchdog, protested on 30 August a new salary law for public-service broadcast employees. According to the IPI, the new law could represent a "serious threat to the independence of the Slovenian public-service broadcaster, RTV SLO." The law, which was passed by parliament in April 2002 and will go into effect in 2003, considers the public broadcaster a state institution and classifies its staff as civil servants. The IPI believes that this new law -- passed despite the opposition of RTV SLO's management and the journalists' union -- could bring RTV SLO under increased political influence and undermine its editorial independence. Furthermore, the IPI states, "incorporating public broadcasting into the civil service is contrary to the practices in all EU member states" and violates the Council of Europe's Recommendation on the Guarantee of the Independence of Public Service Broadcasting. RTV SLO obtains 76 percent of its funding from license fees and less than 1 percent of its budget from government revenues. According to the IPI, RTV SLO "provided a shining example of the development of independent public-service broadcasting in Central and Eastern Europe." (International Press Institute, 30 August)

PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSION WANTS PRESIDENT TO BE INDICTED IN GONGADZE CASE. The Verkhovna Rada's ad hoc commission for investigating the disappearance of Heorhiy Gongadze has decided to address a request to the Prosecutor-General's Office to instigate criminal proceedings against President Leonid Kuchma and other current and former top officials over the kidnapping of the journalist, UNIAN reported on 3 September, quoting lawmaker Hryhoriy Omelchenko, the chairman of the commission. "There is sufficient evidence indicating that Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, Verkhovna Rada head Volodymyr Lytvyn, former Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko, and lawmaker Leonid Derkach were collaborators in crime as organizers of the kidnapping of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze," Omelchenko said. Meanwhile, police have arrested Serhiy Obozov, the prosecutor of Tarashcha Raion where Gongadze's decapitated body was found nearly two years ago. "Obozov is not the last official to be arrested in the [Gongadze] case," Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Piskun told journalists on 3 September. He did not comment on the charges against Obozov. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September)

OUR UKRAINE: OPPOSITION HAS NO MEDIA ACCESS. Our Ukraine on 29 August publicized an open letter to President Kuchma, warning him against a "systemic crisis of the authority that has hit all spheres of social life," Ukrainian media reported. According to Viktor Yushchenko's bloc, "one has the impression that the parliament, the government, and the media have been leased to the head of the presidential administration [Viktor Medvedchuk] and his oligarchic clan," the letter noted. Our Ukraine also complained that the opposition has no access to the state-run media. According to the bloc, "the situation in the state has been heading toward unpredictability and uncontrollability." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August)

PRESIDENT INCLUDES FREEDOM OF SPEECH AMONG PRIORITIES. Addressing a session of Uzbekistan's parliament on 29 August, Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov listed seven priorities for the country's future development, reported. They include expediting democratization and the protection of human rights, such as freedom of speech. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August)

BUDGETING COURSE FOR PRINT MEDIA FROM FORMER YUGOSLAVIA. A training program on budgeting and financial reporting for financial managers and personnel of small print-media companies from Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, and Bosnia is scheduled for November. Course participants will be trained through a two-week distance-learning module and then in residence from 12-17 November in Prague at the Media Training Center, the course organizer. Contact the Media Training Center director at or see CC


By Nickolai Butkevich

In a series of actions that seem to draw inspiration from the passage of a tough antiextremism law passed in July, the Russian authorities have launched an unprecedented crackdown on anti-Semitic and hate literature directed at Chechens, Roma, and other ethnic and religious minorities. Until August, the government's view on hate speech and hate literature -- illegal under Article 282 of the Criminal Code -- seemed to be that they posed no real threat. Complaints by minority leaders and human rights activists about publications and declarations by extremist politicians or neo-Nazi groups were routinely rejected by prosecutors, or were initially accepted as the basis for criminal investigations that were later dropped. Many of the handful of cases that made it to court ended in farcical verdicts, such as a February 2001 trial in Samara, where a judge ruled that a former deputy mayor's call on local television to "Drive out all the Jews and destroy all the synagogues" did not incite ethnic hatred.

Last month, however, the racist and anti-Semitic papers "Limonka" (the National Bolshevik Party's newspaper) and "Russkie vedomosti" have been shut down, and there have been several other law-enforcement actions against illegal anti-Semitic and racist publishing. It remains to be seen whether or not this crackdown is the beginning of a consistent effort to wipe out such publications or simply yet another government campaign that will peter out after some initial, widely trumpeted achievements. More importantly, what are its implications for interethnic relations and freedom of speech in Russia?

According to an 8 August report on RTR television, police undertook a sting operation that day against a center of chauvinist publishing: the Moscow office of the Union of Writers. According to the report, when sales clerk Anatolii Yakovenko realized that he had just sold a copy of "Mein Kampf" to an undercover police officer, he made a desperate grab for the book, but quickly gave up. He took out his suppressed fury on journalists, who appeared shortly after the arrest, making it likely that the police had specially invited them to record the sting for PR purposes. "You guys from Israeli television come here, but I am a real Russian writer!" Yakovenko raved at the Russian news crew. He was then arrested. Police next arrested Nadezhda Sharova, a bookseller at the Olympic Stadium market. Twelve copies of "Mein Kampf" were confiscated from her. Both detainees face stiff fines, according to the RTR report.

Illegal anti-Semitic and racist literature is easily available in many Russian cities. In Moscow, such literature is on sale in front of the former Lenin museum and on Lubyanka Square -- within sight of the FSB headquarters. One bookstall in the center of Moscow owned by the Ring company is typical. It sells over 30 blatantly anti-Semitic books, six days a week. Available titles include "How an Anti-Semite is Made" by Deacon Andrei Kuraev, "What the Jews Want from Us" by Aleksandr Sevastyanov, and "Russia Under the Rule of the Masons" by Oleg Platonov. Several months ago, the bookseller working this stand told Aleksandr Brod, the Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union's Moscow bureau chief, that the books are selling so quickly that she has to replace them with new copies several times a week. Two weeks after the raid on the Union of Writers, Brod reported that despite subsequent police raids, confiscations, and fines, anti-Semitic and racist literature is still widely available in Moscow. Apparently, demand for such material is strong enough to trump the risks of selling it.

Also last month, the Media Ministry issued a warning to a Nizhnii Novgorod television station after it aired a news item on Chechen refugees which the ministry, citing the new antiextremism law, found incited ethnic hatred. This sort of radical federal intervention seems necessary since local authorities refused to bring charges against the editor of the local newspaper "Delo" after the paper ran an article in 1999 calling for Chechnya to be "wiped off the map." Nor in April 2001 did the Nizhnii Novgorod police stop some 150 members of the National Bolshevik Party from picketing the Society of Russian-Chechen Friendship. The picketers held posters reading: "Send the Chechens to Auschwitz!" and "No Chechnya -- No war!" Even worse, the city authorities reportedly gave permission for the rally to go forward, notwithstanding the National Bolsheviks' extremist views.

What has the government done recently about hate speech in publications? On 8 August, the Cheremushkinskii Intermunicipal Court of Moscow ordered the closing of the magazine "Russian Master" -- which regularly calls for the deportation of all dark-skinned people from Moscow -- in response to an appeal from the Media Ministry. Staff members of "Russian Master" are currently on trial for their participation in a mass skinhead attack on the Yasenevo market in April 2001, during which several non-Russian market traders were injured. The Ministry also issued warnings to the Yekaterinburg anti-Semitic newspaper "Russkaya Obshchina Yekaterinburga" and the Novosibirsk newspaper "Russkaya Sibir" for inciting ethnic hatred. The editor of "Russkaya Sibir," Igor Kolodezenko, authored a 2001 brochure entitled "Anti-Zionism in Russia" in which he wrote: "We Russians have no choice: Either we drive the Jews out of power over Russia and cure ourselves of this deadly attack, or they will finish us off."

Given the complex multiethnic nature of the Russian Federation, Kolodezenko's statements are the rough equivalent of shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater. If organizations, politicians, or individual fanatics are allowed to flout the law to this extent, it sends several dangerous signals. Their readers may see the impunity enjoyed by the authors of such extremist publications as a covert wink from the authorities that violence against the targeted group will be tolerated. The targeted groups may react with defensive nationalism against Russians. Obviously, adopting a "hands-off" position on individuals or groups who call for interethnic or interreligious violence is a recipe for disaster.

But what about other forms of hate speech, where there is no obvious call to violence? Here it is less clear how to strike the necessary balance between free speech and respect for the law so as to preserve interethnic stability. On the one hand, freedom of speech is one of the few clear victories of the reform process in Russia, but under the Putin government, it seems increasingly under threat. Under current conditions, a campaign against hate speech might be extended by overzealous bureaucrats to include a crackdown on opposition political speech or even the discussion of sensitive social issues. On the other hand, what about the readers of hate media, whose minds have been methodically poisoned with hatred against other ethnic and religious groups? If they believe, as their favorite authors do, that Chechens or Jews or Jehovah's Witnesses are utterly evil, do they really need to be directly incited to violence, or will they eventually draw their conclusions on their own about the need to "take action?"

Clearly, hate speech in Russia is a complex problem that cannot be solved by either totally suppressing it or ignoring it in the name of free speech. A limited, carefully targeted campaign against the worst violators of anti-hate-speech laws -- combined with increased funding for government programs promoting tolerance plus more Western support for Russian NGOs and media that deal with interethnic issues -- might go a long way towards making Russia a more stable and just nation.

Nickolai Butkevich is research and advocacy director at the Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union (UCSJ).