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Media Matters: November 22, 2002

22 November 2002, Volume 2, Number 45

"RFE/RL Media Matters" will not appear on 29 November due to the U.S. holiday.
INTERNET HATE SPEECH FURTHER CRIMINALIZED IN EUROPE. The Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers adopted the Additional Protocol to the Convention on Cybercrime at its 6-7 November meeting, reported this week. The protocol requires states to criminalize the dissemination of racist and xenophobic material through computer systems, as well as racist- and xenophobic-motivated threats and insults including the "denial, gross minimization, approval or justification of genocide or crimes against humanity, particularly those that occurred during the period 1940-45." It also defines the notion of this category of material and establishes the extent to which its dissemination violates the rights of others and criminalizes certain conduct accordingly. The EU and East European countries have signed the Cybercrime Convention but not Russia. Antiracism activists are concerned that criminalizing such hate speech will force more hate groups to move their web pages to U.S. servers, where they already enjoy more freedoms under the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment and more liberal cyberlaws. CAF

NATIONAL SECURITY MINISTRY DENIES RESPONSIBILITY FOR PORNOGRAPHIC VIDEO. In a statement to the Noyan Tapan news agency on 18 November, the Armenian National Security Ministry denied responsibility for a videotape that has circulated in Yerevan for the past two years showing Aram Abrahamian, editor of the opposition newspaper "Aravot," engaging in sex with an unidentified woman. The daily "Or" published several stills from the video on 14 November, triggering widespread criticism and the expulsion of "Or" Editor Gayane Mukoyan from the National Press Club, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 15 November. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November)

COURT SUSPENDS TENDER FOR TV FREQUENCIES. Armenia's Economic Arbitration Court ruled late on 18 November to suspend the ongoing tender for nine television frequencies, Noyan Tapan and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Noyan Tapan had filed a lawsuit against the National Commission for Television and Radio after its bid for one of those frequencies was rejected. Mesrop Movsesian, director of the A1+ television station that lost its frequency in a controversial tender earlier this year, criticized the court decision, claiming the Armenian authorities are using the Noyan Tapan law suit as a pretext for avoiding awarding his station a new frequency before the presidential elections scheduled for February 2003. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November)

JOURNALISTS DIVIDED OVER AMENDED DRAFT MEDIA LAW. Armenia's National Press Club is strongly opposed to including discussion of the amended draft media law on parliament's agenda prior to presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for the first five months of 2003, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 16 November. Its members believe the bill is intended to curtail critical media coverage in the run-up to the polls. But the Yerevan Press Club advocates dialogue with the Justice Ministry on removing the most unpalatable restrictions on reporting. One of the club's members, Mesrop Harutiunian, said the club has already proposed to the Justice Ministry a number of amendments to the bill. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November)

CRITICAL JOURNAL FORCED TO CLOSE. "Monitor," a monthly Russian-language socio-political magazine critical of the government, has just been forced to cease publication for the third time since it was founded five years ago, the Institute for War and Peace Reporting's (IWPR) Caucasus Reporting Service reported on 14 November. Many analysts believe that persecution of the journal has intensified in the wake of a series of August and September issues that lambasted President Heidar Aliev's decision to hold a referendum on amending the constitution. The authors of the articles said that the plebiscite was turning the Azerbaijani presidency into a hereditary royal position. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists wrote a letter to President Aliyev on 7 August, urging him to cease harassment of the magazine, saying, "Azerbaijani officials are using defamation laws and other tools at their disposal, including the intimidation of publishing houses, to silence Husseinov and his publications for questioning and criticizing government policies." (IWPR Caucasus Reporting Service, 14 November)

COURT CONFISCATES EQUIPMENT OF INDEPENDENT PAPER IN MINSK. Court bailiffs confiscated all equipment from the independent newspaper "Nasha svaboda" in Minsk on 6 November, the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations reported this week. The newspaper had suspended publication on 2 August when the Moskovsky District Court ruled in a libel suit in favor of State Control Commission Chairman Anatol Tozik and against "Nasha svaboda" and its journalist Mikhail Podolyak. The court ordered the paper to pay the plaintiff 100 billion rubles ($53.2 million), and Podolyak 5 million rubles. Upon appeal, the City Court upheld the ruling. The newspaper's board was unable to compel the court to rule that equipment rented from private citizens was exempt from confiscation. The ruling was designed to prevent the launching of a new paper this month, publisher Pavel Zhuk told colleagues. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly Report," 11-17 November)

RUSSIA'S NTV SUES BELARUSIAN TV FOR PIRACY. NTV-Plus has filed suit in Minsk Economic Court against the National State Television and Radio Company of Belarus (NGTRK) on claims of violation of copyright and broadcasting rights, NTV-Plus said in a press release issued this week, the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations reported, citing on 15 November. On 31 May of this year, the complaint says, NGTRK rebroadcast a soccer match between France and Senegal throughout Belarusian territory without compensating NTV-Plus, and obscured its logo in the process. CAF

SENATE APPROVES NEW MINISTRY. On 14 November, the Senate approved a government-sponsored bill to set up a Ministry of Informatics. The Chamber of Deputies has already approved the bill, which has been expected since the July coalition agreement established the portfolio and named Vladimir Mlynar (Freedom Union-Democratic Union) to the cabinet-level post of minister of informatics. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November)

CZECH TELEVISION COUNCIL ONE VOTE SHORT OF DISMISSING BALVIN. A motion to dismiss Czech Television General Director Jiri Balvin fell one vote short of approval by the Czech Television Council on 18 November, CTK reported. Nine of the 13 council members present backed the measure -- one vote short of the two-thirds required on the 15-member body. Balvin, who has been criticized over his management and chronic budget shortfalls, countered that he was neither surprised nor disappointed by the vote. He added that he intends to continue in his position, saying he was has had to fend off political pressure while defending his professional standards. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November)

SOCIALISTS OPPOSE REGISTRATION OF PRIVATE, RIGHT-WING TV CHANNEL. Gyorgy Ladvanszky, the Socialist trustee of the National Radio and Television Board (ORTT), on 20 November recommended that the board of trustees decline to register the pro-right-wing Hir TV (News TV), arguing the company behind it has only 20 million forints ($85,000) in registered capital, "Nepszabadsag" reported. Ladvanszky suggested that the ORTT prevent the launch of media enterprises with questionable financial backgrounds, arguing that private satellite-television stations similar to Hir TV already owe tens of millions of forints to the ORTT. If Ladvanszky's proposal is accepted, it will mark the first time the ORTT has foiled the operations of a private satellite-television station. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November).

KHAMENEI ORDERS ACADEMIC'S DEATH SENTENCE REVISED. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has ordered the country's judiciary to revise a death sentence it handed down on prominent pro-reform academic Hashem Aghajari, prompting student leaders to signal an end to the largest pro-reform protests Iran has seen for three years. The order was reported by the hard-line daily "Jomhuri-yi Islami" on 17 November and confirmed by both Aghajari's lawyer and the speaker of Iran's parliament. A history lecturer and political activist, Aghajari said in June that each generation should be allowed to interpret Islam on its own, without the guidance of clerics. A hard-line court in the western city of Hamedan on 6 November convicted him of blasphemy and sentenced him to be hanged -- sparking protests from students, senior government officials, and even some prominent conservatives. Parliamentary speaker Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi told parliament on 17 November that the supreme leader gave the order in response to an appeal from a group of university professors. Iranian student leaders responded to the announcement by saying they are ready to call off their demonstrations and urged students to return to classes on 19 November. ("Iran: Khamenei Orders Academic's Death Sentence Revised,", 17 November)

RSF PROTESTS CLOSURE OF 'BABEL.' Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the French press-freedom watchdog, has protested the 20 November one-month closing of "Babel," Iraq's most influential newspaper. "Even though the paper is owned by President Saddam Hussein's eldest son, Uday, himself a notorious censor of the media, it recently published the views of regime opponents and criticized corruption and inefficiency in the regime," noted RSF Secretary-General Robert Menard. "The authorities were quick to react, as usual. Whatever the reason for this episode, which appears to be a settling of scores, we call for the immediate reopening of this rare window to the outside world," he said. An official source simply said the newspaper had "violated the Information Ministry's instructions." "Babel" and the television station Shebab, whose programming is aimed at young people and which is also controlled by Uday Hussein, have recently tackled certain sensitive topics. Shebab relays programs from other Arab stations, including Al-Jazeera, which are normally inaccessible to Iraqis, since the government bans satellite dishes. "Babel" published a report on 17 November speculating on the fate of the president's family should a war erupt between Iraq and the United States. The newspaper reported that Libya had denied a story in the British daily "The Times" claiming that President Hussein was ready to pay Libya billions of dollars if it gave political asylum to him, his family, and top aides. "Babel" also reported on the views of Iraqi regime opponents, though it also dismissed them as "miserable traitors in the pay of the United States." (RSF, 21 November)

'AL-THAWRA' ATTACKS U.S. PRESS. "Al-Thawra" on 14 November criticized "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post" for singing "the same tune of threats and aggressiveness" as the administration. "They have also published scenarios, plans, preparations, and whatever their tendentious minds can imagine," "Al-Thawra" said, referring to reports of war plans and troop movements the papers have published in recent months. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November)

OPPOSITION JOURNALIST RUN DOWN AND KILLED. Nuri Muftakh, a prominent journalist who worked with several independent newspapers in Kazakhstan, was hit by a car on 17 November and died from his injuries, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Muftakh was traveling from the southern city of Shymkent to Almaty by bus. When the bus made a routine stop in the city of Taraz, Muftakh got off and was struck by a car. It was unclear if the driver of the car was apprehended or taken into custody. Muftakh had written many articles about the Kazakh government and alleged corruption. Most recently he was editor in chief of the independent newspaper "Altyn ghasyr" (Golden Century). Muftakh was also the co-founder of the independent newspaper "Respublika 2000," which was closed down by Kazakh officials last year. The daughter of Lira Baysetova, another co-founder of "Respublika 2000," was found dead under mysterious circumstances earlier this year. ("Kazakhstan: Opposition Journalist Run Down And Killed,", 18 November)

CONGRESSMEN SPEAK OUT ON BEHALF OF ARRESTED JOURNALIST... Twenty members of the U.S. Congress, including Tom Lantos (D-California), Henry J. Hyde (R-Illinois), and Christopher H. Smith (R-New Jersey) addressed a letter to Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev, released to the public on 15 November. The legislators note that "this extremely serious accusation is quite suspicious, especially given the general crackdown on independent and opposition media in Kazakhstan, and the authorities' targeted campaign against Sergei Duvanov." CAF

...AS DO HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS... Leaders of Human Rights Watch, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and the International League for Human Rights addressed a joint letter on 20 November to President Nazarbaev regarding the Duvanov case. While recognizing the charges of rape against Duvanov are serious, the organizations believe that "the circumstances surrounding his arrest indicate a political motive for the case." The activists say Duvanov's reputation is known internationally, and the criminal charges appear suspect as they came on the eve of his departure to the U.S. to speak about persecution of the media and his own work in exposing corruption. Because Duvanov had no previous criminal record, he should be released pending trial and his rights of due process should be respected. CAF

...AND OTHER INTERNATIONAL FIGURES. Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and more than 60 other members of the Communities of Democracies Nongovernmental Forum wrote on 11 November to President Nazarbaev to express their concern over what they term the "ongoing persecution" of journalist Sergei Duvanov. They further appeal to Nazarbaev to ensure "an open, independent, fair, and objective examination" of the rape charges brought against Duvanov to rule out the possibility that those charges are politically motivated and to end "harassment and political persecution" of opposition politicians and independent journalists in Kazakhstan. On 15 November, 20 U.S. congressmen appealed to U.S. President George W. Bush on Duvanov's behalf. Duvanov himself in an open letter dated 14 November and carried on, thanked those of his colleagues who embarked on a hunger strike in solidarity with him. He further explained that his original intention to fast to death was motivated by anger, not despair. Duvanov abandoned his protest hunger strike on 9 November after prison officials began force-feeding him. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November)

JOURNALIST RECEIVES INTERNATIONAL PRESS FREEDOM AWARD. Irina Petrushova, founder and editor in chief of the weekly "Respublica" in Kazakhstan, is among the four recipients of this year's International Press Freedom Award, given by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. Founded two years ago to cover business and economic issues, "Respublica" has hammered President Nazarbaev's regime for cronyism and corruption. "Respublica" exposes have ranged from financial scandals, such as favoritism in the awarding of highly lucrative oil rights, to petty nepotism, such as the official commandeering of a jet loaded with tourists so that Nazarbaev's daughter could fly alone. The paper has also covered persistent rumors about secret government accounts in Swiss banks, until April, when it was publicly revealed that Nazarbaev had quietly stashed $1 billion of state oil revenues in a Swiss account. As that story grew into a national scandal, Petrushova suddenly found herself the target of an intense, sometimes grisly, campaign of intimidation. This last spring, a funeral wreath was anonymously delivered to Petrushova; a decapitated dog's corpse was found hanging from a window grate at "Respublika" (a screwdriver plunged into the torso held the message, "There will be no next time."); the dog's severed head was left near her house with another threat; and "Respublika's" printer announced he was quitting after finding a human skull on his doorstep. Three days after the dog incident, "Respublika's" office was firebombed and burned to the ground. Petrushova and her staff moved and kept publishing. She hired a bodyguard for her two young sons. Petrushova faced relentless bureaucratic pressures from the government, including a suspended jail sentence handed down in July for her conviction on alleged business violations. In September, Petrushova reluctantly relocated to Moscow but continues to edit her Almaty-based newspaper long-distance. (Committee to Protect Journalists, 20 November)

BROADCAST REGULATORS TO REVIEW CONTROVERSIAL LANGUAGE CONTROLS. Broadcast regulators will for the first time review a controversial language restriction on commercial radio and television now in force that ensures Latvian dominates the country's airwaves, the weekly reported in its 13-20 November issue. Members of the National Radio and Television Council, the politically appointed body that issues broadcast licenses, passed a draft three-year plan last week that includes a thorough review of the law, which contains a restriction on foreign-language programming to 25 percent of all programming on commercial stations. Human rights activists have long held that the law, passed in the mid-1990s to protect the Latvian language and promote integration, discriminates against Latvia's large ethnic Russian minority. "I don't think the majority of Latvian society thinks our language is in danger any more," said council member Ilmars Slapins. Slapins said the law is difficult to enforce and has failed as a tool to teach Latvian to Russian speakers. "It does not integrate our society," he said. The council had suspended broadcasting of some Russian radio stations which it says broke the law and has warned Latvian television channels that show too many Russian-language movies. TV 5 programming director Gunta Lidaka says the law helps maintain ethnic divisions in the country by limiting the news and current-affairs programs Russian speakers can watch in Latvia in their own language. She said integration in Latvia would be better served by airing more programs in Russian about Latvia. Lidaka also says it's not TV 5's role to teach Russians the Latvian language. "That's the state's job, not ours," she said. "We are a business." Cable television, which is not subject to the law, has helped undermine the regulation's original intent. Russian speakers now have access to every major channel broadcast from Moscow. CAF

PARLIAMENT APPROVES LAW AGAINST AUDIOVISUAL PIRACY. The Moldovan legislature approved a law on 15 November against the pirating of compact discs and videotapes, ITAR-TASS reported. Under the new regulations, all CD and video traders in Moldova must possess documents certifying the origin of their merchandise as well as the producers' consent to distribute on Moldovan territory. Authorization labels must then be carried on CDs and videotapes. Moldovan police claim that pirated CDs and videos account for 90 percent of the country's trade in that market. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November)

JOURNALISTS CHARGED WITH BLACKMAIL. A prosecutor has sent the case of two journalists from the weekly newspaper "Accente" to court on charges of bribe taking, the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations reported on 20 November, citing MOLPRESS on 19 November. Law-enforcement agencies have charged Sergiu Afanasiu, director of the publication, and reporter Valeriu Manya with bribery. If found guilty, the pair face imprisonment from five to 15 years with confiscation of property and the right to work in their profession and certain other occupations for five years. The two were reportedly caught red-handed on 9 October as they received $1,500 from Leonid Prishivaylov, director of the Wine International Project. According to the complaint filed at the prosecutor's office, the journalists are accused of extorting the money in order to refrain from publishing a compromising article. CAF

MEDIA EXECUTIVES APPEAL TO PUTIN... The heads of all of Russia's major state-controlled and private media outlets as well as representatives of leading journalists' organizations on 20 November signed an appeal urging President Vladimir Putin not to sign into law amendments to the law on the mass media and the law on terrorism that would strictly regulate the coverage of antiterrorism operations, Russian news agencies reported. The amendments were passed by the Duma on 1 November and by the Federation Council on 13 November in the wake of the 23-26 October hostage drama in Moscow. In the appeal, which was signed by 23 individuals, the authors argue the amendments could seriously hinder the professional activity of journalists, hamper their ability to cover emergency situations, distort the objectivity of information, and become an obstacle to the country's democratic development. They admit that there were some problems with the coverage of the October hostage crisis but wrote that they were caused by "mistakes, rather than by ignorance of the threat." They noted as well that the journalistic community is in the process of creating its own professional code for such situations and ended by asking Putin to veto the proposed amendments. The appeal was signed by, among others, ORT General Director Konstantin Ernst, VGTRK General Director Oleg Dobrodeev, NTV Deputy General Manager Raf Akopov, Interfax Director Mikhail Komissar, and Ekho Moskvy Editor in Chief Aleksei Venediktov. "This is the first time in my memory that all media got together and developed a common platform," Venediktov said on ORT. The head of Putin's human rights commission, Ella Pamfilova, appealed separately to Putin not to sign the amendments, ITAR-TASS reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November)

...AS STATE INVOLVEMENT RAISES EYEBROWS. The Moscow meeting at which media executives adopted their appeal to Putin was attended by Media Minister Mikhail Lesin and Deputy Media Minister Mikhail Seslavinskii, reported on 21 November. Lesin told the executives that he "understands the desire of legislators to fill a legal vacuum," but supported the appeal, which he said "demonstrates the consolidated position of the mass media and clearly shows that the media sector is ready [to engage in] dialogue with representatives of the government and law enforcement." It was unclear exactly who authored the appeal to Putin. However, according to, at one point during the meeting, REN-TV head Irena Lesnevskaya asked Seslavinskii who wrote it, and he replied, "I'm ashamed to admit it, but only five people [worked on it]." "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 21 November noted the support of Lesin and the state-controlled media and speculated that the appeal might be a "state public-relations stunt." "Most likely, this all means that a decision has already been made -- the president will not sign the amendments citing 'the will of the public.' And, naturally, journalists will take upon themselves responsibility 'to restrain themselves,'" the daily commented. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November).

INTERNATIONAL GROUPS PROTEST AMENDMENTS TO MEDIA LAW. In a letter addressed to President Putin and released to the press on 14 November, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) complained that the amendments to the law were "too broad or vague" and could be used to suppress independent reporting, particularly on the sensitive issue of Chechnya. "While we recognize that Moscow residents have lived through a traumatic experience recently, we are concerned that the tragic events of October are being used to justify further restrictions on the Russian media," said the letter. CPJ noted that the Russian media deserved praise for its accurate handling of the news during the October hostage crisis. A report by Article 19, commissioned by OSCE Rapporteur on Media Freedom Duve and presented to the Permanent Council of the OSCE, condemned the amendment to the law on the mass media. Article 19 was concerned that the amendment's language was overbroad and media-specific, "likely to have a chilling effect on freedom of expression, unnecessarily limiting the free flow of information and ideas." The new law is also said to provide a mechanism for an individual, rather than the prosecutor, to bring suit against a media outlet. Regarding proposed changes to the law on terrorism specific to media activity, Article 19 commented, "It is primarily the responsibility of the authorities involved in antiterrorism activities, not the media, to prevent legitimately secret information about their work from becoming public." Duve also presented the critique prepared by media-law expert Mikhail Fedotov, secretary of the Russian Union of Journalists, who said that the amendments were unnecessary because existing law already made punishable the use of the media to commit crimes, and the government, not the media, is responsible for divulging information about terrorism. CAF

NTV REPRIMANDED OVER COVERAGE OF HOSTAGE CRISIS? NTV, the independent television station, has apparently come under pressure from the Kremlin for its critical coverage of the October hostage crisis, "Rossiiskie vesti" reported on 13 November. According to sources cited by "Rossiiskie vesti," presidential Chief of Staff Aleksandr Voloshin reprimanded NTV General Director Boris Jordan for ignoring guidelines for reporters covering the October hostage crisis. Jordan reported the reprimand to his subordinates, including those who talked to the terrorists, indicating that the government was evidently displeased with NTV's alleged "anti-Kremlin position" and failure to take into account Kremlin concerns as well as those of NTV's main shareholder, Gazprom. Voloshin was also said to single out the program "Namedi" (The Other Day) hosted by Leonid Parfenov, in which a video clip of a conversation between President Putin and Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Nikolai Patrushev and Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov was accompanied by attempts to lip-read the conversation. Voloshin and Media Minister Lesin were said to have shown NTV clips to President Putin, and to be urging that anchors Parfenov as well as Savik Shuster be taken off the air, and that Tatyana Mitkova should be dismissed from her position as NTV editor in chief. CAF

GOVERNMENT TO USE MEDIA TO PROMOTE MILITARY, ECONOMY. The Defense Ministry has developed a plan to create its own military media outlets to promote "the military-patriotic education and preparation of the citizens of the Russian Federation," and other Russian news agencies reported on 20 November. According to, the Defense Ministry has asked the Media Ministry to "consider the possibility of allowing the use of the 57th television-radio channel for the interests of all the security agencies." Meanwhile, the government on 21 November ordered the Media Ministry and the Federal Securities Commission (FKTsB) to "find ways to attract the mass media to covering the country's fund markets," reported, citing FKTsB Chairman Igor Kostikov. The purpose of the initiative is "to attract private savings into the Russian economy," Kostikov said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November)

KRASNOYARSK NEWSPAPER ALLEGES HARASSMENT. Police in Krasnoyarsk on 21 November searched the offices of the independent newspaper "Segodnyashnyaya gazeta" and confiscated the computers of the paper's general director and deputy editor, reported. Deputy Editor Maksim Glazunov told the agency the search was carried out in connection with a libel case filed by former acting krai Governor Nikolai Ashlapov. Ashlapov alleged that a series of articles published in the paper this spring damaged his business reputation. Glazunov charged that the computer seizures were an attempt to pressure the paper. "I think this is political pressure on the newspaper on the part of Nikolai Ashlapov and people who are helping him," Glazunov was quoted as saying. A local court heard Ashlapov's case on 30 May and found the newspaper guilty on 14 June. Glazunov said the court refused to allow any defense witnesses and did not consider any of the materials that the newspaper presented to substantiate the information in the articles. Glazunov said Ashlapov did not contest the facts in the articles, but only objected to the way the newspaper "evaluated" those facts. The paper is currently appealing the local court's ruling. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 November)

FSB CONDUCTS SEARCH AT REGIONAL NEWSPAPER. Local FSB officers in Perm searched the offices of the regional newspaper "Zvezda" on 12 November, reported on 15 November, citing the paper's website and the chairman of the local union of journalists, Vasilii Mosiev. According to Mosiev, the FSB also questioned "Zvezda" Editor in Chief Sergei Trushnikov for five hours and forced him to sign a pledge not to discuss the interrogation. According to the "Zvezda" website, FSB officers confiscated documents and computer hard disks. They also interrogated the paper's crime reporter, Konstantin Bakharev. Mosiev said only that the possible cause for the FSB's interest was a series of recent publications on local crime. Meanwhile, NTV reported on 15 November that local tax police in Petrozavodsk searched the offices of the independent newspaper "Guberniya" on 12 November. The paper's editor in chief, Larisa Zhdanova, accused local authorities of trying to prevent the next issue of the paper from appearing because it contains an investigation into how local bureaucrats are using their state-provided apartments. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November)

LIBERAL LEADER DECRIES POLITICAL CENSORSHIP. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii dealt out some harsh criticism of President Putin's term in office in an interview with RosBalt on 19 November. "Over the last two years, public politics in Russia has been liquidated," Yavlinskii was quoted as saying. He also said that since the summer of 2000 a regime of virtual political censorship has been introduced in the national mass media. "Appearances in the media are only possible in limited doses and only on the basis of special permission," Yavlinskii said. He noted that this situation has not prevented Union of Rightist Forces leader Nemtsov from appearing in the national media frequently. Ironically, Yavlinskii made many of the same charges in an even longer interview published in the government-owned daily "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 20 November. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November)

DUMA MOVES TO TIGHTEN CONTROL OVER BROADCASTING LICENSES. The Duma on 15 November approved in its first reading an amendment to the law on the mass media that would authorize the government to withdraw the licenses of broadcasters that do not make full use of the radio and television frequencies for which they hold licenses, reported on 16 November. The amendment would also authorize the courts, in addition to the government, to initiate license-withdrawal proceedings against media companies. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November)

MAJORITY FAVORS CENSORSHIP DURING HOSTAGE CRISES. Sixty-one percent of Russian citizens believe it is necessary to impose censorship during emergency situations involving hostages, according to a nationwide survey of 1,600 people conducted by the Agency for Regional and Political Research (ARPI), reported on 13 November. About 35 percent of respondents oppose censorship in such situations. Meanwhile, Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader and Deputy Duma Speaker Vladimir Zhirinovskii told reporters in Moscow on 14 November that "the state must control all processes in the country -- from the weather to the mass media," RosBalt reported. "Terror is a war in which the front is everywhere. Why in such a war should journalists have unlimited freedom while the rest of the public faces rights limitations?" Zhirinovskii was quoted as saying. "The number of insane people in the country is increasing, violence and debauchery are on the rise, and all this is the work of journalists." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November)

'LE MONDE' REPORTER DENIES LAWSUIT RUMORS. Laurent Zecchini, the French journalist with "Le Monde" whose provocative question at a Brussels press conference on 11 November led President Putin to invite him to Moscow to be circumcised, denied on 19 November Russian press reports that he intends to sue Putin over the incident, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. In an interview with the daily, Zecchini said that as far as he is concerned the incident is closed and "he is tired of the story." Zecchini said he would not hesitate to travel to Moscow if "Le Monde" sent him and that "no threats have been made against me." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November)

PACE RAPPORTEUR TO ATTEMPT VISIT TO PASKO. A committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) hopes to visit imprisoned journalist Grigorii Pasko in a labor camp in Ussurisk, 100 kilometers northwest of Vladivostok in the Russian Far East, where he is current serving his sentence, reported Bellona, an environment organization active on his case. The PACE Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights has asked its rapporteur, Rudolf Bindig, to try to make the visit to the camp if possible while on a trip to Russia late this month where he has asked to meet with of the Russian Supreme Court President Vyacheslav Lebedev, as well as prosecutors and members of the defense. Pasko was sentenced on charges of treason in 2001 to four years of labor camp for blowing the whistle on Russia's nuclear pollution at sea. Despite international and domestic outcry over his case, a military court reconfirmed his sentence earlier this year. CAF

TATAR JOURNALIST RESIGNS IN WAKE OF HOSTAGE CRISIS. The head of Tatarstan Television, which is owned by the republican government, has resigned, citing pressure from Moscow over his coverage of the 23-26 October Moscow hostage crisis, "The Moscow Times" reported on 19 November. Irek Murtazin hosted a talk show on 24 October in which participants called for an end to the war in Chechnya and made critical comments about the government's domestic policies. Excerpts from the show were later rebroadcast by another Tatarstan-owned station, Efir. "Moscow put pressure on the Tatarstan authorities, saying a man who sympathizes with Chechen terrorists cannot run a state company," said Murtazin, who served as Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev's spokesman before being appointed head of Tatarstan Television in June. He did not say which Moscow officials might have been involved. Shaimiev accepted Murtazin's resignation on 14 November. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November)

FORTY YEARS OF 'ONE DAY.' On 18 November 1962, the story "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" by the then-unknown author and former political prisoner Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn appeared in an issue of "Novyi mir" under the editorship of Aleksandr Tvarkovskii, "Izvestiya" and other Russian news agencies reported on 18 November. The story describes a single day in the life of an ordinary Russian in a Soviet labor camp who, despite horrendous and debasing conditions, is able to find wellsprings of freedom and dignity within himself and in his relations with other prisoners. Solzhenitsyn went on to win the Lenin Prize for literature and briefly became a symbol of Nikita Khrushchev's post-Stalin thaw. Later, however, he was excluded from the Union of Writers, systematically harassed, arrested, and expelled from the country. He won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1972. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November)

TV DIRECTOR RECEIVES DEATH THREAT. An anonymous caller threatened to kill Makhmudzhan Dadabaev, director of the Khudzhant-based independent television company SM-1, and have his channel closed, the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations reported, citing the Tajikistan office of the U.S. media assistance organization in INternews. The threats followed the channel's report on the activities of the local recruiting office, which is reportedly drafting young men by force. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly Report," 11-17 November)

MISSING JOURNALIST REPORTEDLY FOUND HANGED IN BELARUS... The Ukrainian News (Ukrayinski novyny) agency said on 18 November that its missing director, Mykhaylo Kolomiyets, has been found dead in Belarus. Kolomiyets had been missing since 25 October. Belarusian police said Kolomiyets' death was most likely suicide, adding that the body still had to be formally identified. "The corpse has yet to be formally identified, therefore by law we cannot confirm that it is him. But we are 90 percent sure it is Kolomiyets's body," Reuters quoted Belarusian Interior Ministry spokesman Dzmitry Parton as saying. "The body was found hanged in a forest in Maladzechna," Parton added. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 November)

...AS RSF QUESTIONS OFFICIAL STORY IN HIS DEATH. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) issued a public response on 20 November to the announcement about the recent discovery in Belarus of a body that may be Ukrayinski novyny head Kolomiyets. RSF called on Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Piskun to personally take up the case and offered to send a French pathologist to help. It also asked him to take into account contradictions in evidence it had gathered and not to rule out the possibility of a contract killing. Kolomiyets's news agency reported him missing on 28 October, noting that it could be linked to his journalistic work and the agency's occasional criticism of the authorities. Police said he had left Ukraine for Belarus on 22 October and made phone calls on 28 October to his staff, his family, and a woman friend. Police said he told them he had left the country with the intention of killing himself. Evidence gathered by RSF contradicts the police version. Kolomiyets's friends said that in his phone calls he had not said he intended to kill himself, that he was not depressed, and had no personal reason to commit suicide. His mother denied police statements that she had been in regular contact with her son since he disappeared. (RSF, 11 November)

CHIEF OF STAFF TELLS PACE 'NO CENSORSHIP' IN UKRAINE; PACE BEGS TO DIFFER. Viktor Medvedchuk, head of the presidential administration, told PACE rapporteurs Renata Wolvend and Hanne Severinsen that there is no political censorship in Ukraine, reported the "Ukrainian Media Bulletin" published by the European Institute for the Media. "The authorities are open today for a dialogue with media," Medvedchuk said, adding that the government would punish those guilty of political censorship of the media. Meanwhile, at a news conference on 16 October, Severinsen said she was concerned about freedom of speech in Ukraine, and noted that journalists had told her of the existence of "media agenda bulletins" allegedly sent out by the presidential administration to provide guidelines to journalists on which news stories to cover and how to present them. Severinsen also remarked that no progress had been made in the investigation of the murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. CAF

CENTRAL ASIAN INTERNET USE GROWING. While Central Asia "isn't exactly positioned to become the next Silicon Valley," says an article posted on 22 October on, due to "marginal infrastructure" and "megalomaniacal dictators," familiarity with the technology is growing. Funded by the U.S. State Department, the Internet Access and Training Program (IATP) implements and operates centers that provide free Internet and computer training to the people of Central Asia. Three years ago, the region had only six centers. By the end of 2002, 49 will be operating, according to David Mikosz, who is coordinating IATP's efforts in the region. The sheer size of the region, coupled with its geographic isolation from any satellites or fiber-optic lines, makes wiring a challenge, Mikosz reports. CAF


By Andrew F. Tully

The U.S. government is moving on two fronts to gather an increasing amount of information on suspected terrorists to prevent future attacks on American soil. Some technology analysts see these steps as a necessary, if sometimes intrusive, way of ensuring Americans' protection. Others contend that they represent a further erosion of citizens' civil liberties, and that this step probably will never be reversed.

On one front, a special appellate panel of judges, a Court of Review, recently approved broad new wiretapping and other surveillance powers for the Justice Department as provided under the USA Patriot Act, the antiterrorism legislation passed by Congress a month after the attacks of 11 September 2001. The ruling overturned a decision by the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which said the new surveillance powers should be granted only under strict judicial supervision.

Meanwhile, the Defense Department is setting up a new computer system that would gather and sort personal information from around the world in an effort to spot data trends that could identify terrorists or terrorist activity. This technique is known as "data mining," and is already being used -- to a much less ambitious extent -- by private businesses in search of customers.

In announcing his department's new surveillance powers on 18 November, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said he would now be able to mount his part of the war on terrorism more efficiently. "The Court of Review's action revolutionizes our ability to investigate terrorists and prosecute terrorist acts. The decision allows the Department of Justice to free immediately our agents and prosecutors in the field to work together more closely and cooperatively in achieving our core mission -- the mission of preventing terrorist attacks."

Ashcroft stressed that civil liberties advocates have nothing to fear from his department's use of its new powers. But not all those who heard his words agreed. One is Solveig Singleton, an analyst of technology issues at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, an independent policy research center in Washington. Singleton told RFE/RL that it is dangerous for any society to give its government increased access to their private lives -- even if this access is supposed to expire on a certain date, which is known as a "sunset date." She cited an example of a surveillance law passed in Britain, which has a good reputation for respecting civil liberties. "Some years ago, England expanded its wiretapping powers of the police. And they had a sunset date, like a lot of the provisions in the Patriot Act do, but of course the [English] sunset date came and went, and the powers are still there. So I think that the powers that have been expanded -- it's very unlikely that they'll ever be rolled back, unless there are really appalling abuses."

But some say Americans are at war and should fear terrorists more than they do their own government. This is the argument put forth by Erran Carmel, an associate professor of management and global information technology at American University in Washington. "I feel that [broader surveillance power is] something that, as a people, Americans have to be very concerned about and continuously monitor. However, at the juncture that we're in now, in terms of national security, we can't look at things like we did on 10 September 2001."

The Pentagon's plans to use "data mining" also is coming under attack from some quarters, even though the practice is legal when used by private businesses. In commerce, data mining is using fast computers to scan huge amounts of data in search of marketing trends or customer preferences. This way, businesses can focus the advertising of their products or services on people or other businesses that are more likely to buy them. This is far more efficient, and less costly, than broadcasting their advertisements to all in the hope that a few might be interested.

Critics say such data mining is, for the most part, benign because it seeks to provide customers with something they might want. Data mining by the Pentagon, on the other hand, would be done to find patterns of behavior that might lead to the arrest of suspected terrorists. And it would do so without any judicial supervision, according to Allan Davidson, the general counsel for the Center for Democracy and Technology, a private organization in Washington that advocates personal privacy in an age of increasing technological intrusion. "When you put [the data on an individual] together it creates a very detailed and invasive dossier about a person's life and a person's activities. And it's very troubling to imagine the government doing that without some kind of appropriate oversight or check on how it's used. It's chilling to imagine that data being gathered even with oversight."

Singleton of the Competitive Enterprise Institute says she is less concerned about the Defense Department's use of data mining. First, she says, there is nothing that she can find in the U.S. Constitution that would prohibit the practice. Besides, she contends, it is one of the very few tools that the government could use to prevent further terrorist attacks against the United States. But Singleton says there are other problems with data mining. She says most data mining searches for behavior that is fairly common, like customers who do not pay their bills. Terrorism, she says, is rare, so data that points to it will be equally rare. Therefore, she concludes, it will be difficult for the Pentagon to know whether its data mining is a reliable way to track down terrorists. Besides, she says, if the database is to have a global reach, it will be nothing less than a glut of data -- some of it in electronic form, some in paper form, some in foreign languages -- that will require enormous sums of money and manpower to manage. "So if the Pentagon is going to do this on some kind of a global scale, they're really talking about, well, frankly, a huge boondoggle."

A further problem is getting other countries' cooperation in compiling the database. Without it, the database would be useless in the war against international terrorism. Singleton and Davidson of the Center for Democracy and Technology agree that other countries may be reluctant to share information on their citizens with the American military. Carmel, of American University, puts it more bluntly: "This deals with fundamental issues of national sovereignty. There will be resistance, and [it will] certainly [be] justified. No one around the world, even the U.S.'s closest allies, likes American government agencies snooping on their own people."

So despite the opposition of civil libertarians, the real enemies of data mining by the U.S. government may be resistance from foreign countries and its inherent management problems.

Andrew F. Tully is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Washington, D.C.