16 March 2001, Volume
...WHILE TRIAL AGAINST PAPER POSTPONED.
The International Press Institute "strongly condemned" the prosecution of newspaper editor Ermurat Bapi and historian Karishal Assanov who stand accused of "insulting the honor and dignity of the Kazakhstan president" in a letter to President Nursultan Nazarbaev on 13 March. RFE/RL reported on 15 March that the trial was postponed due to Bapi's state of health. ("RFE/RL Kazakh News," 14 March)
BISHKEK COURT REDUCES FINE AGAINST OPPOSITION PAPER...
On 14 March, a Bishkek court reduced from five to 1.5 million soms (about $30,000) the fine imposed on the "Asaba" newspaper on 20 October. "Asaba's" owner says he will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court; publication is suspended under a 6 March court decision due to another unpaid fine for slander. Another opposition paper "Res Publica" now publishes materials by "Asaba" journalists. ("RFE/RL Kyrgyz News," 14 March)...BUT JALALABAD REPORTER'S CONVICTION REINSTATED.
The regional court in Jalalabad reinstated a conviction against independent journalist Moldosali Ibraimov on 13 March. He was sentenced to two years imprisonment and a fine of about $2,200 for allegedly "libelous" articles on corruption that he wrote last summer. His lawyer plans to appeal the conviction to the country's supreme court. ("Internews Network Kyrgyz Republic Press Release," 15 March)INTERNATIONAL PRESS INSTITUTE PROTESTS FINES...
The International Press Institute (IPI), based in Vienna, sent a letter on 8 March to Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev, expressing "deep concern" at recent measures taken by authorities against the "Asaba" opposition paper. The IPI letter said that the authorities are trying to close the paper by imposing excessive fines, pointing out that the use of so-called "insult" laws to limit reporting "flies in the face of internationally accepted standards." ("RFE/RL Kyrgyz News," 9 March)...AND URGES REPEAL OF DEFAMATION LAW.
The IPI urged Akaev "to repeal article 129 of the criminal code which states that 'Insult, either verbal, written, or physical' is punishable by a fine or by up to six months corrective labor or public reprimand." This article provides public officials with the means to effectively limit the dissemination of information and thus restricts the public's right to know, according to the IPI. ("RFE/RL Kyrgyz News," 9 March)BISHKEK PAPER DOESN'T REACH USUAL READERS.
The editor of the independent "Asaba-Bishkek" paper informed RFE/RL on 14 March that early in the day almost all of its 14 March edition was bought up by a small group of unknown people. As a result, the issue -- which carried some articles critical of President Akaev and his family -- did not reach its usual readers. ("RFE/RL Kyrgyz News," 14 March)OSH TV SHUT DOWN.
The southern branch of the Kyrgyzstan agency of communication ordered independent television station Osh TV to stop broadcasting. One of the first independent television stations in Central Asia, Osh TV has been in a lengthy conflict with the government over its broadcasting license and its VHF frequency. ("Internews Network Kyrgyz Republic Press Release," 15 March)
CATALAN TV GOES OFF AIR.
Catalan TV went off the air on 1 March after the Audio-Visual Coordinating Council (CCA) threatened to involve the prosecutor general to implement the CCA decision that its broadcast license be revoked on 20 February for violating the electoral code and media rules for election campaign coverage. Several participants in the February general elections lodged complaints against Catalan TV with the Central Electoral Commission for what they claimed was propaganda in favor of the National Liberal Party (PNL). The channel's senior executives ran in the elections on the PNL ticket. (Moldova Media News, 9 March)NORTHERN REGIONS WITHOUT RADIO MOLDOVA BROADCASTS.
"Existence in an information vacuum," this is how the manager of a radio relay station in northern Moldova described his region on 7 March. For over five years the area has had almost no access to Moldovan radio broadcasts because the country's wire radio network was destroyed after the authorities decided to replace wire radio transmissions with over-the-air broadcasts in 1994. The government made few efforts to modernize transmission facilities and did not implement plans to provide the population with 700,000 wireless sets. According to the Audio-Visual Coordinating Council, some 1.1 million Moldovan homes used to have wire radio sets, but some 70 percent do not work any more. Most Moldovans cannot afford to buy modern radio equipment. (Moldova Media News, 9 March)NEW AGRICULTURAL REPORTING BOOKLET.
The Independent Journalism Center from Chisinau has finalized work on its second booklet on agricultural reporting. (Moldova Media News, 9 March)WEEKLY PROTESTS ELECTIONS WITH MOCK-COMMUNIST HEADERS...
Many readers of the independent weekly "Jurnal de Chisinau" were shocked on 2 March. To protest the communist victory in last month's general elections, banner headlines proclaimed the "crisis of bourgeois democracy" and the "eternal victory of Lenin's ideas" -- followed by critical appraisals of the situation in the country. According to the European Institute for the Media, "Jurnal de Chisinau" had provided the most professional coverage of the elections, even though it had adopted an open and strong anti-Communist stance in its editorial line. (Moldova Media News, 9 March)...AND ELECTION RESULTS DISCUSSED ON INTERNET.
Over 100 people have taken part in a live Internet forum hosted by the Russian-language online daily "Reporter.md." During the week of 25 February Internet users expressed opinions about the country's recent general elections, how and why communists came to power, whether Moldova should join the Russia-Belarus Union, and if Russian should be declared a second official language. For more, visit http://www.reporter.md. (Moldova Media News, 9 March)NEWSPAPER RESUMES PUBLICATION, CHANGES FORMAT.
After a hiatus of almost a year, the Russian-language weekly "Kishinyovskiy Obozrevatel" resumed publication on 1 March. In its previous format, "Kishinyovskiy Obozrevatel" was a tabloid. The revamped version, produced by a new team, aims to become a "solid analytical publication." It now also has an English-language supplement. (Moldova Media News, 9 March)
CONFLICT BETWEEN SECURITATE ARCHIVES COLLEGE AND INTELLIGENCE SERVICE...
National College for the Study of the Securitate Archives (CNSAS) member Horia-Roman Patapievici accused the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) of interference in the college's activities by indirectly imposing priorities, Romanian media reported. The CNSAS asked the SRI to deliver 50 Securitate files on religious leaders and journalists, which SRI Director Radu Timofte has refused. Timofte proposed to hand over the entire Securitate archive, a proposal rejected by Patapievici, as the CNSAS does not have the necessary space to hold all of the files. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 March)...WHILE PREMIER CRITICIZES ARCHIVE'S WORK AND ROLE.
Prime Minister Nastase on 12 March said he "never believed and still doesn't believe in the CNSAS and its role," Mediafax reported. He added that while examining the Securitate files, the CNSAS offered "partial or untrue" data and that the opening of the files created only animosity in the country. Nastase said the CNSAS is "fighting with the past," a fight he considers useless. He added that the law on the Securitate files should be modified. Replying to Nastase's declaration, CNSAS member Mircea Dinescu said the new administration would like to close down the college, as the CNSAS will soon have to examine Party of Social Democracy in Romania Deputy Ristea Priboi, the head of the parliamentary commission supervising the Foreign Intelligence Service. Priboi is suspected of having served as a foreign intelligence officer in the former communist secret police. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 March)MEDIA OUTLETS TO BE SUED.
Corneliu Ciontu, Greater Romania Party (PRM) first deputy chairman, on 13 March announced that his party will sue all media outlets accusing the PRM of extremism, Romanian media reported. Ciontu said his party is the target of a misinformation campaign led by the press. He added that a party can only be accused of extremism if it propagates violence, racism, or xenophobia. PRM Chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor gave xenophobic speeches primarily addressed against Hungarians, Jews, and Roma on many occasions. In 1998 he said "Romania should be ruled with a tommy gun," and promised "mass executions in stadiums." The PRM-sponsored "Greater Romania" weekly frequently uses derogatory language when referring to national minorities living in the country. The press increased its criticism of the PRM after the first round of the November 2000 presidential elections, in which Tudor tallied 30 percent of the vote. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 March)PARTIES TO CONTEST LAW ON STATE SECRETS.
Leaders of the National Liberal Party and the Democratic Party on 12 March announced they will contest the recently approved law on state secrets in the Constitutional Court, Mediafax reported. The law, adopted by parliament on 7 March, has been vehemently contested by the press as it is seen as limiting public access to information. Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said the Romanian Defense Ministry will ask NATO experts to examine the law and report on its provisions. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 March)
PLETHORA OF FUTURE SPY TRIALS?
The Federal Security Service (FSB) claims in its annual report that "it has tracked 350 Russians working for foreign intelligence agencies," according to a "Washington Post" editorial. Not only are these trials closed to the public, but they are so flimsy that Russian appeal courts have already thrown out charges in three of them. Undeterred, the FSB finds ways to put the same journalist (Grigorii Pasko), diplomat (Valentin Moiseev), and researcher (Igor Sutyagin) on trial again -- after many months of pre-trial detention. Based on this evidence, the editorial concludes that "once again the Kremlin leadership is inclining toward rule by means of secret police, rather than by parliament, elections, or law." And if the two current spy trials -- with at least six more waiting in the wings -- don't intimidate journalists and others, "the FSB has those 350 additional spies already identified." ("The Washington Post," 14 March)GAZPROM PLANS TO CLOSE 'SEGODNYA.'
Gazprom-Media and the Seven Days publishing house have said they will close the independent daily newspaper "Segodnya" by 1 May, Russian and Western agencies reported on 13 March. Dmitrii Ostalskii, a spokesman for embattled Media-MOST head Vladimir Gusinsky, told AP that "the move against 'Segodnya' shows what would happen to NTV if Gazprom takes control," adding that "Gazprom wants its media to be either apolitical or loyal to the government." Ostalskii told Interfax the same day that he hopes for "a civilized divorce" which would allow Media-MOST to retain and keep open "Segodnya." In other media moves, NTV general director Yevgenii Kiselev said that his station is profitable and may earn $10-15 million in 2001, Interfax reported. That should make it attractive for investors, he said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 March)GUSINSKY'S REINCARCERATION IN SPANISH PRISON PROTESTED.
The Union of Councils for Soviet Jews (UCSJ) condemned the reincarceration by Spanish police of Vladimir Gusinsky, former head of the Russian Jewish Congress and owner of Russia's most independent media holding, Media-MOST. Gusinsky faces possible extradition to Russia on what many observers see as politically motivated charges of fraud. The UCSJ called on the government of Spain to desist from considering the politically motivated Russian request to extradite Gusinsky. "The virus of Russia's corrupt criminal justice system must not be allowed to infect the rule of law in Western democracies such as Spain," said Micah H. Naftalin, UCSJ's national director. (Union of Councils for Soviet Jewry Press Release, 13 March)...WHILE RUSSIA'S AUDIT CHAMBER CRITIQUES GAZPROM NTV INVOLVEMENT...
The State Duma's financial watchdog, the Audit Chamber, recommended on 12 March that the "gas giant Gazprom give up its bid to take over NTV." Instead, the head of the Audit Chamber said that "the $262 million already invested should be diverted and instead be used for boosting gas production." The Audit Chamber reached this conclusion after conducting an audit of Gazprom last year. Its inspection revealed "numerous violations, particularly inefficient financial management." In a written response, Gazprom management said that "gas production would not decrease," but "it would not give up its bid to take over NTV." (gazeta.ru, 13 March)...AND ANNOUNCES INVESTIGATION OF GAZPROM AND ITERA.
The Audit Chamber announced on 12 March that it "intends to inspect the relationship between Gazprom and the Itera group of companies" and that its audit would be finished by the summer to "investigate whether Itera is a channel for exporting Russian capital, including Gazprom assets." (gazeta.ru, 13 March)GAZPROM-MEDIA CHIEF FACES TOUGH QUESTIONS IN U.S...
Apparently, Gazprom-Media chief Alfred Kokh has had some rather tough meetings during his recent U.S. visit. He went to Washington last week to try to convince Americans that he is "motivated purely by business interests" in trying to get Media-MOST holding to pay the "state-controlled gas giant millions of dollars" it owes. Reportedly, the recent National Security Council meeting "turned out to be the toughest for Kokh," reported "Kommersant" on 13 March. Kokh was asked to "explain why Gazprom started collecting debts from Media-MOST and not from Itera, a U.S.-registered gas producer and trader, which owes Gazprom half a billion dollars." He claimed that Itera fell "outside his area of responsibility." ("The Moscow Times," 14 March)LESIN SAYS HIS PROPAGANDA WILL BE POSITIVE.
Press Minister Mikhail Lesin said that his planned propaganda campaign will only focus on the positive features of Russia rather than on the negative aspects of its opponents, "Kommersant-Vlast" reported on 7 March. He said his efforts would seek to focus Western attention on such issues as Russia's flat tax and its proposals for a regional missile defense system. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 13 March)REUTERS ADOPTS INTERFAX.
The British news agency Reuters announced that it is incorporating the new feeds of Interfax into its global networks in real time, "Izvestiya" reported on 1 March. That will increase the number of people with daily access to the Russian agency by some 500,000, the paper said. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 13 March)PUTIN GOES ON LINE...
President Putin on 6 March spent 90 minutes on-line answering questions organized by the BBC and two Russian web portals, strana.ru and gazeta.ru. In his answers to questions selected by three journalists, Putin restated his policy positions and provided some details about his personal life. Russian media the following day gave extensive coverage not only to the interview but also to Western coverage of that interview, with most praising Putin for taking this step but some outlets noting that Putin on-line was the same as Putin any other way. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 13 March)...AS FAPSI FENDS OFF HACKERS.
A spokesman for FAPSI, the Russian government agency responsible for communications security, told Interfax on 7 March that there had been more than 10 efforts by hackers to break into Putin's interview on the Internet but that the agency had been successful in preventing the hackers from achieving their goals. At the same time, the spokesman pointed out that the number of hacker assaults was greater when former President Boris Yeltsin once gave an on-line interview. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 13 March)TATARSTAN SUPREME COURT HEARS PHONE CHARGES CASE...
The Tatarstan Supreme Court began hearings on 14 March on the claim of three citizens of Kazan protesting the Russian Federation decree introducing a per-minute charge system for telephone users. ("RFE/RL Tatar Daily Report," 15 March)... AS MINISTER CLAIMS 'NO EFFECT' ON INTERNET CHARGES.
Speaking at a Moscow conference on 23 February, Communications Minister Leonid Reiman claimed that the per-minute charging system would have "no effect" on Internet charges. Moscow and St. Petersburg are only planning to introduce this payment system, said Reiman. But it is already in effect in 200 Russian cities such as Volgograd, Perm, Pskov, and Kazan. Two months after this system was introduced, Internet providers in Kazan, for example, reported a 10 percent drop in Internet usage and estimated that future usage would drop by 30 percent, reported TatNews.RU. The most severe effect is in areas with weak communications infrastructure where users rely on modems and must wait for connectivity. Since most Russians use the Internet at work, however, the effect of per-minute charges is mitigated. (TatNews.RU, 23 February)INTELLECTUAL PIRACY FUNDS CRIMINAL GROUPS.
A 6 March seminar organized jointly by the Office of the Russian Prosecutor-General and the European TACIS program in Moscow found that the theft of intellectual property is a major source of income for criminal groups, Interfax reported. According to experts in the Prosecutors' Office, the amount of illegal video products is now equal to approximately 80-85 percent of the amount legally sold each year in Russia. As a result, the Russian economy as a whole is estimated to be losing up to $1 billion a year. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 March)COMPUTER CRIMES INCREASE IN RUSSIA.
Viktor Kudinov, the first deputy head of the Interior Ministry's high-tech crimes unit, told ITAR-TASS on 8 March that there were 436 cases in Russia involving computer crimes in 2000, four times as many as in 1999. He said the crimes included unauthorized access to databases, the spreading of computer viruses, and fraud. The number of such crimes has increased by 20 times over the past three years, Kudinov said, but he noted that the authorities are having increased success in arresting, charging, and convicting those involved. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 March)
DRAFT OF NEW FEDERAL TELECOMMUNICATIONS LAW.
The new Yugoslav Law on Telecommunications will include the government strategy for development of telecommunications in Yugoslavia, and fulfill the strictest European standards in that area, Federal Minister of Telecommunication Boris Tadic announced on 6 March. Tadic spoke recently with the special representative of the General Secretariat of the Council of Europe, representatives of the European Commission Agency for Reconstruction, and Jasper Heuberg, president of the Danish media organization Fresta, and the adviser to the Danish foreign minister. The law is being developed in cooperation with the experts from the British government's Sector for International Development, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the Norwegian government, Tanjug reported on 6 March. ("ANEM Weekly Media Update," 3-9 March)GOVERNMENT APPOINTS BROADCAST BOARD...
The Serbian government appointed the managing board of Radio-Television Serbia on 7 March. According to Beta, Religious Faculty Dean Radovan Bigovic, director Dejan Mijac, painter Vladimir Velickovic, director Aleksandar Mandic, composer Zoran Eric, journalist Stojan Cerovic, author Djordje Balasevic, Novi Sad University Rector Fuada Stankovic, director Karolj Vicek, journalist Milivoje Glisic, historian Branka Prpa, and economist Predrag Maksimovic were selected. ("ANEM Weekly Media Update," 3-9 March)...WHILE ONE POTENTIAL DIRECTOR DECLINES FOR NOW...
"If they want to appoint me to the position of director at Radio-Television Serbia as it currently exists, I am certain that I will not accept the appointment," Mile Isakov told the Belgrade daily "Blic" on 8 March. Explaining his decision, Isakov said, "I think it is normal for RTS to be unincorporated and split into two media houses, RTV Novi Sad and RTS. When I suggested it to the founder of RTS, namely the parliament, it refused point blank. When I explained...that I do not want to devote all my energies to solving pre-existing organizational problems and sacking people, but rather I want to create a better program and better conditions for employees, the parliament told me they would consider my suggestion. In fact, we did manage to appoint a managing board made of respected public persons headed by Dejan Mijac, whom I believe will not take pressure from political parties laying down. They will propose me for the position of director to the Serbian government, and then we will see what happens," Isakov told "Blic." ("ANEM Weekly Media Update," 3-9 March)... AND NEW BROADCASTERS TO BE SHUT DOWN.
Yugoslav Telecommunications Minister Tadic announced on 3 March that numerous TV and radio stations will be closed immediately. He said that the stations affected will be those that began broadcasting after the change of government on 5 October, or after the moratorium on the issuance of new frequencies. Tadic said that the sweeping measure was necessary to regulate the broadcasting situation, adding that there had been three complaints by airlines in the past two months because of interference from illegal stations in Yugoslavia. The minister went on to say that no station in Yugoslavia has a valid license -- not even the state-run Radio-Television Serbia or B92 -- but that he would restrict his clampdown to recently setup broadcast outlets. The moratorium will be in effect until new broadcasting laws are passed and new tenders offered for frequencies which, Tadic said, will likely be delayed. Some 95 percent of the media, or 700 radio and 300 television stations, are currently unlicensed. Tadic would not specify how many will be closed, but said that after the new tenders the overall number would certainly be reduced. He admitted that some independent stations would have financial trouble until the new tenders were issued, but said that "no assistance could be given to the independent media," Beta reported. ("ANEM Weekly Media Update," 3-9 March)FEAR FOR FUTURE OF LOCAL MEDIA.
The new Serbian authorities have "lavished attention on national television and several daily newspapers," leaving the local independent newspapers "to fend for themselves in an unstable media market," the Lokal Pres Association said at a 4 March meeting. Lokal Pres members are still unable to obtain the discounts given to state media for the purchase of newsprint. (FoNet) ("ANEM Weekly Media Update," 3-9 March)NEW LOCAL ASSEMBLY THREATENS JOURNALISTS?
Bor and Zajecar journalists have been criticized recently by members of the new administration, the Belgrade daily "Politika" reported on 8 March. Zajecar Municipal Assembly members on 28 February attacked the daily "Zajecar Timok" for "improper" coverage of recent events. In the session, broadcast live by Radio Zajecar, assembly members lambasted Zajecar Timok for publishing columns by journalist Slavica Markovic, who was told to show proper respect for the Zajecar Municipal Assembly. "Zajecar Timok" covered the assembly's attack with an editorial that warned, "the discussion of the assembly members and representative Bosko Nicic show that the new government, like the previous one, does not care for objective but rather servile journalism." ("ANEM Weekly Media Update," 3-9 March)POLICE MUM ON JOURNALIST ATTACK.
Police in the south Serbian town of Kursumlija have still not released any information about the 22 February attack on journalist Radovan Delibasic. Local police chief Radomir Dosevic declined to give information to journalists. The local branches of DOS and Otpor have condemned the attack on Delibasic, who is the local correspondent for Deutsche Welle and "Glas javnosti," and have called on police to investigate and name the assailant. ("ANEM Weekly Media Update," 24 February -- 2 March)JOURNALIST ASSAULTED.
A journalist was assaulted in a Bor restaurant on 2 March, possibly in connection with his articles on the "Bor gold affair." Brana Filipovic, Bor correspondent for Radio Belgrade and the daily "Danas," told B92 that he had been entertaining journalists from "The Washington Post" in town to gather information on the gold sale. However, he added that he could not be sure that the assault was due to his work as a journalist. ("ANEM Weekly Media Update," 3-9 March)'NARODNE NOVINE' SUED.
The editor of the Nis daily "Narodne novine" is due to appear in court on 26 February to answer charges by former mayor and local Serbian Renewal Movement leader Branislav Jovanovic. The charges have been made under the Public Information Act, repealed by the Serbian Parliament more than three weeks ago. ("ANEM Weekly Media Update," 24 February -- 2 March)'POLITIKA' JOURNALIST SENTENCED FOR LIBEL.
On 2 March "Politika" reporter Radovan Pavlovic was sentenced to three months imprisonment and given one year's parole by Belgrade's First Municipal Court for slander against former Yugoslav Army General Vlada Trifunovic. ("ANEM Weekly Media Update," 24 February -- 2 March)INDEPENDENT PAPER STANDS TRIAL.
The independent paper "Borske novine" will reportedly stand trial on 14 March on charges brought by NGOs and the Democratic Opposition of Serbia. Libel charges were brought by the non-governmental organizations Borska Omladina and the Board for Human Rights Protection and signed by Bor New Democracy leaders. ("ANEM Weekly Media Update," 3-9 March)RADIO SMEDEREVO RETURNED TO STAFF...
A Belgrade commercial court has returned control of the public company Radio Smederevo to its staff on 9 March. The staff of the station are now hoping that, after obtaining a majority in the Executive Board, they will be able to conduct their own editorial policy. ("ANEM Weekly Media Update," 3-9 March)...AND RADIO NOVI SAD RETURNS TO WORK.
The Slovakian, Ruthenian, and Ukrainian language services of Radio Novi Sad resumed work on 1 March. Striking staff went back to the microphone after Radio-Television Serbia management stepped up transmission power and established salary parity between the foreign-language broadcasters and other employees of the state media. ("ANEM Weekly Media Update," 24 February -- 2 March)
FOREIGN MINISTRY AGAIN CRITICIZES RUSSIAN PRESS COVERAGE OF AFGHAN DEVELOPMENTS.
The Tajik Foreign Ministry has issued a statement criticizing as a deliberate distortion based on out-of-date information Russian TV reports on 11-12 March claiming that the situation on the section of the Tajik-Afghan border controlled by Russia's Moskovskii Frontier Detachment has deteriorated. The ministry claimed those reports were based on an assessment of the situation made by a group of Russian journalists who visited Tajikistan in mid-February, and that the situation on the border has been stabilized and has remained quiet since then. Tajikistan issued a similar criticism last month of Russian media coverage of the fighting in Afghanistan. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 March)
FOREIGN ASSISTANCE ON GONGADZE CASE?
Ukraine's current political crisis can be overcome if there is a prompt and satisfactory resolution to the case of murdered journalist Heorhiy Gongadze and the formation of a new and more broadly based coalition government, according to Serhiy Tyhipko, the chairman of the Labor Ukraine Party and a member of Ukraine's parliament. Tyhipko told an RFE/RL briefing on 13 March that "crucial mistakes" had been made in the Gongadze case, but he said that it could be resolved if outside investigators, including from the U.S. FBI, were to be brought in. He added that President Leonid Kuchma should serve out his term if the investigation proves that he had no involvement in the murder. (RFE/RL Press Release, 14 March)U.S. THREATENS TRADE SANCTIONS OVER COPYRIGHT PIRACY.
The U.S. on 13 March threatened to impose trade sanctions against Ukraine unless its government makes a greater effort to control what U.S. companies claim is the widespread piracy of music, computer programs, and other copyrighted material, AP reported. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick announced that his office has begun an investigation into Ukraine's practices, which could result in trade sanctions if the matter is not resolved over the next three months. The U.S. recording industry estimates that Ukraine has produced and exported 60-80 million pirated compact discs over the past two years, costing U.S. recording companies over $200 million annually in lost revenue. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 March)
UIGHUR WRITER REPORTED MURDERED IN JAIL...
Uighur writer Eminzhan Osmanov was reportedly murdered in jail in Uzbekistan by Uzbek National Security Committee staffers, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported on 9 March, quoting Yusufbek Mukhlisi, the leader of the Almaty-based National Front for the Liberation of Eastern Turkistan. Osmanov's body, which bore traces of beatings and torture, was handed over to his relatives in Tashkent on 2 March with orders that he should be buried immediately. A former head of the Uighur section of the Writers' Union of Uzbekistan, Osmanov was arrested last year and charged with propagating Wahhabism. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 March)...WHILE UIGHUR MEDIA BANNED?
Yusufbek Mukhlisi -- Leader of the Almaty-based National Front of Eastern Turkistan's Liberation (an organization uniting some part of Kazakhstan's ethnic Uighurs) told RFE/RL in Almaty on 9 March that in recent years President Islam Karimov has closed all Uighur-language radio programs, journals, and newspapers in Uzbekistan. ("RFE/RL Kazakh News," 9 March)
CZECH RES PUBLICA.
The civic organization Res publica in the Czech Republic has launched its website at http://www.publica.cz and a discussion forum at http://www.publica.cz/tituly/forum.htm. For more information, contact Chairman Stanislav Kliment or Vice Chairman Jiri Horak at firstname.lastname@example.org (Center for Civil Society International, 4 March)'MANAGING THE MESSENGERS.'
A new briefing on President Vladimir Putin and the press in Russia, posted on the website of the Committee to Protect Journalists, shows how the new president is using old Kremlin methods to control information. The seven new Putin-appointees who head Russia's regions -- six from the security services -- will implement tighter state control of the media through "direct financial support, creating a pool of loyal journalists and giving favored media better access to information." For the complete text of "Managing The Messengers," visit http://www.cpj.org (Committee to Protect Journalists Press Release, 12 March)EURASIANET.
EurasiaNet offers news about the Central Asian and the Caucasus regions of the former Soviet Union. Analyses and articles are posted every day on the website on issues such as the Islamic insurgency and drug trafficking as well as developments in Iran, Mongolia, and Turkey. Subscription for an automatic weekly update to EurasiaNet items is free; go to EurasiaNet's homepage and type your email address into the subscriber box. The EurasiaNet website is at: http://wwweurasianet.orgTRANSDNIESTER WEEKLY ONLINE.
The Russian-language "Novaia Gazeta" is now available on the Internet at http://novaiagazeta.da.ru. Published in Bendery (Tighina) since 1998 in the self-proclaimed Transdniester Republic in eastern Moldova. The web version contains economic, political, and social news, with analysis of relations between Transdniester and the rest of Moldova. ("Moldova Media News," 9 March)STATE OF THE MEDIA IN 2000.
Alexander Lupis of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) will speak at RFE/RL in Washington on 19 March. He will discuss the recently issued CPJ report on media conditions in over 120 countries, with a particular focus on Russia. (RFE/RL Press Release, 13 March)
GREEK TELECOM FIRM DENIES PLANS TO SELL ARMENIAN ENTERPRISE TO TURKEY.
The Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) issued a statement on 13 March denying a Greek newspaper report that it plans to sell its 90 percent stake in the Armenian telecom monopoly ArmenTel to Turkey's largest telecom firm, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The Greek report claimed that OTE is disappointed with the returns on its investment since its 1998 acquisition of the stake in ArmenTel. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 March)PUBLICATION OF 'RESPUBLICA ARMENIA' RESUMED.
After a nine-month hiatus, the Russian-language "Respublica Armenia" newspaper resumed publication on 9 March. It is now a 16-page weekly with a print run of 2,000. The weekly's chief editor is Vardan Aloyan, who is also the Armenia correspondent of the Russian daily, "Komsomolskaya Pravda." ("Yerevan Press Club Newsletter," 3-9 March)
PROPOSED MEDIA LAW AMENDMENTS VOTED DOWN -- FOR NOW.
By a vote of 47 to 16, the Kazakhstan parliament voted down all proposed amendments to the media law. During a day-long debate, most deputies -- including many from President Nursultan Nazarbaev's party -- spoke against the proposed amendments which would have restricted foreign broadcasts to 20 percent of air time; increased responsibility of media owners and editors for "unlawful content;" and required registration of websites as media outlets. Reportedly, however, the parliament may vote again on these amendments, possibly as soon as next week. (National Democratic Institute, 15 March)PARLIAMENTARIANS URGE INVESTIGATION OF ATTACKS ON JOURNALISTS...
RFE/RL reports that during the Kazakhstan parliamentary session on 14 March, Deputy Fariza Ongarsynova asked the National Security Committee chief and the Minister of Interior Affairs to "thoroughly investigate" the situation of the country's journalists, particularly the recent brutal attack on well-known TV journalist and politician, Gulzhan Ergalieva, and her family. Many other members of the Kazakhstan parliament reportedly supported this initiative. ("RFE/RL Kazakh News," 14 March)...WHILE ANOTHER ACCUSES MINISTER OF MEDIA 'PRESSURE.'
Serik Abdrakhmanov, a member of the parliament's lower chamber, told Information Minister Sarsenbaev that his ministry exerted "open pressure on some of the country's independent periodicals." After the session, Sarsenbaev told RFE/RL that Serik Abdrakhmanov and some other deputies still had a "Soviet mentality" and tried to criticize him because: "their thoughts and ideas are not printed in Kazakhstan's mass media very often." ("RFE/RL Kazakh News," 14 March)TLEULESOV APPEAL DATE SET...
RFE/RL reports that on 20 March the South Kazakhstan Oblast Court will hear an appeal in the case against muckraking author Temirtas Tleulesov. In February, Tleulesov was found guilty of "hooliganism" and sentenced in absentia to two years of imprisonment for his books about local high-level corruption. His current whereabouts are unknown. RFE/RL has also learned that local authorities plan to confiscate Tleulesov's property in Shymkent. ("RFE/RL Kazakh News," 8 and 13 March)