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Media Matters: April 13, 2001

13 April 2001, Volume 1, Number 10
JOURNALIST SUMMONED TO PROSECUTOR. On 26 March, Vahan Ishkhanyan, journalist from the "Haikakan Zhamanak" daily, was summoned to the district prosecutor. The journalist told Prima news agency that he had been interrogated in connection with a demand by Converse bank's main stockholder, Smbat Nasibyan, that a libel suit be brought against him. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 11 April)

SNARK CELEBRATES TEN YEARS. On 31 March the independent Snark news agency celebrated its tenth anniversary. It received congratulations from Armenian and Nagorno-Karabakh officials as well as the Turan news agency in Azerbaijan. Founded in 1991 by Russian-language journalists at Armenpress, Snark was one of the first independent news agencies in Armenia and the South Caucasus, focusing on the political and economic situation in Armenia and the South Caucasus. ("Yerevan Press Club Weekly Newsletter," 31 March - 6 April)

JOURNALIST ARRESTED. On 23 March in the Salya region, militia arrested Gylynjkhan Nesirli, local "Express" reporter, according to the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan. He was arrested after he tried to meet with local residents who objected to agricultural reforms being carried out in their region. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 11 April)

CAMPAIGN CONTINUES AGAINST 'YENI MUSAVAT.' Acting on an order from Prosecutor-General Zakir Garalov, on 28 March police resumed investigating the case against Rauf Arifoglu, editor in chief of "Yeni Musavat." Arifoglu's lawyer told the press that the nature of the investigation was unclear, but that it did not bode well. The lawyer observed that his client's case had been completed in October last year and was due for trial. Two days later, Esmira Namikgyzy, Baku reporter for "Yeni Musavat", was denied entrance to the parliament, despite his valid accreditation. Parliamentary Speaker Murtuz Aleskerov had said at the previous session that no reporter for this paper would ever again be allowed to set foot in the parliament; "Yeni Musavat" has referred to the parliament as 'illegitimate' and 'false.' (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 11 April)

NTV BACKED BY COLLEAGUES. The journalists' trade union in Azerbaijan issued a statement on 5 April in support of NTV journalists, the Trend news agency reported. The union said that "we believe that the steps taken by Gazprom against the free will of NTV journalists are aimed at stifling the only Russia-wide independent TV company...Russia is giving a bad example to the other post-Soviet states, including Azerbaijan. The struggle for media freedom in Russia is the struggle for the same ideals in other countries of the former Soviet Union." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April)

POLICE INSPECT PAPER'S OFFICES. On 16 March, police conducted a three-hour inspection of the "Borisovskie Novosti" offices and the Vesna Human Rights Center in Borisov. According to the paper's editor, the unexpected inspection was due to the distribution of leaflets about electoral campaign abuses. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 11 April)

MAGAZINE LICENSE REVOKED. The editorial board of the only periodical for sexual minorities in Belarus, "Forum Lambda," received a 23 March notice from the State Press Committee on the cancellation of its license. The stated reason for the decision was that "the magazine had been registered as a popular science and culture periodical but for over a year it has been published as an erotic magazine." On 17 September last year, the State Committee on Press gave the magazine a similar warning, after authorities had denied permission to hold the "Gay Pride � 2001" festival of which "Forum Lambda" was the main organizer. The same month, after a letter from the State Committee on Press, the Tax Committee inspected the magazine's finances and found no fault with them. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 11 April)

PAPER CONFISCATED BY BORDER OFFICIALS. On 2 March, customs officers confiscated 745 copies of "Belaruskiya Vedamastsi" imported by Ales Chekholsky, the secretary of the Conservative Christian Party Board, because it "posed a danger to the political regime of the Republic of Belarus." (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 11 April)

POLITICIAN ORDERED OFF TRAIN EN ROUTE TO INTERVIEW. On 11 March, officials from the Belarus Prosecutor-General's Office told Yevgeny Lobonovich, chairman of the Joint Civil Party Executive Committee, to get off a Moscow-bound train. They then searched his possessions. Lobonovich was en route to Moscow to meet with NTV's "Independent Investigation" show and to take part in a conference. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 11 April)

'NASHA SVABODA' IS NOT TO REACH PEOPLE? During March, people distributing the independent paper "Nasha Svaboda" have been detained or harassed by the police in four separate incidents -- on 2, 11, 15, and 30 March. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 11 April)

OFFICIALS DENY DATA TO JOURNALISTS. On 4 March, the Regional Executive Committee of Pruzhana refused to provide information to the editor in chief of the independent paper "Golos Pruzhany." Claiming she had orders from the oblast's Executive Committee, the head of the registry office for Brest Oblast on 30 March refused to give statistics on marriages, divorces, and migration to the independent paper "Vecherny Stolin." (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 11 April)

RUSSIAN-LANGUAGE PAPER CHANGES HANDS. Tallinn City Council member Gennadii Ever, who had owned a 38 percent share of the Russian-language daily "Estoniya," became its majority owner after purchasing shares from the widow of former owner Vitaly Khatov, who was murdered on 10 March, BNS reported on 28 March. ("RFE/RL Baltic States Report," 11 April)

CHANGES URGED IN MEDIA AND MINORITY POLICIES. EU Commission President Prodi said at a closed meeting of the Hungarian parliament's Integration Committee on 5 April that problems related to government influence in public media and the treatment of the Roma minority have to be resolved before the country joins the EU. Prodi said the minority issue is a crucial one for the EU, as "it is itself a community of minorities." Prodi said he understands Hungary's concerns about the state of ethnic Hungarians abroad, but "a similar enthusiasm" is expected toward minorities within the country. Regarding the public service media, Prodi said an amendment of the Media Act is necessary in order to reach an agreement on Hungary's audio/visual policy at EU accession talks. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April)

ANTI-NTV ARTICLE IN STATE-RUN PAPER. Kazakhstan's main state-run Kazakh-language newspaper "Egemen Qazaqstan", published an anonymous article "Who Is Really Attacking, And Who Is Really Defending Himself?" on 10 April. The article claimed that the journalists hired by NTV General Director Yevgeny Kiselev were trying to protect their own narrow interests using slogans about press freedom. Opposition leader Seydakhmet Quttyqadam told RFE/RL that he believes the article was meant to send a message to Kazakh mass media, saying that some local periodicals or television channels might face the same problems as NTV. ("RFE/RL Kazakh News," 10 April)

SEMINAR ON MASS MEDIA HELD BY PARLIAMENT. RFE/RL reports from Astana that on 10 April, the Kazakh parliament's lower chamber held a seminar on mass media. The ministries of Labor and Social Protection, Information, Culture, and Social Concord, the National Security Committee, some NGOs, journalists, and political parties took part. Issues such as new amendments to the media law and Kazakhstan's information security were discussed. ("RFE/RL Kazakh News," 10 April)

INTERNEWS WEEKLY. "Internews Network Kazakhstan," a weekly Russian-language electronic bulletin, covers in its current issue a discussion of the consequences of parliamentary approval of controversial media-law amendments. If approved by the Senate, websites will be considered mass media and subject to the same restrictions. Moreover, if the law is adopted, local broadcast stations will be required to reduce retransmission of foreign programs by up to 50 percent as of January 2002 and up to 20 percent as of January 2003. And media will bear responsibility for any news not obtained from official sources, if such information leads to national disagreement or destabilization of the state system. The current issue also reports on state approval for a ten-year language program; a draft law on pornography, violence and cruelty; and national broadcasting for Almaty's Channel 31. (FSUMedia Mailing List, 11 April)

NAZARBAYEV'S DAUGHTER RETAINS CONTROL. Dariga Nazarbayeva, older daughter of President Nazarbayev, decided to leave her position of head of the state TV agency Khabar. During secret elections on 19 March, she became chairman of the board of directors of the closed joint-stock company Khabar, after being removed as its president. The positions of president and vice president were abolished, and as a result, she retains effective control over the Khabar agency and other broadcast entities. (Internews Network Kazakhstan, 11 April)

JOURNALIST GETS SUSPENDED SENTENCE. On 13 March, the court of Jalal-Abad Oblast confirmed the guilty verdict against journalist Moldosali Ibraimov and sentenced him to a suspended prison term of two years. After publishing several articles on corruption of regional judges, he was detained for several days in 1996; he then brought suit against the pertinent officials, but the case never went to trial. Meanwhile, a judge of the Suzak district brought a defamation of character suit against Ibraimov. In June 2000, the district court sentenced Ibraimov to a suspended prison term of two years and required him to pay Judge Kasymbekov a fine of 107,000 soms (around $2,200). (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 11 April)

CRACKDOWN ON OPPOSITION PRESS CONTINUES. The Uchkun publishing house refused to print the 6 April edition of the opposition newspaper "Res Publica," one day after its editor, Zamira Sadykova, hired all of the journalists from a second opposition newspaper, "Asaba," RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Publication of "Asaba" was suspended last month after the paper's owner failed to pay several fines, after which the two papers published several joint issues. On 26 March, the Kyrgyz Justice Ministry warned that no further issues of "Res Publica" would be printed unless the "Asaba" logo was removed. Sadykova gave a written pledge on 5 April to do so. On 7 April, Melis Eshimkanov, the owner of "Asaba," told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau that the city authorities have rejected his request to hold a meeting on 13 April in support of the paper. The local council had demanded a written guarantee from Eshimkanov to pay the cost of any material damage to city property that might result from the demonstration, but refused to accept that declaration when Eshimkanov presented it on 6 April. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April)

RUSSIAN EMBASSY BARS REPORTER. The Russian Embassy in Riga denied entrance to a press conference to RFE/RL's reporter Valdis Labinskis on 29 March. "We did not invite anyone from Radio Free Europe," the embassy's press secretary told PRIMA, "we only invited journalists from Russia and Latvia. Had we allowed an RFE/RL journalist to take part, we would have had to invite all the other foreign correspondents working in Latvia." The head of RFE/RL's Latvian Service said that this was the first such incident in Latvia. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 11 April)

BAN ON OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER? On 5 April Alexandr Jdanov, communist faction parliamentarian, called for the closure of the daily "Flux" for libel. "Flux" published an article on the "lavish banquet" organized by the communist faction after Vladimir Voronin became president of Moldova. "This newspaper, which has been writing lies for years, must be stopped," Jdanov said. Opposition parliamentarian Iurie Rosca, one of the paper's owners, said that such disputes "should be settled in court and not by banning publications." Parliament has tabled Jdanov's proposal, BASA Press reported. ("Moldova Media News," 9 April)

ASSETS OF TV COMPANY TO BE AUCTIONED. A Chisinau court ordered on 27 March that the assets of private TV channel Catalan be auctioned. The court has set the initial price for the station's property at 2,127,500 lei (about $170,000). Catalan TV was ordered off the air on 20 February for violating the electoral code on coverage of the early general elections in Moldova. The auction was set for 9 April, BASA Press reports. ("Moldova Media News," 9 April)

LOCAL MEDIA GROUP JOINS WAN. The Association of Independent Press (API) became a member of the Paris-based World Association of Newspapers on 4 April. "API is the fourth journalists' group from the former Soviet Union to join this prestigious organization," said the API program coordinator. The Moldovan association, which currently unites 13 newspapers and two news agencies, was created in 1997 to promote independent media in Moldovan provinces. ("Moldova Media News," 9 April)

STATE BROADCASTERS SIGN AGREEMENT WITH BELARUS. On 27 March a three-year cooperation agreement was signed in Minsk by the chairman of the state-run TeleRadio Moldova and its counterpart from Belarus. State broadcasters from Moldova and Belarus plan to exchange radio and TV programs on political, economic and social trends in their countries, and organize study visits of Moldovan broadcast journalists to Belarus and vice versa. The agreement also sets out possibilities for cooperation in advertising, according to Moldpres. ("Moldova Media News," 9 April)

JOURNALISM CENTER ANNOUNCES COMPETITIONS. The Independent Journalism Center of Moldova launched two competitions among local media professionals in the run-up to this year's "Press Freedom Days." One is for the best poster or broadcast ad on "A Free Press in a Free Society." Another competition is for Moldovan photojournalists and is entitled "2000-2001, a Year in Photography." Deadline for submission of entries to both competitions is 25 April. For more information, contact Lilia Bogdanas, IJC program coordinator, at ("Moldova Media News," 9 April)

WORKSHOP FOR PRINT MEDIA. A five-day workshop for print media and journalism students was held in Chisinau in early April. Organized by the regional office of Alliance Francaise with the school of journalism from Lille, France, the sessions were led by Jacques de Barrin, a journalist who worked for "Le Monde" for thirty years. ("Moldova Media News," 9 April)

STATE AGENCY HOSTS SEMINAR. The State Agency for Protection of Industrial Property (AGEPI) held a one-day seminar on 5 April for Moldovan journalists on national legislation on protection of property. ("Moldova Media News," 9 April)

NTV RESUMES REGULAR BROADCASTS... NTV General Director Yevgenii Kiselev told RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 5 April that NTV was resuming its regular programming because such a decision was in the interests of its viewers. Station workers had discontinued all programs except news and advertisements to protest what they consider as an illegal takeover of the company's management by Gazprom-Media. The Media Ministry ordered NTV on 5 April to stop violating the terms of its broadcasting license. NTV Press Secretary Maria Shakhova explained that NTV's journalists will continue to express their opposition by displaying the on-screen NTV logo with the word "protest" written over it, according to Interfax. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April)

...AS GAZPROM, NTV STAFF AGREE TO SET UP CONCILIATION GROUP. After meeting with Gazprom-Media head Alfred Kokh on 5 April, Kiselev told reporters that each side in the dispute will delegate 10 people whose decisions -- reached by consensus -- will be binding to both parties. The first session was scheduled for 2:00 p.m. Moscow time on 6 April. According to Kokh, among the commission's first tasks will be determining who will be the network's general director and editor in chief. On 3 April, Gazprom-Media named U.S. financier Boris Jordan as general director. Gazprom-Media rejected an offer by Media-MOST Group to place a three-month moratorium on any technical or creative management changes in light of the agreement that company reached with U.S. media magnate Ted Turner. The Union of Journalists plans to hold another rally in Moscow in support of NTV on 7 April and it is projecting that some 5,000 people will attend. The last rally attracted more than 10,000, according to RFE/RL's Moscow bureau. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April)

FIGHT OVER NTV CONTINUES... Thousands of protesters assembled in Moscow in the rain on 7 April to show their support for NTV journalists, Russian and Western agencies reported. The Russian government estimated turnout at 5,000, while the protest organizers put the figure at 30,000. Smaller demonstrations also took place in other cities, including St. Petersburg, which drew a 5,000-strong crowd to its 8 April rally there, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported, citing local police figures. Meanwhile, another special issue of "Obshchaya gazeta" was issued in a print run of 300,000 in support of NTV journalists and freedom of speech. But a group of Duma deputies introduced legislation that would limit foreign ownership of Russian media outlets, while other deputies said they are opposed to any foreign ownership of such channels, Russian agencies reported. No new talks between Gazprom-Media and NTV journalists were reported after they broke off on 6 April, Russian agencies said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April)

...AS SPECULATIONS CONTINUE OVER PUTIN'S RESPONSE. According to "Novye Izvestiya" on 6 April, the councils of the Kremlin are divided. Some of President Vladimir Putin's advisers, including Gleb Pavlovskii, want him to maintain a hard line and allow Gazprom to take complete control of NTV as had been planned. Others call for Putin to intervene on behalf of the journalists and thus to present himself as "a wise political leader concerned about freedom of speech." The second group argues that their proposed tactics will also encourage the NTV journalists to behave in a more loyal fashion because "they will owe the Kremlin, which helped them in their hour of need." Meanwhile, Gazprom's property department head Aleksandr Kazakov, said in an interview published in "Trud" on 6 April that his company is acting without any direction from the Kremlin. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April)

PUTIN SAYS NTV DISPUTE SHOULD BE RESOLVED IN COURT. In his joint interview with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder broadcast on RTR television on 9 April, President Vladimir Putin said the dispute between Gazprom and NTV journalists is an economic one and should be resolved in court. He said that he does not believe that he has the right to interfere in a dispute between a debtor and his creditors, a reference to Vladimir Gusinsky's debt to Gazprom. Meanwhile, more journalists announced their resignations from NTV, reported, to the dismay and anger of those who remain. Members of the two groups traded charges in open letters published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" and other papers. Also on 9 Moscow, Ekho Moskvy reported that American media magnate Ted Turner, who is seeking to buy a share of NTV, intends to rein in the network if he becomes involved. And ITAR-TASS reported that Sweden's MTG group has purchased 75 percent of the shares in Russia's independent Daryal-TV. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April)

PUTIN CALLS FOR MAKING GAZPROM 'TRANSPARENT'... Speaking to members of the cabinet on 9 April, President Putin said that he feels it is necessary to increase the transparency and effectiveness of Gazprom, Interfax reported. He called on the government to give work in this direction "a new dynamism." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April) The partially state-owned Gazprom, the world's largest gas-producing company, "last year had sales of $17 billion," according to AP. Split into subsidiary companies, it has thus far "proved an elusive target for reform." (AP, 9 April)

...OR A QUID PRO QUO? On NTV's "Itogi" show, Kiselev claimed on 1 April that in the past the Kremlin has allowed Gazprom to sell gas abroad via intermediary or shell companies such as Itera and to pocket the profits. Now, according to Kiselev, the Kremlin may take a more lenient stance towards Gazprom's previous business practices if the huge company manages to take NTV under its control. ("Itogi," 1 April)

NTV STANDOFF CONTINUES. Media-MOST, the parent company of NTV, filed suit in Russian courts to have Gazprom's takeover of the station declared invalid, Russian and Western agencies reported on 10 April. The cases will be heard on 10 and 17 May. Meanwhile, both supporters and opponents of the NTV journalists continue to stake out positions. A poll shows that most Muscovites back the journalists, "Vremya MN" reported on 10 April. The Union of Journalists and Grigorii Yavlinsky's Yabloko party began collecting signatures in support of the embattled journalists. In another show of support, Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov called for regional leaders to purchase a share of NTV to keep it independent, Interfax-Eurasia reported. But cracks have appeared at NTV, with at least 20 of its 400 journalists having already departed, Russian agencies reported. Those departures were widely viewed as making the station less attractive for potential foreign investors like Rupert Murdoch and Ted Turner, both of whom continue to discuss a possible acquisition of a stake in NTV. On the other side, Gazprom-Media's Alfred Kokh said that he would not see a decision by Turner to drop his bid "as a catastrophe" for the station, Interfax-AFI reported. And even though President Vladimir Putin on 9 April suggested that the dispute should be resolved in court, on 10 April, Deputy Media Minister Mikhail Seslavinskii said that he believes that the case could and should be solved by direct talks without the interference of the courts, ITAR-TASS reported. Meanwhile, commentators and journalists speculated as to what the NTV battle will mean, with most suggesting that it demonstrates how easily people with economic and political power can crush freedom. In addition, an article in "Profil," No. 13, argued that the whole affair shows the rise of a new oligarch, Anatolii Chubais, whose close associates are the winners thus far. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April)

CHUBAIS: NTV SITUATION 'DAMAGING.' The NTV situation is damaging the image of Russian authorities both inside and outside the country, the top manager of the Unified Energy Systems of Russia Anatolii Chubais told Interfax in an exclusive interview on 9 April. (Interfax, 9 April)

NTV'S PRESENT ROLE IN SOCIETY? Vitaly Tretyakov, editor of "Nezavisimaya gazeta," described the role of the present NTV, which according to the AFP claims 100 million viewers, as being more like that of an opposition political party than a mass-media outlet. ("Nezavisimaya gazeta," 5 April) ORT reporter Viktor Kalashnikov observed that "NTV was practically the last hurdle -- nation-wide publicity plus a certain influence within society -- in the way of most dangerous and unpredictable forces. Outside Moscow -- with its very special social and political environment and international media presence -- freedom of the press has already become quite nominal." (Johnson's Russia List, 10 April)

...AND FUTURE AS PUBLIC BROADCASTER? Writing on 5 April in "Nezavisimaya gazeta," Tretyakov maintained that the most democratic solution would be to give one-third of NTV shares to the communists, "the second branch of the opposition." If President Putin were to support such a move, it "would counterbalance the control of the station exercised by the party of power and its previous owner," writes Alexei Pankin, editor of the media journal "Sreda." Pankin continues, "paradoxical as it might sound, this idea is the closest I have seen to the model of public (not to be confused with "state") television." ("Moscow Times," 10 April)

MORE TV STATIONS GO OFF THE AIR IN SIBERIA, FAR EAST... Broadcasts from Russian Public Television (ORT), Russian Television, and other local television and radio stations went off the air on 5 April in Krasnoyarsk Krai as the result of Krasnoyarskenergo turning off electricity supplies to customers with unpaid bills, Interfax-Eurasia reported. Krasnoyarsk Radio and Television Transmission Center owes some 960,000 rubles ($33,000), according to the center. The center also maintains that ORT owes it some 20 million rubles as it has not paid the center for its transmissions in several years. According to Interfax-Eurasia, Krasnoyarskenergo turned off electricity to the center several times last year in order to get them to pay off a 3-million-ruble debt. Earlier this month, stations in Kamchatka Oblast, and the Khabarovsk and Primorskii krais also went off the air due to unpaid bills to electricity suppliers. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April)

...AS PRIMORSKII KRAI ASKS MEDIA MINISTRY, UES TO INTERVENE. Primorskii Krai acting Governor Valentin Dubinin is conducting negotiations with Unified Energy Systems and Media Minister Mikhail Lesin about restoring central television broadcasts to the krai, "Segodnya" reported on 6 April. Local utility Dalenergo told the newspaper that unless the krai's television and radio transmission center pays its overdue bills, broadcasts of all local television channels will be turned off on 9 April. According to the daily, the center owes more than 12 million rubles. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April)

'SEGODNYA' AND 'ITOGI' AT RISK. The Sem Dnei publishing house said that it has transferred its ownership share in "Segodnya" to the paper's employees, who must now find a new funding source for the paper to continue to appear, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Sergei Parkhomenko, the editor in chief of "Itogi," was quoted by "Vremya novostei" on 9 April as saying that the current issue of that journal may be its last. The financial problems of both papers are tied up with the Vladimir Gusinsky-Gazprom conflict. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April)

OUTLETS FOR OPPOSITION PAPER IN BASHKORTOSTAN DISAPPEAR. Since the beginning of March, the opposition newspaper "Russkii obozrevatel" has almost completely disappeared from newsstands in the republic of Bashkortostan, having lost some 80 percent of its distributors, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 31 March. From the very beginning of its publication, the newspaper's founder, Viktor Saveliev, could not find a company within the republic willing to publish the newspaper and had to have it printed in Perm Oblast at much greater expense. Saveliev managed to put together a string of private distributors for the newspaper, but many were threatened by local government officials with having their licenses revoked. One seller at a kiosk on a main street in Ufa told the correspondent that she was told that the newspaper is illegal and has been personally banned by the republic's president, Murtaza Rakhimov, and that if she continued to sell it, she will face "unpleasantness." However, she and other sellers have refused to identify precisely who has approached them, according to the correspondent. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April)

SMOLENSK OFFICIALS PLEDGE TO INVESTIGATE ARSON. On 26 March, the local administration press center issued an official statement which read: "The head of the oblast administration has expressed his utter disapproval of the ugly methods of psychological attack used against journalists and of the persecution of the press for disseminating unwanted information." He expressed his belief that law enforcement agencies would do their best to investigate the circumstances of the fire in the apartment of Sergei Kalinovsky, editor in chief of the Smolensk edition of "Moskovsky Komsomolets." If it proves to be a case of arson, he said, the perpetrators will be brought to justice. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 11 April)

PUTIN WANTS MORE FILMS... Via decrees creating a national film distribution company, President Vladimir Putin hopes to increase the number of Russian-made films in the national market from 7 percent today to 30 percent in 2004, Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi told Interfax on 4 April. Putin said that Russian studios should produce no fewer than 55 films this year. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 9 April)

...AND THEN MOVES AGAINST MOSFILM. The Kremlin has sounded the death knell of 77-year-old Mosfilm studios by stripping it of its main moneymaker, its 2,000-film archive, reports the "Financial Times." Under a decree signed by President Putin this week, Mosfilm will become a private company and will lose its film rights, which will remain in state hands. Since government support ended in the late 1980s, Mosfilm has survived on royalties paid by television stations, cinemas, and video distributors in Russia and abroad for showing films by, among many others, Eisenstein and Tarkovsky. Industry experts say the studio would likely have survived hard times had the Kremlin in 1997 allowed Vladimir Gusinsky to make a $166 million investment for a 49 percent stake. Moscow city government made a similar offer that it later withdrew. Many now fear that Mosfilm, with its prime real estate, will be sold to Moscow property developers. ("Financial Times," 7 April)

GOVERNMENT OPPOSES RESTRICTIONS ON ADS. The Russian government on 9 April told the Duma that it opposes the introduction of restrictions on the size and frequency of advertising on TV and radio broadcasts, Interfax reported. First Deputy Media Minister Mikhail Seslavinskii said that such restrictions would undermine the financial well-being of broadcasters. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April)

NEW INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY INSTITUTE SET UP. In an interview published in the 7 April "Izvestiya," Nikolai Malyshev described the new institute he heads, the State Scientific Research Institute of Information and Educational Technologies. Malyshev, who served as the deputy prime minister responsible for science and education in the first Russian government, said that the new center will seek to develop and apply information technology in Russian schools. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April)

RURAL RUSSIA ONLINE. A village in the Yaroslavl region has launched what NTV says is Russia's first village website. Levashovo now has a website showing job ads and pork products, with graphics on its pig-farming business. (BBC, 9 April)

NIZHNY NOVGOROD TV REPORTER KIDNAPPED. Gennady Grigoriev, TNT TV reporter, was kidnapped on 5 March in Nizhny Novgorod, but he managed to escape to safety. According to Ekho Nizhnego Novgoroda radio station, the reporter said that on 5 March, some men came to his home, handcuffed him to a radiator, and searched his home, looking for a tape with TV broadcast materials. The journalist told them he didn't keep the tape at home. Ekho Nizhnego Novgoroda radio station observed that the kidnapping took place just after the broadcast of Grigoriev's material on Presidential Plenipotentiary Sergei Kirienko and Nizhny Novgorod Governor Ivan Sklyarov. The film included an interview with Kirienko, recorded as early as 1999, in which Kirienko was very critical of Sklyarov. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 11 April)

'PLAYBOY' EDITOR SHOT. Unidentified attackers made an attempt on the life of editor in chief of the Russian "Playboy," Maksim Maslakov, on 14 March. They shot him several times and fled in a blue Zhiguli car. Doctors have operated on Maslakov and his life is out of danger. Militia are investigating the case. The attack occurred at around 10 PM near the office of "Playboy's" publishing house, Independent Media. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 11 April)

POLICE 'BATTER,' HAUL AWAY REPORTER... Militia battered Olga Kitova, deputy of the Duma of Belgorod Oblast, reporter for "Belgorodskaya pravda" and regular contributor to "Obshchaya gazeta." As she was leaving her home in Belgorod on 21 March, she found herself surrounded by three militia cars; Olga counted a least ten cops, who jumped out of their cars, twisted her arms, and pushed her roughly into a car. No arrest warrant or papers were shown. One blow was so hard that she lost consciousness; she only recovered en route to the oblast prosecutor's office. One of her escorts said, "Never mind, your deputy's term will soon be over, we'll give you a professional talking-to." (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 11 April)

...WHO IS THEN CHARGED. On the same day she was attacked by local police, the Belgorod Oblast prosecutor brought a lawsuit against Olga Kitova, on a charge of insult and violence against state officials. The charge was based on events arising from the investigation of another case: the publication by "Belgorodskaya pravda" of alleged slander against "L." and her son. In January 2001, Kitova had been told over the phone by the chairman of the Union of Journalists of Belgorod Oblast that court proceedings would be brought against her. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 11 April)

SMOLENSK PAPER BOUGHT UP. Unknown people bought up all the copies of "Nezavisimaya gazeta" meant to be sold on 13 March in Smolensk. The editorial board believes this was due to an article critical of the Smolensk Oblast administration. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 11 April)

TWO SMOLENSK TV SHOWS TAKEN OFF THE AIR. The head of the Smolensk Oblast administration press secretary confirmed that two popular Smolensk company TV shows, "Novy Vybor" and "Pressa na zavtrak," which had been critical of Smolensk Oblast officials, had been closed down in the last six months. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 11 April)

TWO ISSUES OF KAZAN PAPERS DESTROYED. During the night of 20-21 March, all the copies of "Novaya Vechorka" and "Moskovsky Komsomolets" to be sold in Kazan by the local municipal company Gorpechat were destroyed. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 11 April)

OMSK PAPER CENSORED. During printing, the last issue of Omsk newspaper "Kommercheskie Vesti" "lost" a whole type page with a hot story. The issue was sent to the Tavricheskaya district printing house in electronic form. An announcement on page one advertised Andrei Kolomiets' article on the scandal around the Zolotaya Niva stock company involving local authorities and the leadership of Sibneft. The same page was to contain a feature on the Omsk oil plant. Instead, readers found strangely familiar articles which had been published, as the running title told, as early as 8 February. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 11 April)

'WOMAN AND THE LAW?' The regional prosecutor in Krasnoyarsk Krai intends to bring a lawsuit against Moscow TV journalist Marina Dobrovolskaya. She is charged with circulating knowingly false information in an ORT broadcast. In January 2001, "Man and the Law" broadcast her film about a landowner living near Yeniseisk, who had allegedly been torturing her armless and legless daughter and young grandson for the last ten years. After the broadcast, the prosecutor of the Yeniseisk region started to investigate the case. As the journalist said at a Moscow press conference, although "many locals, including militia members, knew about this outrage, the prosecutor 'failed to detect' any abuse in the case." (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 11 April)

OMSK JOURNALISTS ON THE OUTS. Journalists from Omsk media were denied entry to the conference "Regional policy and federal relations in the Russian Federation," in Omsk on 12 March. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 11 April)

THE PRICE OF (PREVIOUS) LOYALTY? The editor in chief of Prospekt TV agency sent a 28 March letter to the mayor of Novocherkassk, asking him to stop breaking Russian laws and preventing her from doing her work. Ever since the mayor was elected in late 2000, he has distinguished between "loyal" and "disloyal" journalists. The editor was rated "disloyal," since her media outlet had cooperated closely with his predecessor. Now the out-of-favor journalists have problems finding their way into the building of the city administration and to official press conferences. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 11 April)

JOURNALISTS FEAR KREMLIN, TRUST SOLZHENITSYN. A poll of 148 Russian journalists found that 49 percent of them see the government and the Kremlin as a threat to freedom of the press, "Vremya MN" reported on 7 April. In the same poll, 60 percent of the journalists said that novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is the most trusted politician or public figure. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April)

STUDENTS WANT KUCHMA TO SWEAR HE'S NOT GUILTY OF JOURNALIST'S DEATH. Some 1,000 students held a rally on 9 April in front of the presidential administration building in Kyiv, demanding that President Leonid Kuchma swear on the constitution that he did not give orders to kill journalist Heorhiy Gongadze or Popular Rukh leader Vyacheslav Chornovil, as well as other politicians and journalists, Interfax reported. Kuchma commented later the same day that he has already sworn on the constitution and is not going to do that again. "That would be a farce, and the president will not participate in a farce," Kuchma added. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April)

'GREEN' JOURNALIST ATTACKED. During the night of 24 March, two unidentified men in Kyiv battered parliamentary assistant Nikolai Rud, editor in chief of "Naturalist" magazine. Rud told the press that the two men waylaid him near a streetcar station, dealt him several blows in the face, knocking out one of his teeth, and snatched his bag containing the registration papers of the newly founded Green Party. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 11 April)

LUGANSK REPORTERS SAY LOCAL OFFICIALS 'PRESSURE' THEM. On 30 March, parliamentarian Valery Kolomoitsov appealed to President Leonid Kuchma asking him to defend the journalists of Lugansk against pressure from its city council. Kolomoitsov wrote that he was trying to "prevent a tragedy similar to the one that happened to journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, because, according to [35] journalists' statements, their lives and those of their families are under threat." Twenty-one of these journalists filed a complaint with the Council of Europe on 21 March. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 11 April)

LVIV REPORTER SENTENCED, COLLEAGUES PROTEST. The Lviv reporter of "Postup" newspaper was detained by militia while covering the events of 9 March. Militia took his documents and cassette recorder; the journalist was later sentenced to 15 days in jail for "hooliganism." Fifty-two Lviv journalists voiced their protest against the unlawful actions of the militia, demanding that their colleague be released and offered public apologies. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 11 April)

JOURNALIST ARRESTED AFTER CORRUPTION EXPOSE. Majid Abduraimov, reporter for the "Yangi Asr" newspaper, was arrested in Sukhandarya on 10 March for allegedly accepting a bribe of $6,000. Activists believe the actual reason for his arrest is articles about oil fraud involving local officials. According to an RFE/RL correspondent, this was the third in a recent series of recent arrests of journalists writing about corruption in Uzbekistan. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 11 April)

IMPRISONED WRITER TO RECEIVE PEN AWARD. PEN American Center on 5 April named Mamadali Mahmudov -- who gained fame for his novel "Immortal Cliffs" and is serving a 14-year prison term in Uzbekistan on what PEN believes are fabricated charges -- as one of two recipients of its 2001 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Awards. The two awards, which this year carry stipends of $10,000 each, will be presented at PEN's Annual Gala on 23 April 2001 at the New York State Theater in Lincoln Center. Renowned novelist and opposition activist Mamadali Mahmudov disappeared into the custody of Uzbekistan's Committee for National Security on 19 February 1999; he was charged with threatening the president and the constitutional order, allegedly in connection with explosions in Tashkent. He was tried along with five others because they had copies of the banned newspaper "Erk." All six were reportedly tortured and some declared their "guilt" on a government national TV program. In August 1999, Mahmudov was sentenced to 14 years in prison, his second imprisonment in post-Soviet Uzbekistan; five years earlier, he had announced his support for the later banned political party Erk. Mahmudov was arrested in 1994 and sentenced to four years in prison on corruption charges that PEN and Amnesty International concluded were fabrications. International pressure led to his release under an amnesty. PEN believes Mahmudov's current jail term is part of the anti-Erk campaign. (PEN American Center, 5 April)

WWW.INTERNEWS.UZ. Internews Uzbekistan, with highlights from the weekly bulletin "Xabarnoma," appeared on 11 April in English, Russian, and Uzbek, with news on broadcast media at Contact Tatiana Yakovleva at or Nadir Makhmudov at (Internews.Uz, 11 April)

'ZAMON ON-LINE. The site features transcripts and images from the weekly regional TV news exchange "Zamon" in English, Russian, and Uzbek. Independent regional TV stations from all over Uzbekistan contribute stories to "Zamon." This issue of "Zamon" includes: A Conference at the National Press Center on "Water and the Health;" How the Aral Sea crisis has affected the population of Muinak; Tuberculosis in Jizzak; The "Garden of Diplomats," in Parkent; The National Sambo Championship in Jizzak; The Sports School in Bekabad See (, 11 April)

MEETING OF SOUTH CAUCASUS JOURNALISTS. In Yerevan a meeting of journalists from Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Nagorno-Karabakh was held from 30 March to 2 April as part of a project "Karabakh Conflict in the Mirror of Media and Public Opinion in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Mountainous Karabakh." The one-year project, launched by the Yerevan, Baku, and Stepanakert Press Clubs with funding from the Open Society Institute Network Media Program, will focus on media views, and public and elite opinion on resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The meeting in Yerevan was the first of three; the other meetings will be held in Baku and Stepanakert. ("Yerevan Press Club Weekly Newsletter," (31 March - 6 April)