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Media Matters: July 13, 2001


13 July 2001, Volume 1, Number 22
ARMENIA
HARASSMENT OF JOURNALIST CONTINUES. The Stepanakert Press Club reported that the Armenian special services continue to harass journalist Vagram Agadzhanyan. After the judicial proceedings against him in Stepanakert, the journalist moved to Yerevan in order to escape the unwanted attention of the Karabakh authorities. According to Agadzhanyan's relatives, however, the agents continue to make inquiries about his movements and activities in Yerevan. In response, the journalist's sister published in the Yerevan newspaper "Aravot" the names and telephone numbers of several of the special agents who had shown such curiosity as to her brother's whereabouts. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 6 July)

AZERBAIJAN
NEWSPAPER 'HURRIYYAT' CLOSES. The closure of the "Hurriyyat" newspaper, which had appeared since 1991, is related to financial difficulties and pressure by the authorities, according to its chief editor Suleyman Mammadli. He added that pressure by government circles on the independent press was another reason that the newspaper had to close. Mammadli expressed his hope that he could eliminate the financial difficulties and restore the newspaper's printing in September of this year. Two months ago, the opposition newspaper "Azadlig" was halted also due to financial difficulties. (Democratic Congress Bulletin, 11 July)

FOUR REGIONAL TV STATIONS MAY CLOSE. The newspaper "Nedelya" reported that four regional TV stations, including in Sumgait, have been officially warned that they may be closed due to their "unauthorized" broadcasting of television programs. In turn, these regional TV stations claim they repeatedly have applied to the proper government authorities for broadcast licenses, but over several years have not received any response to their requests. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 6 July)

BELARUS
WHERE IS ORT CAMERAMAN DZMITRY ZAVADSKI? Some 300 Belarusian journalists signed a letter to Belarus's Interior Minister Uladzimir Navumau and Prosecutor-General Viktar Sheyman requesting information about the whereabouts of ORT cameraman Dzmitry Zavadski. The letter was passed to the two officials on 7 July, the first anniversary of Zavadski's disappearance at the Minsk airport, Belapan reported. Last month, two former Belarusian investigators accused top state officials, including Sheyman, of organizing a "death squad" and killing political opponents of the regime. The same day in Minsk, police arrested seven participants in pickets staged to mark the anniversary of Zavadski's disappearance. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July)

FORMER AIDE SAYS LUKASHENKA TRUSTS NO ONE. Ivan Tsitsyankou, the head of the Presidential Administrative Department in 1994-99, told the Minsk-based weekly "Den" on 9 July that Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has installed an extensive system of eavesdropping on telephone calls in Belarus. According to Tsitsyankou, the presidential administration has recently spent some $20 million to buy equipment enabling the identification of interlocutors by voice. Tsitsyankou said the complicity of Belarus's leadership in the disappearance of opposition figures is "obvious." He added that former KGB chief Uladzimir Matskevich and Prosecutor-General Aleh Bazhelka -- who were fired by Lukashenka in November 2000 -- needed only two more weeks to find the bodies of some disappeared people. The state-owned Belarusian Publishing House printed only some 6,000 copies of the "Den" 9 July issue out of the 50,000 ordered by the editors. "Den" Editor in Chief Alyaksandr Tamkovich passed Tsitsyankou's interview to other independent media outlets. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July)

BULGARIA
LARGEST LEFTIST DAILY CLOSES DOWN. The opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party daily "Duma" stopped publication on 3 July because of unpaid debts, Reuters reported. The daily owed 500,000 leva ($217,000) to the printers. Evropressa, the concern that published "Duma," said it will start publishing a new leftist newspaper called "Republika" on 14 July. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July)

CZECH REPUBLIC
FEUD BETWEEN TV RIVALS TAKES NEW TURN. The long-standing dispute between Vladimir Zelezny, director of Nova TV, and his former U.S. associate Ronald Lauder, owner of the Central European Media Enterprise (CME), resurfaced on 29 June, when Zelezny handed journalists copies of records attesting that CME illegally obtained information about his Czech competitors, dpa reported. Lauder's spokesman Michal Donath in turn told dpa that Zelezny had quoted the "questionable records" out of context and that Lauder is "in no way responsible" for the information thus obtained. Donath in turn alleged that Zelezny's company received a loan of 1 billion crowns (about $25 million) from the defunct IPB bank, with no clear collateral. Zelezny and Lauder co-owned Nova TV till 1999, when Zelezny forced Lauder out of the business. This triggered a still ongoing dispute waged in courts and in the media. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July)

PRAGUE BAILIFFS SEARCH TV TYCOON'S PROPERTY. Court officials, aided by a locksmith and a police officer, on 10 July raided the headquarters of the Sibeliova company owned by Ales Rozenhal, a close friend of TV tycoon Vladimir Zelezny, CTK and dpa reported. The bailiffs were searching for property belonging to Zelezny but left without finding anything, and Rozenhal said he has launched a complaint for "abuse of power and breach of privacy." The courts have been searching for Zelezny's assets for months following a February ruling by an international arbitration panel that Zelezny must pay his former U.S. associate Ronald Lauder $27 million for having forced Lauder out of their partnership in Nova TV. Zelezny said he will pay the $27 million, but has so far failed to do so. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July)

KYRGYZSTAN
DEADLINE FOR REREGISTRATION OF MEDIA OUTLETS EXTENDED. Justice Ministry official Bekbolot Bolotbekov announced in Bishkek on 4 July that the deadline by which all media outlets must reregister with his ministry has been extended from 1 July to 1 September, RFE/RL reported. He said that only some 40 of an estimated 300 media outlets have succeeded in doing so to date. In late June, the ministry annulled the registration of 16 new media outlets, saying that no further media outlets may be registered until the reregistration of previously existing outlets is completed. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July)

JOURNALISTS BARRED FROM MEETING WITH IMPRISONED OPPOSITION LEADER. Journalists who went on 5 July to the labor camp near Bishkek where opposition Erkindik party leader Topchubek TurgunAliyev is serving his six-year sentence were not allowed to meet with him, RFE/RL reported. The previous day, the journalists had been granted permission to meet with TurgunAliyev on 5 July, his 60th birthday. In a 3 July letter to RFE/RL, TurgunAliyev accused the Kyrgyz leadership of systematic oppression of opposition politicians, human rights activists, and independent media. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July)

MOLDOVA
PARLIAMENT AMENDS ADVERTISING LAW. The parliament on 28 June amended the law on advertising, doing away with the provision that obliged commercials to be broadcast in the "state language" in addition to the language of the customer's choice, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The opposition Braghis Alliance and the Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) opposed the amendment. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June)

POLAND
JUSTICE MINISTER SUES TV FOR SLANDER. Justice Minister Lech Kaczynski and his brother Jaroslaw Kaczynski have sued Polish Television, demanding an apology for allegations voiced in a two-part documentary last month that they illegally accepted some $600,000 in campaign funds in 1990-91, Polish media reported on 2 July. The Kaczynski brothers maintain that the documentary was made and broadcast to discredit them before the parliamentary elections in September. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July)

TELECOMMUNICATIONS WORKERS PROTEST PLANNED LAYOFFS. More than 1,000 employees of the TP SA telecommunications giant staged rallies in front of the parliament and the Economy Ministry in Warsaw on 28 June to protest planned redundancies in the company, PAP reported. In particular, the protesters demanded that TP SA management stop raising telephone subscription rates, arguing that the company's policy is forcing poorer TP SA clients to give up the possibility of having a telephone. TP SA employs more than 65,000 people. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June)

ROMANIA
JOURNALISTS' INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS CRITICIZE ROMANIA. The New York-based Independent Journalism Foundation and Article 19 (a non-governmental organization based in London) on 10 July released a statement coinciding with President Iliescu's Brussels visit and criticizing Romania for intending to keep legislation stipulating prison sentences for journalists who "insult authorities." They also said that a draft law on state secrets "imposes restrictions on freedom of expression which go far beyond those necessary to protect state secrets in a democratic society," AP reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July)

POLICE CONTINUE INVESTIGATION OF ROMTELCOM PRIVATIZATION. Former Finance Minister Decebal Traian Remes was questioned by police on 11 July in connection with the ongoing investigation on suspected illegalities committed in the 1998 privatization of RomTelcom, Romanian Radio reported. On 10 July, police questioned former State Property Fund Chief Sorin Dimitriu, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Dimitriu told journalists that he had been summoned "as a witness," that he had opposed the consultation fees paid to the Goldman-Sachs company, and that he resigned as privatization chief for that reason. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July)

RUSSIA
JOURNALIST STABBED ON RETURN FROM BELARUS. Igor Sinyakevich, a journalist for Moscow's "Novye izvestiya," was hospitalized in the Russian capital on 28 June after being stabbed, Interfax reported on 29 June. Sinyakevich had been in Belarus to interview opposition presidential candidates. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July)

JOURNALIST SAYS RUSSIAN ARMY KILLED HER CHECHEN SOURCES. Anna Politkovskaya, a reporter for "Novaya gazeta," said in that newspaper's 1 July issue that Chechens who "spoke openly to me, ignoring any possible consequences, are not alive any more," "The Moscow Times" reported on 4 July. She named 15 informants who have been killed since April either by uniformed soldiers or masked attackers, and said that other Chechens who provided her with information have disappeared. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July)

NEW TRIAL OPENED AGAINST MILITARY CORRESPONDENT. After three postponements since March, a new trial opened on 11 July in the Pacific Fleet Courthouse in Vladivostok on the criminal case against military journalist Grigory Pasko, who is accused of espionage. In court on 11 July, Pasko officially stated that he does not trust the court because both the judge (Justice Lieutenant Colonel Dmitri Kuvshinnikov) and the prosecutor (Justice Colonel Alexandr Kondakov) are military men and therefore obey orders. Grigory Pasko refused to acquaint himself with the indictment against him because it bears the stamp of "top secret." According to the journalist, he thinks that the FSB could use his reading of the indictment as the basis for initiating a new case against him. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 11 July)

TAJIK EDITOR ARRESTED... At the request of the Tajik government, police at Moscow's Sheremetevo airport arrested Dododzhon Atovullo, the editor of the Tajik opposition newspaper "Charoghi Ruz," on 5 July, Russian agencies reported the following day. Judicial authorities are considering Dushanbe's request that he be extradited to face charges there. Atovullo publishes his Tajik-language paper in Moscow. He also works as a correspondent of "Novye izvestiya." Also on 6 July, the Union of Journalists of Russia released a statement protesting Atovullo's arrest and arguing that he may not be legally extradited to Tajikistan without a court order. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July)

...AND RELEASED... On 11 July, independent Tajik journalist Dodojon Atovullo was released after six days in detention. He was reported to be at Sheremetevo airport en route to Germany, according to the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations on 11 July. RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported that the Russian Prosecutor-General on 11 July denied the extradition request of the Tajikistan government for the return of Tajik opposition journalist Dodojon Atovullo to Tajikistan. Reportedly, Atovullo was allowed to return to Germany where he had been residing since May of this year. Atovullo was arrested at Moscow airport on 5 July on his way from Germany to Uzbekistan. The German government and international organizations, including the OSCE, had appealed to the Russian government not to extradite Atovullo. According to human rights groups, the Tajik journalist is wanted in Tajikistan due to the publication of a series of highly critical articles in his newspaper, "Charogi Ruz." It was reported that the journalist would face ill-treatment, if not death, in Tajikistan. (RFE/RL Tajik Service, 11 July)

...INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT CREDITED. In an interview with RFE/RL's Tajik Service after his arrival in Germany, Atovullo said that only international pressure prevented his extradition from Russia to Tajikistan. He thanked the U.S. State Department, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch for their pressure on the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office. The journalist also said he is grateful for the extensive coverage of his arrest by some Russian newspapers as well as RFE/RL's Tajik and Russian services, who helped inform the international community about his extradition case, which the Tajik government had hoped to "handle quietly" with Russian government officials. (RFE/RL Tajik Service, 11 July)

KREMLIN SAID TO WANT 'A NATION WITHOUT ANY NEWS AT ALL.' Writing in "Novaya gazeta," No. 46, Moscow sociologist Boris Kagarlitskii argued that "the Kremlin's problem is not with any specific television station or newspaper but with information as such. The news does not fit in with the Kremlin's political line. Not just bad news, but all news. The Kremlin's ideal is a nation without any news at all." But Kagarlitskii suggested that in contrast to the situation in the USSR, the Kremlin currently lacks the resources to implement this policy for very long. One indication of the success the Kremlin has had in this direction was the announcement on 9 July that Ekho Moskvy radio now will broadcast news only half as often, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July)

IPI MORE CONCERNED ABOUT PRESS FREEDOM... Speaking during the World Congress for Information Cooperation conference in Moscow on 26 June, the director of the International Press Institute (IPI), Johann P. Fritz, said, "Unfortunately, one year after the decision to place Russia on the 'IPI Watch List,' there have been almost no signs of improvement." "Indeed, it would appear that recent developments have further eroded the level of press freedom achieved by Russia since the break up of the Soviet Union in 1991." He cited self-censorship due to "perennial threats" against journalists in the various Russian regions and that perpetrators "escape with impunity;" as well as "severe restrictions," including arrests by authorities on journalists reporting on Chechnya. Fritz also said that Russia's economic circumstances have had a detrimental effect, since many media outlets depend on state subsidies and continue to be subject to heavy political pressure. Gazprom's government connections as they relate to Media-MOST are "especially worrying in the light of other measures undertaken by the authorities seemingly with the aim of exerting control over news content." (International Press Institute, 26 June)

...AND INTERNET SURVEILLANCE. The "SORM (operational research system) project, a Russian Internet surveillance system, requires Russian Internet service providers to install a technological infrastructure giving the secret police (FSB) online access to information exchange." SORM allows "authorities to intercept, view, and even halt the e-mail messages of Internet users," particularly "ominous" in view of the Doctrine on Information Security advocating more state influence on the flow of information and the media. For more on Russia, see: http://www.freemedia.at/watch_list.htm. (International Press Institute, 26 June)

RUSSIAN JOURNALIST SAYS PRESS FREEDOM MUST BE ON U.S.-RUSSIA AGENDA. In an article published in "The Moscow Times" on 10 July, independent Russian journalist Yevgenia Albats said that "the fate of the last truly independent broadcast media in Russia -- where almost all the others are controlled either by the state directly or through its agents, including friendly oligarchs and state-controlled companies -- should be an issue that is no less important than nuclear proliferation, missile defense, NATO expansion, and the like." She also said that at the summit in Ljubljana last month with U.S. President George W. Bush, "Putin conducted the finest counterintelligence operation of his career. He managed to recruit Bush, even as he allowed his American counterpart to think that just the opposite had happened." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July)

RESTRICTIONS ON JOURNALISTS IN COURTS DESCRIBED. An article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 10 July enumerates the rules court officials in Tomsk Oblast and presumably elsewhere in Russia follow in deciding whether to allow journalists to attend court hearings. The rules give judges broad latitude to decide whether journalists can in fact attend, but do not give journalists any real possibility of overruling them, the paper noted. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July)

RISING TIDE OF RUSSIAN NATIONAL EXTREMISM SAID A MEDIA CREATION. An article in "Izvestiya" on 7 July argued that widespread beliefs about the rise of national extremism in Russia are the product of the media rather than a reflection of reality. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July)

SAMARA MAYOR SAID LINKED TO ANTI-SEMITIC PUBLISHER. Another extremist publication has appeared in Samara on the eve of that city's mayoral elections, according to Aleksandr Brod, editor of the local Jewish newspaper "Tarbut." The founder and editor of "Mesto vstrechi" (Meeting Place), Mikhail Anishchenko, works for the press service of Samara Mayor Grigory Limansky, despite a history of anti-Semitic publishing; from 1993-94 he published the anti-Semitic newspaper "Prestizh" in the city and in 1996 he worked with local anti-Semite (and current mayoral candidate) Oleg Kitter. Articles in "Mesto vstrechi," which has a circulation of 100,000 copies, are extremely critical of Mayor Limansky's rivals in the region, especially Governor Konstantin Titov. (Union of Councils for Soviet Jews, 21 June)

DUMA LIMITS FOREIGN OWNERSHIP OF NATIONAL TV STATIONS. Deputies approved a revised version of amendments to the law on mass media in its third and final reading with 343 votes in favor. Voting against the bill was some of SPS and all of Yabloko, according to Ekho Moskvy. If enacted, the bill would limit the share of foreign capital to no more than 50 percent in television channels that broadcast to more than 50 percent of Russian territory or more than 50 percent of the population. Deputy Chairman of the Information Policy Committee (Russian Regions) Boris Reznik told reporters that provisions of the bill "can be easily bypassed" by forming a few shell companies to mask the presence of a foreign investor. He called the bill "more of an emotional outburst than legislation." In an interview with Ekho Moskvy, Union of Journalists General Secretary Igor Yakovenko expressed a similar view, calling the law a "lawoid" (zakonoid). He charged that the bill had an exclusively political purpose: "This is not a law but a kind of legislative weapon which was thought up for the struggle against two specific people, Vladimir Gusinskii and Boris Berezovskii," Yakovenko said. ("RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 11 July)

INTERPOL REPORTEDLY WON'T GO AFTER GUSINSKY. A spokesman for embattled media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky said on 9 July that the international police agency Interpol has rejected Moscow's request to seek his arrest because the Russian charges against him are political, Reuters reported. Gusinsky's firm, Media-MOST, sent the news agency a copy of a fax of what it said was a letter from Interpol. An Interpol spokeswoman was unable to confirm or deny the existence of such a letter. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July)

NEW MOVES AGAINST EKHO MOSKVY, MEDIA-MOST. Most managers and many journalists at Ekho Moskvy said on 5 July that they will resign after a Russian court the day before gave control of the station to Gazprom-Media, Russian and Western agencies reported. "As of today, we are a state-run company," Ekho Moskvy's deputy chief editor Irina Tsvei said. But Gazprom-Media officials said that its moves were strictly a question of business and that it plans to sell the journalists a share of its holdings in the company so that the journalists rather than Gazprom-Media will in fact control the independent station. Ekho Moskvy managers expressed skepticism at this offer. Then, on 6 July, the Office of the Prosecutor-General seized the building that houses the offices of embattled media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky's Media-MOST. They also confiscated other Media-MOST property, including Gusinsky's Mercedes limousine. In another media-related development, AST, the satellite news broadcaster, announced on 5 July because of debts it will cease broadcasting as of 9 July, Interfax-AFI reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July)

GAZPROM-MEDIA PREVENTS NTV SHAREHOLDER MEETING. By refusing to take part, Gazprom-Media representatives deprived the NTV shareholders meeting of a quorum and thus forced the cancellation of the meeting, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 June. Gazprom-Media is waiting for the results of a 2 July court hearing at which the company expects to get another 19 percent of NTV shares. Once those are in hand, Gazprom-Media spokeswoman Aelita Yefimova said, the firm will be able to "vote with 65 percent of the shares" at a future shareholders meeting of NTV. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July)

MORE LEGAL MANEUVERS ON THE MEDIA FRONT. The Prosecutor-General's Office has seized assets belonging to Media-MOST to be used to compensate Gazprom, which has brought suit against that holding company, Interfax reported on 28 June. Meanwhile, the Moscow arbitrage court ruled that the election of a new board at TV-6 was entirely legal, the news agency reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June)

PROSECUTORS SEEK ARREST OF TV-6 CHIEF. The Office of the Russian Prosecutor-General issued an arrest warrant on 29 June for Badri Patarkatsishvili, chairman of the board of TV-6, Russian agencies reported. He is being charged with involvement in the flight of Aeroflot official Nikolai Glushkov, who is suspected of fraud. Patarkatsishvili, a close ally of embattled magnate Boris Berezovsky, said that the charges were fabricated by the authorities to help them take control of his station. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July)

LEADING EDITORS SEEK CONTINUED TAX BENEFITS. The editors of Russia's largest newspapers have sent a letter to the Duma asking the legislators to preserve existing tax breaks for the print media, "Izvestiya" reported on 2 July. Without the break, the editors said, many of them will have to increase prices by as much as 70 percent and thus lose up to 50 percent of their circulation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July)

INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF JOURNALISTS CONDEMNS MEDIA UNION. Delegates from 80 countries to the International Federation of Journalists congress condemned the creation of the Media Union in Russia, which was organized and is funded by the government, "Inostranets" reported on 3 July. The delegates said that it is part of an effort "to silence critics of President Putin and to put pressure on the free press in Russia." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July)

A COMPLICATED DAY ON THE MEDIA FRONT. Presidential adviser Sergei Yastrzhembskii said on 10 July that "the government is in no way interested in any form of making the radio station Ekho Moskvy into state property," Interfax reported. He added that "this is the position of the president." Meanwhile, Gazprom-Media withdrew from an upcoming conference on press freedom because Ekho Moskvy had withdrawn earlier from the organizing committee of that meeting. Gazprom-Media then withdrew its offer to transfer to the employees of the radio station 9.5 percent of its shares, and announced that it would give them to SPS leader Boris Nemtsov in order to guarantee that Gazprom-Media does not own a majority of the shares of Ekho Moskvy, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 11 July. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July)

POLICE RAID EKHO MOSKVY IN ADVANCE OF CHIRAC INTERVIEW. Officers of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and Interior Ministry on 2 July entered the facilities of Ekho Moskvy to seize 14 percent of the shares of the station which media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky had given to journalists there as part of an effort to maintain the station's independence, Russian and Western agencies reported. Prosecutors said that the seizure was entirely valid because Gusinsky "gave the journalists something that may not have belonged to him." Gazprom-Media has filed a suit to be heard later this month to try to claim the shares as partial payment on Gusinsky's debt to that firm. French President Chirac is scheduled to give an interview at the station on 3 July. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July)

DUMA DELEGATION VISITS CHECHNYA. Ten deputies who are members of the Duma commission for supporting the normalization of social-political and social-economic conditions in Chechnya arrived in Grozny on 2 July to discuss conditions there, Interfax reported. The same day, the Chechen authorities were slated to begin publication of a new newspaper, but its start-up was delayed for unspecified "technical" reasons. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July)

NUMBER OF INTERNET USERS DOUBLED IN LAST YEAR. The number of Russians going online doubled between the start of 2000 and the start of 2001 to 12.8 million, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July)

HITMAN WHO OFFERED HIS SERVICES ON INTERNET ARRESTED. A Russian hitman offering "assisted death, possibly without the agreement of the patient" has been arrested by undercover police, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 July. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July)

HACKERS FORCE U.S. E-BOOK DEALER TO SUSPEND SALES. Russian hackers have broken into the format used by Barnes&Noble.com to distribute e-books and forced the American company to suspend sales of electronic books, lenta.ru reported on 30 June. Meanwhile, the oldest Russian Internet portal, Russia-on-Line, was forced to close down its operations after suffering losses of $200,000 a month, netoscope.ru reported on 29 June. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July)

2,500 PIRATED TAPES CEREMONIALLY DESTROYED. Militia officers working in the high tech crime area have ceremonially destroyed 2,500 pirated tapes in a vacant lot in Moscow, "Izvestiya" reported on 30 June. Russia loses enormous sums from pirated tapes, the officers said, and they staged this public demonstration to call attention to that fact and to their work against such intellectual piracy. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July)

VEDERNIKOV TIPPED TO HEAD BOLSHOI. Aleksandr Vedernikov, 38, is likely to be appointed the new artistic director of Moscow's Bolshoi Theater, Russian and Western agencies reported on 27 June. He would replace Gennadii Rozhdestvenskii, 70, who quit earlier this month. Vedernikov currently serves as artistic director and music director of the Russian Philharmonic. Meanwhile, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev has arranged for a Danish company to sell digitized Russian sheet music online, AP reported the same day. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June)

'LA FEMME NIKITA' OFFERS TO GUARD PUTIN. Putin on 28 June received actors and other film people attending the 23rd Moscow Film Festival, dpa reported. Among them were Jack Nicholson, and actress Peta Wilson, who plays the title role in television's "La Femme Nikita" and who volunteered to join the Russian president's bodyguard. One filmmaker not in attendance was Latvia's Juris Vidins, "Izvestiya" reported the same day. Vidins was refused a visa to Moscow apparently because of his pro-Chechen activities, the paper said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 June)

SUMMER NEWS SEASON COMES TO RUSSIA. The Russian media have begun to report this year's crop of summer stories. According to "Izvestiya" on 29 June, Russian detective agencies are now offering their services to women who want their husbands followed when they are away on summer holiday. The same paper reports that Stavropol Governor Aleksandr Chernogorov has demanded improvements in the number and location of public toilets after he was unable to find one when he needed to. Meanwhile, "Vremya MN" reported the same day that Russian parents are increasingly concerned by "the sexual revolution" which has hit Russia's Pioneer summer camps. And ITAR-TASS reported on 29 June that children playing in a sandpit near Irkutsk have unearthed the remains of a mammoth. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July)

SERBIA
JOURNALIST ACCUSES COLLEAGUES OF ABETTING WAR CRIMES. A Serbian journalist thinks some of his colleagues should stand trial for obeying the dictates of the deposed Milosevic regime in their reporting. Petar Lukovic, an independent editor and columnist, said that many war crimes were encouraged by journalists who justified crimes in reports portraying Serbs as the chosen race. Jovanka Matic, a media researcher in Serbia, disagreed with Lukovic's view, reported Freedom Forum. Dragutin Lucic, director of the Croatian Journalists Association, said it was also difficult to be an independent journalist in his country. There are no current investigations by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) on journalists' activities during the war, said Graham Blewitt, the ICTY deputy prosecutor. Some 150 journalists from the Balkans attended the International Forum on Media and Political Changes in Europe, organized by the Freedom Forum. See http://www.freedomforum.org/templates/document.asp?documentID=14307 (International Journalists' Network, 9 July)

ATTACKS ON JOURNALISTS AT FOOTBALL RALLY. About one thousand football fans gathered 30 June near the Belgrade Student Cultural Center to halt the first Yugoslav Gay Parade. The football fans belonged to two extreme-right youth groups: Fatherland movement Obraz (Reputation) and Svetosavska omladina (The Youth of St. Sava). During the two hours of clashes in the center of Belgrade, more than fifteen members of the parade, homosexuals, passers-by, and policemen were beaten up. Four journalists who reported from the scene were among those beaten. The extremists accused Radio B92 of being "anti-Serbian" and heaped ethnic abuse on Radio 202 journalists. ("ANEM Weekly Update," 30 June-6 July)

MILOSEVIC SUPPORTERS ATTACK JOURNALISTS. The Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) strongly condemned the behavior on 28 June of a group of Slobodan Milosevic's supporters, who physically assaulted journalists covering their protests against Milosevic's extradition to The Hague tribunal. The Belgrade Media Center said that many domestic and foreign journalists, cameramen, and photojournalists, were severely beaten in Belgrade's Trg Republike, where Milosevic's supporters had gathered. (ANEM Press Release, 29 June)

PHOTOGRAPHER 'ALMOST LYNCHED' AT RALLY... Weekly "Ilustrovana politika" photographer Vlada Markovic narrowly escaped being lynched by supporters of the Socialist Party of Serbia and the Serbian Radical Party at a 2 July rally in front of the federal parliament, "Glas javnosti" reported on 3 July. Although party leaders had told the rally that journalists were to be welcomed, and that they were not to be blamed "for the [blindness] of their editors," a few protestors caught Markovic before the rally began and threw him in the crowd. "Glas javnosti" reported that the crowd "couldn't wait to lay their hands on him." A security guard managed to rescue the photographer from the crowd. ("ANEM Weekly Update," 30 June-6 July)

...MINISTRY CONDEMNS ATTACKS... The Federal Information Ministry issued a statement on 4 July condemning increasingly frequent attacks against journalists during Socialist Party of Serbia and Serbian Radical Party rallies. Federal Information Minister Slobodan Orlic's statement asserted that the new government has a special duty to restrain those who, until recently, had dismissed, beaten, and even murdered "disobedient journalists." ("ANEM Weekly Update," 30 June-6 July)

...WHILE POLICE DEMAND NEWS ON ORGANIZERS? The District Public Prosecutor's Office demanded on 1 July that the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs collect all evidence necessary to determine the identity of those who beat up journalists and shouted slogans calling for the murder of the prime minister during recent protests organized by the Socialist Party of Serbia and the Serbian Radical Party. An anonymous source told B92 that the Prosecutor's Office had also demanded the names of people who had officially organized these rallies. ("ANEM Weekly Update," 30 June-6 July)

JOURNALISTS REQUEST JUSTICE. Radio Television of Serbia (RTS) journalists who claim they were fired for political reasons under former RTS Director Milorad Vucelic on 30 June again demanded redress. In an open letter to the RTS executive board, they asked that it take a stand on Vucelic's "political expulsion of a large number of journalists" in January 1993. The RTS executive board has not yet responded to their first letter in April, the Independent Journalists' Association of Serbia reported. In February, a judge dismissed charges brought by 20 former RTS employees against Vucelic, saying their dismissals and "unwanted vacations" were due to economic sanctions, reported FoNet. ("ANEM Weekly Update," 30 June-6 July)

MILANOVIC REMANDED IN CUSTODY. The former director of state television has been remanded in custody for a further three months, "Vecernje novosti" reported on 5 July. The Serbian Supreme Court ruled that he should be kept in jail to prevent him from influencing witnesses. Milanovic is charged with willfully endangering lives of employees who died during the 1999 NATO bombing of Radio Television of Serbia building, SRNA reported. ("ANEM Weekly Update," 30 June-6 July)

SLOVAKIA
TELEVISION SHUTS PREMIER UP. Slovak state television on 29 June rejected Premier Dzurinda's request for permission to address audiences on the occasion of the end of the school year, on grounds that the law obliges the electronic media to give officials air time only in "critical situations" to "inform the public about important things," TASR reported. In 1999, the state television was fined 1 million crowns (slightly over $20,000) for having allowed Dzurinda to make a speech in circumstances that did not meet that legal stipulation. Slovak state radio agreed to broadcast Dzurinda's speech, but cut those parts in which he spoke about the government's achievements in education. Education Minister Milan Ftacnik described Dzurinda's request as "an unusual initiative." Dzurinda denied he intended to make a "pre-electoral speech." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July)

JOURNALIST FACES CRIMINAL SLANDER CHARGES. On 26 June, the International Press Institute (IPI) expressed "deep concern" over charges of criminal defamation against a Slovak journalist. According to IPI, the president has filed a lawsuit against Ales Kratky, a commentator with the Slovak daily "Novy cas." Kratky is being sued under Article 103 of the Slovak penal code, which stipulates that anyone who "publicly defames the president for the performance of his duties or his activities in public life" can be sentenced for up to two years in prison. The lawsuit is in response to a 26 May commentary written by Kratky in which he described President Schuster's state of the nation address as indicating "signs of mental incapacity to lead a country that is trying to join modern and developed nations." Kratky also wrote that the speech was the "report of a state of mind of an arrogant egomaniac." (International Press Institute, 26 June)

OPPOSITION DENIES DEAL WITH TV MAGNATE. Opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) spokeswoman Zaneta Pittnerova on 2 July declined to comment to CTK on a report alleging that HZDS leader Vladimir Meciar recently discussed with Czech television magnate and Nova television director Vladimir Zelezny a deal for "mutual support." Pittnerova told CTK she can "neither confirm nor refute the information," but added that she "would have known" if such a meeting had taken place. The daily "Narodna obroda" published an interview with Nova co-founder Petr Huncik, in which Huncik said Zelezny and Meciar discussed a deal under which Zelezny would support the HZDS 2002 electoral campaign and Meciar would help Nova enter the Slovak market in exchange. Martin Chalupsky, a spokesman for the CET company that owns Nova, dismissed the report as "speculation." He said Nova has openly expressed an interest in entering the Slovak market but the report was "not accidentally" published in a newspaper owned by Slovak media empire magnate Pavol Rusko, who "fears competition." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July)

UKRAINE
NEWSPAPER PUBLISHER SHOT DEAD. The World Association of Newspapers and the World Editors Forum, which represent more than 17,000 publications in 93 countries, expressed "outrage at the murder of newspaper publisher Oleh Breus." According to reports, on 24 June Breus, publisher of the regional weekly "XXI Vek" in the provincial city of Luhansk, was shot dead outside his home. As Breus drove up to his house with his wife and a friend, he was shot four or five times in the head and back at point-blank range. Neither passenger was harmed. Eyewitnesses reported seeing two men fleeing the scene, one of them holding a pistol. The motive for the murder remains unclear. Breus had suffered at least one previous assassination attempt, in December 2000, and his colleagues at "XXI Vek" had also reported receiving threats in recent months. Mr. Breus had other business and political interests in addition to his activities as newspaper publisher. (World Association of Newspapers, 3 July)

JOURNALIST BEATEN TO DEATH. Ihor Aleksandrov, 45, director of a television station in Slavyansk (Donetsk Oblast), died on 7 July after being beaten with baseball bats by unknown assailants four days earlier, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. In 1998, a local court sentenced Aleksandrov to two years in prison and banned him from working as a journalist for five years for violating laws on campaign coverage. Last year Aleksandrov was acquitted after a legal battle that included taking his case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July)

WHY WAS JOURNALIST MURDERED? The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on 11 July strongly condemned the recent murder of prominent TV journalist Igor Aleksandrov, the director of Tor, an independent TV company. Aleksandrov's colleagues believe the murder was connected to his TV program, "Bez Retushi," (Without Censorship) featuring investigative reports on government corruption and organized crime, particularly on the local level. Aleksandrov became well known in 1998 when prosecutors brought a criminal case against him for insulting the honor and dignity of parliamentarian Aleksandr Leshchinsky. The journalist had publicly referred to Leshchinsky as a "vodka king" whose business caused human suffering. The Slavyansk city court found the journalist guilty and banned him from journalism for five years. In late 1998, the court reviewed its decision after much international and domestic criticism. Leshchinsky withdrew his defamation complaint against Aleksandrov last year, removing the immediate legal threat. The journalist's name was not cleared, however, since his conviction was still technically under review. Claiming damage to his professional reputation, Aleksandrov appealed to the European Court of Human Rights. (Committee to Protect Journalists, 11 July)

THOUSANDS ATTEND JOURNALIST'S FUNERAL... More than 5,000 people attended Aleksandrov's funeral on 10 July, Unian and Interfax reported. (RFE/RL Ukrainian Service, 12 July)

...AND INVESTIGATION INITIATED. Donetsk regional prosecutor Viktor Pshonka has launched an official investigation. Donetsk regional Governor Viktor Yanukovich and Ukrainian Internal Affairs Minister Yury Smirnov are directly involved in supervising the investigation, according to the local press. The chief of the Donetsk Ministry of Internal Affairs, General Vladimir Malyshev, stated that revenge was the leading motive in the murder but did not elaborate, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Oleksij Shechovtsov, a Ukrainian parliamentarian, has called for an informal parliamentary committee to track the investigation, since he does not trust the Donetsk regional police, reported RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service. President Kuchma has also ordered a special committee to investigate this murder, circumventing the local police, and also sent his national security chief Yevhen Marchuk to Sloviansk. Reportedly, the journalist had also been working closely with two members of an anti-corruption and organized crime unit who were subsequently fired. (RFE/RL Ukrainian Service, 12 July)

FEAR SAID RULING PRESS. The widow of murdered Ukrainian journalist Heorhiy Gongadze told a RFE/RL audience in early July that authorities in Kyiv have created a climate of fear that is leading ever more journalists to censor themselves. Myroslava Gongadze, a former Internews employee, said that "in the past, external censorship prevented a free press in Ukraine," but today, "the most serious problem is that of self-censorship" due to fear and the failure of the authorities to investigate actions such as her husband's murder. Gongadze's husband, a persistent critic of the Ukrainian elite and President Kuchma, disappeared last September in Ukraine, and a headless corpse later identified as Gongadze's was found a few weeks later. Mrs. Gongadze rejected claims by the Ukrainian presidential administration that everything had been done to find her husband's killer and called on Western governments to establish an international commission to investigate his case. This week, Mrs. Gongadze will accept an award on behalf of her late husband from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe meeting in Paris. The award recognizes the work of the murdered journalist in fighting for the right of Ukraine's citizens to information and freedom of expression. (RFE/RL Press Release, 5 July)

UZBEKISTAN
ILL WRITER REPORTEDLY RETURNED TO PRISON CAMP. According to the Writers in Prison Committee, on 16 June 2001 Mamadali Makhmudov was transferred from the Tashkent prison medical center, where he had been under treatment since April, to the Chirchik "strict regime" prison. He had previously been held in Navoi prison. Makhmudov has heart disease and has suffered three heart attacks, most recently in 1999. Makhmudov was one of six men sentenced to between eight and 15 years in prison on 18 August 1999 for alleged involvement in the Uzbek opposition movement. Their convictions were part of a clampdown after a series of bomb explosions in Tashkent on 16 February 1999. On 19 February, Mamadali Makhmudov was arrested at his home in Tashkent and later charged with threatening the president and threatening the constitutional order. Makhmudov was sentenced to 14 years in prison, mainly due to links to the writer Muhammad Salih, the exiled head of the banned political party Erk. (Writers in Prison Committee, 29 July)

END NOTE
'IN MEDIAS RES: MUSICA EX MACHINA'

By Catherine Cosman

At the time of the first eclipse in the new millennium, on St. John's Night (23 June), which marks the summer solstice in the Basque country, a remarkable concert took place. A unique concert, marking the debut of a musically minded robot named "Mi-Re-La," was conveyed live via the Internet.

The concert, which took place in the San Sebastian Technology Park (SSTP) in Spain, was introduced by a film clip from Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey." The primal image showed our simian ancestor beating bones and killing his first prey, inspired by the mysterious solar monolith which played such an important part in the film's celestial voyage. The sun also plays a central role in Basque folk imagery.

Following the film clip from "2001," the concert began with "Thus Spake Zarathustra" by Richard Strauss. It also included celebratory works by Ravel, Elgar, Mussorgski's "Pictures at an Exhibition," and four melodies by the Basque composer Guridi. All this was performed by the Basque Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Gilbert Varga. What made this concert unique, however, is that Varga was conducting an orchestra separated by three kilometers! The two parts of the orchestra were connected by fiber-optic cable that transmitted sound at 155 megabytes per second. The resultant time lapse was so tiny that not even musicians' ears could detect it!

This remarkable technological feat served as the vehicle to herald the debut of a robot, "Mi-Re-La," a little round red machine which is the brainchild of MIT and SSTP. It displayed its capacity to "see" and the audience saw what "Mi-Re-La" was seeing on the same screen where the "distant" part of the symphony orchestra had been shown. The robot also lived up to its musical coda. After a violinist played the notes "Mi Re La," the little red robot gave a tiny toot of recognition and then obediently glided out of sight.

The concert also featured an introduction by SSTP Director Manuel Cendoya, moving spirit behind this concert and one of "Mi-Re-La's" inventors. In light of all this, it was only fitting that the concert went out live on the Internet. Manuel greeted Internet listeners in Beijing, Berkeley, Tel Aviv, Buenos Aires, plus other cities and the sixty members of last year's Salzburg Seminar scattered around the globe.

The concert embodied the spirit of the world's media revolution -- that the global is local and the local is global. Coming from San Sebastian, heart of the Spanish Basque country, such a concert is particularly apt. Europe's most ancient culture (some experts speculate that the Basque language may be the mother language from which others derive) is now poised on the edge of the information revolution. And music -- if not of the spheres, then of robots which respond to music and of bifurcated orchestras which are linked by fiber-optic cables -- joins with the Internet in bringing all this to the world.

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