8 October 2001, Volume
NOTE TO READERS:
RFE/RL's "Media Matters" will not appear next week but will return on 19 October.
GOVERNMENTS URGED NOT TO CURB PRESS FREEDOMS.
While the United States prepares for a war on terrorism, members of the Coordinating Committee of Press Freedom Organizations, meeting in Paris on 21 September, urged governments to respect media freedom in their quest to catch the perpetrators of the 11 September terrorist attacks. Members of the committee include the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the World Press Freedom Committee, the World Association of Newspapers, the International Press Institute, and the Inter American Press Association. The meeting adopted a resolution which stated in part that "The evil that terrorism represents will be best defeated by full public exposure. Censorship, restriction on the movement of journalists, and limitation on news content can interfere with this necessary public exposure." (International Freedom of Expression eXchange Clearing House [IFEX] Communique, 2 October)CALL FOR EU PRESSURE FOR PRESS FREEDOM IN RUSSIA.
In a 28 September letter to Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, who holds the presidency of the European Union, Reporters sans frontieres (RSF) expressed its concern about the continuing decline of the press freedom situation in Russia in recent months. "We fear that information freedom and pluralism, which have already been seriously threatened in the past year, will suffer further from the foreseeable hardening of President [Vladimir] Putin's policies in the Caucasus and towards independent media," said RSF Secretary-General Robert Menard. "At a time when relations between the EU and Russia are likely to be reinforced as part of the fight against terrorism, it is more important than ever to remind the Russian authorities of their obligations with regard to the respect of human rights. We ask that you convey to President Putin the importance of Russia respecting freedom of information in the context of its relations with the European Union," added Mr. Menard. (Reporters Without Borders, 28 September)NEW INTERNATIONAL JOURNALISM DEFENSE NETWORK.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has launched an international network of nine organizations for the defense of press freedom, including the Afghan Center for the Promotion of Communication (Pakistan), the Glasnost Defense Foundation (Russia), and the Mass Media Institute (IMI-Ukraine). The RSF Network met on 22 September in Paris and agreed to exchange information; work for justice, including conducting investigations in murder cases of journalists and to take part in Sponsors Day (28 November), and International Press Freedom Day (3 May). The RSF has two new bureaus in Montreal and Moscow (plus Abidjan, Bangkok, Tokyo, and Washington), nine national branches (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Sweden, and Switzerland), and some 100 correspondents. For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org or see http://www.rsf.fr (Reporters Without Borders, 25 September)
BALTIC SEA REGION E-BUSINESS FORUM HELD IN RIGA.
On the final day of the Baltic Sea region E-business forum in Riga from 26-28 September, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Secretary-General Donald Johnston said that the Baltic states have the necessary basic infrastructure and necessary institutions and well-educated people to successfully develop an information technology-based society, BNS reported. On 27 September, Estonian Prime Minister Mart Laar told the forum that cooperation between public and private sectors is a precondition for implementing e-projects, such as Estonia's e-government project that allows government members to participate in cabinet sessions from anywhere in the world. His Lithuanian counterpart, Algirdas Brazauskas, also spoke at the forum, and at a subsequent meeting the three premiers of the Baltic states discussed the global situation following the 11 September terrorist attacks in the U.S. and agreed to develop a joint program for combating terrorism. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October)
PRESIDENT MEETS WITH RUSSIAN JOURNALISTS.
Meeting with a group of visiting Russian journalists in Yerevan on 29 September, President Robert Kocharian said Armenian-Russian relations are "developing dynamically," and are characterized by a "convergence of interests" and by the absence of any disputed issues, ITAR-TASS and Noyan Tapan reported. Kocharian stressed that a pro-Russian orientation has been passed from generation to generation in Armenia, stressing that "there were and are no anti-Russian sentiments in Armenia." Asked why Armenia therefore does not accede to the Russia-Belarus Union, Kocharian pointed out that the union serves the interests of both member countries, but that Armenia does not share a common border with either. He added that no Armenian political party except for the Communists supports Armenian membership of the union. Commenting on the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Kocharian said the two most immediate problems that need to be solved are convincing public opinion in Azerbaijan of the need for compromise, and for the presidents of both Armenia and Azerbaijan to accept the responsibility of implementing a peace settlement that will require compromises from both sides. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October)
INDEPENDENT TV STATION ACCUSED OF TRANSMITTING ILLEGALLY.
Azerbaijan's State Radio Frequencies Committee has accused the independent ANS-TV of beginning broadcasts to seven rural regions without having sought permission from the committee to do so, Turan reported on 1 October. The committee has assessed ANS-TV's debts for the unauthorized use of transmitters at 354.9 million manats ($75,750), of which 141 million manats must be paid to the state budget. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October)EDITOR WARNED OVER ARTICLE SAYING MOSCOW BEHIND UNREST IN NORTH.
Elchin Shikhlinskii, the editor of Baku's "Zerkalo" newspaper, and one of his correspondents on 26 September were summoned to the Prosecutor-General's Office and given a warning for publishing an article suggesting Russia had played a role in terrorist actions in Zagatala in northern Azerbaijan, Turan reported. Prosecutors told them that there is no truth to their story and that it "can be harmful" for relations between Baku and Moscow. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September)MOVES AGAINST PAPER PROTESTED.
The International Federation of Journalists, the world's largest journalists' organization with some 500,000 journalists represented, has condemned attempts to silence the independent "Milletin Sesi" paper. On 17 September, the Narimanov District Court handed down a six-month prison sentence to editor-in-chief Shahbaz Khuduoglu and a three-month suspended sentence to journalist Gulnaz Qamberli for criminal defamation; criminal investigation hearings are planned against editor Eynulla Fatullaev. The actions against the three journalists are based on a 26 August article in the paper stating that the head of Azerbaijan's presidential administration, Ramiz Mehdiev, had been seen at a nightclub. On 16 September, the paper was closed by the Narimanov District Court due to charges brought by two civil servants who alleged they had been insulted after an article in the paper alleged that they were involved in corruption. (International Federation of Journalists, 27 September)GERMAN TV REPORTERS DETAINED.
On 1 August, two journalists from the German ARD TV company were detained in the Sunzha region. The local authorities claim that the reporters did not have permits; other sources believe that the actual motive for the detention was that the two German reporters had filmed local law enforcement officers arresting people who planned to take part in that day's peace march. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, August newsletter, 26 September)
ANTI-LUKASHENKA CAMPAIGNER GOES TO JAIL.
Palina Panasyuk from Brest, a city in southwestern Belarus, will spend five days in jail for dissemination of the opposition newspaper "Nasha svaboda" and election leaflets during the presidential election campaign near the deployment site of a police battalion in the city, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 28 September. A judge found her guilty of "expressing political interests that run counter to the reelection of Alyaksandr Lukashenka as the president of the Republic of Belarus." ("RFE/RL Poland, Belarus and Ukraine Report," 2 October)
'CROATIAN-LANGUAGE' DAILY HITS NEWSSTANDS.
Bosnia-Herzegovina's first "Croatian-language" daily hit newsstands on 1 October, with the stated aim of offering readers complete and reliable coverage of "what is going on in the country and the world," Hina reported the same day. "Dnevni List" will appear six days a week with a double issue on Saturdays, the agency added. It is published by Mostar-based National Holding. The paper is printed in Banja Luka and has an initial print run of 7,500 copies to be sold throughout Bosnia, Hina reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October)
PRIVATE TV TO LAY OFF STAFF.
Georgios Douvletis, the executive director of the private Nova TV, on 26 September told journalists that the station will lay off 20 percent of its staff, BTA reported. The measure follows the revocation of Greek-owned Nova TV 's nationwide license by the Supreme Administrative court in July. The court overruled a decision of the former cabinet headed by Ivan Kostov to award Nova TV a nationwide broadcasting network for 15 years. Lawyers for Nova TV working on the case said they are considering appealing the decision to an international court. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September)
MINISTER DOGGED BY MEDIA SERVICES SCANDAL.
Minister for Regional Development Petr Lachnit has drawn criticism from the country's largest-circulation daily for the second time in just over a week, this time for payments his ministry is making to a former campaign manager for media services. Entrepreneur Stepan Rainisch has earned 800,000 crowns (roughly $21,800) since June 2000, and is receiving some 50,000 crowns a month for work "Mlada fronta Dnes" said should be done by existing staff within the ministry. The paper's 27 September issue cites a contract with Rainisch for preparing press statements and organizing press conferences -- tasks that the ministry's spokeswoman, Dagmar Placha, said she and her colleagues have executed. Last week, "Mlada fronta Dnes" wrote that Lachnit paid 152,000 crowns for the services of a private media agency, R.P.A., ahead of a television appearance in March. His own press office is responsible for "media training," and some senior ministry officials have links to R.P.A., the paper added. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September)PROSECUTION LIKELY FOR VERBAL SUPPORT OF TERRORISM.
Regional officials of the Prosecutor-General's Office, meeting in Brno on 2 October, agreed that expressing verbal support for terrorism can be prosecuted, CTK reported. They said the "line between freedom of speech and crime" should be carefully weighed, and that it is necessary to differentiate between "constructive criticism of the U.S." and "endorsing attacks on it." No concrete case was discussed, but CTK reported that Justice Minister Jaroslav Bures has recently referred to the case of far-right National Social Bloc leader Jan Kopal, who has been charged with "support of a movement aiming at suppressing the rights and freedom of citizens" after stating that the U.S. "deserved" the terrorist attacks on 11 September. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October)
TV PROGRAM ON ARMENIAN MINORITY CANCELED.
Channel 2 of Georgian state TV canceled a broadcast of a discussion program on "National Minorities and Authorities," planned for 26 September, considering it "anti-patriotic" and "too acute for the current moment when Armenians are formally accusing Georgia of violating ethnic Armenians' rights in this country." The TV discussion had been prepared by the NGO "Studio Re." For more information contact Mikheil Mirziashvili at StudioRe@yahoo.com (MINELRES, 28 September)
OPPOSITION WARY OF RADIO CENSORSHIP.
Opposition Socialist Party (MSZP) Deputy Chairwoman Ildiko Lendvay told reporters on 1 October that her party will seek a written explanation from Hungarian Radio President Katalin Kondor as to why statements made by opposition parties are censored. Lendvay said a report on MSZP Chairman Laszlo Kovacs's recent visit to Gyor was not broadcast that same day. She also charged that radio Vice President Janos Hollos has issued internal orders for editors to consult with him before broadcasting the opposition's criticism of the cabinet. Hollos said the alleged instructions do not exist. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October)HACKERS BREAK INTO NATIONAL SECURITY OFFICE WEBSITE.
Hungary's National Security Office has acknowledged that its website was temporarily disabled on 2 October by hackers who posted messages blasting both the U.S. and Hungary, Hungarian media reported. The hackers condemned U.S. multinational corporations, the bombing of Hiroshima, and U.S. sanctions against some Arab countries. The hackers also left a message on the website that read "Bin Laden 1, Bush 0," and questioned why the world should be upset when a "few thousand" people died in the U.S. while Arabs died "by the millions in the desert." The messages were removed from the website a few hours after they were posted, and the office's secret database remained secure. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October)
TV CAMERAMAN ATTACKED.
On 11 August, prison guards beat Yuri Sedin, a cameraman with Yuzhnaya stolitsa -- an Almaty-based TV company -- as he was filming a revolt in a prison camp for juvenile delinquents. The case is now under investigation. Lieutenant Colonel Sherinov reportedly will file suit against Sedin. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, August newsletter, 26 September)
DEMACI TO HEAD MEDIA BOARD.
Veteran political dissident and human rights campaigner Adem Demaci is to head the Administrative Board of Radio-Television Kosova, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Prishtina on 26 September. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September)
DISTRICT COURT THROWS OUT LIBEL SUIT AGAINST PRESIDENT.
The Pervomai district court in Bishkek on 28 September rejected a libel suit brought against President Askar Akaev by imprisoned former Vice President Feliks Kulov, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. In his book "The Memorable Decade," Akaev had described Kulov as power hungry and having ties to criminal circles. Kulov was sentenced in January to seven years imprisonment on charges of abuse of power while serving as national security minister in 1997-1998. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October)
A KRASNODAR JOURNALIST KILLED...
Independent media outlets are targets of ever-increasing violence and pressure from regional authorities in the Russian Federation's republics. On 20 July, the body of Dmitrii Ermakov, a reporter from "Chernomorskij Kur'er'" and "Krasnodar Izvestiya," was found after he was thrown from the fourth floor of his home in the Krasnodar region. His colleagues noted that he had told them of "exclusive information" he had uncovered that implicated some local authorities in criminal activities. (Reporters Without Borders, 28 September)AS IS PUBLISHER IN THE URALS.
On 18 September 2001, Edouard Markevich, publisher of the regional newspaper "Novy reft," was shot in the back and killed in Reftinsky, in the Sverdlosk region. This media professional, who was very critical of local authorities, had previously been the target of repeated pressure. According to the World Association of Newspapers, in 1998 Markevich was beaten by two assailants in front of his pregnant wife; no one was apprehended for this attack. Last year, Markevich was detained for 10 days after the local procurator's office charged defamation over an article in his paper casting doubt on the propriety of a lucrative government contract; in May 2001, the federal procurator reprimanded the local procurator for violating the publisher's constitutional rights. (Reporters Without Borders, 28 September)SIX JOURNALISTS DIED AND FOUR REPORTED MISSING IN CHECHNYA CONFLICT.
The World Association of Newspapers and World Editors Forum noted on 1 October that "six journalists have been killed and four reported missing since the current conflict in Chechnya began in 1999." (World Association of Newspapers, 1 October)JAPANESE JOURNALIST MISSING -- IN CHECHNYA?
The World Association of Newspapers (WAN) and the World Editors Forum, which represent over 17,000 publications in 93 countries, wrote on 1 October to Russian President Vladimir Putin "to express serious concern at the disappearance of Japanese free-lance journalist Kosuke Tsuneoka in Chechnya." WAN said it has reports that Tsuneoka last sent an e-mail to his family in late July after he arrived in Tbilisi. He wrote he planned to go to Chechnya -- possibly without accreditation -- and that he would return to Georgia by 15 August. (World Association of Newspapers, 1 October)BAN ON COVERING CHECHEN CONFLICT.
The kidnapping mafia which operates in Chechnya as well as Russian forces, constitute an ever-present and growing threat for journalists covering the Chechen conflict. Russian media outlets are barred from quoting the main Chechen leaders, including President Aslan Maskhadov. When this regulation is not adhered to, and after issuing warnings, the Ministry of Information takes away the offending media outlet's license and suspends its circulation in Russia, while also threatening to impose an outright ban on the media outlet in question. For their part, foreign media outlets are finding it increasingly difficult to operate, and accreditations for Chechnya are, in effect, impossible to obtain. (Reporters Without Borders, 28 September)YASTRZHEMSKY: NO TIME FOR CHECHEN FIGHTERS.
Responding to a "Kommersant-Daily" interview on 30 August with Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov, Presidential Aide Sergei Yastrzhemsky told the Interfax news agency the same day that it is "totally unacceptable" that the Russian media cover the views of Chechen combatants and that this ban should be covered in Russian legislation. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, August newsletter, 26 September)POLICE OFFICER LOSES JOB FOR PUBLICATION OF CHECHNYA DIARY.
Vladimir Port and others from the Perm region, which is west of the Ural Mountains, served in Chechnya last year as an Interior Ministry police volunteer. After he published his diary about the Chechen conflict -- revealing its cruel and often chaotic daily grind -- Port is losing his position as a lieutenant colonel after being labelled a traitor by the police command. "His honesty is paramount. I think he's incapable of taking a bribe," said journalist Ivan Gurin, who first published Port's diary in a small regional newspaper. The diary was later published in the nationwide "Komsomolskaya Pravda." Gurin, the journalist, said Port donated his newspaper honorarium to families of the 43 dead Perm OMON police who were ambushed by Chechen forces in March 2000. "What you see in Chechnya and what you see on television about Chechnya is as different as earth and sky," Port said. "Let the people know the truth. My father [a communist party member and history teacher] taught me from childhood that a bitter truth is better than a sweet lie." ("The Los Angeles Times," 30 September)A VISA BLACKLIST FOR RUSSIA?
According to information first made public on the 16 August broadcast of Oleg Panfilov's RFE/RL's Russian Service program, "The State versus the Press," at least 10 journalists and others on a Ministry of Foreign Affairs blacklist for entry to Russia are: Andre Glucksmann, French philosopher; Aleksandr Ginsburg, literary figure and dissident living in France; Eckhardt Maas, German translator; Carlotta Gall, American journalist; Petra Prochazkova, Czech journalist and founder of an orphanage for children from Chechnya; Kristina Szatori, a Hungarian journalist working for German TV; Atis Klimovics, a Latvian journalist; Iva Zimova, Canadian journalist; Nadezh Vankovenberg, French journalist; and Siarhej Naumchik of the RFE/RL Belarus Service. These journalists have been particularly active in covering the ongoing conflict in Chechnya. (An expanded version of this information was publicized by a representative of RFE/RL at the OSCE Human Rights Conference in Warsaw on 25 September).SPECIAL STRUCTURE TO PROTECT STATE SECRETS CREATED.
Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov on 24 September signed a directive creating a new Directorate for the Protection of State Secrets and a Control Directorate, gazeta.ru reported. A government spokesman said that the new structures will be integrated into the government's existing structure and allow for "better distribution of functions within the government and the coordination of efforts to fight international terrorism." ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 2 October)JOURNALISTS CALL ON LESIN TO END KREMLIN INTERFERENCE IN MEDIA.
A meeting of journalists from around Russia on 27 September challenged Media Minister Mikhail Lesin to ask President Vladimir Putin to prohibit the president's subordinates from interfering in the work of the media, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the following day. For his part, Lesin responded: "Do you think it is easy for me?" Lesin also said that press freedom is "like a child" that must move from drawing everything in "bright colors" to learning to live "by the rules." Lesin also suggested that there is a need for a new law on television and for support of regional stations that lack a sizeable advertising market, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 28 September. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October)CHANGE AND CONTINUITIES IN THE RUSSIAN MEDIA.
In an article published in "The Moscow Times" on 25 September, Aleksei Pankin, the editor of the media magazine "Sreda," said that shock over the terrorist attacks on the U.S. served as a wake-up call for the Russian media, forcing them to examine themselves and become more professional. One example of that phenomenon is an article in "Komsomolskaya pravda" the same day that listed the pros and cons of an American military presence in Central Asia. But other developments pointed to certain continuities: "Izvestiya" on 25 September played up a U.S. newspaper report that the American authorities "will not exclude" the use of disinformation during the upcoming antiterrorist campaign. Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry's press service called on the Russian media to show restraint in covering the situation in Afghanistan, Interfax reported on 25 September. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September)LEGISLATIVE BATTLE OVER PRINT MEDIA TAXES.
Russian newspaper publishers are lobbying over print media tax bills before the Duma budget committee, according to the 2 October "St. Petersburg Times." Since 1995, under a law on state support for the media, the Russian media have received various tax breaks, such as an exemption from the 20 percent value-added tax (VAT). The exemptions were to expire in 1998, were extended after the August financial crisis, but are now set to expire at the end of 2001. Two bills are under consideration: another two-year extension of the tax breaks and or ending the media's tax-exempt status and levying a 10-percent VAT. The Duma budget committee head, Aleksandr Zhukov, said he favored the lower VAT, calling it a temporary measure to help the industry adjust to paying taxes. Opponents of the proposed new system, including the Journalists Union and the National Association of Publishers, said that for many regional publishers it would result in major drops in circulation and price increases in a bid to stave off bankruptcy. The head of the Journalists Union said the new system could mean the end of independent print media. (Freedomforum.org, 2 October)MOSCOW ANGERED BY U.S. PAPER'S LINKING RUSSIAN MAFIA TO BIN LADEN.
The Russian Foreign Ministry on 27 September issued a statement criticizing a report in "The "Washington Times" that said there have been links between Russian organized crime and terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, and that these links were exploited in an apparently failed attempt by bin Laden to purchase Russian weapons of mass destruction, RIA-Novosti reported. The ministry said that such reports are clearly intended to undermine Russia's cooperation with the international antiterrorism coalition by casting aspersions on Russia. But at the same time, the ministry said that "if these reports have any basis in fact, then this information should be sent to Russian security services via special channels." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October)PAVLOVSKII WARNS THAT TERRORISTS CAN USE MEDIA AS A WEAPON.
Kremlin media adviser Gleb Pavlovskii said on 18 September that terrorists can deploy new information technologies as their "most dangerous" weapons, and that he is creating a Center of Defense Technology to meet this threat, Russian news agencies reported. Pavlovskii said this threat proves that critics of the Russian Information Security Doctrine are wrong. At the same time, he said that the world is now at the edge of a global crisis and that "for the first time in 50 years," both the Russian people and the Russian government are ready to meet it. He also argues that Russia must take a number of specific moves in foreign and domestic policy in order to avoid being dragged into war or suffer in other ways, strana.ru reported on 20 September. He told a meeting of the Civil Debate club that such measures should include a ban on protests by the Communist Party and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) slated for October. Such demonstrations, he said, could have a very negative impact on Russia's image abroad. He also called for a more general ban on extremist groups. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 24 September)RUSSIAN MILITARY SATELLITE SYSTEM NOW MUCH REDUCED.
According to an article in "Trud-7" on 27 September, Russia is "fast running out of spy satellites." Before 1991, it had nearly 200 such satellites, but now it has only 93, and 80 percent of the latter have exceeded their projected service lifetimes. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October)MEDIA MINISTRY MAY SUE ARMED FORCES.
The press service of the Media Ministry told Interfax on 1 October that the ministry may take the Chief Educational Administration of the Armed Forces to court because the latter has failed to broadcast the military-patriotic television program "Slavyanka" as promised. The ministry had given the administration a license to show the program within two weeks but the administration has still not done so. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October)PRIVATE POLICE VS. INDEPENDENT MEDIA.
Efforts to silence media outlets that are critical of regional authorities have been stepped up in recent months, particularly the ever-increasing use of private police against independent media. The situation is of great concern in the Russian Federation republics of Khakassi, Karachaevo-Cherkessi, Upper-Altai (northeast of Kazakhstan), Udmurti (north of Volga), and in the Russian regions of Magadan and Smolensk. (Reporters Without Borders, 28 September)'NEZAVISIMAYA' CHANGES ITS FACE.
The new management team at "Nezavisimaya gazeta" plans to make the paper more popular and less elitist, expanding color and advertising and dropping two-thirds of the analytical supplements, APN reported on 28 September. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 2 October)EURONEWS GOES ON THE AIR IN MOSCOW.
The Media Ministry announced on 2 October that Euronews broadcasts have begun in the city of Moscow and Moscow Oblast, Interfax reported. Oleg Dobrodeev, the chief of Russia's State Radio and Television Committee, said that the beginning of these Russian-language broadcasts marks "a real step in the integration of Russia into the European information space." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October)TV-6 CLOSURE SAID STRICTLY BUSINESS.
Officials of LUKoil-Garant said on 28 September said that the company went to court to close down TV-6 not to restrict media freedom but for purely commercial reasons, Russian and Western agencies reported. The day before, Moscow's Arbitration Court permitted LUKoil-Garant to take this step. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October)SHOT FIRED AT VLADIVOSTOK PAPER'S OFFICE.
Just as the staff of the Vladivostok office of the daily "Trud" was locking up to go home on 31 August, someone fired a shot at the office. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, August newsletter, 26 September)YUKOS LOOKS TO MEDIA TO INFLUENCE LOCAL POLITICS.
Commentator Aleksei Pankin reported in "The Moscow Times" 2 October that YUKOS is negotiating with Arkadii Mayov, the head of Tomsk's TV-2, to purchase a controlling share in the television station. TV-2 is one of the most well-respected independent television stations in Siberia. When asked by TV-2 journalists recently why he is interested in purchasing a "small Tomsk television station," YUKOS head Mikhail Khodorkovskii replied that YUKOS contributes 70 percent of the Tomsk region's budget revenues. "We want to be able to influence the situation in the region," Khodorkovskii replied, "I don't like the fact that the communists are strengthening their position." However, Khodorkovskii pledged that YUKOS doesn't intend to interfere with the station's line and is investing in order "to allow the development of a station whose position we like." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October)INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER EDITOR IN KEMEROVO CHARGES OBLAST WITH INTERFERENCE.
The editor in chief of the independent newspaper "Kuznetskii krai," Yevgenii Bogdanov, has charged that the financial-industrial group Euroazholding has taken control of his newspaper at the initiative of Kemerovo Oblast authorities, RFE/RL's Kemerovo correspondent reported on 28 September. The company has managed to buy up around 60 percent of shares in the newspaper, and some shareholders in the newspaper have alleged that the company resorted to blackmail in order to "persuade" them to sell. One shareholder, for example, was told that tax authorities would conduct an audit of his business. In response to Bogdanov's charges of involvement in Euroazholding's takeover effort, the oblast administration has filed a lawsuit claiming defamation. In addition, Sergei Cheremov, the head of the department for relations with public and media organizations in the oblast, declared that the oblast has nothing to do with the events associated with the newspaper, and that the number of independent media organs in the oblast has only increased. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October)KRASNODAR PAPER CENSORED?
The 24 August issue of the "Shkola mira" paper was not printed at the Anapa printing house; the paper ran an article on the problems of Meskhetian Turks living in Krasnodar Krai. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations August Newsletter, 26 September)BELGOROD OBLAST OFFICIAL: ONLY 'GOOD NEWS.'
In early August, the local Aidar television station in the Rovenky region of Belgorod Oblast aired its first program. Nikolai Miroshnichenko, head of the Rovenky region, ordered on 16 August that local TV should broadcast only good "positive" news. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, August newsletter, 26 September)WIRE THIEVES BLOCK WEATHER FORECASTS IN BIROBIDZHAN.
Metal thieves stole several meters of telephone wire in Birobidzhan and as a result the local weather station was unable to monitor and report the weather, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 26 September. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September)EVENKIA HAS 'MOST LIBERAL' REGIONAL PRESS LAW.
"Izvestiya" reported on 2 October that the legislative assembly in Evenk Autonomous Okrug has adopted the most liberal media law of any subject of the federation. The law calls for punishing officials who violate the rights of journalists and provides special benefits for media outlets. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October)RUSSIA-BELARUS UNION STATE TO HAVE COMMON RADIO STATION.
The Russian-Belarusian radio station "Union" will begin broadcasting soon, as questions of financing are worked out, Interfax reported on 25 September. The station is to broadcast 24 hours a day across the territories of the two countries, the news service said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September)11 SEPTEMBER: RECORD HIGHS ON INTERNET NEWS SITES...
"The Russia Journal" reported that the top 20 Internet news sites reached a record 1.8 million hits a day in Russia -- tripling previous records -- just after the U.S. terrorist attacks on 11 September, citing a report from the Internet monitoring agency SpyLog. Russian news sites remain the most frequently visited segment of Ru.net, a web of Russian-language resources of the Internet. The top news sites continue to attract more than 1 million visitors a day, or more than double their average traffic. International news sources also had record traffic, with CNN.com serving 9 million page-views per hour following the attacks, compared with 11 million per day on average. (Freedomforum.org, 2 October)...AND FINANCE INTERNET SITES...
RosBusiness Consulting's www.rbc.ru news agency reported 350,000 hits on 12 September. As the U.S. dollar dropped against major currencies following the attacks, many Russians flocked to their computers to monitor the situation. According to SpyLog, the homepage of the Central Bank and other financial institutions became the second-most visited domains behind online news outlets. (Freedomforum.org, 2 October)...BUT ARE THERE MORE USERS?
SpyLog specialist Yevgenii Morozov said the activity on the Russian news sites 11-12 September did not necessarily indicate an increase in the number of Internet users, contending that "It was the usual ring of Internet users who logged on for the news; they simply spent more time online, jumping from one site to another." (Freedomforum.org, 2 October)KREMLIN SETS UP CIVIL SOCIETY INTERNET PORTAL.
Kremlin political adviser Gleb Pavlovskii is behind the opening on 25 September of a new Internet portal devoted to resources on Russian civil society, smi.ru reported the same day. The portal, hartia.ru, is intended to promote the government-sponsored organization of civil society institutions, the site said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September)ON THE (PARTY) WEB.
Last month, the Justice Ministry opened a website on Russia's political parties last month at http://party.scli.ru. as required by the new law on political parties. It is still 'under construction;" in the future, it could provide valuable information -- including financial data -- on Russia's political parties. In the meantime, all of Russia's top political parties themselves have their own websites of greater and lesser sophistication. Most have a similar menu of subcategories such as news, personnel, regional links, and party programs. The site of the Communist Party of Russia (http://www.kprf.ru/) has links to various sites around the world and also has more content in English than the so-called pro-Western groups, such as Yabloko and SPS. The pro-Kremlin Unity party has one of the thinnest sites in terms of quantity of content (http://www.edin.ru/), while the website for People's Deputy: (http://www.nardep.ru/) makes no secret of its allegiances with links to www.kremlin.ru, and the photo archive for group leader Gennadii Raikov includes one snapshot of him standing next to President Vladimir Putin or at least a life-sized cardboard cut-out of Putin. Russian political parties are often said to be weak and based on a single personality. Some of the parties' websites would appear to illustrate this idea. In terms of graphics, one might think that Yurii Luzhkov is alone in his Fatherland (http://www.otech.ru/news.phtml) or in Yabloko's (http://www.yabloko.ru/) case, Grigorii Yavlinskii. The website for Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) (http://www.sps.ru/sps/), a party at times riven by leadership struggles, appears to give its top personalities equal time. While the photogenic SPS faction leader Boris Nemtsov is highlighted, photos of other leaders also flash by periodically, even unphotogenic Duma deputy Yegor Gaidar and unpopular Unified Energy Systems head Anatolii Chubais. And unlike Yabloko's site, which provides a link from the home page to http://www.yavlinskii.ru, SPS's site does not link to http://www.nemtsov.ru. The website for the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (http://www.ldpr.ru/) is focused both on the images and sayings of its leader, Vladimir Zhirinovskii. ("RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 1 October)THE .SU RETURNS ON THE INTERNET.
The Fund for the Development of the Internet told Interfax on 24 September that as of 1 October, Internet users may again register with the domain .su. The fund's spokesmen said such registration will cost $15,000, and that they hope it will be used across the former USSR. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 2 October)
GRAFFITI CALLS FOR EXPULSION OF MINORITIES FROM VOJVODINA.
Graffiti calling for the expulsion of minorities from the ethnically-mixed town of Sombor in northern Vojvodina appeared overnight, the Hungarian-language daily "Magyar Szo" reported on 30 September. "Hungarians Out!", "Croats Out!", "Death to the Jews!", "Death to the Albanians!", and "We shall storm over the River Drava and set Croatia ablaze!" were some of the slogans covering walls in the town. Mayor Jovan Vujicic called on citizens to stop tolerating such offenses and name the perpetrators, as well as calling on authorities to take action. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October)'WINNING FREEDOM' PRIZE AWARDED.
Belgrade journalist Olja Beckovic is the first winner of the prize "Winning Freedom," funded by the Maja Marsicevic-Tasic Foundation. The prize, established by the Civic Alliance of Serbia and Maja's friends, will be presented every year on 24 September "to women whose actions intercede in favor of affirmation of the principle of human rights, the rule of law, democracy, and tolerance in political communications." (ANEM Media Update, 22-28 September)SUPPORT FUND LAUNCHED.
The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) fund for urgent cases, made public on 25 September, is to assist in creating a suitable climate for press freedom in Southeast Europe. The fund was developed to provide aid to journalists in the greatest need, and can provide direct support within 48 hours. The fund can provide temporary housing in foreign countries, pay for legal aid and equipment, as well as support for small media projects for a maximum of up to 15,000 euro. (ANEM Media Update, 22-28 September)
HOT LINE AGAINST RACISM INTRODUCED.
Victims of racially-motivated attacks will be able to call a hot line against racism, which was set up by the civic initiative People Against Racism, CTK reported on 26 September. The agency cited a lawyer for the initiative, who said, "Many people do not know whom to contact" in such cases, or "do not trust police, or police refuse to help them." Lawyer Daniel Milo added that only a small number of racially motivated attacks, and "almost no activities of the neo-Nazis" are reported to police. "We want to collect that information," he said, adding that "we guarantee anonymity and pursuing the matter further." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September)
ATTACK ON REPORTER PROTESTED.
In a 2 October letter to Slovenian President Milan Kucan, the Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed concern that since Miro Petek, an investigative reporter for the Slovene daily "Vecer" was attacked on 28 February in Mezica, the "attackers have still not been apprehended." According to SEEMO, Petek, who reports on relations between politicians and criminals, suffered a broken nose and skull; his jaw and cheekbones were also fractured in the attack. After the assault, the journalist was unable to work for five months. In a 3 September press conference the Slovene police, SEEMO reports, "attacked the country's journalists for claiming that the investigation into the case was ineffective and even blamed the media for the inefficiency of the police."
JOURNALISM HOTLINE SET UP.
To provide assistance to journalists in Tajikistan, the OSCE representative on freedom of the media, Freimut Duve, has initiated an information hotline in Dushanbe, run by the OSCE Mission in Tajikistan. The hotline provides information about emergency contacts and assistance in contacts between local and foreign journalists. It is already operational: (+992-372) 24-37-48 (MANLEY@osce.org, 28 September)EBRD TO GIVE LOAN FOR MODERNIZATION OF TELECOMMUNICATIONS SYSTEM.
The board of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) approved last month a $13 million loan to modernize telecommunications networks in Dushanbe, Khujand, and Qurghon Teppa, Interfax reported on 2 October, quoting an EBRD press release. Fewer than four out of 10 Tajiks have a telephone, Asia Plus-Blitz on 3 October quoted EBRD telecommunications specialist Izzet Guney as saying. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October)
On 9 August, reporter Vladimir Skachko was attacked by two soldiers who were AWOL from their bases. After Skachko requested that the militia bring a suit against his attackers, it sent his request to the Kyiv Military Prosecutor's Office, which turned down the request on 24 August. Skachko was informed by these military authorities, however, that he would not be sued for dissemination of "deliberately false information." (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, August newsletter, 26 September)ZAPOROZHYE MAYOR BRINGS LIBEL SUIT AGAINST REPORTER.
On 15 August, Aleksandr Polyak, the mayor of Zaporshye, brought a libel suit against Dmitry Brovkin, reporter for "Khortitsya" station. In a June broadcast of Brovkin's program "Aspekt," the mayor was accused of involvement in the 7 June attack on popular local lawyer Natalia Moskovskaya, who is in hospital with serious injuries. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, August newsletter, 26 September)TWO TV REPORTERS IN CRIMEA QUESTIONED ABOUT PROGRAM.
On 16 August, Vladimir Tuterov, acting chairman of the Council of Ministers of Crimea, questioned Krym State TV reporter Elena Rozhen about her 15 August news program which spoke of Tuterov's allegedly "questionable reputation." The reporter responded that the official could take her to court. Tuterov's response led Rozhen to have "concern for her personal safety." The next day, Rozhen appealed to the head of the Crimean Security Department and the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Crimea, asking for protection against "threats from a high state official." (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations August Newsletter, 26 September)KYIV PAPER CENSORED?
Judge Yulia Ivanenko of the Pechersky District Court in Kyiv on 27 August forbade the "2000" weekly to publish articles on certain topics or individuals. Three days later, Aleksandr Zinchenko, chairman of the parliamentary Committee on Freedom of Speech and Information, said that he considered the court ruling to be unlawful. Meanwhile, Judge Ivanenko denies accusations of censorship and claims that her ruling was to "fulfill the plaintiff's action," while refusing to name the plaintiff. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, August newsletter, 26 September)PROSECUTORS REFUSE TO INVESTIGATE KUCHMA OVER JOURNALIST'S DEATH.
The Prosecutor-General's Office has rejected a demand from Lesya Gongadze, the mother of murdered journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, to launch a criminal investigation into whether President Leonid Kuchma and other top officials were involved in his murder, AP reported on 28 September. In a letter to Ms. Gongadze, Deputy Prosecutor-General Oleksiy Bahanets said investigators have already looked into allegations made by former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko about Kuchma's complicity in the murder and found them to be false. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October)