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Media Matters: December 28, 2001


28 December 2001, Volume 1, Number 43
INTERNATIONAL
AROUND THE WORLD, 100 JOURNALISTS AND MEDIA STAFF KILLED LAST YEAR. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the world's largest journalist's group with 500,000 members in 106 countries, called on 17 January for industry-wide action to counter the rising toll of media staff killed while carrying out their work. The IFJ report on journalists and media workers killed during 2001 records 100 confirmed killings and deaths under investigation -- the highest toll in six years. Many victims died in war zones, others were targeted by assassins, others were in the wrong place at the wrong time when a story was breaking. The IFJ says that large media groups -- such as CNN, the BBC, and Reuters and Associated Press -- have shown leadership by defining a code of practice to improve safety for journalists, but more must be done. For further information, contact the IFJ, International Press Center, at safety@ifj.org, or see http://www.ifj.org/ (International Federation of Journalists, 17 December)

CIS MEDIA NEWSLETTER AVAILABLE. The 31-page November 2001 issue of the "European Institute for the Media Newsletter" on media developments in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) was issued on 19 December. The newsletter contains information grouped into five categories for each country: media news; media and government; media law; media conferences; and new media technology. The information is provided by the EIM's correspondents in 12 countries of the former Soviet Union that are now members of the CIS. The EIM bears the sole responsibility for the content of these reports. This newsletter is produced under the EIM program "Media for Democracy in the CIS (2000-2003)" partly funded by the Commission of the European Union. For more, e-mail Ljudmila von Berg, program administrator, at madp@eim.org.

AZERBAIJAN
COUNCIL OF EUROPE CONDEMNS VIOLENCE AGAINST JOURNALISTS... In a press release summarized on 14 December by Turan, Council of Europe Secretary-General Walther Schwimmer expressed concern at the use of force by Azerbaijani police to disperse a 12 December demonstration by journalists in Baku. "Azerbaijan, as other member states, must respect the commitments it undertook when joining the Council of Europe. This meant, inter alia, respect for freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly. This is unfortunately not the first time that we have received worrying reports from Azerbaijan about difficulties for the press to freely play its role. In a democratic society, the authorities must accept criticism and the fact that people call for their rights in public," Schwimmer said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 December)

...WHILE DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER APPROVES IT. Deputy Foreign Minister Mahmud Mamedkuliev, who is President Heidar Aliev's son-in-law, told journalists that he considers the Baku police were acting within their rights in using violence to break up the unauthorized 12 December demonstration, Turan reported on 14 December. He argued that the supremacy of the law is among the fundamental principles espoused by the Council of Europe. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 December)

PRESIDENT MEETS WITH OPPOSITION JOURNALISTS. During an 18 December discussion lasting almost three hours with editors of opposition media outlets, Heidar Aliyev dismissed as a mistake that should not be over dramatized the harsh criticism of opposition newspapers contained in a statement adopted by the second congress of the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party last month, Turan reported. (That congress adopted a resolution to launch a campaign against "venal newspapers which serve Armenians and receive grants from international organizations for their services." Such publications include most of the opposition press, reports the European Institute for the Media.) He also expressed regret at the police violence against participants in an unauthorized demonstration in Baku on 12 December, saying the city authorities' refusal to sanction that protest was likewise "a mistake." Aliyev said that the media are justified in criticizing perceived shortcomings, and should not be subjected to pressure for doing so. He instructed his administration to draw up measures to improve the working conditions for the media. Journalists who attended the meeting said afterward they were "satisfied" with the outcome, but still plan to stage a further demonstration in Baku on 20 December to protest official harassment of the media. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 December)

RALLY SUPPORTS OPPOSITION PRESS. Reports vary as to the exact number of participants -- ranging from "almost 2,000" (the Azerbaijan Journalists' Trade Union) to 700 (Associated Press) -- who took part in a 20 December rally for journalists in Baku. Protesters -- including representatives of the 10 major opposition parties -- demanded: the lifting of Yeni Azerbaycan Party threats against opposition papers "Yeni Musavat," "Azadliq," and "Hurriyyet"; investigation of violence against journalists and punishment of those found guilty; ending pressure on private media distributors; dropping "groundless" court decisions against journalists and newspapers; calling to account those judges who issued these decisions; lifting fines imposed on media outlets due to "unfair" court rulings; resuming publication of the papers "Milletin Sesi," "Bakinski bulvar," "Femida," and "Etimad" and the magazines "Monitor" and "Monitor Weekly;" re-opening the Baku Printing Press printing house; ending VAT for newsprint; and punishing the police who demonstrated brutality while dispersing the previous journalists' rally, particularly police chief Nazim Naghiev. For more, contact juhi@juhiaz.org (Azerbaijan Journalists' Trade Union, 20 January)

BELARUS
PRESIDENT WANTS STATE MEDIA TO REACH WORLD LEVEL. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka met with activists of his presidential campaign staff on 14 December and slammed the state-run media and ordered them to improve the coverage of political and socioeconomic processes under way in Belarus. "We have makers of media products...and we have communication lines to supply these products to consumers. But what products do we have? I'm answering: very bad ones. I'm making a comparison with those [media] products released in neighboring states, in Russia, Europe, and the United States," Lukashenka said. In particular, the president criticized newly appointed Information Minister Mikhail Padhayny for his unsatisfactory activity in the media sphere. "Sovetskaya Belorussiya" Editor in Chief Pavel Yakubovich told Belarusian Television that Lukashenka ordered him to transform his main press organ, the "Sovetskaya Belorussiya" daily, into a newspaper of a "European level" by May 2002. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 December)

ARTISTS PROTEST CENSORSHIP. Some 20 artists staged a street protest in downtown Minsk on 10 December, displaying their censored works as well as caricatures of top Belarusian officials, banned books, and paintings depicting Belarus's national emblem Pahonya, which was prohibited by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's regime. Artist Alyaksandr Pushkin, who presided over the event, wore an inquisitor's cloak adorned with iron chains and dried fish to symbolize the "dried-up life" under censorship in Belarus, Belapan reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December)

ONE JOURNALIST FINED FOR DEMONSTRATION... A court in Hrodna imposed a fine on 13 December of some $320 on Mikola Markevich, the editor in chief of the local independent newspaper "Pahonya," which was closed down by the Supreme Economic Court in November. The court found Markevich guilty of organizing an unauthorized rally in defense of his newspaper on 19 November. Markevich did not admit his guilt, but said he will not appeal the verdict, adding that "present-day courts in Belarus serve only one person, not society as a whole," Belapan reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 December)

...AND ANOTHER REQUESTS POLITICAL ASYLUM. On 10 November, Uladzimir Lapcewicz, editor in a radio station in the city of Mahilei, appealed to the German authorities for political asylum. Belarus authorities ignored a UN Human Rights Committee decision in 2000 that deemed illegal a Belarus court ruling that the editor be fined for distributing leaflets. This year, Lapcewicz lost his accreditation at the Mahileu Department of Internal Affairs of the Mahileu Regional Executive Committee because he had taken part in a May Day meeting organized by the local branch of the Social Democratic Party, Narodnaya Hramada. ("European Institute for the Media CIS Media Newsletter," November)

CROATIA
BROADCAST COUNCIL DENIES RADIO 101 REGIONAL BROADCAST LICENSE. On 17 December the Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) expressed solidarity with Zagreb Radio 101, which has been refused a regional frequency license by the Croatian Radio and Television Council. "The decision not to grant a regional license to Radio 101 is merely the first step in eradicating the station," said Zeljko Matic, a station editor and head of its supervisory committee. Radio 101 is licensed only to broadcast locally under a concession which expires on 30 October 2002. (ANEM Press Release, 17 December)

CROATIA'S BEST-KNOWN WIDOW LOSES LIBEL SUIT. Judge Mladen Zeravica ruled in Zagreb on 18 December that Ankica Tudjman, the widow of former President Franjo Tudjman, has no grounds for a $12,000 lawsuit against five top editors at state-run Croatian television, Hina reported. She said that they defamed her husband's memory by airing a British documentary suggesting that President Tudjman committed war crimes and stole money. Zeravica ruled that "the public is mature enough to judge whether such reports are truthful or not." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 December)

GEORGIA
JUDGE SAYS SEARCH WARRANT FOR INDEPENDENT TV STATION WAS LEGAL. Tbilisi judge David Sulakvelidze ruled on 13 December that the search warrant issued on 29 October to the National Security Ministry officials who conducted a search of the independent Rustavi-2 TV station was legal, Caucasus Press reported. That search triggered widespread protests that culminated in President Eduard Shevardnadze firing the entire government. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 December)

NEW TV COMPANY FORMED. A new television company, Teleimedi, was registered with the Georgian government this fall. Set to start broadcasting in September of next year, it will broadcast nationwide, as well as to parts of Europe, Asia, and America. Koka Kandiashvili, former head of state TV channel two, has been appointed Teleimedi general director. According to Kandiashvili, the new channel will be independent; owners include foreign media companies. ("European Institute for the Media CIS Media Newsletter," November)

HUNGARY
BUDAPEST MAYOR WINS LIBEL SUIT AGAINST CSURKA. On 19 December, Budapest Mayor Gabor Demszky won his libel suit against Hungarian Justice and Life Party Chairman Istvan Csurka, who wrote in a 1999 edition of the weekly "Magyar Forum" that Demszky volunteered to be an informant for the communist government in 1976, Hungarian media reported. Csurka's lawyer maintained during the trial that the article said only that Demszky volunteered to be an informant, but did not claim that he actually became one. The Metropolitan Court ruled that the article's unrealistic assertion damaged Demszky's reputation and honor, and was intended to tarnish his credibility as a politician. The court also ordered Csurka to pay a 500,000 forint ($1,800) fine in compensation. Hungarian television quoted Csurka's lawyer as saying he will appeal the sentence. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 December)

NEW TV STATION STARTS BROADCASTING. Transmission by the state satellite channel Duna TV has begun on http://www.vilagtv.hu. The Prime Minister's Office, which provided 150 million forints for the project, said the Hungarian government aims to support all initiatives that promote cultural and community ties between Hungarians abroad and the homeland. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December)

PARLIAMENT DEBATES NATIONAL IMAGE CENTER. Parliament on 12 December held a daylong debate on the National Image Center, founded in 1998 by Viktor Orban's government. Istvan Stumpf, the head of the Prime Minister's Office, defended the foundation of the center by saying that "the administration must play a bigger role in shaping and communicating the country's image." He said Hungarians have always had to struggle to dispel prejudices about them abroad. However, opposition Socialist Party parliamentary member Bela Katona said the establishment of the center was a bad idea from the start, as "such an idea was last brought up by [former Romanian dictator Nicolae] Ceausescu." Free Democrat Chairman Gabor Kuncze said the center has secretly spent 13.5 billion forints ($48 million) over 3 1/2 years, and deputies cannot gain access to information about how the funds were used. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 December)

KAZAKHSTAN
RULING AGAINST PAPER UPHELD. According to RFE/RL, on 14 December the Almaty city court upheld the verdict against paper "Vremiya Po" which found the paper's editorial board guilty of "insulting the personal dignity and honor" of President Nursultan Nazarbaev's son-in-law, Rakhat Aliyev, the recently dismissed deputy chairman of Kazakhstan's National Security Committee. Aliyev accused "Vremiya Po" of insulting him during the stand-off between him and the governor of Pavlodar Oblast in mid-November of this year. Under the verdict, the paper must pay Aliyev 3 million tenges (about $20,000) as compensation for moral damage. The paper's editors claim that the verdict was politically motivated. ("RFE/RL Kazakh News," 14 December)

WHO OWNS KHABAR NEWS AGENCY? In a effort to ascertain which companies own the Khabar agency, Kazakhstan parliamentarians visited its premises in November. Dariga Nazarbaeva, President Nazarbaev's daughter, is the chair of the Khabar agency board of directors. Although Khabar management informed them that in accordance with a 1999 government decree, 49 percent had been sold to two companies -- which they refused to identify -- they also refused to let the parliamentarians see the decree's text. Khabar management did say that the funds from the sale of the Khabar agency had not been transferred to the state budget, but had been spent inside Khabar itself. ("European Institute for the Media CIS Newsletter," November)

KYRGYZSTAN
POLICE SEARCH FOR PUBLISHER. According to the 14 December "My Capital City-News," law enforcement agencies have initiated a search for Kubanychbek Mingbaev, chairman of the council of directors of the Vecherny Bishkek publishing house. He is accused of embezzling 1.29 million soms (about $27,000) along with Yevgeny Timokhin, director of the Vecherny Bishkek joint-stock company and a lawyer of the Rubikon news agency linked to Vecherny Bishkek publishing house. ("RFE/RL Kyrgyz News," 16 December)

PRESS FREEDOM SURVEY PRESENTED IN OSH. The Media Development Fund (MDF) held in Osh on 10 December a news conference on results of its monitoring of press freedom in Kyrgyzstan. MDF President Alisher Toksonbaev told the meeting that the situation of press freedom in the country is getting worse and that the constitution and the media laws are violated regularly. According to Toksonbaev, there are only six papers in Osh province and that four of them are state-controlled. Monitoring was conducted from August until November of 2001 with funding from the OSCE Bureau on Democratic Institution and Human Rights and the Helsinki Fund for Human Rights. ("RFE/RL Kyrgyz News," 12 December)

POLAND
RAILWAYS' PHONES CUT OVER UNPAID BILLS. On 13 December, the telecommunications giant Telekomunikacja Polska S.A. (TPSA) cut telephone services to Poland's State Railways (PKP) over an estimated $10 million debt in unpaid phone bills, dpa reported. TPSA press spokesman Michal Potocki said the move is a "warning," and added that TPSA planned to restore service to PKP on the afternoon of 14 December. The move has primarily hit passengers, who are not able to contact PKP for arrival and departure information. Communication within PKP has not been affected, as the company has an independent internal phone system. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 December)

ROMANIA
PUBLIC RADIO GETS NEW CHAIRMAN. Romanian parliament's committees for Culture, Art, and Media appointed public radio Deputy General Director Dragos Seuleanu on 13 December as provisionary chairman, Mediafax reported. Seuleanu is to fill the position for a maximum of six months. The need for a new chairman arose as a result of the parliament's dismissal of the radio's administration council on 12 December. Following the 12 December vote to dismiss the council, three opposition parties that boycotted the voting made accusations of "fraud" during the vote, saying there was no quorum. Chamber of Deputies Chairman Valer Dorneanu dismissed the accusations. Meanwhile, National Liberal Party Chairman Valeriu Stoica accused the ruling Social Democratic Party of wanting to "fully subordinate" the media. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 December)

EXTREMIST LEADER FOUND GUILTY OF LIBEL. The Romanian Supreme Court found extremist Greater Romania Party (PRM) Chairman Corneliu Vadim Tudor guilty of libel on 18 December, Mediafax reported. Tudor must pay 500 million lei (some $15,800) for moral damages. Three years ago, Tudor said then-Interior Minister Gavril Dejeu had denounced his brother to communist authorities and Alexandru Dejeu was subsequently arrested and executed. Tudor also characterized Dejeu as a "mean" person. Tudor can appeal against the decision. In related news, prosecutors questioned Tudor on 17 December for the first time over his allegations that Hamas terrorists were trained in Romania. The Senate recently lifted Tudor's parliamentary immunity to allow prosecution. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 December)

RUSSIA
LATEST PASKO CASE SAID TO CONTRADICT EARLIER SUPREME COURT DECISION. The military prosecutor's request that Grigorii Pasko be handed a nine-year sentence in a high-security prison, plus being stripped of his title of captain second rank and his military awards, for espionage in his trial in Vladivostok contradicts the decision by the Russian Supreme Court last November to throw out charges that the military journalist disseminated classified Defense Ministry data, "Izvestiya" said on 13 December. The daily argued that, because the current indictment accusing Pasko of divulging state secrets was based on that data being classified, he must immediately be released, along with scientists Igor Sutyagin and Vladimir Danilov, who are accused of the same "crime." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 December; Reporters Without Borders, 17 December)

PASKO PROMISES NOT TO ACCEPT GUILTY PLEA. Accused spy and former military journalist Grigorii Pasko addressed the court on 18 December as his espionage trial comes to a close, Russian agencies reported. In a short speech, Pasko denied disclosing classified materials to Japanese media and charged that the Federal Security Service (FSB) falsified some materials in the case. He added that he will appeal a guilty verdict all the way to the Russian Supreme Court and if he fails there, he will then go the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The military court in Vladivostok is expected to deliver its verdict on 25 December, according to NTV. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 December)

PUTIN DEMANDS MORE TRANSPARENCY FROM GOVERNMENT. Speaking at the meeting of the State Council devoted to the development of small and medium-sized businesses in Russia on 19 December, President Vladimir Putin announced that he has demanded more transparency in the functioning of Premier Mikhail Kasyanov's government, RBK reported. In particular, Putin said he directed all government agencies and departments to make public all of their regulatory acts and norms, and asked the government to work out procedures under which these acts will be invalid unless published in the media. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 December)

RUSSIAN NEWSPAPER CLAIMS FOREIGN LOANS LINE OFFICIALS' POCKETS. According to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 19 December, most foreign loans obtained by the Russian government from international credit organizations were used as a tool for personal enrichment by senior officials. The daily gave as an example the findings of a recent Audit Chamber probe into the fate of a $240 million World Bank loan to the Russian Agriculture Ministry that was intended for structural reforms in the agricultural sector and support of farmers. The daily said that according to the audit the funds from that loan were wasted or disappeared, while no transformation resulting from the reforms can be seen. But most remarkable, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta," is that the person in charge of the distribution of those funds was then-Finance Minister and current Prime Minister Kasyanov. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 December)

LUKOIL SAYS IT WANTS TO RECREATE A NEW TV-6 FROM ASHES OF THE OLD... Following a Moscow court decision last month to liquidate TV-6, LUKoil Vice President Leonid Fedun told reporters on 13 December that the oil giant is ready to create a new TV-6 with the participation of its current staff. It was LUKoil-Garant, a division of LUKoil, that originally sought the liquidation of TV-6. Fedun added that there is no real conflict between LUKoil and the team of TV-6 General Director Yevgenii Kiselev, although he charged that media magnate Boris Berezovsky tried to "set us up against Kiselev." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 December)

...AS STATION'S JOURNALISTS ARE SKEPTICAL... TV-6 spokeswoman Tatyana Blinova reacted to Fedun's statement with some skepticism and asked, "Why should something new be created after destroying something that has cost such effort to create?" Interfax reported. In his reaction to Fedun's announcement, Kiselev told RTR that, concerning "various sweet promises that some LUKoil figures are making, including at today's news conference -- I don't believe them." Meanwhile, Berezovsky told Ekho Moskvy radio that he will offer Kiselev's team other television jobs in the event that TV-6 is closed down, and said that the journalists are in physical danger. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 December)

...AND MULL VARIOUS OFFERS. In an interview with "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 18 December, Kiselev confirmed that embattled media magnate Berezovsky intends to give his 75 percent stake in TV-6 to the journalists who work there. And relating to the same issue, TV-6 founder Eduard Sagalaev commented on the offer by the U.S.-owned investment fund TPG Aurora to buy the station. Sagalaev said he thinks completing a transaction with Aurora would probably be a "more complicated" option than others, but that it represents "one way out of the current situation." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 December)

WHAT ARE RUSSIA'S MOST CRITICAL TV SHOWS? Writing in "The Moscow Times" on 18 December, commentator Aleksei Pankin charged that today TV-6 is "neutral or even loyal to authorities. However, everyone understands that it is a time bomb that Berezovsky will detonate when the time is right." Pankin suggested that currently the most critical TV programs are Vladimir Pozner's "Vremena" on ORT, Aleksei Pushkov's "Postscriptum" on TV-Tsentr, and "Segodnya" and "Namedni" on NTV. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 December)

YAVLINSKY CRITICIZES 'QUASI-DEMOCRACY,' MEDIA POLICY. The political system existing in Russia is "quasi-democratic, as power in the country is still in the hands of the Soviet elite," "Izvestiya" quoted Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinsky as saying on 17 December. Many of Putin's actions are helping to preserve the Russian state, but at the same time they are creating an authoritarian "corporative" state, according to Yavlinsky. The best illustration of this theory is Putin's policy toward the mass media, and especially television, which transformed the latter into "a holding for manipulating public opinion." In that context, Putin's present line on an alliance with the West is no more than tactics, just as was the policy of the Soviet Union in the period of 1941-1945, Yavlinsky concluded. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 December)

DID PUTIN STRIKE A DEAL WITH SAKHA PRESIDENT? Officials from the Sakha (Yakutia) Election Commission seized copies of "Moskovskii komsomolets v Yakutske" published on 11 December. Election Commission officials explained on 13 December that the 11 December edition of the newspaper contained a great deal of compromising material that could have been used by other candidates in the 23 December presidential race to discredit incumbent President Mikhail Nikolaev, Interfax-Eurasia reported. Nikolaev withdrew from the race on 12 December. "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 13 December that, according to unidentified Kremlin sources, Nikolaev promised during a meeting with President Putin on 10 December to withdraw from the race provided the Kremlin retract its support for Deputy Prosecutor-General Vasilii Kolmogorov. Meanwhile, Sakha's Election Commission received a letter on 13 December from the federal Supreme Court that said an earlier decision by its republican counterpart invalidating the registration of Alrosa head Vyacheslav Shtyrov was itself invalid, and that Shtyrov's candidacy stands, Russian agencies reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 December)

KOMMERSANT SLATED FOR CHANGE IN LEADERSHIP. "Vremya novostei" reported on 17 December that the leadership of the publishing house Kommersant is expected to be changed in the near future. Shareholders are reportedly considering replacing Kommersant General Director Leonid Miloslavskii, who has run the company since 1996, with Andrei Vasilev, who is editor in chief of "Kommersant-Daily." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 December)

INTERIOR MINISTRY CREATES STATE DATABASE ON RUSSIA'S POPULATION. The Interior Ministry announced that by 2004 it plans to create a computerized database named the State Population Register that will list all Russian citizens and foreigners living on the territory of the Russian Federation, RBK reported on 14 December. The rationale cited for establishing such a register was social security needs, but the database will also be available to law enforcement and medical institutions. It will cost 3.5 billion rubles ($116 million). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 December)

A GOVERNMENT-ORGANIZED NGO DATABASE? In the 19 December "RFE/RL Newsline," Virginie Coulloudon reported that "more and more voices in Moscow are stressing that President Vladimir Putin's administration is currently in the process of creating a giant database of the most creative and active civil society representatives in all areas and all regions." This perception is confirmed by an item in the "European Center for the November Russia Media Newsletter" which reports that in preparation for the 20-21 November Civic Forum, the Kremlin-backed MediaSoyuz journalists' trade union sponsored a conference in southern Russia on 17 November which discussed new media projects, such as a civil society information web portal, a Charter.ru information and discussion portal as well as a news agency of civic associations. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 December; "European Institute for the Media CIS Newsletter," November)

PUTIN 'LIVE' FOR CHRISTMAS. President Putin will host a televised phone-in from the Kremlin on 24 December, fielding questions live from around Russia, the presidential press service said on 19 December, Reuters reported the same day. The phone-in will be broadcast on state-run ORT and RTR television networks across Russia's 11 time zones. The Kremlin opened up a free telephone hotline on 19 December which took about 2,000 calls within a few hours, ORT said; the call center will remain open until the end of the live broadcast. So far, callers have focused on low living standards, pensions, and conditions for soldiers. Officials say they expect some 1.5 million calls on the toll-free line. Internet-connected citizens will be able to put questions via ortrtr.ru, the presidential press service said. (Reuters, 19 December)

BUDDING SONGWRITER MOCKED FOR PUTIN VERSES. Mikhail Anishchenko, a law student/songwriter from Chelyabinsk, is suing a journalist from the German newspaper "Tageszeitung," for writing on 7 May that a cult of personality exulting President Putin is emerging in Russia, ntvru.com reported on 17 December. In the article, the journalist cited a "Song About the President" written by Anishchenko. Anishchenko maintains that since the German article was republished on inopressa.ru, he has become known to "hundreds of thousands of citizens of not only in Russia, but also in Moldova, Germany, and other countries." And as a result, he has suffered significant moral damages and become a butt of constant jokes among his circle of friends. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 December)

EURASIAN LEADER CRITICIZES COMMUNISTS' INFORMATION POLICY, PRAISES PUTIN. Writing in "Literaturnaya gazeta," No. 50, Aleksandr Dugin, the controversial leader of Eurasian party, said that both Russia's ruling class and its political opposition have experienced extreme difficulties in their efforts to be the leading political force in the country. Dugin said that, as one of the biggest factions in the Duma, the Communist Party has failed to create an attractive informational outlet to promote its views nationwide. On other hand, he argued, the moderate nationalists have shown themselves to be out of touch with reality. He said that while those movements were able to hamper the efforts of liberal "reformers," they have not been able to present their own positive programs. He said an example of moderate nationalists' failures is Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, whose dogmatic anti-communism made him unwelcome both at home and abroad. According to Dugin, President Putin found the most success when he publicly stated that modern Russia should absorb all periods of her history, including the Soviet one, and proclaimed the sentiment shared by Dugin's Eurasian party that "Russia should exist as a great power, or not at all." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 December)

RUSSIA MEDIA NEWSLETTER AVAILABLE. The 15-page November 2001 issue of the "European Institute for the Media Newsletter" on media developments in the regions of the Russian Federation was issued on 19 December. It is a regular free newsletter on media developments in Russia and has information grouped into five categories: media news, media and government, media law, media conferences, and new media technology. The information is provided by 10 EIM correspondents in Russia. The EIM bears sole responsibility for the content of these reports. The newsletter is produced as part of the EIM program "Media for Democracy in the CIS (2000-2003)." The project is partly funded by the Commission of the European Union through its Initiative for Human Rights and Democracy. For more information in Russian, please see the website of the EIM's Moscow office at http://www.eim.ru.

SERBIA
POLICE OFFICERS SUE NEWSPAPER EDITOR. On 17 December, the Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) expressed "outrage" at criminal proceedings being brought against Veselin Simonovic, the editor in chief of "Blic," Belgrade's highest-circulation daily newspaper. Criminal libel charges were brought on the basis of private complaints from police officers in the city of Nis. The charges refer to an article entitled "362 police officers from Yugoslavia on Hague list", which first appeared in the weekly "Reporter" and was republished by the daily "Blic." Thirteen Nis policemen filed suit against Simonovic on 14 December in a Belgrade court. (ANEM Press Release, 17 December)

VIOLENT 'CIGARETTE SMUGGLING' INCIDENT IN INTERCONTINENTAL. Velimir Ilic, leader of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition member New Serbia party and mayor of the central Serbian city of Cacak, allegedly assaulted "Nedeljni telegraf" journalist Dragan Novakovic in Belgrade's Intercontinental Hotel on 14 December over an article linking him to the illegal tobacco trade. Novakovic claimed that the incident resulted from his recent article in "Nedeljni telegraf" under the title "Velja Ilic's Cypriot Partners? Part of the largest tobacco mafia in Europe." The article dealt with Ilic's involvement in a shipment of cigarettes confiscated in Thessalonika. Both Ilic and Novakovic have said they will file criminal charges over the incident. ("ANEM Weekly Update," 8-14 December)

'TOBACCO WARS' TO BEDEVIL SERBIAN COALITION? "Vesti" reported on 14 December that the DOS coalition may be further split by demands by Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) for an investigation of an alleged cigarette-smuggling scandal. In the legislature, DSS deputies called for setting up a committee to investigate charges made by a Croatian weekly earlier in the year that Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic and Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic are involved in a cigarette-smuggling racket. The Serbian parliament voted not to set up such a body. The scandal and moves by the pro-Belgrade Montenegrin opposition to investigate it have been staple fare of the Montenegrin media for months. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 December)

MEDIA 'SHOULD LEAD FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION.' A survey published in the book, "Pillars of anti-corruption in Serbia," showed that of those professions researched (the judiciary, police, state and local administration, government organizations, parliament, health care, and education), the media are the least touched by corruption, according to a member of the new State Anti-Corruption Council. For this reason, council members believe, the media should be a key leader in the anti-corruption fight. ("ANEM Weekly Update," 8-14 December)

RADIO YUGOSLAVIA TO RESUME BROADCASTING... Radio Yugoslavia will resume broadcasting in two days after the Yugoslav government offered to cover the radio's debt to the Bijeljina Electric Power Company, Yugoslav Information Secretary Slobodan Orlic said on 12 December. Orlic said the government was unable as yet to pay the 9 million-dinar debt, but that the sum would be "calculated into next year's budget." He said the government would soon discuss the decree according to which all units in Radio Television Yugoslavia (TV Yu Info, Filmske Novosti, Jugoslovenski pregled, and Internet Yugoslavia) would become independent. ("ANEM Weekly Update," 8-14 December)

...DESPITE CONCERN OVER POSSIBLE DEMISE OF STATE MEDIA. "What has happened to Radio Yugoslavia will inevitably happen to TV YU Info and other public media," the editor in chief of TV Yu Info told "Glas javnosti" on 12 December. "This is all due to debt inherited from the former period," he said. "Privatization is one solution but the federal government has put this solution on hold. Despite constant warnings, the worst has begun to happen. Soon we can expect phone lines and power being cut. Employees in the public media are not receiving salaries, quality people are leaving and, if something is not done urgently, we could talk about the end of public media. If this urgent topic is postponed yet again, the end will come next year because of the low annual budget. For example, the figure which has been mentioned is the amount at the disposal of BK TV for one month," said the editor. ("ANEM Weekly Update," 8-14 December)

'DEFINE MEDIA POLICY BEFORE ISSUING FREQUENCIES.' "The relationship between the national and the regional must be defined before broadcasting frequencies are distributed," ANEM Chairman Veran Matic told Fonet on 13 December. ("ANEM Weekly Update," 8-14 December)

EUROPEAN COURT DROPS TV TOWER CASE. In Strasbourg on 19 December, the European Court of Human Rights ruled as "inadmissible" a lawsuit by 17 Yugoslav citizens against NATO. The court ruled that it has jurisdiction only on violations committed within national borders. In what was widely seen as a propaganda stunt by the Serbian authorities, the 17 sued over the 1999 bombing campaign to stop the atrocities in Kosova, specifically over the attack on the headquarters of former President Slobodan Milosevic's Radio and Television Serbia (RTS). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 December)

JOURNALISTS' ASSOCIATION OPENS REGIONAL OFFICES. The Association of Independent Serbian Journalists announced the opening of seven regional offices in Subotica, Novi Sad, Kragujevac, Nis, Uzice, Novi Pazar, and Bujanovac. Executive Committee member Branko Vuckovic told journalists on 11 December that the association wanted to use the regional offices to assist their colleagues in resolving social, economic, and professional problems. He added that the new offices would eventually develop press services along the lines of the Belgrade Media Center. The Norwegian People's Aid and the Fund for an Open Society contributed funding for the project. ("ANEM Weekly Update," 8-14 December)

UKRAINE
OUR UKRAINE BLOC DENIES YUSHCHENKO'S INVOLVEMENT IN TAPE SCANDAL. Our Ukraine, the election bloc led by former Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko, has issued a statement to deny Yushchenko's involvement in the release last year of secret audio recordings implicating President Leonid Kuchma in the killing of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze and a number of other illegal activities, UNIAN reported on 19 December. The statement was made in response to the allusion made by President Kuchma at a news conference the previous day that Yushchenko might have been behind the tape scandal, as he was the only person who was in a position to benefit from Kuchma's resignation. "[If the president] had had a nervous breakdown and resigned, [then Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko would have become the acting president]. Taking into account the situation and resources then, who would have won [early presidential elections]?" Interfax quoted Kuchma as saying on 18 December. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 December)

PARLIAMENT APPROVES BILL ON MANDATORY TELEVISION DEBATES IN ELECTION CAMPAIGNS. The Ukrainian parliament on 13 December passed a bill on the holding of mandatory television debates during presidential and parliamentary election campaigns. The bill gives the right of participation in such debates to all candidates in presidential elections as well as to leaders of parties and blocs, and to all candidates in single-seat constituencies in parliamentary elections. The bill obliges all countrywide television channels irrespective of their form of ownership to hold election debates. Under the bill, candidates who fail to appear in such debates will be removed from the election race, while the television channels that fail to organize them will have their broadcast licenses revoked. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 December)

PRESIDENT VETOES BAN ON ALCOHOL, TOBACCO ADVERTISING. Leonid Kuchma has vetoed the bill passed by the parliament on 15 November that banned alcohol and tobacco advertising "on all information carriers," Ukrainian media reported on 17 December. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 December)

UKRAINE MEDIA NEWSLETTER AVAILABLE. The November 2001 issue of the European Institute for the Media bulletin on media developments in the regions of Ukraine, the "Ukrainian Media Bulletin," was issued on 20 December. It is a regular free bulletin on media developments in Ukraine. The 12-page bulletin contains information in five categories: media news, media and government, media law, media conferences, and new media technology. This information is provided by EIM correspondents in Ukraine. For more information, please see the website of EIM's Kyiv office at http://www.eim.com.ua.

UZBEKISTAN
GROUPS APPEAL FOR TWO JAILED WRITERS. With media attention focused on Central Asia amid the war in Afghanistan, free expression and human rights groups are renewing calls for the release of two writers from Uzbekistan. The Union of Independent Journalists of Uzbekistan, Human Rights Watch, the Writers in Prison Committee of International Pen (WiPC) and Amnesty International called on the government of President Islam Karimov to release poet Yusuf Dzhumaev from prison, fearing reports that he has been tortured. Dzhumaev, a member of the banned opposition party Birlik and the Union of Writers of Uzbekistan, was arrested on 23 October in the city of Bukhara after several of his poems were published on a website, according to WiPC. Amnesty says the government considers the website subversive, and has reportedly charged Dzhumaev with "undermining the constitutional order of...Uzbekistan." WiPC also called for the release of imprisoned writer Mamadli Makhmudov, arrested in February 1999, sentenced to 14 years in prison, and tortured while in detention. Although accused of involvement in a February 1999 bomb attack in Tashkent, no evidence has been brought forward, said WiPC. The organization urges governments "not to neglect the suffering of those within Uzbekistan, and to make an end to the abysmal record on human rights central to discussions on international relations with the country." For more, see http://www.home.collegeclub.com/uijuzbekistan/together.html, http://www.amnesty.org, and http://www.oneworld.org/internatpen/ (International Freedom of Expression Exchange Clearing House Communique, 11 December)

'NO INDEPENDENT MEDIA.' In a recent report on Uzbekistan, Human Rights Watch observes that "the deplorable human rights record of the Uzbek government is largely being ignored" as the United States seeks to deepen its coalition ties with the country to fight terrorism. No independent media outlets exist and the government holds a tight grip on the media. To see the full report, go to http://www.hrw.org/press/2001/09/uzbek092501.htm. (International Freedom of Expression Exchange Clearing House Communique, 11 December)

REGIONAL
BALTIC JOURNALISTS DEVELOP ONLINE RADIO SHOWS. Participants in a journalism course, "Cross-Border Minorities Reporting," sponsored by the Baltic Media Center (BMC) broadcast their own online radio programs this month, according to the BMC. Journalists from the three Baltic states, Russia, and Poland produced three hours of news, interviews, and music in five languages to be broadcast online, including pieces on minority issues. For more, see http://radio.musicnet.lv The course trained participants for launching an Internet-based radio station. For more, contact Charles Fletcher at charles.fletcher@bmc.dk, or see BMC online at http://www.bmc.dk (International Journalists' Network, 17 December)

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