18 January 2001, Volume
ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER MAKES DEBUT AS OSCE CHAIRMAN...
In his inaugural address as OSCE rotating chairman, Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana told the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna on 11 January that the organization will continue to focus on respect of individual rights, conflict prevention and conflict resolution, as well as on international cooperation and security, Romanian and international agencies reported. Geoana said Bucharest has handed over responsibility for the Transdniester conflict to Portugal in order to "avoid the impression of partiality" but the OSCE must continue insisting on finding a solution to that conflict based on respect for Moldova's territorial integrity and the OSCE 1999 Istanbul summit resolution on withdrawal of Russian troops from the region. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January)...LISTS FURTHER OSCE PRIORITIES.
Geoana said another main focus of activity will be Chechnya, and proposed that Romanian ambassador to Kyiv Alexandru Cornea head a new mission to Grozny, calling on Russia to grant it "all possible support." He said his first mission as OSCE chairman will take him next week to Belgrade, and the OSCE will help prepare elections in Kosova and build democratic institutions in Bosnia. The OSCE will also concentrate on the struggle against organized crime, ethnic hatred and discrimination against minorities. In 2001, he said, Romania will organize an OSCE conference on the situation of Sinti and Roma in Europe ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January)MUTED WESTERN PROTEST AT POST-SOVIET HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS?
Despite the deteriorating human rights situation in the former USSR -- with the exception of the Baltic countries -- the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) notes that "protest from the Euro-Atlantic political community has been muted. Diplomats avoid human rights problems for fear of alienating leaders and pushing them closer to Russia. But they are going in that direction anyway." The IHF concludes its overview of human rights violations by claiming that "the U.S. government can raise [human rights] issues in its dialogue with its counterparts [and] can intensify support for civil society, democracy, and human rights campaigns." ("International Herald Tribune," 12 January)CROSS BORDER COOPERATION PROJECTS.
The European Commission has announced a call for proposals from border areas of Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova, with EU and /or CEE accession countries. Local and regional authorities or associations of local and regional authorities can apply, in partnership with an eligible accession country, EU member state, NGOs, or education centers. Application deadline is 27 March 2001. To download application documents: http://www.europa.eu.int/comm/scr/tender/index_en.htm. firstname.lastname@example.org, quoting reference SCR-E/111760/C/G/WW.
TV STATIONS SUSPEND BROADCASTING TO PROTEST NEW MEDIA LAW.
Twenty Armenian TV and radio stations, including state-run Armenian National Television, suspended broadcasting for 45 minutes at 8 pm local time on 12 January to protest a new media law which they say could lead to an information blackout, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The law, enacted by the parliament in October 2000, provides for the creation of a national commission charged with monitoring electronic media outlets' compliance with the law and issuing and withdrawing licenses. It also requires them to produce at least 65 percent of their own programming, and to publicize their advertising fees. Andranik Tevanian, who is executive director of the independent AR TV station, told RFE/RL that broadcasters fear the new commission will restrict the activities of TV companies and enable the authorities to exert pressure on channels considered undesirable. Also on 12 January, the Constitutional Court ruled that several provisions of the law are unconstitutional, AP reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January)REGISTERED MEDIA ENTERPRISES.
As of early January 2001, 1083 media enterprises have been registered in Armenia, according to the Ministry of Justice. Of these, 193 are TV companies, 55 are radio companies, 27 news agencies, 166 magazines and 642 newspapers. Forty percent of the total were required to re-register in accordance with new requirements but failed to do so and may be closed down. The "Hayastani Hanrapetutiun" daily, founded in 1990 by the Armenian National Assembly, announced on 11 January its intention to stop publication the next day, as it had not gone through re-registration. The paper assured its readers it will try to overcome these problems in the shortest time possible. (Yerevan Press Club Weekly Newsletter, 8-12 January)
CONTINUED PRESSURE ON INDEPENDENT TV COMPANY.
During the year 2000, the independent AVA TV company was subjected to 11 checks, several official audits, and one search of its premises before being closed for ten days in October. AVA, which has never been informed of the results of these actions, believes that they were motivated by AVA's "totally independent" stance. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 15 January)EUROPEANS UPSET IF HE TAKES PAPERS TO COURT, Aliyev NOTES.
As he was greeting a Council of Europe delegation, President Aliyev that the country's numerous newspapers "reveal our free market economy," reported "Bakinsky rabochii." Aliyev went on to say that if he takes newspapers to court which have insulted him, there is a "fuss" in Europe and so he is "forced to tolerate all kinds of insults and unfair attacks" on him. ("Bakinskii rabochii," 4 January)EFFORTS TO BLOCK LUTHERAN SERVICE FAIL.
An attempt by the Azerbaijani government to prevent visiting Lutheran Pastor Reinhard von Loewenich from conducting Christmas services, at the invitation of Baku's Lutheran congregation, has failed thanks to help for the congregation from the German Embassy. A rival Azerbaijani government supported congregation reportedly did not attempt to hold any Christmas services. (Keston Institute, 2 January)
TRADE UNIONS WARNED AGAINST PROPOSING PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE.
The Justice Ministry has told the Belarusian Trade Union Federation that it is not permitted under the law to nominate its leader, Uladzimir Hancharyk, as a candidate for president, Belapan reported on 12 January. Valyantsina Palevikova, secretary of the federation, told the agency that the ministry's statement is an "element of intimidation" of the trade union movement by the authorities. Hancharyk, along with former Premier Mikhail Chyhir and former Hrodna Oblast Governor Syamyon Domash, has been mentioned by the Belarusian opposition as a potential challenger to Lukashenka. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January)TOWN HALL JOURNALISTS WIN.
The TV company Channel 8 stopped broadcasting in Minsk in early 2001. Its closure has been linked to a conflict with a TV company based in the Minsk town hall which began broadcasting on its competitor's frequency. (Glasnost Defense Foundation Digest, 9 January)JOURNALISTS PREPARE FOR EVEN WORSE TIMES.
Pavel Zhuk, chief editor of the independent "Nasha svaboda," said on 11 January that the presidential administration has worked out a plan to repress all private printing houses that print independent and opposition publications, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. Zhuk was commenting on the recent confiscation of a printing press in the private printing house Magic, which prints some 20 independent periodicals in Belarus. Iosif Syaredzich, chief editor of the independent "Nasha volya," added that his newspaper is already looking for a printing house abroad. Magic director Yury Budzko said that the order could drive his company into bankruptcy in several months. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January)
SERBS GET NEW GOVERNMENT IN BOSNIA.
The parliament in Banja Luka approved the new cabinet of Prime Minister Mladen Ivanic on 12 January. It includes one Muslim and one member of the nationalist Serbian Democratic Party (SDS), which won November's parliamentary vote. Representatives of the international community have threatened to cut off aid to the Republika Srpska if the SDS is included in the cabinet, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Outgoing Prime Minister Milorad Dodik said that the SDS is responsible for the war in Bosnia and that its leaders belong in The Hague. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January)NON-NATIONALIST PARTIES SIGN PACT.
Representatives of the 10 political parties in the Alliance for Change signed an agreement in Sarajevo on 13 January, calling for a government that excludes the three main nationalist parties, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The previous day, representatives of the Croatian Democratic Community and Muslim Party of Democratic Action criticized the decision by High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch to grant all citizens equal legal status throughout Bosnia regardless of ethnicity. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January)PETRITSCH RULES ALL ETHNIC GROUPS EQUAL.
Wolfgang Petritsch, who is the international community's high representative, issued an interim ruling on 11 January that makes all citizens fully equal throughout Bosnia regardless of their ethnic background. The move is a key step toward breaking the political power of the ethnically-based parties. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January)
SOCIALISTS SIGN AGREEMENT WITH NATIONALIST ORGANIZATION.
Socialist Party leader Georgi Parvanov and Dobromir Zadgorski, leader of the Committee for the Defense of National Interests (KZNI) "civic" organization, on 12 January signed a cooperation agreement for the upcoming parliamentary and presidential campaigns, and on cooperation in the next four years, Bulgarian Radio, cited by BBC monitoring, reported. The KZNI, which publishes the ultranationalist magazine "Zora," has taken chauvinist positions towards the Turkish minority and has defended the campaigns against this minority by the communist regime of Todor Zhivkov. Also on 12 January, Turkey announced it will send tens of thousands of Turkish-language schoolbooks for the use of the ethnic Turkish minority in Bulgaria, Reuters reported. The donation was organized by Abdulhaluk Cay, a state minister and a member of the far-right Turkish nationalist wing in the coalition government. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January)DOCUMENTARY ON ASSIMILATION OF ETHNIC TURKS STIRS DEBATE.
Five years of archival research by an RFE/RL correspondent in Bulgaria has resulted in a documentary film on the forced assimilation of ethnic Turks in the 1980s. Reporter Tatiana Vaksberg found documents showing that the assimilations were ordered at the highest levels. Most Bulgarians first saw the evidence on 9 January when the film aired on national television.
LOWER HOUSE DISMISSES TV COUNCIL...
The Chamber of Deputies on 12 January voted 109 to 35 to dismiss the Radio and Television Council, CTK reported. The council earlier refused to follow the chambers' directives and dismiss former Czech Television Director Jiri Hodac, who later submitted his resignation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January)...APPROVES AMENDMENT TO LAW ON TELEVISION...
After a marathon session that lasted to the early morning hours of 13 January, the Chamber of Deputies passed an amendment to the law on Czech Television. The vote was 133-52. The amendment was approved with the support of the Social Democratic Party (CSSD) and the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), whose leaders, Milos Zeman and Vaclav Klaus, met before the vote in what observers say was a "surprising encounter." Under the amendment, the chamber is to approve a 15-member council -- instead of 9 as previously stipulated -- from among persons proposed by professional and civic organizations. The chamber is also to take over some of the council's prerogatives, including the appointment of a new TV director, until at least 10 members on the new council have been selected. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January)...BUT THAT DOES NOT END THE STORY...
The bill was opposed not only by the Communists but also by the Four Party Coalition. The coalition objects to the fact that the amended law leaves approval to the council as the chamber's prerogative and does not add the Senate and the president to those entitled to make nominations to the council or vote on its make-up. The Senate must still approve the amendment but, unlike in the lower house, the CSSD and the ODS do not have a majority there. A vote is scheduled for 17 January. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January)...OR THE STRIKE.
Reacting to the approval of the amended bill, the strike committee at Czech Television decided to continue its labor action. A spokesman for the striking journalists said all members of the new management appointed by Hodac will have to resign or be dismissed before the strikes ends, CTK reported. The strikers welcomed the parliament's "effort to find a quick solution" but criticized the provision that leaves the approval of council members as the Chamber of Deputies' prerogative. Earlier, Klaus called on the strikers to end their action while Czech Television News Director Jana Bobosikova, who was appointed by Hodac, said she will not resign. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January)IFJ CONGRATULATES STRIKERS.
The Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) congratulated the striking journalists on Hodac's resignation, CTK and AP reported. IFJ General Secretary Aidan White, in a message to those journalists, said their victory will be "an inspiration to journalists to double efforts for the defense of [independent] public broadcasting." White also said the IFJ will now turn its attention to similar problems in Hungary, where "our colleagues...will be encouraged by the events in Prague." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January)
UIGHUR �MIGR� PAPER ON SALE IN ALMATY.
A Uighur-language newspaper, "Istyqlal" ["Independence'], printed in Germany by Uighur emigre organizations, is being sold in Almaty., RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported on 10 January. The newspaper calls for independence for eastern Turkestan via negotiations with Chinese democrats and democratic reform. Another leader of the 3,000,000 Uighurs in Kazakhstan, Saud Abdrakhman, told RFE/RL that he agreed with "Istyqlal's" peaceful approach.PRO-PRESIDENTIAL PARTY SLAMS OPPOSITION ADDRESS TO U.S. CONGRESS.
Representatives of the OTAN party formed two years ago to support President Nursultan Nazarbaev told a press conference on 11 January that the appeal by the Forum of Democratic Forces to the U.S. Congress concerning corruption charges against Nazarbaev's U.S. adviser, James Giffen, is merely the latest move by former Premier Akezhan Kazhegeldin in his ongoing polemic with the Kazakh leadership, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Ermurat Bapi, editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper "Sol-Dat," dismissed the OTAN activists' criticism as an attempt to protect Nazarbaev's reputation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January)USE OF STATE LANGUAGE IN COURTS INCREASES.
The Kazakhstan Supreme Court has endorsed a program of instruction in the state language (Kazakh) for employees in the judiciary, to increase the use of Kazakh in the legal system, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported on 11 January quoting a Supreme Court official. Judges will eventually be expected to have a professional command of both Russian and Kazakh. At present, Russian predominates. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January)
NEW ADMINISTRATOR DOUBTFUL ON ELECTIONS.
Former Danish Defense Minister Hans Haekkerup, who recently succeeded Bernard Kouchner as chief civilian administrator in Kosova, said in Prishtina on 15 January that his first priority is to "create a legal framework" for general elections. He stressed that he will set a date for the vote only once that framework is in place, AP reported. His views are a departure from those of Kouchner, who stressed the need to keep up political momentum after the recent local elections by going ahead soon with general elections. Haekkerup added that international plans to return several hundred Serbian refugees by the summer might be too hasty. "My job is to create a secure environment so the returns are possible, and that might take some time yet," he said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January)
The presidential administration prepared a law to create the post of ombudsman with a seven-year term; the parliament has introduced alternative drafts. ("RFE/RL Kyrgyz Report," 15 January)INVESTIGATION AGAINST INDEPENDENT PAPER CONTINUES.
Chief editor of the independent "Delo Nomer" weekly told RFE/RL'S Kyrgyz Service on 13 January that the National Security Service will prolong its investigation. The Security Service on 29 November charged the paper, Zapolsky and another reporter with divulging state secrets for publishing an article about the trial of Felix Kulov. The chairman of the parliamentary committee on the judiciary announced recently that no attempt to disclose state secrets had occurred in this case.SUPREME COURT DENIES RECEIVING APPEAL FROM IMPRISONED OPPOSITION POLITICIAN.
The Supreme Court on 13 January denied receiving an appeal by Guild of Prisoners of Conscience founder Topchubek TurgunAliyev against the sentence handed down on him in September, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Turgunaliev, who was found guilty of masterminding a plot to assassinate President Askar Akaev, had submitted that appeal on 27 November, and must now resubmit it. He claims the charges against him were fabricated. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January)AFGHAN WAR VETERANS APPEAL FOR JOBS.
Afghan War veterans of the Talas Province on 12 January assembled to ask the government's help in finding jobs. Some 130 of the 150 veterans in the province are unemployed, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported.IODINE DEFICIENCY-RELATED ILLNESSES ON INCREASE.
Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiev signed on 13 January a special decree ordering the Ministry of Health Care to develop by 1 April measures against diseases caused by lack of iodine. Deputy Health Minister Ainura Ibraimova told RFE/RL'S Kyrgyz Service on 13 January that there were in the country more than 75,500 people sick due to lack of iodine in 1999, compared to 18,000 in 1997.CONFERENCE OF ETHNIC KOREANS.
A conference of ethnic Koreans living in Kyrgyzstan was held in Bishkek on 13 January, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. About 200 delegates reelected Roman Shin president of the Chinson ethnic organization of Koreans. There are about 20,000 Koreans in the country.
PRIVATE MEDIA STATIONS STAGE STRIKE.
A group of private television and radio stations plan a two-hour strike for 12 January, Makfaks news agency reported. The broadcasters object to what they call a lack of transparency in the allocation of state broadcasting funds, as well as to the national television monopoly of MRTV, which costs them potentially lucrative advertising revenues. The broadcasters also object to the continuing existence of numerous stations that broadcast without a license. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January)
Five unknown men attacked the chief editor of the weekly "Molodezh Moldovy", Savin Dziatkovsky, on 28 December. A week earlier, his son was beaten. The board of the NIT media-holding to which "Molodezh Moldovy" belongs, also suggests a link to anonymous phone threats a week earlier to blow up "Serebriany Dodjd - Moldova," radio studio, owned by the same company. (Glasnost Defense Foundation Digest, 9 January)LUCINSCHI CALLS FOR 'CIVILIZED CAMPAIGN.'
Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi on 12 January called on political parties participating in the early elections campaign to transform the occasion into a "duel of ideas and proposals about how the country would get out of its present deadlock," rather than allow it to become a display "primitive behavior, use of dirty tricks against opponents, and of bad language...that harm the image of parties and of the country as a whole." The electoral campaign was officially launched on 12 January and the elections will take place on 25 February, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January)
SOLIDARITY LEADER'S AIDES SUE TV FOR SLANDER.
Representatives of Solidarity trade union head Marian Krzaklewski have sued Polish Television's main newscast staff for alleging that Krzaklewski's presidential election campaign was illegally financed by the Orlen Polish Oil Concern. Polish Radio quoted Krzaklewski's campaign team head Wieslaw Walendziak as saying that the program deliberately disseminated false information about Krzaklewski and "made no attempt to verify it in any way." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January)
TRANSYLVANIAN ROMANIANS WARN AGAINST 'NEW KOSOVO.'
Several organizations representing ethnic Romanians in the Harghita and Covasna counties, the majority of whose population is Magyar, are wary of the "consequences" of the agreement recently reached between the ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania and the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania. In a letter addressed on 11 January to President Ion Iliescu, the government and the parliament, they warn against "the danger" of transforming "two counties in the heart of Romania into a new Kosovo." The organizations object to the intention to pass in the Chamber of Deputies the Public Administration Law previously approved by the Senate. They claim that legislation gives the Hungarian language in areas inhabited by Magyars the status of "a [second] official language." They say this will "intensify separatism" and the "de facto setting up of a Hungarian border inside the country," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January)GREATER ROMANIA PARTY TO APPEAL TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT.
Augustin Bolcas, leader of the Greater Romania Party (PRM) parliamentary group in the Chamber of Deputies, said on 12 January the PRM will appeal to the Constitutional Court against the chamber's decision to change house regulations. The decision aims at shortening parliamentary debate to speed up the legislation process. It stipulates that debates on articles of a draft law no longer need the presence of a majority of deputies. That presence is required only when voting on the law as a whole. Proposed amendments are to be debated mostly in commissions, plenum debates being allowed only on amendments commissions failed to debate. The agenda is to be decided by a new committee formed by leaders of parliamentary parties, whose vote reflects their respective factions' weight. Bolcas said this transforms the chamber into "a bureaucratic vote-machine that passes laws on assembly line." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January)IS PATRIARCH A FORMER IRON GUARD MEMBER?
The daily "Monitorul" on 13 January reproduced a document discovered by historian Dorin Dobrincu, according to which Patriarch Teoctist was a member of the fascist Iron Guard and participated in that organization's rebellion against Marshal Ion Antonescu in January 1941. The document is in the Securitate file on Patriarch Teoctist and indicates that the head of the Romanian Orthodox Church took part in the burning of a synagogue in Iasi. A spokesman for the Patriarchate described the document as "pure invention" but the daily says Teoctist's membership in the Iron Guard might have been used by the communist regime to blackmail him into collaboration. Teoctist resigned and retired to a monastery in 1990 to atone for that collaboration, but a few months later was recalled as the head of the Church by its synod. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January)PRIVATE HUNGARIAN UNIVERSITY TO BE FORCED TO HAVE ROMANIAN INSTRUCTION?
The private Hungarian-language university about to be set up in Romania must introduce at least one faculty with Romanian-language tuition in order to be approved by the National Council for Academic Evaluation and Accreditation, Mediafax reported on 12 January, citing council chairman Ioan Mihailescu. The university is financed by the Hungarian government and private donations and is to be located in the Transylvanian town of Miercurea Ciuc. The Hungarian minority has not renounced demands that a state-funded Hungarian-language university be set up, but the government headed by Adrian Nastase has ruled out that possibility. No progress has been made in setting up the "Petofi-Schiller Multicultural University" approved in September 1998 by the Radu Vasile cabinet, and that project appears to have been stalled. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January)
U.S. RELIEF WORKER ABDUCTED IN CHECHNYA...
Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) staffer Kenny Gluck was snatched from his car by unidentified men in the Chechen village of Starie Atagi, south of Grozny, on 9 January. His present whereabouts are unknown. A second western aid worker travelling with Gluck managed to escape. In Moscow, presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii said Gluck's kidnapping was the result of "a flagrant violation" of the rules of conduct foreigners are required to observe in Chechnya, according to Interfax. A spokesman for Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov has disclaimed any involvement in the kidnapping, Caucasus Press reported on 11 January. The commander of the Russian forces in the North Caucasus, Lieutenant General Valerii Baranov, said Chechen field commander Arbi Baraev or the Akhmadov brothers may have snatched Gluck. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January)�RUSSIAN TROOPS LAUNCH SEARCH...
Russian forces in Chechnya launched a large-scale search on 11 January to locate and release U.S. humanitarian aide worker Kenny Gluck, who was snatched by armed men in the village of Starie Atagi south of Grozny two days earlier. Interim Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov on 11 January deplored the abduction and said he has asked Chechen police to join the search for Gluck. Meanwhile Russian officials implied that Gluck himself was to blame for his kidnapping. Interfax quoted a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying that Gluck and a second U.S. aid worker both entered Chechnya using forged documents, while Russian human rights envoy in Chechnya Vladimir Kalamanov said that Gluck had shown scant regard for his own safety. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January)...WHILE ABDUCTED CHECHEN NGO ACTIVIST FOUND.
Abducted in Ingushetia by armed men on 5 January, Chechen community leader Imran Ezhiev, a member of the NGO Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, was found and released four days later. The Russian-Chechen Friendship Society monitors human rights in the north Caucasus and works on behalf of Chechen displaced persons in Ingushetia. Ezhiev plans to attend the 20-21 January human rights conference in Moscow where he will hand to President Putin a petition signed by 10,000 Chechen displaced persons. This was Ezhiev's third detention in five months; the previous two detentions have been at the hands of the local Ministry of Internal Affairs. (International League for Human Rights, 10 January)DID RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE ABDUCT GLUCK?
Chechen field commander Ramazan Akhmadov, who Russian military officials in Chechnya have suggested is behind the kidnapping of Kenny Gluck, has responded that Russian intelligence may have been behind that abduction, Turan reported on 12 January. Also on 12 January, a member of the pro-Moscow Grozny administration said he has formed a group of local officials charged with collecting "unofficial" evidence relevant to Gluck's disappearance. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January)PAPER ASKS IF PUTIN KNOWS WHAT'S HAPPENING IN CHECHNYA.
An article in "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 11 January noted that the Chechen conflict has virtually disappeared from Russian mass media, even though it is far from clear that the fighting is over. "The generals in charge of Chechnya must be telling Putin: 'Everything is all right. Just a little longer, and all these criminals will be finished off.' That is probably why," the paper concludes, "the truth about the war is being kept under the lid." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January)STEPASHIN SAYS INFORMATION SECURITY MORE IMPORTANT THAN PROFITS.
Audit Chamber chairman Sergei Stepashin told RIA-Novosti on 11 January that his agency had completed its probe of the second national television channel VGTRK. He observed that "one should not require that the VGTRK be profitable" but rather that it help maintain the security of the country's national information space. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 15 January)GOVERNMENT EXPANDS CONTROL OVER TELECOMMUNICATIONS.
The Russian government plans to use its Svyazinvest holding company to expand its control over the national telecommunications sector, "Izvestiya" reported on 9 January. It plans to set up a state-owned national Internet service provider and to take over much of the cellular phone market. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 15 January)PUTIN SAYS HE'S FOR A FREE PRESS...
Speaking to 33 editors on Russia's Press Day, President Vladimir Putin said on 13 January that "paraphrasing Mark Twain, I can say that information about the death of free speech in our country is greatly exaggerated," ITAR-TASS reported. During a four and one-half hour meeting, Putin said that the freedom of the press was "one of the main gains of the last decade" and that media coverage helps the government "to react to the mistakes the state sometimes makes." He criticized certain actions by police and security forces against the media and said that now was not the time to modify the country's mass media law. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January)...BUT WARNS AGAINST IRRESPONSIBLE MEDIA...
At the same time, Putin said that journalists must "with each article and word, again and again show your right to the trust of the people. Indeed, authority and trust are not given once and for all." He said that the media must not be allowed to spread extremist and illegal ideas. Moreover, he added, the media must work with the government to create a single information space across the country, one in which the domestic and foreign media will have equal rights. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January)...AS CASUALTIES AMONG JOURNALISTS MOUNT.
Putin said that "a reporter's job continues to be one of the most dangerous," something the Glasnost Defense Fund confirmed. It reported on 13 January that 16 journalists died in Russia during 2000 while doing their jobs, ITAR-TASS said. And the Fund added that five journalists are still missing and that there were 73 attacks on journalists, 26 criminal cases lodged, 35 cases of overt censorship, and 255 cases against the media for offending officials. A Fund spokesman said that the latest incident had taken place the previous night when unknown gunmen fired into the apartment of a Tver newspaperman. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January)IZVESTIYA PRESSURED BY KREMLIN?
During President Putin's Kremlin meeting with 32 editors of national media outlets on 14 January, Mikhail Kozhokin, editor of Russia's biggest circulation daily "Izvestiya," complained of Kremlin pressure, reported the "Moscow Times." The day after "Izvestiya" published letters from Russian intellectuals adamantly against the return of the old Soviet anthem, the paper "management was told that the Kremlin's powerful management department had filed a suit in the arbitration court questioning the legitimacy of the privatization of Izvestia�s main building." Putin reportedly asked Kozhokin for the name of the Kremlin official, but the editor refused. The "Moscow Times" notes that Izvestiya's building -- just as all other property owned by media outlets -- had been owned by the state and had been turned over to the paper "during the wild privatization of the early Yeltsin years" and thus is vulnerable to closer legal scrutiny -- and manipulation by the government. ("Moscow Times," 16 January)BEREZOVSKY SELLING STAKE IN ORT TO STATE.
Media magnate Boris Berezovsky told "Kommersant" on 11 January that he was completing the sale of his 49 percent stake in ORT. He is selling the shares to Roman Abramovich for $80 million, but Berezovsky said that Abramovich is simply "a middleman" for the government and that the sale will bring ORT under complete state control. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 15 January)STRUGGLE FOR MEDIA CONTROL CONTINUES.
Gazprom-Media told Russian and Western media on 11 January that it has pulled out of its arrangement with Deutsche Bank to sell a stake in NTV to other investors, effectively ending Ted Turner's quest to buy part of that company. Also on 11 January, prosecutors questioned Media-MOST official Andrei Tsimailo for a second day about that company's operations, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Boris Berezovskii told "Kommersant" the same day that he is about to sell his 49 percent holding in ORT to Roman Abramovich and predicted that as a result, ORT will "pass under state control." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January)STRUGGLE OVER NTV CONTINUES.
The Media-MOST group filed suit in London and Gibraltar to prevent Gazprom-Media from taking control of NTV, Reuters reported on 12 January, but Gazprom-Media group denied Media-MOST's claims, Interfax reported. On the same day, prosecutors searched the office of Media-MOST financial department chief Anton Titov, an action Media-MOST spokesmen said was a response to a report in "Segodnya," which is owned by Media-MOST, that the daughter of Deputy Prosecutor-General Vasilii Kolmogorov had been stopped at Sheremetyevo airport for attempted smuggling of foreign currency, Russian agencies reported. And prosecutors issued an indictment against Moscow city finance chief Yurii Korostelev in connection with the Media-MOST case, something Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's office described as a "provocation." Meanwhile, Media-MOST deputy chairman Andrei Tsimailo said through a spokesman that he will not visit London as planned to discuss the sale of the company's holdings to a foreign investor. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January)SECURITY GUARDS ATTACK NTV CAMERA CREW.
Local security guards at the Moscow Pediatric Academy beat up an NTV camera crew for the program "Segodnyatchko" on 25 December -- the same day that elections for institute rector were to take place. Tatyana Alexandrova and cameraman Maxim Volokh were trying to film the break up of the meeting of the "Rossiisky Student" youth organization. (Glasnost Defense Foundation Digest, 9 January)RTR FILM CREW ATTACKED.
On the night of 29 December, a RTR crew for the Russian state TV program "Vesti" was returning from Sheremetyevo airport where they filmed footage on the delayed departure of Russian tourists to Thailand. About three kilometers from the airport, a BMW smashed into the Ford minibus carrying the film crew; men burst into the minibus, seizing the video camera and the two recorded video tapes, and beating up the RTR cameraman, Yuri Gavriushin. A criminal case was initiated after this attack on the journalists. (Glasnost Defense Foundation Digest, 9 January)CRIMINALS BEAT UP, ROB ITAR-TASS EMPLOYEE.
Unknown men in Moscow beat and robbed 61-year-old Vadim Polyakov, an ITAR-TASS representative, on 5 January. The victim, vice-director of its English-language editorial board, was returning home alone. A car pulled over, three young men approached Polyakov and demanded money. Without waiting for the journalist's answer, they beat and robbed him. Polyakov was reached his home and call the police. In hospital, he was diagnosed with contusions and a broken nose. (Glasnost Defense Foundation Digest, 9 January)INTERNEWS SEMINARS.
In 2001 the third all-Russian competition of news programs of regional TV companies "Novosti- vremia mestnoe" will take place. Details are available at http://www.internews.ru/news2001/index.html In the third week of January, at the Tomsk TV and radio company TV-2, a training session for the directors of TV companies broadcasting to an audience of up to 150 thousand people will take place on Channel 4. Later in the year, in Ekaterinburg there will be a training event for television companies broadcasting to an audience of 150 to 800 thousand people. Dates are still to be set. Details available at internews.ru/internews/training/probation2001.html (Glasnost Defense Foundation Digest, 9 January)NEW WEBSITE FOR RUSSIAN REGIONAL TV FOOTAGE.
In the near future, participants in the project "InterNovosti" may receive weekly materials on all seven federal regions (okrugs) of Russia. At the moment, theoretical work on the new web site � http://www.rustv.ru -- continues. The website will provide news of various TV companies, the films of some regional and central news agencies, and materials of the agency "InterNews" and of other material especially created for TV companies. (Glasnost Defense Foundation Digest, 9 January)PROSECUTORS SAY RUSSIA FAR FROM LAW-BASED STATE.
Russian Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov said in the 12 January "Izvestiya" that "over the course of 300 years, our people have not become less thieving." He said that he will work to keep prosecutors out of politics and opposes any use of masked men in investigative raids. Meanwhile, former investigator Boris Uvarov told "Segodnya" that even under Soviet totalitarianism, there was "more legality" than now. He added that in his experience there was little "telephone justice" under Soviet conditions but that now "all cases connected with highly placed personages are 'telephone' cases." The same paper suggested that "telephone justice" had been involved in getting the daughter of Deputy-General Prosecutor Vasilii Kolmogorov out of legal difficulties for attempting to illegally carry cash out of the country. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January)EXTENT OF CORRUPTION WORRIES PROSECUTOR-GENERAL...
Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov told the same audience that the shadow economy now exceeds 50 percent of the country's GDP, Interfax reported on 12 January. That worries him both legally and because of the amount of "unpaid taxes and fees" it represents. He added that corruption in the state bureaucracy had reached unprecedented proportions because law enforcement efforts have concentrated only on the actions of junior officials. And he acknowledged that the real amount of crime in Russia is far greater than official statistics suggest. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 15 January)...AS STROEV POINTS TO ITS INTERNATIONAL IMPLICATIONS.
Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev said that corruption in Russia is now so widespread that it has an impact on Russia's standing in the world, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 January. He predicted that the situation will only get worse over the next five to seven years and that during this period Russia will become the major source of a new generation of the world's organized crime figures. Stroev also complained that the Russian procuracy had failed to explain who was responsible for the August 1998 default. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 15 January)'DON'T WANT TO SPY FOR THE WEST? CALL THE FSB!'
The Federal Security Service (FSB) told "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 12 January that some 600 people had called its hotline over the last six months to report what they said were contacted by foreign intelligence services. FSB officers said that 20 of these calls had led to counterintelligence investigations. And it "advises those who have been enlisted by foreign secret services to think it over whether to sell out their country and call 914-22-22." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January)40,000 RUSSIAN CHILDREN NOW BEHIND BARS.
"About 40,000 children are among the nearly one million Russians living in cramped prison conditions" which breed TB and more criminality, reports Reuters. Veteran NGO activist Valery Abramkin says that many children are sentenced to harsh prison life for stealing food. The Russian state allocates so little money on juvenile offenders, Abramkin says, that when asked what they wanted for Christmas, many children replied "a loaf of bread." (Reuters, 15 January)ORTHODOX TO CONTINUE ANTI-PENTECOSTAL PICKET.
In Ekaterinburg, Russian Orthodox parishioners have picketed for two years the Pentecostal New Life church services attended by some 1,100 people. Pickets gather outside the building where services are held, displaying 'anti-sect' banners and distributing leaflets. The New Life Church lawyer said that the local media frequently run items discrediting the Pentecostals. These demonstrations are coordinated by an Ekaterinburg Russian Orthodox priest who told Keston on 29 December that pickets will continue. (Keston Institute, 9 January)ORTHODOX PLAN ROME CHURCH TO 'RIVAL' ST. PETER'S.
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov on 13 January laid the foundation stone for a new Russian Orthodox Church in Rome, ITAR-TASS reported. When completed, the news service said, "the dome of the Russian Orthodox Church will rise high above the eternal city and rival the dome of St. Peter's basilica." In his message to the groundbreaking ceremony, Patriarch Aleksii II said that "the Russian Embassy and the Russian Church are perhaps the two places where our compatriots will always be able to come to and get moral and spiritual support." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January)MOSCOW TO HAVE MUSLIM CEMETERY.
Mufti Sheikh Ravil Gainutdin, the chairman of the Muslim Board of European Russia, told Interfax on 14 January that a 15-hectare cemetery for Muslims will be opened just outside the city borders of Moscow. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January)LAST MINUTE RE-REGISTRATION FOR KOSTROMA PENTECOSTALS.
Two Pentecostal churches in Kostroma region northeast of Moscow that experienced attempts to liquidate them in court last year were re-registered by the regional justice administration just two days ahead of December's re-registration deadline. (Keston Institute, 3 January)END IN SIGHT FOR 18-MONTH EVANGELICAL BOOK CONFISCATION.
A large collection of books confiscated in July 1999 will be returned `unconditionally' by late January, the official in charge of relations with religious organizations in Krasnodar's regional administration promised. The pledge -- given to Keston News Service on 9 January -- follows 18 months of attempts to recover the books by Semyon Borodin, senior pastor of the Krasnodar Evangelical Christian Missionary Union. (Keston Institute, 11 January)KARACHAI, BALKARS STRESS SHARED IDENTITY, TIES TO OTHER NORTH CAUCASIANS.
Some 140 delegates and more than 100 guests assembled in Cherkessk at a congress of the interregional association of the Karachai people Alan and the republic social organization of the Balkar people Malkar Auzy, "Izvestiya" reported on 10 January. Alan President Akhmat Katchiev told the group that the forum is historic in that it reaffirms that the Karachai and Balkars are one ethnos. A representative of the Southern Federal District told the newspaper that Moscow ought to support the complete rehabilitation of these formerly deported peoples. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 January)HALF OF RUSSIANS CONSIDER THEMSELVES POOR.
A monitoring.ru survey found that 51 percent of urban Russians consider themselves poor and only 2 percent consider themselves wealthy, "Trud" reported on 11 January. Twenty-seven percent of the respondents own shares in Russian enterprises, 9 percent own computers, and 31 percent own cars, the survey found. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January)REFUGEES IN RUSSIA FACE TROUBLE.
In the Zelenogradskaya camp outside Moscow, 300 mostly Afghan refugees have made their "home." While the UNDP pays for food, housing and maintenance, the camp also receives assistance from Ekvilibr-Solidarnost, a Russian NGO. Most refugees cannot obtain asylum in Russia, "let alone citizenship," Itar-TASS reports. "Of the 14,270 people who have arrived in Russia and applied for refugee status since 1993, only 581 have succeeded," according to refugee assistance organizations. Many of these difficulties arise from restrictive laws, although political motives cannot be ruled out -- "only one of the 1,881 Iraqis has been recognized as a refugee by Russian authorities since 1993." A liberal 1993 law obliged Russian authorities to find work for refugees, but "stricter legislation was passed in 1997," Itar-TASS claims. Now the Russian government is only supposed to assist refugees in finding work. (ITAR-TASS, 15 January)
RFE/RL JOURNALIST WINS SERBIA'S HIGHEST PRIZE.
RFE/RL's South Slavic Service journalist Omer Karabeg has been named the best Serbian journalist for the year 2000. He was awarded the "Jug Grizelj" prize -- in memory of a leading Serbian journalist -- for his work on the RFE/RL program, "The Bridge," where people with widely divergent points of view discuss important topics. (RFE/RL South Slavic Service, 15 January)NEARLY 700 KOSOVAR PRISONERS IN SERBIAN JAILS.
"Koha Ditore" reported on 3 January that 693 Kosovar Albanians, arrested in Kosova during the repression of 1998 and 1999, are still being held in Serbian jails. The daily stressed that the government changes in Yugoslavia and Serbia have not yet resulted in the passage of an amnesty law for those arrested in the framework of the Kosova conflict. According to a draft amnesty law, ethnic Albanians accused of "terrorism" will be excluded from the amnesty and most ethnic Albanians in Serbian jails face "terrorism" charges. At the same time, the daily notes, three or four ethnic Albanians leave prisons every week, due to "a practice of buying their freedom for astronomic prices." The daily claims that most released prisoners had to bribe court and jail officials for their release "in just the same way as when Milosevic was in power." The international community did not make the release of the prisoners a precondition for readmitting Yugoslavia to the UN or the OSCE. With the end of the Kosova war, the Serbian police transferred 2,029 ethnic Albanian prisoners to Serbia proper. The police released 1,336 of them as of 28 December 2000. The fate of about 3,000 additional missing Kosovars remains a mystery. ("RFE/RL Balkan Report," 9 January)
SMER WANTS TO CHANGE 'DIRECTION' OF POLITICS.
Robert Fico, leader of the Smer (Direction) party, on 12 January said the electoral system should be changed to reduce the number of political parties represented in the parliament, "clean" the political system, and do away with "disorder and incompetence." For that purpose, the proportional party-lists systems must be replaced with a majority system in which deputies would be elected in constituencies and be responsible before those who chose them, rather than before their party leadership, as is now the case. Fico also wants the electoral threshold to be raised from 5 to 7 percent. This, he said, will force small parties to either merge with large formations or "convince more people to back them." Fico said small parties now gain parliamentary representation "on the back of large formations," and once in the parliament, they behave "as if they were the most important" there, CTK reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January)
OPPOSITIONIST STILL UNDER POLICE SURVEILLANCE.
Amnesty International released a statement on 8 January criticizing police surveillance of Turkmen opposition leader Nurberdi Nurmamedov. The statement says Nurmamedov is at his home in Ashgabat after being released from prison on 23 December as part of a sweeping presidential amnesty given on the occasion of the Islamic holy night of Kadr, but he remains under strict police surveillance and had to sign an official document promising not to leave Ashgabat. Nurmamedov is co-chairman of the opposition movement Agzybirlik. Amnesty International said it believes Nurmamedov was jailed for his peaceful opposition activities and outspoken criticism of the Turkmen president.IS TURKMENISTAN'S STATE LIBRARY IN DANGER?
President Saparmurat Niyazov is planning to liquidate Turkmenistan's state library, which has holdings of over 3 million volumes dating back to the 19th century, RFE/RL's Turkmen Service reported on 12 January, quoting opposition Turkmenistan Foundation Director and former Foreign Minister Avdy Kuliev. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 January)CONFISCATION OF PENTECOSTAL CHURCH ORDERED.
The court of the Kopetdag district of the Turkmen capital Ashgabad ruled on 4 January that the private house used as the city's Pentecostal church is to be confiscated without compensation. The pastor defended his right to use the house that he owns for worship services, but such use was ruled illegal by the court. He is to appeal against the ruling. (Keston News Service, 12 January)
SECURITY SERVICE DENIES PRESSURE ON RFE/RL JOURNALISTS.
The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has denied that their employees are pressuring Radio Liberty journalists in order to influence the RFE/RL coverage of developments in Ukraine, Interfax reported on 15 January. The SBU's denial appears to be a response to RFE/RL President Thomas Dine's recent statement on the SBU's activities vis-a-vis RFE/RL. In that statement, Dine said that "in recent days, people claiming to be Ukrainian intelligence officers have approached members of our Ukrainian Service and threatened reprisals against them and those who rebroadcast our programming in Ukraine if the service does not modify its coverage of Ukrainian political developments." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January)LAWMAKERS SLAM PROSECUTOR OVER MISSING JOURNALIST CASE.
Serhiy Holovatyy and Viktor Shyshkin, members of the ad hoc parliamentary commission to investigate the disappearance of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, have accused Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko of seeking to hide evidence in the Gongadze case, Interfax reported on 11 January. Valeriy Ivasyuk, the commission's expert, noted in connection with the Gongadze case that Ukraine "has created a forensic medical system to annihilate people and hide crimes." Robert Menard, head of the Reporters Without Borders international group, told journalists in Kyiv the same day that he recommended to President Leonid Kuchma that Potebenko be dismissed because of the unsatisfactory investigation progress in the Gongadze case. Menard added that Kuchma "did not speak in [Potebenko's] defense." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January)PACE PLEDGES TO HELP EVALUATE 'MOROZ'S TAPES.'
Hanne Severinsen, a rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), pledged PACE's help in making an expert evaluation of the "Moroz tapes" which caused a political scandal in Ukraine by implicating President Leonid Kuchma in Gongadze's disappearance. "If it turns out that these tapes are authentic, you will have a Watergate in Ukraine," Severinsen said, adding that PACE will find an institution to evaluate the original tapes made by Kuchma's former bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko. The same day, Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz said Melnychenko eavesdropped on Kuchma for a total of 300 hours. And Melnychenko told RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service on 9 January that he has taped "dozens of people" in Kuchma's office, adding that those persons can confirm the authenticity of the tapes. Prosecutor-General Potebenko told the parliament the previous day that Melnychenko's recordings are doctored. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January)TWO OPPOSITIONIST INTERNET SITES.
The Glasnost Defense Foundation Digest provided information from two websites in Ukraine which try to provide independent views on their country. "Gazeta Antenna" at http://www.antenna.com.ua claims it has been subjected to "constant pressure" from the government and that Ukrainian law enforcement "has simply refused to investigate attempts against the lives" of its editorial board. Another website � http://www.kudin.org -- focuses on human rights issues in Ukraine. (Glasnost Defense Foundation Digest, 9 January)
YUGOSLAV MINISTER CALLS ON WAR CRIMINALS TO TURN THEMSELVES IN.
Yugoslav Justice Minister Momcilo Grubac said in Belgrade on 11 January that Yugoslav citizens indicted for war crimes should turn themselves in to the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, Reuters reported. Referring to former Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic's voluntary decision to go to The Hague, Grubac said: "Biljana Plavsic acted normally in the way every other citizen suspected by a court, local or international, should do. The procedure does not mean that a person is guilty." Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, several other leading Belgrade officials, and the former regime have all questioned the legitimacy of the Hague-based court. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January)YUGOSLAV GOVERNMENT OK'S AMNESTY LAW -- BUT NOT FOR KOSOVARS.
The government approved an amnesty law on 11 January, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The largest group affected will be some 34,000 persons who have been sentenced for "crimes" against the army, including desertion and failure to answer a draft notice. Some 700 Kosovars seized during the 1998 and 1999 Serbian crackdown still remain in Serbian jails. They include student leader Albin Kurti. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 January)
UPDATES ON HATE GROUPS.
The website fsumonitor.com is updated on a daily basis with reports on antisemitism and hate groups in the countries of the former Soviet Union with an average of five to ten stories per week -- press summaries, translations, action alerts, monitoring reports and analysis -- plus published reports. (Fsumonitor.com, 14 January)NEW INTERNET SITE "GRANI".
(http://www.grani.ru) Since January 2001, Glasnost Defense Foundation (GDF) has begun a joint project with the independent news site "Grani." GDF monitoring documents and journalistic inquiries on media conflicts will be put on the Internet-portal of "Grani" on a weekly basis at http://www.grani.ru: 8101/freepress/articles/nasnet/. (Glasnost Defense Foundation Digest, 9 January)