15 June 2000, Volume
YEREVAN RUSSIAN-LANGUAGE PAPER SUSPENDS PUBLICATION.
Publication of the official Russian-language newspaper "Respublika Armenii" was temporarily halted on 2 June. According to the Noyan Tapan news agency, the paper's publication was suspended because its charter should be brought in line with current legislation and will also require that it undergo a new registration procedure. (Noyan Tapan, 6 June)ARMENIAN JOURNALIST UNDER SURVEILLANCE IN KARABAKH.
Vagram Agadzhanyan, sentenced for slander on 27 April to a two-year-term of conditional imprisonment by the Karabakh Supreme Court Collegium, is now being closely monitored by the local militia--ostensibly to prevent him from committing new "crimes." The chairman of the human rights committee of the Armenian political party Constitutional Right Union notes that not even criminals in the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic are subject to such strict police control. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 9 June)
AZERBAIJANI PAPER CLAIMS DEPUTY PREMIER REFUSED TO MEET LATVIAN JOURNALISTS.
The newspaper "525 Gazet" claims that Deputy Prime Minister Ali Hasanov, who also heads of the State Committee for Refugees, refused to meet with a visiting delegation of Latvian journalists that was prevented from making a video reportage on the refugee situation in Azerbaijan. The Latvian journalists' treatment in Azerbaijan was in contrast to the cooperation they encountered in covering the refugee story in Georgia and Armenia. ("525 Gazet," 2 June)EMBATTLED EDITOR TO SEEK POLITICAL ASYLUM ABROAD.
Elmar Huseinov, editor of the newspaper "Bakinskii Bulvar" and the journal "Monitor Weekly," told Turan on 13 June that he intends to approach an unnamed Western embassy in Baku to request political asylum. He said the decision was prompted by ongoing harassment from the Azerbajiani authorities. The Baku tax police sealed those publications' premises last month. Employees were allowed to enter the offices on the morning of 12 June, but the premises were sealed again after they left at the end of the day. Also on 12 June, a Baku district court rejected Huseinov's suit against the district tax office. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June)
OPPOSITION LEADER'S PHONE BUGGED.
A technician has discovered that the telephone line of Anatol Lyabedzka, leader of the United Civic Party, has been bugged, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 8 June. "Something that we have long suspected and talked about has now been confirmed by material evidence," Lyabedzka commented. He added that he will ask the Prosecutor General's Office whether it authorized his telephone to be tapped. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June)
SHEVARDNADZE DEMANDS TOUGH MEASURES AGAINST 'INFORMATION DIVERSION.'
"I demand that the Georgian law-enforcement bodies take tough measures against 'information diversion' aimed at breaking the interests of Georgian statehood," President Eduard Shevardnadze said in his weekly radio interview on 12 June. According to the president, some media agencies spread rumors and slander about the president and other Georgian officials. In particular, Shevardnadze mentioned false rumors about his serious illness, which he said were spread by some news agencies. (Caucasus Press, 12 June)OSCE CONVENES MEETING OF GEORGIAN, ABKHAZ AND SOUTH OSSETIAN JOURNALISTS.
A meeting was held in Moscow on 10-11 June for journalists from these areas on the media's role in conflicts and in the easing of tensions. Twenty-five journalists took part in the conference--11 from Georgia, seven from Abkhazia, and seven from South Ossetia. In addition to the OSCE, the Tbilisi and Moscow offices of Internews took an active part in the meeting which was financed by the British government and BBC television. (ITAR-TASS, 10 June)
COUNCIL OF EUROPE CITES AZERBAIJAN, RUSSIA, UKRAINE FOR MEDIA VIOLATIONS.
Council of Europe (COE) media ministers have cited Azerbaijan, Russia, and Ukraine for failing to respect the commitments on press freedom they made when they signed the European Convention on Human Rights. In defiance of repeated council recommendations, these countries are "still seriously violating press freedom. In the Caucasian Republic of Chechnya (Russia)...laws of exclusion substantially reduce freedom. In Ukraine, media which criticize the government are still subjected to financial and political pressure, while the government's power is being reinforced. Of the three states whose applications to join the council are being considered--Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina--Azerbaijan is the only one that still applies repressive measures to the media, the COE said. (Council of Europe Press Release, 13 June)WORLD ASSOCIATION OF NEWSPAPERS WANTS STRONGER COPYRIGHT PROTECTION.
Newspaper publishers from around the world have called on government copyright policymakers to remove obstacles that prevent or hinder the development of newspaper companies in the digital media environment. At its 11-13 June annual meeting, the World Association of Newspapers (WAN) board, which has brought together 1,400 publishers and editors from 71 countries, said that new information technologies had radically changed the business conditions and competitive environment of newspaper publishers. (WAN Press Release, 13 June)IREX CREATES WEB SITE ON MEDIA WORK.
A new web site offers news about the ProMedia II program (financed by the U.S. Agency for International Development) in 10 countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Created by the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX), the site is located at http://www.promedia.org
. IREX is conducting ProMedia II activities in Albania, Armenia, Belarus, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, and Ukraine. ProMedia II activities are conducted in Georgia by the International Center for Journalists. Information on that program can be found at: http://www.ijnet.org/News/CEENIS/Georgia/index.html
. (International Journalists' Network, 5-9 June)DEADLINE LOOMS FOR FREEDOM FORUM JOURNALISTS IN RESIDENCE PROGRAM.
The deadline for applications to the Freedom Forum's International Journalists-in-Residence Program for 2001 is 31 August. The three- to four-month program provides professional and educational opportunities for print and broadcast journalists from Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Course work is combined with hands-on training at a local media organization and lectures and seminar programs. All applicants must be working journalists in the early to middle stages of their careers, proficient in written and spoken English. Preference to applicants who have had little or no experience in the United States. The Freedom Forum provides a stipend for travel, tuition, housing, and living expenses. Applications can be found at: http://www.freedomforum.org/international/programs.asp
. (International Journalists' Network, 5-9 June)HANDBOOK ON CONFLICT RESOLUTION.
The Berghof Centre in Berlin has issued a new handbook on conflict resolution to monitor the latest developments, and it includes contributions from 25 leading experts. The first version will be available on the Internet for free in order to collect feedback for a hardcopy second edition. The Berghof Handbook can be found at: http://www.b.shuttle.de/berghof/handbook.html
. (CCSI, 5 June)COUNCIL OF EUROPE POLICE AND HUMAN RIGHTS WEBSITE.
A new web site on the Council of Europe's (COE) work with the police in the field of human rights has been launched at: http://www.humanrights.coe.int/police
. It is the creation of the Council of Europe's "Police and Human Rights 1997-2000" program and was made possible by a contribution from the United Kingdom. The site provides information on the program for police officers, government officials, NGOs, journalists, and members of the public. Articles of relevance from the European Convention on Human Rights are explained plus a body of jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), with links to ECHR case law. The website also has information on future Council of Europe events. (Council of Europe Press Release, 18 May)NGO/INTERNET WORKSHOP TO BE HELD IN ST. PETERSBURG.
In September, an international workshop on "New forms of Inter-Organizational Relations for Advanced Development of the Non-Profit Sector in the Newly Independent States" will be held in St. Petersburg. The workshop will focus on increasing citizen involvement and NGOs in the political and economic development of a region through the Internet and will be a working model of citizen participation through Internet technologies. There will be ICT specialists, NGOs, government representatives, political and economic consultants, experts, scholars, and democratic activists. Contact Vladimir Chevelev, "Gardarika," firstname.lastname@example.org
. (Center for Civil Society Initiatives, 8 June)CAUCASUS INTERNET COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM LAUNCHED.
Project Harmony, a not-for-profit professional exchange and training organization with offices in the U.S., Russia, Ukraine, and Georgia, is initiating a one-year program to promote the Internet as a democracy-building and community organizing tool in Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. The Internet Community Development Program (ICD) will foster two online communities, one on business support and another on refugee issues and assistance to IDPs (internally displaced persons). The ICD will develop the capacity of local professionals to develop online resources, to administer information services (online newsletters and discussion lists), and to organize interactive online events (web chats and teleconferences). Thirty professionals will be trained to develop and administer online communities. More than 50 online events will be organized for each community and approximately 30 new local-language online resources will be created. e-mail to: email@example.com
with subject line ICD. (Center for Civil Society Initiatives, 8 June)NORDIC COUNCIL TO OPEN INFO OFFICE IN KALININGRAD.
The Nordic Council of Ministers is planning to open an information office in Kaliningrad next year, BNS reported on 31 May. Russian Foreign Ministry officials told the news agency that the ministry has given the go-ahead to that project. The main purpose of the office will be to inform the exclave's population about the activities of the council, whose members are Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. In 1995, the council opened an information office in St. Petersburg in a bid to promote ties between the five member states and Russia's northwestern regions. JC ("RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 7 June)EXPANDED TATAR INTERNET PRESENCE.
A new site at http://www.tatar.net
seeks to provide easy access to Internet information on Tatar communities in various countries. The site will first focus on Crimean Tatars, but is seeking additional contributions. Contact Fevzi Alimoglu at firstname.lastname@example.org
. On 7 June, a new Tatar-English dictionary became available on-line at: http://agidel.virtualave.net/frame.html
. (MINELRES, 11 and 13 June)RADIO B2-92 NEWS REBROADCAST IN UKRAINE.
Radio Inicijativa in Lavrov will begin rebroadcasting new programs from Radio B2-92, ANEM's flagship station. The Belgrade station was taken off the air by the Serbian government a month ago, the fourth time the station has been banned. Radio B2-92 news in English will be heard on Radio Inicijativa, 102.5 MHz FM, on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays between 6:50 pm and 7 pm (satellite broadcast) and in Ukrainian (translation of the day's top stories) between 9 pm and 9:10 pm. Translations of Radio B2-92 news will also be presented by Boris Varga in his current affairs program, "Balkan Express." This is the first collaboration between Ukrainian and Yugoslav independent media after the successful launch of Radio B2-92 news on Radio Tilos in Budapest in May. Radio B2-92 is building a network of radio stations which will improve the flow of information throughout the region. The ultimate aim is to establish a network which will erase borders and make repression of information in any part of Central and Southeastern Europe futile. (ANEM Report, 12 June)
EAST KAZAKHSTAN KNB DEMANDS CITIZEN LETTERS FROM LOCAL NEWSPAPERS.
The East Kazakhstan section of the Committee on National Security (KNB) has asked non-state newspapers to supply it with the texts of all letters sent to them by citizens from 1998 until 2000. According to unconfirmed reports, this KNB action was initiated due to anonymous terrorist threats sent to a local newspaper. Journalists such as Kuat Rakhimberdin consider these measures unjustified. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 7 June)'SOLDAT' NEWSPAPER AGAIN FACES PROBLEMS.
Ermurat Bapi, editor in chief of the "Soldat" newspaper, told RFE/RL on 13 June that the Kazakh Ministry of Agriculture publishing house had refused to print his newspaper this week. According to Bapi, the decision was politically motivated; the newspaper is well known for its criticism of President Nursultan Nazarbaev and the Kazakh government. (RFE/RL Kazakh Service, 13 June)'NACHNIOM S PONEDELNIKA' NEWSPAPER ALSO IN TROUBLE.
On 12 June, the Almaty District Court ruled that the editors of "Nachniom s Ponedelnkia" were guilty of using a newspaper title created by Erik Nurshin, chief editor of "Dozhiviom do Ponedelinka." (According to media rights advocates in Kazakhstan, the situation is actually the reverse and was a ruse to confuse the up to 53,000 readers of "Nachniom.") As a result of this ruling, "Nachniom" must pay a 50 million tenge ($300,000) fine. Ramazan Esergepov, the paper's editor, told RFE/RL that this fine is another effort to put an end to the newspaper. (RFE/RL Kazakh Service, 13 June)
COURT OVERTURNS RULING AGAINST OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER.
The Bishkek City Court on 8 June overturned a 31 March ruling by a Bishkek district court sentencing the independent weekly newspaper "Res Publika" to pay a 50,000 sum ($1,000) fine for insulting the former chairman of the Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April 2000). The newspaper ceased publication in late March after being fined 200,000 soms in another slander case. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June)OSH JOURNALIST ACCUSED OF INCITING ETHNIC HOSTILITY.
Khamkimjon Khusanov, a television editor in Osh, faces a third court hearing on 13 June on accusations that he has incited national tensions via his broadcasts. An ethnic Uzbek, Khusanov, 27, has been charged in connection with a commercial in support of ethnic Uzbek Davron Sabirov, a candidate for parliament from majority Uzbek election district no. 34, who eventually was elected. (Osh Media Resource Center, 9 June)
JOURNALISTS OPPOSE DISMISSAL OF STATE TELERADIO CHIEFS.
The Independent Journalism Center, the Journalists' Union from the Republic of Moldova, the Committee for Press Freedom, and other NGOs protested the communist parliamentary group's move to dismiss the leadership of the State Moldova Teleradio Company, according to AP FLUX. The journalists said that the present leadership, appointed only six months ago, had proven its activism, competence, and professional devotion. The declaration also claims that dismissal of the present leadership of the State Moldova Teleradio Company would have "a damaging influence on the fragile democracy of the Moldova republic." Instead, the NGOs advocate the organization of an independent public TV company. (AP FLUX, 1 June)DOES DISMISSAL OF STATE BROADCASTING COMPANY BOSSES VIOLATES LAW?
Alexei Ciubsenco, president of the Moldovan Broadcast Coordinating Council, declared that the parliamentary dismissal violates Moldovan Broadcast Law, according to AP FLUX. Ciubsenco stated that before raising the dismissal issue, the parliament first needed to adopt a law on the public status of the broadcast institution. A year ago, according to Ciubsenco, his organization had presented to the parliament a draft law proposing that the TV/radio company become a public institution with its leadership appointed by an administrative council and not by the parliament. (BASA-press, 2 June)
Media-MOST head Vladimir Gusinsky was arrested on suspicion of embezzlement on 13 June. According to a statement from the press center of the office of Russia's Prosecutor-General, Gusinsky is suspected of fraud to "deprive the state of assets worth at least $10 million" from the state company "Russian Video." One of Gusinsky's laywers, Pavel Astakhov, told Interfax that by law, official charges should be filed against his client within 10 days. Media-MOST Vice President Igor Malashenko said there are "no legal grounds" for arresting Gusinsky and suggested that the arrest was "a show of strength by the new regime." He continued: "these are the methods they will employ against those they find inconvenient. Either this must be stopped now or else a strict authoritarian regime awaits us in which no one will feel safe." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June)...AS PUTIN PLEADS IGNORANCE.
When questioned about the arrest on 13 June in Spain, where he is on an official visit, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on 13 June that "If it's the Prosecutor General [who arrested Gusinsky] he is independent and makes decisions on his own, I don't know anything about it." Boris Berezovsky's "Kommersant-Daily" noted the next day that the absence from Moscow of not only Putin but also Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov, who is presenting his new prosecutors to the seven federal districts, "is allowing authorities to distance themselves as far as possible from the investigation." On 14 June, Putin promised that on his return he will look into the Gusinsky case. If the law has been broken, he said, then those who have broken it will get "an appropriate reaction from the president." He also denied that the arrest had any political aspect. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov defended the arrest on 14 June, saying that "I think that, probably, the Prosecutor-General's office carefully weighed all the evidence before reaching such a decision." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June)SOME DOMESTIC POLITICAL FIGURES, GROUPS CRITICIZE ARREST.
State Duma Chairman Gennady Seleznev (Communist) said that "the prosecutors must have considered the issue a hundred times before deciding to arrest Gusinsky," Interfax reported. But former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said on 14 June that the arrest of Gusinsky was "an attempt to frighten the media and society," and is also a move against Putin. Union of Rightist Forces head Boris Nemtsov condemned the action, saying on 13 June that it "seriously discredits Russia," while Unified Energy Systems head Anatolii Chubais also criticized the arrest, admitting that he personally "has complicated relations with Gusinsky." On 14 June, the Union of Russian Journalists slammed the arrest as "a political action," declaring that the government has "begun the destruction of the independent press and free speech under the pretext of establishing order." (RFE/RL Newsline, 14 June)BEREZOVSKY COMMENTS ON RIVAL'S FATE.
Oligarch Boris Berezovsky told Interfax on 13 June that his "personal attitude to what has happened to Gusinsky is very negative, whether he's guilty or not." One of Berezovsky's newspapers, "Kommersant-Daily," quoted Berezovsky the next day as saying that "Gusinsky became a victim of his own machine." According to Berezovsky, Gusinsky hired "some of the most experienced people from the KGB" and "sooner or later this machine was going to turn against him," Berezovsky concluded. Meanwhile, Spain's "La Razon" reported on 12 June, citing local police and intelligence sources, that President Putin visited Spain secretly at least five times last year as a guest of Berezovsky. Berezovsky also opined that "Russia chose the path of a market economy--this means that in the country there will be oligarchs. As in any country which develops along this path. The relationship between the oligarchs and authorities is always complex, but at the same time it is always partner-like. If that comes to an end, it will only be with the beginning of Soviet power." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 June)MEDIA-MOST LOSING SUPPORT?
Public support for Vladimir Gusinsky's Media-Most is quickly slipping away, according to Togliatti Mayor Sergei Zhilkin, the organizer of the Soyuz pravykh sil (SPS) in the Volga region. He said that many politicians, cultural figures, and social activists who signed the Union of Journalists' declaration denouncing the raid on Gusinsky's offices on 11 May are now trying to distance themselves from the media holding company. The chairman of the State Duma Committee on Information Policy, Konstantin Vetrov, who strongly supported the statement, has now decided to refrain from engaging in such political activities. Most of the media in the regions were indifferent to the statement supporting Media-Most. Journalist Union Secretary Vsevolod Bogdanov said that his participation in this protest hurt his image. Zhilkin said that the SPS is now taking a more reserved approach in its relations with Gusinsky. The party is extremely critical of his future in politics and business. The party's State Duma faction leader, Boris Nemtsov, may not share this critical view of Gusinsky, but he will face growing opposition from the other party members, Zhilkin said. (EastWest Institute Russian Regional Report, 7 June)DUMA DEPUTY URGES MEDIA BE USED AGAINST REGIONAL POWERS.
In an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 31 May, Igor Lisinenko, deputy chairman of the State Duma's Committee on Property (Fatherland-All Russia) argues that in order to effectively resurrect state power, it is necessary for local media to be independent of local authorities and loyal to the center--although the latter isn't necessarily required since the primary goal is for local residents to have an alternative view of local events. According to Lisinenko, regional heads practically order up public opinion in their territories since currently local media operate under the strong influence of the regional authorities. One way to create more independent regional media is through the expansion of central or Moscow-based media to the regions. Lisinenko concludes that "in the struggle against governors' information monopoly, it is necessary for the center to launch a campaign in defense of free speech." ("RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 7 June)MEDIA MINISTRY DECIDES TO ENFORCE OLD LAW...
In an interview with "Obshchaya gazeta" (No. 23), Media Minister Mikhail Lesin said that all newspapers and magazines in Russia will soon need not only to be registered but also to have a license. Lesin said that print media organizations will be notified of licensing procedures in two to three months and given a deadline from six months to a year to obtain their license. Until now, the Media Ministry has not enforced a 1998 law on licensing that requires publishing activity to be licensed. Lesin noted that "if one strictly follows the letter of the law, we could have shut you all down a long time ago." But he promised that the ministry does not "want to take tough measures against violators" and that he "guarantees that no tough measures will be taken now by the government." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June)MEDIA LEGISLATION STILL INCOMPLETE.
The USSR Supreme Soviet passed the country's press law on 12 June 1990. That legislation explicitly states that "the press and other media are free. Freedom of speech and freedom of press are guaranteed to citizens by the Soviet Constitution that means the right to express one's own opinion and conviction, to search, choose and receive and disseminate information, ideas in all possible ways, through the press and other media." After the sovereignty of the Russian Federation was declared, the renovated Press Law was approved in December 1991. There is still no law to set up a Federal Commission for TV-radio broadcasting, nor is there a law guaranteeing transparency concerning ownership and effective control over the media by major advertisers, creditors, political patrons, etc. ("Nezavisimaya Gazeta," 10 June)MOSCOW RADIO LOSES CAUCASIAN ACCENT.
The Red Bridge radio station often invited well-known Caucasians for on-air interviews. When owner Tigran Karapetyan announced last spring that he was closing it down, he began receiving threats of bodily harm if the station went off the air. Despite these threats--none of which was realized--he shut down his money-losing station after seven months. Unlike most Western capitals, Moscow has little in the way of media for its various minority groups. Its Southern Caucasus community is large, estimated at from 1.5 million to 3.5 million people. The station is unlikely to be replaced: The advertising director for popular news station Echo Moscow, Vladimir Bogomolov, said it is virtually impossible these days for a new station to get an FM license. ("The Russia Journal," 3 June)RACIAL INTOLERANCE TOLERATED ON RUSSIAN TV?
On 8 June, the Russian NTV channel's "Segodnjachko" program aired a report on an African ophthalmologist's problems in Jaroslavl. According to the show, his neighbors repeatedly sent collective letters to city authorities that they could not tolerate living next door to a black person and that he should go back to Africa. The TV program did not present any official opinion, nor did the moderator make any serious comment. (MINELRES, 9 June)LOCAL JOURNALIST ACCUSED OF SLANDER.
Criminal proceedings have been launched against Vladimir Shrabov, editor in chief of "Krasnoe znamya," a newspaper that opposes the Primorsky krai authorities, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 3 June. Shrabov has been accused of slandering Primorsky Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko. Prior to Nazdratenko's re-election in December 1999, "Krasnoe znamya" called on voters to support Nazdratenko's chief foe in that race, Aleksandr Kirilichev. Also offensive to krai authorities was a special issue of the newspaper put out on the eve of elections with information about Nazdratenko's misdeeds during the re-election campaign illustrated with caricatures of the governor and his circle. ("RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 7 June)RFE/RL PRESIDENT WELCOMES U.S. SENATE ACTION ON BABITSKY.
Thomas A. Dine welcomed U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee approval on 8 June of a resolution decrying the Russian government's continuing mistreatment of RFE/RL correspondent Andrei Babitsky and calling on Moscow to drop all of the trumped-up charges against him. The resolution, sponsored by Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Rod Grams (R-MN), was unanimously approved by the committee. Babitsky, who distinguished himself with his accurate and unbiased coverage of the Chechen war, was arrested by Russian officials in that republic in January and held for 40 days before being released and allowed to return to Moscow. (RFE/RL Press Release, 8 June)FRENCH PHOTOGRAPHER FREED IN CHECHNYA.
Russian security officials on 12 June secured the release of Brice Fletiaux, who was abducted in Chechnya in October 1999 by a Chechen field commander who had demanded $500,000 for his freedom. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June)RUSSIA'S FIRST INTERNET WAR?
Evgeny Malyshev, deputy editor in chief of "Planet Internet" magazine and director of "WebDepot" agency, argues that the Chechen war is Russia's first Internet war. While the Russian public still has limited Internet usage, Russian newspapers rely on it as a news source. The "Caucasus-Center" site currently attracts more visitors than the official Rosinformcenter (Russian Information Center) server. One indication of the Internet's growing importance: the interior ministry has organized a special school for young computer programmers. These programmers will probably work as agents of the computer secret services--either for defensive or attack purposes. ("Novaya Gazeta," 8-11 June)
SERBIAN COURT ORDERS BROVINA RETRIAL...
The Supreme Court on 7 June ordered a retrial of Kosovar rights activist Flora Brovina. She had been sentenced by a lower court to 12 years in prison for allegedly helping "terrorists" during the conflict in Kosova. That sentence led to an international outcry from many human rights and writers' organizations ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 June). The Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) saluted on 7 June the decision by the Supreme Court of Serbia in overturning the conviction under which Brovina was sentenced to 12 years in prison. The Supreme Court annulled the decision of the Nis District Court which convicted Brovina of the criminal offenses of conspiring against the state and terrorism during a state of war and has returned the case to the lower court for a retrial. The Supreme Court has also recommended that Brovina be released on bail until the end of the proceedings. Defense lawyer Rajko Danilovic said today that the decision was expected because the Nis court had drastically violated procedures to the great detriment of the defendant. Danilovic said that today's decision laid the grounds for reaching a just verdict which, he said, would be an acquittal. (ANEM Press Release, 7 June)...ESPIONAGE IS LATEST CHARGE AGAINST FILIPOVIC.
Miroslav Filipovic, correspondent for "Danas" and Agence France Press, has been charged with the "criminal act of espionage in conjunction with spreading false information." The news was announced today by the president of the Nis Military Court. Filipovic's case was handed over to the court by the military prosecutor which now must decide whether the journalist can be released on his own recognizance. According to the military prosecutor, "charges become legally valid only after a decision has been made regarding previously filed complaints." Only after this can the court set a trial date (Beta News Agency, 14 June). A selection of Filipovic's articles and other information on his case can be found at http://www.iwpr.net
. (Institute for War and Peace Reporting Press Release, 14 June)AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL ACCUSES NATO OF WAR CRIMES.
Amnesty International on 7 June accused NATO of committing serious violations of the rules of war, unlawful killings and "in the case of the bombing of Serbia's television headquarters," a war crime. The Amnesty report quotes for NATO supreme commander, General Wesley Clark, as saying, "We knew when we struck that there would be alternative ways of disabling Serbian television. There's no single switch to turn off everything but we thought it was a good move to strike it, and the political leadership agreed with us." Amnesty's comment: "In other words, NATO deliberately attacked a civilian object, killing 16 civilians, for the purpose of disrupting Serbian television broadcasts in the middle of the night for approximately three hours. It is hard to see how this can be consistent with the rule of proportionality." (ANEM Weekly Report, 3-9 June)CLARK CALLS ATTACK ON SERBIAN MEDIA CENTER 'NECESSARY.'
U.S. General Wesley Clark, NATO supreme commander in Europe during the Kosova conflict, rejected Amnesty's charge that the NATO attack on Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's radio and television headquarters constituted an unwarranted strike against a civilian target. Speaking in Washington on 8 June, Clark said that "the attack on the Serb media [headquarters]...was a controversial target, but the Serb media engine was feeding the war. You're always making trade-offs in these decisions, but in this case it was a huge step to be able to take out this major instrument of provocation." The general added that state-run media are "a crucial instrument of Milosevic's control over the Serb population [and] exported fear, hatred and instability in the neighboring regions," Reuters reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 June 2000)SOME POSITIVE MEDIA DEVELOPMENTS IN SERBIA.
A legal representative from the Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) managed to enter ANEM's offices in Belgrade on 2 June. Proceedings against the Belgrade daily "Danas" were dropped in court on 3 June after the deputy public prosecutor withdrew the charges. And the case brought by Studio B and the Belgrade Municipal Assembly against the Republic of Serbia in regard to the police occupation of the broadcaster were adjourned for the second time on 9 June. Studio B Radio Director Milos Rajkovic said that the station's radio program would be broadcast on the Internet next week and television crews were preparing a program which would begin in the near future. He declined to give details. (ANEM Weekly Report, 3-9 June)B2-92 FOUNDER SHARES JOURNALISM AWARD.
The founder of Radio B2-92 and the present chairman of ANEM, Veran Matic, is a co-winner of this year's Iliria Alpi Award for investigative journalism and freedom of speech. Matic will share the prize with BBC journalist Julie Flynn and Italian state television correspondent Enio Remondo, who reported from Belgrade on last year's NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. Accepting the award on 4 June, Matic called attention to the international community's lack of response to the wave of repression now afflicting independent media in Yugoslavia. (ANEM Weekly Report, 3-9 June)AN INDEPENDENT MEDIA INSTITUTE ESTABLISHED IN MONTENEGRO.
The Montenegro Media Institute, a non-government organization, will soon be registered in Montenegro, Beta was informed by the Fund for an Open Society in Podgorica on 8 June. The institute will be part of a regional network with 17 similar organizations in Southeastern Europe, and will begin operations in the autumn, training journalists from Montenegro, Kosova and Serbia. Training for other media vocations will also be provided. The institute will engage teaching staff both locally and from abroad. (ANEM Weekly Report, 3-9 June)...WHILE IN SERBIA, A PARTY PROPAGANDA COUNCIL IS SET UP.
The Central Committee of the Socialist Party of Serbia established a Council for Information and Propaganda, charged with presenting "the truth about the situation in the country in the proper way in domestic and foreign media." The council's president, Nikola Sainovic, said that the party was determined that its members and all citizens should spread the truth and information which would defend the country, state media reported. Members of the new Council criticized the independent media and accused them of treason. The director of Radio Television Serbia, Dragoljub Milanovic, said the enemy had been particularly helped by "the servants of NATO" in concealing and justifying crimes. This, he said, was the reason it was necessary, as soon as possible, to properly expose and punish treason, both in the media and in day-to-day life. (ANEM Weekly Report, 3-9 June)NEWSPAPER DIRECTOR GIVEN THREE-MONTH SENTENCE.
The director of "Borske Novine" newspaper, Dusica Radulovic, was sentenced to three months imprisonment on 3 June in Bor for publishing an article on Socialist Party of Serbia spokesman Nikola Sainovic and the Hague Tribunal. Her husband, the paper's editor, Slobodan Radulovic, is facing charges for publishing a photomontage of the Yugoslav president. (ANEM Weekly Report, 3-9 June)JOURNALISTS THROWN OUT OF SERBIAN PARLIAMENT...
At the 3 June session of the Serbian Parliament, the president of the Administrative Committee, Dragan Ljubojevic, a member of the Serbian Radical Party, asked "representatives of traitor media" to leave the session, and went on to name the offending publications, "Blic," "Danas," and "Glas Javnosti," and the news agencies Beta and FoNet. (ANEM Weekly Report, 3-9 June)...AND BARRED FROM LOCAL COUNCIL MEETING.
Security guards at the Krusevac Municipal Assembly denied access to journalist Miroljub Arsic, a correspondent for Belgrade daily "Danas," Podgorica daily "Vijesti" and Montenegrin Television. He was prevented from reporting on an Assembly meeting on 9 June. Arsic told Beta that this was the second time he had been barred from attending a session of the Assembly. (ANEM Weekly Report, 3-9 June)THE PANCEVO TV DRAMA PLAYS ON...
The Municipal branch of the Socialist Party of Serbia, in a statement reported by state news agency Tanjug, has accused Radio Television Pancevo of having directly called for the overthrow of the legally elected authorities and political order. The statement alleged that the station's editor in chief, Ofelija Backovic, was under the direct influence of party leaders from Belgrade, ANEM and the Independent Association of Serbian Journalists, as well a certain suggestions from outside the country . The president of the Pancevo Municipal Assembly, Srdjan Mikovic, said today that Pancevo citizens would present a petition to the police with questions as to how and why Radio Pancevo had disappeared from the airwaves. He said the assembly would demand an investigation to ascertain if the transmitter had disappeared, because it was the property of Pancevo citizens, who had paid 50,000 DM for it. The crisis headquarters of the Pancevo Municipality did not present police a petition demanding an explanation for the disappearance of Radio Pancevo's transmitter. The same petition had earlier been given to Pancevo police by Mayor Srdjan Mikovic on 5 June, but no response has been received. The transmitter ceased operating on 17 May, but Radio Pancevo staff had been unable to access the facility, which Is guarded by police. (ANEM Weekly Report, 3-9 June)...AND THE SERBIAN NEWSPRINT SAGA CONTINUES.
The chief engineer of Yugoslavia's only domestic newsprint manufacturer said on 6 June that the company was without supplies of wood and gas, both of which are essential. The director of the paper manufacturer Matroz, in Sremska Mitrovica, denied that they had reduced the supply of newsprint to certain independent newspapers. Beta had earlier been told by "Glas Javnosti," "Blic," and "Danas" that they were experiencing difficulties in publishing because of reduced newsprint supplies from Matroz. (ANEM Weekly Report, 3-9 June)ALBANIAN-LANGUAGE NEWSPAPER SUES KOUCHNER.
Prishtina's Albanian-language daily "Dita" announced on 5 June that it will sue UN mission head Bernard Kouchner over a temporary ban on publication because the proper procedure had been violated, Beta reports. (ANEM Weekly Report, 3-9 June)
TAJIK JOURNALIST'S MURDERER SENTENCED.
Tajikistan's Supreme Court on 5 June sentenced a 21-year-old man to a 17-year-prison term for the September 1998 shooting of respected opposition leader and journalist Otakhon Latifi, AP and Interfax reported. Latifi had returned to Tajikistan before his death to head the National Reconciliation Commission's sub-committee for legal issues. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 June)MURDER WITNESS FOUND DEAD IN TAJIK CAPITAL.
Relatives of Abdujabor Sayfulloev identified his body in a Dushanbe morgue on 7 June, Asia Plus-Blitz reported two days later. The cause of his death is unknown. Sayfulloev had been employed as a chauffeur by the chairman of the Tajik Television and Radio Committee, Saifullo Rahimov, and was the sole witness to his killing by unknown gunmen on 20 May. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June)LOCAL RADIO REPORTER'S TAPES CONFISCATED.
On 23 May, local militia in the city of Khudzhan stopped radio reporter Bobokhon Akhmedov from entering a sports stadium on the orders of security guards of the regional chairman. His equipment was confiscated and returned only three days later, but his cassette tapes have disappeared. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 8 June)
TURKMEN PRESIDENT NAMES WOMEN'S MAGAZINE AFTER HIS MOTHER.
Saparmurat Niyazov issued a decree on 7 June renaming the country's only women's magazine in honor of his mother. The monthly magazine will be increased by six pages, Turkmen TV said. During Soviet rule, the magazine was called "Women of Soviet Turkmenistan," later "The Hard Working Woman" and--after Turkmenistan's independence--"Beautiful." (RFE/RL Turkmen Report, 3-10 June)TURKMEN NGOs APPEAL TO SAVE INTERNET.
The communications ministry's decision to cut all non-state Internet service in Turkmenistan was aimed at destroying successful competitors to the lagging state Internet provider. Clients of the private Internet providers included embassies, the Central Bank, information agencies, NGOs, and trade representatives. The largest provider, Ariana, decided not only not to abandon its clients but also announced free Internet service until a final decision on its license is made. Ariana developed out of a 1995 joint effort of the local Catena Ecological Club and the American NGO Sacred Earth Network, funded by USAID, to give free e-mail to any environmental group with access to a telephone. Ariana still provides free e-mail and Internet access to NGOs. The NGOs have issued a call for those concerned to send letters to Ariana or to the Turkmen president at email@example.com
Funds are also being sought to cover the fees of the satellite company DataSat and to cover fees of third parties (Law and Environment Eurasia Partnership Press Release, 5 June)
Ambiguity And Control
By Paul Goble
Russian officials appear set to use ambiguities in that country's media legislation to rein in independent newspapers and magazines, a tactic that may allow Moscow to increase control while avoiding the kind of criticism that more explicit measures might generate.
The 1998 Russian media law specifies that all publishers in the Russian Federation must be licensed, a provision the media ministry had not enforced. But officials there had not required newspapers and magazines to obtain one, instead permitting them to operate on the basis of simple registration, as required by an earlier law.
Now Media Minister Mikhail Lesin has declared that newspapers and magazines must both register and secure a license, pointedly noting last week that "if one strictly follows the letter of the law, we could have shut you all down a long time ago."
On the one hand, some observers may welcome this move as a step toward the "dictatorship of law" that Russian President Vladimir Putin has promised and that many Russians see as the only chance to overcome the chaos that has afflicted Russian society for most of the last decade.
But on the other hand, such an approach not only represents a potentially dangerous threat to the independence of Russian media but it also highlights a more general style of governance in which those who administer the laws always have the chance to choose which laws they will enforce.
The threat to the media of Lesin's comments was immediately recognized. Andrei Richter, the director of the Center for Law and Media at Moscow State University, told "The Moscow Times" on 10 June that the new licensing requirement "is a very serious police club" in the hands of the authorities now that they have decided to use it.
The sudden decision to enforce this requirement certainly will increase uncertainty and hence insecurity among editors and publishers and is likely to encourage at least some of them to make arrangements with the media ministry--especially since the latter now has the right to independently suspend licenses for up to six months for any violation of any law.
And Lesin's comments suggest that officials in his ministry will exploit this opportunity to seek conformity in much the same way that Russian officials at various levels have used their control of access to newsprint to avoid charges that the authorities were engaging in direct censorship.
But such use of legal ambiguity as a means of control has many other applications as well, some of them potentially far more serious. The existence of contradictory and seldom-enforced legislation clearly gives the authorities enormous power. They can decide what to enforce and against whom, be it on taxes, regulation, or almost anything else.
And that pattern in turn has several broader implications. The very arbitrariness it makes possible is likely to increase rather than decrease the amount of corruption in the society, as both officials and those they regulate seek to accommodate one another.
That in turn further reduces confidence in the rule of law among those only beginning to accept that as a fundamental principle, thus reducing even more the prospects for the development of an open and law-based civil society.
And both the corruption and uncertainty about the meaning of law opens the way to greater authoritarianism and even to its acceptance as something inevitable at the present stage of Russian development. That indeed may prove be the most important impact of announcements like the one Lesin made last week.
At the very least, this use of ambiguity as a means of control sets the stage for a new period of struggle between the Russian authorities and those they hope to govern, a competition in which law is likely to be frequently invoked but even more often misused.