29 June 2000, Volume
PRESS SAID TO BE IN LAMENTABLE STATE.
Sales of Armenian newspapers remain poor as the press reflects the interests of politicized sectors of society rather than of society as a whole, according to an article by Anna Israelyan in the "Aravot" newspaper. Israelyan's article looked at Armenian press sales figures and noted that the best-selling paper, "Iravunk" had a circulation of 13,650. Israelyan's view was seconded by Boris Navasardian, director of the Yerevan Press Club; he included all media outlets in his comments at an RFE/RL event held in Georgia on 26 June. ("Aravot," 23 June)
RIGHTS GROUP URGES COUNCIL OF EUROPE TO MAKE AZERBAIJANI MEMBERSHIP CONDITIONAL.
A law allowing jail terms of up to six years for insulting the president is just one measure in urgent need of repeal as Azerbaijan's application for membership was being considered by the Council of Europe on 27 June. The organization ARTICLE 19 urged that the legal and practical impediments the government is still placing in the way of freedom of expression be taken into account when deciding on whether to grant membership or not. Despite the pleas, Azerbaijan, along with Armenia, was granted admission to the council the next day. (ARTICLE 19 Press Release, 27 June)MEDIA AD MARKET ERODES, ECONOMIC CONTROL INCREASES.
Speaking at an RFE/RL conference on 26 June, Arif Aliev, head of the Azerbaijani journalists' organization "Yeni Nesil," noted that a few years ago the Azerbaijani media was the most independent in the Caucasus. He observed that today, as the oil boom of the mid 1990s recedes along with the advertising market, the Azerbaijan government is increasingly using economic levers to manipulate and erode media independence. As a result, the role of international broadcasting is even more important.
U.S. CONDEMNS INTIMIDATION OF BOSNIAN PRESS.
The U.S. said that measures undertaken by Bosnian federation officials against the newspaper "Dnevni avaz" are attempts to intimidate the independent press, Reuters reported on 26 June. Tax authorities froze the daily's bank accounts for several days, and police have raided the newspaper's offices on several occasions. Bosnian Prime Minister Edhem Bicakcic denied the claims of repression and said the checks were routine and had been made on some 70 companies. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June)SARAJEVO DAILY UNDER PRESSURE.
The freezing of its bank accounts by Bosnian tax authorities has left Sarajevo's "Dnevni avaz" unable to pay for its newsprint and may force it to stop publishing. To stave that off, the newspaper�s staff has agreed to work without pay for as long as is necessary. On 21 June, the editors of "Oslobodjenje," "Avaz," and of the weeklies "Slobodna Bosna" and "Danis" expressed solidarity with each other in the face of "every form of pressure against the freedom of the press." They demanded that the authorities act only in accordance with the law and called upon local representatives of the international community to "energetically" respond to any attempt to curtail the freedom of the press. ("RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 June)
BULGARIA TO PRIVATIZE SECOND NATIONAL TV CHANNEL.
The government on 22 June announced it will privatize the second national television channel. Bids for the 15-year license must be submitted by 1 September, Reuters and AP reported. Bidders will compete for a frequency that until 1997 had been used by Russian Public Television, which did not re-apply for a license. The signal covers 56 percent of Bulgarian territory, and the license holder will be required to expand coverage to 75 percent at its own expense. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 June)
CROATIAN LIBERAL LEADER CRITICIZES COALITION PARTNER.
Drazen Budisa, who heads the Social Liberals (HSLS), told "Jutarnji list" on 20 June that state-run television "flatters" his senior coalition partners, the Social Democrats. Budisa added that "this isn't the way to [set up] public television." He expressed the hope that there will soon be a law to establish public television according to European norms and with a new administration. ("RFE/RL South Slavic Report," 22 June).CROATIAN RADIO AND TV RE-EVALUATING JOURNALISTS' QUALIFICATIONS.
In an effort to improve the reputation of state-owned Croatian Radio and Television (HRTV), station management has required its journalists to take a 100-question written exam to test their knowledge of general culture. According to HRTV General Director Mirko Galic, "Over the last few years, some journalists gained their positions because of their personal and political connections." But there are some indications that cronyism is still alive and well at HRTV. Reportedly, some journalists were provided with copies of the exam questions before they took the actual test. Most journalists who took the exam complained that the questions were arcane and irrelevant. (Transitions Online, Week in Review, 19-25 June)
GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT DEPUTY WANTS TV PROGRAM FOR COMPATRIOTS IN AZERBAIJAN.
Georgia's parliamentary Foreign Relations Committee chairman, Nino Burdjanadze, expressed concern on 27 June that the Ministry of Communications and Transport is unable, due to financial reasons, to air television programs for the Georgian minority living in northwestern Azerbaijan, Caucasus Press reported. Georgian samizdat documents in the early 1980s claimed the minority was deprived of basic cultural facilities or Georgian-language education. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June)
YOUNG EUROPEANS TO DISCUSS DIVERSITY.
The Minority Course 2000 for young Europeans active in NGOs will take place from 2-29 July in Denmark. Sixty-five Europeans representing 34 national, cultural, and linguistic groups will meet to discuss minority rights and cultural diversity. They will give particular attention to media and new information technologies. The program for the sessions is available on the web at http://www.people.hojoster.dk
. (MINELRES, 26 June)CPS OFFERS FELLOWSHIPS FOR MEDIA POLICY RESEARCH.
Candidates from all nations of the former Soviet Union, Central and Eastern Europe, and Mongolia are invited to apply for the 2001 International OSI Policy Fellowships (IPF) program. The deadline for the first stage of the application process is 1 August. IPF is affiliated with the Central European University Center for Policy Studies (CPS) and the Open Society Institute (OSI) Budapest. The CPS International OSI Policy Fellowships are intended to support the analytical policy research of open society leaders and provide fellows with professional policy training. Information is available at http://www.osi.hu/ipf/apply.html
(International Journalists' Network Bulletin, June 19 - 23)
OSH JOURNALISTS SUPPORT THEIR COLLEAGUE...
A group of Osh journalists visited the town of Jalal-Abad on 21 June to show their support for their colleague, Moldosaly Ibraimov, who was convicted of libel, and the newspaper "Akikat," which was fined 100,000 soms ($2000) by the local court. The Kyrgyz journalists now seek to free Ibraimov and to mobilize public support for this move. ("Fergana-Valley," 22 June)...AS DO RUSSIAN, ARMENIAN AND UKRAINIAN JOURNALISTS.
According to the Moscow based Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, Russian and Ukrainian journalistic and human rights organizations have sent letters in support of Kyrgyz journalist and human rights defender Moldosaly Ibraimov ("RFE/RL Kyrgyz News," 26 June), who was arrested on 19 June. He was accused on libeling a judge in his article and was sentenced to 2 years imprisonment and had to pay a 107,000-soms (about $2,200) fine. The protest letters were signed by chief editor of "Tatar Paper," Irek Bikkinin in Saransk (the Russian republic of Mordovia), and David Petrosian of the Armenian NGO "Journalists for Peace, Cooperation and Democracy in Caucasus." ("RFE/RL Kyrgyz Report," 27 June)
MACEDONIA BLAMES MEDIA FOR IMAGE PROBLEMS.
Government spokesman Antonio Milosovski blamed the media for nonprofessionalism and undermining the government's image after two outlets, the daily "Dnevnik" and A1 Television carried a story saying that Macedonia has become a major cigarette smuggling center in Europe. (Transitions Online, Week in Review, 19-25 June)
GDF DECLARES RUSSIAN MEDIA "IN CRISIS."
Speaking at an RFE/RL conference on 26 June in Gudauri, Georgia, Glasnost Defense Fund (GDF) President Aleksei Simonov cited a recent Internews survey on the media conducted in 80 of Russia's 89 regions to declare that the Russian media is in a crisis. Among the 11 reasons he cited for the crisis were the absence of an ad market leading to control by various outside political and economic forces; widely varying concepts of legal rights among journalists and officials; lack of media transparency; official efforts to "regulate" the media through methods ranging from tax and economic pressures to fire and safety rules; the impression that the media has little understanding of or interest in the public interest or even defense of journalists; and that secret services are increasingly hungry to try to control the media. Simonov called on RFE/RL, especially its Moscow office, to pay more attention to the growing lack of public confidence in the Russian media and to encourage Russian Federation affiliate stations to report on local media issues.RUSSIAN TV JOURNALISTS SAY EUROPE SHOULD NOT SPEAK OUT ON MEDIA...
Addressing members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on 27 June, NTV Director-General Yevgenii Kiselov and Russian Public Television anchorman Sergei Dorenko spoke on the issue of freedom of expression in Russia. Dorenko, who is considered close to business magnate Boris Berezovskii, warned of the approach of totalitarianism in Russia, noting that "in a year or two there will simply be no public institutions. That is, you will be talking with one entity, the state machine," "The Moscow Times" reported the next day. According to "Kommersant-Daily," although both men spoke of encroachments on press freedom, the main theme of the discussion was that trying to pressure the Russian government about freedom of the press would have the opposite of the desired effect. Kiselov explained to Ekho Moskvy that "right now the level of anti-Western, anti-European sentiment is very high in society, the level of isolationism is very strong." NTV is owned by Gusinskii's Media-Most and Gazprom ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June) French photographer Bris Fletio, recently released from Chechen custody, was also invited to give a speech at PACE. (Gazeta.ru, 26 June)MEDIA TREATMENT CAUSES INTERNATIONAL CONCERN.
In a 26 June letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the International Press Institute (IPI is a global network of editors and journalists) noted an apparent "sea change" in Russian official media policies in his administration. The letter cites a "deterioration in press freedom has manifested itself in a series of disturbing incidents including threats to block the renewal of licenses, the government's attempts to replace independent journalists with obedient political appointees, and plans to require licensing of newspapers. When viewed as a unified whole, these incidents appear to be calculated acts of intimidation designed to silence critical reporting." In view of the above-mentioned situation, IPI has decided to express its solidarity with the Russian media by making Russia the first country to be placed on the "IPI Watch List" (International Press Institute Press Release, 23 June). The World Association of Newspapers and the World Editors Forum, which represent more than 17,000 publications in 93 countries, sent a letter to President Putin on 20 June expressing their serious concern at the prosecution of media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 22 June)SECURITY COUNCIL APPROVES NEW INFORMATION POLICY...
The Security Council approved a new information security doctrine on 23 June but did not release a text. Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov said that the doctrine will be improved and then published. Addressing the 23 June session, Putin said the document had four aims: safeguarding citizens' rights and freedoms, including protecting their privacy and guaranteeing the absence of censorship; helping Russia's media industry develop and place its products on world markets; guaranteeing the security of information and telecommunication systems, and "providing informational support for the state's activities," Russian agencies reported. Putin also pledged to protect journalists' rights, saying that "there can be no free democratic society without mass media." The same day, however, participants at the All-Russian Festival for the Press in Kazan (Tatarstan) learned that more than 200 journalists have been killed on the territory of the former Soviet Union during the last 10 years, including more than 100 in Russia alone, ITAR-TASS reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June)...AS DOCTRINE'S POSSIBLE IMPACT DEBATED.
According to "Vremya MN" on 24 June, the document on information security does not contain any concrete suggestions. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported that the "doctrine does not envisage any amendments to the law on mass media" and "contains only recommendations, which officials may or may not implement." But Gennadii Yemelyanov, head of the Information Security Division at the Security Council, told Interfax on 23 June that the doctrine does call for amending relevant legislation. He added that the Media Ministry and other agencies are working on proposals for improving existing legislation. In addition, Ivanov reportedly did not rule out the creation of a special ministry or committee to implement the new state information policy. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June)BABITSKY CLAIMS PHOTO REVEALS HIS FSB CAPTOR.
Allegations that Radio Liberty correspondent Andrei Babitsky was held in Chechnya by Russia's own law enforcement agents gained new ground 23 June. The daily "Segodnya" ran a front-page story along with a photo of a man in camouflage who it said was an officer of the Federal Security Service, or FSB. It said the man had custody of Babitsky in Daghestan at a time when the authorities said he was in the hands of Chechen rebels. The newspaper quoted some Daghestani reporters as saying that the man was an officer in the FSB's Daghestan branch and his name was Kamil. Reached by telephone, one of these reporters said the FSB "knows" the man in the photograph. Local FSB spokesman Murad Gadzhimuradov said he had not seen the photo and could not comment. ("The Moscow Times," 24 June)MEDIA MOST CASE(S) CONTINUES.
Media-MOST won a libel suit in a Moscow court on 26 July against "Ogonek" for an article published in December 1999 which alleged the media holding company had received "astronomical" amounts of credits that it did not want to pay off, Ekho Moskvy reported. A press release from the company noted that "it is worth mentioning that Russian President Vladimir Putin alleged more or less the same with reference to anonymous media reports during his official visits to Spain and Germany. However, Media-Most executives decided not to bring an action against Putin "in order not to discredit the head of state once more" ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 June). According to Ekho Moskvy, the Prosecutor-General�s Office summoned Vladimir Gusinsky for questioning on 27 June. Earlier, Gusinsky had refused to answer questions, arguing that the entire investigation was "absurd." Meanwhile, a Moscow court was expected to examine a prosecutorial appeal against a ruling that officials had violated the law during the search of Media-Most offices. And another court is slated to take up a lawsuit brought by Media-Most on the legibility of confiscation of weapons from its building guards. (Gazeta.ru, 26 June)MEDIA-MOST OFFICIAL GROUNDED FOR FOUR HOURS.
The departure for Salzburg of the first deputy chairman of Media-Most's Board of Directors, Igor Malashenko, was delayed by border guards at a Moscow airport for four hours on 28 June. According to Ekho Moskvy, the guards told Malashenko that he was temporarily banned from leaving the country, but they gave no reason. Malashenko, who was scheduled to give a speech in Salzburg, said the real reason is clear and is "a continuation the campaign of intimidation against Media-Most and the mass media." He also suggested that the move was "a gesture of revenge," since he has given several speeches lately condemning restrictions on press freedom ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June). Speaking at the European Economic Forum in Salzburg, German Gref, the Russian Minister of Economic Development and Trade, said that the border guards had acted in response to "anonymous phone calls that Malashenko was carrying contraband." This claim was confirmed by the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs. (RIA, "Novosti," 29 June)AUTHORITIES SEEK TO PUT THE LID ON OPPOSITION WEEKLY.
A Pskov oblast printing house has made it clear to "Panorama" that it will no longer print that publication. "Vremya MN" on 22 June reported that the printing house recently told the weekly that owing to the breakdown of its color printing equipment, the publication would have to appear in black-and-white. Half an hour after the editor of "Panorama" had agreed to that arrangement, he was informed that the printing house's generator had broken down, as "Vremya MN" put it, "for a long time, and in the case of 'Panorama' possibly forever." "Panorama" is financed by State Duma Deputy Mikhail Kuznetsov, who intends to run in the upcoming gubernatorial ballot against the incumbent, Yevgenii Mikhailov. The publication had been recently warned that the oblast printing house may be forced to cancel its contract to print the weekly (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 24 May 2000). According to "Vremya MN," the editors of "Panorama" are now looking at the printing possibilities in neighboring Novgorod Oblast. ("RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 28 June)MOSCOW OFFICE OF EUROPEAN MEDIA INSTITUTE OPENS.
The European Institute for the Media (EIM) opened a new office in Moscow on 22 June for EIM Moscow representative Dmitri Kortunov and the Russian media community. The EIM's activities in Russia are part of the three-year Media for Democracy in the CIS project, which is partly financed by the European Union through the Initiative for Human Rights and Democratization. The EIM's Moscow office e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
and the telephone/fax number is +7 095 2015038. (European Institute for the Media, 27 June)KARELIA WEBSITE.
A useful web site for the Karelia region: http://www.karelia.ru/start.html
, which is in the northern part of Russia, bordering Finland (it once was Finnish territory). The site has sections on business, the economy, society, culture, education, religion, mass media, government, etc. The page for society, http://www.karelia.ru/Other/index.html
, has links to the websites of more than 50 noncommercial and social organizations in the region. There is also a link from this page to an online directory containing 829 Karelian NGOs, at: http://st.karelia.ru/~alexandr/org/
(Center for Civil Society International, 25 June).TATARSTAN HOSTS RUSSIAN FORUM OF NATIONAL MASS MEDIA...
More than 700 Russian journalists met in Tatarstan this week to discuss the status of media in the Russian Federation. Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev said that freedom of speech is "a universal human value, not just a special right for journalists. There is no apparent dictatorship or censorship under current conditions...this is an advance for journalists and a great achievement for all of society." He argued that journalists play a significant role in consolidating the positive social forces of Russia and said he was grateful "to the majority of Russian journalists for [its] constructive and sometimes critical attitude to the initiatives, problems, and successes of our republic." ("RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 15-22 June 2000)...AS WELL AS A MEETING OF TATAR MEDIA REPRESENTATIVES.
Meanwhile, the World Congress of Tatars hosted on 21 June a meeting of Tatar media representatives from across the Middle Volga region. Its delegates agreed to work together to promote Tatar culture. Two guests--Kyrgyz writer Chingiz Aytmatov and Kazakh author Olzhas Suleymenov--stressed the importance of the Russian language in tying the nations of this region together. ("RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 15-22 June 2000)
YUGOSLAVIA GIVES DETAILS OF 'ANTI-TERRORISM' BILL...
The Yugoslav government released details on 27 June of a draft law it says is aimed at punishing people who commit "acts that threaten constitutional order," Reuters reported. The bill, which is expected to be passed by the parliament on 30 June, would allow jail terms of at least five years for any behavior deemed to endanger "constitutional order" or threaten "the territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia." The legislation would also allow suspects to be detained for 30 days without being charged with a crime; the current legal limit is three days, although the constitution states only one day. The opposition Christian Democratic Party said in a statement that the bill should be called "the anti-opposition law." Djordje Subotic of the League of Social Democrats said the passage of the bill will plunge the people of Yugoslavia into "darkness and fear." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June)SERBIAN JOURNALISTS CONDEMN CHARGES OF CIA LINKAGES.
The Independent Journalists' Association of Serbia condemned a suggestion by Federal Minister of Information Goran Matic that their outlets were linked to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. (http://www.freeserbia.org/
23 June)RADIO KONTAKT EDITOR FIGHTING FOR LIFE AFTER SHOOTING.
The Association of Independent Electronic Media expressed "shock and the strongest outrage" at the 20 June shooting of Valentina Cukic, editor of the Serbian-language program on Pristina's multiethnic Radio Kontakt. The OSCE mission in Kosova also condemned the attack. According to KFOR spokesman Scott Slaiten, a KFOR soldier and local OSCE activists gave her first aid and took her to a British field hospital. Slaiten told media that Cukic was in a stable condition after surgery and that UN civilian police were investigating the incident (ANEM, 21 June). Cukic and her assistant Ljubomir Topalovic remain in "stable condition. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 June)MOB ATTACKS SERBIAN MONKS, RUSSIAN TV CREW.
Ethnic Albanians stoned a group of Serbian Monks and a Russian television crew near the Kosovar town of Prizren on 27 June, AFP reported. UN peacekeepers said the crew was attacked while making a film on the monks at the Svete Bogorodice monastery in the village of Musutiste, some 15 kilometers northeast of Prizren. A KFOR spokesman said the Kosovar Albanians surrounded the group and demanded that one of the monks be handed over because, they said, he had committed war crimes. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 June)JOURNALIST BEATEN (AND THREATENED WITH DEATH) IN SABAC.
Three bodyguards of Cedomir Vasiljevic, a local leader of Vojislav Seselj's Radicals, beat RFE/RL correspondent Hanibal Kovac in Sabac on 23 June. Kovac said that his attackers had beaten him "very professionally." He said that they told him "next time you'll be dead." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 June)CHARGES FILED AGAINST "POLITIKA" AND TANJUG.
The leaders of the Alliance for Change, Zoran Djindjic and Vladan Batic, have filed charges with a city judge against the Tanjug news agency and the "Politika" newspaper for violating the Information Act by disseminating a report that Djindic and Batic were involved in the assassination of Bosko Perosevic, an official of the ruling Serbian Socialist Party. (www.freeserbia.org/ 26 June)EDITOR INTERROGATED IN ARMY BARRACKS.
"Kikindske novine" editor Zeljko Bodrozic was interrogated for more than three hours on 26 June at the local army barracks. ANEM's Kikinda correspondent reports that Banic asked whether Bodrozic hated the army as an institution. Bodrozic replied that the army was being abused and that his newspaper had no intention of insulting the army. Banic then assured the editor that the conversation should be considered a friendly chat rather than an interrogation. (FreeB92, 27 June)PRESS CONCERNED BY KOUCHNER DECREES.
The World Committee for Press Freedom on 23 June said that decrees by Kosova's UN mission chief, Bernard Kouchner, that regulate the behavior of the print media and the procedure for issuing licenses for broadcasters in Kosova set a potentially dangerous precedent. The media group stressed that "the authoritarian regimes in the Balkans and elsewhere could take advantage of this negative example to justify their own censorship." (www.freeserbia.org/ 23 June)FREE STUDIO B TO BEGIN TRANSMISSIONS.
Free Studio B will soon begin broadcasting radio and television programs via satellite, the company�s director, Dragan Kojadinovic, told media on 26 June. Kojadinovic, who was dropped as director of Belgrade's Studio B in May, when the government seized control of the station, said that current affairs programs will take precedence on the new Free Studio B. (FreeB92, 26 June)
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCHDOG CONCERNED ABOUT JAILED UZBEK WRITER.
In a statement released in New York on 22 June, Human Rights Watch warned that the life of imprisoned writer Mamadali Makhmudov is at risk because of deteriorating health. Makhmudov, 57, was sentenced in August 1999 to 14 years imprisonment on charges of participating in a "criminal society" and of "insulting" Uzbek President Islam Karimov. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 June)FERGHANA VALLEY WEBSITE.
The address http://www.fergana.uz
shares the same IP address as http://www.ferghana.ru
. But the mirror of the Ferghana website information page: http://www.ferghana.ru/news/kirgizia.html
on another server in Uzbekistan is http://ferghana.freenet.uz
. News on the site relates to the entire Central Asia region (including Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and relations between Afghanistan's Taliban movement and Russia). To join the e-mail distribution list for "Tsentral'noaziatskie novosti" (Central Asian News), visit the page: http://www.subscribe.ru/catalog/news.world.turkestan
and submit your e-mail address. There are currently more than 1,000 subscribers to this service. Daniel Kislov is the administrator. email@example.com
(Fergana-Valley, 26 June)