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(Un)Civil Societies Report: November 2, 2000


2 November 2000, Volume 1, Number 25
INTERNATIONAL
HUMAN RIGHTS AND DEMOCRACY ARE DETERIORATING, RACISM AND XENOPHOBIA ARE ON THE RISE. The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) published a report on 6 October for the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The report details serious violations of the Helsinki "human dimension" standards by 41 members of the 55-member international organization and raises concerns about human rights and democracy in many countries within the OSCE region, not only in states in transition but also in long-established democracies. The IHF receives reports about torture and inhumane treatment of arrestees, detainees, and prisoners by law enforcers from virtually all countries of the OSCE, and cases are detailed here in nearly half of the countries covered. The report singles out both Russia and the United States for particular criticism on their use of the death penalty. The information from national Helsinki committees, on which this report is based, suggests that racial discrimination and xenophobia, ranging from violent attacks to discrimination in work and housing (e.g. in Austria, Germany, Sweden, Slovakia, and Spain), are on the rise. In former Soviet countries, old judicial practices still exist, even where new legislation has been adopted. Long proceedings and heavy sentences contribute to extreme overcrowding in prisons in virtually all transition states. In Georgia, legal reforms were passed to gain membership into the Council of Europe. However, shortly after admission, amendments to the new Criminal Procedure Code significantly reduced the rights of those under criminal investigation. Lack of a fair trial for political opponents remains. Violence during arrest, in custody or in prison, is detailed in numerous countries in the report (e.g. in Albania, Azerbaijan, Central Asian countries, France, Latvia, Macedonia, Romania, Russia, Turkey, U.K., Ukraine and the U.S.). In many post-communist countries, ill-treatment and torture are an integral part of police investigations (e.g. in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Central Asian countries, Georgia, and Ukraine). In the West, there are many reports of excessive use of force and beating of suspects, while lack of police accountability remains a problem in most countries (e.g. France, Turkey, U.K. and the U.S.). There is widespread evidence of deliberate ill-treatment of prisoners, denying them medical care (e.g. in France) or keeping them in inhumane conditions, in most former socialist states. Uzbekistan's Jaslik labor camp for religious and political prisoners is situated in a region devastated by previous chemical weapons testing. In 1999 alone, 39 inmates reportedly died there. In Turkmenistan, a prison camp is situated near an abandoned uranium mine. Media freedom is under increased threat in many countries, where indirect forms of censorship often prove very damaging. Russia gives particular cause for concern. In Belarus, where the government has monopolized printing presses, distribution services, and electronic media, registration of independent media is routinely blocked. Official intolerance towards minority religions exists across Europe and the former USSR. Rules on registration and financial status appear to be applied on an ideological and discriminatory basis, for example in France, Hungary, Macedonia, Moldova, Turkmenistan, and Ukraine. Islamists in Central Asia face serious repression, through mass arrests, and heavy sentences, for example for possessing religious leaflets in Uzbekistan. Minorities, refugees, and migrants face severe problems in many OSCE countries. Roma face severe problems of discrimination, racism, and xenophobia in all countries. Child refugees are among the most vulnerable group of all inhabitants, yet little provision is made in any country for their special needs. For the complete text or interviews contact: Ursula Lindenberg, Press Officer, International Helsinki Federation (lindenberg@ihf-hr.org). (International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, 6 October)

NATIONALITY AND CITIZENSHIP IN POST-COMMUNIST EUROPE. An international conference (9-10 July 2001), organized by the Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques with the Association for the Study of Nationalities (ASN), will consider the construction and reconstruction of nations and states as well as questions related to identity. Organizers requests proposals by 15 January 2001. The conference will fund travel/accommodation of at least 20 scholars from the former Communist bloc. See: http://mapage.cybercable.fr/colloque_paris_2001 (MINELRES, 25 October)

ARMENIA
'21st CENTURY' FUND BUILDING BLOCKADED BY POLICE. The building of the "21st Century" Fund, headed by Arkady Vartanyan, was surrounded by police on 30 October -- the day when Vartanyan had called for major demonstrations against government policies. Journalists had difficulty entering the building while the police were there. Later that day, videotapes of the police action were seized by the police. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 30 October)

CENSORSHIP BY REGIONAL ADMINISTRATION? Petros Makeyan, head of the "Democratic Homeland" party, was interviewed by the "M5" TV station in Vanadzor. But before the program could be shown as scheduled on 25 October, the head of the information department of the regional administration entered the studio and confiscated the videotape. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 30 October)

AZERBAIJAN
AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT'S SON AGAIN ACCUSES OPPOSITION LEADERS. Ilham Aliev, a deputy chairmen of the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party, told voters on Barda and Gyanja on 27 October that in June 1993, then parliament speaker Isa Gambar and opposition Azerbaijan National Independence Party chairman Etibar Mamedov had been prepared to bomb Gyanja to quash the insurrection led by Suret Huseinov, Turan reported. Ilham Aliyev also accused Democratic Party of Azerbaijan chairman Rasul Guliev of maintaining close ties with the Armenian lobby in the U.S. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October)

AZERBAIJANI POLICE BLOCK UNSANCTIONED MEETING. Police in Baku intervened on 28 October to prevent some 40 members of the Civil Unity Party, which supports former President Ayaz Mutalibov, holding a protest demonstration in the city center, ITAR-TASS reported. Several of the would-be demonstrators were beaten and injured, according to Human Rights Watch. The party's leaders had been warned earlier not to go ahead with the planned demonstration, the purpose of which was to protest the refusal of the Azerbaijani authorities to register the party. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October)

BELARUS
OPPOSITION YOUTH GROUPS FORM COALITION. The largest opposition youth organizations in Belarus have formed a coalition to launch a campaign aimed at introducing democratic changes in the country, Belapan reported on 25 October. "Young people can no longer tolerate humiliation from and the stupidity of the outdated regime," according to a statement signed by leaders of Maladaya Hramada, the Association of Belarusian Students, the Belarusian Organization of Young Politicians, the Youth Christian Union, and Malady Front. The coalition's declared goals include ensuring basic freedoms and democracy as well as building a law-based state and introducing a free market. The coalition plans to stage a demonstration in Minsk on 12 November to demand democratic changes in the country. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October)

COURT REJECTS POLISH CATHOLIC PRIEST'S DEPORTATION APPEAL. Polish Catholic priest Zbigniew Karolak, who returned to his native country in May after an expulsion order issued by Belarusian authorities, had his appeal against the legality of the deportation rejected by a Brest court on 20 October. Invited by the Pinsk diocese, Father Karolak served as parish priest of the Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in the western Belarusian town of Brest for nine years, but was forced to leave the country after encountering increasing opposition from the Brest office of the government's Committee for Religious Affairs and the prosecutor's office. Father Karolak's lawyer has lodged an appeal against the court's ruling, continuing to maintain that the expulsion order was "unlawful." (Keston News Service, 30 October)

BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA
BOSNIAN CROATS PUSHING FOR 'INDEPENDENCE?' A majority of Bosnian Croat political parties called on 28 October for a referendum on the rights of ethnic Croats in Bosnia to be held during general elections on 11 November, AFP reported. In the referendum, Croats will vote on a rights declaration issued in the central Bosnian town of Novi Travnik by the main nationalist Croatia Democratic Community (HDZ) and six other parties. That document was issued in the presence of Bosnian Catholic Archbishop Vinko Puljic. A "Croatian People's Convention" was also founded on 28 October. HDZ leader Ante Jelavic was elected its president and said the convention should "act as the permanent and highest political institution of Croatian people" in Bosnia. The actions follow protests by the HDZ against changes in electoral rules that the HDZ says will diminish its leading position in Bosnian- Croat politics. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October)

CZECH REPUBLIC
CZECH STATE RADIO TO START RUSSIAN BROADCASTS. Radio Prague, the international service of state-financed Czech Radio, will start Russian broadcasts on 29 October for listeners in the European and southwest Asian part of the former Soviet Union, CTK reported on 24 October. Russian broadcasts will now be added to its regular broadcasts in English, French, Spanish, German and Czech, according to Radio Prague's director. Listeners interested in receiving newest information about the Czech Republic in Russia will be able to receive three half-hour broadcasts daily on shortwave. Radio Prague can be also found on the Internet and is aired through satellite or on ultra-shortwave frequencies.

HAVEL SAYS ONLY CZECHS CAN THREATEN OWN IDENTITY. Speaking on the 82nd anniversary of the independence of Czechoslovakia, President Vaclav Havel said that the only threats to Czech national identity come from the Czechs themselves, not from international organizations and supranational institutions, CTK reported on 28 October. The same day, he presented 38 people with state awards for their contribution to his country. Among the honorees was Michael Novak, an U.S. citizen of Czech origin, who was recognized for his contributions to democracy and the protection of human rights. Earlier, he served as a member of the U.S. Board for International Broadcasting, which oversaw RFE/RL. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October)

GEORGIA
NEW EXPLANATION OFFERED FOR ITALIAN JOURNALIST'S DEATH. Giorgi Gachechiladze, the chairman of Georgia's Green Party, said in Tbilisi on 25 October that Italian journalist Antonio Russo may have been killed to prevent him from publishing materials on the Russian use in Chechnya of banned chemical or biological weapons, Caucasus Press reported. Gachechiladze said Russo had video materials testifying to the use of weapons that caused "ecological genocide." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October)

HUNGARY
HUNGARIAN PARTIES, CHURCHES CALL FOR SOCIAL INCLUSION. Representatives of the Catholic Church, the Federation of Jewish Religious Communities in Hungary, trade unions, the Christian Democratic Party, the Socialist Party, and the Workers' Party have signed a statement calling on society to show greater respect for human rights and to reject social exclusion, Hungarian media report on 25 October. The move was initiated by the Green Democrats' lobbying group. The statement also urges an improvement in social conditions for the country's Roma. Istvan Teszler, co-chairman of the Green Democrats, told reporters that more parties and organizations are expected to sign the statement. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October)

KAZAKHSTAN
PASSPORTS OF OPPOSITIONISTS CONFISCATED. Police in Almaty visited opposition Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan Deputy Chairman Amirzhan Qosanov and Ermurat Bapi, editor of the independent newspaper "SolDat," at their homes on 24 October to demand that they surrender their passports for foreign travel, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October)

KYRGYZSTAN
OPPOSITION CANDIDATE SAYS RESULTS COMPLETELY FRAUDULENT. Supporters of opposition candidate Omurbek Tekebaev said in Bishkek on 31 October that the results of the 29 October presidential poll in Bishkek were completely fabricated. According to them, only 94,420 people voted in the capital city, just about 13 percent of the city's population. According to them, opposition candidate Almaz Atambaev collected 33.3 percent of the votes, Askar Akaev 32.7 percent, Omurbek Tekebaev had 20.3 percent, and Melis Eshimkanov nabbed 4.1 percent. Akaev was officially declared the winner in the poll. Also, according to Tekebaev's supporters, a large group of Akaev's supporters came to Kyrgyzstan from neighboring Kazakhstan and voted for Akaev several times in different constituencies. They were organized by Adil Toigonbaev, son-in-law of Akaev, who is an ethnic Kazakh. The Kazakh voters were accompanied by Kyrgyz security officers. (RFE/RL Kyrgyz Service, 31 October)

AMERICAN NDI MISSION CRITICIZES KYRGYZ ELECTION. The mission of the U.S. National Democratic Institute said that the Kyrgyz presidential election did not meet international standards or Kyrgyzstan's commitments to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The Kyrgyz authorities falsified results, forced students to vote for the incumbent president, and bought votes. Moreover, the authorities excluded the main contenders for the post from entering the race, interfered in the election process, and most media outlets in the country campaigned for Akaev. According to the mission, the presidential poll was a new blow to democracy in Kyrgyzstan. (RFE/RL Kyrgyz Service, 31 October)

AKAEV RECEIVES CONGRATULATIONS. According to the presidential press service, Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a telegram of congratulations President Akaev. The telegram said that in electing Akaev the Kyrgyz nation chose a continuation of political and economic reforms in Kyrgyzstan. He also expressed hope that relations between Russia and Kyrgyzstan would remain good. Akaev also received congratulations from, among others, the Kazakh, Uzbek, and Iranian presidents. (RFE/RL Kyrgyz Service, 31 October)

COURT REJECTS SECOND LAWSUIT BY OPPOSITION CANDIDATE. A Bishkek judge refused on 25 October to consider a lawsuit filed by presidential candidate Omurbek Tekebaev against the National TV and Radio Corporation. The Corporation stopped on 9 October to air commercials for Tekebaev. The court ruled today that the case should be considered by a court of arbitration, because the corporation and Tekebaev signed a contract on the commercials on 12 September. On 24 October, Tekebaev won a similar case against the semi-governmental KOORT TV station in the same district court. Station President Temirbek Toktogaziev promised that they would resume airing Tekebaev's ads beginning on 26 October. (RFE/RL Kyrgyz Service, 25 October)

ANOTHER ACCUSES KYRGYZ AUTHORITIES OF ELECTION FALSIFICATION. Opposition presidential candidate Melis Eshimkanov told journalists in Bishkek on 25 October that large numbers of voters are casting their ballots early under close supervision by the authorities and that all those votes are in favor of incumbent President Askar Akaev, Interfax reported. Eshimkanov also said that the opposition newspaper "Asaba," which he owns, will be forced to close as a result of the $105,000 fine it received for allegedly insulting former Kirghiz Communist Party First Secretary Turdakun Usubaliev. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October)

MORE CHARGES OF FRAUD, INTIMIDATION. While Akaev told voters in Bishkek on 29 October that the ballot would be fair, campaign helpers for opposition candidates Melis Eshimkanov and Atembaev were detained by police or prevented from monitoring the poll, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. A criminal case was opened in Bishkek after international observers discovered 700 ballot papers marked in favor of Akaev in a ballot box when polling began. Election observers from the Coalition of Kyrgyz NGOs were not permitted to monitor the vote, despite a ruling by Imanbaev. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October)

KYRGYZ OPPOSITION LEADER'S APPEAL POSTPONED. Bishkek City Court judge Orozbek Chynbaev on 27 October postponed until 7 November the hearing of appeals by seven people sentenced last month to 16-17 years imprisonment on charges of having planned to assassinate President Akaev, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Meanwhile some 20 relatives of those seven men continued to picket the regional government building in the southern town of Djalalabad on 27 October for the 12th consecutive day. They insist that the men are innocent. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October)

POLAND
CONFERENCE ON NATIONAL MINORITIES. Representatives of Poland's ethnic minorities discussed various issues at a 24 October conference in the Polish parliament on the legal status of its national minorities (German, Ukrainian, Roma, Belarusian, Jewish, Lithuanian, and others) in the context of the Council of Europe's recommendations. The country's minority population is estimated at some 1.5 million, or 2 to 3 percent of the population. (PAP news agency, 24 October)

RUSSIA
PUTINESQUE PRESS QUOTE? President Vladimir Putin was particularly assertive about what he believes is the need to rein in freedom of the press in an interview with "Le Figaro" before the 30 October EU-Russia summit. He paraphrased -- quite incorrectly as it happens -- Thomas Jefferson's observation that "full freedom of the press will deprive the rest of society of its freedoms." He said that in his view, "everybody must be equal before the law -- including the mass media." ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 30 October)

PUTIN WARNS OLIGARCHS ABOUT STATE'S 'CUDGEL.' In an interview with France's "Le Figaro" published on 26 October, Russian President Putin said that business magnates were seeking to use the Russian media to blackmail the state and "if necessary we will destroy those instruments that allow this blackmail," Reuters reported. Putin was responding to a question about Boris Berezovskii's criticism of him. "The state has a cudgel in its hands that you use to hit just once, but on the head. We haven't used this cudgel yet. We've just brandished it.... [But] the day we get really angry, we won't hesitate to use it," the news agency quoted Putin as saying. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 October)

BEREZOVSKII RESPONDS TO PUTIN'S REMARK. Business magnate Boris Berezovskii told Interfax in Paris on 27 October that he intends to keep working in the media sphere in Russia, pledging that he will "do everything to preserve mass media that are free from the state." He also commented on President Putin's recent interview with "Le Figaro" in which Putin answered in response to a question about criticism of him from Berezovskii that the state has a cudgel that it uses only once but on the head. Berezovskii said "Napoleon said that he was more afraid of one newspaper than 100,000 bayonets. Putin is not Napoleon and television is not a newspaper. Television unfavorably differs from a newspaper by the fact that it can be hit with a club and a newspaper cannot." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October)

RIGHTS GROUPS CONDEMN JOURNALISTS' LOT. Journalists covering the Chechen conflict or working in other areas of Russia face an increasing threat of violence, according to Paris-based Reporters sans Frontieres and New York-based Human Rights Watch, Reuters reported on 27 October. In a joint letter to French President Jacques Chirac on 27 October, the rights groups said six journalists working in Russia or republics of the former USSR had been killed in 2000. They did not directly blame Russia for the deaths, but asked Chirac to raise the issue with Russian President Putin. "It is Mr. Putin's responsibility to intervene personally to halt the general deterioration of working conditions for journalists in Russia. It is the responsibility of the European Union to remind him of this," the letter said.

TV PRONE TO 'INSIDE' STORIES? A recent article by the "Obshchaya gazeta" media editor notes a trend among TV journalists: They tell print reporters a tantalizing bit of news -- but on condition that it not be used. Instances of censorship of television news is a favorite topic. Another favorite is the polishing of Putin's public image on TV; state TV has reportedly never shown "the fragment from Putin's interview with CNN's Larry King when Putin -- with a smile -- says of the Kursk submarine: "it sank." ("The Russia Journal," 28 October-3 November)

PUBLIC TV ON THE HORIZON? A conference, "Public Television in Russia: possibilities and prospects" was held in St. Petersburg in October at the NGO "Citizens' Watch," sponsored by that organization, the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg, the Vienna-based International Press Institute, and Denmark's Baltic Media Centre. Russian state bodies were invited but the only state representative was Igor Ignatiev, a member of the board of directors of the Russian State TV and Radio Broadcasting Company. Most participants believed that public television does not exist in Russia and did not previously exist. (BBC Monitoring Research)

AUDIT CHAMBER WARNS GOVERNMENT ABOUT POSSIBLE LOSS OF ORT. The Audit Chamber on 27 October released a report about Russian Public Television concluding that the Russian government, which owns 51 percent of ORT, may lose its controlling shares because the television channel is plagued by debts, including a $100 million loan to Vneshekonombank that has not been paid, Interfax reported. According to "Vedomosti," the station put up as collateral for that loan a 13 percent stake in which shares were split evenly between state and private investors. The loan came due in January and has been neither paid nor deferred. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October)

MEDIA MINISTRY PUTS FOREIGN MEDIA ON NOTICE? The Media Ministry is promoting legislation that would outlaw foreign- owned media from operating in Russia, "The Moscow Times" reported on 25 October. According to the daily, the bill was presented to the State Duma recently and would ban all media outlets that are wholly or partially owned by foreigners, such as "The Moscow Times," RFE/RL, CTC Television and MTV Russia. Derek Sauer, chief executive office of the daily's parent company, Independent Media, said he doubts that the bill will ever become official government policy "since it would be a huge blow to the investment climate." But Ruslan Gorevoi of the Glasnost Defense Foundation told the daily that he does not think that money is the key issue currently and that "the government's mid-term aim is to control as many media outlets as possible." One of the authors of the Security Council's new information security doctrine, Anatolii Steltsov, said recently that he would give Russian journalists priority access to the economically important part of the information market. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October)

USTINOV LAWSUIT AGAINST NTV BEGINS. A Moscow city court began hearings on 27 October in a lawsuit filed by Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov against NTV general director and anchorman Yevgenii Kiselev, ITAR-TASS reports. Ustinov in particular objects to NTV reports in July and September saying that an apartment supplied to Ustinov was linked to the criminal investigation of former Kremlin facilities directorate head Pavel Borodin. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October)

'TRUD' JOURNALIST DOES BATTLE WITH LOCAL FSB. An oblast court has overruled a lower court decision in favor of Vladislav Pisanov, a correspondent for the Moscow-based newspaper "Trud," who some 18 months ago brought a suit against members of the local department of the Federal Security Service (FSB), RFE/RL Russian Service's "Korrespondentskii chas" reported on 14 October. Pisanov had written an article about a December 1998 incident in which local police stopped a car containing drunken FSB officers and a lightly-clothed young man who had been bundled into the trunk. The FSB officers had been unable to refute the story but later hit back at Pisanov by claiming publicly that he was a hireling of foreign secret services. The maligned journalist sued the officers, and in May of this year a raion court ruled in his favor, ordering the officers to apologize and to pay Pisanov 200 rubles ($7.20) compensation for moral damages. Some four months later, however, the oblast court announced the case was being sent for revision. No date has yet been set for those hearings. ("RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 25 October)

RESPECTED OMSK WEEKLY LOSING INDEPENDENT STATUS? After a former secret services officer-turned-entrepreneur was named director of "Vash oreol," one of Omsk oblast's very few independent publications may be on the verge of losing its autonomous status. In fact, that status all but disappeared even before the appointment, when the weekly's journalist-founders sold a major share in the publication to one of the firms owned by banker and former deputy mayor of Omsk Vladimir Volkov. Volkov resigned from the Mayor's Office in summer 1999, after an investigation by the pro- gubernatorial prosecutor-general into his business activities; according to RFE/RL Russian Service's "Korrespondentskii chas" on 14 October, the "interest" shown by the oblast law enforcement agencies in Volkov's companies also manifested itself in pro-gubernatorial articles that suddenly appeared in "Vash oreol" and were signed by an unknown "Skvortsov." In protest at the publication of such articles, deputy chief editor Sergei Bogdanovskii, who is largely credited with securing the weekly's reputation as a counterbalance to the predominantly pro-gubernatorial press, resigned his post. According to "Korrespondentskii chas," several of his former colleagues are currently looking for employment elsewhere. ("RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 25 October)

LOCAL NEWSPAPER LAUNCHES ATTACK ON JEWISH COMMUNITY LEADER. The head of the Ryazan Jewish community, Leonid Reznikov, has come under attack in the local press for allegedly giving a distorted picture of the 17 September incident in which a group of youths stormed a Jewish Sunday school in the oblast. According to a 20 October press release by the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews, "Vechernyaya Ryazan" recently published an article in which Reznikov is accused of deliberately lying about the incident in order to convince local residents that anti-Semitism is a problem in the oblast and thus damage the prospects of Ryazan Mayor Valerii Ryumin in the upcoming gubernatorial ballot. "Vechernyaya Ryazan" is supporting the candidacy of Ryumin, a well-known anti- Semite. ("RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 25 October)

'THE CAUCASIAN CRESCENT' CAUSES MASS PROTESTS. "The Caucasian Crescent" is a documentary series shown on state TV which alleges that Wahhabism in Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachevo-Cherkessia poses a threat to Russian national security. The films were made by Yelena Masyuk, whose reports on the first Chechnya war raised official hackles. She was kidnapped by a Chechen gang in 1997 and held for four months until ransomed by NTV. After the first film was shown, thousands protested in Karachevo-Cherkessia demanding Kremlin intervention and an official retraction by RTR. The local government lodged an official complaint with the Russian prosecutor's office, claiming that the TV show violated Russian law by fostering ethnic unrest. Although the prosecutor's office promised to investigate, it did not suspend the program. Meanwhile, RTR has begun a major promotional campaign for part two of "The Caucasian Crescent." (Institute for War and Peace Reporting Caucasus Reporting Service, No. 55)

REALITY TV COMES TO LABOR CAMP? Inmates at the corrective labor camp in Dimitrovgrad have launched their own television newscast, Interfax reported on 23 October. The weekly program, written and produced by four inmates serving sentences for particularly grave crimes, reports on the progress of those who have been released from detention and on those who have just begun to serve their sentences, as well as on production levels in the camp and upcoming sports and cultural events. According to one camp official, there are no taboo themes: "If a fight takes place, [the newscast] reports who took part and who received what punishment," the news agency quoted him as saying. ("RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 25 October)

FOREIGN BANKS WORRY ABOUT RUSSIAN HACKERS. "Last month, experts from banks across Europe warned that the biggest threat to security was from Russian hackers," the "Daily Express" reported on 29 October. A young hacker in Moscow stole credit card data, copied it onto blank cards, and used the cards at European ATMs. "The 50 people involved in the scam managed to steal millions of pounds before they were caught," but "the hacker has still not been arrested" due to insufficient evidence.

CHORNOBYL WORKERS IN TULA END HUNGER STRIKE. A group of 25 people in Tula Oblast who were disabled as a result of their work cleaning up after the 1986 Chornobyl nuclear disaster ended their hunger strike on 27 October, ITAR-TASS reported. The strikers had been protesting amendments to the law on welfare benefits to Chornobyl workers. According to "Izvestiya," the amendments would have made benefits "proportional to the severity of medical conditions rather than wages." The former workers were insisting that the new law must not worsen their situation. The chairman of the regional Chornobyl Union, Vladimir Naumov, told ITAR-TASS that the strike was called off after the State Duma rejected amendments to the Chornobyl law and after the government found a way to pay "700 million rubles [$25 million] in compensation for the damage to relief workers' health, as envisaged by current legislation." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October)

CHORNOBYL, SUBSTANCE ABUSE TAKE TOLL IN PSKOV. Pskov Oblast's population is shrinking, largely as a result of the poor health and/or unhealthy life style of the local residents, according to RFE/RL Russian Service's "Korrespondentskii chas" on 14 October. Over the past 10 or so years, the region's population has decreased from some 850,000 to 800,000. One main reason for the decline is considered to be contamination of the soil and water supplies and the high level of radiation after the 1986 Chornobyl disaster. Psychologists maintain that high levels of stress are due to unemployment and a pessimistic outlook on life. Alcoholism among the male population has become "the norm," while drug abuse, including heroin consumption, is growing among the oblast's youth, And while the influx of migrants from the neighboring Baltic states, Central Asia, and the Caucasus might help boost the population, xenophobia in the oblast remains strong, as does the fear that the new arrivals might snatch away jobs from the locals. ("RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 25 October)

NATIONWIDE ENVIRONMENTAL REFERENDUM NEXT SPRING? The Moscow City Election Commission has received 158,000 signatures in support of holding a nationwide referendum on environmental issues, "Vremya MN" reported on 25 October. They are part of the more than 2.5 million signatures that have been collected in 62 of Russia's 89 regions in support of such a referendum; only 2 million signatures are required by law. Local election commissions will now review the signatures and then present them to the Central Election Commission. Greenpeace Russia executive director Sergei Tsyplenkov told the daily that the Central Election Commission is expected to make a decision on the referendum in the middle of November and that the referendum may held in the spring of next year. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October)

MORE THAN ONE-THIRD OF POPULATION MAKES DO WITH BELOW- SUBSISTENCE INCOME. Deputy Labor Minister Galina Karelova told reporters on 27 October that some 50 million Russians have incomes below the subsistence level, which amounted to 1,185 ruble ($42) a month in the second quarter of 2000, ITAR-TASS reported. Of families with three or more children, nearly 70 percent have incomes below that level. According to Karelova, the amount of overdue child allowances has decreased by 10 percent since the beginning of the year and now totals more than 26 billion rubles. Only 14 regions have no arrears in child allowances. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October)

GRANDMOTHER ALLEGEDLY TRIES TO SELL GRANDCHILD FOR PARTS. AP reported on 28 October that a woman in Ryazan has been arrested for planning to sell her grandson so that his organs could be removed and sold in the West. The boy's uncle told police that the child was to have been sold for $70,000. The grandmother had told the child that he was going to be taken to Disneyland. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October)

RUSSIAN 'ELITE' NEARLY EVENLY SPLIT ON COUNTRY'S FUTURE. Five hundred members of the Russian "elite" surveyed in late September by ROMIR-Gallup in 10 cities on the country's future development reflect a near even split -- 42.3 percent believe that Russia should follow the path of the "civilized" developed countries, and 54.8 percent think that the country has its own unique development path to follow, Interfax reported on 27 October. The poll also showed that most of the Russian elite (73.5 percent) believe that Russia has enough internal resources to deal with its problems without assistance from foreign countries, while 19.6 percent disagreed with this assessment.

DEPUTIES SAY 'NO' TO POLYGAMY. State Duma deputies voted on 25 October to reject a bill proposed by Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii allowing polygamy. The vote was 271 to 21 with two abstentions, ITAR- TASS reported. The bill would have amended the family code allowing Russian men to take up to four wives. Zhirinovskii justified the measure by citing Russia's population crisis and declining birth rate. Duma Women's Affairs Committee Chairperson (Communist) Svetlana Goryacheva spoke against the measure, noting that the ratio of women to men--961 women: 1000 men of an "economically active age"--does not favor such a policy. In addition, she noted that only five regions in Russia, including the republics of Ingushetia and Altai, favor the practice of polygamy. She concluded that the best way to raise the birth rate would be to raise living standards. Zhirinovskii has also suggested a ban on abortions and on foreign travel for women under 42. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October)

INTELLECTUALS PROTEST CHECHNYA WAR. Almost 250 intellectuals, politicians, and actors published an open letter in "Le Figaro" on 28 October, one day before Russian President Putin's arrived in Paris for talks with the EU. The protest denounced Putin and the "dirty, cruel" war in Chechnya, Reuters reported. Signatories included Russian journalist Andrei Babitsky, former European Union commissioner Emma Bonino, actresses Vanessa Redgrave and Isabelle Adjani, U.S. writer Susan Sontag, Albanian author Ismail Kadare, and British historian Norman Davies. The petition said Russia was a part of Europe and had to respect some basic humanitarian rules. "No colonial wars, no civilian massacres, no racist cleansing. Mr Putin, it is time to make clear to you that this applies to everyone, small and large (countries) alike." (Reuters, 28 October)

RUSSIAN HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICIAL REJECTS CRITICISM ON CHECHNYA. Russian presidential representative for human rights Vladimir Kalamanov told Interfax on 26 October that a 99-page Human Rights Watch Report released that day which details murder, rape, torture and other human rights abuses in detention and filtration camps in Chechnya is a rehash of information made public earlier this year. He added that the report is tendentious and "juridically illiterate." Also on 26 October, a Chechen accused Russian troops of shooting his son in the head for no reason during a passport check in the village of Sernovodsk, ITAR-TASS reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 October)

NEWSPAPER SAYS POLICE THINK CHECHENS SET OSTANKINO ON FIRE. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 27 October, citing only a "well-informed and reliable source," that Russian law enforcement agencies suspect the Ostankino television tower was deliberately set ablaze with "the involvement of Chechens." According to the daily, which receives financing from Boris Berezovskii's LogoVAZ, "law enforcement agencies knew that Chechen field commanders had planned terrorist acts in Moscow for 26-27 August." An ethnic Chechen employed as a technician at the tower was approached by other Chechens and offered $30,000 to plant explosives in the tower. The technician reportedly suggested that the tower be set on fire instead. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October)

PUTIN SAYS MOSCOW PLANS 'DEMOCRATIC ELECTIONS' IN CHECHNYA. At his meeting in Moscow on 26 October with French and Russian journalists, President Putin said that democratic elections for a new Chechen leader will take place as soon as conditions are auspicious, ITAR-TASS reported. He differentiated clearly between the first (1994-1996) Chechen war, which he linked to "Russia's imperialist ambitions and attempts to rein in the territories it controls," and the present "anti-terrorist operation." Putin claimed that "organized resistance" by the Chechen fighters "has been crushed," and only four or five scattered bands are still at large. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 October)

HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES BY POLICE CALLED NATIONAL DISASTER. Oleg Mironov, the human rights ombudsman for the Russian Federation, has released a report about violations of human rights committed by officers of the Interior Ministry and Ministry of Justice organs, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 26 October. The number of complaints about illegal actions by police during the course of preliminary investigations rose last year, and the 50-page report is filled with examples of torture and taunting by law enforcement officers against those under investigation or imprisoned. According to the report, the "scale of the problem is so great that it is comparable to a national disaster." Mironov concludes that to overcome the complex problem, it will be necessary to undertake a series of measures, including making provision for the presence of international observers in Russia. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 October)

SIBERIAN MINORITY RIGHTS ACTIVIST THREATENED WITH PRISON. Writer Yuri Aivaseda, an activist on behalf of the Nenets, Khanti, and Mansi peoples of northwestern Siberia, on 14 September removed the wheels of Lukoil trucks to try to prevent further destruction of roads linking nomad camps to the outside world. Aivaseda has been charged with a criminal offense. A seminar in the Sakhalin region on the "Defense of the rights of indigenous people of Sakhalin to their traditional lifestyle," held in early October raised awareness of Aivaseda's case. (Public Organization The Rights Center "Rodnik," rodnik@orc.ru)

SERBIA
INTERIM RELIGION MINISTER SIGNALS NEW RELIGIOUS POLICY. In an exclusive statement faxed to Keston News Service in Belgrade on 27 October, Gordana Misic-Anicic signaled that she would reverse a decade of Serbian government refusal to hand back religious property confiscated from the Orthodox Church in the communist period "to start to urgently correct all the historical injustice done to our Church." She also signaled that she would look favorably on the Orthodox Church's plan for religion to be taught in schools. Misic-Antic also stressed that she intends to improve the government's relations with the Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, Reformed, and Lutheran communities, "and other religious communities which legally operate in the Republic of Serbia." (Keston News Service, 30 October)

URGENT AUDIT OF PRIVILEGED MEDIA NEEDED. The Association of Independent Electronic Media has called on the new Serbian and Yugoslav authorities to regulate the public information and telecommunications sectors as soon as possible. Certain privately-owned, quasi-state media were the primary levers of Slobodan Milosevic's power during his autocratic presidency. (ANEM, 31 October)

POLITICAL PRISONERS TO BE PARDONED. The Yugoslav government will amnesty all political prisoners and draft dodgers, the state agency Tanjug reported on 29 October. Belgrade University law professor Stevan Lilic said those being held will be released after the federal parliament adopts an amnesty law being prepared by a team of experts under his direction. Besides political prisoners, the authorities will release victims of political repression and those jailed for harming Yugoslavia's reputation, its constitutional order and social system. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October)

SLOVAKIA
ROMA FLEEING TO CZECH REPUBLIC. More than 600 Roma from Slovakia have asked for political asylum in the Czech Republic so far this year, CTK reported citing the daily "Lidove noviny." By comparison, only 49 applications from Slovak Roma were registered in the previous six years. None of the requests has so far been granted. Jana Gajarova of Slovakia's Commission for Roma Issues said that many of the refugees are leaving because they cannot repay money-lenders within the Romany community. She says such lenders loan money to Roma at high interest rates and when the latter are unable to pay their debts, they are forced to emigrate to obtain money from abroad. Gajarova said police are investigating these activities. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October)

TURKMENISTAN
TURKMEN PRESIDENT ANNOUNCES ANOTHER AMNESTY. Saparmurat Niyazov has announced a further amnesty to take effect in December, according to Interfax and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 27 October. Some 10,000 of an estimated 22,000 prison inmates, most of them women, elderly people or persons convicted for the first time, will be eligible. A similar amnesty was announced one year ago. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 October)

ADVENTIST PASTOR FREED AFTER THREE-DAY DETENTION. Police broke up an Adventist Church meeting on 21 October and accused the pastor of holding an illegal religious meeting, violating passport regulations, and drawing children into religious activity. He was detained by the KNB (former KGB) for three days and released following the intervention of diplomats in Ashgabat. (Keston News Service, 24 October)

UKRAINE
BANNED NEWSPAPER RESUMES PUBLICATION IN UKRAINE. The Kyiv-based newspaper "Silski visti" has resumed publication after it was closed for failing to pay taxes. The newspaper announced on the first page of its 21 October issue that "the 18-day blockade has finally been broken" owing to "widespread public protests, protests by other journalists, and the efforts of people's deputies who supported it," the "Eastern Economist Daily" reported on 25 October. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October)

UZBEKISTAN
TERRORISM TRIAL RESUMES. The trial of 23 people accused of membership in the illegal "Humanity and Humanism Association, "resumed in a Tashkent court on 24 October. They face charges of organizing or belonging to terrorist and criminal groups, of maintaining ties with Saudi terrorist Usama bin Laden, and of receiving financial aid from Saudi Arabia. The accused include the former imam of the Kokand Jome mosque, Muhammad Rajab. Defendants had earlier protested against the conduct of the trial, in which the prosecution has called more than 200 witnesses. ("RFE/RL Uzbek Report," 27 October)

REGIONAL
NEW GROUP TO LINK SOUTHEAST EUROPEAN MEDIA ORGANIZATIONS. Representatives of 23 media organizations in nine Southeastern European countries agreed recently to form an umbrella organization to protect and further freedom of the press and improve the standards and practices of journalism in the region, according to the International Press Institute (IPI). The South East Europe Media Organization (SEEMO) will be a non-government, non-profit organization, representing print and broadcast media from Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Yugoslavia, Macedonia, and Romania. Contact Michael Kudlak or Barbara Trionfi at IPI, mkudlak@freemedia.at or info@freemedia.at The website is at: http://www.freemedia.at (International Journalists' Network, 30 October)

VISEGRAD FOUR, ROMANIA PLEDGE BETTER PROTECTION FOR MINORITIES. Officials from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and Romania met in Prague on 27 October to stress their commitment to ensuring the better treatment of ethnic minorities and particularly of Roma, CTK reported. Meanwhile, TASR reported that Roma continue to be the least popular ethnic minority in Slovakia and the Czech Republic. And AP reported on 28 October that officials in the Romanian capital of Bucharest have banned horse-drawn carts from the city, an action many see as directed against the Roma community. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October)

NEW PUBLICATIONS, WEBSITES
WEBSITE ON CENTRAL ASIAN MEDIA. CAMEL (www.camsp.osh.kg/index.html) is a monthly electronic bulletin of the Central Asian Media Support Project (CAMsP). The website provides current news and analysis of the mass media sector in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Kazakstan.

NEW TATARSTAN HUMAN RIGHTS ENCYCLOPEDIA. A human rights encyclopedia is being prepared for publication by Tatarstan's Human Rights Committee, Efir-Inform reported on 23 October. The book will include information about historical events, famous people and organizations connected with the violation or protection of human rights. ("RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 26 October)

IFEX SITE OFFERS NEW LINKS. The International Freedom of Expression Exchange has added a new page to its website, with links to over 250 other sites related to free expression as part of IFEX's continuing website development. The site at http://www.ifex.org offers links to freedom of expression organizations and resources, human rights organizations, media organizations that support freedom of expression, and other resources and websites that deal with issues of censorship, freedom of information, and privacy. (International Journalists' Network, 30 October)

COALITION FOR GLOBAL SOLIDARITY AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT. The site http://www.globalsolidarity.npaid.org has been updated to include leading articles and analysis for policymakers, politicians, NGOs, and scholars, plus various articles with material in the fields of globalization, development, NGOs and civil society, human rights, conflict transformation, peacebuilding, as well as a broad range of links and news. For more information, contact Kai Frithjof Brand-Jacobsen at: icl@c2i.net. (Center for Civil Society International, 25 October)

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