3 February 2004, Volume 4, Number 2
A PRESIDENT AT A CROSSROADSBy Mark Berniker
Media activists, human-rights groups, and political figures are voicing serious concerns about the Kazakh government's recent active involvement in shaping new media laws, ventures, and regulations.
As disturbing revelations about the harassment of journalists in Kazakhstan continue to surface, direct pressure -- both at home and abroad -- is increasing on Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev to moderate his government's purported direct involvement in the country's media affairs. As a new draft media law moves to the upper chamber of the Kazakh parliament, domestic and international critics charge that Nazarbaev is exerting too much control over Kazakhstan's media sector.
"The president of Kazakhstan has yet to give a clear indication that he's committed to improving the country's appalling press-freedom record," said Alex Lupis, program coordinator for the Europe and Central Asia division of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). The New York-based CPJ is drafting a formal letter of complaint to Nazarbaev about the draft media law, just as several other groups -- including Internews, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), and Article 19 -- have already done.
Moreover, there are indications that Nazarbaev's inflexibility might be softening somewhat in the wake of a highly critical letter from U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell that was written on 17 November 2003 but only made public on 7 January. The letter said Kazakhstan will have to improve its poor human-rights record if it wants the United States to support its goal of becoming the first former Soviet republic to hold the rotating chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2009.
Powell's letter praised Kazakhstan for its support in the reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan and applauded Nazarbaev's "public commitment to accelerate the building of democracy." However, Powell expressed concern that several government actions are belying the president's statements. Powell particularly questioned the draft media law, saying: "It is my understanding that the draft under consideration is being discussed widely and that strong reservations have been expressed about the draft both within the OSCE and in the mass media." Powell asked Nazarbaev to reconsider "whether a new law on the mass media is warranted at this time."
Powell also called on Nazarbaev to release journalist Sergei Duvanov, who was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison after being convicted of raping a 14-year-old girl. His detention and sentencing followed the publication of several reports by Duvanov alleging that officials in Nazarbaev's government -- possibly including the president himself -- accepted bribes from U.S. oil companies for energy concessions in Kazakhstan.
Powell also reminded Nazarbaev that he made promises to U.S. President George W. Bush in December 2001 "to promote freedom and pluralism in Kazakhstan's media environment, including the right of the media to criticize the country's elected leaders."
On 15 January, a Kazakh court revised Duvanov's sentence from imprisonment to house arrest, and on 22 January, RFE/RL reported that Duvanov had been released from prison and granted "semi-free" status by the government. On 19 January, the Russian newspaper "Kommersant-Daily" reported the release was the result of Western pressure, citing in particular Powell's pointed letter to Nazarbaev.
However, many human-rights activists say the sudden release of Duvanov doesn't mean the Kazakh government has really reversed its alleged policy of controlling the country's media.
"The Kazakh government has been encroaching on the media for several years. Kazakhstan claims to be a democratic society, but has a terrible record on freedom of expression and media freedom," Rachel Denbar, acting director of Human Rights Watch's Europe and Central Asia division, told "RFE/RL Media Matters."
Denbar said Kazakhstan has "a long record of harassment of journalists." "The government of Kazakhstan should not be hindering media freedom and should back off of civil-defamation suits against journalists," Denbar said. "There is a need for a balance in the Kazakh media, and the government is preventing the emergence of a balanced media environment."
It is not just international observers who are crying foul. Many parliamentarians, journalists, and even President Nazarbaev's daughter are speaking out against the government's treatment of the media, the draft media law, and a recent decision by KazMunayGaz, the state natural-gas company, to enter the media business.
The draft media law was adopted by the lower house of parliament (Mazhlis) in December and could potentially be passed by the upper house some time in February. The law would give the government the power to dismiss reporters or shut down media outlets for insulting "the honor and dignity of a citizen or a state organ or other body." RFE/RL reported on 16 January that the draft law also contains rules for new and more complicated registration procedures for journalists, according to Journalists Association of Kazakhstan Chairman Saidkazy Mataev.
On 20 January, Darigha Nazarbaeva, who is director of the Khabar television channel and chairwoman of the Executive Committee of the Congress of Kazakhstan's Journalists (CKJ), said she believes the country's journalists should have their own lobby in the lower house of the parliament. Nazarbaeva is also the leader of the recently created Asar party. In an address to the 10th external session of the CKJ in Karaganda earlier this month, she said the provision in the draft media law that gives the government the right to order media companies to shut down for three months for coverage it considers objectionable could lead to the bankruptcy of many small media enterprises.
On 20 January, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported that Nazarbaeva said the draft law would prohibit television channels from showing sexual or erotic programs, but it fails to provide a definition of what would be considered sexually explicit programming.
On 22 January, the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) party issued a statement on the draft media law, saying it is antidemocratic and would severely limit freedom of speech in Kazakhstan. The party points to provisions that would strengthen the government's control over media outlets through stricter registration and licensing requirements. The party wrote that the new law could lead to "self-censorship."
AP reported on 26 January that several Kazakh political leaders have expressed concern about the government's antidemocratic policies during a conference organized by the International Institute for Modern Politics, an Almaty-based think tank. Gulzhan Yergalieva, a DVK leader, was quoted as saying the government's recent moves threaten "competitive elections, independent media, and political pluralism." National Research Institute Director Burikhan Nurmukhamedov has reportedly called on the government to create a transparent election system and to foster free media.
But just as pressure is building on Nazarbaev to reform his government's policies toward the media, his state natural-gas company has decided to aggressively enter the television business. KazMunayGaz, which holds lucrative rights to the vast energy reserves located on Kazakhstan's Caspian Sea shelf, recently said it has ambitions to be one of the biggest oil and gas producers in the world. Uzakbai Karabalin, the president of KazMunayGaz, has spoken broadly about the company's plans to create a newspaper, television, and radio group following the model of Russia's NTV. NTV and several other media outlets were seized by Gazprom, Russia's state-controlled natural-gas monopoly, in 2001 after a controversial and, many say, politically motivated business dispute with former oligarch Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-MOST. The KazMunayGaz project will be called NTV-Kazakhstan.
NTV-Kazakhstan representative Yevgenia Dotsuk told a press conference in Almaty on 19 December that KazMunayGaz's initiative is a joint project of Russia's NTV, which holds a 20 percent stake in the new company, and the Kazakh Rauan Media Group, which controls the rest. Dotsuk admitted that NTV-Kazakhstan is being created with state money and should be considered another state channel. Rauan Media Group has received the exclusive right to terrestrial, cable, and satellite rebroadcasting of NTV programs in Kazakhstan, and Russia's NTV will be inaccessible to Kazakh viewers.
But KazMunayGaz's media plans aren't going over well with Alikhan Baimenov and Bulat Abilov, two prominent DVK members. They object to the use of state funds to finance the new media firm. On 20 November, RosBalt Consulting reported that Yerasyl Abylkasymov, a deputy in the lower house of the parliament, wrote a letter arguing that Kazakhstan's "small television channels will be doomed" with the creation of NTV-Kazakhstan.
Such concerns about the project are shared by Asar's Nazarbaeva. The new channel will presumably put competitive pressure on Nazarbaeva's Khabar network and potentially cut into their advertising revenues. While the president's daughter has become more outspoken in recent months about developments in the Kazakh media, Denbar questioned the problem of nepotism in Nazarbaev's Kazakhstan. According to the BBC, Nazarbaeva's Khabar group is "privately held but publicly funded" and controls an influential news agency; the Khabar, Khabar 2, and ORT-Kazakhstan television channels; the Europa Plus, Russkoye radio, Hit FM, and Radio Karavan radio stations; and the newspapers "Karavan" and "Novoye pokolenie."
Moreover, Timur Kulibaev, the husband of another Nazarbaev daughter, Dinara, is a deputy president of KazMunayGaz and has been named to the management team of NTV-Kazakhstan. KazMunayGaz's new media group has also asked the government to grant NTV-Kazakhstan broadcast frequencies without compelling it to go through the legally required tender process.
"The odds are that NTV-Kazakhstan will be a pro-government station that will shy away from controversial coverage," Denbar said.
The Kazakh government's flurry of moves in the country's media market comes just months ahead of parliamentary elections -- which are scheduled for October -- and raises concerns about the government's motives in trying to shape public opinion.
Several international press-freedom and human rights observers have filed formal objections with the Kazakh government. The World Association of Newspapers (WAN) recently wrote to Nazarbaev to say the draft law would "jeopardize constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression."
On 11 December, Toby Mendel, the Law and Asia Programs director for Article 19: Global Campaign for Free Expression, wrote a public letter regarding the bill. Article 19 is a London-based group fighting censorship worldwide. "Our analysis indicates that the proposed law falls far short of international norms for the protection of free expression," Mendel wrote. "Passage of this law would, therefore, place the government of Kazakhstan in breach of its constitutional obligations as well as its obligations as a member of the UN and OSCE.
"A more important concern, however, is that significant powers -- including registration, licensing, and accreditation systems for the media and journalists -- are exercised by bodies that lack independence from government. This is in clear breach of international standards in this area and presents the possibility of excessive state control over the media," Mendel wrote, adding that the law could "exert a chilling effect on freedom of the media." He asks Nazarbaev to withdraw the law from consideration.
The Brussels-based Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF) has also joined the chorus of critics. HRWF Director Willy Fautre wrote a sharply worded letter to Nazarbaev on 18 December saying his group is "extremely concerned with the new draft media law."
"The draft law provides for unacceptable limitation of press freedom through governmental control and regulation. The system of registration, licensing, and accreditation alongside the provisions on secrecy laws, journalists' confidentiality, censorship, and privacy shield to politicians does not comply with international standards and will jeopardize the constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and freedom of expression," Fautre wrote.
RSF, in its 2003 annual report on Kazakhstan, wrote: "The worsening press freedom situation aroused international concern, especially on the part of the European Union and the United States. Violence against opposition journalists increased."
The report also said "the government used harassment, censorship, legal intimidation, and control of printing and publishing to crack down on the independent and opposition media." Freedom House in its "Freedom of the Press 2003" report described Kazakhstan's media as "not free."
Clearly, the country is at something of a crossroads. The latest developments seem to indicate that Nazarbaev, like many of his counterparts in the region, intends to take Kazakhstan down an antidemocratic path. There is still time to change direction, but that time is rapidly running out.
Mark Berniker is a freelance journalist who writes about Eurasian political and economic affairs.
INVESTIGATING THE KILLINGS OF JOURNALISTSBy Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
An announcement earlier this month from Tajik officials that they will investigate numerous killings of journalists in the country in the 1990s did little to hearten reporters in the war-ravaged Central Asian republic. They saw the move, at best, as a superficial gesture to accommodate Western concerns and, at worse, as a distraction from a real intent to curb the media even in peacetime -- an intent many journalists say was signaled by the recent closure of two independent newspapers.
One organization that has kept up the pressure on the Tajik authorities for over a decade is the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a New York-based press-freedom watchdog that has made several fact-finding missions to Dushanbe over the years. In July, CPJ representatives met in Dushanbe with Deputy Prosecutor-General Azizmat Imomov to get information about CPJ's list of 29 cases of journalists who are believed to have been murdered in the country in connection with their professional work, most of them killed during the country's 1992-97 civil war (see http://www.cpj.org/protests/03ltrs/Tajik27aug03pl.html). In fact, for a time Tajikistan had the second-largest record of journalists killed in a civil war, topped only by Algeria. The government's refusal to investigate the killings was a major factor in earning President Imomali Rakhmonov a place on CPJ's annual "Enemies of the Press" list in 1996.
The Tajik authorities are more conciliatory now. In 2000, they began allowing relatives and colleagues to collect funds for the families of those killed and to speak out about their cases. As the CPJ visit shows, they are now even willing to receive foreigner delegations to discuss the issue.
Slowly, some of the cases have come to the courts, but journalists remain uneasy that perhaps the wrong people have been arrested for the crimes or that those arrested are only the triggermen for assassinations ordered by powerful figures still in the shadows.
After the July trip to Tajikistan, the CPJ followed up with a letter to Imomov, and in December the committee received a detailed response. One disconcerting admission was that the Prosecutor-General's Office claims it has no records of many of the cases on the CPJ list. Imomov said the office does not even have information that the individuals were murdered, much less that they were likely attacked for their professional activities by combatants during the civil war.
In his 30 December letter, Imomov provided specific replies regarding only a few of CPJ's cases. In 1994, Davlatali Rakhmonali, director of programming at Tajikistan State Television, was fatally shot in the head. A criminal investigation was completed, and Abdulloev Khikmat was recently sentenced to nine years' imprisonment for the crime, Imomov reported.
In 1995, Muhiddin Olimpur, head of the BBC's Persian Service in Tajikistan, was shot dead, and in 1996, a correspondent for Russia's ORT, Viktor Nikulin, was killed near the door of his office. In 2003, Tajikistan's Supreme Court ruled that Narzibek Davlatov and Akhtam Toirov were guilty of both murders and they were sentenced to 15 years' and 22 months' imprisonment, respectively. While the investigations into the cases proceeded slowly, because they involved foreigners the government obviously was compelled to resolve them, possibly because they tied these cases to the United Tajik Opposition (UTO), which fought in the civil war. Other suspects in these cases apparently escaped and went into hiding.
In 1992, "Sadoi Madum" Editor Murodali Sheraliev was shot dead while working as a journalist at the Supreme Soviet building in Dushanbe. Saidov Rustam was charged with the murder, but he went into hiding and has still not been located.
Imomov also said that several cases have been closed because of a lack of evidence: Shirindzhon Amirdzhonov and Olim Zarobekov of Tajikistan Radio; Olim Abdulov, correspondent for Tajikistan State Television; Khushvakht Haydarsho, secretary of the editorial board of "Jumhuriyat;" Khakimov Khamidjon, editor of "Khaksuz;" Dzhumakhon Khotami, chief spokesman for Tajikistan's Interior Ministry.
Although Imonov's response appeared to be unveiling some new kind of commission of inquiry, in fact he seems to be referring to a body that was formed in October 2002, when police and prosecutors said they would investigate civil-war-era murders, Alex Lupis, CPJ's Europe and Central Asia coordinator, told "RFE/RL's Media Matters." Lupis said that commission's work so far is opaque. "It's hard to tell if it functions," Lupis said, noting that branches of the commission have reportedly been established in Dushanbe and other cities. "They feel they have to make some positive concession to public opinion or image in the West, but they are not prepared for a more independent media," Lupis said.
CPJ's list of 29 Tajik journalists killed is not complete, Lupis added. It merely reflects what the organization was able to confirm through its own research over the years. Lupis and his colleagues are now in the process of going over the list of confirmed and unconfirmed cases and checking new material. Oleg Panfilov of the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations (CJES) in Moscow (http://www.cjes.ru), who formerly worked as a journalist in Tajikistan, has compiled what is believed to be the most thorough list of Tajik cases, with 75 names.
Press organizations use various methodologies and criteria for including people in lists of colleagues killed. The CPJ includes both confirmed and suspected cases of working journalists determined to have been killed for their professional work or in the crossfire while serving as war correspondents. CJES includes cases that require further investigation and cases in which journalists were killed, although it is uncertain whether their professional activity was the motive.
Moreover, sometimes even the definition of "journalist" causes confusion. Otohon Latifi, a member of the UTO and head of the legal subcommission of the National Reconciliation Commission charged with drafting the constitution, was assassinated on 22 September 1998. He was a former chairman of the Union of Journalists of Tajikistan and a "Pravda" correspondent, so CJES included him on its list. Technically, his death was not directly related to his journalistic activity, so he is not on CPJ's list. Still, as a drafter of the press law and the Tajik Constitution and a leading figure in the society, Latifi played an important role in creating the kind of climate in which free media can function, and his assassination is yet another reason for reporters to keep silent.
Some observers have theorized that terrorists singled out high-profile television and radio personalities because they are readily identifiable symbols of the state in a country where major media is state-sponsored. They are not so much killed for their journalistic activity as for their symbolic value.
Others say that those killed were singled out by assassins with specific complaints. One source close to the cases who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals told "RFE/RL Media Matters" that journalists were not necessarily killed because they were perceived to be either on the government's side or the opposition's side. "A lot of weapons were around and a lot of instability, and it made killing very easy," the source said. "There were some who just didn't like the journalists' articles personally, and they were just settling personal scores."
Journalists are concerned that because of pressure to solve the cases, prosecutors might not be arresting the right people or observing due process. Critics say the authorities might have caught only those carrying out the orders of others and that they might let off some culprits too lightly and released others on questionable pardons.
Of the CJES's 75 cases, some are believed to have been killed by the Popular Front, the paramilitary group that went on to take over much of the government, filling the power ministries in particular. Others are said to have been targeted by the UTO.
The journalists' groups are hoping that although the cases are cold, some witnesses will come forward now that the climate in Tajikistan is more stable. Journalists believe the government will investigate only those deaths that can be traced back to the UTO, and that it can do so because it has consolidated its authority and the opposition will not respond forcefully. That leaves out any cases that might be attributable to the Popular Front, whose members are now prominent within the government's security forces.
"There was no openness or acceptance of independent journalism that was reporting on both sides" of the conflict, the CPJ's Lupis said about the turmoil during and after the war.
The efforts to reinvigorate the investigations could be aided considerably by the journalists' groups that are reemerging now in Tajikistan. The Foundation for the Commemoration and Defense of Journalists' Rights in Tajikistan, known as Difo, was established in 1997 by journalists who have tried to lobby the government to investigate past cases and do more to protect journalists today.
However, there have been some disturbing developments. Mukhtor Bokhizoda, editor of "Nerui Suhan" and the founder of Difo, was interviewed last summer by Lupis. He said that he tried to prepare a book of biographies of all those killed, with information about how they died and who might have killed them. However, in the spring of 2002, his office was raided by unknown persons who took his computer and all his research. He was able to salvage some notes, but has not been able to complete the project.
Catherine A. Fitzpatrick is a freelance writer living in New York City specializing in the former Soviet Union. She is the editor of "RFE/RL (Un)Civil Societies."
UNDER INCREASING PRESSURE OVER DIMINISHING MEDIA FREEDOMBy Liz Fuller
Reprisals against opposition figures, independent media outlets, and individual journalists have figured prominently among the charges of flagrant human-rights abuses leveled at the Azerbaijani authorities in the wake of the disputed 15 October Azerbaijani presidential election that cemented the advent to power of Ilham Aliyev, the president's son.
In mid-December, the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) issued a report and recommendations, based on a fact-finding trip to Baku two weeks earlier, that concluded that press freedom in Azerbaijan has been eroded since Aliyev took over from his father, Heidar Aliyev, as head of state.
One month later, Human Rights Watch issued a 55-page report on the aftermath of the presidential ballot that contained a section on reprisals against journalists. Further, Azerbaijan's failure to comply with media-related commitments made when it joined the Council of Europe three years ago was highlighted in a progress reported submitted to the winter session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), which opened in Strasbourg on 26 January. To date, the Azerbaijani leadership has consistently rejected any such criticism as misplaced and unfounded.
The RSF findings, which were summarized at length by Turan on 11 December, noted that 54 journalists were subject to police violence during the 15-16 October clashes in Baku, and 16 were detained. Most were subsequently released, with one prominent exception being Rauf Arifoglu, the radical editor of the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat," who has been charged with instigating the clashes.
RSF noted that officials with whom its delegation discussed the arrests were reluctant to admit that the police might have engaged in gratuitous violence, and pointed out that it was impossible for police to distinguish journalists from participants in the clashes. The organization highlighted restrictions imposed on the independent media in the aftermath of the presidential ballot, including a seemingly artificially induced shortage of newsprint that prevented a number of independent or opposition papers for publishing for several days in November.
Echoing other assessments of the media scene and the way the Azerbaijani media covered the presidential election campaign, RSF concluded that all Azerbaijani commercial television stations are sympathetic to the authorities, while the print media are "excessively politicized" and most daily newspapers have links either to one or another political party or to the ruling elite (see "RFE/RL Media Matters," 19 December 2003). RSF further registered Azerbaijan's failure to transform the first channel of state television into an independent public broadcaster, as required by the Council of Europe.
The RSF report contained explicit recommendations to both the authorities and the media. It called on the Azerbaijani authorities to ensure that investigations into the violence against journalists on 15-16 October are transparent, that they are conducted quickly and the findings made public, and that those found responsible for abuses against journalists who were simply trying to report on the unrest be punished. The report further urged that the Press Council and Interior Ministry discuss how the media should set about covering demonstrations and possibly establish ways to identify journalists clearly as such. Finally, it called on the authorities to release Arifoglu pending his trial.
It also urged the Azerbaijani leadership to make good on its commitment to the Council of Europe to transform the first channel of Azerbaijani state television into an independent public broadcaster, to refrain from using bureaucratic measures to pressure the media, and to decriminalize libel in line with a recommendation from the OSCE.
RSF likewise recommended to media outlets that they comply with the relevant articles of the Election Code related to the media and observe the rules of professional ethics in order to minimize the possibilities for the authorities to apply unwelcome pressure.
The Azerbaijani leadership has ignored all these recommendations. Turan on 17 December quoted presidential administration official Ali Hasanov as saying the recommendations are unnecessary as Azerbaijan complied in 2003 with all the obligations it had assumed regarding media freedom. Hasanov explicitly ruled out freeing Arifoglu, saying that an investigation was still ongoing. Moreover, the parliament has proceeded to pass in its second and third readings a draft law on public television that did not incorporate a single one of the recommendations made by international bodies.
As noted above, a report by Council of Europe rapporteurs assessing Baku's compliance with recommendations made in 2002 registered "disappointment" that none of those recommendations was implemented, and little has been done to improve the situation of the media in Azerbaijan. Taking a broader time frame than did the RSF report, the Council of Europe report singled out for criticism the continued practice of bringing criminal libel suits against opposition newspapers, resulting in "shockingly high and disproportionate fines." It further deplored "systematic harassment and intimidation of journalists, including verbal and physical attacks...and editorial interference akin to censorship." The report also addressed the failure of the media to provide equal coverage to all candidates in the 15 October presidential election.
On 27 January, the PACE adopted a resolution warning the Azerbaijani leadership that continued failure to comply with its obligations related to human rights and media freedom would result in its PACE delegation being stripped of its voting rights.
UGLY TIMES FOR JOURNALISTS.The Vienna-based NGO South East Europe Media Organization (SEEMO) said in a statement on 15 January that a Subotica-based magazine for Serbia's Croatian minority, "Hrvatske rijeci," recently received several threatening telephone calls, including death threats. The statement described the calls as anti-Croatian in tone and part of an unspecified campaign directed at the Croatian minority in Vojvodina that began after the 28 December elections in which the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRS) won the most votes.
SEEMO called on the appropriate authorities to investigate the matter and arrest those suspected of involvement. Later on 15 January, Vojvodina provincial administration head Djordje Djukic condemned the intimidation of members of ethnic minorities, including RFE/RL's Novi Sad correspondent Marini Fratucan, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Vojvodina Croatian leader Petar Kuntic called on local Croats not to let themselves be provoked by the threats.
But the tensions continue: Television Novi Sad (TVNS) refused on 26 January to broadcast the latest installment of a program for Vojvodina's Croatian minority -- "TV divani" -- because local Croatian leader Tomislav Zigmanov made comments in the broadcast linking TVNS to recent anti-Croatian incidents in the Serbian province, Hina reported.
Dusica Dulic, who is editor of "TV divani," called TVNS's attitude "unacceptable." This is the third time that TVNS has refused to broadcast one of the Croatian-oriented programs, which have been aired twice monthly since 2001.
Nor are the problems confined to the media. Unknown persons damaged an unspecified number of tombstones in a Roman Catholic cemetery in Subotica on 24-25 January. The Croatian News Agency reported that this is the eighth anti-Croatian incident in Vojvodina since the 28 December Serbian parliamentary elections.
Serbia's Association of Independent Journalists (NUNS) drew attention in a 21 January statement to what it sees as a growing threat to journalists because of threats and pressure from nationalist politicians and local kingpins, among others.
Referring to the case of "Hrvatske rijeci," NUNS concluded that it shows that "open season" against journalists has come to Serbia and called on the police and judicial authorities to deal with those responsible for threats against or maltreatment of journalists.
The statement recalled an incident in 2003 in which Cacak's Mayor Velimir Ilic physically assaulted a journalist in a television studio after the newsman asked questions about Ilic's brother's business dealings. NUNS also pointed out cases of politically motivated pressure against journalists by their publishers and of the continuing tendency of some politicians to deal with critical journalists by filing legal charges against them. (Patrick Moore)