10 February 2003, Volume 3, Number 5
INTERNATIONALIFJ: 'BE PROFESSIONAL, BE SAFE' WHILE COVERING IRAQ CONFLICT. On 4 February, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) urged journalists to be objective and responsible in their reporting on the Iraq crisis, according to a press release posted on the IFJ website (http://www.ifj.org). "The international crisis over Iraq...is an issue that tests the professionalism of journalists to the limit," IFJ President Christopher Warren was quoted in the press release as saying. "The international community is divided, and all sides of the argument need to be presented." "Journalists and media staff should be trained to deal with emergencies and be aware of the risks they face. They should have the right equipment, and they should be briefed on their rights under international law," Warren added. The press release also noted that the IFJ is supporting fledgling journalism organizations in Kurdish Iraq and called on the international community to do likewise. "The challenge of this conflict is to support the movement for independent journalism and press freedom and to keep media staff safe whether they are reporting from the outside or struggling for freedom within [Kurdish Iraq]," says the IFJ press release. The IFJ has reissued its International Code of Practice for the Safe Conduct of Journalism, which can be found at http://www.ifj.org/ifj/safee.html. (IFJ, 4 February)
COUNCIL OF EUROPE PROTOCOL AGAINST RACISM IN CYBERSPACE INKED. Eleven Council of Europe member states -- Armenia, Belgium, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, and Sweden -- signed on 28 January the Additional Protocol to the Convention on Cybercrime, which concerns the criminalization of electronic racist and xenophobic acts, according to a press release posted on the council's website (http://www.coe.int). More states are expected to sign the protocol in the weeks to come. "This protocol widens the scope of the Cybercrime Convention, to cover offenses of racist or xenophobic propaganda" and facilitates international cooperation under the terms of the convention, the press release states. The protocol includes definitions of racist and xenophobic material and calls for the criminalization of the distribution via the Internet of racist or xenophobic threats and insults, as well as denial of, gross understatement of, approval of, or justification of genocide and crimes against humanity. The Convention on Cybercrime was adopted in November 2001, and the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted the Additional Protocol on 7 November 2002. (Council of Europe, 28 January 2003)
ARMENIATENDER FOR TV FREQUENCIES CANCELLED AGAIN. Armenia's National Commission for Television and Radio on 30 January postponed indefinitely a tender for several television frequencies that had been scheduled for 31 January, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The Economic Arbitration Court, which is considering an appeal against the tender by five television companies that are already broadcasting on those frequencies, demanded that the tender be postponed until it hands down a final ruling on the appeal. The hearing is scheduled for 14 February, according to Noyan Tapan. The postponement could deprive the independent A1+ television station, which had to cease broadcasting after losing its frequency in a controversial tender last year, of the opportunity to resume broadcasting before the Armenian presidential election on 19 February. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 January)
AZERBAIJANOSCE EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER LAWSUITS AGAINST AZERBAIJANI PRESS. Speaking in Vienna on 4 February, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media Freimut Duve expressed his alarm over the use of defamation suits against independent newspapers in Azerbaijan, according to an OSCE press release issued the same day. Duve noted that 13 lawsuits have been brought in recent months against the newspaper "Yeni Musavat," which must pay three fines totaling 100,000 euros ($109,197). Also on 4 February, Baku's Sabayil Raion court ruled that "Yeni Musavat" must publish a refutation of articles it published in October and November 2002 falsely claiming that Czech businessmen Viktor Kozeny was suing two former State Property Committee officials in a U.S. court, Turan reported. But the court rejected a demand by one of the two officials to close the paper for three years. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February)
INTERNATIONAL JOURNALISTS ORGANIZATION PROTESTS VIOLATIONS. Reporters Without Borders Secretary-General Robert Menard has appealed to the OSCE and the Council of Europe to urge the Azerbaijani authorities to desist from harassing the independent media, Turan reported on 31 January. He noted that more than 30 formal complaints were brought against independent media outlets last year, mostly by government officials. Menard's statement was pegged to the hunger strike staged last month by journalists from the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 February)
NATIONAL SECURITY MINISTRY ASKS PRESS TO SUBSTANTIATE ALLEGATIONS OF PKK PRESENCE. The investigations department of the National Security Ministry has asked the editors of the opposition newspapers "Hurriyet" and "Yeni Musavat" to provide evidence to substantiate their repeated claims that the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) maintains an extensive network in Azerbaijan, Turan reported on 31 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January 2003). The statement warned that either withholding information that could contribute to preventing crime or making false allegations that result in the waste of money on fruitless investigations would constitute a criminal offense. "Yeni Musavat" Editor Rauf Arifoglu told Turan he has already provided the ministry with materials about the PKK presence in the town of Sumgait. On 1 February, zerkalo.az reported that Umid party leader Iqbal Agazade has asked Turkish intelligence to provide a copy of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan's trial testimony, in which he gave details of the alleged PKK presence in Azerbaijan. Agazade has also asked Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party to make available the materials that prompted its leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to raise the issue of the PKK presence in Azerbaijan during talks in Baku last month. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 February)
OPPOSITION JOURNALIST RELEASED FROM JAIL. Azerbaijan Democratic Party (ADR) member Gurban Mamedov was released from a Baku prison on 5 February after serving a five-year sentence, Turan reported. Mamedov, together with two other ADR members, was convicted in July 1998 of falsely claiming that National Security Minister Namig Abbasov was preparing a coup against President Heidar Aliev. Mamedov was quoted on 6 February by zerkalo.az as saying he will continue his political and journalistic activities. He is one of the co-founders of the ADR newspaper "Hurriyet." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 February)
BELARUSMINSK CONTINUES TO PUSH OUT RUSSIAN BROADCASTERS. Seven regional transmitters airing Russia's RTR Television will be taken over by Belarusian regional television channels on 1 February, the Charter-97 website (http://www.charter97.org/bel/news/) reported on 30 January, quoting State Broadcasting Company Chairman Yahor Rybakou. Rybakou said the move was prompted by the need to develop regional television in Belarus. "Belarusian viewers are always confused by the existence of the three imperial channels [Russia's RTR, ORT, and NTV] here," Rybakou noted. "We are a sovereign state, and we will be developing our [own] television." On 1 January, Belarus stopped retransmitting programming from Russia's Mayak, Golos Rossii, and Yunost radio stations in its UHF band. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 January)
RSF: INDEPENDENT PAPER THREATENED WITH CLOSURE. The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on 6 February protested a Belarusian court decision that threatens the survival of an independent Russian-language weekly newspaper in Smarhon on the eve of regional elections to be held in March. The Hrodna Regional Economic Court on 3 February cancelled the business license of Ramuald Ulan, founder and owner of "Novaya gazeta Smorgoni." The verdict came in a case filed by the Smarhon Executive Council, which accused Ulan of violating labor and tax laws and fire-safety regulations in 2000 and 2002, according to a statement posted on RSF's website (http://rsf.org). In an open letter to Belarusian Justice Minister Viktar Halavanau, RSF Secretary-General Robert Menard wrote, "Your government is systematically using bureaucratic and legalistic obstruction to censor and gag the independent press." According to RSF, Smarhon authorities have harassed "Novaya gazeta Smorgoni" for several years. They have also reportedly obstructed the publication of two other newspapers run by Ulan, "Novaya gazeta Ostrovtsa" and "Novaya gazeta Oshmyan." (RSF, 6 February)
BULGARIAPRESIDENT CRITICIZES DRAFT MEDIA LAW. President Georgi Parvanov on 5 February harshly criticized the draft law on radio and television proposed by the parliamentary majority of the National Movement Simeon II and the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms, mediapool.bg reported. The draft law would replace the current Council on Electronic Media with a National Council on Electronic Media (NSEM), which would choose the directors of state-owned radio and television stations. Parvanov criticized the fact that the majority of the NSEM's members would be nominated by parliament, while the president's share would be reduced. According to the president, the authors of the draft did not keep in mind the results of an earlier public discussion about the potential law or proposals made by NGOs. Parvanov said the draft law will be submitted to parliament at the most inopportune moment, just as the country must decide on its role in the Iraq crisis. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 February)
ESTONIANEWS AGENCY CLOSES, FUTURE TO BE DECIDED SOON. The ETA news agency on 31 January officially announced its closure due to economic difficulties, BNS reported on 1 February. According to unofficial sources, the agency's debts exceed 100,000 euros ($108,000) and employees have not been paid for January and half of December. The ETA news agency operated since 1918 as a state organization but was privatized in late 1999 and declared bankrupt in mid-2000. In July 2000, the agency's operations and trademark were taken over by ETA Interactive, whose owners are unknown. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 February)
GEORGIACROWD ASSAULTS TV CREW. During a 29 January rally, supporters of former Georgian President Zviad Gamsakhurdia accused TV-9 reporter Tea Tuashvili and cameramen of being "for sale to the highest bidder." The crowd set upon them, beat them, and broke their camera. An official investigation is under way. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly Report," 27 January-2 February)
THE SAGA OF KUTAISI'S INDEPENDENT RADIO STATION. A Kutaisi court on 25 January suspended the broadcasts of Dzveli Kalaki (Old Town), the city's only independent radio station, the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations reported on 2 February. Some city residents reportedly complained that the station emitted "harmful radiation," and it turned out that the station lacked a health certificate. Dzveli Kalaki employees claim that no other radio stations have such certificates either. Some station staffers believe that local Orthodox Church officials, particularly Bishop Kallistrat, might have influenced those who complained. Bishop Kallistrat has reportedly instructed his flock not to listen to the station's weekly program about the local Catholic community. According to RFE/RL's Georgian Service, the new director of the Kutaisi Press House -- where the radio station has its offices -- has allegedly also played a role in this incident. Indignant at the court decision, the station's journalists staged a protest. Students at a local Georgian Orthodox seminary allegedly attacked the reporters, according to the Caucasus Institute for Peace, Democracy, and Development (CIPDD). Five days later, the court allowed the station to resume broadcasting until it reached a final decision. On 31 January, a crowd barricaded the street where the station is located. Police arrived on the scene, but as soon as they left, the crowd -- some reportedly armed with crowbars -- rushed the station. The crowd was stopped by the radio station's guards. The staffers claim they recognized some seminarians in the angry crowd. As of 5 February, the CIPDD reported, the Kutaisi station has not resumed broadcasting. CC
KAZAKHSTANPRESIDENT'S DAUGHTER ENDORSES CONVICTED JOURNALIST'S RIGHT TO APPEAL. In a statement released on 31 January, President Nursultan Nazarbaev's daughter, Darigha, said in her capacity as president of the Social Defense foundation that the trial of journalist Sergei Duvanov was marred by procedural violations and that his case should therefore be reviewed by an appeals court, Reuters and Interfax reported. Duvanov was sentenced on 28 January to 3 1/2 years in prison on charges, which many observers believe were politically motivated, of statutory rape. His defense protested numerous alleged procedural violations during both the pretrial investigation and the trial. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 February)
KYRGYZSTANIFJ PROTESTS REPRESSIVE USE OF LIBEL LAWS AGAINST OPPOSITION PRESS. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has condemned what it calls "judicial persecution" of a leading opposition newspaper in Kyrgyzstan, according to a press release posted on the organization's website (http://www.ifj.org) on 5 February. A court in Bishkek on 20 January ordered the seizure of the property of the independent daily "Moya stolitsa-novosti" and the freezing of its bank accounts, because of possible libel damages pending against the paper. "Moya stolitsa-novosti" has regularly reported on official corruption. The court ordered the seizure of the newspaper's computers even though they belong to the Democracy Commission of the U.S. Embassy in Kyrgyzstan. "Moya stolitsa-novosti" Editor Aleksandr Kim said on 28 January that his paper might close, since as a result of the court order the paper is denied access to its bank account, the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations reported that day. "This is the latest act of judicial persecution of independent press in the country," IFJ General Secretary Aidan White was quoted by an IFJ press release as saying. "It raises concern that the libel laws are being used to systematically stifle opposition, opinion." The IFJ, the world's largest organization of journalists, is calling on the authorities to stop using the legal system as a weapon against independent media. (IFJ, 5 February)
LITHUANIAPRESIDENT ORDERS AN INVESTIGATION OF POSSIBLE HARASSMENT OF MEDIA GROUP. Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus has ordered an investigation into the activities of a security agent who was videotaped asking a reporter to provide "compromising information" about the paper "Respublika," according to 6 February press release by the World Association of Newspapers (WAN) (http://www.wan-press.info). In a letter to the WAN and the World Editors Forum (WEF) and in a subsequent telephone conversation, President Adamkus called the incident "an unacceptable attempt to bring discredit upon the state authorities of Lithuania that should not be tolerated." Responding to 3 February WAN and WEF protests, Adamkus denied that the government of Lithuania is waging a campaign of harassment against "Respublika" or its owner, Vitas Tomkus. (WAN, 6 February)
MOLDOVATV CUTS BROADCAST OF CELEBRATION WHEN IT TURNS INTO PRO-ROMANIA RALLY. Citing government sources who requested anonymity, Flux reported on 30 January that President Vladimir Voronin intends to fire Culture Minister Vyacheslav Madan for the "poor organization" of a recent concert to celebrate violinist Nicolae Botgros's 50th birthday. The news agency reported that pro-Romanian songs were performed during the concert and the audience, with the exception of Voronin and Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev, sang along. The live televised broadcast of the concert was interrupted when folk musicians from Romania -- among them Irina Loghin, a parliament deputy from the ultranationalist Greater Romania Party -- were about to begin their performance. Madan was appointed to his position on 16 December after Voronin dismissed his predecessor, Ion Pacuraru, for failing to organize a theater festival in honor of playwright Ion Luca Caragiale. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 January)
PPCD TO PICKET PARLIAMENT OVER MEDIA REFORM. Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) Chairman Iurie Rosca said that the PPCD and the leaders of parliamentary and extraparliamentary opposition parties will begin picketing parliament on 6 February to demand the genuine reform of Teleradio Moldova. RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 30 January. Meanwhile, some 2,000 members and sympathizers of the PPCD on 2 February protested in Chisinau, ITAR-TASS and Romanian Radio reported. The demonstrators accused the government of imposing its line on Teleradio Moldova's reporting. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 January and 3 February)
RUSSIAPRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATION PROPOSES SHUTTING DOWN MEDIA OUTLETS THAT MISBEHAVE DURING THE ELECTIONS. President Vladimir Putin on 4 February introduced a package of amendments to four federal laws that would further reform the election system, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 5 February. One of the amendments would allow authorities to shut down media outlets that violate election legislation, according to the report. Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov was quoted in December by strana.ru as calling for such measures, saying that the current situation "presents a threat to democratic elections." Under the Kremlin's draft legislation, whenever a media organ violates election laws more than once, notification would be sent to the agency where it is registered, usually the Media Ministry or one of its territorial organs. The Media Ministry would then have the right to decide whether the violations are serious enough to warrant the immediate suspension of the outlet's activity until after the election. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 February)
NTV JOURNALISTS PROTEST... NTV's Executive Board voted unanimously on 30 January to express its lack of confidence in the station's new director, Nikolai Senkevich, Interfax reported. According to "Vremya novostei" on 31 January, the catalyst for the move was Senkevich's appointment of 35-year-old Aleksei Zemskii as NTV's first deputy director. Popular NTV host Leonid Parfenov said he and many others know Zemskii as the producer of "entertainment programs." "How this person can direct an information service is not understandable. The first deputy for broadcasting at NTV is first of all an information-service director," Parfenov told the daily. The journalists said Senkevich is "totally unsuited for his position," ITAR-TASS reported. NTV Editor in Chief Tatyana Mitkova told Interfax that when a company's staff expresses no confidence in the management, "either [the staff] or the management has to leave." Mitkova was also quoted as saying there will be "no strikes or revolutions on the air." However, on 30 January, Mitkova failed to appear in her normal slot as the anchor of the evening news, and journalist Kirill Pozdnyakov reported the Executive Board's decision in her stead. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 January)
...AS MANAGEMENT STANDS FIRM... NTV senior management on 30 January issued a press release saying the company does not have an "executive board" and, therefore, the vote of no confidence in Senkevich is not valid, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. Newly appointed Gazprom-Media General Director Aleksandr Dybal also expressed this opinion. Gazprom-Media owns NTV. Dybal declared his complete confidence in Zemskii, saying there can be no doubts about his professional competence, newsru.com reported on 31 January. The disputed NTV Executive Board the same day issued an open letter to Gazprom CEO Aleksei Miller that states the station "is on the brink of a crisis" and appeals for him to intervene. Copies of the letter were sent to the Media Ministry and President Putin's administration. Newsru.com quoted Mitkova as saying the situation cannot be resolved "without interference from above." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 January)
...HEADS OF GAZPROM, MEDIA MINISTRY MEET... Media Minister Mikhail Lesin met on 3 February with Gazprom CEO Miller to discuss the personnel situation at NTV, Russian news agencies reported. After the meeting, Lesin told journalists that Miller will meet with NTV's leading journalists on either 7 or 10 February. On 31 January, Gazprom-Media head Dybal met with NTV Editor in Chief Mitkova and other leading journalists to discuss the issue. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February)
...AND POPULAR NTV PROGRAM TO TAKE A HIATUS. After meeting with Gazprom CEO Miller on 6 February, NTV host Parfenov announced that he has decided to pull his weekly analytical program "Namedni" off the air for at least three months, ITAR-TASS reported. Parfenov said he plans to use up 99 days of leave that he has accumulated after 10 years of work at the station. He added that "it's impossible to work in such conditions" and that he was told "the recent changes at NTV to which we objected wouldn't be cancelled." "I respect the shareholder's [Gazprom's] right to make decisions and mistakes, but we also have to make certain decisions concerning ourselves," Parfenov said. Parfenov has been outspoken in his criticism of the appointment of Zemskii as NTV's first deputy director in charge of information programming. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 February 2003).
LOCAL STATIONS GET LESS AIR TIME. Local channels are getting less airtime in various parts of Russia, according to the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations. For example, the Novosibirsk Municipal Radio Company will reduce its daily broadcasts from 2 1/2 hours to 30 minutes because the radio company has been taken over by the state-run national broadcaster Radio Rossiya. The new law on licensing permits Radio Rossiya to take part in municipal cable-radio networks throughout Russia, and it apparently is planning to make full use of its right to control this network. Radio Novosibirsk Director Vladimir Piskarev is not pleased by this turn of events. His company has sent a letter to Novosibirsk representatives in the State Duma asking for their help in maintaining full-time municipal broadcasting. Renat Suleimanov, chairman of the Novosibirsk city legislature's Standing Commission on Local Self-Government, Public Security, and Media Cooperation believes that a national information hierarchy is being built in the run-up to December's Duma elections. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia: Authorities vs. Media Weekly Report," 28 January-3 February)
PRIME MINISTER URGES MORE GOVERNMENT OPENNESS. During a 6 February cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said the government should increase public access to information about its activities, as well as about those of the legislative branch, ABNews and other Russian news agencies reported. Kasyanov said that federal agencies and state organs should post information about federal programs, laws, and international agreements on the Internet and publish it in the print media. He also urged them to make public information about their internal processes and developments, as well as announcements about state tenders. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 February)
JOURNALIST ASSAULTED BY UNKNOWN ATTACKERS. Olga Yegorova, a journalist for the youth paper "Pokolenie" in Orel, was attacked by unknown assailants with a metal bar on 28 January near the Orel railway station, the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations reported. Yegorova reportedly believes the attack came in response to her report about the alleged handing over of a city market to a criminal gang. Yegorova suffered a broken arm and an internal head injury in the attack. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Weekly Report," 27 January-2 February)
CHECHEN MEDIA OFFICIAL CRITICAL OF SPOKESMAN. Ilya Shabalkin, a spokesman for the regional operational headquarters of the antiterrorism operation in the North Caucasus, sharply criticized the newspaper "Marsho" for allegedly using inadmissible expressions about him and for allegedly misquoting him, according to the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations. Aslanbel Batalov, director of the state-run Grozny-Inform news agency, said these remarks constituted an attempt to ban freedom of speech in the republic and pledged to continue reporting the truth. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Weekly Report," 27 January-2 February)
EAVESDROPPING IN OMSK? The editor of the Omsk-based weekly "Vash Oreol," Marat Isangazin, believes the telephones of many local media managers are tapped, the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations reported. Isangazin said that he read excerpts from a transcript of his own telephone conversations and those of KP-master news agency head Maksim Nemirovich-Danchenko, Deputy Governor Aleksandr Korotkov, and other local figures. He allegedly received the transcripts from an unidentified source who allegedly said an unspecified court authorized the use of wiretapping. The source also reportedly claimed that the transcripts are sent to the oblast administration and to law-enforcement agencies. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Weekly Report," 27 January-2 February)
KEMEROVO GOVERNOR LOSES LIBEL CASE. The Judicial Collegium for Civil Affairs of the Moscow Municipal Court overturned on 24 January a lower-court verdict ordering "Moskovskii komsomolets" to pay 100,000 rubles ($3,150) in libel damages to Kemerovo Oblast Governor Aman Tuleev, the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations reported. The case stemmed from a 23 August 2000 article by Yulia Azman. Despite the fact that a member of Tuleev's administration confirmed during the court hearings that the information in the article was essentially true, the lower court awarded the damages and ordered the newspaper to publish a retraction. The paper then obtained an expert opinion from the Vinogradov Russian Language Institute confirming that the article contained no defamatory material. Initially, however, the judicial collegium upheld the lower-court ruling, but its decision was changed following a protest by Moscow Municipal Court Chairwoman Olga Yegorova. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Weekly Report," 27 January-2 February)
CHECHEN INSURANCE FUND FILES SUIT AGAINST PAPER. The Chechen Republic's Social Insurance Fund has filed a suit against the newspaper "Vesti Respubliki" over a report it published in December that effectively accused fund officials of accepting bribes, the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations reported. The report's author, who is employed in the Grozny city administration press service, alleged that insurance-fund officials forced parents to pay to send their children to summer camps. Grozny's Leninskii Raion Court will hear the case. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Weekly Report," 27 January-2 February)
RUSSIAN ORTHODOX TO GET THEIR OWN NATIONAL TV STATION? Patriotic Russian Orthodox Christians must work to create their own federal television channel, said Aleksandr Krutov, editor of the "Russkii Dom" television program and magazine, in a recent speech, the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations reported. Krutov argued that current television programming is creating "a demand for immorality" among the public. "We must, above all, more actively involve ourselves in political life, tell parishioners what we think of developments, and have our people in the executive, legislative, and judicial authorities and mass media," Krutov was quoted as saying. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia: Authorities vs. Media Weekly Report," 28 January-3 February)
PROSECUTION ASKS FOR 14-YEAR PRISON SENTENCE FOR RADICAL-PARTY LEADER/WRITER... Saratov Oblast court on 31 January found National Bolshevik Party leader Eduard Limonov guilty of forming an illegal armed formation and organizing the purchase of weapons, RFE/RL's Saratov correspondent reported. At the same proceeding, the court also convicted five other party members on similar charges. The prosecutor has asked that Limonov be sentenced to 14 years' imprisonment and that Sergei Aksenov, founder of the party's newspaper "Limonka," be given 12 years, ITAR-TASS reported. According to RFE/RL, Limonov will turn 60 on 22 February. Court proceedings will resume on 4 February. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 February)
...WHO COMPARES HIMSELF TO 19TH-CENTURY RADICAL. A Saratov court has dropped some of the charges against Limonov, including the allegation that he called for the overthrow of the country's constitutional order, Ekho Moskvy reported on 4 February. Limonov was convicted of other charges, including organizing an armed formation and illegal weapons possession, on 31 January and is currently awaiting sentencing. In an interview with a Saratov television station the same day, Limonov said that he is being prosecuted in the same way as the 19th-century writer Nikolai Chernyshevskii, regions.ru reported on 4 February. Limonov explained that Chernyshevskii, who was born in Saratov, was arrested in July 1862 in connection with an antigovernment proclamation that he didn't actually sign. "After Soviet power, after 70 years of the dictatorship of the proletariat, we see that our valiant special services have turned to the methods of 140 years ago and the time of Chernyshevskii," Limonov said. Chernyshevskii wrote his most famous book, "What Is To Be Done?," while in prison, and it had an enormous impact on Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin. Limonov has written seven books since his arrest in April 2001. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 February)
ADVERTISING MARKET BOOMED IN 2002. Russia became one of Europe's 10 largest advertising markets in 2002, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 January, citing Russian Association of Advertising Agencies (RARA) President Vladimir Yevstavev. The Russian market totaled $2.7 billion, up by 51 percent from 2001. Television advertising represented the largest share, reaching $900 million. Non-Moscow-based television advertising was worth $190 million. According to RARA analysts, the market is expected to continue its growth this year, and prices of advertising services are expected to rise. RARA estimates the Russian advertising market will be worth $2.73 billion in 2003, $3.43 billion in 2004, and $3.8 billion in 2005. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 January)
SERBIA AND MONTENEGROIFJ CALLS FOR 'URGENT' IMPLEMENTATION OF BROADCAST ACT AND SETTLEMENT OF RTS LABOR DISPUTE. In a 31 January letter to Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) expressed concern with the "deteriorating situation" at Radio Television Serbia (RTS). The IFJ criticized the Serbian authorities' failure to implement the Public Broadcasting Act, resulting in a legal and financial vacuum for RTS as of 1 February. The insecurity facing RTS staff is exacerbated by the breakdown in relations between management and the RTS branch of the Nezavisnost trade union (see item below), and their failure to agree a new collective agreement resulting in the current labor action. The IFJ called for a renewed effort on both sides to reach an agreement that allows management to transform RTS into a viable public broadcaster and to treat its staff fairly and reasonably. (IFJ, 31 January)
MEDIA REFORMS FURTHER DELAYED. The introduction of compulsory subscriptions to RTS services will be postponed until the Broadcast Agency Council is established, Serbian parliament Information and Culture Committee Chairman Ivo Andric said on 24 January. Andric announced that the council will be established at the first parliamentary session after the Constitutional Charter for the new state of Serbia and Montenegro is adopted. The management board for the new public-broadcasting service will be appointed immediately after that, he said, declining to specify dates. ("ANEM Media Report," 18-31 January)
UNION NEGOTIATIONS BROKEN OFF. Negotiations between the Nezavisnost trade union and the management of state television have been broken off, the union announced on 29 January. "The reason for the cancellation is the lack of readiness by management to discuss union demands, salaries, bonuses, and individual contracts," said a union statement. ("ANEM Media Report," 18-31 January)
TAKING LICENSE WITH THE MEDIA? At least 50 percent of Serbia's radio stations currently on the air could be closed once the Broadcast Act takes effect, Dusan Masic of the U.S.-funded media-training organization IREX said on 30 January. There are 800 radio stations in the country, 87 in Belgrade alone, Masic said. According to an IREX-commissioned survey of 5,618 people in Serbia, excluding Kosova, 62 percent of the population listens regularly to the radio, while only 6.8 percent never listen to it. ("ANEM Media Report," 18-31 January)
TV CREW DETAINED AT BORDER. A camera crew from Belgrade's TV Pink was detained by border police at Belgrade airport on 20 January. TV Pink later issued a statement that the crew was detained after crossing the border into the airport's immigration-control area as they were attempting to film former Serbian President Milan Milutinovic as he was leaving for The Hague. A tape containing what the station described as "exclusive footage of Milutinovic's departure" was confiscated. Misdemeanor charges are to be filed against the crew, said the station. ("ANEM Media Report," 18-31 January)
TV RATINGS MONITORING AGENCY TO BE LAUNCHED. Serbia and Montenegro's International Advertising Association announced on 23 January plans to establish an independent body to monitor television ratings in order to set fair advertising rates. ("ANEM Media Report," 18-31 January)
NEW INDEPENDENT PRINTING HOUSE PLANNED. Private publishers in Serbia are to have access to a new printer by September under an agreement signed on 23 January by the Association of Private Electronic Media. The contract guarantees the construction of the printing facility; operations are slated to begin by 1 September. The $3 million project is funded by donations from the EU, Denmark, France, and Germany. ("ANEM Media Report," 18-31 January)
MEDIA TO BE 'MONITORED.' All Montenegrin broadcasters will be monitored by a center in the independent Broadcast Agency, "ANEM Media Report" reported. "This is not going to be state censorship," Deputy Information Minister Abaz Dzafic told journalists on 30 January. Dzafic added that all media-network relays in Montenegro would be treated in this manner and that such monitoring would be beneficial to the media. ("ANEM Media Report," 18-31 January)
TAJIKISTANCLANDESTINE PRINT SHOP RAIDED. Police in Khudjand in Tajikistan's northern Sughd Oblast have shut down a print shop run by the regional head of the banned Hizb ut-Tahrir Party, ITAR-TASS reported on 2 February. The man and two of his associates were arrested, and computer equipment, videocassettes, and a bookbinding machine were confiscated, together with 100 books and 1,000 leaflets calling for the establishment of an Islamic state in Central Asia. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 February)
UZBEKISTANJOURNALIST THREATENED WITH CRIMINAL CASE. The Karshi branch of the Interior Ministry in Kashka-Darya Raion told journalist Olim Toshev on 27 January that an investigation into charges of public hooliganism and embezzlement has been opened against him, the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations reported. The local authorities claim that Toshev engaged in embezzlement when he was the editor of the Interior Ministry's newspaper "Posbon" before he was dismissed last summer. Toshev claims the authorities are acting in reprisal for numerous articles he has written about the region's law-enforcement agencies. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly Report," 27 January-2 February)
REGIONALRUSSIAN OFFICIAL ACCUSES GEORGIAN PAPER OF SPREADING CHECHEN TERRORIST VIEWS. Ilya Shabalkin, an official of the Russian antiterrorism-operation headquarters, was reported on January 28 to have accused the Georgian paper "Tribuna" of disseminating information supplied by Chechen terrorist leaders, particularly by Chechen propaganda chief Movladi Udugov and the head of the Chechen press center in Tbilisi, Khasan Israilov. Shabalkin accused "Tribuna" Editor Zviad Pochkhua of cooperating with terrorists, charges that Pochkhua flatly denies. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly Report," 27 January-2 February)
END NOTEALL PUTIN, ALL THE TIME?
By Julie A. Corwin
Despite more than two years of steady high approval ratings for President Vladimir Putin, two recent articles in the central media have suggested there might be a soft side to his public support. Political analyst Avtandil Tsuladze wrote for gazeta.ru on 29 January that if Putin's popularity rating continues to grow, then the "accumulating tension between the growing expectations and rising support for the president will reach a critical mass, and [his] rating will unavoidably fall." In other words, Putin will finally have to deliver something tangible in order to justify the hopes placed on him. Tsuladze argues that Putin's rising ratings are not evidence that the situation in the country is improving but that it is worsening. "Putin appears to be the last hope of society for the preservation of stability," Tsuladze writes. Tsuladze is a former political correspondent for "Segodnya" and the author of a book on the creation of Putin's image.
Putin might turn out to be a victim of his own public relations, "Konservator," No.3, argued on 31 January. The weekly writes that the Kremlin's political campaign consultants might be overdoing it with the use of the Putin "brand" in their public-relations efforts. According to the daily, "average, meek, law-abiding Russians" are starting to get "bored" with Putin. There are many reasons for this, the weekly argues, but first and foremost is the dominance of the Putin "image" or "brand." The daily estimated that Putin's name comes up at least 20 times during each evening news broadcast on ORT, 15 times on RTR, 10 times on TV-Tsentr, and six times on TVS. Meanwhile, the newspapers are covering all imaginable aspects of "Putinology," such as a competition for Putin look-alikes, a new film project about Putin and his wife, Putin's culinary predilections, etc. Likewise, bookstores are full of books about Putin: "The Puzzle of Putin," "The Path to Renewal: Yurii Andropov and Vladimir Putin," "A Psychological Portrait of Vladimir Putin," "Vladimir Putin: Russia's Last Chance?" and so on and so on.
A second reason for a possible "cooling" toward Putin is the lack of any alternative to him, the newspaper writes. The "reliable bloc of Kremlin political spin doctors" effectively "wields its pens" against anyone disagreeable. It has become dangerous for media outlets to be considered independent, let alone the voice of the opposition. The daily points to the fate of the "most loyal" former NTV General Director Boris Jordan, who was recently dismissed. "In the corridors of Ostankino, the concept of 'television without stars' is being widely discussed...and who needs stars now, when all light is absorbed by one star by the name of Putin," the weekly writes.
Both Tsuladze and the "Konservator" authors display a sophisticated awareness of both the power and limitations of modern political marketing. At the same time, though, they seem unaware that when one campaign begins to falter, another can be prepared. As the makers of a brown, sweet-tasting fizzy drink called Coca-Cola have found, there are any number of ways of creating anew year after year, decade after decade, the belief that "Coke" does indeed "add life." If the link between Putin and stability that has worked so well to date begins to prove ineffective, then an alternative positive image of the president can likely be created in the minds of the Russian voters.
Julie A. Corwin is the editor of "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly."