17 February 2003, Volume 3, Number 6
INTERNATIONALFREEDOM OF EXPRESSION CENTRAL TO THE RIGHT TO COMMUNICATE. The London-based freedom-of-expression organization Article 19 released a statement on 12 February stressing that the right to communicate should be understood as "the right of every individual or community to have its stories and views heard." The statement notes that the right to communicate should not be conceived of as a new and independent right. Instead, any declaration on the right to communicate should firmly establish it within the framework of existing rights, most importantly the right to freedom of expression. Included under the concept of the right to communicate are free access to and expression of information and ideas, media pluralism, and access to information from public bodies. (Article 19, 12 February)
AZERBAIJANCOURT CASES AGAINST MEDIA LINKED TO UPCOMING PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS... Two leading opposition editors say the government is using the courts to silence its media critics in the run-up to presidential elections slated for October, "Eurasia View" reported on 13 February. The opposition paper "Yeni Musavat" has been hit with 14 lawsuits -- resulting in $100,000 in fines -- over the past three months, according to the daily's editor, Rauf Arifoglu. Another prominent independent publication, the magazine "Monitor," is facing a lawsuit on allegations of "defaming the honor and dignity of the people of Nakhichevan" for an article comparing the exclave to Sicily. Nakhichevan is also the birthplace of Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev. The case was expected to open on 14 February in a Baku court, although "Monitor" Editor Elmar Huseinov told "Eurasia View" he intends to boycott the trial. He fears that if the court finds him guilty he could be sent to prison for up to one year as a repeat offender since he spent a month in prison in 2002. "If it wasn't for the Council of Europe, I'd still be in prison," he said. Huseinov believes the new lawsuit pending against his magazine -- which specializes in exposing corruption and official malfeasance -- is part of an official antimedia campaign in the run-up to the presidential elections. CC
...AND OTHER MEASURES ALLEGED... "Yeni Musavat" Editor Rauf Arifoglu was quoted by "Eurasia View" on 13 February as saying he expects a sharp rise in the cost of newsprint and perhaps the closure of printing presses. "Monitor" has already been suspended and its license revoked. Tax inspectors have sealed its offices and printers have refused to print it. Arifoglu believes the Azerbaijani government might also resort to violence against opposition journalists. Two "Yeni Musavat" journalists, including Arifoglu's brother, were recently beaten up by men who reportedly said they were doing it because the men are employed at the paper. Arifoglu was arrested in 2000 and spent 45 days in solitary confinement on official charges of a failed hijacking of an airplane during a flight from the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhichevan. Arifoglu's case was taken up by Amnesty International, the Council of Europe, and others. CC
...LEADING TO THE EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS... Arifoglu has sent details of his arrest in 2000 and 45-day term in solitary confinement to the European Court of Human Rights, according to "Eurasia View" on 13 February. Arifoglu is awaiting a response from the court but believes he has a good chance of winning significant compensation from the Azerbaijani government. CC
...AND SUPPORT FROM INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS. In December 2002, Freimut Duve, the OSCE representative on freedom of the media, sought an explanation from the Azerbaijani government over the lawsuits against the opposition media, "Eurasia View" reported. Although international organizations are sometimes criticized for failing to bring more pressure, "Yeni Musavat's" Rauf Arifoglu disagrees. "We felt the effects of Freimut Duve's statement last week," Arifoglu said. "Until that point, things were really difficult for us, and every court decision went against us." Arifoglu called for the continued involvement of the Council of Europe and other international organizations, disagreeing with those who call for Azerbaijan's expulsion from such bodies for failing to meet media-freedom commitments. "If Azerbaijan was no longer a member of the Council of Europe...it would be very difficult to exert any pressure at all on the government," he said. "Monitor" Editor Huseinov told "Eurasia View" that he agrees with Arifoglu. "The Council of Europe and the OSCE are our allies in the battle for freedom of expression," Huseinov said. Some people think they aren't doing enough, but I think they're doing what they can because they have to keep up contacts with the government side too." CC
BULGARIAMEDIA COALITION SLAMS LACK OF DISCUSSION OF DRAFT MEDIA LAW... The Bulgarian Media Coalition (BMK) -- an umbrella organization of journalists unions, nongovernmental organizations, and media owners -- has criticized the draft law on radio and television in an open letter to Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski, President Georgi Parvanov, the Council on Electronic Media, and others, mediapool.bg reported on 6 February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 February 2003). According to the BMK, there has been no public debate on the draft law. The letter alleges that the ruling coalition's effort to rush the legislation through parliament without discussion provides more evidence of the coalition's use of undemocratic means to gain influence over the state-owed media. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 February)
...AS PRIME MINISTER CALLS FOR PUBLIC DEBATE. Government spokesman Dimitar Tsonev announced on 12 February that Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski will initiate a broad public discussion on the controversial draft law on radio and television, mediapool.bg reported. Tsonev's announcement came one day after a meeting between President Parvanov and media representatives during which the draft law was harshly criticized. Tsonev stressed that the draft law will probably be amended between its first and second readings in parliament. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 February)
STATE NEWS AGENCY DISMISSALS DRAW CRITICISM. Journalists as well as legislators from the ruling National Movement Simeon II and opposition parties on 12 February protested the recent dismissals within the state-owned BTA news agency, bnn reported. "We are seriously concerned about the attempts at a purge of BTA employees," they said in an open letter to President Parvanov and Prime Minister Saxecoburggotski. "The actions of the management suggest a desire to dominate BTA and to use it for political purposes," according to the letter. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 February)
CZECH REPUBLICPUBLICATION DISMISSED AS DANGEROUSLY ANTI-SEMITIC PSEUDOSCIENCE. The publication of a controversial Czech book has led critics to charge that its author "defames a nation and a race" with references to race-based intelligence levels and allegations that Jews dominate U.S. media, universities, and the film industry, CTK reported on 12 February, citing the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes." The book, "Taboos in Social Sciences," is the work of psychologist and author Petr Bakalar. Sociologist Tomas Kamin, who called the book "pseudoscience in search of enemies" in the same newspaper article, has filed a criminal defamation complaint about the book. Kamin said the book's appearance as a serious scientific work, including footnotes, constitutes the main danger. He accuses the author of seeking "to present racist and anti-Semitic views" in the guise of science. Tomas Jelinek, president of the Prague Jewish Community, described the book as "more dangerous than the publication of 'Mein Kampf'" and commented that it could become a manual for racists and anti-Semites in the Czech Republic. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 February)
ESTONIAJEWISH LEADERS ASK MEDIA AGENCY NOT TO RUN AD. Estonian Jewish Community Chairwoman Cilja Laud, Association of Former Prisoners of Ghettos and Concentration Camps Chairman Vladimir Perelman, and Rabbi Shmuel Kot have asked the Media House advertising agency not to publish advertisements by the Simon Wiesenthal Center that offer $10,000 for information leading to the prosecution of Nazi war criminals in Estonia, ETA reported on 29 January. In their letter, the Jewish leaders claim the advertisement could instigate ethnic hatred. Laud told ETA that she has no information about any Nazi criminals living in Estonia and said that the advertisement could instigate anti-Semitism. Efraim Zuroff, director of the Wiesenthal Center's Jerusalem office, called the agency's decision not to publish the advertisement "shocking and unheard of." According to BNS, the advertisement includes the statement, "During the Holocaust, Estonians murdered Jews in Estonia as well as in other countries." Tartu University Semiotics Department head Peeter Torop said that although the text of the advertisement does not call for violence, it instigates ethnic hatred and "accuses Estonians as a nation of murdering Jews." Similar advertisements were run late last year in Lithuania and last month in Latvia. ("RFE/RL Baltic States Report," 10 February)
HUNGARYMINISTRY INAUGURATES EU-ACCESSION WEBSITE. The Hungarian Foreign Ministry on 10 February launched a website (http://www.eu2004.hu) concerning the EU and Hungary's accession process, "Magyar Hirlap" reported on 10 February. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 February)
IRANTWO REPORTERS RELEASED FROM JAIL... Emadedin Baqi, a journalist with the banned dailies "Neshat" and "Fath" who had served two years of a three-year sentence for subversion, was released from jail on 6 February, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reported on 10 February. Journalist Ali-Reza Jabari, who was imprisoned in December 2002, was released from jail on 5 February. On 17 July 2000, Baqi was sentenced to seven years' imprisonment for "undermining national security" and "disseminating unsubstantiated news stories," but his term was reduced to three years in October 2000. Baqi was jailed for writing an editorial for "Neshat" in September 1999 in which he called for Islam to adopt a modern approach to the death penalty. Jabari, a translator and freelance contributor to several independent papers including "Adineh," was arrested by plainclothes individuals at his Tehran office on 28 December 2002. The journalists' release coincided with a visit to Tehran by EU External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten for trade negotiations. (Reporters Without Borders, 10 February)
...BUT ONE FACES NEW CHARGES. When Baqi was released from prison, he was informed that he would be summoned on 8 March to face new charges in connection with articles he wrote in the reformist press accusing top regime officials of involvement in the 1998 murders of five intellectuals and opposition figures, RSF reported. Baqi's book, "The Tragedy of Democracy in Iran," was withdrawn from sale in July 2000, a few weeks after its publication. The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, and former Minister of Intelligence and Security Ali Fallahian-Khuzestani filed complaints against Baqi. (Reporters Without Borders, 10 February)
TEHRAN TAKES STEPS TO COUNTER 'U.S. PROPAGANDA.' The Iranian legislature on 5 February approved a 12.5 billion rial (about $1.6 million) budget to counter alleged U.S. plots, Iranian state television reported the same day. The money will support Iranian lawsuits against the U.S. in international courts and "enlighten public opinion" inside and outside the country about America's "cultural onslaught." This has become a regular part of the budgetary process in Iran. The legislature also allocated 20 billion rials for the Center for Dialogue Among Civilizations. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on 4 February met with officials from the official Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) and told them that the IRIB must counter the propaganda of Western countries that were harmed by Iran's Islamic revolution, IRNA, "Iran Daily," and the "Tehran Times" reported the next day. Khamenei said the Islamic revolution ended the dependence of Iranian governments on foreign powers and provided the people with political freedom and that this is another reason why Iran is a target. The IRIB should "expose the enemy's plots and revive hope about the future," he said. Khamenei added that historically all youth have the same qualities -- dynamism, energy, and idealism -- and the third postrevolutionary generation in Iran is no different. He also called on the IRIB to improve the quality of its radio and television programs. ("RFE/RL Iran Report," 10 February)
IRAQIFJ PROTESTS EXPULSION OF 69 FOREIGN JOURNALISTS. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) on 12 February "strongly condemned" a decision by Iraqi authorities to expel 69 foreign journalists. A reporter for the Norwegian public broadcasting company NRK, Knut Magnus Berge, reported that on 10 February he saw a list posted at the Foreign Ministry declaring that he and 68 colleagues were no longer welcome in the country. The journalists were given 40 hours to leave Iraq and were given no explanation for the expulsions. According to the IFJ, the Iraqi authorities limit the number of foreign journalists present in the country, since they are not allowed to work and travel on their own. Before new reporters are allowed into the country, other journalists are sent home, regardless of their visa arrangements. The IFJ called on Iraq to allow journalists to travel and work in Iraq without supervision and to revoke the decision to expel the foreign journalists. (International Federation of Journalists, 12 February)
KAZAKHSTANJOURNALISTS TO PROPOSE ALTERNATIVE NEW MEDIA LAW. Journalists attending a national congress in Turkestan expressed concern on 7 February about the implications of a new draft law on the media, khabar.kz reported on 7 February. They argued that the proposed law cannot protect journalists' interests unless corresponding changes are made to the Criminal, Civil, and Administrative codes. Inter-News-Kazakhstan Director Oleg Katsiev argued that the new law would only serve to strengthen government ministries. Congress participants decided to form a working group to draft an alternative version. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 February)
PRESS GROUP QUESTIONS INVESTIGATION OF DEATH OF JOURNALIST'S DAUGHTER. The Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) on 7 February noted the report of two Ontario coroners about the 2002 death of Leila Baysetova, daughter of Kazakh journalist Lira Baysetova, but said it raised several unanswered questions about her death. The CJFE awarded Lira Baysetova an International Press Freedom Award in 2002 for her exposure of secret Swiss bank accounts controlled by senior Kazakh officials, including President Nursultan Nazarbaev. After that report was published, Leila Baysetova was arrested on a drug charge and subsequently died while in police custody. The authorities claim she hanged herself, but the CJFE press release notes that there has been "strong concern that her death may have been linked to her mother's journalism." Chief Ontario Coroner Dr. James Young and Dr. Michael Pollanen of the Ontario Coroner's Office traveled to Kazakhstan in December to investigate the death after Lira Baysetova requested an independent exhumation and autopsy of her daughter's remains. According to the CJFE, an independent exhumation was not carried out, and the CJFE posed a series of questions to the Canadian medical investigators as to why they failed to do so. (Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, 7 February)
MOLDOVACABINET APPROVES BILLS ON TELERADIO MOLDOVA BOARD. The cabinet on 12 February approved three possible versions of a bill on the leading structures of Teleradio Moldova, all of which will be submitted to parliament for consideration, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The cabinet said it believes the best version was that proposed by independent parliamentary Deputy Mihai Camerzan, who was recently expelled from the Braghis Alliance. Camerzan's bill envisages a 15-member Board of Observers whose mandate would be for five years. Parliament, the cabinet, and the presidency would each appoint three members to the board, trade unions and artists unions would each be represented by two members, while youth organizations and cultural associations representing national minorities would be represented by one member each. The board would appoint Teleradio Moldova's director, who would then be confirmed by parliament. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 February)
RADIO, TELEVISION STATIONS RESUME BROADCASTS. The National Audiovisual Coordinating Council on 11 February restored the broadcast license of the Voice of Bessarabia radio station, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The license was withdrawn in November. Also on 11 February, the ORT-Moldova television station reached an agreement with the authorities on paying part of its debts for local broadcasts and on negotiating other parts of those debts. ORT-Moldova's broadcasts, which were recently suspended, are to be resumed as a result of the agreement. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 February)
AUTHORITIES STOP RUSSIAN TV BROADCASTS. Moldovan authorities on 7 February suspended the broadcasts of the Russian television channel Pervyi Kanal (formerly, ORT), RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau and international news agencies reported. Authorities cited the channel's failure to pay debts of over 3 million lei ($211,577) dating back to 1999. Pervyi Kanal's broadcasts -- also known as ORT-Moldova -- include a number of locally produced programs, including the popular "Moldovan News on the First Channel." ORT-Moldova Director Anatol Golea said the real grounds for the decision might be political. Golea was a counselor to former President Petru Lucinschi, and AP said ORT-Moldova is considered close to the opposition Braghis Alliance, whose chairman, Dumitru Braghis, was premier under Lucinschi. The alliance protested the closure, calling it "just another step toward a communist dictatorship." It pointed out that "under various pretexts," the authorities have already shut down broadcasts by Romanian Television's First Channel and withdrawn the licenses of privately owned Romanian Stil-TV and the private Voice of Bessarabia radio station. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 February)
POLANDEDITOR TESTIFIES IN 'RYWINGATE'... "Gazeta Wyborcza" Editor in Chief Adam Michnik was questioned on 8 February by a special parliamentary commission about an alleged attempt by film producer Lew Rywin to solicit a $17.5 million bribe from the media group Agora -- the publisher of "Gazeta Wyborcza" -- on behalf of Prime Minister Leszek Miller, PAP reported. Michnik reportedly told the commission he does not remember whether he was asked by Miller to hush the case up or whether he informed President Aleksander Kwasniewski about the case before it was made public on 27 December. On 8 February, prosecutors interrogated Michnik about the case, which has been dubbed "Rywingate" in the Polish media. "I don't understand why this case continues so long. More and more often I come to the conclusion that Lew Rywin has mighty defenders and protectors who are doing everything to drown this case," Michnik commented. Rywin, who was charged with bribery last month, has refused to speak to prosecutors. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 February)
...LAWMAKERS CALL FOR SUSPENSION OF PUBLIC-TV BOSS OVER 'RYWINGATE'... A parliamentary commission investigating the Rywin bribery scandal has called for the suspension of public-television head Robert Kwiatkowski and asked the prosecution for the right to look into Kwiatkowski's phone records, PAP reported on 10 February. "In light of certain facts uncovered in the course of the commission's work...and doubts as to the public-television station's objectiveness in covering its sessions, as well as Mr. Kwiatkowski's use of public television to disseminate his private views, the commission believes Mr. Kwiatkowski should be suspended from his functions until [the commission] has completed its work," the commission said in a statement. The commission's move followed a public interrogation on 10 February of "Gazeta Wyborcza" Editor in Chief Michnik, whose daily published an article in December claiming that film producer Rywin tried to solicit a bribe from Agora, the paper's publisher, purportedly on behalf of Prime Minister Miller. According to Michnik, Rywin mentioned Kwiatkowski among those allegedly behind his bribery proposal. Kwiatkowski said on 10 February that he can prove his innocence. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 February)
...AS PREMIER DENIES ASKING EDITOR TO HUSH UP SCANDAL. Prime Minister Miller on 10 February said he never told Michnik to hush up Rywin's alleged bribery attempt, Polish Radio reported. Miller was reacting to an interrogation of Michnik by the parliamentary commission on 8 February, when the latter said he did not remember all his conversations with Miller and cannot rule out Miller having asked him to keep quiet about the scandal. "No, never," Miller said in a response to the question about whether he ever pressured Michnik. "After all, I was convinced that a report would be written, because Adam Michnik told me about it, saying that his team would carry out a journalistic investigation and that, after that, the findings would be made public," Miller added. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 February)
JOURNALIST CHARGED WITH INSULTING PONTIFF. The Regional Prosecutor's Office in Warsaw has charged Jerzy Urban with insulting Pope John Paul II, Polish Radio reported on 7 February, quoting the office's spokesman, Maciej Kujawski. The case concerns an article published by Urban in his tabloid-format "Nie" weekly in August. "Urban is charged with insulting the head of the Vatican, Pope John Paul II, in an article entitled 'Sadomasochism on Wheels,' in which he went beyond the boundaries of legally permitted free-speech criticism; he did not respect commonly accepted ethical rules of the journalistic profession and socially accepted rules; and he used offensive, disrespectful, and sneering expressions aimed at the defamation and humiliation of Pope John Paul II," Kujawski said. "The dear old man.... You [better] stay in bed.... Munch some caviar, lick at an ice cream.... Pick your nose or pick at your toes, whatever you prefer. Don't make a horror show out of yourself," Urban wrote during the pope's last trip to Poland. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 February)
LEGAL COMMISSION FORMED TO MONITOR PRESS FREEDOM. The World Association of Newspapers (WAN) announced on 13 February that it has appointed two international media-law experts to a legal commission to monitor press freedom in Poland. According to WAN, the Polish government is using the courts to harass an independent newspaper in an apparent attempt to bring it under state control. A British and a Dutch lawyer are the first members of the commission, which will monitor civil and criminal cases brought against the publishing company and managing board of Presspublica, the publisher of the daily "Rzeczpospolita." In all, a dozen lawsuits have been brought against, Presspublica. (World Association of Newspapers, 13 February)
RUSSIAPERM JOURNALIST ACCUSED OF SEEKING STATE SECRETS. Konstantin Bakharev, a crime reporter for the Perm-based daily newspaper "Zvezda," has been accused by local Federal Security Service (FSB) investigators of instigating the disclosure of state secrets, polit.ru reported on 6 February. In November, FSB officers confiscated documents and hard disks from the newspaper's office. While the investigation is being conducted, Bakharev is not allowed to leave the city. He has not been told precisely what state secret he unearthed, according to the report. His colleagues believe that a series of stinging articles on local law enforcement organs sparked the FSB's interest. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 February)
ANOTHER NTV STAR TO DEFECT TO TVS? TVS Editor in Chief Yevgenii Kiselev has suggested that popular NTV host Leonid Parfenov work at his channel -- a suggestion Parfenov has called very "realistic," Ekho Moskvy reported on 8 February. However, Parfenov said he has also received offers from other channels, and it is "too early to say anything." Parfenov announced last week that he considers working conditions at NTV "impossible" and is pulling his program off the air for at least three months. "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 8 February that both TVS Information Broadcasting Director Grigorii Krichevskii and NTV Editor in Chief Tatyana Mitkova have been offered the position of deputy general director of NTV and both have rejected it. RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported that Gazprom officials are denying they made Krichevskii an offer. However, eyewitnesses claim they saw Krichevskii having coffee with the new leadership of NTV. Kiselev, Krichevskii, Parfenov, and Mitkova all worked at NTV before Gazprom installed new management in April 2001. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 February)
NEWS AGENCY ANNOUNCES ITS FLIGHT FROM 'MOST CORRUPT REGION.' The news agency Novyi region is moving its main office from Sverdlovsk Oblast, which it describes as "the most corrupt region in Russia," to Perm Oblast, reportedly in order to have more freedom to write about and investigate corruption in Sverdlovsk, the agency announced on 6 February. According to its website (http://region.urfo.org/), the agency made the decision after the Kirov Federal Court in Yekaterinburg ruled in favor of former Federal Tax Police head for Sverdlovsk Oblast Aleksei Zakamaldin in a defamation suit and ordered the agency and one of Zakamaldin's superiors to pay 3 million rubles ($94,000) in damages. Zakamaldin was dismissed from his post last year and has been accused of receiving a bribe of more than $1 million and allegedly arranging for the transfer of almost a dozen apartments in the Urals Federal District, regions.ru reported on 6 March 2002. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 February)
PUTIN SUPPORTS INCREASING STATE ROLE IN CULTURE. Addressing a meeting of the Presidential Council for Culture and Art on 6 February, President Vladimir Putin said he supports calls for "reviving the so-called state-order system for the creation of culture and works of art that have an indisputable social value," RTR and polit.ru reported on 6 February. Putin said that the state can create conditions to ensure creative freedom and provide sufficient compensation. "The market approach to culture is not very good, and sometimes it is not good at all," Putin said. "But it is impossible to exist without the market." The president also praised the state-controlled Kultura television channel, but said that it must increase programming content from the regions. However, this must be done in such a way as to avoid providing a propaganda platform for regional administrations, Putin warned. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 February)
SENATORS NIX BILL BANNING FOREIGN WORDS. The Federation Council on 12 February rejected the law on Russian as a state language that was approved by the Duma last week, Russian news agencies reported. Only seven senators supported the bill, while 126 voted against it and 10 abstained, Interfax reported. Council Chairman Sergei Mironov said the bill in its current form is unworkable and unrealistic, RTR reported. The bill bans the use of foreign words whenever there is a Russian equivalent available and, according to Mironov, the law does not sufficiently take into account the issue of the future development of the Russian language. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 February)
KOVALEV CONTRASTS NEWS COVERAGE OF FIRST AND SECOND CHECHEN WARS... Speaking at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C., on 13 February, veteran human rights activist and Russian Duma Deputy Sergei Kovalev contrasted the media's coverage of the first and second Chechen wars. When he was in Grozny for weeks during the first war, Kovalev said NTV telephoned him every day and then relayed his words on the nightly news. In contrast, during the second Chechen war the Russian media -- "the first victim" of the Kremlin's effort at "managed democracy" -- does not even cover antiwar protests on the streets of Moscow. CC
...AND CONFIRMS BLACKLIST OF FOREIGN JOURNALISTS. In the same 13 February presentation, Kovalev confirmed the existence of a visa blacklist of "more than 10" journalists whom the Russian authorities have decided to deny entry into Russia in reprisal for their reporting on Chechnya. Kovalev recounted his correspondence with the Foreign Ministry on behalf of the blacklisted Czech journalist Petra Prohazkova. His first letter received a speedy response from the ministry explaining that there is a Russian law that allows the authorities to deny entry visas to people considered threats to national security. When Kovalev sent another letter asking why Prohazkova was an alleged security threat, the ministry responded that there is no law obliging it to answer that inquiry and that any response would itself constitute a security breach. CC
JOURNALIST WINS OSCE PRIZE FOR JOURNALISM AND DEMOCRACY. Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya will receive this year's OSCE Prize for Journalism and Democracy for her professional work in support of "human rights and freedom of the media," OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President Bruce George announced on 10 February. George said he will present the award at the Parliamentary Assembly's Winter Meeting in Vienna on 20 February. Politkovskaya, a journalist with the independent newspaper "Novaya Gazeta," has gained wide recognition for her reporting on Chechnya. She has also published a book entitled "The Dirty War: A Russian Reporter in Chechnya." Her investigative reports have provoked death threats and an arrest by Russian soldiers in Chechnya. The OSCE Prize for Journalism and Democracy was established in 1996 at the initiative of Freimut Duve, who is currently the OSCE representative on freedom of the media. (OSCE, 10 February)
IS ADVERTISING A DANGEROUS BUSINESS IN SIBERIAN CITY? Mikhail Zinchenko, the director of Alfa, a local television company in the western Siberian city of Surgut, was shot several times in front of his home on 11 February, ITAR-TASS reported the next day. Zinchenko is currently recovering from his wounds in a local hospital. According to the agency, investigators believe the cause of the attack might be Zinchenko's professional activities. The local news agency uralpolit.ru reported that Zinchenko oversaw the placement of advertising on the local retransmission of RTR and ORT programming, according to regions.ru on 12 February. According to uralpolit.ru, the local advertising market has long been rife with conflict. In March, Surgut Deputy Mayor Sergei Ivanov was killed, and one of the theories floated was that the killing was linked to his plans to reform the local advertising sector. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 February)
INTERROS PLANS MEDIA CONSOLIDATION. Prof-Media General Director Vadim Goryainov announced on 6 February that his media holding will shift its subsidiaries to a single share to raise their aggregate value and pave the way for a public offering, RBK reported on 7 February. Prof-Media is part of Vladimir Potanin's Interros holding. It includes such national newspapers as "Izvestiya," "Komsomolskaya pravda," "Sovetskii sport," and "Express-Gazeta," in addition to several FM radio stations, "The Moscow Times" reported on 7 February. Norwegian media group A-Pressen and Russian oil giant LUKoil also own stakes in some of Prof-Media's newspapers. According to Goryainov, A-Pressen wants a 25 percent-plus-one-share stake in the new holding, while LUKoil is gunning for 10 percent. Goryainov told journalists that a consolidated company would be worth "30 percent more than now, or $260 million," "Vedomosti" reported on 7 February. However, Sistema Mass-Media Director Sergei Klyuchenkov told the newspaper: "It's unclear how they calculated the company's value. The shares don't circulate and there haven't been any deals with them lately." Despite its oligarchic affiliation, Prof-Media claims that it differs markedly from the prominent post-Soviet media empires of now-exiled Vladimir Gusinskii and Boris Berezovskii. "Prof-Media managers claim that they won't take part in agitation for the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections, considering it economically unwise," "Vremya-MN" wrote on 7 February. ("RFE/RL Business Watch," 11 February)
UKRAINERSF CALLS FOR MORE FORENSIC TESTS ON JOURNALIST'S DEATH... On 12 February, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) called on the Ukrainian government to conduct new forensic tests into the death of journalist Mykhaylo Kolomiyets. Kolomiyets, the director of the Ukrayinski novyny news agency, was reported missing on 25 October, and his body was discovered hanging from a tree in a forest near the Belarusian town of Maladzechna several weeks later. Although the death was ruled a suicide, RSF asserts that the autopsy did not rule out the possibility that Kolomiyets was murdered. French pathologist Jean Rivolet participated in an autopsy in Ukraine from 11 to 13 December that apparently confirmed the police explanation of suicide, since no traces of violence were found on Kolomiyets's body. (Reporters Without Borders, 12 February)
...AS DEBATE CONTINUES OVER THE CAUSE OF DEATH. According to police, Kolomiyets left Ukraine for Belarus on 22 October -- three days before he was officially reported missing -- with the intention of killing himself, RSF reported. In early February, an inquiry in Belarus organized by the Ukrainian League of Economic Journalists and the Institute of Mass Information found no evidence of an attack on Kolomiyets but could not rule out the possibility that he might have been subjected to psychological pressure to commit suicide. Kolomiyets's colleagues and friends, however, continue to argue that his death might have been connected with his work, claiming that Ukrayinski novyny's political and business coverage might have angered someone. Kolomiyets founded the agency in 1997 and owned half of the company, with the other half held by the Agency for Humanitarian Technologies, headed by Valeriy Khoroshkovskyy, one of President Leonid Kuchma's close associates. On 16 December, the journalist's widow, Lyudmula Kolomiyets, said publicly that her husband had been threatened and harassed in the months preceding his death. (Reporters Without Borders, 12 February)
UZBEKISTANNEW LAW ON FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMES INTO FORCE. The law on freedom of information that was passed by parliament in its second reading in December came into effect on 7 February, uza.uz reported four days later. The law affirms the right to free access to and distribution of information and prohibits censorship. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 February)
REGIONALRUSSIAN PAPER TO SUSPEND REPORTS FROM GEORGIA. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" announced in its 12 February edition that it is suspending publication of further dispatches from its correspondent in Tbilisi, Anatolii Gordienko, after Gordienko received threats to his life and his family. The paper did not specify who might have made those threats. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 February)
END NOTEINFORMATION WAR RAGES IN CHECHNYA
By Valentinas Mite
On 2 February, Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov appeared on pirate Chechen television to say militants are prepared to launch a new drive against Russian troops ahead of a scheduled 23 March constitutional referendum. The broadcast underscored questions about how opposition information is disseminated to the Chechen public as the war grinds on in its fourth year.
An information war is raging alongside the military campaign in Chechnya. The pro-Russian Chechen administration controls all the official media in the republic. This includes the Chechen-language newspaper "Daimohk" and the Russian-language paper "Vesti Groznogo," both of which are circulated throughout Chechnya. The administration also controls the republic's local papers, as well as all legal radio and television broadcasts. As a result, there is no easy way for Chechen separatists to get their message to the public.
But they still manage. Maskhadov recently used a pirate television broadcast to denounce next month's scheduled constitutional referendum and to warn that rebels are ready to launch a new drive against Russian troops in the republic. The broadcast was seen in districts on Chechnya's western border with Ingushetia, the Russian region that has housed hundreds of thousands of displaced Chechens. A subsequent broadcast featured footage of Chechen fighters training for battle.
Musa Khasanov, a journalist with RFE/RL's Russian Service who lives and works in the Chechen capital Grozny, says that in addition to Chechen- and Russian-language newspapers, the pro-Russian administration has control of the republic's radio and television programs, which he characterizes as short on hard news and long on Kremlin ideology. RFE/RL attempted on numerous occasions to reach Beslan Chaladov, the head of Chechen State Radio and Television, but with no success.
Khasanov said that the public in Grozny is relatively well informed about the attitudes and actions of the separatist government, largely due to the underground newspaper "Ichkeria." "For instance, recently it has become almost routine that in the morning, as you leave your home, you find a bunch of 'Ichkeria' newspapers placed at the front door. The latest issue was about [the former prime minister of Chechnya's pro-Russian government] Mikhail Babich, and devoted not to the nicest aspects of his biography, but to some of his [alleged] criminal activities." The source of the newspaper is unclear. Khasanov says people believe "Ichkeria" is printed outside Chechnya and smuggled across the border for photocopying and distribution. He says even bribes as small as $2 are usually enough to get the newspapers past the Russian checkpoints along the republic's border.
Television is a more complicated matter. During the first Chechen war (1994-96), Khasanov says, separatists could seize broadcast frequencies for short periods, and announcements by former Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev were inserted into soap operas and other programming. The current situation is more complicated. Now, Khasanov says, Chechen militants are believed to have set up a mobile broadcasting unit in the mountains, and surfing television frequencies has become standard practice for many Chechens hoping to catch one of TV-Ichkeria's irregular 30-minute broadcasts. Khasanov described Maskhadov's 2 February address: "The last program was clearly seen and heard in Chechnya's Achkhoi-Martan and Shunzhevskii raions. It was a one-hour program in which Aslan Maskhadov spoke about the readiness of Chechen resistance forces and the situation within the armed resistance. [He] said that now, on his orders, large detachments of Chechen fighters have split into small groups and are waiting for the end of the winter and that with spring big operations against the Russian forces in Chechnya are planned."
Khasanov says that rebels have their own Radio Ichkeria as well. The programs are thought to be produced by the rebels and then transmitted through a system created by so-called "radio hooligans," who use homemade broadcasting equipment to transmit the newscasts as far as 200 kilometers away. He said the start-up network of amateur broadcasters also keep one another informed when Russian interceptors are in the area.
In short, Khasanov says, the separatists' system works -- but imperfectly: "You can listen to the radio and watch television in Grozny, but there are some regions where the signal is of bad quality -- in places where Russian troops are deployed, near the buildings of the [pro-Russian] administration. The signal is bad there."
Ruslan Badalov is the chairman of the Committee of National Salvation, a nongovernmental organization working to support Chechen displaced persons in neighboring Ingushetia. He says displaced persons from Chechnya bring copies of "Ichkeria" as well as videos and audiotapes produced by the separatists. "['Ichkeria'] writes about the crimes of Russian forces in Chechnya," Badalov said. "Some analytical articles are published on relations between Russia and Chechnya. Some translated texts from the foreign press are presented. It depends on the events. Let's say a session of [the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe], its resolution [on Chechnya], or an appeal by President Maskhadov were covered."
Badalov says the Russian authorities are very angry about the circulation of so-called "bandit" newspapers among the displaced persons. In the camps, most Chechens get their information about the war by word-of-mouth. "People often try to predict their future based on rumors," Badalov says. All the same, both he and Khasanov say the pro-Russian administration is losing -- and the separatists are winning -- the information war in Chechnya.