17 March 2003, Volume 3, Number 10
INTERNATIONALNETMEDIA CONFERENCE. NetMedia on 3 March announced the program for the ninth annual NetMedia conference in Barcelona, Spain, on 3 July. NetMedia is a leading European Internet conference on digital technologies and journalism. This year's NetMedia conference focuses on how to make online news services self-sustaining. The conference program and booking form are available at http://www.net-media.co.uk CC
EUROPEAN ONLINE JOURNALISM AWARDS. The European Online Journalism Awards (EOJA) are the world's first awards to honor Internet journalists and the first pan-European digital-media awards. All European journalists are eligible for the awards. EOJA judges are drawn from leading European media companies and journalism schools. The awards are given in partnership with the European Journalism Centre, the European Federation of Journalists, and several Spanish journalism groups. They are administered by a board of leading journalism educators from across the continent. Entry forms for the awards: http//:www.net-media.co.uk CC
ONE WORLD MEDIA AWARDS. One World Broadcasting Trust (OWBT) is accepting entries for its 2003 Annual Media Awards for journalistic and creative endeavors focusing on the developing world in 12 categories for television, radio, print, and new media. Most awards are for the United Kingdom, but foreign journalists are also eligible to participate. Entries must focus on development issues in Asia, the Middle East, Central and Eastern Europe, or the former Soviet Union. Entries must have been originally broadcast or published between 23 March 2002 and 21 March 2003. Entry deadline is 21 March. More information and entry form available at: http://www.owbt.org CC
LINKING MINORITIES, COMMUNITIES, AND ELITES. E-Riders (known in the United States as "circuit riders") assist nonprofit organizations to use information technologies to link communities and decision makers. The Washington, D.C.-based Advocacy Project in 2002 recruited a team of Romany e-Riders in Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic to help nonprofit groups. For the complete text of an article on e-Rider/NGO cooperation in educational reform and political participation in Hungary, see http://techsoup.org/npostory_article.cfm?articleid=66&topicid=0&cg=btc CC
A VIRTUAL LIVING ROOM? The Internet has changed the social lives of people in Germany, Britain, and France, according to an AOL Europe telephone survey of 500 people over the age of 18 conducted between 1 October and 24 November 2002 (see http://www.aol.de). The Internet is seen as a "virtual living room," the survey said. Some 40 percent of those interviewed have arranged a date via e-mail and about one-third have exchanged e-mail addresses before exchanging phone numbers. Up to 57 percent of respondents in Germany ask that invitees to social functions respond by e-mail. About 25 percent regularly listen to music via the Internet, and 45 percent use the Internet for job hunting. Up to 84 percent communicate with friends or family via the Internet. Seventy-nine percent have used the Internet to look up local events they later attended. About two-thirds of parents believe the Internet will have a positive influence on their children, and up to 70 percent of all survey participants think it is essential for children to develop Internet skills. CC
AFGHANISTANWOMEN GET RADIO. A new all-female radio station called "Voice of Afghan Women" was inaugurated in Kabul on 8 March, International Women's Day, Iranian state radio's Zahedan-based Pashto service reported. The station will broadcast one combined hour of programming in Pashto and Dari each day. The radio station is funded by the UN Educational and Scientific Organization and is headed by Jamila Mujahed, an Afghan journalist who is also editor in chief of "Malalai," a French-funded magazine for women in Afghanistan, AP reported on 9 March. Mujahed said the new radio station "will focus on women -- the problems they face, and how they can find solutions for them," AP reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 March)
NEW RADIO OF WOMEN IN BALKH. A radio station staffed by women and targeted at a female audience was launched in Mazar-e Sharif on 9 March, Balkh Television reported. The ceremony was presided over by Mohammad Abdu, the head of Balkh Province's Information and Culture Department, and a representative of the Ampex Corporation of Canada, which provided funding for the station, Balkh Television reported. The new 50-kilowatt FM radio station, named Rabia Balkhi, will broadcast two hours of programs per day, the report added. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 March)
NEW KANDAHAR RADIO STATION TO BE LAUNCHED. The Boston-based NGO Afghans for Civil Society (ACS) on 25 February announced that former BBC producer Akhtar Kohestani will serve as station manager for Afghan Independent Radio (AIR), which is to be launched this spring. AIR will be the first independent radio station to be based in the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan. For 20 years, Kohestani worked with the BBC's Pashto Service as a producer of radio programs for Afghanistan. Internews will provide technical support and staff training. Program content will be shared among radio stations throughout Afghanistan. Plans are under development for program sharing with the BBC, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Voice of America, Radio Afghanistan (Kabul), and Radio Afghanistan (Toronto). The project is managed by Afghans for Civil Society and funded by the Carr Foundation and the Open Society Institute (OSI). See http://www.afghanpolicy.org CC
HERAT PROVINCE BANS SATELLITE DISHES, MOVIES. The Endowment and Islamic Affairs Department of Herat Province has ordered a ban on satellite dishes and the viewing of movies, Radio Afghanistan reported on 5 March. Herat has also issued a warning to shopkeepers and other businesses to "remove posters of Indian film stars" from their premises, the report added. Radio Afghanistan noted that the former Taliban regime "also restricted movies, televisions, dish antennas, and posters." Herat Province on 1 March issued a ban on playing music in public and the sale and the screening of movies. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 March)
SUPREME COURT BANS SALE OF RELIGIOUS POSTERS. The Supreme Court has issued a ban on the sale of posters of the Prophet Muhammad or other religious figures and has warned that anyone caught selling such posters will be prosecuted under Islamic law, Radio Free Afghanistan reported from Kabul on 11 March. Posters bearing images of Muhammad and the fourth caliph of Islam, Ali, have appeared in Kabul markets, according to the report, and the Supreme Court views them as a sign of disrespect. Chief Justice Mawlawi Fazl Hadi Shinwari has accused Iranian Jews of exporting such posters to Afghanistan, Reuters reported on 11 March. In Sunni Islam, the depiction of prophets is prohibited, but Shi'a Muslims venerate representational paintings of Ali and his sons. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 March)
ARMENIASIX ARRESTED IN CONNECTION WITH ARMENIAN TV HEAD'S KILLING... Six people were taken into custody on 5 March in connection with the 28 December shooting in Yerevan of National Television and Radio Director Tigran Naghdalian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 6 March. The identities of the six suspects have not been made public. Some opposition politicians expressed concern that the authorities might try to incriminate former Prime Minister Aram Sargsian's Hanrapetutiun party in the killing. Hanrapetutiun Chairman Albert Bazeyan, who over the past two weeks has repeatedly called for the ouster of the current Armenian leadership, denied that any of Hanrapetutiun's members are connected with the slaying. He questioned why the announcement of the arrests was timed to coincide with the presidential runoff. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 March)
...FORMER PREMIER SLAMS INSINUATIONS OF LINK TO KILLING. Speaking on 11 March at an opposition demonstration in Yerevan, former Armenian Prime Minister Aram Sargsian denounced official attempts to incriminate him in the 28 December slaying of Armenian National Television and Radio head Tigran Naghdalian, according to Arminfo, as cited by Groong. ITAR-TASS on 10 March quoted Armenian Television as saying a distant cousin of Sargsian's was involved in the killing. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 March)
BULGARIAPRIME MINISTER CONVENES HEARING ON CONTROVERSIAL DRAFT MEDIA LAW. Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski gathered media experts, lawmakers, and journalists on 11 March to hear their opinions on a draft media law submitted by the governing National Movement Simeon II, novinite.bg reported. "Let's hope that next year by this time we will have a working, democratic, and solid media law," Saxecoburggotski said. Each participant was given two minutes to voice his or her opinion, but there was no real discussion, according to the news agency. Journalists and President Georgi Parvanov had earlier protested the draft law, arguing that it was drafted in a "conspiratorial atmosphere." Parvanov has signaled that he might veto the draft law if parliament adopts it without amendments. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 March)
CZECH REPUBLICTELEVISION COUNCIL HAS NEW COMMUNIST MEMBER. Alena Svobodova, a former parliamentarian for the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM), was elected by the lower house on 5 March as a member of the Czech Television Council, which manages the state-run station. In a second round of the secret voting, Svobodova received 104 votes, while her rival, ethnographer Jana Horvathova, received 29 votes. Svobodova was a KSCM deputy from 1998-2002. She replaces Protestant pastor and former dissident Svatopluk Karasek, who resigned from the council after former Czech Television Director Jan Balvin was selected for that post in 2001. Two vacancies remain on the 15-member board after recent resignations of Lucie Weissova and Milan Knizak over the council's failure to elect a successor to Balvin, who was dismissed in autumn 2002. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 March)
HUNGARYPARLIAMENT, MINUS FIDESZ, FILLS PUBLIC-TELEVISION BOARD. Parliament on 10 March officially approved a new eight-member board of trustees for Hungarian Television (MTV) after accepting two additional opposition candidates nominated by the Democratic Forum, Hungarian media reported. The move will cut the opposition FIDESZ party out of the process if it is not challenged. Parliament last week approved a truncated board comprising representatives of the coalition Socialist Party and the Free Democrats, as well as two Democratic Forum representatives. The strongest opposition party in parliament, FIDESZ, again walked out of the chamber before the voting, calling the whole process unlawful. FIDESZ and the Democratic Forum were unable to agree on the division of trustee seats earmarked for the opposition. As a result of the 10 March vote, the new MTV board will have no FIDESZ representative among its members. Parliament also elected Socialist Laszlo Czegledi as chairman of the MTV board and Huba Kozma of the Democratic Forum as his deputy. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 March)
IRANJOURNALISTS APPEAR IN COURT. Iran's Revolutionary Court sentenced journalist and political activist Nargis Mohammadi to one year in prison on charges of harming national security, disseminating propaganda against the regime, and insulting the authorities, AFP reported. Mohammadi's husband, Taqi Rahmani, has been in jail for about two years, and Mohammadi's lawyer, Mohammad Sharif, said his client was sentenced in retaliation for interviews with local press and international radio stations in which she protested her husband's imprisonment. Journalist Emadedin Baqi also appeared before the Revolutionary Court on 8 March, "Iran Daily" reported the next day. Baqi said the charges against him relate to acting against national security and insulting Supreme Leader and Father of the Revolution Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and are based on some of his writings. Baqi said he was instructed to provide the court with his controversial writings. Baqi was imprisoned from May 2000 until 6 February 2003. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 March)
CARTOONIST'S LAWYER CANNOT DEFEND HIM. Attorney Shirzad Heydari-Shahbaz, who is representing journalist Alireza Eshraqi, said on 10 March that the Special Court for the Clergy will not allow him to defend his client because Heydari-Shahbaz is not a cleric, IRNA reported. Eshraqi is not a cleric either, but he was arrested on 12 January after "Hayat-i No" published a cartoon deemed insulting to the founder of the Iranian revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini. Eshraqi was released on bail of 250 million rials ($31,300) on 9 March after spending nearly two months in solitary confinement in the Evin prison. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 March)
PRESS JURY ACQUITS TWO EDITORS, GIVES TWO OTHERS SUSPENDED SENTENCES. The Press Jury on 3 March announced its verdict in the cases of the managing editors of four publications, "Sardar," "Alborz," "Panjshanbeh Ha," and "Rah-i Zendegi," "Aftab-e Yazd" reported on 4 March. The Tehran Public Court acquitted "Sardar" Managing Editor Qodrat Ali Heshmatian and "Rah-i Zendegi" Managing Editor Reza Alizadeh of charges of "spreading lies, libel, and slander." The Press Jury convicted "Alborz" Managing Editor Babak Hadizad of "spreading lies," but since this was his first offense, his punishment was commuted. "Panjshanbeh Ha" Managing Editor Zhaleh Osku'i was convicted of "spreading lies and libel," but her sentence was also commuted. CC
IRAQPRESS-FREEDOM GROUPS URGE MEDIA PROTECTION. A new coalition of more than 100 media companies, journalists, press-freedom groups and international organizations has called on all sides in a possible war in Iraq to respect the safety and integrity of journalists, an IFEX communique reported on 11 March. The International News Safety Institute (INSI), an initiative spearheaded by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the International Press Institute, is a global network formed in December to address attacks against journalists and to promote their safety. The organization will be officially launched on 3 May, World Press Freedom Day. INSI warns that a war in Iraq will put hundreds of journalists in the line of fire, especially those traveling without the protection of armed forces. CC
CPJ CONCERNED ABOUT 'EMBEDDING' OF JOURNALISTS. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on 7 March outlined its concerns about the U.S. military's plan to "embed" up to 500 journalists covering a possible war in Iraq, according to an 11 March IFEX communique. The CPJ says the military's guidelines give unit commanders too much authority in deciding what journalists may report when they accompany U.S. troops. If a reporter could reveal sensitive information, commanders may order him or her to submit copy for review, the CPJ says. Officials could also restrict coverage by limiting journalists' movements or causing delays in filing their stories. U.S. officials have offered no convincing guarantees that journalists who are not accompanying U.S. troops will be allowed to report without restrictions, according to CPJ. CC
THERE'S A HACKER AFOOT. Hackers broke into the website of the Iraq News Agency (http://www.uruklink.net/iraqnews/) around 10 March. Visitors to the site on 11 March who clicked on the link for the Iraq Satellite Channel Television were taken to an alternate site that features links to the U.S. White House website and to a site called "Muslims for Christ," as well as a link titled "News from the Free World" that takes viewers to the Fox News Channel site. The main page of the site purports to welcome Iraqi viewers with assurances that "[God's] people in the promised land are coming to rescue you from your despair and anguish." The site encourages Iraqis to "Impeach Saddam Now" and "Vote Saddam Out of Office." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 March)
KAZAKHSTANJOURNALIST'S APPEAL REJECTED. The Almaty Oblast Court has rejected opposition journalist Sergei Duvanov's appeal of a lower court's rape conviction, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on 11 March. The raion court sentenced Duvanov to 3 1/2 years' imprisonment, and the oblast court acceded to a prosecution request and altered the sentence to the more serious charge of raping a person whom the perpetrator knew to be a minor. The prison term set by the lower court remains unchanged. Duvanov's lawyer, human rights activist Yevgenii Zhovtis, told Interfax his client was spared a harsher sentence because of the "positive references" received on Duvanov's behalf. The defense lawyers plan to take the case to the Kazakh Supreme Court. Human rights activists and independent journalists in Kazakhstan have been sharply critical of Duvanov's arrest and conviction, saying the case is politically motivated because of his many years struggling on behalf of independent journalism. The international community has expressed disquiet over the case and has called for Duvanov's release. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 March)
KOSOVAOSCE KOSOVO MISSION SPONSORS MULTIETHNIC RADIO DEBATES. The OSCE Mission in Kosova is sponsoring live multiethnic radio debates on key issues, an OSCE press release announced. The debates are organized by Radio Vala Rinore in Prishtina in cooperation with four other stations in Prishtina, Mitrovica, Shillove, and Vushtrri. The goal of this project is to build bridges among ethnic communities and among various media outlets by stimulating discussion of issues such as crime and violence, unemployment and the economy, and reconciliation. The debates will be aired live on Radio Vala Rinore and repeated the next day on other stations in Albanian and Serbian. CC
KYRGYZSTANACTIVISTS CALL FOR DUVANOV'S RELEASE. Human rights activists, political figures, and independent journalists picketed the Kazakh Embassy in Bishkek on 11 March, calling for the release from prison of journalist Sergei Duvanov, as well as the release of Kazakh opposition politicians Mukhtar Abliyazov and Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. The picket was organized by the Association of Independent Electronic Mass Media of the Countries of Central Asia, according to akipress.org. A written statement was handed to an embassy official who promised to send it to Astana, but who warned that the cases could be resolved only in the Kazakh courts. Abliyazov and Zhaqiyanov are leaders of the Democratic Choice for Kazakhstan movement who were jailed in 2002 for crimes allegedly committed during their service as government officials. The opposition in Kazakhstan considers the charges against them to be politically motivated, and their release is a frequent opposition demand. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 March)
KULOV DROPPED FROM LIST OF BISHKEK MAYORS. The Bishkek opposition publication "Moya stolitsa-novosti," quoted by centrasia.ru on 11 March, reports that a recently published book titled "Bishkek -- stolitsa Kyrgyzstana" omits the name of prominent opposition politician and former Vice President Feliks Kulov from a list of former mayors of the city. Kulov served as mayor of Bishkek from April 1998 to April 1999. The article compares the apparent turning of Kulov into a "non-person" in an official publication to Soviet practices. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 March)
LITHUANIAHEAD OF LITHUANIAN STATE BROADCASTING RESIGNS, CITING POLITICAL PRESSURE. Valentinas Milaknis, director-general of state-run Lithuanian National Radio and Television (LNRT), tendered his resignation in late February, saying that political pressure from the country's parliament had made his job impossible, RFE/RL reported on 10 March. His critics, however, claim Milaknis was incompetent and was running the state-owned company like a commercial enterprise. Milaknis said that parliamentarians interfered with his work and prevented him from pushing ahead with key reforms to reduce the company's enormous debts and make it an efficient news organization. From the time he was appointed in 2001, Milaknis met with resistance from the ruling Social Democrats. Andrius Kubilius, the former Lithuanian prime minister and a member of the Conservative Party, says the ruling majority considered Milaknis and his team a political nuisance. Milaknis told RFE/RL that increasing political pressure from the ruling coalition of Social Democrats and the less influential Social Liberals eventually forced him to resign after two years in the post. CC
SHOULD STATE BROADCASTING BE IMMUNE FROM POLITICS? According to Lithuanian law, the LNRT director-general reports only to the LNRT Council, which comprises 12 members -- four selected by the president, four by the parliament, and four by influential public organizations like the Catholic Church and the Writers Union, RFE/RL reported. Council members serve six-year terms -- two years longer than the term of parliament deputies. This means the council and the parliamentary majority are not always "in synch" politically. Currently, the council and parliament are divided on a number of political issues. CC
MOLDOVAPARLIAMENT RESTRICTS ACCESS TO ECOLOGICAL INFORMATION. Parliament on 7 March approved an amendment to the law on access to ecological information that would restrict individuals' and the media's access to such information, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Party of Moldovan Communists (PCM) Deputy Anatol Stingaci, the author of the amendment, was quoted by Infotag as saying the restrictions are aimed at preventing panic among the population as a result of dissemination of information on the part of "ignorant or insufficiently informed people." Moldovan ecologists said the amendment would restrict access to information on the planned transit of spent nuclear-fuel transports from Bulgaria to Russia via Moldova. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 March)
POLANDPREMIER WANTS 'RYWINGATE' FULLY EXPLAINED. Premier Leszek Miller told journalists on 8 March that the "Rywingate" bribery scandal is being exploited by some politicians to exclude the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) from political life or seriously to undermine the SLD's reputation, PAP reported. "And all this is happening under the flags of struggle for the moral and ethical renewal of the Polish political stage," Miller said. "The SLD and myself are in the positions of those who have been wronged, and that is why we must do everything possible to bring the matter to its conclusion," Miller added. "Gazeta Wyborcza" alleged in December that film producer Lew Rywin solicited a bribe from Agora, the daily's publisher, purportedly on behalf of Miller's SLD to lobby for a favorable media law. Last week, a special parliamentary commission interrogated Jerzy Urban, editor in chief of the weekly "Nie," in connection with the allegations. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 March)
PRESIDENT CALLS FOR RESIGNATION OF BROADCAST WATCHDOG. President Aleksander Kwasniewski on 10 March said on private Radio RMF FM that the National Radio and Television Broadcasting Council (KRRiT) should resign. Kwasniewski's pronouncement follows KRRiT head Juliusz Brown's testimony last week to the parliamentary commission investigating the Rywingate bribery allegations, during which Braun said the work on amending a media law last year involved "shady dealings" on the part of some KRRiT members. The KRRiT held an emergency meeting later that day to discuss Kwasniewski's statements. According to PAP, two members appointed to the KRRiT by the president -- Danuta Waniek and Waledemar Dubaniowski -- offered their resignations, but the other seven declined to follow suit. Kwasniewski reportedly did not accept the resignations, saying they were not from those KRRiT members whom he wants to step down. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 March)
IS BROADCAST COUNCIL BIASED? The KRRiT is a constitutional body that was created in 1993 and tasked with distributing licenses and frequencies to private broadcasters after Poland began de-monopolizing its electronic-media market. Radio broadcast licenses in Poland are given for seven years and television broadcast licenses for 10 years. The KRRiT also appoints the supervisory boards of Poland's public television and radio system. KRRiT members are appointed by the Sejm (four), the Senate (two), and the president (three). They can be dismissed only after the Sejm, the Senate, and the president unanimously reject the KRRiT's annual report. It is generally believed that as of 1997, the KRRiT and, consequently, Polish public television and radio, have been dominated by individuals associated with the Democratic Left Alliance and the Peasant Party. Meanwhile, a group of prominent Polish journalists recently advocated a proposal in the 1 March issue of the weekly "Polityka" that the politically biased KRRiT be replaced by a body elected by the rectors of major Polish universities or by the Senate (governing body) of Jagiellonian University, Poland's oldest and most renowned university in Krakow. ("RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 11 March)
RUSSIA'STATISTICS CASE' GETS UNDER WAY IN MOSCOW COURT. The Moscow Municipal Court on 11 March began hearing the so-called Statistics Case, NTV and other Russian media reported. The defendants in the case are a group of former state officials who allegedly sold confidential state information to commercial structures. On trial are former State Statistics Committee (Goskomstat) Chairman Yurii Yurkov; his former deputy Valerii Dalin; Boris Saakyan, former head of the Goskomstat computer center; and five other former officials of the Labor Ministry and the Federal Agency of Governmental Communications and Information (FAPSI). All the men were arrested in 1998 by FSB agents and accused of causing the state millions of dollars in damages by leaking economic information. During the investigation, a search of Saakyan's residence reportedly turned up $2.5 million in cash. After the initial hearing on 11 March, continuation of the case was postponed until 21 April. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 March)
FEDERAL AGENCY OF GOVERNMENTAL COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION NOW PART OF FSB... In a presidential decree issued on 11 March, President Vladimir Putin initiated a major reorganization of the country's security agencies, Russian and Western media reported. Putin disbanded FAPSI and transferred its functions to the Defense Ministry and the Federal Security Service (FSB). ("RFE/RL Russian Foreign Policy and Security Watch," 11 March)
...AS MEDIA REPORTS LINK SECURITY RESHUFFLE TO UPCOMING ELECTIONS. President Putin's 11 March decision to disband the FAPSI and to transfer its functions to the Defense Ministry and the FSB could have ramifications for the December State Duma elections and next year's presidential poll, gazeta.ru and "Vremya novostei" reported on 12 March. Both publications reported that FAPSI formerly controlled GAS Vybory, the information system the Central Election Commission (TsIK) uses to accumulate data from polling stations during national elections. Earlier media reports have also said that FAPSI designed and maintains the system, although both TsIK and FAPSI have denied these reports. FAPSI spokesman Sergei Popov told "The Moscow Times" on 12 March that "[GAS Vybory] does not even use our communications lines." However, longtime former KGB and FAPSI official Aleksandr Kalinin, who now heads a private research institute called Voskhod, told the daily on 12 March that his institute designed the GAS Vybory system, although he denied that FAPSI was involved. According to the "Vremya novostei" and gazeta.ru reports, control over the GAS Vybory system is one of the FAPSI functions that is now being handed over to the FSB. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 March)
'NOVYE IZVESTIYA' GIVES UP THE FIGHT. "Novye izvestiya" acting Editor in Chief Valerii Yakov announced to the newspaper's journalists on 12 March that no investor has been found to take over the daily and that most likely it will be closed down, polit.ru reported. The daily has not appeared since 20 February following major shareholder Oleg Mitvol's decision to dismiss former Editor in Chief Igor Golembiovskii as the newspaper's general director (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February 2003). Yakov said negotiations with Alyans Group head Ziya Bazhaev to purchase the paper have apparently fallen through. The journalists were hoping at the time to be able to find new investors and launch a new daily, possibly with the same name. Yakov told polit.ru on 12 March that potential investors have been put off by the daily's "spirit of opposition." Yakov said the only way the daily can continue is if self-exiled magnate Boris Berezovskii continues to finance it, and he advised the paper's remaining journalists to seek work elsewhere. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 March)
MOSCOW HACKER CHARGED WITH HATE CRIME. A Moscow computer hacker has been charged with inciting ethnic and religious hatred for repeatedly disrupting the Russian Muslim website Islam.ru, according to "Moskovskaya pravda" on 28 February. The hacker, whose name was not reported, was arrested in late October 2002. Moscow police said that the hacker confirmed his crimes in a letter to the website's administrator. Islam.ru is a leading source of information for Russian Muslims, updated frequently with national and international news stories on the Islamic world. CC
EDITOR OF ANTISEMITIC PAPER GETS TWO-YEAR SUSPENDED SENTENCE. Sergei Lukyanenko, editor of the recently banned Khabarovsk paper "Natsiya" was convicted in late February of inciting ethnic hatred and given a two-year suspended sentence, according to "Molodoi dalnevostochnik" on 26 February and "Tikhookeanskaya zvezda" on 27 February. An expert analysis of the paper's content commissioned by the court found the paper contained terms such as "kike" aimed at inciting hatred against Jews and spreading the propaganda of racial superiority. "Tikhookeanskaya zvezda" criticized the authorities for not pressing charges against Denis Akhmetzyanov, a Khabarovsk law student who wrote articles for the newspaper under the pseudonym Roehm, in honor of Ernst Roehm, founder of the Nazi stormtroopers. According to "Tikhookeanskaya zvezda," Akhmetzyanov's authorship of some articles was proven by a handwriting analysis. CC
BUSINESS CHANNEL TO BE LAUNCHED. RosBiznesKonsalting (RBK) will launch a 24-hour cable-television channel devoted to business news in May, "The Moscow Times" and other Russian media reported on 7 March. "The channel will be about Russian business and for Russian business," the daily quoted RBK General Director Yurii Rovenskii as saying. Rovenskii estimated that the project will cost $30 million to $40 million for the first year of operations, of which RBK has raised $15 million. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 March)
INTERNET USE CONTINUES TO GROW. The number of Russian Internet users reached 5.1 million by early 2003, RIA-Novosti reported on 10 March, citing data released at the seventh annual Russian Internet Forum. The rate of growth of Internet use was reportedly higher in the regions than in Moscow. In addition, the government demonstrated heightened interest in the Internet in 2002 through its ambitious Electronic Russia program, which is designed to boost the Internet presence of state agencies and to develop Internet-based educational programs. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 March)
LAWMAKERS MAKE BEELINE FOR VIMPELCOM. Vimpelcom announced in a 6 March press release on the company's website (http://www.beelinegsm.ru) that the cellular operator has won a tender to provide mobile-communications services to the 450 members of the State Duma. Vimpelcom's BeeLine brand became the de facto parliamentary standard in January, "Kommersant" reported on 7 March, albeit without the tender required by law. Competitors raised a huff, and Vimpelcom faced off against rival Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) in the ensuing contest. MTS spokesperson Eva Prokofev grumped to "Vedomosti" on 7 March that the tender commission took a mere 20 minutes to study and reject her company's 35-page proposal. ("RFE/RL Business Watch," 11 March)
MODERN TIMES GETS LICENSE RENEWAL. Modern Times Group (MTG) announced on 6 March that after a tender process the Russian Media Ministry has renewed DTV's terrestrial broadcasting license, pressi.com reported on 6 March. DTV broadcasts to 298 cities across Russia, with a potential audience of 42 million. MTG acquired 75 percent of Daryal TV in April 2001, has "turned the company around" and rebranded the channel as DTV. MTG is also the largest shareholder in StoryFirst Communications, the majority owner of Russia's second-largest commercial television broadcasting network, STS, and operator of six Russian radio stations. StoryFirst's STS reaches 75 million people in Russia. CC
NEW INTERNET ADDRESS FOR CENTER FOR JOURNALISM IN EXTREME SITUATIONS. As of 1 May, the new address of the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations (CJES) will be firstname.lastname@example.org CC
SERBIA-MONTENEGROCPJ CONCERNED OVER DEATH THREATS AGAINST EDITOR AND REPORTER. The CPJ on 10 March expressed concern about threats against Vukasin Obradovic, owner and editor in chief of the Vranje-based weekly "Novine Vranjske," and Goran Antic, a staff reporter, in retaliation for reporting allegations of sexual abuse made against Serbian Orthodox Bishop Pahomije. In early January, "Novine Vranjske" began running articles about five boys from Vranje who have accused Pahomije of sexual abuse and are pressing criminal charges against him. Pahomije, the leader of the Vranje Serbian Orthodox diocese, has denied the accusations. He says that the charges are part of an ethnic Albanian "plot" and has accused the paper of cooperating with Albanians. Pahomije's lawyers filed criminal libel charges against Obradovic and Antic on 13 February, the Belgrade daily "Politika" reported. According to Obradovic, a court hearing is set for 23 March. Obradovic told CPJ on 4 March that he began receiving anonymous telephone threats after Antic's articles about the case appeared in "Novine Vranjske." On 3 March, an anonymous letter arrived at the "Novine Vranjske" office threatening to kill Obradovic, his family, Antic, and the newspaper's staff in retaliation for their coverage of the case, signed by two unknown organizations, the Serbian Liberation Movement and the Serbian Liberation Front. The Serbian Orthodox Church has not made a formal statement or condemned the threatening letter, Obradovic said. CPJ is worried about the safety and security of Obradovic, his family, and the newspaper's staff, particularly in light of the still unsolved June 2001 murder of Milan Pantic, a reporter for the Belgrade daily "Vecernje Novosti." Pantic received telephone threats because of his articles on corruption and organized crime in Jagodina. CC
WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL SETS DEADLINE FOR BELGRADE TO HAND OVER DOCUMENTS. The Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia on 10 March set a two-month deadline for Belgrade authorities to hand over documents requested by prosecutors in the trial of former President Slobodan Milosevic, RFE/RL reported. Those authorities have denied prosecutors access to the archives, saying they may ask for specific documents but not search the whole archives. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 March)
IS TELEKOM SERBIA PLAYING FAIR? On 7 March, the Vienna-based IPI affiliate, the South East Europe Media Organization (SEEMO), expressed "deep concern" about the situation of private Internet service providers in Serbia, which has been jeopardized by the state-owned Telekom Serbia. According to SEEMO, Telekom Serbia has been applying so-called "limitations" on leased lines for months, thereby reducing their speed to 9600 bps and limiting communication. In SEEMO's opinion, the behavior of Telekom Serbia toward its customers and competitors is irresponsible and unfair. SEEMO concludes that Telekom Serbia is preparing itself for deregulation by eliminating competition in the field of Internet services. Indeed, Telekom Serbia is taking over the more lucrative accounts from private Internet providers, starving them financially, and using financial strengths derived from its present monopoly to the disadvantage of its competitors. SEEMO urges the discontinuation of Telekom Serbia's "limitation" policy toward its competitors, which clearly hinders the further development of Internet communications and freedom of speech in Serbia. CC
SLOVAKIASLOVAK TELEVISION TO DISMISS MORE THAN HALF OF STAFF. State broadcaster Slovak Television will dismiss 1,200 of its 2,000 employees by the end of this year due to chronic budgetary problems, Slovak Television Director Richard Rybnicek announced on 11 March, according to CTK. Presenting what he described as an "emergency" program, Rybnicek also said Slovak-produced programs are to be drastically cut and Slovak Television will move some operations out of its current building. Dismissal notices will go out by end of June, he said. Rybnicek said the redundancy measures will cost 250 million crowns ($6.6 million) in severance pay but should save 224 million crowns over one year, which amounts to about one-third of the cost of running the station. By 2004, he said, Slovak Television will no longer depend on government funding and will function solely on the basis of license fees and revenues it generates itself. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 March)
UKRAINESWISS EXPERTS IDENTIFY JOURNALIST GONGADZE'S BODY. According to the results of an examination conducted by Swiss forensic experts, a body found in the woods near Kyiv in November 2000 is that of Ukrainian journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, Ukrainian media reported on 11 March, quoting Deputy Prosecutor-General Viktor Shokin. "I believe it would be unjust to deny that the body belongs to Heorhiy Gongadze from this moment on," Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Secretary-General Robert Menard told journalists in Kyiv the same day. An RSF representative participated in the examination. Lesya Gongadze, Heorhiy's mother, said she is ready to bury the remains of her son, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Shokin said investigators in the Gongadze case are considering several possible scenarios of the journalist's death, including the possibility that he was murdered by law-enforcement officers. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 March)
MEDIA RESTRICTIONS PROTESTED AT ANTI-KUCHMA RALLY. Tens of thousands of people took part in an antipresidential rally at the monument to Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko in Kyiv on 9 March, Ukrainian and international news agencies reported. Among the demands of the protest resolution were abolishing censorship and providing the opposition with regular airtime on state television. Police estimated that the rally in Kyiv comprised 10,000-15,000 demonstrators, while opposition sources put the figure at 50,000-150,000. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 March)
OUR UKRAINE LEADER PROTESTS BAN ON MAILING FLYERS. Our Ukraine head Viktor Yushchenko said on 5 March that the recent ban on the dissemination of political leaflets through the state postal service, Ukrposhta, deprives the opposition of a crucial means of communication with the electorate, UNIAN reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 March)
UZBEKISTANTWO JOURNALISTS ASSAULTED AT PROTEST DEMONSTRATION. One RFE/RL journalist and one from the Voice of America (VOA) were assaulted and beaten on 7 March while covering a protest by some 40 women at a Tashkent market, Western news agencies reported. The two journalists said police looked on and failed to intervene when they were attacked by a group of some 20 people. They also said some of the women, who were protesting the arrest of male relatives suspected of sympathizing with Islamic militants, were later arrested and taken away in buses. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 March)
NEW PUBLICATIONSTWO NEW GUIDES ON SAFETY FOR JOURNALISTS. In March, CPJ and IFJ published guides on journalists' safety. See CPJ's "On Assignment: Covering Journalists' Safety" at http://www.cpj.org and IFJ's "Live News: A Survival Guide for Journalists" at www.ifj.org. CC
END NOTEEMBED WITH THE PENTAGON: TELLING THE ARMY STORY
By Ron Synowitz
Reporters who covered the last Gulf War often complain that press controls under the Pentagon's 1991 "pool reporting" system were overly restrictive.
Under that pool system, small teams of journalists were escorted by U.S. military officials on short trips to witness specific military operations. Usually, the teams consisted of one television camera crew, a single newspaper reporter, a radio reporter, and a photographer.
When the team finished their escorted trip, they would return to the other journalists in the pool and were required to share their work with those who remained behind.
Bill Gasperini, a correspondent now working in Kuwait for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, was a pool reporter in 1991 for CBS radio. He says he appreciated being allowed to watch some operations by the U.S. Navy and the Marines Corps. But he says many pool reporters found the experience to be a frustrating one: "That was a way for the military both to cut down the number of journalists that would go to a particular place, as well as to be able censor, basically, or to moderate, what we were saying for military [secrecy] reasons," Gasperini said. "A lot of people found that system extremely frustrating because they just couldn't get out -- especially a lot of the writers who were not with the U.S. or the British [press] or the other lead countries [in the 1991 Gulf War coalition.]"
Today in Kuwait, the Pentagon is launching a new experiment in relations between media and the military. The process is called "embedding." Instead of being sequestered from the battlefield in a pool, reporters are being assigned to specific military units where they will live and work beside the same soldiers for the duration of any war against Iraq -- or until they choose to pull out of the program.
Major General Buford Blount III, the commander of the U.S. Army's Third Infantry Division, has met with the journalists who are embedding with his soldiers starting today -- including RFE/RL's correspondent in Kuwait.
Blount welcomed journalists into the program: "This is going to be new for us -- and I think new for you, too. The embedding process has got top priority of the army to make it work." The general says the embedding process is an attempt to get reporters to "tell the army story" more accurately by allowing them to share the experience of rank-and-file soldiers in the field. He says his main request from reporters is that they simply tell the truth about what they see: "You were not happy with coverage in the past, and we were not happy either. Over the years, I guess stemming from Vietnam, there has been a gradual mistrust that had developed between the media and the army. And we're trying to stamp that out. We've got a younger generation of officers who don't have that stigma with them. And so, we're going to try to embed and open up. And we're going to make it work. You know, we'll have some bumps, but we'll work through it."
Colonel Rick Thomas, the chief U.S. public affairs officer in Kuwait, told RFE/RL that the journalists who are being allowed to link up with U.S. troops include reporters from many countries -- including Germany, France, Russia, China, and even some Arab journalists from the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera satellite television network.
Thomas says that with more than 500 embedded journalists spread across the battlefields and rear echelons of a possible war against Iraq, he does not think it is logistically possible for military censors to review reporters' material before they send it to their editors: "There will be no public affairs officer out there who is going to review or censor anything. And there is no potential book author out there who is going to be able to say that Colonel Rick Thomas or any of my staff slowed down the process of transmitting [news stories]."
Instead, Thomas says embedding will rely upon an honor system -- with journalists promising not to report certain categories of information that could help Iraqi forces understand how, when, and where U.S. forces plan to attack: "You will sign ground rules before going out there saying you understand that you will not transmit this type of information. And by signing those ground rules, I'm going to take you at your word that you will abide by it. If I find out that you did not abide by your word, then I'll bring you back to Kuwait City and send some other news organization in your stead."
In those ground rules, reporters must agree to honor news embargoes that may be imposed to protect operational security. An embargo means that no reports can be filed about a specific military operation before it occurs, or while it is under way. The embargoes will remain in effect until U.S. military officials determine that the threat of compromising operational security has passed.
Only approximate figures will be allowed to be reported about the strength of U.S. troops and their allies, as well as casualties. Information that cannot be reported -- on grounds that it would jeopardize operations and endanger the lives of troops -- include specific troop deployments or numbers of aircraft, tanks, artillery, landing craft, radar units, and trucks.
The names of military installations or specific geographic locations of military units in the Gulf region also cannot be reported unless specifically released by the U.S. Department of Defense. News and images that identify or include identifiable features of troop locations also are not authorized for release.
Also, reporters are not allowed to disclose information about the effectiveness of enemy attacks, camouflage, deception, targeting, intelligence collection, or security.
Photographers and television cameramen also will only be allowed to record images of dead U.S. soldiers if the images do not show their faces or name tags.
In compliance with the Geneva Convention, no photographs, video footage, or interviews of Iraqi prisoners of war is allowed.
The U.S. military is asking all embedded reporters to only take what equipment they can carry with them. The only equipment being issued to a reporter by the Pentagon is a gas mask and a so-called "NBC suit," which is designed to give protection from nuclear fallout or from chemical and biological attacks.
Thomas says reporters will have to conduct their work in a way that doesn't hamper the efforts of U.S. troops: "We're telling you to bring a satellite dish to the battlefield. Bring a video phone to the battlefield. Bring your laptop computer with an ability to transmit back to the rear. And when we pull over to the side, transmit your product."
Despite the unprecedented opportunity for news coverage that the embedding process could allow, former Gulf War pool reporter Gasperini says he and many other journalists are not going to take up the Pentagon's offer to live and work beside the U.S. soldiers: "This time, I'm not quite sure how this embed system will work. For large [news] organizations that have many different people, they can have someone who is with different individual units. But you always have to have someone who is looking at the big picture. And in our case, my company decided not to embed because they thought, well, you can end up with a unit somewhere and lose sight of the big picture. And you essentially become useless once certain events transpire elsewhere. And so what we're going to do is to cover the big picture as best we can by following the troops -- assuming there is a war -- into Iraq."
Looking back on his experience of 12 years ago, Gasperini admits that information which was cut from his reports by military censors during the last Gulf War sometimes was strategically significant. He agrees that the U.S. military has the right to prevent security leaks that could endanger the lives of U.S. soldiers.
Ron Synowitz is an RFE/RL correspondent who is embedded with the U.S. Third Infantry Division.