14 April 2003, Volume 3, Number 14
AFGHANISTANRFE/RL REPORTER FORCED OUT OF HERAT; IRANIAN COLLEAGUE FIRED. RFE/RL correspondent Ahmad Behzad on 7 April was again forced to leave the western Afghan city of Herat, under renewed pressure from Herat Province Governor Ismail Khan and only days after receiving assurances from Ismail Khan that he and his fellow journalists would be allowed to freely report the news, according to a 9 April RFE/RL press release. Behzad, a reporter for RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan, first left Herat with several other journalists on 24 March, to protest the 19 March verbal and physical assault on Behzad by Ismail Khan and his security chief, Nasim Alawi. The journalists returned to Herat from Kabul on 3 April, after meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on 28 March and after Ismail Khan told media outlets that he was "not against any Afghan or foreign journalist, and the reporters can be assured of their safety in our town, and can report on life in this country any way they wish." Only one day after Behzad returned to Heart on 3 April, Ismail Khan condemned Western broadcasters to Afghanistan, accusing them of trying to destabilize the country and threatening them with death in a speech delivered in Herat to the Islamic Council for Solidarity of the Peoples of Afghanistan, according to the Herat newspaper "Ittifaq-i Islam." In a related development, Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) Dari Service reporter Abdol Hadi Ghaffari was fired by his superiors in Mashhad, Iran, because he took part in a journalists' protest over Behzad's treatment, according to a 6 April report by the Herat News Center. CC
PAPER DISCUSSES FREEDOM OF PRESS. A 3 April commentary in the Kabul daily "Hewad" noted that at times the media have more power and are more effective than the legislative, judicial, and executive branches of government, particularly in connecting people with the government. "Hewad" added that this important media role, which has been noted by Constitutional Drafting Commission Chairman Nematullah Shahrani, should be protected by legislation and mentioned in the new Afghan constitution that is expected to be adopted in October. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 April)
BELARUSCOURT HANDS DOWN SUSPENDED SENTENCE FOR SLANDER OF PRESIDENT. A district court in Minsk on 4 April gave Aksana Novikava a two-year, suspended prison sentence for slandering President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. "I could not have been acquitted in a country where the president appoints the judges," the 29-year-old woman said after the ruling. Novikava was detained in October near the presidential-administration building while distributing leaflets depicting Lukashenka and listing articles of the Criminal Code that she alleges the Belarusian president has violated. Novikava vowed to appeal the verdict, but added that she does not expect to succeed. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 April)
BULGARIAGERMAN GIANT MAKES GOOD IN BULGARIA. German publishing company Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (WAZ) owns the two largest dailies in Bulgaria, giving the company major slices of the circulation and advertising revenues in the country's newspaper sector, "Transitions Online" reported on 3 April. WAZ Bulgaria -- which owns the two majors "24 Chassa" and "Troud," as well as "Troud Nightly," "Troud Weekly," "168 Chassa," and other publications -- was formed in 1996. It has since invested in its technical plant and released reformatted color versions of its flagship dailies. "24 Chassa" has a circulation of 200,000, and "Troud" has reached 450,000. WAZ has also developed a regional network for the two papers, both of which have editorial offices in Varna, Plovdiv, Rousse, and Bourgas. The company employs 1,300 people. CC
CZECH REPUBLICGERMAN MEDIA COMPANIES OWN 55 PERCENT OF CZECH DAILIES... In 1992, the Czech Syndicate of Journalists called for legal regulation of press ownership, but the Culture Ministry decided against it, claiming it would block market growth, "Transitions Online" (http://www.tol.cz) reported on 3 April. At that point, many editors held shares in their papers, and they wanted the option of selling their shares to possible foreign investors. Critics charge that this lack of market regulation left open the door to "an unhealthy takeover" of much of the Czech press, "Transitions Online" reported. Two German companies now own more than 55 percent of the daily press. The Bavarian company Passauer Neue Presse, through a Czech subsidiary company called Vltava-Labe-Press, controls almost 100 percent of the regional dailies and most regional weeklies as well. The German publishing group Rheinish-Bergische Druckerei-und Verlagsgesellschaft owns two popular national dailies -- "Mlada fronta Dnes" and "Lidove noviny," with a combined circulation of almost 400,000. The only dailies still under Czech control are the left-of-center newspaper "Pravo" (successor to the communist "Rude Pravo") and the low-circulation "Halo noviny," a Communist Party publication. Because the names of papers' foreign owners almost never appear on the publications' mastheads, most readers remain unaware of who owns the press outlets, "Transitions Online" reported. CC
...LEADING TO CRITICISM. Critics claim that due to foreign ownership and media concentration, regional papers have lost their unique local flavor, "Transitions Online" reported on 3 April. Often only a local supplement differs in content from one area to the next. Some observers have also accused the foreign owners of treating their publications as advertising vehicles, rather than contributing to the community. But even the critics admit that foreign media companies -- with their expertise, improved technology, and better access to wire-service information -- have improved their products. In 2001, the issue of foreign press ownership reached a wider Czech audience with the publication of a controversial book entitled "The End of the Czech Press" by historian Borivoj Celovsky. Celovsky, "Transitions Online" reported, sent his 86-page book at his own expense to every Czech parliamentarian and to more than 1,000 other influential Czechs. He claims that German media companies have violated antimonopoly provisions of Czech law and that the Czech government is turning a blind eye to the issue. CC
HUNGARYROMANY RADIO LIMITS OPERATIONS FOR LACK OF FUNDS. Hungary's Romany Radio, which operates in Budapest under the name "Radio C," stopped its broadcasting of everything but music on 7 April due to a lack of financing, "Magyar Hirlap" reported the next day. The station released a statement on its website (http://www.radioc.hu) that says it does not have the money to cover the cost related to its news and cultural programming. In February, the station successfully applied for 6 million forints ($26,000) in state funding, but has yet to receive any of that funding, "Nepszabadsag" reported. Radio C received international attention when it began broadcasting in October 2001. According to a survey carried out last year, some 60 percent of Budapest's Roma are regular listeners of Radio C, the daily reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 April)
IRANJOURNALISTS IN COURT. The editor in chief of the reformist daily "Yas-i No," Mohammad Naimipur, was summoned on 7 April, according to IRNA. Naimipur said the complaints against him were for printing reports on the trial of the editor in chief of another reformist daily "Noruz" and for interviewing the president's brother, Mohammad-Reza Khatami. Also, an editor of the Persian daily "Toseh," Seyyed Hussein Sajjadi, was summoned to Judge Said Mortazavi's press court on 7 April for unspecified reasons, according to IRNA. IRNA also reported on 7 April that former Minister of Islamic Culture and Guidance Ataollah Mohajerani is expected to appear in court on 9 April to explain why he allowed the daily women's newspaper "Zan" to continue publishing in 1999 despite a ban by the Islamic Revolution Court. "Zan" Managing Editor Faezeh Hashemi, daughter of former President Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, is to appear in court the same day. IRNA, describing Mohajerani as a "man of the pen," revealed its partiality to him by expressing gratitude for his "meritorious service in promoting freedom of expression and respect for journalists." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 April)
IRANIAN WOMAN WINS FREEDOM TO PUBLISH PRIZE. Iranian publisher Farkhondeh Hajizadeh has been named the winner of the Association of American Publishers' (AAP) inaugural Jeri Laber International Freedom to Publish Award, PEN American Center announced. Since launching a publishing career in 1993, Hajizadeh has been the target of harassment and repeated bans. CC
PARLIAMENT SPEAKER ACCUSES U.S. OF CENSORSHIP. Parliament speaker Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi at the beginning of the 6 April legislative session, according to Iranian state radio, accused the United States of censoring its news. "Our country and the world can observe that American democracy, as well as that of other countries, is a sham," he added. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 April)
TEHRAN BLAMES COALITION FOR IRANIAN JOURNALIST'S DEATH IN IRAQ. Iranian freelance cameraman Kaveh Golestan was killed in northern Iraq on 2 April when he stepped on a landmine, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported. Golestan was working for the BBC and set off the mine as he stepped out of his vehicle near the town of Kifri. Deputy Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance for Press and Promotional Affairs Seyyed Mohammad Sohofi blamed the coalition for Golestan's death. "The atrocious U.S./U.K.-led war currently under way in Iraq has not only victimized hundreds of innocent Iraqi civilians, but has taken the lives of several reporters, including Kaveh Golestan," IRNA reported on 3 April. ("RFE/RL Iran Report, 7 April)
TELEVISION BROADCASTING TO IRAQ. Iran's around-the-clock Arabic-language news television network, Al-Alam (http://www.alalamnews.com) began regular broadcasts to Iraq in March, "Iran News" reported on 6 April. According to "Iran News," Al-Alam opposes Operation Iraqi Freedom and Iraq's Ba'athist regime, shows extensive footage of killed Iraqi civilians, and refers to a "war of occupation." Iranian reformists have been quite critical of state media's one-sided war coverage. Iran's Sahar television network also broadcasts in Arabic, and a visit to the website (http://www.sahartv.com) reveals a similar bias. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 April)
IRAQJOURNALISTS AMONG WAR CASUALTIES... At least nine foreign journalists and one media assistant have been killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported on 11 April. A frequently updated list of those killed can be found at http://www.cpj.org/killed/killed03.html#iraq. The CPJ further reports that two journalists died of non-combat-related causes, and two are reported missing. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has also created a page on its website (http://www.rsf.org) paying tribute to journalists who have died or been killed during the conflict. RC/CC
...DURING WAR'S FIRST FORTNIGHT... On 22 March, Australian journalist Paul Moran, 39, of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation television, was killed in a car-bomb explosion in northern Iraq. The same day, a reporter for the British ITN network, veteran war reporter Terry Lloyd, 50, was killed near Basra by gunfire, probably from coalition troops. On 30 March, Gaby Rado, 48, of British Channel 4 television (part of the ITN group), fell to his death from the roof of the Abu Sanaa Hotel in Al-Sulaymaniyah in northern Iraq. The circumstances of his death do not seem to have been directly connected with any military action. On 2 April, Kaveh Golestan, 52, an Iranian-born journalist for BBC television since September 2000, was killed by a landmine in Kifri, northern Iraq. On 4 April, U.S. journalist Michael Kelly, 46, a columnist for "The Washington Post," was killed when the military vehicle in which he was traveling reportedly plunged into a canal while trying to escape Iraqi gunfire. He was the first of the 600 or so journalists "embedded" with U.S. and British forces to be killed. On 6 April, another embedded U.S. journalist, David Bloom, 39, of NBC television, apparently died of natural causes, of a blood clot in his lung. The same day, Kamaran Abdurazak Muhamed, 25, a Kurdish interpreter for the BBC since last month, was killed in northern Iraq in a "friendly fire" incident after a U.S. warplane dropped a bomb on a convoy of Kurdish soldiers who were traveling near Mosul, the CPJ reported. CC
...WHILE OTHERS ARE MISSING AND WOUNDED. Belgian cameraman Daniel Demoustier was slightly wounded in the gunfire that killed ITN journalist Lloyd on 22 March, and French cameraman Fred Nerac, 43, and a Lebanese interpreter, Hussein Osman, 28 -- both employed by the ITN -- have been missing since the incident. At least three other journalists have been wounded since the start of the war, according to RSF. They are Eric Campbell, ABC correspondent in Beijing, who arrived last month to beef up the network's team and was wounded by shrapnel in Kurdistan on 1 April; Stuart Hughes, a BBC producer wounded in the foot by the landmine explosion that killed Kaveh Golestan on 4 April; and senior BBC reporter John Simpson, who was slightly wounded in the aerial bombing that killed his Kurdish interpreter, Kamaran Abdurazak Muhamed, on 6 April. Simpson said the attacking plane was a low-flying U.S. F-15 fighter-bomber, RSF reported. Four Reuters journalists -- a reporter, a photographer, a cameraman, and a technician -- were wounded when their office on the 15th floor of the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad was hit by a U.S. shell on 8 April, the CPJ reported the same day. A Spanish cameraman from the Spanish station Telecinco was also wounded in the incident. The U.S. soldiers said they had been fired on from the hotel and had seen men there looking through binoculars, the CPJ reported. CC
MISSING REPORTER'S WIFE DEMANDS ACCOUNTING FROM U.S. During a 3 April NATO press conference in Brussels, Fabienne Nerac urged U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to provide more information on her husband, missing ITV News cameraman Fred Nerac, the CPJ reported. "I give you my personal promise we will do everything we can to find out what happened," Powell told her, according to the BBC. Nerac and translator Hussein Othman have been missing since March 22 when their marked press vehicle reportedly came under fire from coalition and Iraqi forces outside Basra. Fabienne Nerac and ITN, which produces ITV News, believe U.S. authorities have information about the incident that they have not made public. CC
POLISH JOURNALISTS SPEND NIGHT IN IRAQI CAPTIVITY. Jacek Kaczmarek from the public Polish Radio and Marcin Firlej from commercial TVN 24 news were apprehended by armed Iraqis near Karbala on 7 April and spent a night in captivity, Polish media reported. Maciej Woroch, a journalist for private TVN television who managed to escape the Iraqis, told Polish Radio that the convoy of cars they were driving in accidentally entered an area controlled by Iraqi forces. On 8 April, Kaczmarek and Firlej returned to the relative safety with coalition forces. They told TVN 24 on 8 April that one of their captors returned their car keys, allowing them to go free after U.S. aircraft began to bombard the area. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 April)
IRAQI REGIME ACCUSED OF MISTREATING JOURNALISTS. RSF on 3 April accused the Iraqi regime of showing contempt for foreign journalists, imprisoning and expelling some, and preventing others from working under even a minimal level of freedom. RSF noted that four journalists were accused of spying and imprisoned for a week and that around 10 others had been expelled since the start of the war. On 1 April, reporter Peter Wilson and photographer John Feder, from the Sydney-based newspaper "The Australian," were arrested in Basra with their British-Lebanese interpreter Steward Innes and escorted to Baghdad, where they were confined to the Palestine Hotel for "entering the country without visas." The three, who were not "embedded" with coalition units, entered Iraq from Kuwait on 26 March. British and U.S. military police had also tried to detain them. CC
EBU PROTESTS U.S.-BRITISH MEDIA RESTRICTIONS. On 3 April, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) protested curbs imposed on media that want to work independently in Iraq, especially those from countries not part of the U.S.-led coalition. The EBU said reporters and film crews who were risking their lives had been detained by U.S. and British troops in southern Iraq and returned to Kuwait. As a result, they had to work almost clandestinely and take greater risks, the EBU claimed. CC
CPJ CONCERNED OVER U.S. TREATMENT OF JOURNALISTS. The CPJ on 7 April wrote to U.S. Central Command commander General Tommy Franks to express its "deep concern" about two recent incidents in which U.S. forces allegedly interfered with and mistreated journalists working in Iraq. On 25 March, four independent, journalists -- Dan Scemama of Israel's Channel 1 television, Boaz Bizmuth of the Israeli daily "Yediot Aharonot," and Radio Televisao Portuguesa's Luis Castro and Victor Silva -- were detained by U.S. troops near Baghdad and forced to leave the country. The men had been previously traveling alongside U.S. troops, who detained the journalists at gunpoint about 110 kilometers south of Baghdad, CPJ reported. They said the troops accused them of spying and detained them for more than 48 hours without food before flying them to a military base in Kuwait. Castro alleged that U.S. military police kicked the journalists' hands, kept them lying on the ground for more than 30 minutes, and accused them of being terrorists or spies. In a separate incident, U.S. troops detained "The Christian Science Monitor" reporter Phillip Smucker and escorted him out of southern Iraq to Kuwait on 27 March. Megan Fox, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Defense Department, said that during a 26 March CNN interview Smucker had revealed information that "could harm him and the unit." "The Christian Science Monitor" editor Paul Van Slambrouck wrote shortly after the incident that he had "read the transcript of the CNN interview, and it does not appear to us that he disclosed anything that wasn't already widely available." CC
TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS OF AL-JAZEERA IN BAGHDAD... RSF expressed outrage at the 8 April bombing of the Baghdad office of the Qatar-based television station Al-Jazeera that killed cameraman Tarek Ayoub and wounded reporter Zuhair al-Iraqi. The nearby premises of Abu Dhabi TV were also damaged. An Al-Jazeera journalist who had been in Baghdad told RSF: "[The bombing] could not have been a mistake. We've told the Pentagon where all our offices are in Iraq and hung giant banners outside them saying 'TV.'" Ayoub, a Jordanian who was the station's permanent correspondent in Amman, was sent to Iraq when the war broke out. The Al-Jazeera offices are in an apartment building between the Mansour Hotel and the Ministry of Planning in a central Baghdad area of government offices. Al-Jazeera announced on 2 April that it will "temporarily freeze all coverage" from its Iraq-accredited reporters to protest official Iraqi restrictions against the outlet's journalists, the CPJ reported on 3 April. The station said that Iraq's Information Ministry pulled the credentials of Baghdad correspondent Diar al-Omary and ordered reporter Tayseer Alouni expelled from the country. According to Al-Jazeera, no reason was given for the move. The station said their "policy will remain in effect until the Iraqi government rescinds its decision," CPJ reported on 3 April. Al-Jazeera will continue to transmit video images, according to the RSF on 3 April, because of prior agreements with other broadcasters. CC
...AND ELSEWHERE. As they were filming food distribution by the Iraqi government, four Al-Jazeera staffers in Basra -- the only journalists in the city -- came under gunfire from British tanks on 29 March, RSF reported. Al-Jazeera cameraman Akil Abdel Reda was missing and was later found to have been held for 12 hours by U.S. troops, RSF reported. A clearly marked car owned by Al-Jazeera came under fire from U.S. forces near Baghdad on 7 April, and the station claimed that its Basra office was shelled on 2 April. Al-Jazeera's offices in Kabul were bombed by U.S. forces during the war against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in November 2001. At that time, the RSF had asked U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for an explanation, but never received a response. CC
U.S. PROVIDER ENDS CONTRACT WITH ARAB CHANNEL'S WEBSITE. U.S. provider Akamai Technologies will not provide services to Qatar-based news station Al-Jazeera, pressetext.europe reported on 7 April. The Arabic station had hired the company to bring its English-language website (http://english.aljazeera.net) back online after a hacker attack and to provide it with antihacker protection. Joanne Tucker, who publishes the English Al-Jazeera site, told "The New York Times" that the deal had already been sealed, but was rapidly cancelled due to "constant political pressure." Although Akamai confirmed that the deal had been called off, it did not explain why. The English Al-Jazeera website was online for only 12 hours. CC
RADIOS IN SOUTHERN IRAQ RECEIVE ONLY U.S. VOICE OF THE TWO RIVERS. Many of some 20,000 transistor radios distributed by British soldiers in southern Iraq in early April allegedly receive only the Voice of the Two Rivers, a station set up by coalition forces, according RSF on 7 April, citing the French daily "Le Monde." The coalition's psychological operations are now largely targeting civilians, the paper reported. The Voice of the Two Rivers, heard in southern Iraq on five frequencies, broadcasts music and U.S. "psychological operations" messages, according to "Le Monde." CC
PRESS ON BOTH SIDES OF THE FRONT LINES. Speaking on 3 April at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, British Home Secretary David Blunkett said that "for the first time ever in our history, we not only have thousands, literally, thousands of journalists traveling with the troops, but we have broadcast media behind what we would describe as enemy lines, reporting, blow by blow, what's happening," RFE/RL reported on 4 April. "We have [the war] reported, certainly in our own media in the United Kingdom, on occasions, as though [the combatants] were moral equivalents, when they are not," Blunkett said. CC
KYRGYZSTANTRADE-UNION NEWSPAPERS' REGISTRATION DELAYED. Justice Ministry officials in the Batken and Osh oblasts have so far refused to register newspapers that are connected to trade unions, the 1-7 April issue of Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations' "CIS Authorities vs. the Media" reported. In Osh, the registration process has been extended for four months for three trade-union newspapers. CC
RUSSIAMEDIA REPS SIGN 'ANTITERRORISM CONVENTION'... Representatives of the Industrial Committee on 8 April signed new guidelines that are intended to govern reporters' behavior during terrorist incidents and counterterrorism operations, RIA-Novosti and other Russian media reported. The "Antiterrorism Convention of the Mass Media," which was drawn up jointly by media representatives and law enforcement agencies, grew out of the October hostage drama at a Moscow theater, when some media coverage drew government criticism. During any similar situation, journalists must now inform authorities if they learn any information that could "save people's lives during an antiterrorism operation." They are prohibited from "interviewing terrorists during the commission of a crime and at their own initiative" and from allowing terrorists "to go on the air live without advance consultations with the operational staff." The rules also bar journalists from independently acting as mediators or "insulting and humiliating terrorists who have hostages' lives in their hands." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April)
...IN WHAT COULD BE A MAJOR CONCESSION TO THE GOVERNMENT. The new "Antiterrorism Convention of the Mass Media" contains provisions that could significantly limit media freedom. The document states that the journalist's right to gather information is subordinate to "the activities of the security services to protect people." This language has reportedly been incorporated into a new draft law on the mass media being drafted by the Media Ministry. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April)
EX-EDITOR OF 'NOVYE IZVESTIYA' FACES CHARGES. The Prosecutor-General's Office on 7 April formally charged Igor Golembiovskii, until February the editor in chief of "Novye Izvestiya," and his deputy, Sergei Agafonov, with intentionally causing the newspaper to go bankrupt, strana.ru reported the same day. Investigators allege that the two "artificially created indebtedness for the organization in order to deliberately cause insolvency, in their own personal interests." The total debt to various firms allegedly amounts to 195.1 million rubles ($6.2 million), plus a roughly $7.6 million debt to the company Tekhnolizing, which leases various types of equipment. "I know nothing about this," Golembiovskii was quoted by Interfax as saying. The two men could face fines of 500-800 minimum monthly salaries, which is currently 450 rubles, or six years in prison, plus a fine of up to 100 minimum salaries. "Novye Izvestiya" ceased publication on 28 February because of a clash between Golembiovskii and publisher Oleg Mitvol. Mitvol has said the paper will resume publication in May with a new editor and a new publisher. Golembiovskii has said he plans to start his own newspaper, "Rezonans," in May. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April)
MOSCOW TO HIKE LEASING FEES FOR AD SPACE... Billboards and other outdoor advertising space in the capital will cost 30 percent more as of 1 July, RIA-Novosti reported on 7 April. The fee increase, which was announced by City Advertising Committee Chairman Vladimir Makarov, was still less than the 50 percent hike originally planned, which was to go into effect at the end of April. That amount, which would have raised the billboard rate from 9,800 rubles ($313) to 14,700 rubles per square meter, provoked a squall of protests from advertisers and advertising agencies, who claimed their average net profit from a typical billboard would be cut by half to $38. The committee said the increase is designed to "make advertising operators shift from the proliferation of advertising media to lowering the cost of their product and introducing new technologies in the advertising business." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 April)
...WHILE POLL SHOWS MOST CONSUMERS IGNORE TV COMMERCIALS. In a survey commissioned by Moscow advertising agencies, 51 percent of respondents said they change channels or leave the room during television advertisements, regions.ru reported on 7 April. The poll, conducted by Komkon-media, indicated that another 33 percent leave the channel on during the commercials but distract themselves with other activities. Only 16 percent, mostly children and pensioners, watch the entire advertising block. Experts suggested that kids find the commercials entertaining, while the elderly often have old television sets without remote controls and find it hard to get up to change channels. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 April)
RUSSIAN MEDIA PROTEST DEATHS OF JOURNALISTS IN IRAQ. The Industrial Committee, a lobbying group that comprises leading Russian media executives, on 8 April issued a statement condemning the combat-related deaths of journalists in Baghdad, strana.ru reported. The statement was read on ORT by the channel's General Director and Industrial Committee head Konstantin Ernst, who also appealed to the ambassadors of Iraq, the United States, and Great Britain to forward the committee's concerns to their governments. "These journalists are not combatants, but are people performing their professional duty, and the governments of the coalition and of Iraq are responsible for their lives," the statement said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April)
SERBIA AND MONTENEGROFOREIGN MEDIA INVESTMENT OR DOMESTIC SHAM? Since few foreign investors have ventured into what is often seen as the murky world of Serbian media, it was touted as a triumph last year when the BK Telecom television station announced it had received a $50 million investment from British-based Global Media Investments (GMI), "Transitions Online" reported on 3 April. BK Telecom is owned by the Karic brothers, Serbian media tycoons reputed for their cozy -- and allegedly lucrative -- relations with the Slobodan Milosevic regime. Independent Radio B92 undertook an investigation that allegedly showed that GMI had been set up a few days before last year's BK Telecom announcement by the Karic brothers themselves via an account in an Irish bank. Bogoljub Karic went on B92 to deny the story and took the opportunity to slam B92 at length, "Transitions Online" reported. Other media outlets and the Serbian government have maintained diplomatic silence on the issue. CC
UKRAINEBOGUS POSTERS, LEAFLETS CONTINUE TO TARGET OUR UKRAINE LEADER. UNIAN reported on 7 April that sham posters and leaflets apparently intended to discredit Our Ukraine head Viktor Yushchenko have appeared in Rivne, northwestern Ukraine, and the Vasylkiv Raion of Kyiv Oblast. The posters in Rivne depict Yushchenko with Kuchma at a rally and bear the inscription: "Look, father, the fascists are coming." The leaflets in Kyiv Oblast are in the form of Yushchenko's open letters to voters, in which he purportedly pledges to distribute land among private farmers after he becomes president. "The mass scale of similar actions and the audacity with which they are conducted, as well as the lack of any positive results in investigating [who was responsible for] them, testify to the fact that this is being done with the knowledge of the authorities," Our Ukraine lawmaker Serhiy Oleksiyuk commented. In mid-February, unidentified people and/or institutions disseminated in several Ukrainian regions a bogus letter "signed" by Yushchenko and touching on his relations with opposition leader Yuliya Tymoshenko (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 25 February 2003). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 April)
IFJ PROTESTS MEDIA'S CLIMATE OF FEAR AND CORRUPTION... On 3 April, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) issued a report (http://www.ifj.org/publications/press/pr/030403ukraine.html) on the media environment in Ukraine. The authors report that the Ukrainian government's "failure to initiate long-overdue reforms in the structure, funding, and regulation of media is to blame" for "corrupt practices." Political pressure is compounded by corrupt labor practices and appalling media working conditions. The authors, who had visited Ukraine 10 days before, met with journalists, media experts, and officials. The report says that if the Ukrainian government does not undertake "immediate steps to test high-level complicity in the Heorhiy Gongadze killing," the IFJ should prepare an independent international inquiry to examine the Ukrainian government's "flaws, mismanagement, and political interference." CC
...AND ISSUES RECOMMENDATIONS. The authors of the IFJ report recommend steps to promote media unity in Ukraine, including a national conference before May 2004 to draft a media action plan for the country. They also urge support for a new independent trade union of journalists in Kyiv, which could challenge the slow democratic evolution of the National Union of Journalists. The report calls for the introduction of a national press card, efforts toward journalistic self-regulation, and cooperation with European journalists' unions to pressure the authorities to proceed with media reform. CC
HRW REPORT FOCUSES ON 'TEMNYKY' AND TV... Human Rights Watch (HRW) on 17 March issued a report documenting the government's use of secret instructional memos known as "temnyky" (themes of the week) to influence media reporting. Prepared by the presidential administration and sent to television managers and news editors, the temnyky delineate the coverage and presentation of news topics (see "RFE/RL Media Matters," 6 December 2002). HRW conducted research in October 2002 by interviewing television employees, government officials, and media analysts. HRW focused on the impact of temnyky on television news and interviewed 10 leading staffers from five national and one Kyiv station. HRW received temnyky from sources connected to top editors and managers at prominent stations. The report is available at http://www.hrw.org/reports/2003/ukraine0303/. CC
...TEMNYKY AND ELECTIONS... Temnyky were first distributed to a limited number of pro-presidential media outlets in the fall of 2001 during the campaign for the March 2002 Verkhovna Rada (parliament) elections, HRW reported. Editors, journalists, and media analysts reported that by August 2002, temnyky were being sent to all stations, and compliance with their instructions was more vigorously enforced via phone calls and intimidation. Temnyky became public in early September 2002, when Verkhovna Rada Committee on Freedom of Speech and Information Chairman Mykola Tomenko revealed their existence, according to HRW. CC
...AND GENERAL REPRESSIVE IMPACT. Due to economic and political pressures and the fear of repercussions, editors and journalists feel obliged to comply with temnyky instructions, HRW reported. In the past, media outlets that supported opposition parties or failed to comply with official requests have faced tax audits, legal actions, or license withdrawals, while journalists who have taken independent positions faced demotions, pay cuts, and dismissal. CC
UKRAINIAN JOURNALIST, GEORGIAN OFFICIAL DIE IN CAR CRASH. Prominent Ukrainian journalist Oleksandr Kryvenko, the president of Public Radio, and Georgian Foreign Ministry official Gizo Grdzelidze, an OSCE project officer in Ukraine, died in an automobile accident in the early hours of 9 April, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April)
UZBEKISTANINDEPENDENT JOURNALISTS' GROUP LAUNCHES WEBSITE. An independent organization of Uzbek journalists known as Ozod Ovoz (Free Voice) has launched a website in English (http://www.ozodovoz.org), according to Central Asia News on 9 April. The group's leader, journalist Bobomurad Abdullaev, was reported to have said that Russian- and Uzbek-language versions of the site will follow. The site is intended to provide information on the Uzbek intelligentsia and journalists in Uzbekistan who are harassed by the authorities and will support freedom of expression in the country. Technical support is being provided by a newly formed information network based in Azerbaijan. The report claims that Ozod Ovoz is the first independent journalistic information resource to exist inside Uzbekistan. The 9 April posting contains interviews with Uzbek writer Muhammad Salih, wanted on charges of allegedly having been involved in the bombing of several buildings in Tashkent in 1999, and former Turkmen Foreign Minister Avdi Kuliev, one of the most prominent members of the opposition in exile. It also has a report on the Foreign Ministry's refusal to accredit a journalist, among other potentially controversial items. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 April)
AWARDS AND FELLOWSHIPS2003 INTERNATIONAL PRESS FREEDOM AWARD. The NGO Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) is seeking nominations by 31 July for its 2003 International Press Freedom Awards. CJFE presents two awards every year at its November banquet. The winner of the award will be a journalist who has taken personal risks or suffered physical reprisals as a result to his or her work, and has reported on human rights or issues in regions or countries not often covered by other media. For more information, contact Joel Ruimy at firstname.lastname@example.org. CC
JOURNALISM CONFERENCES, WORKSHOPSOSCE TO HOLD CONFERENCE ON INTERNET FREE EXPRESSION. A conference on new technologies will be hosted by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Amsterdam. The 13-14 June conference will bring together experts from nongovernmental organizations, academia, and media to discuss free expression on the Internet. For more information, contact Christiane.Hardy@osce.org. CC
SECOND WORKSHOP ON HUMAN TRAFFICKING. Print and broadcast journalists from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, and Serbia and Montenegro are invited to apply by 25 April for a 28-31 May workshop in Bosnia on news coverage of human trafficking. The U.S. State Department estimates that each year 700,000 people around the world -- mostly women and children -- are trafficked across borders, including some 200,000 in the Balkans. For more information, contact email@example.com or see http://www.icfj.org. CC
GERMAN INSTITUTE TO TRAIN YOUNG JOURNALISTS. The International Institute for Journalism, a German organization that trains print journalists, will host its first summer academy on ethics, journalism skills, and media freedom for 25 young journalists in Hamburg, Germany, from 28 July to 22 August. Application deadline is 1 May. See http://www.inwent.org. CC
COUNCIL OF EUROPE MEDIA EVENTS IN APRIL. The Media Division of the Council of Europe has scheduled a series of media-related events in several former Soviet states and Eastern European countries during April. Contact Mario Oetheimer at firstname.lastname@example.org. CC
END NOTETHE MEDIA ENVIRONMENT IN IRAQ
By Kathleen Ridolfo
With the collapse of the regime of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, issues of postconflict reorganization assume a new immediacy, particularly in the face of widespread calls for a speedy transition to native Iraqi administration. One aspect of the country's infrastructure that will need considerable attention is its media system, which initially must serve to disseminate information about security and policing issues and the distribution of aid, but which will soon be called upon to facilitate the transition to a transparent and democratic political system. Ideally, "free and fair" media will relatively soon be called upon to play a leading role in "free and fair" elections in a country rife with ethnic and religious divisions.
Like virtually all other aspects of the Iraqi state and society, the media were completely incorporated into Hussein's totalitarian structure, a reality that was symbolically represented by the fact that Hussein gave his eldest son, Uday Hussein, responsibility for it.
Under the Hussein regime, there were two official state television channels, Iraqi Television 1 and 2. These were indubitably the main sources of news and information -- all prepared by the state-controlled Iraqi News Agency -- for the Iraqi population. In addition, Uday Hussein ran a third channel, Youth TV, which offered situation comedies, films, and music. In a controversial move that was criticized by Western media groups, forces of the U.S.-led coalition against Hussein's regime targeted Iraqi television beginning on 24 March in an effort to knock it off the air, an effort that was largely successful despite intermittent Iraqi efforts to broadcast from mobile transmitters.
State-run Iraq Satellite Television was produced exclusively for consumption abroad and is generally not available domestically, although there have been some reports that some Iraqis are able to view it. Satellite dishes were illegal in Iraq for many years, but in 1999 the government announced that it will allow some access to satellite broadcasts through a state-controlled subscription mechanism. However, it took three years to turn that announcement into reality. Last June, "Alif Ba" reported that 14 Arab and other foreign channels would be offered via satellite to Iraqis for 110,000 dinars ($60) per year. In addition, however, subscribers would have to buy decoders for about $150 each, a considerable sum considering the average Iraqi income is estimated at about $600 a year.
Al-Jazeera reported that the government's package of satellite channels is "confined to artistic, sports, cultural, musical, and adventure channels." Undoubtedly, the purpose of such restrictions was to limit and control the perceptions of average Iraqis about the outside world, and the longer-term consequences of these limitations will make themselves felt as post-Hussein Iraq opens up.
During Operation Iraqi Freedom, Iraq Satellite Television carried a range of broadcasts from government-spun updates on the fighting to summaries of headlines and editorials from the state-controlled domestic press. It focused strongly on official statements, reports of meetings held by Saddam Hussein, and announcements of awards offered by the regime to those willing to fight against coalition forces. It also carried footage of international antiwar protests, played patriotic songs and video clips, and featured poetry exalting Hussein's virtues. As late as 6 April, it continued broadcasting and as of 10 April there were still indications that it could resume in some limited capacity.
According to U.S. government estimates, in 1998 there were 19 AM stations in Iraq (of which five were inactive), 51 FM stations, and four shortwave stations. However, it is important to note that many Iraqi stations have operated only intermittently or have ceased broadcasting altogether since the 1991 Gulf War. In mid-October, there were reports of Iraqi plans to maintain state-radio broadcasts in the event of war by using mobile transmitters. In fact, Iraq Radio has continued to operate throughout the conflict, but according to reports from inside Iraq, its signal has been weak and sporadic.
In terms of content and style, Iraq Radio follows the same pattern as Iraqi state television. It has broadcast official pronouncements on the fighting, mixed with Iraqi government statements and pro-Iraqi pronouncements by foreign leaders. It has also doled out generous helpings of patriotic music and other inspirational material.
RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) was established in 1998 in an effort to bring independent and balanced information to the Iraqi people. With correspondents embedded with coalition forces, and based in northern Iraq, Kuwait, and neighboring Arab states, as well as London and Washington, RFI provides a wide range of coverage that simply cannot be compared with the fare of Iraqi state media. Its coverage includes summaries from the Iraqi, Arab, and Western press; international news; interviews with opposition figures and political and military analysts; economic reports; and reports on human rights issues.
There are five major Arabic-language dailies in Iraq and nine major weeklies, all of which are under state control and several of which are run directly by Uday Hussein. Economic sanctions have resulted in newsprint shortages, leading to print-run limitations since 1993. However, in February 2002, Uday's daily "Babil" doubled its format from 12 pages to 24. Reports on the status of the Iraqi press since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom have been limited, but there are indications that papers have continued to appear, and Iraq Satellite Television has regularly reported on news and opinion pieces appearing in Iraqi dailies. The state has also maintained a total monopoly on printing facilities and the press-distribution mechanism.
Internet access in Iraq, which was only launched in 1997, was severely restricted by the Hussein regime. In 2001, the U.S. government estimated that there were just 12,500 Internet users in Iraq, which has a population of more than 26 million. Internet services in Iraq are provided by a telecommunications network in Syria and there are frequent interruptions. In November, for instance, service was cut off for about 10 days due to "a halt in the service of the supplying satellite," according to one report.
The country has one, state-controlled Internet service provider and two portals. The Iraqi State Company for Internet Services (http://www.uruklink.net) hosts all Iraqi government sites and those of all the country's dailies except "Babil," which is hosted by the Iraqi National Olympic Committee (http://www.iraq2000.com). That site also hosts the sites of the Iraqi Journalists Union, the National Union of Iraqi Students, and the General Union of Iraqi Youth. Both portals have been inaccessible since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Private Internet access is forbidden, and modems are banned. In 2002, the Iraqi State Company for Internet Services announced a plan to open Internet cafes in Baghdad, but it is not known if it actually did so. As of the onset of Operation Iraqi Freedom, there were an estimated 50-70 Internet centers in Iraq, located in places such as luxury hotels, universities, state ministries, and research and industrial facilities.
A 26 January 2002 article in "Al-Ittihad," reported that the State Company for Internet Services was offering Internet browsing for 1,000 dinars per hour ($0.50, according to black-market rates), and e-mail for 250 dinars per message sent and received. Again, to the average Iraqi citizen, this is costly, and there is no information about how popular these services are. Internet subscriptions are reportedly only granted to corporations at an annual rate of between 1 million-6 million dinars ($500-$3,000).
"Alif Ba" ran a feature article in May 2002 on e-mail availability in Iraq that quoted an annual subscription fee of 100,000 dinars ($50) or a daily rate of 250 dinars. In addition to the fee, applicants were required to "produce a photocopy of [their] personal-status identity card and their residency card, [and] the subscriber must specify his user name and choose a password so that his messages remain confidential," "Alif Ba" reported. The article noted that 5,000 Iraqis had signed up for e-mail access. Contrary to Iraqi reports, other sources estimate that e-mail subscriptions run about $80 per year.
Providing information to the Iraqi public that is not filtered through the Hussein regime has been an important aspect of Operation Iraqi Freedom since even before the beginning of military operations. U.S. Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, deputy director of operations at U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), told reporters during a 1 April briefing that the United States has been conducting radio broadcasts into Iraq 24 hours a day since around 17 February via five frequencies. The United States is also operating one television station. In addition, Brooks noted, British forces have recently launched radio broadcasts in southern Iraq. "Recent captures of enemy prisoners of war say that the broadcasts are readily accessible and they are also very popular," Brooks said.
In addition to the radio and television broadcasts, CENTCOM is continuing its leaflet campaign, adjusting messages to the Iraqi people as warranted, Brooks said. Asked why the broadcasts have not led to high-ranking military defections, Brooks replied on 1 April: "The regime is still present in many areas, and it is the regime and the brutality of the regime keeps many people from taking the steps that they would like to take. This is a very high-risk proposition for military leaders who would decide they're not going to fight for the regime, or civilians that would rise up against the regime."
British military spokesman Colonel Chris Vernon explained the British broadcasts to a press briefing in Kuwait City on 3 April. "We are running radio stations, which are transmitting into Basra," Vernon said, according to an RFE/RL report. "It's a mixture -- its all in Arabic, of course. There's a mixture of Arabic and, indeed, Western music, with the broad message that our argument is not with you, the people of Basra, it is with the regime and, particularly, the Ba'ath Party officials in Basra who support that and the militia whom they are controlling, the irregulars."
At the Pentagon on 5 April, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Victoria Clarke told reporters: "The communications and what people in Iraq can see and not see or hear and not hear is up and down. Sometimes it's on. Sometimes it's off." Clarke added that she was unsure of what Iraqis were actually seeing on Iraqi television. U.S. Army Major General Stanley McChrystal -- vice director for operations, J-3, Joint Staff -- told reporters at the same briefing that the Iraqi regime has a "very redundant system" in place, "starting with fixed sites, [and including] mobile vans that it uses to put out its signal." McChrystal added that coalition forces have degraded the regime's ability to communicate, adding, "We believe that it is sporadic, at best."
Meanwhile, Major General Victor Renuart told reporters at CENTCOM on 5 April that it appeared that Iraq Television -- by which he presumably meant Iraq Satellite Television -- had purchased broadcast time from a number of satellite companies. Renuart added that coalition forces were broadcasting to the Iraqi people on Iraq's Channel 3 television. He added that the coalition was working to assist liberated Iraqis in broadcasting over satellite television. "We're beginning to see many more leaders in the communities of Basra and Nasiriyah, Samawa, Najaf, even now toward Karbala, become much more supportive, openly supportive of the coalition forces as they see the threat from these other irregular troops go away," Renuart said. "And some have expressed interest in helping to get that message out.... And so we're sensitive to try to create the opportunity for Iraqis [to] broadcast on their network."
U.S. Brigadier General Brooks told reporters at CENTCOM on 6 April that CENTCOM is broadcasting "nonstop" over the radio. Messages include instructions for approaching coalition checkpoints and warnings to the Special Republican Guard and special security forces to "surrender, flee, or fight and face certain destruction." The broadcasts also advised Iraqis to avoid dangerous areas such as Baghdad International Airport.
"We do know that radio is the most common and popular medium that is used by the Iraqi population," Brooks said.
Kathleen Ridolfo is the editor of "RFE/RL Iraq Report."