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Media Matters: April 18, 2003

18 April 2003, Volume 3, Number 15
TALIBAN DISTRIBUTES LEAFLETS. Taliban devotees reportedly distributed leaflets on 15 April calling on Afghans to oppose the United States and Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai's government, according to an article by the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP), cited by Reuters on 16 April. The unattributed pamphlets, written in Pashtu, were distributed among Afghan refugees living in camps in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province, according to AIP. One of the leaflets reportedly stated, "Once again the world's big devil, the United States, and its Jewish imperialist [allies] have attacked Afghanistan." It called on Afghans to fight the "infidels and their puppets." This comes at a time when many are concerned about the increased activities of former Taliban and Al-Qaeda members in Pakistan, and amid worries that some within the Pakistani government are supporting them. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April)

INTERNATIONAL WATCHDOG PROTESTS SENTENCE ON JOURNALIST. Robert Menard, who is secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), has written to Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliyev and Justice Minister Fikret Mamedov to express concern at the two fines imposed on "Monitor" magazine Editor Elmar Huseinov for libel, Turan reported on 10 April. Hasan Zeynalov, who represents the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic in Baku, brought a civil and a criminal suit against Huseinov last month in connection with an article he published in "Monitor" earlier this year comparing the population of Nakhichevan with the Sicilian mafia. The court sentenced Huseinov on 25 March on criminal charges of insulting Zeynalov's honor and dignity to pay a 100 million-manat ($20,344) fine, and on 4 April in the civil suit to pay a fine of 4,500 minimum wages, or approximately 24.5 million manats. Huseinov said he will appeal that sentence in the European Court for Human Rights. Menard in his 10 April letter termed the fines imposed on Huseinov harassment and a violation of the commitments Azerbaijan made when it was accepted into membership of the Council of Europe, Turan reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April)

JEWISH LEADERS WANT BAN ON DISTRIBUTION OF RUSSIAN NEWSPAPER IN BELARUS. The leaders of four Jewish organizations in Belarus have petitioned Prosecutor-General Viktar Sheyman and Stanislaw Buko, head of the cabinet's Committee on Religious and National Affairs, to ban distribution of the Russian-based newspaper "Russkii vestnik" in Belarus, Belapan reported on 10 April. Leanid Levin of the Union of Belarusian Jewish Associations and Communities, Eduard Paryzh of the Association of Jewish Communities in Belarus, Yury Dorn of the Judaic Religious Association in Belarus, and Yakau Basin of the Religious Association of Progressive Judaism in Belarus accuse "Russkii vestnik" of fomenting discord among nationalities and religious denominations and of carrying "openly anti-Semitic propaganda." The petition alleges that Belarus's state-run distribution network Belsayuzdruk in March carried an issue of "Russkii vestnik" with an article accusing Jews of using sacrificial blood in their rites. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April)

BROADCASTING STABILIZED, BUT PRINT MEDIA IN DISARRAY. The Communication Regulatory Agency in Bosnia and Herzegovina is helping to stabilize the once-chaotic field of electronic media, while print media are still torn by ethic, ideological, economic, and political conflicts, according to a report by Radenko Udovicic, an analyst at Media Plan Institute in Sarajevo. Udovicic is also the editor in chief of the Sarajevo news agency SAFAX. For the complete report, see CC

PARLIAMENT ELECTS NEW STATE NEWS AGENCY DIRECTOR. Parliament on 10 April selected Maxim Minchev to head the state news agency BTA by a vote of 105 to 50, with 40 abstentions, BTA reported. Minchev replaces the controversial Stoyan Cheshmedzhiev, who resigned after repeated protests by BTA employees. After his selection, Minchev said he will seek every opportunity to conduct a constructive dialogue with the agency's employees. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April)

OSCE ASSISTS CROATIA ON MEDIA LEGISLATION. Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) experts held meetings in Zagreb on 14 and 15 April to discuss the country's draft law on electronic media and its libel legislation. The OSCE representative on freedom of the media is advocating the full decriminalization of libel in Croatia, where libel is still a criminal offense. CC

MEDIA WATCHDOG PENALIZES TV STATION FOR ROMANY PARODY. The National Radio and Television Authority (ORTT) on 10 April ordered that commercial station TV2 suspend broadcasting for 30 minutes as punishment for its recent broadcast of a Romany wedding parody that was deemed offensive, Hungarian radio reported. Protests were lodged by Romany leaders, after which minority-rights Ombudsman Jeno Kaltenbach appealed to the ORTT for action. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April)

APPEALS COURT REDUCES POLLSTERS' SENTENCES. The Tehran Appeals Court on 13 April reduced the jail sentence of Ayandeh Research Institute board of directors member Abbas Abdi from eight years to 4 1/2 years and that of Ayandeh Managing Director Hussein Qazian from nine years to 4 1/2 years, IRNA reported. The two were convicted in February of cooperating with foreign intelligence organizations and propagating against the Islamic Republic of Iran, and two days later the court added another year to their sentences. Ayandeh and the National Institute for Research and Opinion Polls conducted a survey in which the majority of respondents said they favored the resumption of relations with the United States. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 April)

AGHAJARI GETS LEAVE EXTENSION. Saleh Nikbakht, the attorney of political activist and university professor Hashem Aghajari, said on 13 April that the court agreed to extend his client's home leave for another week, IRNA reported. Aghajari had to post bail of 1.2 billion rials ($150,000) in order to get the home leave. He was sentenced last August to death, an eight-year banishment, a flogging, and a teaching ban, but Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei subsequently ordered the court to review the case. Aghajari gave a speech in Hamedan in June that questioned the clerical hierarchy and other matters of orthodoxy. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 April)

SATELLITE-RECEIVER BAN COULD BE BYPASSED. Behbahan parliamentary representative Valiollah Shojapurian, who serves in the legislature's Cultural Committee, warned on 16 April that Iraq will be producing radio and television programs under U.S. supervision, ISNA reported. "With strengthened transmitters, Iraqi television programs could be received in Iran with ordinary aerials," Shojapurian said. "Our country's space will be open to various waves. Iranians will be directly influenced by the ensuing cultural atmosphere." Iranian law forbids private ownership of satellite-receiving equipment, and the parliament has not had any success in its efforts to amend this law. In a possible reference to this law, Shojapurian said, "The limitations imposed by Iranian officials so far will not be effective any longer and the people will be influenced by the cultural atmosphere of the neighboring countries." "We should allow different tastes to exist and emerge in the society," he recommended. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April)

BIASED IRANIAN WAR COVERAGE DISCUSSED. Lanjan parliamentary representative Ali Mohammad Namazi complained on 6 April that Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting's (IRIB) analyses of the war in Iraq depict events in such a way that viewers are likely to believe that the Iraqi regime will win the war, IRNA reported on 7 April. Tehran parliamentary representative Elaheh Kulyai concurred, saying that IRIB's coverage of the war in Iraq is so biased that it violates the country's stated policy of neutrality. Ezatollah Zarghami, an IRIB official responsible for parliamentary affairs, rejected the complaints in a 6 April letter, "The Tehran Times" reported on 7 April. He said that IRIB coverage complies with Supreme National Security Council guidelines and does not favor the Iraqi regime. ("RFE/RL Iran Report," 14 April)

CAR ACCIDENT KILLS TWO JOURNALISTS. Veronica Cabrera on 15 April became the first female journalist to die while covering the war in Iraq, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported. Her death brings the total number of journalist killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom to 13. Cabrera, an Argentinian camera operator, was traveling in a car with correspondent Mario Podesta on 14 April when their vehicle was involved in a traffic accident on the road from Jordan to Baghdad. She died the next day in a Baghdad hospital. Podesta was killed instantly in the accident. The two were working for Argentina's America TV. The station's news director, Eduardo Cura, said the journalists were traveling in a convoy with colleagues when a tire blew out on their car, causing the accident. The CPJ is investigating reports that gunfire was heard in the area just before the incident. CC

SITUATION STILL DANGEROUS FOR JOURNALISTS. Since the fall of Baghdad more than a week ago, journalists covering events inside Iraq continue to face threats to their safety, particularly in the unrest that has followed the regime's collapse, the CPJ reported on 15 April. The organization documented recent incidents in which armed Iraqis have threatened, detained, fired upon, or physically attacked reporters. On 10 April, reporter Paul McEnroe and photographer Richard Sennott of the U.S. daily "Minneapolis Star-Tribune" were confronted by an Iraqi carrying a hand grenade just outside Kirkuk. On 11 April, Iraqi fighters near Tikrit detained CNN reporter Kevin Sites for several hours. On 12 April, Turkish journalists Kemal Batur, a reporter for Sky Turk television, and Mesut Gengec, a cameraman for Show TV, were wounded when their car came under fire in Mosul. Officials at Show TV believe that hospital guards defending the facility from looters fired at the journalists. CC

CNN CREW'S BODYGUARD RETURNS FIRE UNDER ATTACK. RSF on 14 April voiced its concern about an incident in which a CNN crew's security escort returned fire with an automatic weapon when the crew came under fire on 13 April near Tikrit. The use of firearms violates all the rules of the profession, according to RSF, and risks giving combatants the impression that all press cars are armed. RSF Secretary-General Menard stated that journalists can and must try to protect themselves by traveling in bulletproof vehicles and wearing bulletproof vests, but "employing private security firms that do not hesitate to use their firearms just increases the confusion between reporters and combatants." CC

THE ARAB PRESS COVERS THE FALL OF SADDAM. The abrupt evaporation of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's regime -- from ministers to military to the police officer on the corner -- last week left much of the Arab press wondering at the narratives of the war it had woven and now suddenly found frayed. Images admit only so much interpretation. The dominant narratives in the Arab press did not allow for pictures of Iraqis welcoming U.S. soldiers who had been presented as occupiers or venting pent-up hatred on representations of a dictator who had been presented as the embodiment of steadfast resistance. Some chose to avert their eyes; others found ready explanations; still others took rueful comfort in seeing their criticisms vindicated. A few found cause for joy, and many more looked with apprehension to the future. Confronted with a stark event and a limited array of images, those responsible for headlines and front pages had perhaps the easiest task. The two best-known pan-Arab dailies -- both London-based and Saudi-owned -- stuck to the understated style that is their common hallmark. Egypt's semi-official "Al-Ahram" editors made a pointed decision to ignore specific events in Baghdad, focusing instead on the need to deliver medicines to Iraq to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe. Similar logic was evident in Jordan and for the editors of Syria's official "Tishreen." Saudi Arabia's "Al-Jazeera" editors noted carefully that the "rapid collapse in Baghdad reflected a dissolution of political authority and the true nature of the connection between the regime and the Iraqi people" and chided Iraqis for unruliness. Britain's "Al-Quds al-Arabi" Editor Abd al-Bari Atwan has been a harsh critic of the U.S. and a staunch proponent of resistance to "invasion and occupation" since the war began. Faced with the "sudden and inexplicable collapse" of Baghdad's defenders, Atwan sounded a grim warning of possible regime change in Egypt, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. Britain's "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" Editor in Chief Abd al-Rahman al-Rashid has been a passionate critic of the pro-Hussein Arab media. ("RFE/RL Iraq Report," 10 April)

U.S. DEPLOYS IRAQI TV TO BEAM MESSAGE. The administration of U.S. President George W. Bush took over Iraqi state television Channel 3 on 10 April, replacing tributes to deposed President Hussein with greetings from Bush, the Pentagon, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair in an effort to persuade Iraqis that they are being liberated, not occupied, "The Washington Post" reported on 11 April. Within a few days, U.S. officials said they hope to open a second television station in Iraq running subtitled ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, and Fox News Channel nightly news shows. CNN declined to have its programs included. On 10 April, the White House decided to fund a second channel to run about two hours of Arabic-language news from the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the government agency that oversees Voice of America and RFE/RL, the paper reported. These two new U.S.-funded channels in Iraq will be transmitted from Commando Solo, a fleet of converted EC-130E transport planes deployed to beam radio psychological-operations programs to Iraq. The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office will run its "Towards Freedom TV" about one hour each night on the Pentagon channel. Its first show included an interview with Laith Kubba, a prominent Iraqi exile, according to "The Washington Post" on 10 April. CC

IRAQI INTELLECTUALS ISSUE 'NATIONAL CHARTER DRAFT' IN JORDAN. A group of Iraqi intellectuals have met and issued a "national charter draft" in Amman, London's "Al-Zaman" reported on 14 April. The draft calls for the launch of a national dialogue and for the establishment of a free press in Iraq. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 April)

IFJ AND ARAB MEDIA FEDERATION CALL FOR 'FRESH START' FOR MEDIA IN IRAQ. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the Federation of Arab Journalists on 12 April called for the creation of a new media environment in Iraq that "must reflect the highest standards of pluralism, press freedom, and editorial independence." The groups pledged cooperation in a detailed inquiry into attacks on media and killings of journalists during the war, as requested last week by the IFJ. There was also agreement on the need to establish a new association of journalists, "committed to the defense of social and professional rights for all Iraqi journalists." CC

LONDON-BASED ANTI-HUSSEIN DAILY ARRIVES. The London-based "Al-Zaman" daily announced on 9 April that it began distributing papers the previous day in southern Iraqi cities. According to the announcement, the "Al-Basrah edition" of "Al-Zaman" is distributed in Al-Basrah, Al-Zubayr region, Umm Qasr, Al-Faw, Al-Tanumah, Al-Nasiriyah, and Al-Samawah. "The newspaper's aim is to reach all Iraqi regions, and reporters in Al-Basrah have already started supplying the newspaper with news items and creative writings from Al-Basrah," the announcement noted. The daily is headed by the former editor of the Iraqi daily "Al-Jumhuriyah," Saad al-Bazzaz. The Al-Basrah edition boasts 20 color pages. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April)

OPPOSITION EDITOR SEEKS TO PUBLICIZE 'KAZAKHGATE.' Editors of the independent Kazakh newspaper "SolDAT" conducted a roundtable discussion on 9 April in the Almaty office of the Republican People's Party in what Editor in Chief Ermurat Bapi said was an effort to provide citizens with more information about the latest developments in the scandal popularly known as Kazakhgate, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Republican People's Party Executive Board Deputy Chairman Amangeldy Kerimtay told RFE/RL that few media outlets in Kazakhstan have been covering the latest developments, and he believes that information about Kazakhgate should be available to the population. Six days later, Bapi was informed by the tax police that "SolDAT" is being charged with tax evasion and faces a 65 million-tenge fine ($430,000), RFE/RL's Kazakh service reported the same day. Interest in the three-year-old scandal -- which is widely believed to involve President Nursultan Nazarbaev, his family, former Prime Minister Nurlan Balghymbaev, and other senior Kazakh officials -- was revived with the 30 March arrest of U.S. businessman James Giffen. Giffen, a former economic adviser to Nazarbaev, faces charges of violating the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by having allegedly organized the payment by major U.S. oil firms of millions of dollars in bribes to senior Kazakh officials. When the scandal first became public, it caused a political uproar in Kazakhstan, including allegations that the president and his family had huge sums salted away in Swiss bank accounts. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April)

ACCESS BLOCKED TO OPPOSITION INTERNET SITES. RSF on 15 April criticized the Kazakh authorities for using the near-monopoly status of the state-owned Kazakhtelecom to block direct access to several opposition and independent websites that run articles critical of President Nazarbaev and administration officials for alleged corruption. Yurii Mizinov, editor of the news site, called in experts who informed him that all Kazakhtelecom customers have been prevented from accessing the site. Other political news sites -- such as and -- as well as the websites of opposition figures Mukhtar Abliyazov (, Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov ( and Akezhan Kazhegeldin (, as well as opposition media sites such as "Vesti Pavlodara" (, "Assandi-Times" and have also reportedly been blocked. These sites can only be accessed via foreign-based ISPs, with delays of as much as half an hour. CC

SECURITY OFFICIAL DETAILS HIZB UT-TAHRIR PRESENCE. The head of the Djalal-Abad office of the National Security Service, Marat Imankulov, was quoted by on 9 April as asserting that there are 2,000 members of the banned Islamic extremist organization Hizb ut-Tahrir in southern Kyrgyzstan's Djalal-Abad Oblast alone, and that number is growing. Imankulov claimed that in the last year oblast law enforcement agencies have seized and destroyed more than 1,000 Hizb ut-Tahrir leaflets and 200 books, as well as two guns, ammunition, five grenades, and some 90 videocassettes with "extremist" content. Twenty-three criminal cases have been initiated, of which 17 have been handed to the courts, according to Imankulov, who complained that the population of the oblast has been passive in the struggle against extremism. In recent months, human rights activists and Kyrgyzstan's ombudsman have questioned how dangerous to the country Hizb ut-Tahrir really is. The group's ideology rejects violence in pursuit of its aims, which include establishing an Islamic state in Central Asia. Kyrgyzstan's security services insist that the group poses a serious threat, one that justifies the arrests of its adherents for distributing literature. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April)

CHISINAU MUNICIPAL RADIO DIRECTOR QUESTIONED BY POLICE. Ion Bunduchi, director of the Chisinau municipal Antena C radio, was questioned by police on 14 April, RFE/RL's bureau in the Moldovan capital reported. Bunduchi was summoned to the municipal police in connection with broadcasts of the station's "Hyde Park" program, in which listeners phone in and often criticize the authorities. Authorities reportedly are considering charging Bunduchi with disseminating slanderous information. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 April)

LAWMAKERS URGE PREMIER TO PRODUCE PHONE BILLS IN 'RYWINGATE.' Jozef Szczepanczyk from the Polish Peasant Party and Zbigniew Ziobro from Law and Order, members of the parliamentary commission investigating the "Rywingate" bribery allegations, have appealed in an open letter to Prime Minister Leszek Miller to hand over documents concerning himself; Marek Wagner, head of prime minister's office; Lech Nikolski, minister for the EU referendum; and Aleksandra Jakubowska, head of the premier's political cabinet, PAP reported on 10 April. They asked Miller, among other things, to give access to his and others' private and business-related phone bills. Ziobro told journalists that the evidence gathered by the commission indicates that Miller "was behind" film producer Lew Rywin when the latter was allegedly soliciting a bribe from representatives of publishing house Agora and its daily, "Gazeta Wyborcza," in 2002. Miller is scheduled to testify before the commission on 26 April. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April)

DEFENSE MINISTRY TO CREATE 'PATRIOTIC' TELEVISION. Vladimir Kozhemyakin, deputy head of the Defense Ministry's education department, has announced that the ministry will create a national television channel "for the education of patriotic citizens," reported on 9 April. The project is expected to cost about $140 million, including $40 million for a pilot project covering Moskovskaya Oblast. Kozhemyakin said the funds will not come from the ministry's budget, but "from other state structures," and that the project will be completed within one year. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 April)

DEPUTY DUMA SPEAKER CONCERNED ABOUT PRESS FREEDOM. Irina Khakamada, who is also a Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) leader, said on 10 April that Russia is experiencing "the steady erosion of freedom of the press," RosBalt reported. Khakamada was commenting on the "Antiterrorism Convention" that representatives of the Industrial Committee, a media-sector lobbying group, signed recently. Khakamada said that "within [state-run] ORT and RTR self-censorship has existed for a long time." "Now NTV is under tough pressure from the government, and TV-Tsentr is marginalized," Khakamada said. Central Election Committee Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov said that the provision that allows the government to suspend media outlets that violate the law should be removed from a new draft law on the mass media to be considered in the Duma next month, reported on 11 April. Veshnyakov said that the journalist's responsibility should be personalized. If violations occur, particular programs should be stopped but entire channels should not be taken off the air, he said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 April)

MEDIA MINISTRY ISSUES ANOTHER WARNING TO ST. PETERSBURG TV STATION... The Media Ministry issued on 9 April an official warning to the St. Petersburg-based television company Peterburg, RosBalt reported. The company failed to provide the ministry with the broadcasting materials it requested, according to the news agency. "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 10 April that this is not the first warning the company has received. The company's television license will expire in July and its radio broadcasting license in June, and because of the warnings the station is in danger of losing those licenses, which can be put up for tender. Such a tender could take place just several months before the spring 2004 gubernatorial campaign in St. Petersburg, although it is also possible that the elections will be held in December to coincide with the State Duma race. The St. Petersburg city administration currently owns a controlling stake in the company. First Deputy Media Minister Mikhail Seslavinskii confirmed that the warnings "could influence the procedure for prolonging the company's licenses," the daily reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April)

...AS LINK IS MADE TO UPCOMING ELECTIONS. During an 8 April evening news broadcast, the Peterburg television station broadcast the results of a recent poll in which it asked its viewers: "Who should have a more decisive influence on the result of the future gubernatorial elections in St. Petersburg -- the citizens or the Moscow leadership?" according to RosBalt. The agency cited unidentified experts who claimed that this poll is evidence that the political struggle in the city has entered a new, sharper phase. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April)

RADICAL WRITER CLEARED ON TERRORISM CHARGES... A Saratov Oblast court sentenced National Bolshevik Party leader Eduard Limonov on 15 April to four years' imprisonment, Russian media reported. He was found guilty of organizing the purchase of six Kalashnikov assault rifles by members of his party, ITAR-TASS reported. At the same time, the court cleared him of charges of plotting terrorist acts, attempting to form an illegal armed unit, and public calls for a forcible seizure of power. The prosecutor had asked that Limonov be sentenced to 14 years. Limonov was arrested on 7 April 2001. The 13 months of pretrial detention will be counted toward his sentence, and Limonov, who continues to maintain his innocence, will be eligible to apply for parole in 19 months, "The Moscow Times" reported on 16 April. The prosecution intends to appeal the court's verdict. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April)

...AS COURT SLAMS INVESTIGATORS, PROSECUTORS. The Saratov court also issued an unusually sharp "special decision" concerning procedural violations by the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Prosecutor-General's Office during the preparation of the case against Limonov, RBK reported on 15 April. The court ruled that FSB investigators made numerous errors and violations of the law in producing evidence, witness testimonies, and expert analyses. It issued similar criticism of the Prosecutor-General's Office. The court particularly condemned the fact that the arrest of Limonov was screened on TV during the investigation, a move that "could create an unfavorable public opinion." The court said it will send its criticism to FSB Director Nikolai Patrushev and Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April)

TWO JOURNALISTS ARRESTED AND DETAINED FOR CRITICIZING GOVERNMENT. RSF on 11 April protested the 7 April arrest and detention of journalists Milovan Brkic and Dragisa Petrovic as part of the police investigation into the 12 March assassination of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic. Brkic is the Belgrade correspondent for the daily "Podgorica" and the Montenegro daily "Dan," and Petrovic is the "Dan" correspondent in Kragujevac. The two reporters were arrested after they published several articles in which they accused the government of ties with the criminal gangs suspected of involvement in the Djindjic killing. Police claim the journalists obstructed the murder inquiry by publishing articles that "deliberately mislead the public." The state of emergency declared after Djindjic's assassination authorizes the police to detain anyone who "threatens the safety of other citizens" for up to 30 days. During detention, suspects are not permitted to contact lawyers or family members, nor are they allowed to appear in court. The Interior Ministry can extend the detention period for an additional 30 days. CC

HIZB UT-TAHRIR PRINTING HOUSE FOUND. A clandestine print shop set up by the Muslim extremist movement Hizb ut-Tahrir has been discovered by the authorities in Tajikistan, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 April. Citing an unidentified government source, ITAR-TASS reported that the print shop was turning out leaflets and other materials for the movement, which is banned in Tajikistan. During the raid, the authorities reportedly seized some 500 copies of Hizb ut-Tahrir literature, as well as copying and printing equipment. Two alleged members of the movement were arrested. According to the report, this is the third Hizb ut-Tahrir printing shop to be discovered and closed down in Tajikistan this year. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 April)

ALLEGED HIZB UT-TAHRIR MEMBER ARRESTED. Police in Khujand, the administrative center of northern Tajikistan's Sughd Oblast, have arrested 25-year-old Mubina Ashurova for allegedly participating in the activities of the banned Muslim extremist movement Hizb ut-Tahrir, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 15 April. During a search of Ashurova's home, Khujand police reportedly found 24 books and 11 leaflets calling for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate in Central Asia, a primary objective of the Central Asian branches of the worldwide movement. Asia Plus-Blitz quoted the Sughd Oblast branch of the Interior Ministry as saying that Ashurova is the third inhabitant of the oblast to be detained this month under suspicion of participating in Hizb ut-Tahrir activities. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 April)

PROSECUTORS PROBE MEDIA FOR ALLEGED DEFAMATORY PUBLICATIONS. Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Piskun on 9 April confirmed to Interfax that he has ordered "several investigations" into publications considered "defamatory" toward the president and other politicians. Piskun was commenting on presidential spokeswoman Olena Hromnytska's statement of 4 April, in which she said a criminal case has been launched against a number of media outlets that publicized "defamatory materials aimed at creating obstacles to the president's execution of his duties and at undermining the president's reputation." Piskun pledged to provide details of the investigations in the near future. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 April)

'WORLD OF NEWS' CONFERENCE. The First International Conference of Regional TV News Departments of Russia and the CIS will be held on 19-22 June at the School of Dramatic Arts in Moscow. "The World of News" is being organized by Internews Russia, the National Association of Television and Radio Broadcasters, and other CIS broadcast associations. For more, see CC

FREE NEWS-STORY RESOURCE. Journalists can sign up to receive a free e-mail news-story service for up to 20 topics a week with full-text stories via Lexis-Nexis from over 5,000 news outlets, plus free access to a database of selected stories dating back to 2000. The new service is being provided by the UN Population Fund, Lexis-Nexis, and the Communications Consortium Media Center. Funding for the e-mail service is from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. See CC


By Taras Kuzio

On 28 January the presidential administration's Department for Information Policy began sending, on a daily basis, "Good News from Ukraine" newspapers to the Ukrainian diaspora. The first issue included a cover letter signed by the head of the department, Serhiy Vasylyev, stating that when used, "Good News" should be cited as the source (i.e., not the presidential administration).

The "news media project," as Vasylyev called it, aims to accomplish three things. Firstly, by its very title the "media project" seeks to counter Ukraine's bad international image. "Good News from Ukraine" is the latest example of Ukraine's elites attempting to undertake various projects to counter this image, all with little success to date. It follows the creation in June 2001 of the Ukrayina Cognita NGO, after Ukraine's international image took a dive during the Kuchmagate scandal.

Secondly, the Department for Information Policy was created after Viktor Medvedchuk became head of the presidential administration in May, and its policies reflect his more aggressive style. The Department for Information Policy has 38 staffers and is one of the largest in the presidential administration (the departments of Foreign Policy and of Economics have 23 and 26, respectively).

The department was reportedly implicated in the release of "temnyky" (instructions to television stations on what to cover and ignore) in the summer-fall of 2002. Vasylyev attempted to counter criticism of growing censorship voiced within Ukraine and in the Council of Europe by organizing weekly surveys of the Ukrainian media showing how free it was in its criticism of the executive. These surveys were then sent to the Council of Europe's Hanne Severinsen. Vasylyev stopped producing these surveys after Severinsen publicly ridiculed them in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Thirdly, the aim is to influence the Ukrainian diaspora through its media outlets. The thinking behind the "media project" and the tactics used are similar to those in the Soviet era when Tovarystvo Ukrayiny (Society for Cultural Relations with Ukrainians Abroad) published a weekly newspaper in English and Ukrainian entitled "News from Ukraine/Visti z Ukrayiny," which was unavailable inside Ukraine. Tovarystvo Ukrayiny had limited appeal except with Ukrainian communist groups in the U.S. and Canada. "News from Ukraine/Visti z Ukrayiny" specialized in publishing attacks on Ukrainian nationalist emigres as well as accusations of their involvement in war crimes during World War II.

Will the presidential administration be more successful in influencing the Ukrainian diaspora than Tovarystvo Ukrayiny? Unlike when "News from Ukraine/Visti z Ukrayiny" was published, "Good News from Ukraine" is appearing during the age of the Internet. Many different news sources on Ukraine are now available and most newspapers in Ukraine also appear on the web. "Good News from Ukraine" therefore has much competition from other, far better sources of information.

Why is "Good News from Ukraine" only sent to diaspora publications? Presumably because Western media outlets, just like the Council of Europe, would find the style and tone of information produced by the presidential administration unusable. There is also an assumption that diaspora organizations remain influential within the Western media and governments, something which is highly questionable.

"Good News from Ukraine" is also highly biased towards issues beloved by the Ukrainian diaspora. These include a heavy dose of articles devoted to language, culture, nationalist movements in the 1940s (the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, OUN, and Ukrainian Insurgent Army, UPA), and steps taken by President Kuchma in honor of nationalist events or historical figures. Marco Levytsky, editor of Canada's largest Ukrainian newspaper, the biweekly, Edmonton-based "Ukrainian News/Ukrayinski Visti," finds it suspicious that "Good News from Ukraine" is so heavily slated towards the news that the diaspora so wants to read. As Levytsky asks, "If the presidential administration feels so favorably about OUN-UPA, why don't they rehabilitate them on the national level, and why don't they send these stories to newspapers in eastern Ukraine, which is where the most education about OUN-UPA is needed?" "Good News from Ukraine" published a telegram dated 13 March and sent to the family of Yaroslava Stetsko, head of the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists, who died the day before. Yet, neither Kuchma nor Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych attended her funeral three days later.

"Good News from Ukraine" is unlikely to be used by editors from the younger generation and those who edit non-party newspapers, such as "Ukrainian News/Ukrayinski Visti." It will, however, be favorably received by newspapers linked to the OUN-b (Stepan Bandera) or OUN-m (Andriy Melnyk) and where editors belong to the older generation. This reflects similar divisions in Ukraine that have existed within the national-democratic camp between nationalist derzhavnyky (statists) and reformist anticommunist oppositionists since 1992. The division still plagues Viktor Yushcheko's Our Ukraine, preventing it from fully moving into the opposition camp. Derzhavnyky place Ukrainian statehood above all else and see criticism of the president as destabilization of this statehood.

Only three months after "Good News from Ukraine" began to be issued, the World Congress of Ukrainians (WCU), led by OUN-b member Askold Lozynsky, issued an appeal "To Ukrainian National Central Representations in the Diaspora." This followed debates on the pages of "The Ukrainian Weekly," North America's large English-language newspaper, over how to respond to problems in Ukraine and whether criticism merely worsened Ukraine's image. The debates included letters from Lozynsky, former editor of New York's OUN-b "Natsyonalna Trybuna" newspaper Ihor Dlaboha, former head of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service Roman Kupchinsky, and others.

The WCU statement asked the diaspora organizations and media to "work towards a just and enlightened treatment of Ukraine." The WCU see Ukraine as "collateral damage" after 11 September 2001, when the U.S. allowed Russia to increase its influence over Ukraine. The WCU has been a strong critic of the "amoral" Bush administration in what it sees as its double standards towards Ukraine and in its Iraq policy. These views within the nationalist wing of the Ukrainian diaspora reflect the suspicion that Russia is behind the Kuchmagate scandal.

In a similar pattern to recent claims of double standards by the presidential administration, the WCU statement also says, "Unfortunately, Ukraine has been singled out as one of the most corrupt and abusive countries in the world," but that the West also has its fair share of similar problems. With such a similar political culture, "Good News from Ukraine" may therefore be relatively more successful than what Tovarystvo Ukrayiny ever hoped to achieve.

This report was written by Dr. Taras Kuzio, resident fellow, Centre for Russian and East European Studies, University of Toronto.