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Media Matters: September 11, 2003

11 September 2003, Volume 3, Number 35
OSCE CONFERENCE: STRONGER LAWS AGAINST INTERNET HATE SPEECH? The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) ended a conference on racism, xenophobia, and discrimination on 5 September with a discussion on the role of the media in conveying and countering prejudice. Several speakers called for tougher laws or implementation of existing conventions to suppress access to hate speech or racist websites. Others rejected a legal approach as unacceptable or unlikely to be as effective as enhancing the role of human rights or tolerance sites. The conference drew almost 400 representatives from participating states, partner states, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The final report will be discussed at the annual OSCE Human Dimension Meeting in Warsaw next month. Gerard Kerforn, head of the French-based NGO Movement Against Racism and For Friendship Among Peoples, won support for a recommendation to collect statistics to analyze the structure of the Internet resources used by racists and their impact on existing ethnic tensions. Visit for more.

WORLD INFORMATION-TECHNOLOGY FORUM IN VILNIUS. The WITFOR-Vilnius 2003 world information-technology forum was officially opened in Vilnius on 27 August by its honorary chairman, Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas, BNS reported. The three-day forum, attended by more than 670 participants from 72 countries -- including vice presidents from Microsoft, Cisco Systems, Oracle, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM -- was organized by the Lithuanian government and the International Federation for Information Processing, under the patronage of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and UNESCO. ITU Secretary-General Yoshio Utsumi noted that the forum will adopt a declaration that will serve as the basis for the World Summit on Information Society in Geneva in December. UNESCO Deputy Director-General Abdul Waheed Khan said the forum should devote attention not only to the development of information technologies, but also to their use in education and to increasing information accessibility for all. ("RFE/RL Baltic States Report," 8 September 2003)

GOVERNMENT CHALLENGES FOREIGN-OWNED TELECOMMUNICATIONS MONOPOLY... In a direct challenge to the foreign-owned ArmenTel telecommunications firm, the Armenian government on 4 September sought to revoke the firm's legal monopoly on all forms of telecommunication in Armenia, according to Azg and RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau. In a hearing before the State Securities Commission, Armenian Transport and Communications Minister Andranik Manukian argued that the government "must have the right to grant ArmenTel a new operating license," on the grounds that ArmenTel has engaged in "arbitrary and abusive conduct" in violation of the terms of its 1998 sale to the Hellenic Telecommunication Organization (OTE). The Armenian government contends that the OTE subsidiary has failed to meet its investment commitments and provide reliable telecom services, both of which were preconditions for its 15-year monopoly in the telecommunication sector. According to ArmenTel executive Georgios Vassilakis, the company will "challenge any unilateral action at the International Court of Economic Arbitration in London. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September 2003)

...AND LOOKS INTO REVELATIONS OF WIRETAPPING. The State Securities Commission hearing also fueled a controversy involving the revelation that ArmenTel routinely eavesdropped on and recorded all conversations made through its digital exchanges. ArmenTel's Vassilakis defended the wiretapping as a practice limited to monitoring customer satisfaction or engaged in at the request of Armenian security agencies, despite the fact that such wiretapping can only be legally authorized by a court order. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September 2)

TV DEBATE ENDS ABRUPTLY AFTER BRAWL. A debate between representatives of the opposition Azerbaijani Popular Front party and a pro-government party ended abruptly on 6 September after a brawl broke out between the participants, Reuters reported. The debate, televised live before a national audience, was ended after Fuad Mustafayev, debating on behalf of the Popular Front's presidential candidate, insulted pro-government Modern Musavat Party contender Hafiz Hadjiyev and a brawl erupted after the two hurled water at one another. Television officials immediately cut the live coverage of the debate. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 September)

JOURNALISTS ATTACKED BY POLICE IN BAKU... After the 6 September TV debate was cut, Mustafayev was summoned for questioning to the main Baku police station later that day. Nine journalists who gathered outside the police station were subjected to brutal beatings by the police, led by the station's deputy chief, Major General Yashar Aliev, Internews Azerbaijan reported on 9 September. CC

...AND IN NAKHICHEVAN. On 5 September, police in the Sharur district of Nakhichevan beat Malakhat Nabiyeva, a reporter for the Turan news agency, Natella Makhmudova and Musvig Gajiyev, two ANS broadcasting company staffers, the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations reported in its 1-8 September "CIS Report." The journalists were reporting on the region's social situation. CC

PRINTING HOUSE TO DROP INDEPENDENT PAPER. The Titul printing house in Rechitsa has notified the editorial office of the independent paper "Region-Vesti," which is based in Svetlogorsk in the Gomel region, that as of 15 September it will no longer print the paper. Titul will continue to publish six local government-run newspapers, according to the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations 1-8 September "CIS Report." CC

MEDIA CONCERNED ABOUT DRAFT AMENDMENTS TO PENAL CODE. The Bulgarian Media Coalition (BMK) -- an umbrella organization uniting journalists' unions, NGOs, and media operators such as cable-television providers -- on 9 September called on parliament not to approve draft amendments to the Penal Code proposed by Interior Minister Georgi Parvanov, reported. The BMK charges that the proposed amendments could limit freedom of speech, as some of the draft regulations regarding access to and distribution of classified information are "extremely unclear." They also conflict with journalists' duty to inform the public and their constitutional right to receive information from state institutions, the BMK said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September 2003)

PHONE SERVICE TO PARLIAMENT CUT OVER UNPAID BILLS. The state-owned Electrokavshiri telecommunications company disconnected telephone service to the Georgian parliament on 5 September for the third time this year because of unpaid bills, Civil Georgia reported. According to Electrokavshiri officials, the total debt for the parliament's phone service has reached 214,000 laris ($101,000), forcing the company to disconnect all 435 phone lines in the parliament building. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 September 2003)

TV CREW ATTACKED BY SECURITY OFFICER. On 4 September, a security officer from the Georgian State Chancellery beat up two journalists of the Ajaria broadcasting company -- cameraman Levan Tabatadze and reporter Nato Kiknadze -- and broke their TV camera, according to the 1-8 September Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations' "CIS Report." An Ajaria representative in Tbilisi said that the security officer had ordered the TV crew to stop recording an interview claiming that filming outside the State Chancellery building was not allowed. CC

BAGHDAD COUNCIL CALLS FOR THE EXPULSION OF AL-JAZEERA AND AL-ARABIYAH CORRESPONDENTS. The Baghdad Consultative Council has called for the expulsion of the correspondents of Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiyah news networks, Kuna reported on 8 September. The move is most likely in response to the alleged sympathetic stance these news organizations adopted toward the former Iraqi regime and their continuing links with loyalists to deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. These networks' airing of propaganda statements by individuals purporting to represent Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network in Iraq is also likely to have been a factor in the decision. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 September 2003)

UNESCO: 'URGENT' NEED FOR MEDIA ASSISTANCE. There is an urgent need for more news and training for all Iraqi media workers, according to a recent study commissioned by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the World Bank. The mission also identified the need for "media centers" to ensure training of Iraqi journalists, as well as the need to develop a public-service broadcaster. Decisions on follow-up to the report will be discussed at a "donors meeting" this October in Madrid. For more, see CC

ADVOCATES SAY PRISON CONDITIONS FOR JOURNALIST HAVE DETERIORATED. The prison conditions of opposition journalist Sergei Duvanov have sharply deteriorated, according to a statement by the Public Headquarters for the Defense of Duvanov, Deutsche Welle reported on 8 September. According to the statement, Duvanov has been beaten and tortured by prison authorities on a daily basis for the last two months in an attempt to force him to request a presidential pardon, and the defense group fears for his health. Journalists in Distress leader Rozlana Taukina, a member of the group, said that food, newspapers, and letters have not been delivered to Duvanov, nor have his supporters been able to hear from him. He was sentenced in January 2003 to 3 1/2 years in prison upon being convicted of raping a minor, a charge that is widely considered to have been retaliation for his articles accusing President Nursultan Nazarbaev and members of his family of corruption. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September 2003)

AUTHORITIES IN OSH STOP SALE OF BOOK ON AKSY KILLINGS. National Security Service officers in southern Kyrgyzstan's Uzgen and Kuldja raions have stopped the sale of journalist Nuradil Bakashev's book on the killing of five antigovernment demonstrators in the Aksy Raion of Djalal-Abad Oblast in March 2002, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 4 September. The information about the security officers' action was attributed to the Osh representative of the opposition Young Kyrgyzstan Party, Kegin Makeev. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September 2003)

HAS THE OSCE CALLED THE OPPOSITION'S BLUFF? On 6 September, two of the three smaller Montenegrin opposition parties rejected an offer by the OSCE to pay for live television broadcasts of debates in the Montenegrin parliament, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported from Podgorica. Officials of the Liberal Alliance (LS) and the People's Party (NS) said they were "astonished" by the offer. Bozidar Bojovic, who heads the Serbian People's Party (SNS), called the offer "interesting," adding, however, that resolving the question of the broadcasts is not enough to prompt his party to end its boycott of the legislature. The largest opposition party, the Socialist People's Party (SNP), did not immediately comment on the proposal. In May, state-run television announced a decision to end the live broadcasts, which prompted the opposition to launch a boycott of the parliament. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 September)

SUPREME COURT REJECTS PASKO'S APPEAL TO OVERTURN TREASON CONVICTION. Russia's Supreme Court refused on 4 September to hear an appeal by Russian journalist Grigory Pasko challenging a Moscow City Court ruling denying him a foreign passport. Ivan Pavlov, Pasko's attorney, told the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) that he had received a letter from the Supreme Court's deputy chairman, Anatoli Merkushov, informing him that the court would not hear an appeal to review the December 2001 ruling. Pavlov said that this appeal was the third attempt this year to overturn the conviction and clear the journalist's name, the CPJ reported on 8 September. On 25 December 2001, Pasko was convicted of treason and sentenced to four years in prison for intending to leak classified information to the Japanese media about the Russian Pacific Fleet's dumping of nuclear waste in the Sea of Japan. The journalist was paroled from prison on good behavior in January, after having served two-thirds of his sentence. Moscow's Southeastern District Visa and Registration Authorities (OVIR) denied Pasko's foreign passport application, submitted in March, on the basis that he was released from prison before completing his full sentence. According to Pasko and his attorney, Russian law does not contain such restrictions and have challenged the OVIR in court. CC

FUND CONTROLLED BY EMBATTLED YUKOS PURCHASES INDEPENDENT WEEKLY. The Open Russia Foundation, which is financed by oil giant Yukos, has bought the independent weekly "Moskovskii novosti" and named former NTV and TVS Editor in Chief Yevgenii Kiselev to be its editor, Russian media reported on 4 September. The departing editor of the weekly, Viktor Loshak, told his staff that he considers the appointment of Kiselev a mistake because the former television host knows little about the specifics of running a newspaper, reported. According to the website, a public council will be established to oversee the work of the weekly, and it will include former "Moskovskie novosti" and "Obshchaya gazeta" Editor in Chief Yegor Yakovlev, political analyst Liliya Shevtsova, and former liberal adviser to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and Soviet Politburo member Aleksandr Yakovlev. An unidentified source at the weekly told the website that Kiselev hopes to turn the publication into a "mouthpiece" for the Yabloko party. In an interview with RFE/RL, Yakovlev said the public council will "guarantee the decency and incorruptibility of the newspaper and develop its strategic line." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September 2003)

HIGH-PROFILE TALK SHOWS NO LONGER LIVE. Prominent political talk shows on state-controlled ORT and the Gazprom-controlled network NTV are no longer being broadcast live, although the shows retain production elements that suggest live broadcasts, and reported on 8 September, citing the daily "Gazeta." "Basic Instinct," hosted by Svetlana Sorokina on ORT, and "Free Speech," hosted by Savik Shuster on NTV, compete directly against one another. However, viewers on 4 September could watch "Zavtra" editor in chief Aleksandr Prokhanov and journalist Aleksandr Privalov on both shows at the same time. Prokhanov told "Gazeta" that Sorokina and Shuster told him the shows had to be taped in advance to ensure compliance with legal restrictions on coverage of the parliamentary campaign. However, Sorokina has said publicly that her show is now being taped in advance solely to allow it to air at the same local time in all of Russia's time zones. Following the "Kursk" submarine disaster of August 2000, the RTR program "Press Club" began to be taped, despite maintaining the appearance of a live broadcast, prompting some journalists to accuse network executives of censoring the program. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 September 2003)

OPPOSITION JOURNALIST IN TATARSTAN ASSAULTED. Sergei Matveyev, a reporter for the opposition paper "S Vami" was attacked in Almetyevsk, Tatarstan by a group of unknown persons, according to the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations' "Russia Report," 1-7 September. Several days earlier, Matveyev had started writing an article about corruption among city officials. The reporter had requested a meeting with Ildas Valikhanov, director of the Almetyevsk district Trade Ministry, against whom the district prosecutor's office has begun criminal proceedings. His request for a meeting with Valikhanov was denied, but the official wrote down Matveyev's name, place of employment, and telephone number. The next day, Matveyev was attacked just outside of the prosecutor's office: he was pushed into a car and driven to a forest where the assault continued for several hours. Law enforcement officials did not respond to a telephone call from Matveyev's relatives or from his doctors. CC

'IZVESTIYA' REPORTER ASSAULTED. On 29 August, staffers at the election headquarters for Vladimir Semyonov, the president of the republic of Karachayevo-Cherkessia, attacked Dmitri Filimonov, a reporter for the "Izvestia" newspaper. Shortly before the attack, he had met Boris Batchaev, Semyonov's aide, who had denied the correspondent a meeting with Semyonov, according to the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations' 1-7 September "Russia Report." CC

INDEPENDENT PAPER'S STAFF CONTINUES PROTEST. The staff of the independent paper "Zerkalo SP," based in Sergiyev Posad, a small city outside Moscow, has continued its one-month protest against the pressure of local authorities. One staffer, Vladimir Pesterev, has been on a hunger strike for three weeks and refuses to be hospitalized, according to the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations' 1-7 September "Russia Report." Nevertheless, the staff has published the paper on schedule, even though district officials will only respond to written inquiries from the paper. Readers continue to support "Zerkalo SP" by writing letters of solidarity and signing petitions to regional governor Boris Gromov to stop the arbitrary policy of the local authorities with regard to the paper. CC

TV STATION IN CHECHNYA SHUT DOWN. On 4 September -- the day after Bislan Gantemirov, the Chechen Press Minister was fired -- the Grozny TV station he founded was surrounded by armed security forces who prevented reporters from leaving the premises with equipment needed to do their work, station staff said, "The Moscow Times" reported on 8 September. The station's 11 staffers resigned and the TV channel stopped broadcasting, the station's deputy director said. The move by security forces appear to initiate a takeover of the media company by supporters of Kremlin-appointed Chechen leader Akhmad Kadirov in the run-up to the 5 October presidential election in Chechnya, according to the paper. Gantemirov -- who was fired after he disagreed with some of Kadyrov's policies and his announcement that he would support one of his rivals in the upcoming election -- had established the new station in March of this year. As a result of the Grozny station's closure, only one TV station remains in Chechnya's capital city: the local affiliate of Rossiya, the national state TV channel. CC

DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL ON CHECHNYA. The festival will open on 15 September at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. with "Greetings from Grozny," a U.S. film that shows a "mopping-up" operation by Russian special forces in a Chechen village. A panel discussion will follow with Holocaust Museum Director Paul Mitchell, Representative Chris Smith, Lord Judd of the Council of Europe, and Patrice Page of Paris-based Doctors Without Borders. There will be six films shown: "Chechen Lullaby" (France); "Deadlock: Russia's Forgotten War" (U.S.); "Greetings From Grozny" (U.S.); "Babitsky's War" (U.K.); "Dance, Grozny, Dance" (The Netherlands); and "Murder with International Consent" (Poland). The festival also includes "Terror in Moscow," a British account of last year's siege of a Moscow theater resulting in the death of 139 hostages, due to Russian use of nerve gas, and "Assassination of Russia," a French film that examines the theory that the Russian secret services was behind the 1999 apartment block bombings in Moscow that triggered the invasion of Chechnya and propelled Russian President Vladimir Putin to power. Organized by Amnesty International, the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, the Foundation for Civil Liberties, and the Moscow-based Sakharov Center and Memorial, copies of the six films will be sent by the organizers to every U.S. congressman and senator. After Washington, the festival will move to New York to coincide with Putin's address to the UN, and then to Moscow where it will be shown during the Kremlin-sponsored elections in Chechnya in early October. For more information see CC

RUSSIAN FILM WINS TOP PRIZE AT VENICE FILM FESTIVAL... Russian filmmaker Andrei Zvyagintsev has won this year's Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival for "The Return" -- his first feature-length movie, RFE/RL reported on 8 September. Zvyagintsev's film tells the story of a father's reacquaintance with his two sons after an absence of 12 years. The father, played by Konstantin Lavronenko, takes his two now-teenage boys on a trip to an island where the three characters attempt to renew their relationship in an undisturbed setting. International critics hailed Zvyagintsev's lyrical film, comparing it to works by legendary director Andrei Tarkovskii. "The Return" is the second film in two years to win the top prize in the prestigious film festival, signaling a comeback by the Russian film industry. A film by Russian director Aleksei German Jr. received an honorable mention in this year's Venice Film Festival and Azerbaijan's Murad Ibragimbekov won the prize for best short film. CC

�AS CRITIC NOTES TRENDS IN RUSSIAN CINEMA. Moscow-based film critic Kirill Razlogov said that foreign critics sometimes have different preferences to domestic audiences, RFE/RL reported on 8 September. Razlogov said that there are at least two types of film directors in modern Russian cinema: lyricists who continue in the classic Russian literary school, focusing on eternal themes with a poetic eye, and what he calls the "New Russian" movie makers, who focus on the chaotic, gritty post-Soviet world of money and power. "New Russian" movies are definitely more popular with domestic audiences these days. But Razlogov says a key to "The Return's" success -- one that does not detract from its brilliance -- is that the movie is imbued with a classic "soul," both familiar and expected by foreigners watching a Russian movie. CC

A 10-YEAR PLAN FOR NEW RUSSIAN ENCYCLOPEDIA... The "Great Russian Encyclopedia" is the first official revamped version of the "Great Soviet Encyclopedia (BSE)." With 30 volumes and 80,000 entries, the "Great Russian Encyclopedia" -- or "BRE" -- will be the largest Russian encyclopedia available, RFE/RL reported on 8 September. It has been more than a decade since the collapse of the USSR consigned the Soviet encyclopedia -- at least, its name -- to the dustbin of history. And it will be another decade before the complete set of the Russian encyclopedia is complete. If all goes according to plan, the "BRE" will be issued at a rate of just three alphabetical volumes a year. The publication will begin March 2004 with an introductory volume titled "Russia." The volumes are available at 950 rubles (about $30) apiece and will be sold at bookstores and over the Internet, according to RFE/RL. A CD-ROM version will also be available. The "BRE" will have a print run of 100,000 and will be partially distributed to public and university libraries. CC

...CREATED BY PRESIDENTIAL DECREE... The "BRE" owes its existence to President Putin, who last October issued a decree ordering the publication of a "Great Russian encyclopedia of national significance," RFE/RL reported on 8 September. The decree requests the cooperation of the Russian Academy of Sciences -- the country's leading research institute -- on both federal and local levels. Contributors are expected to include leading economists and even members of the parliament. Publication of the "BRE" is fully financed by the state, and is not expected to be commercially profitable. Rather, it seems intended to encapsulate a new vision of Russia following what the Kremlin clearly wishes to portray as a successful post-Soviet political and economic transition. Editor Sergei Kravets says the "Great Russian Encyclopedia" will reflect no ideological beliefs. The general director appointed by Putin for the "BRE" project is Yuri Osipov, the head of the Russian Academy of Sciences since 1991. A mathematician, Osipov distinguished himself in Soviet times, receiving the Lenin award for his research in 1976. Reputed to be a government loyalist, Osipov reportedly joined Putin's Security Council in 2000, RFE/RL reported on 8 September. CC

...TO REPLACE THE 'GREAT SOVIET ENCYCLOPEDIA.' The "Great Soviet Encyclopedia" -- whose red-leather-bound tomes, embossed with the distinctive "BSE" acronym, were a fixture of libraries and the homes and offices of high-ranking officials throughout the USSR -- is still available on CD-ROM and is still valued as a kind of "gold standard" of Soviet ideology. In 1953, when Lavrenti Beria, the notorious head of the Soviet police, was executed, "BSE" subscribers received a letter from the editor requesting them to cut out the "Beria" entry and replace it with an extended section on the Bering Strait, RFE/RL reported on 8 September. CC

TV CREW ATTACKED. The Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) has protested an assault on a crew of RTV Devic in the municipal assembly of Smederevska Palanka on 5 September. Private security guards tried to prevent cameraman Zoran Prica and journalist Aleksandra Nestorov from entering the assembly chamber. Prica and several representatives were injured in a clash with security guards; print journalists and a crew from Jasenica public television were permitted to enter the building earlier that day. The incident occurred days after an RTV Devic crew was barred from a press conference in the building. For more, contact,, or see, CC

PRIVATE TV CHANNEL PROTESTS INTERIOR MINISTER'S STATEMENT. Representatives of the private Markiza TV and company shareholders protested on 8 September a statement made on that channel by Interior Minister Vladimir Palko the previous day, TASR reported. They said Palko's attack on them during a talk show was "inappropriate, incorrect, and ungrounded" and that he had "seriously insulted all decent and honest Markiza TV employees, as well as its Slovak and American shareholders." TV Markiza is co-owned by Alliance for a New Citizen Chairman Pavol Rusko. Palko said during the debate that Markiza TV and its reporters are "corrupt." He said the channel had led a negative campaign against him, which started with the allegation that police had tapped Rusko's phone. "For months, you have created the impression that police have been doing something fabricated and ungrounded," he said, adding that Markiza TV uses a gangster style and supports people "who wish to cast doubt on the work of police." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 September 2003)

ARREST OF ALLEGED TWO HIZB UT-TAHRIR ACTIVISTS NEAR DUSHANBE WORRIES AUTHORITIES. Tajik authorities are concerned that the arrest of two alleged Hizb ut-Tahrir activists in Yavan, a town 30 kilometers south of Dushanbe, indicates that the radical Muslim organization's influence is moving southward, RIA-Novosti reported on 9 September. The two detainees, a Tajik man and a woman who is an Uzbek citizen, were reportedly distributing Hizb ut-Tahrir leaflets that call for the overthrow of the Tajik government. An unidentified law enforcement official noted that previously Hizb ut-Tahrir activists have been arrested in Dushanbe, Khujand, and areas bordering Uzbekistan. According to the Tajik Prosecutor-General's Office, more than 30 Hizb ut-Tahrir activists have been arrested in Tajikistan this year. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September 2003)

OPPOSITION LEADER SUES PROSECUTOR-GENERAL FOR SLANDER. Yuliya Tymoshenko, head of the eponymous opposition bloc, has brought a lawsuit against Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Piskun, charging that he defamed Tymoshenko's honor and business reputation in a recent interview with the "Delovaya nedela" weekly, Interfax reported. "The entire life of Yuliya Tymoshenko is built upon deception," Piskun reportedly told the weekly. "She deceives her family, the state, the people, the president, law enforcement bodies, and her voters." The Prosecutor-General's Office recently requested that the Verkhovna Rada lift Tymoshenko's immunity so that she can be prosecuted for allegedly giving bribes. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September 2003)

TWO JOURNALISTS ATTACKED IN ZAPORIZHIYA. On 3-4 September, two local Zaporizhzhya journalists -- Serhiy Honcharenko, a reporter for the "Zaporizhska Sich" newspaper and Mykola Loi, deputy director of the weekly "Dosye" -- were attacked by unknown persons, according to the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations' 1-8 September "CIS Report." Honcharenko was stabbed in the stomach on 3 September. According to Oleksandr Veryovkin, editor in chief of "Zaporizhska Sich," the attack was job-related: Honcharenko was writing about property redistribution and had received numerous threatening telephone calls. The next day, Loi was attacked by unknown assailants in the yard of his house. CC

POLICE PREVENT TV CREWS FROM COVERING FIRE IN THE CRIMEA. On 28 August, police and troops from the Interior Ministry prevented TV crews of Kyiv's Iter channel and Moscow's TVTsentr and Channel 1 stations from covering a fire in the village of Morskoye in the Almaz resort area, citing orders from a senior Crimean official, the Monitoring Committee for the Freedom of the Press in Crimea reported on 2 September. CC

OPPOSITION WEBSITE BLOCKED INSIDE UZBEKISTAN. On 9 September, the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) called on the Uzbek government to comment on the blocking of the Ozod Ovoz website, which is frequently critical of Uzbek President Islam Karimov. In the past, the Uzbek authorities have frequently resorted to censorship of such news sites by reliance on the state-run Internet service provider UzPAK, which has a near monopoly in the country., based in Azerbaijan, was launched in April as a public outlet for online protests about the lack of freedom of expression in Uzbekistan. The site has been inaccessible inside Uzbekistan since 2 September. CC

DEMOCRACIES ONLINE NEWSWIRE. DoWire is a free e-mail list with information on e-democracy, e-government, and related topics, specializing in original "primary source" news. DoWire's 2500 members come from over 75 countries. See

RUSSIAN SCHOOL OFFERS FREE 'MASTER CLASS' FOR TV PROFESSIONALS. The Vladimir Pozner Television School in Moscow is now accepting applications from Russian TV professionals for its 6 October-1 November "master class," Internews-Russia reported. The course includes script writing, filming, editing, interviewing skills, as well as study of ethical, psychological, and legal issues. Instructors include TV journalists, psychologists, and lawyers. The program is free of charge, including food and lodging at Moscow State University. Applications are at or see

COURSES FOR CHRISTIAN JOURNALISTS. The Magazine Training Institute plans to conduct three training events for the publishers and editors of Christian magazines in June 2004 in Slovakia. The language of instruction is English. For more, contact or see CC

NEW MEDIA FELLOWSHIP OFFERED TO INTERNATIONAL WOMEN JOURNALISTS. The Washington-based International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) recently announced a three-month media fellowship for international women journalists to provide them with work experience in U.S. outlets. The program is open to those who have participated in any IWMF program, including those who have received the IWMF's Courage in Journalism Award. Excellent English skills are required. All expenses will be covered. The first fellowship for a print journalist will run from April to June 2004. The fellowship will rotate between print and broadcast journalists. Applications are being accepted until 3 November. The IWMF network includes over 1,500 women from more than 130 countries. For applications,, or e-mail CC


by Daniel Kimmage

PR is a four-letter word in Russia. This is not to stress the perversity of public relations -- the Russian obscenity usually referred to by its quantity of letters is actually a three-letter word -- but the fact that "piar" (as the word, pronounced roughly like the English abbreviation "PR," is spelled in Russian) is not quite the same thing as PR. For reasons that have much to do with the Soviet Union's obsession with controlling what its citizens knew, the business of preparing and disseminating information for public consumption in post-Soviet Russia is anything but mundane. Piar has acquired an almost mystical aura, and its practitioners are often portrayed by the press as modern-day magicians who shape and channel society's emotions and desires.

If the piar specialist is more than just a specialist in public relations, Vladimir Ruga is more than just a whiz at piar. Though he is only 33 years old, Ruga has already managed to fine-tune the image of prototypical oligarch Boris Berezovskii, oversee corporate public relations for next-generation oligarch (and governor of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, not to mention new owner of the English soccer club Chelsea) Roman Abramovich, and even write a historical/financial thriller. Ruga is also the newly appointed vice president for public relations at TNK-BP, a recently created oil company that merges Russia's Tyumen Oil Company (TNK) and the Russian assets of British-American BP.

Ruga was educated as a historian at Moscow State Pedagogical University. After graduating he worked as a journalist and, at age 26, he became the deputy editor in chief of the newspaper "Vechernyaya moskva." In a life-changing career move, he accepted an invitation from Berezovskii in 1997 to head the PR department at the oil company Sibneft. Ruga remained at Sibneft as control of the company passed to Berezovskii protege Abramovich, and it is from Sibneft that Ruga arrives at TNK-BP.

Ruga's reputation in piar circles is legendary. "Gazeta" reported on 16 July 2003 that "one of his best 'projects' is Boris Berezovskii in the second half of the 1990s. It is primarily Ruga who created the image of the Berezovskii 'who influences everything under the sun.'" Nor did Ruga limit himself to corporate piar. "Vremya novostei" reported on 1 September that Ruga's political accomplishments include "the State Duma campaigns of both oligarchs [Berezovskii and Abramovich], the gubernatorial campaigns of Aleksandr Lebed, Leonid Polezhaev, and Roman Abramovich, and a role in the election campaign of [Kazakh President] Nursultan Nazarbaev."

Although his original mentor, Berezovskii, is now in self-imposed exile in London, Ruga appears to have floated from project to project without scandal or animosity. And some of those projects have undoubtedly left useful numbers in his Rolodex. According to a 15 September 2000 article in "Slovo neftyanika," for example, Ruga describes pre-election PR for the Medved faction in the 1999 State Duma elections as his most successful campaign. Medved, of course, was the precursor of today's pro-Kremlin United Russia bloc. More intriguingly, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 30 August that the Moscow rumor mill at one time attributed to Ruga then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's infamous 1999 remark about rubbing terrorists out even as they sit in the outhouse.

Russian piar enjoys a mystic aura in part because it works its magic at the place where things are at once most and least visible -- at the intersection of big money and big politics, where everyone can see the results and only a chosen few can observe the inner workings. Ruga's background is classic of the genre, a potent brew of corporations and campaigns. In his new position as public relations architect for a multibillion-dollar Russian-Western oil venture, he should have every opportunity to add some heady new ingredients to the cocktail. ("RFE/RL Business Watch," 9 September 2003)