19 September 2003, Volume
FREE-EXPRESSION CONCERNS PRESENTED AT INFORMATION SOCIETY PREPCOM...
Journalists, writers, and community radio broadcasters were well-represented as the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) began its Third Preparatory Committee meeting (PrepCom) in Geneva. The meeting, which runs from 15 to 26 September, brings officials, businesspeople, and civil-society representatives together to revise a draft declaration and action plan to be presented at the first phase of the WSIS in December. CC...AS ATTENTION CALLED TO IMPRISONED INTERNET WRITERS...
The Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN issued a statement calling attention to 36 Internet writers imprisoned around the world, including in Russia, for exercising their right to freedom of expression. Details of the cases can be found at: http://www.internatpen.org/WSIS.htm. CC...AND COMMUNITY MEDIA AND FREE EXPRESSION SEEN AS PLAYING KEY ROLE...
The World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC), Article 19, and the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) also issued a joint statement with a coalition of civil-society groups, calling on governments to include in the draft WSIS declaration language recognizing the "crucial role of community media" in the information society. AMARC also expressed concern that the WSIS draft declaration contains phrases weakening the right to freedom of expression, such as language respecting free-expression rights "in accordance with the legal system in each country." "The declaration requires a much clearer statement on the media, based on the provisions of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)," AMARC said. Read the full "Community Media statement" here: http://www.prepcom.net/wsis/1063798741675/view. CC...AS IS NEED FOR FREE EXPRESSION...
The International Press Institute (IPI) said the draft texts under negotiation for the WSIS do not recognize the importance of implementing the free-expression provisions of UDHR's Article 19. IPI also expressed concern that the draft texts refer to "highly troubling" vague concepts such as the "right to communicate" and "accountability" of news media which "legitimize direct threats to freedom of the press," IPI said (see http://www.freemedia.at/congress03/Res_Salzburg15.09.03.htm). CC...AND RSF BANNED FROM WSIS MEETING.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has been informed that it has been banned from taking part in the WSIS meeting in December. The group warns that with dictatorships and other repressive regimes intending to use the WSIS to further restrict information on the Internet, "banning a press freedom organization from attending the WSIS is likely to alarm those who defend human rights and freedom of expression" (see http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=7972). CCIPI SAYS 'MAXIMUM TRANSPARENCY' BEST WAY TO FIGHT TERRORISM.
The International Press Institute (IPI) annual general assembly in Salzburg, Austria, on 15 September expressed alarm at the global spread of antiterrorism laws which have eroded freedom of expression and media freedom. While IPI shares the concerns of the United Nations about the rise of terrorism and the need to combat it, it believes that many countries have reverted, or are on the point of reverting, to unacceptable repression of the media and freedom of expression as part of the international campaign against terrorism. According to the New York-based NGO Freedom House, countries with populations totaling at least 100 million have moved from "free" to "partially free" due to such laws. There can be no justification for causing a decrease in the flow of information or curbing the freedom of the media in the so-called interest of fighting terrorism. In IPI's view, maximum transparency about terrorism is the best way of combating this evil and calls on governments to ensure that they do not curb the media in its role of gathering and publishing the news in the public interest. CC
MURDER TRIAL LAWYER PROTESTS SUSPENSION.
A shouting match erupted on 16 September during the ongoing trial in Yerevan of 13 men charged with the December 2002 murder of Armenian Public Television and Radio head Tigran Naghdalian, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Hovik Arsenian, a lawyer representing one of the accused, businessman Armen Sargsian, denounced as illegal and politically motivated his suspension from the proceedings by presiding judge Saro Aramian on the grounds that Arsenian allegedly concealed his criminal record when applying for a license to practice law. Aramian declared Arsenian in contempt of court and ordered his removal by force from the courtroom. Also on 16 September, a commission formed by the International Union of Lawyers asked the Union of Lawyers of Armenia to rule on the legality of the license issued to Arsenian, Noyan Tapan reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September)WORLD BANK PRAISES GOVERNMENT MOVE AGAINST TELECOMMUNICATIONS MONOPOLY.
The senior World Bank official in Armenia, Roger Robinson, stated on 10 September he "would be pleased" with the opening of the country's telecommunications sector and called for an end to exclusive corporate privileges, according to RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau and Arminfo. Robinson praised moves by the Armenian government toward reconsidering the monopoly enjoyed by the ArmenTel telecommunications operator since its 1998 sale to Greece's Hellenic Telecommunication Organization (OTE). He warned the authorities against transferring OTE's 15-year monopoly to another company, and stressed that the opening of the Armenian telecom sector to competition is "critical" for economic development. He noted that the telecommunications system in Armenia is in need of significant modernization, saying that "the telecom network's coverage is not good and the costs are high, at least for the cell-phone system, international traffic, and Internet access." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September)
COUNCIL OF EUROPE AND OSCE CRITICIZE AZERBAIJAN FOR CRACKDOWN ON MEDIA.
A joint statement released on 10 September by Walter Schwimmer, the secretary-general of the Council of Europe, and Freimut Duve, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) representative on freedom of the media, criticized Azerbaijan for its "harassment of the media and intimidation of journalists," according to the Council of Europe press office. The statement called on Azerbaijan to "take all necessary steps to guarantee respect for freedom of the media" and noted Baku's obligations as a member of the Council of Europe to adhere to the European Convention on Human Rights. It also noted that "media pluralism and the full and unhindered exercise of press freedoms will be essential in the run-up to the forthcoming presidential elections," and expressed concern over a "recent attack against several journalists outside the main Baku police station," demanding "a thorough investigation." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September)PACE SLAMS PRESIDENTIAL-ELECTION CAMPAIGN.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) delegation currently visiting Baku issued a statement on 16 September listing its concerns over the country's ongoing presidential-election campaign, Turan reported. They said the composition of the Central Election Commission, 10 of whose members are nominated by political parties loyal to the authorities and five by opposition parties, "is a source of major concern," and called on the commission to "take urgent steps to meet the requirements of the election law." They advocated that the outcome of the ballot be made public immediately, even though the Election Law provides for a delay of 48 hours. They criticized "the heavy media bias in favor of the incumbent president and his supporters," and noted numerous complaints by opposition candidates and NGOs of harassment and intimidation by the authorities. They said the resulting "prevailing climate of overall political mistrust...creates a tense if not explosive political situation," and called on the authorities to use the remaining four weeks before the ballot to create equitable conditions for all candidates in order to ensure the election is free and fair. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September)
GOVERNMENT SURVEY SAYS 79 PERCENT OF POPULATION NEEDS STATE IDEOLOGY.
A poll conducted by the government-controlled Institute of Social and Political Studies among 1,505 Belarusians from 14-20 August found that 79 percent of respondents answered "yes" to the question whether their country "needs the ideology of the Belarusian state," Belapan reported on 11 September. Earlier this year, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka decided to inculcate state ideology in school and at the workplace on a mandatory basis. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September)DISAPPEARED OPPOSITION FIGURES REMEMBERED.
Some 80 people gathered in downtown Minsk on 16 September to mark the fourth anniversary of the disappearance of opposition politician Viktar Hanchar and his friend, businessman Anatol Krasouski, Belapan reported. Demonstrators held pictures of Hanchar and Krasouski, as well as those of opposition politician Yury Zakharanka and journalist Dzmitry Zavadski, who also disappeared in Belarus under unknown circumstances in 1999 and 2000, respectively. Hanchar and Krasouski were last seen on 16 September 1999 when they were leaving a public bathhouse in Minsk. In June 2001, some media outlets in Belarus received a videotaped interview with two former investigators who accused authorities of sponsoring a death squad to eliminate political opponents. The squad allegedly killed their victims with a pistol used for executions of people on death row. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September)
GERMAN TELEVISION BROADCASTER WINS CHANNEL.
The Croatian Radio and Television Council announced on 16 September that it has awarded the concession for the third national television channel to Germany's RTL, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September)
ONE JOURNALIST ARRESTED; TWO OTHERS START PROTEST FASTS.
On 12 September, Paris-based Reporters without Borders (RSF) protested the arrest of Behzad Zarinpur, assistant editor in chief of the Iranian newspaper "Asia" and former editor of "Abrar Eqtesadi" (Economic News), on 7 September. Zarinpur was arrested after a search of his home by armed men in civilian clothes. His family has not heard from him since. Poor conditions of detention are leading to hunger strikes by journalists held at Tehran's Evin prison. One journalist, Mohsen Sazgara, whose secret trial began on 6 September, has stopped eating and refuses to take any medicine although he has serious heart problems. Another, Taghi Rahmani, began a fast to protest his solitary confinement. CC
IFJ SAYS U.S. FIRED ON WOUNDED REPORTER...
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said on 13 September that information that an injured TV reporter being rushed to hospital was fired upon by U.S. forces in Iraq gives rise to "grave new concerns." Terry Lloyd and his team working for Britain's ITN network were caught in the crossfire of fighting just south of Al-Basrah on 22 March. It had been thought that he died later of wounds received in that attack, but this week -- six months after the incident -- new evidence revealed that a civilian minibus taking the wounded reporter to hospital was fired upon. Lloyd was wounded a second time and was dead on arrival at a hospital in Al-Basrah. Britain's "The Daily Mirror" published information from an Al-Basrah businessman who said he told army investigators Lloyd was not killed in a crossfire, but died later, after his vehicle was strafed by a U.S. helicopter gunship. The IFJ says that the military cover-up of the truth about what happened in the firefight on the road to Al-Basrah -- including the disappearance of two of Lloyd's colleagues, cameraman Fred Nerac and translator Hussein Osman, who are still missing and presumed dead by colleagues -- confirms the suspicion that U.S. soldiers implicated in the killing of journalists and media staff have been acting with impunity. CC...IN PATTERN OF 'IMPUNITY?'
Last month, the IFJ condemned as "a cynical whitewash" the U.S. military investigation of a tank attack on the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad on 8 April in which two journalists died. The U.S. cleared its troops of any responsibility, but failed to explain why senior officers had not told troops that foreign media staff were living in the hotel. Another --- still unexplained -- attack on the Baghdad office of the Arab TV network Al-Jazeera led to the killing of reporter Tareq Ayyoub. A total of 19 journalists and media staff have died in Iraq, with two still missing, since the campaign started in March, and seven of the killings have involved journalists being fired upon by U.S. troops in four separate incidents. The IFJ believes that the U.S. military are flouting international law, which forbids soldiers firing on civilians or ambulances. CCAL-JAZEERA AIRS BIN LADEN TAPES.
On the eve of the second anniversary of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in Washington and New York, Al-Jazeera television aired a videotape of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and chief deputy Ayman al-Zawahri accompanied by an audiotape purportedly featuring bin Laden's voice praising the 11 September hijackers. A second tape said to be of al-Zawahri promised further attacks on U.S. citizens, with the speaker saying the world had seen "only the first skirmishes" and that "the true epic has not begun." The speaker also called on Iraqi insurgents to "bury" U.S. soldiers. The video footage showed the two men in Afghan dress walking on rocky hillsides that resemble the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to AP. Both men were pictured carrying automatic weapons. Al-Jazeera reportedly said the tape was made in late April or early May by the Al-Sahhab Co., which the satellite station said specializes in producing videos for Al-Qaeda. The video footage is the first of bin Laden to surface since he was shown dining with associates in November 2001. That video aired a month later. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September)
IMPRISONED JOURNALIST DENIES REPORTS OF BEATINGS.
Imprisoned opposition journalist Sergei Duvanov has denied reports that he has been systematically beaten in prison to compel him to ask for a presidential pardon, one of Duvanov's defense lawyers, rule-of-law activist Vitalii Voronov, told a news conference in Almaty on 10 September, Interfax reported. Voronov said he met with Duvanov two days previously, and his client denied having been beaten and said he was not being pressured to ask for pardon. He said was asked two months earlier if he intended to request a pardon, but he said "no" and the subject has not been raised again. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September)OPPOSITION SAYS ZHAQIYANOV FILM WAS FAKED.
Members of the political council of the opposition Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) association Asylbek Kozhakhmetov and Petr Svoik told a news conference in Almaty on 16 September that a film shown the previous day by the National Security Committee of imprisoned DVK co-founder Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov was faked, Interfax-Kazakhstan and Deutsche Welle reported. The film was shown to journalists to back up the National Security Committee account of Zhaqiyanov's request for a presidential pardon. The National Security Committee asserts that Zhaqiyanov offered to leave politics in return for a pardon and a promise that no further criminal cases would be filed against him. Kozhakhmetov and Svoik asserted that the film had been heavily edited to create the impression desired by the authorities in an effort to discredit the opposition before the 20 September local elections. Svoik added that the authenticity of the film could not be checked with Zhaqiyanov himself, because he is not allowed to use the telephone in prison. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September)MINISTRY OF CULTURE AND INFORMATION IS SPLIT INTO TWO.
On 13 September, President Nursultan Nazarbaev signed a decree splitting the Ministry of Culture, Information, and Public Harmony into a Ministry of Culture and a Ministry of Information, Kazinform reported on 14 September. Dyusen Kaseinov, a professional musician, was appointed to take over the new Ministry of Culture, according to khabar.kz on 13 September. He has served as deputy minister of the old Ministry of Culture, Information, and Public Harmony, in which he headed the culture committee. The same day, Sautbek Abdrakhmanov, a professional journalist, was named information minister. Since December 2000, Abdrakhmanov has headed the company that publishes "Egemen Qazaqstan," the official Kazakh-language daily, according to Interfax-Kazakhstan on 14 September. Before that, he held various government posts. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September)JOURNALISM COUNCIL ASKS THAT TAX BENEFITS BE EXTENDED.
Representatives of the Kazakh Public Council on Mass Media told a press conference in Almaty on 11 September that the council has asked President Nazarbaev to extend for another seven years the tax benefits granted to the media in 1995, the CASCFEN website (http://www.cascfen.org) reported on 14 September, quoting khabar.kz. The print media has been exempt from value-added tax (VAT) for the last seven years, and the electronic media has been exempt for two years. The general director of the newspaper "Ekspress-K," Aleksandr Gubert, was quoted as saying that the exemption from the 16 percent VAT is significant for the majority of media enterprises, and its loss would force many regional media to close because of insufficient advertising revenues. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September)OPPOSITION, AUTHORITIES COMPLAIN OF DIRTY CAMPAIGN PRACTICES.
As Kazakhstan's 20 September nationwide elections to local councils approach, both the opposition and the authorities are complaining of the "dirty" campaign practices being employed, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on 11 September. Opposition DVK official and Almaty city council candidate Petr Svoik showed a news conference in Almaty a leaflet allegedly written by him, but which he said was actually a provocation by a "powerful and influential body." The leaflet offers to pay for information on people who do not trust the DVK. The head of the public-relations department of the Almaty city police, Colonel Alikhan Bektasov, said the DVK suspects that a major pro-government political party engineered the provocation. He said such dirty tricks are increasing as the election approaches, and the police have set up special groups in every raion to deal with them. The Central Electoral Commission issued a statement on 11 September saying the number of complaints it has received about dirty campaign practices has been increasing. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September)
OSCE MISSION IN KOSOVA HOSTS CONFERENCE ON JOURNALISTS' RIGHTS.
Journalists' rights and self-regulatory mechanisms headlined the agenda at a two-day conference hosted by the OSCE Mission in Kosovo, which began on 15 September in Prishtina. The event brought together 60 Kosovar media representatives to discuss how the authorities interact with journalists, particularly a program to improve media access to information and the need for a local self-regulatory institution. CC
GOVERNMENT-SPONSORED MEDIA COUNCIL SET UP.
A national conference on the media and civil society organized by the presidential press service took place on Lake Issyk-Kul on 12-13 September and ended with the creation of a media council, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service and akipress.org reported on 14 September and 15 September, respectively. The declared objective of the council is to settle conflicts arising from the professional work of journalists before they reach the courts. It comprises parliamentarian Zaynidin Kurmanov, television presenter Tamara Valieva, university professor Kadyr Omurkulov, BBC correspondent Tolkunbek Turdubaev, correspondents Yevgenii Denisenko of the pro-government daily "Vechernii Bishkek" and Vadim Nochevkin of the independent newspaper "Delo No," "Osh Sadosi" Editor in Chief Abdugani Abdugafarov, independent Pyramid TV Vice President Murat Kaipov, and media producer Aktan Abdykalykov. Opposition journalists at the conference said the media council will likely play the role of media overseer for the president's office. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September)
MOLDOVA, TRANSDNIESTER LAUNCH 'TELEPHONE WAR.'
Moldova and Transdniester launched a mutual telephone war on 12 September, accusing each other of blocking the other side's signal, Reuters reported. Moldovan Transportation and Telecommunication Minister Vasile Zgardan accused the separatists of having completely blocked telephone calls from Moldtelcom since 11 September. He said Chisinau had earlier stopped Tiraspol from using a mobile-telephone frequency because Moldova is using the same frequency for a digital television channel and Tiraspol has no right to use it. The separatists say Moldova is jamming mobile phones in their region and Vladimir Belayev, who holds the information and telecommunication portfolio in the Transdniester government, called Moldova's move a "large-scale action against Transdniester." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September)
PREMIER'S CHIEF OF STAFF DENIES INVOLVEMENT IN RYWINGATE.
Aleksandra Jakubowska, chief of staff of Prime Minister Leszek Miller's cabinet, told journalists on 15 September that she was not involved in the bribery scandal known in Poland as Rywingate and is not going to resign, Polish media reported. While testifying earlier this month before the parliamentary commission investigating the scandal, former PAP journalist Anna Wojciechowska suggested that Jakubowska in 2002 might have intentionally deleted two words from the media bill that lies at the heart of the Rywingate scandal. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September)
CPJ PROTESTS JOURNALIST'S LIBEL CONVICTION.
On 17 September, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), expressed its "extreme concern" over the conviction of German Galkin, publisher of "Rabochaya gazeta" and deputy editor in chief of "Vechernii Chelyabinsk," on criminal defamation charges in a closed trial on 15 August. Galkin's appeal hearing is slated for 18 September. The court sentenced Galkin to one year in a labor camp for allegedly libeling and insulting two deputy governors of Chelyabinsk Oblast, Andrei Kosilov and Konstantin Bochkarev. According to Andrei Koretstkii, a political editor at "Vechernii Chelyabinsk," Kosilov and Bochkarev filed the charges in June 2002 because articles in the February, April, and June editions of "Rabochaya gazeta" alleged misspending by Chelyabinsk officials, such as the creation of a pro-government TV channel before the 2005 gubernatorial elections as well as a series of killings of local politicians and businessmen in the early 1990s, Koretstkii told CPJ. Kosilov and Bochkarev claimed that Galkin -- who is also the local head of the Liberal Russia opposition party -- had written these articles, even though Galkin's name did not appear and he denied having written them, according to local press reports. Although defamation is a criminal offense, Galkin's conviction is unprecedented in recent Russian history. CCPRIME MINISTER: FREEDOM OF SPEECH 'ESSENTIAL.'
RIA-Novosti on 13 September quoted Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov as saying at the opening of an exhibit marking 300 years of Russian journalism, "Today we have such a level of development that there is no doubt over the importance of freedom of speech in general and for the media in particular." Kasyanov added that such freedom requires a great deal of responsibility on the part of the "fourth estate" since "stability in society and sometimes even people's fate depends on how events are reported." CCFORMER STAFF CHALLENGES COMMUNISTS' HOLD ON 'PRAVDA.'
Former staffers of the newspaper "Pravda" have filed a lawsuit challenging the registration of the newspaper, which now operates as a mouthpiece for the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), RTR reported on 15 September. Vadim Gorshenin, one of the plaintiffs, is seeking to deny the current staff the use of the newspaper's famous logo and masthead on the grounds that the rights of the pre-1991 editorial staff were violated when the newspaper was re-registered. For several years, factions on the left wing of Russia's political spectrum have battled for control over "Pravda," and for a time rival editorial staffs published two different editions of the newspaper. Speaking to RTR on 15 September, Oleg Shenin, chairman of the Committee of Representatives of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, complained that "Pravda" was "privatized" by the KPRF, and consequently "does not express all the hopes and aspirations of Soviet communists." Vladimir Ryashin, the secretary of "Pravda," accused the editorial collective on which Gorshenin worked of being "financed by one of the large oligarchic structures." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September)
INFORMATION SERVICE ATTRIBUTES EAVESDROPPING TO 'TECHNICAL FAILURE.'
The Slovak Information Service (SIS) announced on 12 September that its investigation conducted jointly with Interior Ministry experts determined that eavesdropping on the "Sme" daily and on Alliance for a New Citizen (ANO) Chairman Pavol Rusko was "an accident" due to "technical failure." The SIS said in its report that the equipment at fault has been replaced to prevent such failures from recurring. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September)
HIGH MARKS FOR SLOVENIAN PRESS FREEDOM.
Reporters Without Borders has placed Slovenia 14th in its first worldwide index of press freedom, its website announced (see http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=4116). Slovenia thus ranks behind Germany, France, and the Scandinavian countries but ahead of the United States, United Kingdom, and other former Yugoslav republics. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September)
LICENSING AGENCY DELAYS DECISION ON INDEPENDENT TV STATION.
The licensing commission of Tajikistan's state Committee on Television and Radio Broadcasting has delayed for six months its decision on an application from the independent media holding Asia Plus to launch a television station, Deutsche Welle reported on 15 September. Committee officials said the application documents indicate that Asia Plus lacks the technical base and personnel necessary to operate a broadcast entity. Asia Plus already has a newspaper, an information agency, and a radio station, which began broadcasting in 2002. The report noted that it took Asia Plus four years to obtain the license to operate its radio station, and it only received the license after the personal intervention of President Imomali Rakhmonov. There are more than 20 private television stations in Tajikistan, but most broadcast only at the raion level. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September)
GOVERNMENT SHUTS DOWN CABLE TV OPERATORS AGAIN.
Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov had ordered the closing down of cable-television operations for the second time in two years, prima-news.ru reported on 15 September. He first ordered the closing of cable-television distributors in the spring of 2002, allegedly because he was offended by a program critical of him that was broadcast on a Russian channel included among cable offerings in Turkmenistan. The closing of cable operations was a serious blow to people who cannot afford their own satellite antennas to receive programs from outside the country, mostly from Russia. The cable operation in Turkmenabat, Charjou, was even broadcasting self-produced local news, which is practically unheard of in Turkmenistan. According to prima-news.ru, cable operations started up again in a number of oblast centers soon after Niyazov's decree appeared. Now they are being shut down again, and according to the report, there are rumors that ownership of satellite dishes will soon be prohibited. These have sprouted throughout the country in recent years in both urban and rural areas. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September)
SLAIN JOURNALIST HONORED.
Some 3,000 people gathered in Kyiv on 16 September to honor Internet journalist Heorhiy Gongadze on the third anniversary of his disappearance, Ukrainian media reported. Gongadze's decapitated body was found at Tarashcha near Kyiv in November 2000. The secret tapes made by presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko linked President Leonid Kuchma and former Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko to Gongadze's killing. "[Gongadze] was the only journalist who took a solitary stand against the authorities," opposition leader Yuliya Tymoshenko told the gathering. "Kuchma and Kravchenko should be at this meeting and [should] beg for forgiveness on their knees," she added, according to the "Ukrayinska pravda" website. Earlier the same day, a cross was erected at the site near Tarashcha where Gongadze's body was found. "This is not just a symbol of the death of a man, this is a symbol of truth, of the fight for truth," Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz said during the ceremony. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 September)
NGO RATES TAJIKISTAN BEST, TURKMENISTAN WORST FOR PRESS FREEDOM IN CENTRAL ASIA.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has published another of its worldwide indexes of press freedom, the Azerbaijani news agency Ekho reported on 11 September. The index rates freedom of the media in 139 countries. Among the post-Soviet Central Asian states, Tajikistan rated highest at No. 86. Kyrgyzstan is No. 98, Kazakhstan is 116th, and Uzbekistan is No. 120. Turkmenistan rated No. 136, coming just three notches ahead of last place North Korea. Finland, Iceland, Norway, and the Netherlands all tied for first place, while the United States came in at No. 17. RSF explained that it drew up the list to make the point that press freedom is under threat nearly everywhere. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September)
INTERNATIONAL NEWS SAFETY INSTITUTE HOLDS FIRST ANNUAL MEETING.
The International News Safety Institute (INSI) will hold its first annual general meeting in Budapest, Hungary, on 5 November, where members will elect an advisory board and approve next year's working program. A new book dedicated to journalists who died covering the war in Iraq will also be launched. An initiative of the International Federation of Journalists and the International Press Institute, INSI works to promote the safety of journalists in dangerous regions around the world. It was officially launched last May with the support of more than 100 leading media organizations, journalist associations, and press-freedom groups around the world. Future plans include a website and portal for safety issues and information exchange. CCNEWS XCHANGE CONFERENCE TACKLES JOURNALISTS' SAFETY.
Journalists' safety issues will be examined at the second annual News Xchange conference this year as broadcast journalists from around the world will meet on 6-7 November in Budapest, Hungary. The conference will include discussion of media companies' increasing use of armed guards, and whether the killing of journalists should be held a war crime under the Geneva Convention (see http://www.newsxchange.org/newsx/index.html). CC
DONETSK BECOMES THE MOST DANGEROUS PLACE IN UKRAINE FOR JOURNALISTS
By Taras Kuzio
Although they are the wealthiest oligarchic clan, the Donetsk clan is at a distinct disadvantage with its two regional rivals from Kyiv (Viktor Medvedchuk's Social Democratic Party-united, SDPU-o) and Dnipropetrovsk (Labor Ukraine party) because they dominate the media, especially television and radio. Unlike its two rivals, the Donetsk clan has no control over any all-Ukrainian television or radio stations. In the approaching presidential elections molding Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych's image without one's own national media will be impossible.
After Yanukovych moved to Kyiv to become prime minister in November 2002, the lack of media assets became important to resolve for two reasons. First, the Donetsk clan understand that Yanukovych could only promote himself as an all-Ukrainian and national (in contrast to only a Donbas) politician through all-Ukrainian media. Secondly, national media are needed to defend Donetsk interests at the all-Ukrainian level.
Donetsk and Luhansk, the two oblasts that make up the Donbas region with its 10 million population, have long had a reputation within Ukraine as its own domestic version of Alyaksandr Lukashenka's Belarus. In the 1990s the region was, alongside the Crimean Autonomous Republic, a bastion of support for the Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU). The KPU was actually revived in Donetsk in October 1993 after a two-year ban imposed after the August 1991 putsch.
By the October 1999 presidential election the dominance of the KPU in the Donbas had been broken by the local "party of power." President Leonid Kuchma obtained a greater number of votes in Donetsk than local Donbasite Petro Symonenko, leader of the KPU. The Liberal Party, an earlier but far weaker Donbas "party of power," had by then also been replaced by the new, all-powerful oligarchic Party of the Regions. In the March 2002 parliamentary elections the Party of the Regions entered the pro-presidential For a United Ukraine (ZYU) bloc. Meanwhile, the Liberals joined Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine. The local power of the Party of the Regions was all too evident in the 2002 elections. The only region where ZYU came first in the proportional half of the elections was in Donetsk Oblast, where it obtained a staggering 36.83 percent (the average throughout Ukraine was 8 percent-9 percent). ZYU's allies, the SDPU-o, obtained an additional 4.66 percent, giving presidential forces 41.49 percent in Donetsk Oblast.
International observers reported that the worse election fraud took place in Donetsk Oblast, especially in the media, which failed to give equal coverage to pro-presidential and opposition forces. Although the KPU also obtained 29.78 percent, the other three opposition blocs and parties (Our Ukraine, Yuliya Tymoshenko, Socialists) were blocked by the local authorities and party of power (the two are one and the same) from crossing the 4 percent threshold. The two Donbas oblasts (and city of Sevastopol) were the only regions of Ukraine where Our Ukraine failed to cross the 4 percent threshold.
The 2002 elections were followed by the entrenchment of pro-presidential forces in parliament, who created a majority which then formed a government headed by Viktor Yanukovych, Donetsk governor since 1997. In April, Yanukovych became head of the Party of the Regions.
Yanukovych was governor of Donetsk Oblast during the rise and entrenchment of oligarchic clans in Ukraine in the late 1990s. He is reportedly linked to Ukraine's wealthiest oligarch, Renat Akhmetov, who is the head of Systems Capital Management, the dominant company in the Donetsk region. After Yanukovych became prime minister the Donetsk clan set about increasing censorship and stamping out any criticism in media outlets they owned or purchased. In September 2002 Viktor Shlynchak resigned as editor of the "Segodnya" newspaper, which is controlled by the Donetsk clan, in protest at growing censorship.
The website forum.ua was taken over by the Donetsk clan the same month that Yanukovych became prime minister. Five months later Andriy Myseliuk, political editor of forum.ua, was sacked for publishing materials on attempts by former presidential guard Mykola Melnychenko (in exile in the U.S. since April 2001) to launch a court case in the U.S. against President Kuchma.
In August the heat was stepped up on critical journalists inside Donetsk itself. Over the course of three consecutive days, three separate journalists were subjected to attacks with similar patterns, suggesting political motives. In none of the three cases was there an attempted robbery. Nevertheless, the local Interior Ministry denied that there was any political motivation. All three journalists were severely beaten around the head as a warning to halt their research into, and writing of, critical materials on the control of Donetsk Oblast by oligarchs (see "RFE/RL Media Matters," 22 August 2003). An indirectly linked attack occurred a month earlier on Oleg Yeltsov, editor of the "Ukrayina kriminalnaya" (http://cripo.com.ua) website.
The first attack on 14 August took place against Eduard Malynovskyy, editor of the "Ostrov" newspaper's online edition and a local correspondent for Hromadske Radio. Malynovskyy was attacked by five young men after leaving a cafe. After being severely beaten around the head the attackers did not take his briefcase or wallet. Malynovskyy was taken to the neurosurgical department of the Donetsk Oblast hospital. The Kyiv-based Institute of Mass Information, the Ukrainian representative of Reporters Without Frontiers, believes that Malynovskyy was attacked because of his articles exposing local oligarch Akhmetov.
The next day Serhiy Kuzin, a journalist at the "Aksent" regional newspaper and forum.ua, was also badly beaten. Kuzin had gone to the cafe where Malynovskyy had been the night before to investigate the attack. As he left the cafe he was attacked by a group of unknown young men who gave him a concussion and cracked bones. Kuzin's mobile telephone and briefcase were stolen (but again not his wallet). "Football hooligans," who the police blamed for the attack on Malynovskyy, would have not returned to the cafe to attack Kuzin. This makes the police theory of "football hooliganism" as the motive for the attack rather hard to believe.
On the third day Vasily Vasyutin, deputy editor of "Zolotoi Skif" magazine, was beaten. As in the two earlier cases, the attack took place in the center of the city. Vasyutin was beaten and kicked in the head by young men holding clubs and then lost consciousness. Vasyutin received a concussion and was also taken to the neurosurgical department of the Donetsk regional hospital. As in the two earlier cases, his mobile telephone was stolen but his wallet was left untouched. Vasyutin had written about earlier violence committed against journalists in Donetsk (see "RFE/RL Media Matters," 22 August 2003).
Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine's most corrupt region and with the highest number of crimes and murders, has now also become the most dangerous place in Ukraine for journalists to operate. If former Donetsk Oblast Governor Yanukovych is elected president in 2004, Ukraine could be threatened with the spread of such brutal methods against the media first tried in the Donbas to the national level.
Dr. Taras Kuzio is a resident fellow at the Centre for Russian and East European Studies and adjunct professor, Department of Political Science, University of Toronto.