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Media Matters: October 10, 2003

10 October 2003, Volume 3, Number 39
JOURNALISTS' ORGANIZATION DETAILS MEDIA BIAS IN ELECTION COVERAGE. Arif Aliyev, who heads the journalists' union Yeni Nesil, summarized in an interview with Turan on 7 October the findings of monitoring conducted since 25 September of media coverage of the election campaign. Aliyev said that Prime Minister and presidential candidate Ilham Aliyev received 1,000 percent more coverage on the five channels monitored than either of the two main opposition candidates, Isa Gambar and Etibar Mamedov. The first channel of Azerbaijan State Television aired no coverage of any opposition candidates except for the weekly 10-minute election broadcast to which all candidates are entitled under the Election Code. Aliyev observed that coverage is less balanced than during previous elections, as the number of independent media outlets has decreased and individual newspapers and television stations now identify more closely with specific candidates. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October 2003)

JOURNALISTS BEATEN IN TWO INCIDENTS. Participants in an opposition rally, including Aflatun Guliev, editor in chief of the newspaper "Millet" and Ali Orudzhev, a reporter for the same paper, were beaten in the provincial center of Saatly on 4 October, the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations' "CIS Report" (29 September-5 October) reported. The next day, Gadzhi Zamin, a reporter for the "Azadlyg" newspaper was beaten in Bilyasuvar. The journalist was driving to attend a campaign meeting with opposition presidential candidate Isa Gambar when he was attacked by men, including the head of the Bilyasuvar police department. CC

PRESIDENT WANTS NEW MEDIA LAW SOON. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka told his ministers on 2 October to finalize a new draft media law within the shortest possible time and submit it to the Chamber of Representatives for approval, Belarusian media reported. Lukashenka said the new media law should be "absolutely adjusted to the realities and the situation" in Belarus. "This law should guarantee the freedom of speech without turning it into the freedom of libel and of reporting in a biased fashion," Belarusian Television quoted him as saying. According to the network, the novelties of the planned law include, in particular, granting media status to Internet publications and introducing "penal sanctions" under "administrative responsibility" -- in addition to official warnings and media closures -- for media outlets that disseminate "unreliable information." Supreme Economic Court Chairman Viktar Kamyankov proposed a provision stipulating penalties for the defamation of judges, in addition to those for the defamation of the president and other top-ranking officials. Lukashenka reportedly supports Kamyankov's idea. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 2003)

PAPER SUSPENDED FOR THREE MONTHS. On 2 October, Information Minister Vladimir Rusakevich suspended the publication of the "Novaya gazeta Smorgoni" newspaper for a three-month period, according to the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations' "CIS Report" (29 September-5 October.) CC

NEWSPAPER'S OFFICE VANDALIZED. On 2 October, the office of the opposition paper "Poti," which is located in the town of the same name, was vandalized, according to the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations' "CIS Report" (29 September-5 October). Almost all of the paper's equipment was stolen and the paper may have to close as a result. The newspaper's staff have said that they believe the vandalism was a political act. CC

COUNCIL OF EUROPE OFFERS SEMINAR, TWO NEW TRANSLATIONS IN OCTOBER. The Council of Europe's Media Division is organizing a seminar on ethnic minorities and two new Georgian-language publications. The 15-16 October seminar in Tbilisi is being organized with the Liberty Institute, a Georgian-based human rights and media assistance organization. More news will soon be available at Two Council of Europe publications are now available in the Georgian language: a handbook on media and elections and on European freedom of expression case law. For more, see CC

RADIO CHAIRWOMAN LISTED AS 'UNPAID AGENT.' Hungarian Radio Chairwoman Katalin Kondor appears as an unpaid "community agent" in documents of the National Security Office that were transferred on 7 October to the Historical Archive of the State Security Services, the MTI news agency reported. Levente Sipos, the current chairman of the three-member commission supervising the transfer of the documents, told the agency the commission will not comment on the documents until Kondor has a chance to see them. On 25 September, the "Nepszava" daily made public a document allegedly proving that Kondor was in contact with the counterespionage section of the communist-era state security services in 1974-83. Kondor said the documents published by "Nepszava" are forgeries. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October 2003)

URGENT MEDICAL ATTENTION NEEDED FOR IMPRISONED JOURNALIST. On 6 October, the Paris-based Reporters without Borders (RSF) called on the Iranian authorities to provide information and guarantees on the state of health of imprisoned journalist Mohsen Sazgara. Sazgara, a prominent reformist who was jailed on 15 June, suffers from heart problems and has been weakened by a fast. Since 14 August, his family has not received any news about his health and has been refused permission to visit him in prison. On 2 October, Sazgara was transferred from Tehran's Evin prison to Baghiatollah hospital, where Canadian-Iranian journalist Zahra Kazemi died in July after being beaten in prison. Sazgara was the editor of the now-suspended daily newspapers "Jameh," "Neshat," and "Tous," and is the founder of the website, closed after his arrest. According to Sazgara, "the past five years have shown that the country's religious rulers are neither reformable nor effective." Charged with undermining state security, "insulting the Supreme Guide of the Islamic Republic" and creating anti-state propaganda, he was sentenced to one year in prison on 27 September. For more, contact or see CC

TEHRAN HOSTS INTERNET CONFERENCE. The International Gathering on Internet and Satellite Communications began in Tehran on 1 October, IRNA reported. President Khatami's special envoy for information technology (IT) and information and communications technology (ICT) affairs, Nasrollah Jahangard, said at the conference that information exchange is the most important aspect of globalization. Jahangard said that some 3.5 million Iranians regularly use the Internet and another 3.5 million use it less frequently. He added that the exchange of goods and investments can be controlled but no government can limit the exchange of information, IRNA reported. ("RFE/RL Iran Report," 6 October 2003)

PARLIAMENTARIANS SEEK INFORMATION ON KAZAKHGATE BRIBERY CASE. Several members of the lower house of the Kazakh parliament have sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft asking to be informed of any progress in the investigation of the so-called Kazakhgate bribery case, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported, citing a copy of the letter distributed by the parliamentary press service. The parliamentarians particularly asked to be informed of the names of any government officials implicated in the scandal. The deputies said their requests for information from Kazakh government agencies have been ignored, and some Kazakh officials have denied that there is an investigation under way in the United States. The Kazakhgate affair involves allegations that U.S. businessman James Giffen and others gave bribes to senior Kazakh officials, possibly including President Nursultan Nazarbaev. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 2003)

JOURNALIST BEATEN, WARNED OFF REPORTING. Andrei Doronin, a correspondent for the independent daily "Ekspress-K," was beaten near his Almaty apartment by unidentified assailants, who then questioned him about his work and warned him to give up journalism, the newspaper reported on 4 October. In recent months Doronin has written about losses to the national budget caused by vodka production in the untaxed shadow economy. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 2003)

INFORMATION MINISTER EXPLAINS RECENT MINISTRY SPLIT... Newly appointed Kazakh Information Minister Sautbek Abdrakhmanov, in an interview in "Ekspress-K" on 3 October, explained the recent division of the former Ministry of Culture, Information, and Public Harmony into separate ministries of information and culture as part of a general government reorganization. The Culture Ministry is responsible for implementing the presidential Cultural Heritage program and youth and language policies, while the Information Ministry promotes public accord through state media policies. This includes "regulation of the information sphere," which, according to Abdrakhmanov, means creating conditions for the development of competitive domestic media that provide objective information to the public. He added that this goal will be achieved partly through the placement of state orders with approved private media outlets and warned that current tax exemptions for the media will not continue indefinitely. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 2003)

...AND PROMINENT EDITOR WARNS OF THREAT TO MEDIA FREEDOM. Aleksandr Shukhov, editor in chief of the popular weekly "Karavan," described Minister Abdrakhmanov's remarks on placing state orders with independent media as a potential threat to media freedom in Kazakhstan in an article posted on the "Karavan" website ( on 5 October. He believes state orders are intended to serve as a substitute for the advertising revenues the media will lose when a ban on alcohol and tobacco advertising goes into effect in 2004. He added that such orders could be an effective way of ensuring the publication of information the state wants disseminated, rather than information the population desires. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 2003)

PROJECT LAUNCHED TO PROTECT INTELLECTUAL-PROPERTY RIGHTS. Kazakh Justice Ministry Committee on Intellectual Property Rights Chairman Nurgaisha Sakhipova announced on 6 October the launching of a national campaign on the protection of intellectual-property rights, Interfax-Kazakhstan and reported. Sakhipova said this was the first large-scale effort in Kazakhstan to explain the concept of intellectual-property rights. According to, one of the largest problems in this sphere in Kazakhstan is the pirating of audio and video materials. For the last two years, Kazakhstan has been on a U.S. watch list of countries where intellectual piracy is a problem, causing officials to fear Kazakhstan could lose its most-favored-nation trade status with the United States. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 2003)

JOURNALISTS WANT LIBEL DECRIMINALIZED. The Association of Journalists of Macedonia (ZNM) has protested draft changes to the Penal Code raising fines for libel, "Dnevnik" and "Utrinski vesnik" reported on 7 October. Instead, the ZNM wants the government to follow the Council of Europe's recommendation and remove libel and slander from the Penal Code altogether. In some postcommunist countries -- including Croatia, Serbia, Albania, and Macedonia -- critical journalists are often sued for libel and slander and sentenced to high fines, which the Council of Europe has identified as a major obstacle to the freedom of the media. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 2003)

JOURNALIST'S CONVICTION UPHELD. On 7 October, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) expressed its deep disappointment that the Kalininsky District Court, in the city of Chelyabinsk, "upheld journalist German Galkin's conviction on criminal defamation charges and sentence of one year in a labor camp." On 15 August, Galkin was convicted of criminal defamation following a trial that was closed to the public. The court sentenced Galkin to one year in a labor camp for allegedly libeling and insulting two deputy governors of the Chelyabinsk region, Andrei Kosilov and Konstantin Bochkaryov, who report to Chelyabinsk's pro-Communist governor, Pyotr Sumin. Galkin is publisher of "Rabochaya Gazeta" and deputy editor in chief of "Vecherny Chelyabinsk," both of which are critical of the governor. Kosilov and Bochkaryov filed charges in June 2002 because articles published in the February, April, and June editions of "Rabochaya Gazeta" alleged misspending within the Chelyabinsk regional administration, including the purchase of expensive cars and the creation of a pro-government TV channel ready for gubernatorial elections in 2005. Kosilov and Bochkaryov claimed that Galkin -- who is also the local head of the Liberal Russia opposition party -- had penned the three articles, even though Galkin's byline never appeared and he denied having written the articles, according to local press reports. Galkin's lawyers reported numerous procedural violations during the investigation and the closed trial. According to the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders on 7 October, Galkin was attacked in front of his Cheliabinsk home on 14 June 2002. CC

ANOTHER BEREZOVSKII NEWSPAPER RECEIVES WARNING. The Moscow municipal election commission has sent a letter of warning to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" about an article it published on 26 September, reported on 7 October. The article charged that Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov held a press conference in a city administration building despite being officially on vacation. After an investigation, the commission ruled that the newspaper had misreported Luzhkov's activities and that the press conference occurred before Luzhkov's vacation had started. Officials who are candidates in an election are required by law to go on vacation several weeks before the ballot is held. Earlier in the month, the commission criticized "Kommersant-Vlast" for a cover story headlined "Aren't you tired of Luzhkov?" which asked prominent businesspeople and politicians what they think of Luzhkov ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October 2003)

SLANDER SUIT FILED AGAINST 'NOVAYA GAZETA.' Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Yurii Biryukov has filed a lawsuit against the opposition paper "Novaya gazeta," reported the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations in its "Weekly Report on the Russian Media " (29 September-5 October). Biryukov demanded that the paper refute its claims that he is obstructing the investigation of several high-profile criminal cases involving official corruption. CC

PRESS MINISTRY SAYS MANY PUBLICATIONS SET UP FOR POLITICAL ENDS. According to the Press Ministry, many newspapers are set up to meet specific political objectives and are short-lived, the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations (CJES) reported in its "Weekly Report on the Russian Media" (29 September-5 October). Officials made the statement at a 3 October meeting held to discuss the state of the Russian print media market. Although the reported number of officially registered print media outlets has tripled since 1977 -- reaching a total of 15,000 -- these figures are probably inflated by up to 35 percent, the Press Ministry said. In addition, three-quarters of all publications have only regional distribution. Due to the limited Russian advertising market, a "considerable part of Russian periodicals' income" still derives from "so-called political and sponsored budgets," the Press Ministry said. CC

BATTLE UNDER WAY OVER LOCAL TELEVISION NEWS PROGRAMS. The news programs of two independent television channels in Pskov Oblast have been removed from the air, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 4 October. The new chairman of the Pskov branch of the State Television and Radio Company (VGTRK), Petr Kotov, stopped the broadcasts so that he could introduce "legal order" into the relationship between his company and the independent channels, MKTV and TV-Com. Local observers believe that this pretext masks a political agenda, according to the daily. Kotov, who assumed his post in the middle of August, previously worked as editor in chief of the Unified Russia party newspaper "Pskovskaya zhizn." He also reportedly works as a press secretary for the head of the local party branch, Aleksei Sigutkin. Sigutkin, an adviser to Interior Minister and Unified Russia party leader Boris Gryzlov, is running for a seat in the State Duma. In September, Sigutkin was mentioned 32 times on local news broadcasts, while the news broadcasts of MKTV, according to an MKTV press release, tried to reflect a broader spectrum. MKTV is controlled by State Duma Deputy Mikhail Kuznetsov. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 2003)

MEDIA MINISTRY CRITICIZES LAW ON ELECTION COVERAGE � Media Minister Mikhail Lesin said on 2 October that the recent cases being examined by the Moscow City Election Commission and by the Bryansk Election Commission show that the country's mass media cannot fulfill their mission of informing readers and viewers about ongoing election campaigns, Russian news agencies reported. He said that "now, many mass media outlets are afraid to publish anything -- not just [controversial] materials on an election theme." As a result, he said, voters could develop a negative attitude toward voting, which could exacerbate the problem with voter turnout. Lesin suggested that regional election commissions should concern themselves not only with strictly enforcing the letter of the election laws but also with "creating an atmosphere in the federation subjects in which the electorate will know who their candidates are...and discuss these problems on the pages of the local press." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October 2003)

�ELECTION OFFICIALS RESPOND... Commenting on Lesin's remarks, Central Election Commission (TsIK) Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov said on 2 October that he shares Lesin's concerns about the administrative zeal that certain regional commission are showing, Interfax reported. He pointed out that the Bryansk commission did not have the authority to issue warnings to three local publications. However, Veshnyakov did not draw any broad conclusions about the current legal conditions under which journalists must operate. ("RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 3 October 2003)

�AND CONSTITUTIONAL COURT WILL RULE. On 13 October, the Constitutional Court will consider the constitutionality of recent changes in federal election legislation affecting media coverage. A quick decision in the case could still affect coverage of this year's campaign season, which is set to start officially on 7 November. ("RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 3 October 2003)

SPORT TV TO CONTINUE THROUGH THE YEAR. The issue of how long Sport TV will continue to broadcast on channel six will be taken up after 31 December, Igor Shabdurasulov, chairman of the board of directors for the Moscow Independent Broadcasting Company (MNVK), RBK reported on 7 October. Shabdurasulov also revealed that Sport TV is not paying to use broadcast equipment owned by the All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (VGTRK). In June, the Media Ministry shut down independent TVS, which then broadcast on channel six, and replaced it with state-owned Sport TV. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October 2003)

AN OLIGARCH BY ANY OTHER NAME. A Ryazan Oblast court has begun hearing a lawsuit filed by businessman Sergei Kuznetsov against "Novaya gazeta" journalist Mikhail Komarov, reported on 6 October. Kuznetsov objects to Komarov's use of the word "oligarch" in an article that explored Kuznetsov's various sources of income. Kuznetsov, the proprietor of several local enterprises, argues that the label "oligarch" blackened his reputation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 2003)

LUXURY: ONLINE AND OFF. Yegor Lavrov, a 22-year-old millionaire entrepreneur who made his fortune on Internet-related projects and political PR, runs an online community called Members try to outdo one another in finding particularly expensive and rare objects and posting photographs and descriptions of them, "U.S. News and World Report" reported on 13 October. Lavrov and his 21-year-old wife both write weblogs that focus on their acquisitions, lifestyle, and their disdain for the poverty in which most Russians live. Lavrov has a $2.5 million custom-designed house near Moscow and claims that the Russian capital is the world leader in what he calls "luxury entertainment," the report said. CC

BOOK SEES SKINHEAD MOVEMENT BECOMING MORE POLITICAL. The trial of a group of skinheads in Novosibirsk facing charges of inciting interethnic hatred opened on 7 October, NTV reported. The nine young men are accused of beating numerous local residents who did not appear to be Slavs. Two people died as a result of the beatings. Also on 7 October, the Moscow Bureau of Human Rights released a new book about skinheads that claims to be the first serious research into the phenomenon in Russia, reported. The research, which was conducted over three years, was financed by the European Commission. The book's authors argue that the spread of skinhead groups is a significant problem in Russia, and lately the informal youth gangs have been transformed into neo-Nazi political groups. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October 2003)

CHECHEN PRESIDENT-ELECT PLANS TO REWRITE HISTORY. President-elect Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov said in an interview published on 7 October in "Kommersant-Daily" and summarized by Interfax the same day that he plans to establish a commission that will investigate "crimes committed against the Chechen people," including the events that preceded the overthrow in the fall of 1991 of the leadership of the then-Chechen-Ingush ASSR and the advent to power of President Dzhokhar Dudaev. But Kadyrov stressed that his aim is not to send anyone to prison, but rather to ensure that "our descendants...know what happened." In 1995, Yusup Soslambekov, the chairman of the Confederation of Peoples of the Caucasus, published a detailed account of the events of 1991-93, when he served in several official positions in Chechnya. Also on 7 October, Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya told Interfax her invitation to the Frankfurt Book Fair to promote her recent book on Chechnya has been withdrawn due to pressure on the organizers from Moscow. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October 2003)

NEW DRAFT INFORMATION LAW CRITICIZED. The media freedom watchdog ARTICLE 19 has criticized a draft Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance in Serbia and Montenegro as "confusing and contradictory." Article 5 of the draft law, which would limit public access to information of "public importance," defines the term too broadly, according to ARTICLE 19, since the public should have access to all information held by a public body. By limiting the access rights of the public, the draft law severely complicates public information gathering and the possible effectiveness of local media, the watchdog said. In the previous draft law, journalists were given the right to "directly follow the work of a public authority" by attending public meetings -- unlike in the current draft law. The previous draft law also granted whistleblowers legal immunity -- also dropped from the current draft. The updated briefing note can be found on the ARTICLE 19 website at For more information, contact or see CC

MASSIVE LOSSES FOR FAILED BROADCASTER. TAG TV Info 24 has suffered losses of more than 27 million dinars (around $470,000) during its first six months of receivership, although staff have received only 35 percent of their salaries during that period, the company's new receiver said on 29 September, as cited by the "ANEM Media Update" (27 September-4 October). The president of the Commercial Court, Goran Kljajevic, told B92 that it was up to the receivership council to decide the fate of the broadcaster, adding that the sale of the company was a possibility. CC

CANDIDATES PROPOSED FOR BROADCAST COUNCIL. On 29 September, five Serbian groups nominated journalists Izabela Kisic and Nedim Sejdinovic to be members of the Broadcast Agency Council, the "ANEM Media Update" (27 September-4 October) reported. The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, the Sandzak Intellectual Circle, the Sandzak Board for the Protection of Human Freedoms, plus two Novi Sad groups Agro and Agra, made the nominations to replace Vladimir Vodinelic who resigned soon after the council's formation. CC

JOURNALIST SENTENCED TO THREE MONTHS IN PRISON FOR LIBEL. Milan Colic, a translator for the daily "Danas," was sentenced to three months in prison for libel on 2 October, the "ANEM Media Update" (27 September-4 October) reported. Colic was convicted in the Novi Sad Municipal Court over an article published in "Danas" on 6 October 2001. In the article, Colic wrote that, at a meeting in St. Petersburg, he had asked "how can a man be considered an intellectual if his actions and activities caused the deaths of tens of thousands of his innocent compatriots." He then noted in the article that he was referring to Dobrica Cosic who, as Yugoslav president and head of the armed forces, approved the orders for the shelling of Vukovar, Croatia in 1991. CC

PAYMENTS TAX TO FUND STATE MEDIA. The Serbian government on 3 October ruled to amend the Broadcast Act provisions regulating income for Radio Television Belgrade and Radio Television Novi Sad, the "ANEM Media Update" (27 September-4 October) reported. State broadcasters, which have been funded from budget reserves, will in the future receive a regular income from tax on financial transactions. "This regular source of funding will be a guarantee of Radio Television Serbia's editorial independence, and will not involve any additional expense for the state," said Finance Minister Bozidar Djelic. The move is only a temporary solution, added Djelic, because the tax on financial transactions is due to be abolished.

ABDUCTION, THREATS AGAINST RFE/RL TURKMEN SERVICE CORRESPONDENT CONDEMNED... On 22 September, RFE/RL President Thomas A. Dine strongly condemned the violent abduction of Saparmurat Ovezberdiyev, Ashgabat correspondent for RFE/RL's Turkmen Service by Turkmen National Security Ministry (MNB) officials in Ashgabat on 11 September. While in detention, Ovezberdiyev was threatened with 15 years in prison, plus five years for "perjury," if he continues reporting for RFE/RL. Ovezberdiyev told RFE/RL that MNB officials forcibly removed him from a taxi on 11 September. The officials put a black hood over his head before driving him to an undisclosed location. Later, at an MNB office, he was injected several times with an unknown substance. During his detention he was not allowed any contact with friends, family, or co-workers. MNB officials, when asked by family members, denied that they were holding Ovezberdiyev. Ovezberdiyev was released from MNB custody on 13 September in Ashgabat. Prior to his release, MNB officials said to Ovezberdiyev, "You are a traitor to the homeland." A law adopted in August by Turkmenistan's legislature would, were Ovezberdiyev to be convicted of being a "traitor," make him subject to a life sentence in prison with no chance for parole. After Ovezberdiyev's abduction, his home telephone was cut off. His wife has said this was done intentionally by the MNB, as agents from the organization have followed Ovezberdiyev for years and have threatened him, tapped his telephone, and monitored his e-mail. The 63-year-old Ovezberdiyev, who suffered a stroke last month, was denied medical treatment at hospitals in Ashgabat after officials told doctors treating him that he is a reporter of "the enemy radio."

...AS CAMPAIGN AGAINST RFE/RL CONTINUES. RFE/RL President Dine said that "Ovezberdiyev's abduction is only the latest example of a two-decade long series of threats and harassment against RFE/RL correspondents by the tyrannical government of Turkmen leader Saparmurat Niyazov." RFE/RL Turkmen Service Director Naz Nazar says these "aggressive acts" against correspondents of RFE/RL's Turkmen Service are becoming more frequent and severe when compared to previous years. Ovezberdiyev's abduction was the third attack against Turkmen Service correspondents in the last two months. In July, Muhammad Berdiev suffered serious injuries when he was attacked and beaten by two people on a street in Moscow. Berdiev's son, Shanazar, suffered a concussion when he was beaten about the head by an unknown assailant wearing a police uniform in front of his Moscow apartment on 2 September. A 20-year chronicle of harassment carried out against RFE/RL Turkmen Service correspondents by Turkmen authorities can be viewed at:

EU SHOULD INCLUDE FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AS KEY ISSUE DURING SUMMIT. European Union leaders should use the 7 October Yalta summit with Ukraine to secure concrete human rights commitments from the Ukrainian government, the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the same day. HRW called on EU leaders to use the summit to seek specific improvements in Ukraine's human rights record, including guaranteeing freedom of expression. A 16 September EU statement on the third anniversary of the disappearance and murder of Ukrainian journalist Heorhiy Gongadze expressed concern about the lack of progress in the investigation into his death and continuing violations of freedom of expression. The EU is now working on a new framework for relations with its neighbors, including Ukraine, which will soon share a border with the EU. "Action Plans" for each country will include political and economic benchmarks. HRW called on EU leaders to address violations of media freedom as a benchmark in their relations with Ukraine and asked Ukraine to "undertake sustained and effective measures to prevent and punish official censorship, to eliminate arbitrary administrative and legal actions against television stations and other media outlets, and to end harassment of and violence against journalists." CC

NEWSPAPER'S OFFICES RANSACKED IN LVIV. Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemned the ransacking of the offices of the "Moloda Galychyna" newspaper on 3 October 2003. Six men broke into the paper's office in the western city of Lviv, RSF reported on 6 October. The unidentified attackers destroyed the paper's computers with an axe. They also scattered an unknown substance around the offices that resulted in the hospitalization of two people, according to a staff member quoted by Agence France Presse. A source cited by the Institute of Mass Information (IMI), a Ukrainian press freedom organization, said that the attackers tried unsuccessfully to set fire to the offices before fleeing. Lviv police have launched an investigation into the incident. For more, contact Soria Blatmann or see CC

PRIVATE TV STATION IN ANDIZHAN STOPS ORIGINAL BROADCASTING DUE TO LACK OF FUNDS... The only independent television station for young people in the Ferghana Valley city of Andijan has stopped producing its own programs because of a lack of money, reported on 6 October, quoting the Uzbek Committee on Freedom of Expression. The station, Andijan, dismissed its remaining journalists as of 1 October. It was unable to find sponsors in Uzbekistan's current worsening economic climate, according to the report, and over the last three years the amount of original programming has declined from more than 35 hours per week to six to 10 hours, while the number of journalists employed by the station has declined from 15 to three. The station continues to exist, rebroadcasting programs from Russia's ORT. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 October 2003)

...WHILE ANOTHER TV STATION UNDER PRESSURE IN KARSHI. A new Voice Of America (VOA) TV affiliate, Nurafshon TV in Karshi, Uzbekistan, has signed a contract to rebroadcast VOA programs in Uzbek, "VOA News" reported on 7 October. When the TV station started broadcasting VOA TV products, the National Security Service (SNB) summoned Abdujalil Rahimov, the owner of Nurafshon, to its office and asked him whether he had SNB permission to do so. An SNB officer reportedly threatened to close down the station if it continued rebroadcasting VOA TV packages. By that time the station had already aired VOA programs. Since then, no similar incidents have taken place. CC

SCRIPPS HOWARD SEMESTER INTERNSHIP PROGRAM. The Scripps Howard Semester brings three foreign students per year to Washington, D.C., to work at the Scripps Howard News Service for 10 to 14 weeks each. The internship is open to journalism or communications students who intend to pursue careers in print journalism. Interns must be fluent in spoken and written English. Participants are recruited and selected by the International Center for Journalists. For more information, contact Celia Bhattacharya at The deadline for the January-April term is 1 November. CC

NOMINATIONS FOR 2004 HELLMAN/HAMMETT GRANTS. New York-based Human Rights Watch is inviting nominations until December for the 2004 Hellman/Hammett grant program. The program supports writers and human rights activists who have been victims of political persecution and are in financial need. The grants highlight free-expression violations around the world and help bring attention to human rights issues in countries where recipients live. Nominations are due on 1 December. Grants will be awarded in spring 2004. For nomination forms, contact Marcia Allinam at or see CC

OSCE SECRETARIAT CALLS FOR PROPOSALS FOR VIDEO PROJECT. On 7 October, the OSCE Secretariat in Vienna requested that professional TV production companies submit proposals for a video film. In 2004, the OSCE will finalize a 30-minute promotional film with English narration to mark the 10th anniversary of the creation of the OSCE. The work on this film will be split into two phases, subject to two separate contracts, to be carried out in 2003 and 2004. The deadline for submission of bids for the initial contract is 24 October. For more, see CC

Belarusian Journalists Brace Themselves For New Media Law

by Valentinas Mite

"We are making the [media] law not for Americans, Europeans, or Russians but for ourselves," Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said on 2 October. "It will be a Belarusian law, which will take into account the experiences of the entire world."

Belarusian media organizations and journalists can only guess what Lukashenka has in mind.

Zhana Litvina heads the Belarusian Association of Journalists, a nongovernmental organization that unites most of the country's independent journalists. The organization is urging Belarusian parliamentarians to publish the draft law so that it can be debated in public.

She told RFE/RL that former Belarusian Information Minister Mikhail Padhayny had promised to present a draft to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe for evaluation, but said the authorities now seem to have forgotten that promise.

"In January 2002, probably for the first time during the period of independence and sovereignty of Belarus, the mass media situation in the country was discussed in Strasbourg [at the Council of Europe]. And during those discussions, former [Belarusian] Minister of Information Mikhail Padhayny very vocally promised that the draft of the media law would be sent to European institutions for evaluation. But since that time -- 24 January 2002 -- the draft has been discussed among a very small group of officials, behind closed doors, and it has been impossible to look at this document," Litvina said.

Valerii Levkov is a journalist who works for "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta," an influential Russian-language newspaper in Belarus. He said the draft media law is being treated almost like a state secret. "The draft certainly was not discussed with the journalists of Belarus," he said. "Maybe it was discussed with Pavel Jakubovich, the editor in chief of 'Sovetskaya Belarussiya,' which is an official newspaper of the presidential administration. That is possible. However, neither [independent] journalists nor human right activists nor experts from the Belarusian Association of Journalists had the possibility to discuss it. I know that for sure."

A spokesman for the Belarusian Foreign Ministry, Andrey Savinykh, says the draft will be brought up for public discussion. "Now this law is being discussed on the level of the Ministry of Information," he said. "It is not presented for public discussion yet, but it will be done a little bit later."

Savinykh said it is also too early to present the draft for international comment and cannot guarantee that that will even happen. Savinykh said he can't comment on the draft himself because he hasn't seen it.

"Belarusskaya delovaya gazeta" did manage to obtain a preliminary copy of the law. Levkov wrote an article about the implications the new law might have.

In an interview with RFE/RL, he said some of its provisions could seriously restrict press freedom in Belarus. Levkov said the authorities want to ban journalists from reporting about Belarusian political parties and other organizations not officially registered in the country. In addition, under the law, the Prosecutor-General's Office would have the power to shut down newspapers or other media outlets after just two warnings for various violations. He said a newspaper could receive such a warning for something as minor as publishing incorrect circulation figures.

Litvina of the Belarusian Association of Journalists declined to comment on the draft of the law published in "Belarusskaya delovaya gazeta." She said she doesn't know how much of that draft will actually correspond to the version currently being discussed by the authorities.

However, she's confident one provision will remain -- that all media outlets will have to re-register with the authorities. She said the government likely will use the opportunity to refuse to register media outlets that have been critical of Lukashenka.

Litvina said a ruthless war between the media and the authorities is under way in the country. Last year, Belarusian authorities closed several newspapers considered too critical of the government, including "Den," "Novaya gazeta Smorgoni" and "Mestnoye vremya." In addition, Viktar Ivashkevich, the editor in chief of the newspaper "Rabochy," is living outside the capital, Minsk, after having his freedom of movement restricted.

"You know, I have no illusions. Leaving the law aside, what happened last year indicates that the confrontation between the authorities and the mass media has a hostile character and that no compromises are possible. What has happened during the last three days clearly shows that the policy of the government toward an independent press is consistent and very strict. Last Friday [26 September], the court fined journalists, as well as their newspaper 'Narodnaya volya' [for various infractions]. Yesterday, one more trial took place and 'Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta' was fined," Litvina said.

She said the problems of the media in Belarus are more substantial than whether the draft law will ever be discussed in public. "The authorities do not want to have an independent media in the country," she said, "and even the best laws can be twisted against the journalists."

Levkov of "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" agreed. "The main problem in Belarus is not bad laws but the possibility [for the authorities] to apply those laws the way they want," he said.