24 October 2003, Volume 3, Number 41
AFGHANISTANFILM 'OSAMA' WINS CANADIAN AWARD. The 2002 film "Osama" by Afghan director Siddiq Barmak was awarded the top prize at Montreal's New Movie and New Media Festival on 19 October, Reuters reported. The work is one of the first major feature films produced in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban. Barmak, who was unable to work in his country after the Taliban's rise to power in 1996, tells the story of the social situation in Afghanistan at the time, with a focus on women and their lack of status in society. The film's title refers to Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who was based in Afghanistan at the time. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 2003)
AZERBAIJANDETAINED JOURNALIST RELEASED. "Avropa" Editor Azer Garachenli, who was detained by police on the night of 15 October, was released from custody on 21 October, zerkalo.az reported the following day. Also on 21 October, Azerbaijani Interior Minister Ramil Usubov assured Press Council Chairman Aflatun Amashov that all detained journalists will be freed on 22 October. Detained opposition activists who were not directly involved in the clashes in Baku on 15-16 October will also be released beginning on 22 October, zerkalo.az reported without disclosing its sources. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 2003)
PRESSURE ON AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION JOURNALISTS INCREASES. Modern Musavat Party leader Hafiz Hadjiev has demanded that the Norwegian Embassy hand over to the Azerbaijani authorities "Yeni Musavat" Editor in Chief Rauf Arifoglu who, according to Hadjiev, helped organize the postelection clashes in Baku on 16 October, Interfax reported on 20 October. Opposition journalist Einulla Fatullaev did not dare to spend the night of 19-20 October at his home after police came searching for him, Turan reported on 20 October. Azer Garachenli, deputy editor of the newspaper "Avropa," has not been seen or heard from since being detained by police late on 15 October outside Musavat party headquarters in Baku, Turan reported on 20 October. Local authorities in the town of Gyanja have warned local journalists not to report the arrests of opposition representatives on local election commissions, Turan reported on 17 October, quoting Arif Aliyev, who is chairman of the Yeni Nesil journalists' union. And on 18 October, representatives of the Azer-Press, Trend, Sharq, and MPA news agencies denied that they signed a statement published that day in pro-government media in which some 63 print and electronic media outlets endorsed the government's condemnation of the postelection violence, Turan reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 2003)
BELARUSEDITOR SALUTED BY CZECH EX-PRESIDENT. Former Czech dissident and ex-President Vaclav Havel has granted the cash portion of a public-service award he received in Prague on 17 October to the editor of the independent weekly "Nasha Niva," RFE/RL reported. The Prague Society for International Cooperation presented this year's Hanno R. Ellenbogen Citizenship Award to the recently retired Havel. The award is given each year to an individual who has dedicated his or her life to public service with the stipulation that the financial portion of the award -- 150,000 Czech crowns ($5,500) -- be passed to a gifted young person. Havel awarded the money to 29-year-old Andrey Dynko, editor in chief of "Nasha Niva." "I pass this award to Mr. Dynko because we, who have benefited so much from international solidarity, must show solidarity ourselves," Havel said at the 17 October ceremony. "'Nasha Niva' in Belarus is a symbol of independence on the one hand and an island of freedom on the other," Havel added. Dynko told RFE/RL that he was totally surprised by Havel's move and added that he will use the money to improve the weekly's financial standing. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 2003)
BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINATROUBLED TIMES IN BOSNIAN STATE-RUN MEDIA. The Bosnian Serb parliament voted on 16 October to demand the resignation of the top management of news and political programming of the state-run radio and television broadcaster (RTRS), RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The legislature's declaration charged that RTRS management regularly violates legislation governing the work of the media and allows some of its editors to pursue their own political agendas. In Sarajevo, Jasmin Durakovic resigned his post as head of state-run television of the Croat-Muslim federation (FTV) following a decision by the upper house of the federal parliament requiring FTV to broadcast all sessions of both houses of the legislature. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 2003)
KAZAKHSTANLOWER HOUSE BEGINS DISCUSSION OF DRAFT MEDIA LAW. Kazakh Information Minister Sautbek Abdrakhmanov formally presented his ministry's draft of a law on the media to the Social and Cultural Development Committee of the Mazhilis on 21 October, gazeta.kz and khabar.kz reported. Abdrakhmanov said that the draft provides protection for the media and for the process of democratization and elaborates on the constitutional prohibition of censorship, providing guarantees against interference in the professional activity of the media. Journalists' organizations have criticized the draft, saying that its lack of clarity can be used against independent media. Some parliamentarians have asked why a new law is needed and said that the existing law could be amended if really necessary. Others noted that the authors of the draft had not taken account of journalists' recommendations. The draft's restriction of adult television programs to the period from midnight to 4 a.m. was generally approved. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 2003)
JOURNALISTS AND GOVERNMENT DISAGREE ON DRAFT MEDIA LAW... Kazakh journalists and authorities are still far apart in their assessment of a draft law on the media, khabar.kz reported on 20 October after a public hearing at the Almaty Press Club. Despite more than a year of government revisions to the draft, representatives of the Congress of Journalists, the Adil Soz (Free Word) International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech, and other journalists and lawyers expressed their dissatisfaction with the draft. The lawyers complained that the text is full of inexact formulations that could be used against the media. There are also fundamental disagreements over the meaning of the phrase "misuse of freedom of speech" and the circumstances under which sources must be revealed. Lawyer Tamara Simakhina of the journalists' congress said journalists' suggestions for improving the draft have been accepted only if they did not alter the basic content. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 2003)
...AND INFORMATION MINISTRY ATTACKS FREEDOM-OF-SPEECH GROUP. Tamara Kaleeva, head of the Kazakh journalists' NGO Adil Soz, told Interfax-Kazakhstan on 20 October that the Information Ministry is trying to discredit the NGO's work on the draft media law, the news agency reported the same day. Kaleeva referred to a statement distributed by the ministry's press service in which Adil Soz was accused of being unconstructive in its criticism of the ministry, and noted that no one from the ministry attended the public hearing at the Almaty Press Club. Khabar.kz reported having been told by ministry sources that ministry representatives were not invited, which Kaleeva denied. She asserted that the ministry has been unwilling to participate in open debate. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 2003)
KYRGYZSTANJOURNALISTS WANT LIBEL DECRIMINALIZED. More than 95 percent of Kyrgyz journalists want libel decriminalized, Aktan Abdykalykov, head of the government-sponsored Media Council, told a news conference in Bishkek on 20 October, kabar.kg reported the same day. He was reporting the results of a poll of journalists in which respondents also said fees should be levied against those who file lawsuits against the media and offered suggestions for improving existing media laws, including the adoption of laws defining the status of journalists in media outlets and protecting the dignity and honor of journalists. Government officials frequently bring criminal libel suits against independent media outlets, demanding huge reparations for articles allegedly damaging their dignity and honor. Such suits are generally seen as a means of stifling the independent media. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 October 2003)
OPPOSITION PARTY WINS SUIT AGAINST NEWSPAPER. The Pervomai Raion Court in Bishkek ruled on 17 October that the newspaper "Argumenty i fakty v Kyrgyzstane" insulted the opposition Ar-Namys party by publishing an alleged assertion by National Guard commander Lieutenant General Abdygul Chotbaev that the party was financed by foreigners, "Obshchestvennyi reiting" reported the following day. An interview with Chotbaev appeared in the 23 April issue of the newspaper (No. 17), drawing a sharp reaction from Ar-Namys. Chotbaev subsequently said he was misquoted, but the party went ahead with its court case. The Pervomai judge ordered the newspaper to publish an apology to Ar-Namys and pay the party five soms ($0.12) for damaging its reputation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 2003)
MACEDONIAOLDEST AND BIGGEST PUBLISHING HOUSE TO BE LIQUIDATED. On 22 October, creditors decided to liquidate the bankrupt state-owned Nova Makedonija publishing house, which puts out the dailies "Nova Makedonija," "Vecer," "Birlik," and "Flaka," "Utrinski vesnik" reported. According to Angelina Gogusevska, who is the company's bankruptcy trustee, fewer than half of Nova Makedonija's debts can be covered by the liquidation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 2003)
MOLDOVATELERADIO MOLDOVA EMPLOYEES PROTEST REORGANIZATION BILL. Teleradio Moldova trade union leader Ion Ciobanu and Federation of Radio and Television Employees (FORT) leader Dumitru Turcanu on 21 October protested against an amended bill that would enable the shutdown and reorganization of the state-run broadcast enterprise, Flux reported. Under the amended bill, which parliament recently adopted in its first reading, Teleradio Moldova would be closed down, restructured into a new public company, and then reopened. Union leaders argue this amendment will be only used to fire all employees not loyal to the ruling Party of Moldovan Communists. Union leaders also criticized Teleradio Chairman Artur Efremov's authoritarian and nontransparent decision-making style (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 July 2003). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 2003)
POLANDEDITOR CHANGES TESTIMONY ABOUT SCANDAL... Adam Michnik, editor in chief of the leading Polish daily "Gazeta Wyborcza," testified on 21 October before the parliamentary commission investigating the bribery scandal dubbed Rywingate by Polish media, Polish Television reported. The scandal involves film producer Lew Rywin, who allegedly sought a bribe of $17.5 million in 2002 -- by some accounts on behalf of Prime Minister Leszek Miller -- for lobbying a media law that could prove favorable for Agora, the publisher of "Gazeta Wyborcza." Michnik admitted that, contrary to his testimony in February, he spoke with Miller on 15 July 2002, the day Rywin allegedly solicited a bribe from Agora. Michnik said, however, that he did not tell Miller about Rywin's proposal that day but rather three days later. Michnik also opined that Rywin's blackmail attempt worked, since a draft media law that could be favorable to Agora was blocked in the Sejm after Agora declined to pay the requested bribe. Tomasz Nalecz, head of the parliamentary investigative commission, said Michnik's testimony has crucial significance, adding that the commission should question many witnesses again. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 2003)
...SAYS HE WAS 'MANIPULATED' IN RYWINGATE Michnik on 22 October told the parliamentary commission investigating the bribery scandal that he "allowed [himself] to be manipulated" in the scandal, Polish Television reported. Michnik was commenting on the information from the commission that on 16 July 2002, a day after Lew Rywin allegedly solicited a bribe from Agora (the publisher of "Gazeta Wyborcza"), the government was scheduled to discuss a media-law amendment that was favorable to Agora. According to the commission, Michnik's call to Prime Minister Leszek Miller on 15 July 2002 asking the latter to postpone the discussion of the amendment (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 2003) prompted the removal of the amendment from the government's agenda. Michnik did not say whom he suspects of the manipulation, but he noted that his call to Miller was prompted by a request from then-Deputy Culture Minister Aleksandra Jakubowska that Agora or Michnik suggest postponing the discussion on the amendment to Miller. Some Polish media have speculated that Jakubowska might have belonged to the "group in power" to which film producer Rywin referred when allegedly soliciting a bribe from Agora. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 2003)
SPRINGER LAUNCHES MASS TABLOID IN POLAND. German publisher Axel Springer launched a tabloid-format daily called "Fakt" in Poland on 22 October, reportedly with an initial print run of 700,000, thus relegating Poland's leading daily "Gazeta Wyborcza" to second place, Reuters reported on 21 October. "Gazeta Wyborcza" sells 420,000 papers a day, the agency reported. "This is not a newspaper which goes to war, which peeks into the bedrooms or under the sheets of politicians. We won't uncover sensations, blood, or sperm," the agency quoted "Fakt" Editor in Chief Grzegorz Jankowski as saying on 20 October. The new publication is reportedly targeting younger readers unimpressed by the serious "Gazeta Wyborcza" but also dissatisfied with the "Super Express" tabloid, which is backed by Swedish Bonnier AB and sells 270,000 copies a day. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 2003)
ROMANIAROMANIA FALLS IN PRESS-FREEDOM LIST. Romania fell to 59th out of 166 countries in Paris-based Reporters Without Borders' second annual press-freedom ranking, which was released on 20 October. Romania was 45th in the 2002 ranking. Moldova, which was not included in the 2002 ranking, was 94th in this year's list. Finland fared best in the ranking and North Korea placed last. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 October 2003)
RUSSIATELEVISION STATIONS BACK AWAY FROM ANNOUNCED PLANS TO TAPE DEBATES. Spokesmen for state-owned RTR and of state-controlled ORT television said on 16 October that the channels might change their position regarding a decision announced the previous day that they would tape debates between candidates for the State Duma rather than broadcast them live, RBK reported. Igor Burenkov, director for public relations at ORT, said a final decision has not been made. All-Russia State Television and Radio Company (VGTRK) Deputy Chairman Andrei Bystritskii said his company has also not yet made a final decision about the debates. According to Andrei Przhedomskii, co-chairman of a nongovernmental, nonpartisan supervisory council for monitoring the elections, 18 proposals from political parties and election blocs have been submitted. According to Przhedomskii, many of those who have submitted "applications" to take part in the debates have asked for Unified Russia, the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS), and/or Yabloko to be their opponents. According to ITAR-TASS, the debates are tentatively scheduled to start on 10 November. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 2003)
COMMUNIST LEADER DENIED ACCESS TO AIRWAVES IN PERM. The Perm Oblast Election Commission has decided not to allow regional television company T7 -- a subsidiary of the state-owned All-Russia State Television and Radio Company, or VGTRK -- to broadcast a program featuring Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, Regnum reported on 22 October. Zyuganov intended to visit Perm this week and wanted to speak on local television. However, the commission ruled that any such speech is not allowable under current election regulations until after 7 November. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 2003)
LOCAL VIEWERS TREATED TO NEW POLICE CARTOONS. The local Interior Ministry in Perm Oblast has started a new project -- making animated films with law-enforcement themes, newsru.com reported on 22 October, citing Novyi region. The first film is about the traffic police and has already been shown on Perm television. It received a medal at a film festival in Kazan. A new series of films is currently being prepared on the topic of preventative security measures. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 2003)
DUMA TO ESTABLISH TRUTH COMMISSION. The State Duma's Information Policy Committee will create a public commission charged with preventing the dissemination of unreliable information via the mass media, "Delovoi Peterburg" reported on 22 October. The announcement of the formation of the commission was made during a roundtable in the lower legislative chamber on the topic of "Black PR in the Russian media: Is it possible to prevent it?" Igor Yakovenko, secretary of the Russian Union of Journalists, said the main means in the struggle against "black public relations" should be self-censorship and a cooperative agreement or code within the journalistic community. Duma Deputy Andrei Vulf (SPS) said that three methods exist to combat the phenomenon: legislative regulation, judicial practice, and corporate ethics, strana.ru reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 2003)
MORE MUSICAL CHAIRS AT PRINT MEDIA OUTLETS... "Gazeta" Editor in Chief and former "Kommersant-Daily" Editor Raf Shakirov has been named editor of "Izvestiya," replacing Mikhail Kozhokin, Russian media on 16 October (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October 2003). "Gazeta" First Deputy Editor Mikhail Mikhailin has been named to replace Shakirov, grani.ru reported. Both Shakirov and Mikhailin said they do not plan to change the basic conceptions of their respective publications. Earlier, television personality Yevgenii Kiselev replaced Viktor Loshak as editor in chief of "Moskovskie novosti", and Loshak was later named editor in chief of "Ogonek." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 2003)
...AS RESHUFFLING ATTRIBUTED TO NEW EFFORT TO DEPOLITICIZE PRINT MEDIA. According to "Vremya novostei" on 16 October, the recent staff changes at Russian publications have two things in common. One, the changes are restricted to an extremely small circle of professionals. And, two, "Everyone is saying that the publications in question are supposed to be become more lively and accessible, and considerably less political," the newspaper commented. In 2001, when a new weekly produced by former employees of Media-MOST's "Itogi" appeared, Editor Sergei Parkhomenko said the new publication would have "plenty" of political coverage, but the amount would vary from issue to issue. "Modern politics embrace something much greater and much more varied than mere political or cadre intrigues," Parkhomenko continued. "It is this kind of politics, politics understood broadly, that we shall mostly be writing about". ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 2003)
SLOVAKIACZECH, SLOVAK JOURNALISTS DECRY SLOVAK DEFAMATION VERDICT. Editors from a clutch of major Czech- and Slovak-language media have publicly condemned a recent 1 million Slovak crown ($28,537) verdict against the Slovak weekly "Domino forum" for defamation of former Slovak Information Service Director Ivan Lexa, TASR reported on 22 October. A Bratislava court on 17 October deemed libelous a "Domino forum" characterization of Lexa, who is being prosecuted for alleged abuses while in office, as "the best-known scamp" in a piece on wrongdoing in the country's recent past. Journalists from the Slovak daily "Sme" (which shares a publisher with "Domino forum") and "Pravda" joined editors from the Czech weeklies "Respekt" and "Tyden" and the Czech state television network in calling the verdict "scandalous and inflammatory," TASR reported. The group noted a European Court for Human Rights ruling that grants a wide berth to criticism of politicians. They said the hefty fine will have a chilling effect on the Slovak free media. Lexa won a similar lawsuit against the publisher of the daily "Hospodarske noviny" in August. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 October 2003)
UZBEKISTANHUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS PICKET OFFICIAL PRESS Uzbek human rights activist Mutabar Tajibaeva and several supporters picketed the building housing the editorial offices of the official Uzbek press in Tashkent on 14 October to protest the publication of an article critical of Tajibaeva's human rights activities, fergana.ru reported two days later. According to the report, the article, which appeared in the official dailies "Halq sozi" and "Narodnoe slovo," was a reaction to a Human Rights Watch report that said the mahalla (neighborhood) committees that are often touted in Uzbekistan as examples of grassroots democracy are actually functioning as watchdogs and control mechanisms for the authorities. Tajibaeva and her fellow protesters also demanded that the authorities stop harassing human rights activists and that the official media publish the activists' demands. Tajibaeva reportedly also threatened to set fire to herself if the activists' demands are not met. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 2003)
SPECIAL REPORTSPOST-HUSSEIN MEDIA ENVIRONMENT. Kathleen Ridolfo, Iraq expert for RFE/RL's Regional Analysis team, has published a study on the current state of the press in Iraq: "The Post-Hussein Media Environment in Iraq." The report can be accessed at http://www.regionalanalysis.org/publications/regionalvoices/ en/2003/10/9B59A422-7FC1-451B-A96D-0ADC2C909EAB.ASP. The media in Iraq has flourished since the overthrow of the Hussein regime. Over 100 newspapers are currently publishing in Iraq, representing a wide spectrum of political and religious viewpoints. The Iraqi Media Network (IMN) was established by the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq (CPA) to replace the defunct Iraqi Information Ministry, which oversaw the media in Iraq under Hussein. The network includes a television station, two radio stations, and a newspaper. Meanwhile, "The Washington Post" reported on 16 October that the U.S. Army is now soliciting bids on behalf of the CPA for a private contractor to expand the Iraqi Media Network into a "world-class" media organization to be called the Al-Iraqiyah Network. The network would broadcast over two land-based channels, one of which would be an all-news channel, and two radio stations, one all news. The news channels would also be available via satellite. Independent radio and television stations have also been established.
FORMER SOVIET REPUBLICS RANK AT BOTTOM OF PRESS-FREEDOM SCALE. The Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has issued its second annual report ranking the level of press freedom around the world. While a number of groups report on working conditions for journalists each year and those killed in the line of duty, the RSF report is the only one to comprehensively track media freedom based on a number of criteria, including the treatment of journalists, press laws, and the presence of self-censorship. RSF has singled out the United States and Israel for actions outside their borders, ranking them 31st and 44th respectively for the situation in their own countries. While RSF acknowledges that they "never stop stressing commitment to freedom of expression," the U.S. and Israel were also ranked 135th and 146th respectively for allegedly blocking press freedom in territories under their control. Iraq is not rated as such, but listed as a problem of American press freedom. France is 26th on the list, beaten by the Baltic republics among others. RSF is calling for independent investigations into the shooting deaths of several journalists in Iraq by U.S. troops. Another area of concern is the former Soviet Union -- most of the former republics are all at the bottom of the list. Latvia is a notable exception, ranking 11th, right after Canada and before the Czech Republic. For the rankings, the report can be viewed at http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=8247. CAF
END NOTEJOURNALISTS' UNION ISSUES PLEA TO COLLEAGUES TO VISIT AZERBAIJAN
By Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
The independent media of Azerbaijan, which has already been severely curtailed in recent years, has born the brunt of the government's crackdown after opposition demonstrations were violently suppressed by police this week. Ilham Aliyev, son of Azerbaijan's previous president Heidar Aliyev, claimed an overwhelming victory in 15 October presidential elections. The independent press, however, tried to tell a different story of what they saw as considerably less public support for Ilham Aliyev than the nearly 80 percent of the vote he has claimed.
Long before election day, the government ensured that the media landscape was relatively clear of major rivals: large independent cable television stations were shut down and print journalists intimidated and arrested. Still, a number of print publications and smaller electronic media, some using the Internet as an outlet, made a significant attempt to provide an alternative source of information.
The Journalists Trade Union (JuHI), part of the Azerbaijani Journalists Confederation (AJK), a group that has emerged in recent years as a major press freedom watchdog in the region, recorded at least 74 journalists from across Azerbaijan who were detained or harassed while covering the elections and subsequent street protests. In many cases they were beaten -- at least a dozen severely enough to require medical treatment -- and also suffered mistreatment while in custody. While many have already been released, some are still recovering from injuries and some are facing court proceedings. In an emergency appeal released on 22 October by the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) (http://www.ifex.org), the Azerbaijani Journalists Conference called on journalists from around the world to come to their defense in protest against the crackdown. They said that many reporters were detained as they sought to gain access to polling stations to see whether pressure was being put on voters and to find out if the tabulation was being performed properly. The detentions, the journalists' organisation said, were clearly related to their professional activity.
According to a report from another local media group, the Azerbaijani Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 50 journalists were beaten. Many had cameras and tape recorders seized and destroyed; one journalist is still reported missing.
Rauf Arifoglu, editor in chief of the opposition daily "Yeni Musavat," was detained by unidentified persons on 17 October and it was rumored that he would be arrested by police. He stayed for a time at the Norwegian Embassy and so far has avoided detention. Special police troops have occupied the offices of "Yeni Musavat" and forced staff to leave the building. The editorial board decamped to the offices of another opposition daily, "Azadliq," which is temporarily offering them space to continue publishing the paper despite government pressure.
Often during periods of mass arrest -- as seen in Serbia and Ukraine in recent years -- journalists from opposition papers, barely distinguishable from civic groups and parties in resistance to the government, have been caught up in the net of repression, as they walked alongside opposition marchers or filmed demonstrators clashing with police. Some of the mistreatment of journalists in Baku last week was of that type. But the large numbers of those detained even long after the demonstrations were broken up by police, and the continued pressure the dailies are facing even a week later, indicate that a more deliberate campaign is being waged by the government against those who have said that the election was flawed.
Given the severity of the attacks, the Journalists Union, which is a member of the IFEX organization, is hoping that colleagues in other countries will organize a "press freedom mission" to Azerbaijan to investigate the repression and, with their presence, deter further attacks. "If you wait, you will find us murdered or arrested. Some journalists have already received telephone calls in which they were threatened with death," the journalists said in their urgent appeal.
"Please be quick," the journalists wrote in a plaintive statement uncharacteristic of IFEX notices, known and respected for their lack of histrionics in reporting attacks on journalists. "We understand that you will write protest letters. But that action alone will not ensure our safety. We hope to see you in Azerbaijan soon," the journalists wrote. Dozens of protest letters have already been sent out by groups like the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists and the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists as the violence was taking place, but so far their actions have had little effect.
While discouraging, the long list of journalists attacked in Azerbaijan also provides some glimmers of hope. Aside from the hardy opposition dailies in Baku, it mentions journalists working for local weeklies still surviving in the provinces -- reporters who were brave enough to go against the tide during election week. The list also contains the names of crew members from small, local cable stations that tried to provide some alternative to the highly controlled official electronic media. In many cases, police destroyed their video cameras, which will further impact their ability to cover the news in the coming weeks. Yet, the fact that the list of journalists harassed in Azerbaijan is this long means that, against all odds, an independent press has survived until now and is determined to remain an integral part of the scene.