25 January 2002, Volume 2, Number 4
ALBANIAWRITER CALLS ON CHIRAC AND EU ON BEHALF OF KOSOVAR PRISONERS. Ismail Kadare, who lives in France and is widely regarded as the greatest living Albanian writer, called on French President Jacques Chirac and the EU to work for the release of the remaining Kosovar "political prisoners" in Serbian jails, Deutsche Welle's Albanian Service reported on 16 January. Kadare noted that Chirac and the other EU leaders have influence in Belgrade, adding that he does not understand why the EU tolerates the fact that Serbia holds the last political prisoners in Europe. He said that he made his appeal in response to a letter he received from unnamed prisoners. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January 2002)
ARMENIACOURT REJECTS SUIT AGAINST SECRETIVE OFFICIAL. On 18 December, a Yerevan court denied a suit brought by the Association of Investigative Journalists against Armen Avetisian, head of the State Customs Committee, for his refusal to provide information. (European Institute for the Media's "CIS Newsletter," December 2001)
FORMER COMMUNIST OFFICIAL NAMED TO PUBLIC TV COUNCIL. Armenian President Robert Kocharian appointed Stepan Pogosian to the Armenian Public Television Council for a three-year term. Pogosian is the former chair of the Armenian SSR State Broadcasting Committee and later Armenian Communist Party First Secretary. (European Institute for the Media's "CIS Newsletter," December 2001)
AZERBAIJANPOLICE FAIL TO FORCIBLY INDUCT JOURNALIST. Police in Baku tried but failed on 23 January to apprehend Anar Neftaliev, a journalist with the newspaper "Milletin Sesi," in order to take him to the local registration point for enlistment into the armed forces, Turan reported. Neftaliev, who is 28, received his call-up papers in August 2001 but received a deferment, as he is a graduate student. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 January)
BELARUSRADIO CHIEF REFUSES TO EXPLAIN CATHOLIC MASS BROADCAST HALT. The head of Belarus' first national radio channel refused to explain to Keston News Service on 14 January why the regular Sunday morning live transmission of the Catholic Mass from a church in the capital Minsk was abruptly halted ahead of the 6 January transmission. An independent Minsk paper linked the cancellation of the broadcast to the government's efforts to protect Russian Orthodoxy and curtail the growth of "non-traditional" religions. Father Uladzislau Zavalnyuk, who regularly led the service, told Keston he was "very optimistic" that the "misunderstanding" would be resolved and that the broadcasting of the Mass would resume on a regular basis. (Keston News Service, 18 January 2002)
EDITOR DEFENDS ANTI-CATHOLIC ARTICLE. Uladzimir Ramanouski, the editor of "Vitebsky Rabochy" (Vitebsk Worker), a newspaper owned by the local administration in the northeastern town of Vitebsk which carried an unsigned article attacking the Catholic Church and calling for a halt to its activities, has strongly defended his paper's decision to publish it. "It wasn't religious intolerance. The article contained only facts," Ramanouski told Keston News Service on 16 January. A journalist at the "Vitebsky Kurier," a rival, non-state paper, told Keston the same day that his paper had published a rebuttal of the "Vitebsky Rabochy" article on 4 January. "We believe their article was anti-Catholic and incited religious hatred. We believe all denominations must be [treated] equal." (Keston News Service, 18 January 2002)
BULGARIAORTHODOX CHURCH FORCES AMERICAN MOVIE OFF THE AIR. Bowing to protests from the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, State television decided to cancel the planned television broadcast of the film "The Last Temptation of Christ," AP reported on 17 January. The film, which is directed by Martin Scorsese, is based on the novel of the same name by Greek writer Nikos Kazantsakis, and was to be aired on 18 January. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January 2002)
CROATIABROADCASTING CHIEF RE-ELECTED. The governing body for Croatian Radio and Television (HRT) voted in Zagreb on 23 January to re-elect Mirko Galic as director of HRT, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. His term will last four years. Galic said he hopes to complete the transformation of HRT from a state to a public broadcaster. Another of his priorities is to modernize the equipment of HRT. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 January)
FORMER KINGPIN: FINANCIAL MEDIA IRREGULARITIES? The Zagreb county court has filed charges against former Interior Minister Ivan Jarnjak, who was a prominent figure in the era of late President Franjo Tudjman, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 23 January. Jarnjak is accused of financial irregularities in conjunction with the 1993 privatization of the Split daily "Slobodna Dalmacija," which was long known as a mouthpiece of Tudjman's party. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 January)
CZECH REPUBLICPOLICE FREE MEDIA MOGUL'S LAWYERS FROM DETENTION. On 15 January, police released Ondrej Kuchar and Edita Panuskova, who were detained one day earlier on suspicion of assisting media mogul Vladimir Zelezny and his lawyer Ales Rozenhal in suspected criminal activities, CTK reported. Financial Crime and State Protection Squad spokeswoman Sona Jindrakova said police have gathered all the evidence they need in the case, and that there is no reason to suspect Kuchar and Panuskova of attempting to influence witnesses. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January)
HUNGARY'INNOCENT' OF MEDIA 'INCITEMENT?' Calvinist pastor and Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP) parliamentary deputy Lorant Hegedus Jr. pleaded innocent on 18 January to charges of "incitement against a community" at the Central Prosecution Investigation Office. He was questioned regarding an article published last summer that appeared to call for the exclusion of Jews from public life. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January)
KYRGYZSTANOPPOSITION NEWSPAPERS COME UNDER PRESSURE. The state-run Uchkun publishing house refused to print the 19 January edition of the independent newspaper "Moya stolitsa-novosti" on the grounds that the paper has not yet renewed its annual contract with Uchkun, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The paper's editor, Aleksandr Kim, pointed out to RFE/RL that Uchkun nonetheless continues to publish other newspapers that have likewise not yet renewed their contracts with it. On the morning of 19 January, a Molotov cocktail was thrown through the window of the editorial office of the independent newspaper "Aghym," causing major damage. A local police official dismissed the attack on 21 January as an act of hooliganism that was not politically motivated. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January)
POLANDLODZ MEDIA REVEALS TRADE IN CORPSES. Boguslaw Tyka, the head of the emergency medical service in Lodz, has confirmed the fact of trading in corpses as revealed by journalists of Radio Lodz and "Gazeta Wyborcza" on 23 January, PAP reported. Reporters claimed that emergency service employees in the city frequently sold bodies of deceased patients to chosen undertakers and put pressure on patients' relatives to make funeral arrangements through them. Another charge concerned the alleged hastening of patient deaths by overdoses of the drug Pavulon, an antirespirant that is lethal in large doses. "Months of work by police has confirmed signs of unlawful and inhumane acts by emergency first aid workers and funeral parlors," Lodz police spokesman Jaroslaw Berger said the same day. "What is most surprising to me is that these things have supposedly been going on for 10 years without any response whatsoever. I find this almost too hard to believe," Premier Leszek Miller commented. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 January)
ROMANIADETENTIONS TRIGGER SCANDAL VIA E-MAIL. The Prosecutor-General's Office on 19 January ordered the detention for 30 days of Ovidiu Cristian Iane and searched the house of Mugur Ciuvica, who was chief of staff to former President Emil Constantinescu and now heads a foundation led by the former head of state, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Interior Ministry officials, claiming they acted on information provided by undisclosed sources, said Iane distributed the e-mails that recently accused Prime Minister Adrian Nastase of corruption and that Iane has admitted that Ciuvica provided the information, which Iane distributed without knowing its contents. The Prosecutor-General's Office said the e-mails, which were distributed, among others, to foreign embassies and foreign news agencies, represented an act of "disseminating false information" that could harm Romania's image, an offense punishable by up to three years imprisonment. The order for Iane's arrest was later rescinded and lawyers representing Ciuvica said on 22 January that they will appeal the interdiction imposed on him not to leave Bucharest. Former President Constantinescu, in a letter to President Ion Iliescu, demanded the resignation of Interior Minister Ioan Rus and of Prosecutor-General Tanase Joita, and there were numerous other protests by political parties and the media. Nastase said on 20 January that the purpose of the so-called Armageddon II report was to undermine Romania's chances of joining NATO and the EU, and that "nobody will deal with a government that is [as claimed by the report] totally corrupt and nobody will invest in a country overrun by corruption." He also said he will give police a statement detailing his assets and copies of his tax declaration. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January)
RUSSIATV-6 TAKEN OFF AIR, ELECTRICITY CUT... At midnight on 21 January, the Moscow Independent Broadcasting Corporation's (MNVK) TV-6 was taken off the air after the Media Ministry complied with an 11 January court order to immediately suspend the corporation's license, Russian news agencies reported. The order also forbids a number of financial operations by MNVK and prohibits the company from handing over its broadcasting license to any other entity, Interfax reported on 21 January, quoting the ministry press service. In addition, a few hours after the TV-6 broadcasting signal was switched off, electricity, telephone, and Internet services were disconnected in all of the company's offices in the Ostankino television tower, Interfax reported on 22 January, quoting TV-6 press service Director Tatyana Blinova. The shutdown came a few hours after TV-6 Executive Director Pavel Korchagin met with Media Minister Mikhail Lesin to back out of a temporary broadcasting deal cut with the ministry last week, "The Moscow Times" reported on 22 January. Korchagin delivered a letter signed by General Director Yevgenii Kiselev that said TV-6 journalists had decided to reject an agreement they had made with the ministry to voluntarily surrender the station's license in order to form a new company without the backing of TV-6 owner Boris Berezovsky. The new company, to be named OOO TV6, was supposed to bid for the license in a spring tender. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January)
...AS TV-6 JOURNALISTS ACCUSE KREMLIN OF PRESSURING THEM... On 21 January, during a news conference held at the Ekho Moskvy radio station, Kiselev said that he had been forced to give up the license under duress, "The Moscow Times" reported on 22 January. Kiselev accused Lesin of forcing them to include a representative of the presidential administration on the list of founders of the journalists' new company, OOO TV6. Kiselev added that Lesin had asked probing questions about the individuals named as OOO TV6 founders to find out if they were connected to Berezovsky or former NTV owner Vladimir Gusinsky, Ekho Moskvy reported on 21 January. Speaking at the same Ekho Moskvy news conference on 21 January, TV-6 anchorman Andrei Norkin confirmed that both Lesin and presidential Chief of Staff Aleksandr Voloshin pressured the TV-6 staff to give up the license without the support of main shareholder Berezovsky. Kiselev and his colleagues said their decision to hand over the license was a bad move. "What we did was a mistake," "The Moscow Times" quoted Kiselev as saying on 22 January. Kiselev added that the TV-6 staff has mixed feelings about what to do next, but are united in wanting to remain independent from the government. Earlier in the day, Kiselev said on TV-6 that the station plans to contest the Moscow Arbitration Court's decision that proceedings should be initiated and the verdict should be put into effect, Interfax reported on 21 January. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January)
...WHILE GOVERNMENT MAINTAINS THERE ARE NO POLITICAL UNDERTONES... On a 21 January interview with ORT, Media Minister Lesin said there is no connection between the TV-6 team's decision to back out of the deal and the appearance of the bailiffs. The following day, deputy chief of the presidential staff Aleksei Volin stressed that he does not see any political undertones in the halting of TV-6 broadcasts, and that there has been "no change in the situation with the freedom of speech in Russia," Interfax reported on 22 January. According to the bailiffs' orders, which were posted on the Ekho Moskvy website (http://www.echo.msk.ru), the Media Ministry must suspend TV-6's license until its owner, the Berezovsky-controlled MNVK, establishes a commission to liquidate the channel. The commission has six months to do so. A TV-6 shareholders meeting, scheduled for 14 January, was supposed to set up such a commission, but the meeting did not take place because of a boycott by Berezovsky, "The Moscow Times" reported on 22 January. On 21 January, Lesin told ORT television that "several television companies" are considering ministry offers to "come on air on a temporary basis and ensure [continued] broadcasting on this frequency." During a press conference held at Interfax's head office on 22 January, Lesin said a tender for the frequency will be held on 27 March. Lesin also added that TV-6 journalists can bid along with other applicants and that he has no objection to TV-6 journalists being in charge of temporary broadcasting "if they can solve their administrative and financial problems," Ekho Moskvy reported on 22 January. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January)
LEADING JOURNALIST SCOFFS AT OFFICIAL CLAIMS... According to Otto Latsis, deputy editor of the Russian daily "Noviye Izvestia," "This is a case of absolutely open pressure on the part of the government. A lower court, on 29 December, ruled in favor of the journalists. [Then] there was some backroom dealing," Latsis said. "Ordinary citizens can wait years for a court decision, but here, on the first working day after the New Year's holiday, a plenum of the high arbitration court immediately convened and annulled the decision that favored the journalists. They ruled in favor of the minority shareholder, and the president [Putin] had the audacity to speak in Paris about the need to defend minority shareholder rights! And where are the rights of the main shareholder, with 75 percent of the shares [the Berezovsky-controlled MNVK] and not 15?" ("Russia: Government Shuts Down Last Nationwide Independent Television Station, Part 1," rferl.org, 22 January 2002)
...AND CITES STATION'S GROWING POPULARITY... "Otto Latsis, deputy editor of the Russian daily "Noviye Izvestia," said that "[TV-6] was a very average station until the destruction of NTV's independence. It was fifth or sixth in the ratings. But after NTV�s independence was destroyed and [Yevgenii] Kiselev's team -- the main news and political team -- switched to TV-6 on Berezovsky's invitation, TV-6 quickly leapt ahead of the other stations," Latsis said. "It became third, then second in the ratings. Its popularity grew very quickly, advertising came in and that is the reason why the station started to make money." For Otto Latsis, the government's assertion that it played no part in the LUKoil lawsuit that brought down TV-6 rings hollow: "It's perfectly clear that this is a case of government pressure. An oil company, in a country where all oil producers' revenues depend on exports and exports flow through one pipeline that is in the hands of the government -- this simple fact means a so-called independent oil company is in fact totally dependent on the government." ("Russia: Government Shuts Down Last Nationwide Independent Television Station, Part 1," rferl.org, 22 January 2002)
...AS EKHO MOSKVY OFFERS TO BROADCAST TV-6 NEWS. The directors of Ekho Moskvy have decided to rebroadcast TV-6 news at 3 and 11 pm, Ekho Moskvy website reported. It will also offer air time to TV-6 anchormen Mikhail Osokin and Vladimir Kara-Murza until TV-6 is allowed to broadcast again. TV-6 has been taken off the air not only in Moscow, but also in 150 provincial cities. On 22 January, Ekho Moskvy reported from St. Petersburg that, instead of the usual TV-6 programs, one could see the "Swan Lake" ballet. At 7 a.m. in Moscow on 22 January, TV-6 began airing sports programs of NTV-Plus. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January)
PUTIN DISCUSSES TV-6 SITUATION WITH PARLIAMENTARIANS. At a meeting with State Duma parliamentary group leaders on 22 January, President Vladimir Putin discussed a draft law presented by Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) head Boris Nemtsov, ntvru.com reported. The parliamentarians offered to draft a new media law that would forbid shareholders, including the Kremlin, to hold more than a 25 percent share in media companies. Nemtsov made several comments in support of TV-6 journalists and criticized the government, saying the decision to close the TV-6 channel "is a stupid thing to do and a major mistake," Interfax reported the same day. "President Putin is fighting Berezovsky and the victims are TV viewers and journalists," he added. Nemtsov said TV-6 could remain a private entity if its team and Russian or foreign investors decide to take part in the upcoming tender for the station's broadcasting rights. However, according to Nemtsov, none of the potential investors should have a controlling stake, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, SPS deputy Vladimir Semenov's proposal to invite Media Minister Mikhail Lesin to explain the TV-6 situation to Duma members has been rejected by the parliamentarians. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January)
TV-6 CLOSURE DEEMED ILLEGAL... Aleksei Samokhmalov, a media expert for the Council of Europe, told reporters in Moscow on 23 January that the closure of TV-6 was "illegal" because the "liquidation of a company should be undertaken over a period of six months by [the company's] proprietors themselves, not by a government minister or bailiffs," AFP reported. "Vremya novostei" reported the same day that Media Minister Mikhail Lesin signed the order discontinuing TV-6's broadcasts, and "The Moscow Times" reported that small protests were held on behalf of TV-6 in St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg. Meanwhile, it was announced that the tender for the station's broadcasting rights will be held on 27 March. TV-6 General Director Yevgenii Kiselev said he "does not cherish any illusions about the possible outcome of the tender. Most likely, some other participant will acquire the license." In an interview with "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 24 January, First Deputy Media Minister Mikhail Seslavinskii said participants in the tender will need to put up at least $1 million. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 January)
...WHILE MEDIA MINISTRY SLATED TO JUDGE RESULTS OF STATION'S TENDER... Seslavinskii went on to explain that the Federal Tender Commission for TV and radio broadcasting rights (FKK) will examine the results of the TV-6 tender. According to Seslavinskii, there are nine permanent members of the commission. These include Media Minister Lesin, Seslavinskii himself, Deputy Media Minister Andrei Romanchenko, Media Ministry technical department head Sergei Nikanorov, Communications Minister Leonid Reiman, TV journalist Vladimir Pozner, Internews Director Manana Aslamazian, NII Radio journalist Mark Krivosheev, and TV-6 director of sociological research Vsevolod Vilchik. Seslavinskii added that although regional representatives are usually included in a tender commission when the tender concerns a particular region, there are too many regional interests potentially involved in TV-6's case to include them all, so there will be no regional representation involved. Seslavinskii reported that "unfortunately" a law establishing how such a tender commission should be formed has not yet been adopted. The commission, therefore, will operate according to a Media Ministry order. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 January)
...WHICH COULD BE SOLD AS A WHOLE OR IN PARTS. On 24 January, Media Ministry press spokesman Yurii Akinshin said TV-6's network frequencies could be sold off as a whole or in parts, Interfax reported, quoting an interview Akinshin gave to "Gazeta." "We have not decided what to offer at the tender, either the Moscow frequency and the national network, or a set of frequencies in parts," Akinshin said. TV-6 held broadcasting licenses for Moscow and throughout Russia. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 January)
MUSCOVITES SPEAK OUT ON TV-6 DEMISE... A Moscow radio station popular with young people asked listeners on 22 January to call in their opinions of the TV-6 drama. One, a young man named Volodya, said that only in Russia can there be a situation where you turn on the television only to find your regular station has been replaced with something completely different. For Anatolii Chuchleb, a 40-year-old lawyer, the battle for TV-6 is an attempt by the government to silence oligarch Boris Berezovsky, the TV-6 owner who has been living in self-imposed exile abroad since falling afoul of the Kremlin. Although he says the blackout is not about press freedom, Chuchleb says there is no question that TV-6 was the only unbiased channel on Russian television. "[In my opinion, TV-6] represented 'glasnost' in television. [State-owned] TV channels, like ORT or RTR, are biased. They cannot speak the way TV-6 [journalists] used to speak," Chuchleb says. "For [Russians], it's a big loss. But I believe that [TV-6 director] Yevgenii Kiselev and his team will not give up the fight." Lyubov Brevdo, a 65-year-old pensioner, likens the TV-6 shutdown to Soviet times, when free media did not exist in the country. Brevdo says that while she didn't like TV-6 herself, she believes that people should have the right to hear different opinions if they so choose. "It's a pity [that the channel is off the air]. [TV-6] journalists are very talented," Brevdo says. "I can't say that I liked everything they showed on television, especially recently. But there are different opinions. I can switch the TV off if there's something I don't like. Nobody's forcing you, are they?" ("Russia: Vox Populi -- Muscovites Speak Out On Demise Of TV-6, Part 2," rferl.org, 22 January 2002)
...ONE-THIRD POLLED VIEW TV-6 SHUTDOWN AS 'POLITICAL.' According to a poll conducted by the Russian Center for Public Opinion, 39 percent of Russians surveyed said they considered the TV-6 shutdown a political issue. Fourteen percent said they thought it was purely an economic issue. ("Russia: Vox Populi -- Muscovites Speak Out On Demise Of TV-6, Part 2," rferl.org, 22 January 2002)
NEWSPAPER SAYS PRESIDENT LOSING FACE WITH POPULACE... By giving his subtle consent to the closure of TV-6, President Vladimir Putin lost not only in the eyes of Russian democrats, but to a much wider audience -- millions of the country's television viewers, "Komsomolskaya pravda" commented on 23 January. The daily said those viewers now understand that Putin, who is at odds with embattled magnate and majority TV-6 shareholder Boris Berezovsky, is willing to sacrifice the interests of millions of Russian citizens in order to satisfy his own political ambitions. In addition, the paper opined, Putin has lost face in the eyes of world public opinion, which will now be more inclined to believe claims by the president's critics that his regime is slowly moving toward authoritarianism. While many had been reluctant to believe such claims before, Putin's latest actions have bolstered his opponents' arguments, the daily said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 January)
...AS WELL AS WITH U.S. GOVERNMENT AND WESTERN INVESTORS. The commentary continued by questioning whether the TV-6 affair is also hampering relations between Russia and the United States, whose officials have repeatedly expressed their concern over the fate of the free media in Russia. By blatantly ignoring U.S. opinion, the paper said, Moscow is placing its newfound partnership with the U.S. if not in crisis, then under serious testing. Finally, the arbitrary liquidation by the government of such a big commercial company will alarm potential Western investors and fortify the position of those who say that conducting business in Russia is far too risky. As for Berezovsky's role in the affair, "Komsomolskaya pravda" said his image is also taking a beating, as he is acting like a typical Leninist guided by the principle "so much the worse, so much the better." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 January)
PRESS MINISTRY: 2001 TALLY OF MEDIA LAW VIOLATIONS... In December, the Russian Federation's Press Ministry convened a session to present a tally for 2001 of violations of Russian media law: the ministry presented 11 written reprimands to print and broadcast media outlets; canceled four broadcast licenses; and gave official warnings to 44 license holders as well as 254 letters to editorial boards calling attention to their violations. The meeting was attended by representatives of the presidential administration, the Russian government, the State Duma, the Interior Ministry, and the Ministry for Antimonopoly Policy. (European Institute for the Media's "CIS Newsletter," December 2001)
...AND STATE DUMA CONSIDERS MEDIA LAW AMENDMENTS. On 20 December, the State Duma approved in its first reading amendments to the media law as well as to the federal antiterrorism legislation to prevent propaganda or justification of terrorism and extremism in the media. The amendment bans the use of media and computer networks for disseminating "statements made by terrorists, extremists and other persons hindering the conduct of antiterrorist operations or promoting or justifying any form of resistance to the conduct of antiterrorist operations." Another amendment stipulates that the words "Russia" and the "Russian Federation" may only by used in the names of media outlets if such use has been authorized by a special officially designated body. In addition, the first and last names of persons or aliases of real persons can only be used in the names of media outlets if prior permission has been obtained from the persons concerned. (European Institute for the Media's "CIS Newsletter," December 2001)
ONCE-CELEBRATED 'RUSSKOE VIDEO' CASE ENDS QUIETLY. The criminal case involving fraud at the St. Petersburg company Russkoe Video and the Channel 11 television station ended quietly on 16 January, "Gazeta" reported the next day. In June 2000, Media-MOST head Vladimir Gusinsky was arrested in connection with alleged fraudulent transactions that allowed Media-MOST to gain control of Channel 11. That charge was dropped in July 2000 after he signed an infamous secret agreement, certified by Media Minister Lesin, to sell a controlling stake in Media-MOST to Gazprom. However, Russkoe Video General Director Dmitrii Rozhdestvenskii remained in pretrial detention for many months on charges that he received $1 million in exchange for allowing Media-MOST to take control of Channel 11. Prosecutors eventually reduced the charge to the alleged misuse of $10,000. The judge convicted Rozhdestvenskii and sentenced him to three years imprisonment, but immediately amnestied him. In the same trial, the general director of Channel 11 was acquitted of purchasing an automobile with company funds. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January)
ADVERTISING MARKET SURGED IN 2001... Advertising in Russian media totaled the ruble equivalent of some $1.5 billion in 2001, up approximately 43 percent from the previous year, "Vremya-MN" reported on 17 January, citing data compiled by the research firm Russian Public Relations Group. According to the group's executive director, Andrei Fedotov, the fastest growth (63 percent) was in the television sector, which suffered the largest decline in advertising after the ruble devaluation of 1998. Spending on outdoor advertisements such as billboards rose by some 50 percent in 2001, newspaper advertisements increased by 20 percent, and spending on radio commercials was up by 11 percent. Among domestic firms, prosperous oil-refining companies are among the most active advertisers, along with producers of food and drink, especially beer, juice, ketchup, and sauces, Fedotov said. Vladimir Yevstafev, the president of the Russian Association of Advertising Agencies, refused to comment on the figures released by Fedotov, citing methodological differences, but he agreed that the advertising market expanded in 2001. Foreign companies that curtailed their advertising in Russia after the 1998 ruble devaluation also contributed to last year's growth, Yevstafev noted. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January)
...BUT HAS YET TO FULLY RECOVER FROM 1998 CRISIS. Despite the healthy growth in 2001, Fedotov told "Vremya-MN" that annual spending on advertising in Russia is still below the estimated $2.5 billion level attained before the economic crash that began in August 1998. The daily added that the level of advertising in Russia (about $10 per capita annually) is low by international standards. In per capita terms, Romania's advertising market is about the same size as Russia's. However, advertising in some former communist countries totals $30 per capita each year, and in the U.S., the world leader in advertising, the comparable figure is $400 per capita. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January)
SWEDES BUY ONE-THIRD SHARE OF THIRD LARGEST TV BROADCASTING NETWORK. The Stockholm-based international media company, Modern Times Group (MTG), announced on 14 January that it will acquire a 36.3 percent share in StoryFirst Communications Inc. ("StoryFirst"), a private U.S. corporation that owns CTC, the third largest commercial TV broadcasting network in Russia plus stakes in six Russian radio stations. CTC reaches a potential national audience of some 75 million people. Hans-Holger Albrecht, president and CEO of MTG, commented: "This investment continues our international expansion and complements our acquisition of the Darial TV channel in Russia last year." StoryFirst operates TV stations in eight major Russian cities -- Moscow, St. Petersburg, Nizhnii Novgorod, Kazan, Perm, Omsk, Samara, and Vladivostok -- and the CTC channel is also broadcast nationally through 156 affiliates in 341 towns and cities. The programming is entertainment-focused to attract a core audience of 18-45 year olds. StoryFirst's Radio Maximum also co-owns and operates six radio stations in five major Russian cities in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Samara, and Perm, and 'Music Radio' in Omsk and Perm, targeted at listeners under the age of 40 with above-average incomes. For further information, visit http://www.mtg.se or write email@example.com.
RIA-NOVOSTI INTERNET: PORN LINKS TO BOOST RATINGS. The Internet site of state-run RIA-Novosti (http://www.rian.ru) was excluded from the popular "Top 100" web-rating list compiled by the Russian portal Rambler because the news agency used links to pornographic websites to increase its number of hits recorded by the portal, "Izvestiya" reported on 22 January. RIA-Novosti web manager Aleksei Bessudnov admitted to the daily that the agency had indeed made use of inframe coding that led to pop-up windows of pornography sites when readers of the portal hit RIA-Novosti's banner. Bessudnov said rian.ru turned to pornography because of the stiff competition it has encountered on the Internet. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January)
IT WON'T BE OVER UNTIL THE FAT LADY SINGS. Composer and producer Vitalii Okorokov has written an opera entitled "Monica in the Kremlin," which borrows from the events in the life of former U.S. President Bill Clinton and former White House intern Monica Lewinsky but transfers the action to a Moscow setting. President Putin along with other officials are featured characters. Okorokov told a Saratov newspaper that he already has financial backing for the project, which will have a budget of $2-$2.5 million. Okorokov is the former manager of the all-girl pop group Kombinatsiya. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 January)
PUTIN HONORED BY PRO-KREMLIN JOURNALIST GROUP. The Moscow Union of Journalists headed by "Moskovskii komsomolets" Editor in Chief Pavel Gusev announced that it has awarded its annual prize "For Openness in Press" to President Putin, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 January. Gusev added that the prize was awarded to Putin in recognition of "his sincere desire to bring the state reforms to each Russian." Gusev also said similar prizes were awarded to Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and Deputy Prime Ministers Ilya Klebanov and Valentina Matvienko. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 January)
ANOTHER VOICE FALLS SILENT. Well-known journalist and political observer Dmitrii Pinsker has died in Moscow, "Vedomosti" reported on 23 January. Pinsker was part of the exodus of staff from the weekly "Itogi" when that publication was taken over by Gazprom-Media. Most recently he worked at the weekly "Yezhenedelnii Zhurnal," which was started by former "Itogi" editor Sergei Parkomenko. Pinsker, 30, fell off a horse earlier in the week, and did not come out of the anesthesia he was administered following an operation on his arm, which he broke in the accident, "Vedomosti" reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 January)
TAJIKISTANPRESIDENT WARNS OF 'DANGER' OF PERSONALITY CULT. In December, Tajikistan President Imomali Rakhmonov sent a letter to officials and media outlets warning of the danger of establishing a personality cult in the country. He wrote: "Too much attention is paid to the president's personality." (European Institute for the Media's "CIS Newsletter," December 2001")
TURKMENISTANPRESIDENT WARNS TV OF 'ENDLESS GLORIFICATION OF PRESIDENT.' In a December meeting with the heads of the Altyn Asyr, Miras, and Yashlyk television stations, Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov was strongly critical of the "endless glorification of the president" on the country's TV programs. (European Institute for the Media's "CIS Newsletter," December 2001)
UKRAINEOPPOSITION LEADER VOWS TO BREAK 'INFORMATION BLOCKADE...' Yuliya Tymoshenko, the leader of the antipresidential Forum of National Salvation and the election bloc bearing her name, told journalists on 21 January that she is going "to break the information blockade around the opposition" by meeting voters in regions, Interfax reported. "The authorities do everything to prevent our bloc from electioneering, the only [way out is to hold] meetings with voters," she said. She added that printing houses in Kyiv have recently refused to print the "Vechirni Visti" and "Slovo Batkivshchyny" newspapers, which are backed by the National Salvation Forum. Tymoshenko made a written pledge last year not to leave Kyiv in connection with a corruption case conducted against her. In December, Tymoshenko filed a lawsuit questioning the legality of the procedure that stripped her of her parliamentary immunity. A Kyiv court has accepted her lawsuit and ruled that law enforcement bodies may not take any actions against her that would violate a deputy's immunity. According to Tymoshenko, the ruling also means that the Prosecutor-General's Office had no right to demand from her a written pledge to stay in Kyiv. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January)
...AND RFE/RL HOSTS DEBATE BETWEEN TYMOSHENKO, MEDVEDCHUK... Former Premier Yuliya Tymoshenko, the leader of the election bloc bearing her name, and former parliamentary deputy speaker Viktor Medvedchuk, the leader of the Social Democratic Party (United) election bloc, sparred in a discussion broadcast live by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service on the evening of 23 January. The politicians touched upon their personal achievements in politics, the Land Code adopted last year, gas accords with Russia, and the record of Premier Viktor Yushchenko's cabinet, among other issues. Asked about her contribution to the well-being of the Ukrainian people, Tymoshenko said she managed to replenish the state budget with 10 billion hryvni ($1.88 billion according to the current exchange rate) when she served as a deputy prime minister responsible for fuel and energy issues in Yushchenko's cabinet. In his turn, Medvedchuk said he has served as a lawmaker for the past eight years and created legislation "that is changing Ukraine." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 January)
KYIV MAYOR BLAMES MEDIA OVER BUGGED TELEPHONE CALLS. Kyiv Mayor Oleksandr Omelchenko has filed charges against all those who made public the recording of his telephone conversation with Our Ukraine bloc leader Viktor Yushchenko, New Channel Television reported on 17 January. In Omelchenko's opinion, electronic and print media are among those who must go on trial together with Dmytro Ponomarchuk from the Ukrainian Popular Movement for Unity, who was the first to make the recording public. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January 2002)
UZBEKISTANJOURNALIST FREED FROM PRISON... Shodi Mardiev, the Uzbek radio reporter who was sentenced in 1998 to an 11-year prison term for defamation and extortion, was released under an amnesty earlier this month, according to local and international sources. The journalist's lawyer, who met with Mardiev shortly after his release, told CPJ in a telephone interview that the 63-year-old journalist was in good spirits despite his very poor health. Mardiev was released under a 22 August 2001 presidential amnesty marking the 10th anniversary of Uzbekistan's independence. Human rights advocates in Tashkent say some 18,000 prisoners were released under the decree, along with 700 religious and political detainees. Mardiev was eligible for early release because he is over 60 and had already served a portion of his sentence. Shortly after his arrest in November 1997 he suffered two brain hemorrhages in a pretrial detention center. He was hospitalized twice in 1999 for a heart condition; his health further worsened in the inhumane penal colony where he served most of his sentence. (Committee to Protect Journalists' Press Release, 17 January)
...AFTER SERVING FOUR YEARS. A Samarkand court sentenced Mardiev, a reporter with the local state-run station, to 11 years in prison on 11 June 1998. He was found guilty of slandering an official in a program satirizing the alleged corruption of the Samarkand deputy prosecutor and of attempting to extort money from him. The Committee to Protect Journalists believes the prosecution and prison term were in reprisal for the journalist's critical stance toward government officials. (Committee to Protect Journalists' Press Release, 17 January)
REGIONALRUSSIAN DAILY CRITICIZES ROMANIA'S STAND ON MOLDOVAN PROTESTS. Under the headline "The Elder Brother Is Angry," the Russian daily "Izvestiya" on 20 January criticized the position displayed by Romanian Premier Nastase in the controversy on Russian-language classes, Romanian television reported. The daily said Romania is displaying "an imperialist position, but one that lacks an empire." It said Romania "patronizes" Moldova's citizens, considering them to be "little brothers who are not yet mature," and that "in Bucharest, governments changed but the position [toward Moldova] remains unchanged." "Izvestiya" also quoted an unidentified Russian diplomat "who nonetheless expresses Russia's official position" as saying, "We fail to comprehend why a decision that is in line with the interests of an important part of Moldova's population triggered such a vehement reaction in Romania. Does Bucharest perhaps believe that studying the language of Pushkin, Dostoyevsky, and Tolstoy can be a hindrance to relations between states?" Meanwhile, demonstrations of solidarity with the Moldovan protesters continued in Romania. Among these manifestations, hundreds participated in a protest organized on 20 January by the National Liberal Party and the National Peasant Party, as well as by civic organizations, in front of Moldova's embassy in Bucharest. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January)
RUSSIAN NEWS AGENCY LAUNCHES ANOTHER BALKAN CANARD. The office of Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica said in a statement in Belgrade on 17 January that there is no truth to a report by the Rome bureau of ITAR-TASS, which quoted Kostunica as saying that Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic have been arrested, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The Rome bureau of the Russian news agency put out a report in September on Kosova that was also totally false. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 January 2002)
SERBIAN REPORT ON KOSOVA DENIED. In a statement issued on 23 January, the U.S. office in Prishtina denied a report circulated by the Serbian Beta news agency that U.S. diplomats have succeeded in brokering a power-sharing agreement between leading Albanian politicians in Kosova. The statement added that "talks continue with all concerned parties. We continue to encourage the parties to reach an agreement that will lead to expeditious formation of a government." Observers note that Beta's coverage on matters pertaining to Kosova, Presevo, and Macedonia has often proven less than accurate. But Hajredin Kuci, who is an official of Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova (LDK), told reporters: "The talks are continuing with different proposals. I think we are going toward [a compromise agreement], which will make possible the formation of [government] institutions very soon," Reuters reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 January)
NEW PUBLICATIONS, WEBSITESNEW BOOK ON WAR REPORTING. The Moscow-based Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations (CJES) has published a new book by veteran war reporter Yuri Romanov on his experiences covering conflicts around the world over the past decade. The book, "I Photograph War: A School of Survival," was published with support from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the U.S. Embassy in Russia. It is intended to teach inexperienced war reporters not only how to work in a conflict situation, but how to act in order to survive. Romanov was one of the first Russian journalists to work as a stringer for Western news agencies and media outlets. Over the past 10 years he has covered wars in many countries of the former Soviet Union and in Africa and Yugoslavia. The new book is targeted to Russian reporters who lack the needed skills to safely cover conflict situations. An electronic version of the book is now available online, in Russian, at http://www.cjes.ru/lib/romanov/index.php or visit the CJES website at http://www.cjes.ru (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 14 January)
END NOTEU.S. TRADE SANCTIONS IMPOSED OVER CD PIRACY IN UKRAINE
By Ron Synovitz
Washington on 23 January imposed trade sanctions that will restrict U.S. imports of steel and 23 other items from Ukraine. The move is aimed at pressuring Kyiv into passing stricter legislation against widespread industrial compact-disc piracy. While Washington estimates that the sanctions will cost Ukraine about $75 million in lost trade, authorities in Kyiv say they expect to lose as much as $470 million. The dispute over the theft of intellectual property by Ukrainian firms is long-running. Washington has suggested strict legislation against the production of counterfeit CDs, but Ukraine's parliament, the Rada, has repeatedly rejected U.S. suggestions. The Rada did pass an antipiracy bill in mid-January, and President Leonid Kuchma has said he probably will sign it into law.
But Maria Jovanovich, a spokeswoman for the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, said in Kyiv yesterday that the U.S. believes the bill is not adequate. "We have requested a copy of the law that was passed last week, although we have not seen a copy. But based on preliminary readouts, we do not think that this is the kind of law that we have been discussing with Ukraine over the past number of months," Jovanovich said.
Jovanovich noted that the 100 percent import tariffs imposed by the United States on Ukrainian products will mean much more than lost revenue in Kyiv. "This is, of course, a very important issue to the United States. This question also goes to the heart of Ukraine's integration into Europe and into the global community -- for example, into the World Trade Organization and a closer association with the European Union," Jovanovich said. But she said officials in Washington will be more lenient toward Kyiv about lifting the sanctions than in previous cases against other countries: "Normally, sanctions are lifted only when a country stops the pirates that are violating intellectual property rights. In Ukraine's case, the U.S. trade representative has said that they are willing to make an exception and will lift sanctions when Ukraine passes a strong law. In other words, before it is actually implemented."
Kuchma responded sharply to the U.S. announcement. He said the demands of Washington and the recording industry's anti-piracy group, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), are too strict. Kuchma also said the antipiracy legislation that Washington wants would be stricter than that of any other country. Kuchma's spokesman said Washington is now pressuring Ukraine, rather than cooperating with Kyiv on reforms. The U.S. sanctions come after the influential IFPI criticized last week's legislation in the Rada. In a statement issued from its London office, the IFPI called the bill "ineffective" and "highly flawed."
Stefan Krawczyk, the IFPI's regional director for Eastern Europe, told RFE/RL that a conservative estimate of the damages caused to the international recording industry by Ukrainian counterfeit CDs is between $180 million and $250 million per year. Krawczyk said those damages are not the result of pirate CDs being sold in Ukraine. Rather, he said, there are millions -- and possibly dozens of millions -- of Ukrainian counterfeit CDs exported to markets across Eastern and Central Europe, the former Soviet republics, the European Union, North America, and Latin America. Krawczyk noted that while the CD factories in Ukraine are all private firms, the companies are operating in facilities rented from the Ukrainian military. Thus, he says, the Ukrainian government is at least indirectly earning money from CD piracy.
Krawczyk also said Ukraine is not the only country in which large factories are illegally copying CDs: "The real production bases remain Ukraine, Russia, Bulgaria, Belarus, and possibly Poland and the Czech Republic." Krawczyk said the former Yugoslav republics also are a center for pirate CD production -- albeit not in large factories. "If you look at pure pirate production, I would also include the former Yugoslav [republics] -- Yugoslavia as such, Bosnia, Montenegro, [Macedonia]," Krawczyk said. "But there, it is a bit less industrial piracy and much more very large-scale piracy on blank CDs in small -- what we call garage or cottage -- operations. But they are having a very big impact on the market there, which is almost 100 percent pirate."
Krawczyk said CD piracy in Russia has been a growth industry in recent years, and that Russian firms have been increasingly exporting counterfeit CDs since the beginning of 2001. "After Ukraine, I would say the spotlight in terms of industrial CD piracy would go to Russia. There's an increasing number of CD plants there, and we now see a lot of Russian pirate products turning up in countries and markets around the region," Krawczyk said. "Up to a year or so ago, there was already large-scale piracy in Russia, but it mostly remained inside the Russian market. And they now have clearly taken over the role that Ukraine used to play."
Still, he said, Ukrainian authorities have not been clamping down enough on known pirates: "Ukraine has continued over the last year to be a major source of pirate CDs -- both local production as well as trans-shipments. So there is still a big Ukrainian involvement in many respects in trade of pirate products. But it is indeed clear that with all this attention -- from the United States, the European Union, from the international media -- on what has been going on in Ukraine, that they have taken a slightly lower profile. And, indeed, Russian entrepreneurs have jumped in immediately to fill that emerging gap." Krawczyk said one Ukrainian firm that came under international scrutiny for widespread distribution of pirate CDs has simply moved its illegal counterfeiting operations into Belarus. He said that factory is now operating under the name "RIT" but was formerly known as "Bolidisk." "Belarus is starting to become a problem. One of the main reasons is that one of the Ukrainian pirate plants moved a substantial part of its operations to Belarus," Krawczyk said.
Krawczyk said the Bulgarian government in the late 1990s cracked down on pirate CD factories that were owned and operated by the state -- a practice that had given Bulgaria the dubious distinction of being Eastern Europe's biggest music pirate before Ukraine. "In Bulgaria, in 1997 or 1998, we were very, very close to trade sanctions as well. Only the Bulgarian government at that time knew what was at stake for their economy, which was not in very good shape anyway," Krawczyk said. "And they took the right measures. And they took it very decisively, I would say." But Krawczyk also warned that private Bulgarian firms have started to re-emerge as major CD pirates: "Bulgaria, or Bulgarian entrepreneurs I should say, have been taking advantage of all this attention on Ukraine to start building up CD capacity again. And they are certainly also again involved in pirate production."
Krawczyk said it has become more difficult to determine the level of piracy in Poland and the Czech Republic. But he said the IFPI suspects the counterfeit CD industry is large in both countries. "Entrepreneurs both in Poland and the Czech Republic to a certain extent cooperate with IFPI, which is very good, in having their plants controlled," Krawczyk said. "And the other ones might be involved in pirate production, but if they are, they are doing it in such a way that it is very difficult to actually detect." Krawczyk said Lithuania is known as a key distribution hub for illegally copied CDs coming from other Eastern and Central European countries -- even though there are no large counterfeit factories in the Baltic state.