22 March 2002, Volume 2, Number 12
AFGHANISTAN'SERIOUSLY FLAWED' DRAFT MEDIA LAW. A proposed media law currently being drafted in Afghanistan contains "serious flaws" which, if enacted, would have a harmful effect on freedom of expression, warns the International Press Institute (IPI). In a letter to the head of Afghanistan's interim government, Hamid Karzai, the group says the draft Law of the Press needs a "radical re-assessment." Only Afghan citizens are permitted to print publications, a restriction that would weaken the local media, IPI argues. A proposed ban on foreign investment in Afghan media could leave local outlets too weak to withstand potential government pressure, IPI says. The draft law also requires private media owners to obtain government permission to operate, but there are no stated criteria for granting or denying such permission. In addition, there is no provision for private ownership of such companies. The draft law also grants the government control over the distribution of foreign publications. (International Freedom of Expression Exchange Clearing House, www.freemedia.at, 19 March)
ALMATY COURT FINES TAN TV. A district court in Almaty found Batykhzhan Ketebaev, TAN TV station's president, in violation of Article 44 of the Copyright and Related Rights Law and Article 129 of the Administrative Offenses Code. He was ordered to pay a fine of 8,000 tenge for screening "The Gate into a Garden" and "Imitator" videos on his station. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly, 11-17 March)
ARMENIAALMATY PAPER'S PROPERTY SEALED. In Almaty, court bailiffs sealed the computer room, the proofreaders' room, and other offices of the "Nachnyom s Ponedelnika" paper's editorial board after the city court's economic college ruled to suspend the paper for three months after 5 March. The paper's editorial board believes that the court ruling is absurd, illegal, and arbitrary. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly, 11-17 March)
KAZAKHSTANCOURT REJECTS APPEAL ON BEHALF OF JOURNALIST. A Yerevan court on 20 March rejected a petition submitted by the lawyers of Nicol Pashinian, editor of the opposition newspaper "Haykakan zhamanak," to drop the slander charges against him, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Pashinian is charged with slandering Armenian Civil Aviation Agency head Hovannes Yeritsian in a caption published in the paper in November. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 March)
AZERBAIJANPRESIDENT APPROVES AMENDMENTS TO MEDIA LAW. On 14 March, President Heidar Aliyev signed amendments to Azerbaijan's media law that were published in the press the following day, Turan reported. Under those amendments, media outlets must no longer obtain formal registration before beginning operations, nor is the government empowered to close or suspend the operation of media outlets, which may receive funding from any source not prohibited by law. Only in a very few cases may courts oblige journalists to reveal their sources of information. On 15 March, presidential administration official Ali Hasanov told journalists that work on a new law on the electronic media and on a bill on public television is in progress, Turan reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 March)
BELARUSDOUBTS REMAIN FOLLOWING TRIAL OF SUSPECTED KIDNAPPERS OF JOURNALISTS. Syarhey Tsurko, the lawyer representing the wife of abducted Belarusian journalist Dzmitry Zavadski in the trial of suspected kidnappers, told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service on 14 March that the evidence presented in the court was insufficient to confirm unambiguously that Valery Ihnatovich and Maksim Malik, who were sentenced to life imprisonment, kidnapped the journalist. United Civic Party leader Anatol Lyabedzka told Belapan that Ihnatovich and Malik were made "scapegoats" to cover real perpetrators of the abduction. "The Zavadski case has been postponed pending impartial examination," Lyabedzka noted, adding that the judiciary in Belarus obeys orders from the presidential administration rather than renders justice. "I have an impression that the Ihnatovich gang was just a cover-up for more important people. How could this case be declared investigated and go to court [as a case of abduction]...if Zavadski's traces were lost?" commented Uladzimir Nistsyuk from the Social Democratic Party (Popular Assembly). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 March)
PROTEST PICKET BANNED IN GRODNO. Grodno city authorities banned a picketing on behalf of Nikolai Markevich, editor in chief of the closed paper "Pagonya" and its reporter, Pavel Mozheiko. The Belarusian Helsinki Committee, the Human Rights Defense Center Vyasna, the Human Rights Center, and Legal Aid to People center protested the ban in a letter to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 11-17 March)
BULGARIAPRIME MINISTER DISMISSES SPECULATION ABOUT RESIGNATION, SLAMS PRESS. Prior to his departure to Spain on 14 March to attend the EU summit in Barcelona, Simeon Saxecoburggotski told journalists that speculation that he plans to resign is unfounded, "Monitor" reported. When asked whether he intends to quit on 6 April and nominate General Boyko Borisov of the Interior Ministry as his successor, Simeon said: "I read about this rumor in the press, and I am surprised." Saxecoburggotski added that "much of the chaos in the country that is written about in the press is a result of all possible unverified...statements, theories, and repeated rumors." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 March)
CROATIAJOURNALISTS GROUP CALLS CROATIAN VERDICTS 'UNJUST AND PUNITIVE.' The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has accused the Croatian judiciary of "jeopardizing the future of a respected independent magazine and eroding the hard-fought freedoms journalists have gained in the post-Tudjman era," Hina reported on 21 March. The CPJ expressed its concern in a statement responding to two recent libel judgments against the satirical weekly "Feral Tribune." CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper reportedly is urging Croatian judicial authorities to "review these unjust and punitive verdicts," which meted out a combined $25,000 punishment against the publication. The group quotes "Feral" Director Zoran Erceg as saying that the paper will appeal both rulings to the Croatian Supreme Court but first must pay the fines in full. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 March)
GEORGIAHOW MUCH SHOULD TV COVER LOCAL NEWS? Nikolai Kandiashvili, director of Nadezhda TV, has publicly supported a provision in the Communications Bill under which TV companies that devote less than 20 percent of airtime to local news would be closed. The directors of most Georgian TV stations strongly oppose this provision. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 11-17 March)
SLANDER CASE TO BE APPEALED TO STRASBOURG. The daily "Novyie 7 Dnei" plans to file an appeal to the Strasbourg International Court against a Tbilisi district prosecutor's office for opening two cases of slander against it. The paper had reported on arms sales during the Abkhaz war and the allegedly illegal issuance of passports to residents of Abkhazia. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 11-17 March)
MONTENEGROPRESIDENT ORDERS MONTENEGRIN DAILY REPRINTED TO AVOID SCANDAL. On 11 March, Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic ordered the destruction of the entire Saturday run of the Podgorica daily "Publika" because he objected to an article on his associate, Veselin Barovic, reputedly the country's most successful businessman. Djukanovic was attending a benefit when the first edition of "Publika" arrived at the hotel. The paper carried Barovic's comment that he would not give any money to the benefit because he did not agree with the policies of the U.S. ambassador -- the benefit's co-sponsor. Reportedly, Djukanovic was "shocked" by Barovic's comment and ordered that "Publika" production and distribution be stopped. According to witnesses, the paper was snatched from tables and destroyed. The paper's printer was also ordered to reprint the paper -� omitting the offending article. Barovic has been named by the Zagreb weekly "Nacional" in connection with the so-called "tobacco mafia" in Montenegro; Djukanovic and Barovic have filed libel suit against the magazine. (ANEM Media Update, 9-15 March)
RUSSIAWHY WAS TAGANROG JOURNALIST KILLED? The investigation into the murder in Taganrog of journalist Natalya Skryl of the Rostov Oblast paper "Nashe Vremya" is examining the possibility that the murder was caused by her professional activities. Skryl was writing a report on the Tagmet metallurgical plant, which is bitterly contested by several groups. She also was preparing a report on whether the Azov terminal is distilling methanol in a hazardous process. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Weekly, 11-17 March)
MEDIA MINISTRY DECIDES TO SUPPORT 'MILITARY-PATRIOTIC' MASS MEDIA. Deputy Media Minister Mikhail Seslavinskii announced on 20 March that his agency is currently spending 560 million rubles ($16 million) to support more than 200 "military-patriotic" media projects involving 27 mass media outlets in 19 Russian regions. The purpose of the program is to "stimulate the interest of the mass media in military-patriotic education," RIA-Novosti quoted Seslavinskii as saying. Despite these efforts, Seslavinskii noted, there has been no radical change in public opinion toward the military, and his ministry is working with the Defense Ministry to develop additional programs to encourage "military-patriotic publications." The Media Ministry is also seeking to restore the Soviet-era institution of staff military correspondents in the central mass media, Seslavinskii told the news agency. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 March)
NTV CHIEF WON'T SHOW BEREZOVSKY FILM. Boris Jordan, director of NTV television, said he will not show a film suggesting that Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) may have been behind a series of apartment-building bombings in the fall of 1999, Ekho Moskvy reported on 16 March. "We are afraid of judicial liability," Jordan said. "Our lawyers advised us not to put it on the air." The film, made by French journalists and financed by Boris Berezovsky, suggests the FSB was responsible for terrorist explosions in Moscow, Buinaksk, and Volgodonsk that the Kremlin blamed on Chechen fighters. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 March)
LOCAL LEGISLATORS, ACTIVISTS WITH TIES TO BEREZOVSKY ATTACKED IN PERM... Aleksandr Kostarev, a member of the political council of Liberal Russia and one of the organizers for the local showing of the film "Assault on Russia," was severely beaten in Perm on 20 March, RFE/RL's Perm correspondent reported. Three unknown men attacked him in the hallway of his apartment building with a metal rod. Kostarev sustained a concussion and is hospitalized. "Assault on Russia" was the film financed by embattled oligarch Boris Berezovsky to prove the Federal Security Service's (FSB) role in the bombing of four apartment buildings in Russia in the fall of 1999. The Perm branch of Liberal Russia believes that the attack was politically motivated. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 March)
...AND IN ST. PETERSBURG... Meanwhile, State Duma deputy and Liberal Russia member Yulii Rybakov told reporters in Moscow that unidentified men beat up three of his employees and also attacked a fellow faction member, AP reported on 20 March. In addition, he said two criminal groups in St. Petersburg have orders to kill him. Rybakov was detained at St. Petersburg's Pulkovo Airport on 9 March while attempting to bring copies of "Assault on Russia" into the country. Liberal Russia has called on President Putin to form a commission to investigate the 1999 explosions. Also in St. Petersburg, the director of the city's branch of the human rights group Memorial, Veniamin Iofe, was attacked on the afternoon of 18 March following the showing of the film there, RFE/RL's St. Petersburg correspondent reported. Iofe was struck on the back of the head after exiting the building where the film was being shown. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 March)
...AS FILM GETS SCREENED OUTSIDE OF MOSCOW. Meanwhile, "Assault on Russia" was shown in Novosibirsk's city press center on 19 March. Its screening was sponsored by Yabloko, Union of Rightist Forces, and the Helsinki Group, and was attended by local television and newspaper journalists, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported. Liberal Russia official Arkadii Yankovskii told reporters that "Assault on Russia" will eventually be screened throughout Siberia, and that he already has agreements to show it in the cities of Tomsk and Barnaul. Duma Deputy Sergei Yushenkov (independent) told RFE/RL's Moscow bureau that the film has already been shown in Irkutsk. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 March)
MEDIA-MOST EXECUTIVE'S CASE SENT BACK FOR ADDITIONAL INVESTIGATION... A court in Moscow has sent the criminal case against Media-MOST executive Anton Titov back for additional investigation, Interfax reported on 13 March. Prosecutors have accused Titov, together with Media-MOST head Vladimir Gusinsky, of swindling a 5-billion-ruble credit from Gazprom. Titov will remain in jail. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 March)
PRIMAKOV'S MEDIA CREDENTIALS QUESTIONED. "Yezhenedelnii Zhurnal," No. 9, carried a long report on the TV-6 affair and the effort to form an alliance of oligarchs to support the team of journalists headed by former TV-6 General Director Yevgenii Kiselev. According to the weekly, several members of Kiselev's team refused to participate in the new project when they learned that they would not be able to avoid being subordinated to Chamber of Commerce and Industry head Yevgenii Primakov. The weekly noted that when Primakov was a prime minister under former President Boris Yeltsin, he "used to be scolded even by Boris Yeltsin for his bad relations with the media." It also notes that "political experts do not doubt that the political heavyweights [such as Primakov and Russian Union of Entrepreneurs and Industrialists head Arkadii Volskii] have been commissioned by the Kremlin in order to conduct ideological monitoring of the disfavored NTV/TV-6 journalistic team." "Yezhenedelnii Zhurnal" was started by former "Itogi" Editor Sergei Parkomenko, who left when that publication was taken over by Gazprom-Media. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 March)
ONE BIDDER EXPELLED FROM TV-6 CONTEST. The Media Ministry has completed its review of the applications submitted for the 27 March tender for TV-6's broadcasting rights, Russian agencies reported on 14 April. As a result, Media Minister Mikhail Lesin announced that one application has been rejected and the bidder, the Party for Social Protection of the Citizens of the Federation, an NGO, will not be allowed to compete, Interfax reported. All other applications have been accepted. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 March)
DID PASKO TRIAL VIOLATE RUSSIAN LAW? The regional Independent Legal Expert Council made public its analysis of journalist Grigorii Pasko's sentence. It maintained that the court violated the Russian Criminal Code's prohibition on a stricter sentence being handed down in a new trial for the same charges by the same court. Pasko was given a longer prison term in a more restrictive category of confinement, and he was also deprived of his military rank. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Weekly, 11-17 March)
MARI-EL NEWSPAPER HAS BAD NEIGHBORS. On 15 March, unknown persons set fire to the door of the apartment of V. Maltsev, editor in chief of the paper "Dobryie Sosedi" in Yoshkar-Ola, the Marii El Republic. Journalists believe that this was an attempt at intimidation. The republic's president, Leonid Markelov, had sued the paper, demanding payment of some 50,000 rubles in damages. On 14 March �- one day before the attack on the editor's home -- the district court in the republican capital, Yoshkar-Ola, demanded that the paper pay a fine of 2,000 rubles and publish a refutation of the offending article, despite finding in favor of President Markelov in his libel case against Volzhsk Mayor Nikolai Svistunov, the company Eksress-Panorama, and the paper "Dobryie Sosedi." (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Weekly, 11-17 March)
NO SHOW FOR KHAKASSIA EDITOR. In Khakassia, "Delovoi Sayanogorsk" newspaper editor in chief G. Nazarenko was detained by guards when he tried to photograph the aluminum plant. He was interrogated and forced to expose the film. Nazarenko filed a complaint with the Khakassian procuracy, accusing the guards of violating the Russian Criminal Code. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Weekly, 11-17 March)
JOURNALISTS DENIED ACCESS TO VIP VISIT IN YEKATERINBURG. Journalists of the Yekaterinburg-based paper "Vecherniye vedomosti" and the local TAU TV station were denied accreditation to an event at a private factory which State Duma Deputy Chairman Irina Khakamada was schedule to attend. Local papers and TV companies had been critical of the event. The factory's spokesman claimed that he had the right to deny entry to the factory to anyone. Khakamada was also critical of journalists, saying that journalists tend to invent facts and comment too much on events, which is inconsistent with civilized journalism. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Weekly, 11-17 March)
CHELYABINSK PAPER WINS LIBEL SUIT. A Chelaybinsk city central district court on 13 March rejected a libel suit brought by Talgat Khairov, former deputy governor in charge of agriculture, against the paper "Biznes-Klass-Chelyabinsk" which had published an article describing him as "a talented organizer of agricultural disasters." (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Weekly, 11-17 March)
BELGOROD ACTIVISTS PICKET STATE BROADCASTER. Opposition activists picketed the state-run TV and radio station's building in Belgorod on 14 March. Local Communists, members of the Pensioners' Party, and the Union of Officers who organized the picketing accused the station of bias against these organizations and demanded airtime. The protest was sparked by changing the broadcast time for a speech by an opposition candidate in oblast elections. Station managers showed the protesters a video of the program, proving that the opposition candidate had gotten airtime. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Weekly, 11-17 March)
TULA EDITOR RESIGNS DUE TO LOCAL BUSINESS PRESSURE. The Tula city executive requested that the editor in chief of the Tula city paper, A. Zaitsev, resign "on his own accord." Zaitsev believes that city authorities were dismayed by his articles which were critical of the management of the Tulachermet iron and steel plant. The Tula city authorities decided not to quarrel with influential industrialists who reportedly "do not care for the city's environment and fire hundreds of workers." The city authorities explained that the paper was loss-making due to the editor in chief's ineptitude. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Weekly, 11-17 March)
ROSTOV TELEVISION STATION UNDER PRESSURE. The State Property Committee in Volgodonsk in Rostov Oblast is trying to take over the independent TV company Volgodonsk TV (VTV), NTV reported on 19 March. VTV General Manager Anatolii Gorbunov said the committee is trying to reacquire a 60 percent stake in the company, which would put the station under the control of city authorities. The station has aired reports critical of the policies of the city administration and Mayor Sergei Gorbunov. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 March)
EX-NEWSPAPER EDITOR OPENS ENERGY POLICY WEBSITE. Vitalii Tretyakov, the former editor of "Nezavisimaya gazeta," launched a new website called "World Energy Policy" (http://www.wep.ru) that will analyze global energy policy. The first issue features articles by OPEC Secretary-General Ali Rodriguez, Russian Energy Minister Igor Yusufov, and LUKoil President Vagit Alekperov. The inaugural issue also features an analysis of Russian-Chinese cooperation in the energy sphere. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 March)
NGOS IN PERM BELIEVE LETTERS FROM ABROAD ARE 'PRESCREENED.' Following a number of instances in which letters received by NGOs in Perm Oblast from abroad had already been opened, activists for those groups have decided to launch a new initiative aimed at combating violations of citizens' rights to receive letters, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 16 March. Although the envelopes on such letters bear the mark "received in damaged condition," the activists believe that "someone" is paying a lot of attention to letters from foreign partners. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 March)
RECORDINGS TO AID 'KURSK' INVESTIGATION. A group of speech experts have begun preparations to decipher 22 recordings found in the third section of the "Kursk" nuclear submarine in hopes of shedding light on what caused the sub to sink in August 2000, Interfax reported. It will take the group at least one month to clean and dry the tapes before experts can analyze their contents. German Zubov, an expert with the group, said he hopes the recordings can help an ongoing criminal investigation into the disaster. "We do not know whether the recordings will be of any value for the investigation, but it is up to the Prosecutor's Office to evaluate them," Zubov said. Meanwhile, the remains of 107 "Kursk" crewmembers have been identified at the naval hospital in Severomorsk, northwest Russia, Interfax reported the same day. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 March)
TATAR GROUPS FEAR LOSS OF TATAR-LANGUAGE RADIO STATION... The Chally branch of the moderate nationalist group Tatar Public Center (TPC) appealed to Russian Media Minister Mikhail Lesin on 13 March, asking him to cancel bidding for the 105.3 FM frequency in Chally that was formerly occupied by the Tatar-language Dulkin station, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. The TPC warns that cutting off Dulkin's broadcasts will undermine Russian authority among the Tatar, Bashkir, Chavash, and Mari peoples. The TPC asserts that Dulkin presented all the necessary documents for resuming its broadcasting; however, the ministry decided to organize a tender for the station's broadcasting rights to be held on 27 March. Russian-language Radio Shanson and Radio Retro, along with Tatarstan's TAIF group, have applied to take over the frequency. Dulkin's general manager Ravil Rustyamov told Tatar-Inform that he is afraid that the other stations such as Radio Shanson and Retor have much more money and better political connections than Dulkin. He added that the station has received tens of thousands of letters from Tatars all over the world and also broadcasts in Tatar on the Internet 24 hours a day. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 March)
MONUMENT TO BRODSKY PLANNED. St. Petersburg has invited sculptors from Russia and abroad to join a competition to design a monument to Nobel Prize-winning poet Joseph Brodsky, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 March. The winner of the competition, sponsored by Alfa Bank and the St. Petersburg government's Architecture and City Planning Committee, will receive a prize of $15,000. Second and third place finishers will receive $5,000 and $3,000, respectively. Among the luminaries judging the designs will be the poet's widow, Maria Brodskaya. "The competition has an international status because the poet belongs not to Russia only, but to the whole world," Alfa Bank Vice President Aleksandr Gafin said. Brodsky, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1987, was exiled from the Soviet Union in 1970 and settled in the United States. In 1990, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev restored Brodsky's citizenship, but he never returned to his homeland. Brodsky died in 1996. The monument will be constructed on St. Petersburg's Vasilevskii Island. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 March)
SPY'S BOOK SHEDS LIGHT ON KREMLIN'S COLD WAR POLICIES... The Moscow publishing house Olma-press has released a book written by the late Soviet superspy Pavel Sudoplatov that contains several revelations on the role of the foreign intelligence under former Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's regime, "Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie" wrote in a review on 15 March. The former deputy of Stalin's secret police chief Lavrentii Beria requested in his will that the book be released after Sudoplatov's death, which occurred in 1996. In his book, Sudoplatov repeats his claims that J. Robert Oppenheimer, the director for Los Alamos research for the U.S. Manhattan Project, was a member of the U.S. Communist Party's covert network that was completely controlled by Soviet intelligence. Second, he writes that on 22 December 1945, Stalin received in the Kremlin one of the leading figures of the U.S. atomic bomb project, Professor James Bryant Connant, who traveled to Moscow to seek contacts with Soviet nuclear scientists. Sudoplatov writes that during this meeting Stalin ironically offered a toast to "the health of American physicists." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 March)
SERBIASTATE BROADCASTER DROPS LIVE COVERAGE OF MILOSEVIC TRIAL. In early March, the director of Radio Television Serbia Aleksandar Crkvenjakov announced that the state media could no longer afford to pay the hourly rate of 650 Swiss francs to cover the trial of former Serbian and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. (ANEM Media Update, 9-15 March)
SOCIALISTS CALL FOR STATE MEDIA COVERAGE OF LEADER'S TRIAL... On 11 March, a few Socialist Party of Serbia supporters protested against Radio Television Serbia's dropping of live coverage of the Milosevic trial. Students at an adjacent high school threw chalk and sponges at the demonstrators, chanting "Sloba, Sadam!" One Socialist official warned that the current protest was only a trial run and that a new protest would be held outside the Serbian Government building on 13 March. (ANEM Media Update, 9-15 March)
�AND B92 DESCRIBES ITS COVERAGE� On 14 March, B92 made a statement on coverage of the war crimes trial of Slobodan Milosevic in The Hague. It maintained that no group has exclusive rights to live broadcasts of the trial and that any TV station wanting to broadcast the trial proceedings may subscribe to Eurovision�s live coverage. B92 -- or any TV station with mobile satellite access -- can connect to the tribunal's internal television system and broadcast the trial free-of-charge. (That is how B92 is obtaining its live feed.) In addition, B92 has a reporter, a technical team and a satellite van in The Hague. The company is also preparing to broadcast the examination of protected witnesses during longer recesses in the Milosevic trial. B92's program is rebroadcast by over 30 local TV stations in the Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) network. B92 began preparing for live coverage from The Hague a year ago by applying to a number of foundations and international organizations for assistance and has obtained a grant from the U.S.-funded media assistance program of IREX to cover the trial for the next year. This coverage will continue regardless of whether the domestic audience is interested in the trial or not. B92 also produces a daily program that reviews the most important events at the tribunal. (ANEM Press Release, 14 March)
...AND WHY. B92's editors believe that the trial itself, and all other proceedings against people from other nations, deserve the attention of people in Serbia as a way of coming to terms with the recent past and as a way to learn the most important facts. In addition, B92 plans to cover local trials once they begin. According to B92, investigative journalism should assemble as many facts as possible to shed light on all the relevant events. Just how complete the picture of the past will be depends on such coverage, because coverage of The Hague tribunal alone is not enough. In addition to the live coverage, B92 will also produce documentaries and organize ongoing debates on the crimes and the causes of violence. The B92 "Wars 1991-1999" documentation center will collect and preserve documentation on the wars and the testimonies of those involved in various ways. (ANEM Press Release, 14 March)
GOVERNMENT MAY NOT ADOPT DRAFT BROADCAST LAW? Rade Veljanovski, the head of the working group drafting the broadcast law, warned on 14 March that "last minute" reservations among certain government officials might prevent the draft from being adopted. "It seems to me now that the main dilemma is whether the authorities are ready to give up the media privileges that certain other authorities had in the past," Veljanovski told a press conference on media reform. "In case the government fails to adopt this draft, some 1100 electronic media in Serbia, of which 90 percent don't have broadcast licenses, will continue to face a legal vacuum," he warned. "The other possibility is the adoption of a law that is not in line with European standards, but that will suit the authorities," said the working group leader. (ANEM Media Update, 9-15 March)
SLOVAKIASINGERS GO ON RECORD AGAINST RACISM. As part of a campaign to promote tolerance, a group of leading Slovak singers has teamed up to make an antiracist record, AP reported on 13 March. The pop-rock ballad "Our World is Motley," which was released on 11 March, has been hailed by antiracism activists and government officials. "It is only a drop of water,...but sometimes even a drop can cause the cup to overflow," said Ibrahim Maiga, a musician from Mali who has lived in Slovakia for more than a decade. In "Our World," Maiga sings both in Slovak and in the Bambara language spoken in his homeland. "This song is what we want Slovakia to be," said Ladislav Durkovic, a member of People Against Racism. The song was dedicated to the memory of Anastazia Balazova, a Romany woman and mother of eight who died as the result of an attack in her home in 2000. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 March)
TAJIKISTANGOVERNMENT RESTRICTIONS ON MEDIA PROTESTED. The chairman of the National Association of Independent Media, Nuriddin Karshiboev, called on parliament Chairman Saidullo Khairulloev to support the independent media. He noted that the state-run TV and Radio Committee sent a letter to all private TV stations telling them not to air programs produced by unregistered organizations and by individuals. This demand is inconsistent with the TV and Radio Broadcasting Law. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 11-17 March)
UKRAINEBIASED ELECTION COVERAGE CONTINUES. Yuri Boyko, a parliamentary candidate fielded by Our Ukraine bloc in Kyiv region, protested the Kyiv State Oblast Television and Radio Company violations of electoral laws. Boyko's campaign speech was recorded, but not broadcast. Meanwhile, the Transcarpathian Oblast TV and Radio Company denied airtime to Our Ukraine bloc leader Viktor Yushchenko. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 11-17 March)
BROADCAST COUNCIL PROTESTS 'ILLEGAL INTERFERENCE.' The National Council of Ukraine on TV and Radio Broadcasting sent "a non-political statement" to President Leonid Kuchma and parliament noting unprecedented pressure mounted on the council by judicial bodies at the time when the electoral race is at full swing. It complained of flagrantly illegal interference in its activities and said that improper court rulings add up to a trend that poses danger for the state and society. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly, 11-17 March)
WILL BOOK SERVE TO OUST TYMOSHENKO BLOC FROM ELECTION? Central Election Commission Chairman Mykhaylo Ryabets on 20 March said the commission received a complaint that the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc has violated the election law in the campaign by using resources other than those in its official election fund, UNIAN reported. Meanwhile, Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc activists, including lawmaker Oleksandr Turchynov, warned media earlier the same day that the presidential administration has issued an "instruction" to disqualify the bloc from elections. According to the activists, the reason for the disqualification may be a book about Tymoshenko that was published several months ago. They suggest that the bloc will be charged with sponsoring this publication and subsequently ousted from the election race by a court resolution. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 March)
WHAT -� OR WHO -- IS BEHIND REVOCATION OF TV LICENSE? The withdrawal of the broadcast license of popular TV station 1+1 is believed to be connected with several election-related lawsuits. Ukrainian media tycoon Vadim Rabinovich recently brought suit against 1+1 and its board for slander and moral and material damage. He filed similar suits in February. The station 1+1 regards him as an instigator in revoking its license. Election candidate Yuliya Tymoshenko said that she sued 1+1 because the Interior Ministry's unit which guards the 1+1 office and company managers used force to prevent her from taking part in a TV debate. Station officials claim that they called off the debate at the request of ICTV, which had scheduled a similar program. The electoral bloc of the Democratic Party and the Democratic Union issued a statement saying that these activities in the course of an electoral campaign amount to blackmail. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly, 11-17 March)
OFFICIAL NOTES MEDIA 'TRANSGRESSIONS' IN CRIMEA. The acting Information Committee Chairman in Crimea Pavel Lomakin has noted "significant media offenses," such as discrepancies between declared and actual circulation, increasing without authorization publications' print run, and failure to report addresses of editorial boards. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 11-17 March)
NIKOPOL BROADCAST STATION ATTACKED. Unknown persons destroyed a communication cable in the Nikopol-based TV and Radio Station Kanal 5, paralyzing its work. A Molotov cocktail was tossed at the station's car. The station personnel immediately alerted the police, but they failed to arrived on the scene. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 11-17 March)
UZBEKISTANUZBEK WEBSITE LAUNCHED. RFE/RL's new Uzbek-language website, www.ozodlik.org, was launched on 20 March. The Ozodlik.org site, designed by the RFE/RL Internet team, is based on traditional Uzbek designs and is updated daily with news, reports, and features. Nine weekly feature programs cover press reviews, women's issues, science and technology, ecology, religion, music, and crime and society. Three feature programs are available as audio pieces and the remaining are text articles in Cyrillic Uzbek. An instruction page for reading Uzbek texts with Cyrillic fonts is also included. Ozodlik.org uses the Cyrillic alphabet so that RFE/RL's Uzbek content is easily accessible. In future, there are plans to also offer Latin-based texts. All broadcasts from RFE/RL's Uzbek service are streamed live on the Internet, recorded, and made available as on-demand files. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is the first international broadcaster with an Uzbek audio and text website. (RFE/RL Internet Team and RFE/RL Uzbek Service, 21 March)
THE INTERNET IN UZBEKISTAN. Although Uzbekistan was branded an "Enemy of the Internet" by Reporters without Borders (RSF) three years ago, the country has recently experienced noticeable growth in Internet availability. Six years ago, the country only had a single U.S.-funded Internet service provider (ISP), Pertka �- which mostly provides e-mail services for students. Today, there are dozens of ISPs. However, the cost of Internet usage remains extremely high relative to average earnings and so usage is mostly restricted to e-mail. Recently, the Uzbek government adopted a special program on Internet services development which promises to make the Internet available, in the technical sense, to 150,000 rural users by 2004. There are disparate reports on the current number of Internet users in Uzbekistan. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) estimates that there are about 7000, but Uzbek officials believe the total is around 200,000. Another measure of the growth of Uzbekistan's Internet can be seen in the Yahoo!-compiled directory which today lists 220 recommended sites, whereas five years ago it was limited to 25. Most of these links from the Yahoo Uzbekistan directory are in English, but a number of news sites have content in Russian and English. Only about 10 sites have Uzbek-language content, including those of the two opposition parties ERK (Mohammad Solih) and BIRLIK (Abdurakim Polatov), which are based outside the country. Another level of challenge for Uzbek websites is choosing which alphabet to use. In the early 1990s, Uzbek orthography was officially changed from the Cyrillic to the Latin alphabet. However, not many Uzbeks over the age of 30 can read the Latin alphabet, and so the transition hasn't been completely adopted. In 2000, Microsoft introduced an Uzbek font in the Cyrillic alphabet, thereby supporting continued online reliance on Cyrillic. Some very official sites �- most notably that of the Uzbekistan Presidential Press Center -- are available only in Russian or English but not in Uzbek. (RFE/RL Internet Team and RFE/RL Uzbek Service, 21 March)
REGIONALAUSTRIAN POLICE DETAIN RUSSIAN EDITOR. On 21 March, the Austrian police detained PRIMA News Agency's editor in chief, Aleksander Podrabinek, and two natives of Chechnya, Abdulla Erzanukaev and Berzali Ismailov, a secretary of the Chechen Democratic Association. Austrian police officers stopped the detainees' car and demanded that they show their identity cards. Without any explanation, the officers took the documents and ordered the three to follow them. Podrabinek was scheduled to cover the trial -- which began on 21 March -- of Abdulla Erzanukaev's libel suit against the Austrian journal "Profil." (PRIMA News Agency, 21 March)
END NOTESAVAK: A NEW PRETEXT FOR MEDIA REPRESSION IN IRAN?
By Bill Samii
Judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi-Shahrudi warned in a 6 March speech that people linked to SAVAK (the previous regime's intelligence and security organization) and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency have been active in cultural and artistic centers. He went on to say that "the enemy" has "infiltrated the press and cultural and artistic institutions," state radio reported. This appears to be the most recent excuse for the Iranian government's closure of publications -- about 60 in the last two years, excluding student publications -- and its imprisonment of around 20 journalists over the same timeframe. Nor is the alleged SAVAK link relevant in all the current press-related trials. Often the complainants are hard-line institutions such as state radio and television (Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting), the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, the Senate-like Guardians Council, and so on. Furthermore, some of the difficulties faced by the provincial press are often due to various practical problems linked to more mundane issues.
Hashemi-Shahrudi's claims about SAVAK are linked with the current trial of 73-year-old journalist Siamak Purzand. The closed and unannounced trial of Purzand began in early March, "Iran Daily" reported on 9 March, and during the proceedings he allegedly confessed to having a relationship with SAVAK. Purzand was jailed in November, and the conservative "Jam" weekly subsequently claimed that he received millions of dollars from the American Iranian Council and then distributed some of that money among the reformist newspapers. The reformist "Noruz" daily on 6 January questioned how "Jam" knew all this when no official organization has acknowledged Purzand's arrest. The authorities have no reason to hold Purzand, Hanny Megally of Human Rights Watch said in mid-March, adding that "the judicial authorities are making a mockery of rule of law in Iran." In a 15 March statement from Paris, Reporters san Frontiers condemned Purzand's trial and expressed concern about possible psychological pressure on Purzand to confess. Indeed, Purzand had left telephone messages on his wife's answering machine in Los Angeles, begging her and their daughters not to make any comments about the trial and not do interviews with foreign radios. Purzand's wife, lawyer and human rights activist Mehrangiz Kar, said in an interview with RFE/RL's Persian Service that her husband has been brainwashed in prison.
In some notable cases, those standing trial are parliamentarians. Such trials are meant to silence them and intimidate other members of parliament. The Tehran Public Court summoned "Hambastegi" publisher and parliamentarian Qolam Heidar Ebrahimbay-Salami to face complaints filed by the Hajj and Pilgrimage Association and the East Azerbaijan Water and Sewage Company, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported on 11 March. He already faces 18 complaints filed by the Guardians Council, the Isfahan Ansar-i Hizbullah (a hard-line pressure group), the Islamic Open University, and the prosecutor-general. Another case involving a reformist member of the parliament is that of Mohsen Mirdamadi, the publisher of "Noruz." On 4 March, he was found guilty on 22 separate charges, including libel, attempting to incite the public, violating election regulations, insulting state officials, and publishing lies. The charges against him were filed by the state broadcasting organization, the Basij Resistance Force (which is part of the Revolutionary Guards), and the Elections Supervisory Board.
Jailed journalist Emadedin Baqi, who already is being held in Evin Prison, was brought before the court on 19 February because of a complaint filed against him by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, "Noruz" reported on 21 February. Baqi objected because neither he nor his lawyer had received prior notification, so the hearing was postponed. Baqi will have a week-long home leave starting 18 March if he posts a 100 million-rial (about $57,143 at the official rate) surety bond, IRNA reported. Imprisoned journalist Akbar Ganji will have a home leave too if he puts up 600 million rials.
The appeals court confirmed the closure of "Asr-i Ma," the weekly put out by the Mujahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization (MIRO). Managing Editor Mohammad Salamati's 26-month jail sentence was reduced to 17 months, "Noruz" reported on 6 March. The original sentence was handed down on 15 December. On 17 March, furthermore, Minister of Islamic Culture and Guidance Ahmad Masjid-Jamei announced that the judiciary chief agreed to suspend the verdict pending further appeals, IRNA reported.
The sentences of publisher Shahla Lahiji and writer and former editor Mehrangiz Kar (she is married to imprisoned journalist Purzand) were reduced to six months' imprisonment, calculated as time served, and a 500,000 rial (about $285 at the official rate) fine, the Writers in Prison Committee of International Pen reported on 27 February. They originally were tried for their participation in an April 2000 conference in Berlin and in January 2001 were sentenced to four years' imprisonment. They had remained free pending the appeal, and Kar is in the U.S. for medical treatment.
The Association of Iranian Journalists, meanwhile, on 4 March called on judiciary chief Hashemi-Shahrudi to lift the ban on "Guzarish-i Film" monthly and "Cinema-yi Jahan" weekly, which were shut down in January. According to IRNA, Shahrudi has directed Tehran Justice Department chief Abbas Ali Alizadeh to lift the ban two separate times to no effect.
It is not just the reformists who stand trial after complaints by hard-line individuals and institutions. "Kayhan" is a hard-line daily linked with the supreme leader's office, and in early-March Managing Editor Hussein Shariatmadari was questioned by press court judge Said Mortazavi and then freed on 300 million rials (about $171,430) bail. According to an 11 March report in the apparently irritated "Kayhan," the complainants were "the ministries of Science, Interior, Islamic Culture and Guidance, and Oil; as well as the managing director of Steel Parts Company; Mohsen Kadivar; Ahmad Hakimipur; Latif Safari; Mehrangiz Kar; Pak Party; a number of those who had lit candles at Mohseni Square for those who were killed in 11 September in America; someone convicted for abduction, rape, corruption and prostitution; and the prosecutor-general."
In contrast to Hashemi-Shahrudi's claims about the enemy's infiltration of the press, some Iranian officials have spoken out on the harmful effect of the press bans and the trials of journalists. Deputy Speaker of Parliament Mohsen Armin warned, "We cannot chant slogans in support of unity and then start arresting people and closing down newspapers," according to the 13 March "Bonyan." And the Council of Former Parliamentary Deputies on 3 March issued a statement calling for the lifting of the press bans and the release of political prisoners, IRNA reported. Such a step would reinforce national solidarity and block the efforts of the U.S. and other Iranian enemies, the former parliamentarians said.
Provincial journalists face legal harassment and provincial publications face the possibility of having their licenses suspended, too, but the provincial press also is affected by greater practical obstacles than the Tehran-based media. A 21 January editorial in Yazd Province's "Sarv-i Abarkuh" said that its biggest problem is the "enormous cost of printing." Sales are inadequate to meet costs so there is a dependency on advertising revenue. Depending on advertising sales is not practical "in a small town where small businesses have difficulty meeting their own expenses," and state subsidies are too small. Another problem, according to "Sarv-i Abarkuh," is the dearth of professionally trained journalists, typesetters, administrators, and office equipment. The publication also must pay to receive Islamic Republic News Agency articles.
(Bill Samii is editor of "RFE/RL Iran Report" (http://www.rferl.org/iran-report/).)