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Media Matters: March 1, 2002

1 March 2002, Volume 2, Number 9
MEDIA WATCHDOG CHIDES BROADCASTERS OVER MILOSEVIC COVERAGE. The Communications Regulatory Agency said on 26 February that the federation's public broadcasters have failed to offer full and accurate information in coverage of the war crimes trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, Onasa reported. The group cited fundamental failures by the Public Broadcasting Service, Federation TV, and Republika Srpska's Radio-TV -- criticizing them for ignoring aspects of the trial such as the Republika Srpska broadcaster's exclusion of the indictment related to Bosnia-Herzegovina. The agency stressed that it does not wish to interfere with editorial policy, but added that the choice to broadcast the Milosevic trial imposes additional responsibilities to the public on broadcasters. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 February)

'LARGEST MIDEAST PRISON FOR JOURNALISTS.' According to the Paris-based media watchdog organization Reporters without Borders (RSF), Iran holds the "sad record of being the largest prison for journalists in the Middle East, with 19 media professionals behind bars" -- most of whom have been jailed for months without trial. The Iranian deputy minister of culture and Islamic orientation has said that over 50 newspapers, including 24 dailies, have been shut down since March 2000. That figure does not include the student press. Indeed, Islamic Republic Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is on the RSF list of international press freedom predators. (Reporters without Borders, 26 February)

...AND AUSTRIA ACCEPTS CZECH PROTEST 'WITH UNDERSTANDING.' Czech Ambassador to Austria Jiri Grusa told the daily "Pravo" on 28 February that the Czech protest against media "manipulation of history" in Austria has been met "with understanding" among Austrian political circles, CTK reported. Grusa said these circles "have their own fresh experience with tabloids." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 February)

'MEIN KAMPF' PUBLISHER'S APPEAL REJECTED. A court of justice in Prague on 25 February upheld rulings by two lower courts, rejecting the appeal of Michal Zitko, the publisher of a Czech translation of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf." Zitko was sentenced by the lower courts to a suspended sentence of five years in prison for "promoting a movement aimed at suppressing civil rights and freedoms," and was fined 2 million crowns (some $55,000). Zitko said he cannot pay the fine, in which case he must serve one year in prison instead. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February)

PARLIAMENT FAILS TO AMEND MEDIA LAW. During its last session before the April general elections, the parliament failed on 26 February to agree on changes to Hungary's media law. The FIDESZ-led coalition had hoped to push through changes allocating seats on boards of state-run public service media in a fast-track vote, but it failed to get the majority needed to hold the vote. Opposition Socialist Party deputies, who withdrew from parliamentary debates earlier this month accusing Prime Minister Viktor Orban of calling them "traitors," showed up in parliament only to reject its agenda, but refused to participate in the ensuing voting. The Free Democrats voted against the proposed agenda and then exited, Hungarian media reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 February)

PRESIDENT WANTS TO KEEP IDEOLOGY UNDER STATE CONTROL. Belarusian Television reported on 26 February that President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has approved former National State Broadcasting Company chief Ryhor Kisel as the head of the second nationwide television channel (BT-2) that is to be launched on 1 May. The channel will be run by a closed joint-stock company in which the state will hold a 51 percent stake. "As regards the controlling stake [in the second channel], we cannot allow the privatization of ideology, or subjects and objects of ideology. This should remain under the state's influence," Belapan quoted Lukashenka as saying. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 February)

VIENNA EMBASSY PROTESTS MEDIA'S 'HISTORY MANIPULATION'... The Czech Embassy in Vienna officially protested on 26 February against the "manipulation of history" in Austrian media, CTK reported. On 3 February, the mass-circulation "Kronen Zeitung," which backs the far-right Freedom Party, alleged that the June 1942 massacre in Lidice was committed by "30 Czech gendarmes of the Prague security police." The massacre, which eventually became a symbol of Nazi atrocities, was committed by German "Schutzpolizei," the embassy said, and Nazi regulations would not have even allowed Czechs to be members of that police force. The embassy added that Austrian and Sudeten Germans participated in the massacre. The embassy also protested against an article published in the rightist publication "Zur Zeit" on 8 February which claimed that during the "German protectorate" no Czechs were dispossessed or forced to leave. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 February)

TV COUNCIL MEMBER STICKS TO ANTI-ROMA STATEMENT. Milan Knizak, a member of the Czech Television Council and director of the National Gallery, said on 25 February that he refuses to withdraw an anti-Roma statement made in an interview with the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes" last month, CTK reported. Knizak said that Roma are "incapable of using common space" with other citizens and that works by Romany artists are "not worthy" of being displayed at the National Gallery. He also said that he objects to the "preferential treatment" of Roma. Romany representatives, Jewish organizations, and several Czech artists have demanded Knizak's dismissal. Knizak said in response that "the best antiracism is to solve the problems and call a spade a spade." Knizak can be dismissed from the council only by parliament. Culture Minister Pavel Dostal told the weekly "Respekt" that he will not dismiss him as the head of the National Gallery. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February)

CONSERVATIVE DAILY SUSPENDED. On 26 February, RSF protested the two-month suspension of the daily "Siyassat-i-Rouz" in a letter to the head of the magistracy, Ayatollah Sharudi. According to RSF sources, on 24 February Judge Said Mortazi ordered the two-month suspension of the conservative "Siyassat-i-Rouz" for 33 alleged offenses. Ali Yusefpur, the newspaper's managing editor, told the Agence France-Presse news agency that the decision follows a complaint by the Ministry of Labor, and added that he would appeal. The exact reasons behind the newspaper's suspension are unknown. For more, e-mail: or see (Reporters without Borders, 26 February)

SENTENCES OF WRITER AND PUBLISHER REDUCED ON APPEAL. On 27 February, the Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of International PEN in London reported that final verdicts have been reached in the trials of writer, editor, and lawyer Mehrangiz Kar and publisher Shahla Lahiji. Both their sentences have been reduced to six months in prison, minus the two months of imprisonment already served plus a fine of about $285. A human rights lawyer, writer, and editor of the now-banned "Zan" literary review, Kar was arrested on 29 April 2000 with Lahiji, writer-publisher, translator, and director of Roshangaran, a prominent publishing house of women's books. They were charged with "acting against national security" for taking part in the Berlin conference on Iran at the Heinrich Boell Institute. Until their release on bail on 21 June 2000, they were detained in the Evin Prison. On 13 January 2001, they were each sentenced to four years in prison, but remained free pending appeal. Kar is currently in the U.S. receiving medical treatment for breast cancer. Lahiji lives and works in Tehran. For more, write, or see

COURT SUSPENDS OPERATION OF LOCAL TV STATION. Pavlodar City Court on 20 February ordered the independent Irbis local TV station to suspend broadcasts for three months on the grounds that it allegedly violated the law on mass media by failing to broadcast at least 50 percent of its programs in the Kazakh language, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Irbis employees, however, denied this, telling RFE/RL that the decision was politically motivated. Irbis started facing problems last November after it reported on demonstrations by supporters of sacked Pavlodar Oblast Governor Ghalymzhan Zhaqiyanov and those supporting his successor, Danial Akhmetov. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February)

EDITOR OF OPPOSITION PAPER APPEALS TO U.S. ADMINISTRATION TO HELP MEDIA. In a letter dated 22 February addressed to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and carried by, Ermurat Bapi, who is the editor in chief of the opposition newspaper "SolDat," appealed to the U.S. to expedite the creation in Kazakhstan of an independent publishing house that would print newspapers critical of President Nursultan Nazarbaev and his regime. Bapi said an announcement was made at the time of Nazarbaev's visit to Washington in December 2001 that Washington is prepared to do so. Bapi explained that state-run publishing houses refuse to print not only his "SolDat," but two other independent newspapers that had expressed support for the demand that local administrators be publicly elected. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 February)

CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS BROUGHT AGAINST POET WHO CONFIRMED ARRESTED PARLIAMENT DEPUTY WAS BEATEN. An official from the Djalalabad City Prosecutor's Office said on 21 February that a criminal case has been filed against poet Asanbai Jusupbekov for "spreading false information," RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. Jusupbekov told RFE/RL on 18 and 20 February that when he visited arrested parliament deputy Azimbek Beknazarov in detention last week, Beknazarov told him he has been beaten. Also on 21 February, three Kyrgyz parliament deputies told a press conference in Bishkek that they have written statements from persons who spoke to Beknazarov in detention confirming that he has been mistreated. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February)

JOURNALISTS PROTEST PERCEIVED THREAT TO MEDIA FREEDOM. Journalists and political activists adopted an appeal in Bishkek on 21 February to Kyrgyzstan's president, Askar Akaev, to annul a decree he issued last month that they fear could serve as the rationale for closing media outlets the government considers subversive, Interfax and RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. The decree in question, which is aimed at preventing "subversive activities by extremist religious centers," empowers the Interior Ministry to make an inventory of printing presses in Kyrgyzstan. Experts argue that it violates the Kyrgyz Constitution. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February)

U.S. OFFICIAL REJECTS MEDIA ALLEGATIONS. A spokesmen for the international troops temporarily stationed at Bishkek's Manas international airport within the framework of the international antiterrorism operations in Afghanistan rejected on 25 February as misleading and untrue allegations published in the Kyrgyz Russian-language newspaper "Vechernii Bishkek" on 22 February, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported. The paper had alleged among other things that the U.S. pays only $4,000-$5,000 for each takeoff and landing of a military aircraft from Manas instead of the earlier agreed fee of $7,000. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February)

PROTESTERS MARCH ON TELERADIO. Demonstrators in Chisinau marched to the seat of Moldovan television on 26 February and handed its management a letter of protest against its alleged distortion of information on the events, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Popular Party Christian Democratic (PPCD) Chairman Iurie Rosca read out the protest, which said that the state radio and television company Teleradio Moldova "hinders the opposition's access" to presenting information in the broadcast media and thus "deprives the population of its right to information other than official information." The statement demanded that the opposition be allowed prime-time access. Teleradio Director Iulian Magaleas received the protesters, but rejected the demand. Meanwhile, some 150 journalists working for Teleradio Moldova signed the protest petition and the Moldovan Union of Journalists announced that it backs the demands. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 February)

MOLDOVAN RADIO, TV JOURNALISTS THREATEN TO STRIKE... Some 300 journalists who work for Teleradio Moldova submitted to the management a list of demands on 27 February and threatened to go on strike if those demands were not met within two weeks, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The journalists demand that Teleradio Moldova become a broadcasting authority independent of the government, that the cabinet stop the process of "enforced Russification" of the broadcast media, and that it lift "the taboo imposed on the words 'Romanian,' 'Romanian language,' 'Bessarabia,' 'History of Romanians', 'totalitarian regime,'" and others. The journalists are also demanding that Teleradio Moldova present "an nondistorted image of the current protest demonstrations." Meanwhile, the company's management refused to receive on 27 February representatives of the PPCD to discuss their demand that they be allowed to present their views on television. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 February)

...PROMPTING VORONIN TO RUSH TO TELERADIO MOLDOVA. President Vladimir Voronin met later with representatives of the journalist's strike committee and promised that all censorship on broadcasts will be lifted, Romanian radio reported. He also promised to reply to all the journalists' other demands. Voronin asked the journalists to present "balanced" reports, and to refrain from "favoring any political formation." But he rejected the journalists' demand that the PPCD be granted "equal coverage" in broadcasts. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 February)

CONCERN OVER CHARGES AGAINST THREE PRESSPUBLICA BOARD MEMBERS. In a 27 February letter to Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller, the Vienna-based journalism organization International Press Institute (IPI) expressed its concern over charges brought against three members of the managing board of Presspublica, the publisher of the daily "Rzeczpospolita," by the Prosecutor-General's Office in Warsaw. According to IPI, 51 percent of Presspublica's shares are held by Presspublica Holding Norway and 49 percent by PPW Rzeczpospolita, which is owned by the Polish government. Reportedly, PPW Rzeczpospolita has accused Grzegorz Gauden, president of the managing board of Presspublica, and Vice Presidents Elzbieta Poniklo and Piotr Fratczak, of using transfer pricing to the detriment of Presspublica. The charges imply that these actions are not in the company's best interest and favor the majority shareholder. As a result, the Prosecutor-General's Office -- apparently on its own initiative and without court sanction -- has seized the three board members' passports. They have also been told to report to the police on a regular basis and are denied the right to leave the country, including travelling to Norway to consult with Presspublica Holding. While the IPI stated that it does not "want to interfere" in a "struggle between shareholders," the press organization said that it is "watching the situation very carefully to make sure that it does not lead to a takeover of "Rzeczpospolita" by the government for its own "propaganda" purposes, a "well-known phenomenon in this region not so long ago." The IPI said that it is "convinced that the actions taken" against the three board members "are excessive." (International Press Institute, 27 February)

PARLIAMENT APPROVES LAW ON CLASSIFIED INFORMATION. The Chamber of Deputies on 25 February approved the final version of the Law on Protecting Classified Information, having earlier eliminated an article in that law that provided penalties for the unauthorized use and dissemination of classified information which had accidentally reached unauthorized persons. The opposition welcomed the article's elimination, but is still objecting to other articles regarded as potentially infringing on human rights. Opposition representatives said they will try to further amend the law when the Senate discusses it. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February)

PUTIN CALLS FOR MORE GOVERNMENT PROPAGANDA IN CHECHNYA. Addressing the meeting of the Russian Security Council after Federal Security Service (FSB) Director and Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko reported on the military and economic aspects of the Russian operation in Chechnya, President Vladimir Putin said in closing that he "thinks that the information vacuum in Chechnya is being filled too slowly," RIA-Novosti reported. "Although ORT and RTR [television] and state radio [are broadcast], and newspapers and journals are issued in the 16 regions of the [Chechen] republic.... Information work remains [to be done] in the zone where counterterrorist operations are being conducted," he remarked. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 February)

RFE/RL BROADCASTS TO NORTH CAUCASUS 'DELAYED TEMPORARILY.' The chairman of RFE/RL's oversight body, Marc Nathanson, announced a last-minute delay in the U.S.-backed broadcaster's plans to offer local-language news in the North Caucasus on 27 February, RFE/RL reported. He cited "serious" and "real" security issues. Broadcasts in Avar, Chechen, and Circassian were slated to begin on 28 February. Nathanson said his Broadcasting Board of Governors expects to meet "in a few weeks with the [Bush] administration" following White House consultations with the U.S. Congress, which has already approved funding for the broadcasts. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters the same day that the administration "felt that perhaps broadcasts in these local languages...could be counterproductive to the overall effort to get a dialogue started in Chechnya," RFE/RL reported. Sergei Yastrzhembskii, the Kremlin's chief spokesman on Chechen affairs, told Russian media in late January that the Putin administration would "pay special attention" to the broadcasts, and hinted that authorities could take away RFE/RL's local broadcast license if they detected a pro-rebel bias, news agencies and local media reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 February)

YELTSIN REPORTEDLY ALARMED BY STATUS OF FREEDOM OF SPEECH. Following a visit to former Russian President Boris Yeltsin's home on 27 February, Union of Rightist Forces head Boris Nemtsov told reporters that Yeltsin said that the Kremlin "should surround itself not so much with loyal people as with professionals." Nemtsov said Yeltsin was also very alarmed by the state of freedom of speech in Russia. Yeltsin reportedly said, "I tolerated any criticism and today find it difficult to make even a justified remark out loud." Nemtsov also said that he presented Yeltsin with a bust of Tsar Aleksandr II, a memento that Yeltsin appreciated, "saying that he understood what I am implying." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 February)

EKHO MOSKVY ANTICIPATES VACANCIES SOON... Ekho Moskvy radio will hold a shareholders meeting on 31 May to consider the resignations offered by Ekho Moskvy Editor in Chief Aleksei Venediktov and General Director Yurii Fedutinov, Interfax reported on 26 February. Venediktov announced that the nomination procedure to replace him would begin immediately, and that he does not intend to stay at the station since it is still not known how Gazprom intends to shed its stake in the radio. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 February)

...AS JOURNALISTS TO SET UP NEW HOME. A company established by Ekho Moskvy radio journalists won the tender to broadcast on the 87.5 FM frequency, the Media Ministry announced on 27 February, RIA-Novosti reported. According to, 58 out of the 80 journalists at Ekho Moskvy who participated in a secret ballot said that they would like to work at the Arsenal radio station. Ekho Moskvy Editor in Chief Venediktov revealed that he has obtained funding for Arsenal from some "Soros Fund structures," as well as from Urals media tycoon Nikolai Grakhov, according to RIA-Novosti. "Vremya novostei" reported the same day that a U.S. investment fund has given Venediktov a credit of $3 million, and that Venediktov together with Grakhov will receive a 50 percent stake in the new radio station. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 February)

NEW OLIGARCHS JOIN GROUP TO BID FOR TV-6. Media Minister Mikhail Lesin reported on 21 February that the ministry still has not received a single application for participation in the tender for TV-6's broadcasting rights, despite the fact that a number of individuals have expressed their intention to take part, reported. Meanwhile, in an interview with "Kommersant-Daily" on 20 February, Oleg Kiselev, former head of Metalloinvest, said that a number of oligarchs intend to participate in the tender together as a consortium. The consortium members will include Unified Energy systems (EES) head Anatolii Chubais, Chukotka Autonomous Okrug Governor Roman Abramovich, Russian Aluminum head Oleg Deripaska, MDM-bank head Aleksandr Mamut, Joint Machine Works head Kakha Bendukidze, Vympelkom's Dmitrii Zimin, MDM Group head Andrei Melnichenko, Sistema head Vladimir Yevtushenkov, and SUAL Holding head Viktor Vekselberg. According to the daily, former Gazprom-Media head Alfred Koch had to drop out of the consortium at the insistence of TV-6's journalists. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February)

MEDIA MINISTER OUTLINES PLANS. Mikhail Lesin said at the congress of his ministry on 26 February that most mass media organizations will work with the state commission during 2002 in order to determine the financial situations of broadcast and printing outlets, reported. Lesin said that the ministry will strive to develop "genuine public television" in Russia. However, he refused to explain to journalists how the state plans to develop public television, according to Ekho Moskvy radio. RIA-Novosti cited Russian First Deputy Media Minister Mikhail Seslavinsky, speaking at a Media Ministry board session on the same day, who observed that economic relations in the media business are "basic with regard to the problems of creation and freedom of self-expression." "We have seen this confirmed in deed as in word," he added Some observers might characterize the latter comment as an understatement. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 February; RIA-Novosti, 26 February)

NEW DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER TO OVERSEE MEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS MINISTRIES. Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko will supervise the work of the Labor, Health, Education, Culture, and Media ministries. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 February)

FORMER GAZPROM-MEDIA HEAD TO REPRESENT LENINGRAD OBLAST ON FEDERATION COUNCIL... Former Gazprom-Media head and former head of the State Property Committee Alfred Kokh was selected on 26 February as the Leningrad Oblast legislature's representative to the Federation Council. Interfax-Northwest had reported the previous day that Oleg Safonov, a former colleague of President Putin's from the office of St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak, was slated to get the position. However, according to "Izvestiya," 29 of 45 legislators in St. Petersburg supported Kokh's candidacy. According to the daily, almost all of the seats in the Federation Council have now been filled. Meanwhile, reported that Kokh said he will support the positions of Unity and the Union of Rightist Forces. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 February)

�AND PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SPOKESMAN TO LEAD PLANNING FOR ST. PETERSBURG FEST. Presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii has been selected as deputy chairman of the state commission for preparations for the 300th anniversary of St. Petersburg, reported on 26 February. Other members of the commission are presidential office administrator Vladimir Kozhin, Communications Minister Leonid Reiman, State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev, Duma Deputy Chairman (Fatherland-All Russia) Artur Chilingarov, All-Russia State Television and Radio Company head Oleg Dobrodeev, Russian Public Television General Director Konstantin Ernst, Federation of Independent Trade Unions head Mikhail Shmakov, and St. Petersburg Deputy Governor Anatolii Aleksashin. The website did not specify who will serve as chairman of the commission. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 February)

STATE DUMA MULLS CYRILLIC-ONLY BILL. The State Duma's Committee on Nationalities Affairs voted on 22 February to recommend the approval of a draft bill obliging all peoples living in Russia to use the Cyrillic script, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 26 February. If enacted, the draft bill would pose a setback to Tatarstan's five-year effort to reintroduce a Latin-based script. Committee members rejected a draft bill giving different ethic groups the right to choose scripts that was offered by Duma deputy (Russian Regions) and former Tatarstan Public Center Chairman Fandas Safiullin. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 February)

TV NO LONGER COVERS HUMAN RIGHTS NEWS ON CHECHNYA... Oleg Orlov heads the Human Rights Center of the Russian organization Memorial. His group has "documented in sickening detail" Russian military operations, including torture, executions and disappearances of civilians, reports the "The Washington Post." When Memorial holds news conferences in Moscow to release its reports, some newspapers do publish the group's documents. But, according to Orlov, "no television or radio station any longer dares to cover such news." ("The Washington Post," 25 February)

...AND HEAD OF GROZNY TV COMPANY REPORTED MISSING. Ilyas Magomedov, who is head of an independent Grozny TV channel, has disappeared after setting out on 21 February from his home in the village of Beloreche in Gudermes Raion to drive to Grozny, Interfax reported on 26 February. Magomedov never arrived in the capital, and his car has not been found. Also on 26 February, Russian presidential aide Yastrzhembskii told Interfax that he cannot confirm a report on the website that Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov's brother has been killed in an exchange of gunfire with Russian troops in Nozhai-Yurt Raion. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 February)

INTERIOR MINISTRY CLAIMS TO HAVE IDENTIFIED MURDERERS OF ORT DIRECTOR LISTEV. Speaking at a briefing in Moscow, Yurii Korolev, the deputy chief of the Interior Ministry's Main Criminal Police Department, said his agency has identified and issued international and federal arrest warrants for the alleged assassins of ORT television General Director Vladimir Listev, who was slain in 1993, Russian news agencies reported. He noted that the perpetrators of the crime are living abroad. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February)

ARE MOST RUSSIANS 'TIRED' OF CRITICAL TV... Writing in the journal "Ekspert" on 26 February, Igor Bunin; chief of the Political Technologies Center ( claims that the "new configuration of Russian television" is due not only to official policy, but also because it meets the needs of most Russians. Russians are "tired" of NTV's negative coverage, they are bored by "TV's attempts to play the main arbiter in the authorities' disputes" and by its "appeals to the 'civilized world.'" Bunin claims that this attitude is not limited to the pro-Putin "silent majority," but that "TV style is closely associated with current processes in society" and that "psychological stabilization" is now the prevalent mood in Russian society. Bunin says that Public Opinion Foundation surveys have found that most Russians do not understand their "right to have a position contrary to society's prevailing sentiments." Russians, "tired of conflicts," are ready to erect a "psychological barrier between themselves and [antigovernment] information and propaganda broadcasts." This, according to Bunin, is because Russians feel a "need for self-assertion and not for self-reproach." ("Ekspert," 26 February)

...AND DOES RUSSIAN MEDIA 'MARGINALIZE' ELITE? Igor Bunin, in the same article of "Ekspert" on 26 February, observes that "satellite television allows Russian yuppies to watch popular foreign channels," mainly CNN. Thus, Bunin notes, "there is an obvious tendency towards marginalizing the Russian media in most "advanced" social groups. While the state sector will now dominate television broadcasting in Russia, "non-state [media market] structures" will continue to exist, "in a greatly weakened state." ("Ekspert,": 26 February)

DID FREEDOM OF SPEECH 'KILL THE NATION?' The Public Opinion Foundation recently conducted an opinion poll on national pride in Russia. In responding to a question on what emotion they experienced most often about Russia, only 26 percent said they experienced pride, 39 percent said they were ashamed, 24 percent had mixed feelings, and 11 percent did not respond. Forty-eight percent of the respondents experienced the feeling of shame for Russia very often. The Russian victory in World War II topped the list of reasons for national pride, followed by space exploration and nostalgia for the USSR. Mass media played a negative role in the perestroika period which has led to "spiritual nihilism" in Russia. The poll, as reported in, found that "freedom of speech, of which we were all so proud, killed the nation." (, 21 February)

PRIVATIZATION OF RUSSIAN FILM INDUSTRY LAUNCHED IN ST. PETERSBURG. NTV reported on 24 February that the Culture Ministry has announced the beginning of the privatization of the Russian film industry with the sale of shares in the St. Petersburg-based Lenfilm studio. Meanwhile, Lenfilm Director Viktor Sergeev has tendered his resignation, Ekho Moskvy reported on 21 February. Sergeev told the station that he is not opposed to privatization of Russia's film studios, but the government "chose the wrong moment for a radical break-up of the film industry." Sergeev told NTV that there appears to be little investor interest in the studios, and that no oligarchs, such as Boris Berezovsky, have come along with any kind of financial offers -- attractive or otherwise -- for Lenfilm. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 February)

ELITE FOREIGN POLICY GROUP LAUDS ITS INFLUENTIAL REPORTS. The influential Council for Foreign and Defense Policy (SVOP) celebrated its 10th anniversary on 25 February, "Izvestiya" reported the same day. In an interview with the daily, SVOP head Sergei Karaganov explained that when the group started in early 1992, it was "necessary to integrate the old elite into the new society." According to Karaganov, the group has grown from dozens of members to 136. Karaganov also revealed that both Putin and former President Yeltsin read and discussed many of SVOP's reports. And he noted that the philosophy of the group's book, "Strategy for Russia: Agenda of the Day for the President-2000," "coincides to a significant degree with developments in today's Russia." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February)

NEW MAGAZINE ON WORLD'S ENERGY PROBLEMS LAUNCHED. Vitalii Tretyakov, the founder and former editor in chief of "Nezavisimaya gazeta," announced on 21 February that he will begin publication of the new magazine "Word Energy Policy" by the end of the month. The magazine will be devoted of the geopolitical aspects of the global competition for energy resources, reported. Tretyakov also revealed that he plans to launch a new mass daily, an analytical weekly, and a magazine to be called "Religious Review." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February)

DRAFT RADIO AND TELEVISION LAW PRESENTED... On 19 February, an expert team from Belgrade Arts University presented a draft radio and television law for a National Council to represent the public interest. The council would also issue licenses for radio and television organizations, and would be responsible to the parliament and the Serbian government. According to rector Milena Dragicevic Sesic, there are no greater cultural institutions in Serbia than the media. Goran Pekovic, the head of the expert team, said that the draft law envisages "three types of radio and television organizations -- public, private, and civilian" and the collection of subscription fees, primarily for national radio and television, but a certain percentage will be also be allocated for national cinematography. ("ANEM Media Update," 16-22 February)

...WHILE MINISTER SAYS BROADCASTING ACT WILL BE PRESENTED SOON. On 21 February, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Zarko Korac said that the final version of the Serbian broadcasting law would come before the government within a week. Korac told a forum at the First Media Fair in Novi Sad that the third working version of the public information act was also underway, as well as the first outline of the telecommunications act. ("ANEM Media Update," 16-22 February)

CHIEF DEFENDS POLICEMAN AFTER HE REFUSES TO GREET ROMANY JOURNALIST. Jozef Vojdula, the chief of police in Presov, eastern Slovakia, on 23 February announced that he is leaving the force after having come to the defense of a subordinate involved in a racial incident. The subordinate refused to shake hands with Romany journalist Denisa Havrlova until she showed him her "sanitary card." Following the incident, Havrlova accused the policeman of racism, but Vojdula said his subordinate had "acted in line with legal obligations, which oblige him to take care of his health." Interior Minister Ivan Simko offered Vojdula another job, citing his "professional skills," but Vojdula turned the offer down. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 February)

ZELEZNY-OWNED COMMERCIAL TV TO BEGIN SLOVAK BROADCASTS IN MARCH. TV Joj, which is owned by Vladimir Zelezny, is to begin broadcasting in Slovakia on 2 March, Richard Rybnicek, the director of the new station and of Czech Nova TV, told journalists in Bratislava on 25 February, CTK reported. He said the station will cover more than half of Slovakia's territory and will reach two-thirds of its population. Zelezny himself said the broadcasts are "not a victory over Markiza," the private channel owned by Pavol Rusko, and added that "it will be a long fight, with many rounds. But we know that the referee will declare the victor after two years, and we know who that victor will be." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 February)