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Media Matters: May 24, 2002

24 May 2002, Volume 2, Number 21
FIRST LADY VISITS RFE/RL, PRESENTS MESSAGE TO AFGHAN PEOPLE. During a visit to RFE/RL's Prague Broadcast Center on 21 May, first lady Laura Bush recorded a personal message to the Afghan people for broadcast on the broadcaster's Radio Free Afghanistan station and met with representatives of humanitarian organizations currently providing aid in Afghanistan. In welcoming Bush, RFE/RL President Thomas A. Dine emphasized the work of Radio Free Afghanistan in promoting democratic values and institutions and in helping train local journalists. "Broadcasting as we do from this building," Dine said, "we do not often directly see the results of our work,... [M]inds are being opened and lives are being changed." In her comments, the first lady recognized the work of Prague-based aid organizations like the People in Need Foundation, Caritas Czech Catholic Charities, and the Czech office of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), as well as RFE/RL, who are "delivering supplies, information, and economic assistance to people who desperately need them. By doing so, you are delivering help and hope for a better life, one person at a time.... Thanks to you, the people of Afghanistan are learning that the world's concern for them is also great. To the people of Afghanistan: You offer the outstretched hands of the world." Accompanying Bush during her visit to RFE/RL in Prague were U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic Craig Stapleton, Afghan Ambassador to the Czech Republic Azizullah Karzai, and White House Communications Director Karen Hughes. Katerina Stejskalova of Caritas, Lucie Sladkova of the IOM, Simon Panek and Tomas Pojar of the People in Need Foundation, and Abbas Djavadi and Golnaz Esfandiari of RFE/RL briefed the first lady. RFE/RL launched its Dari and Pashto broadcasts on 30 January and now broadcasts 10.5 hours a day in the languages. The FM broadcasts in Kabul are an integral part of a 24-hour program stream developed in cooperation with the Voice of America. Coverage of the first lady's visit, including text and audio of her address to the Afghan people in Dari, Pashtu, and English, will be available on RFE/RL's website at ("RFE/RL Press Release," 21 May)

INTERIM ADMINISTRATION PRESS LAW 'RIFE WITH RESTRICTIONS'... The 20 February Afghan interim administration's "Press Law Edit" was the subject of a detailed 9 May critique by the Ronald Koven of the World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC). The critique includes the following: "It is puzzling and note the deafening silence from Washington and other democratic nations with regard to the almost surreptitious adoption in Afghanistan of a 'new' press law that is actually rife with restrictions and prohibitions more appropriate to a dictatorship than to a developing democracy." Afghanistan's interim administration of Hamid Karzai has slightly revised a very restrictive draft press law and put it in force by a decree dated 20 February and signed by Karzai. Despite some editing, the edict's thrust is virtually the same as that of an earlier draft law. "The edict creates a rather elaborate press and periodical registration and licensing system that is subject to the obvious abuses inherent in such arrangements, along with what amounts to licensing of individual journalists," says Koven. The text creates "a set of extraneous, largely unpredictable problems by stating that any offenses not provided for within the law in question shall be subject to the Sharia [Islamic law]." The "problems are with the philosophy of press freedom as well as specific arrangements." (World Press Freedom Committee, 9 May)

...GRANTING AFGHAN GOVERNMENT MONOPOLY. Article 2 of the draft calls for the "healthy development of media" as "an effective tool" to publicize culture and to "reflect public opinion in an honest and effective way to the society." In Article 3, media are divided into categories, such as "private press" belonging to a self-financed "person having the license." According to Koven, "no license should be needed," and there is no provision for legal entities such as companies or corporations to enjoy private ownership. A licensee is defined as a "concessionaire," indicating that publishing is a privilege granted by the state. There is a suggestion in the revised definition that such a "concessionaire" could be a corporate body. Previously, the entity had to be an individual. Articles 4 and 11 provide that only Afghan citizens may publish or print publications, but elsewhere provision is generally made to allow at least partial foreign ownership through investment. The only provision for foreign-owned news media to be published in Afghanistan is for "news bulletins observing diplomatic norms" published by international organizations and agencies. They must have "permission" from the Information Ministry. Article 16 establishes a "monopoly of the government" over broadcasting. Article 19 states that a media owner must have written permission from the Information Ministry, but the text does not state the criteria for granting or withholding such permission; the article does say that a media owner must not have been "deprived of civil rights" by a court. The obvious danger is that a court may deprive a citizen of civil rights precisely for the purpose of depriving someone of the right to own media outlets. For a copy of the new law, e-mail: or (World Press Freedom Committee, 9 May)

PRESIDENT UNDERTAKES TO HELP INDEPENDENT TV STATION RESUME BROADCASTING. The head of a Council of Europe delegation to Yerevan, Pietro Ercole Ago, told journalists that his group conveyed to the Armenian leadership its concern that the tender in April that stripped the independent television station A1+ of its frequency "prevents the opposition from using the media to express its views," RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. He said the Council has reached an understanding with Kocharian that its experts will work with the Armenian side to ensure that when new frequencies are allocated and A1+ "can successfully participate in those tenders." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 May)

PRESIDENT SIGNS DIRECTIVE TO IMPLEMENT MEDIA LAW AMENDMENTS. President Heidar Aliyev has signed a decree on the implementation of amendments to the country's media law. The decree directs the presidential cabinet to draft and submit proposals to bring legislation and presidential cabinet and executive ordinances in accord with the new law. One key provision of the amendments puts the Justice Ministry in charge of the registration of periodicals. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Report," 12-19 May)

OPPOSITION PROTESTS AMENDMENTS TO COMMUNICATIONS LAW. The United Opposition Movement, which is composed of some 25 opposition parties, issued a statement on 21 May condemning as "illegal" and anticonstitutional amendments enacted several days earlier to the communications law, Turan reported. Those amendments empower the country's intelligence services to conduct phone taps. The statement said that provision could be intended for use against the opposition. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 May)

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES REJECTS DRAFT INFORMATION SECURITY BILL. On 22 May, the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus again rejected the draft law "On Ensuring Information Security," sponsored by a member of the upper chamber, the Council of the Republic, Mikalay Charhinets. Belarusian parliamentarian Uladzimir Navasyad told the Belarusian radio station Racyja that the Russian Duma's expertise -- which described the draft as "dangerous" -- was a decisive factor in the vote, Navasyad said. Several members of the Belarusian parliament also are reported to have referred to "the odious nature [of the draft] and a go-ahead for introducing the censorship" during the debate of the draft, reported the Belarusian Association of Journalists. For more:

DAILY CLAIMS SERB POPULATION IN COUNTRY HAS FALLEN BY TWO-THIRDS. The "Jutarnji list" daily reported on 22 May that the number of ethnic Serbs living in Croatia has fallen from 12 percent of the population to just 4 percent, citing leaked data collected by the State Bureau for Statistics (DZS), dpa reported. Some 600,000 Serbs lived in Croatia in 1991, according to the paper, while the new DZS figures reportedly emerged from a census conducted in 2001. Croatia has roughly 4.3 million people, suggesting that around 172,000 ethnic Serbs have remained despite the region's bloody ethnic conflicts. The DZS will officially present its figures in June, dpa reported. Some media have speculated that the figures are being delayed for tactical reasons as a bill goes through parliament on political representation of minorities, dpa noted, though the head of the DZS cited "technical reasons and limitations." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 May)

CZECH TELEVISION DIRECTOR REFUSES TO STEP DOWN. Czech Television Director Jiri Balvin rejected on 17 May the demands of the company's trade unions that he hand over his managerial duties to someone else for as long as the investigation into his case continues, CTK reported. In a letter to the unions, Balvin wrote that if he were to heed their demand he would be violating the law. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 May)

RUSTAVI-2 TV OFFICE FIRED ON. The office of most popular private TV company, Rustavi-2, was shot at. A bullet shattered a window but there were no injuries. It was the second case of shots hitting the company's office in recent weeks. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Report," 12-19 May)

PARLIAMENT APPOINTS SOCIALIST/FREE DEMOCRAT REPRESENTATIVES TO MEDIA BOARDS. The parliament on 21 May also approved Socialist and Free Democrat nominees to the boards of trustees of state-owned media, which had been operating without any left-wing representation for years, according to Hungarian media. The FIDESZ-led government had kept its opponents' delegates off the boards by saying that they had to reach agreement on their candidates with the extremist Hungarian Justice and Life Party. Before the voting, FIDESZ Chairman Zoltan Pokorni argued that FIDESZ and the Democratic Forum (MDF) were entitled to nominate one more delegate to the boards of trustees, as pro-governing and opposition delegates must be equal in number, at four each. FIDESZ had two delegates on the truncated boards and the MDF and the Smallholders had one each. However, Pokorni said that Smallholder members had become "neutral," as the party was voted out of parliament. FIDESZ and the MDF will name a joint delegate and the parliament will vote on them at a later date. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 May)

PANNON RADIO STILL BROADCASTING IN 'OLD DRESSING.' The new studio that was legally licensed on 17 May to operate as Pannon Radio has suspended its programming in the hopes of reaching an agreement with its "breakaway" counterpart operating at the Calvinist Church headquarters in downtown Budapest, Hungarian dailies reported. However, Attila Gidofalvy, the executive manager of Gido Media, the company that operates the radio station, said that no such agreement has been reached. Bela Gyori of the extremist Hungarian Justice and Life Party, who is also a spokesman for the "breakaway" studio and a board member of Gido Media, reported the legally licensed station to the police for what he called "unlawful on-air broadcasting." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May)

TWO INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS TARGETED. The editorial office in Almaty of the independent weekly newspaper "Respublika" was destroyed by Molotov cocktails early on 22 May, Reuters and RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. According to the paper's editor, Irina Petrushova, the decapitated body of a dog was hung on the office window three days earlier with a note saying, "This is the last warning." She later found the dog's head and a similar note near her home. On 21 May, unidentified assailants forced their way into the editorial office of the newspaper "Sol-Dat," beat and bound two journalists, and stole computers and other equipment, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. "Sol-Dat" Editor Ermurat Bapi told journalists on 22 May he is convinced the attack was politically motivated. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 May)

INFORMATION RESTRICTIONS CONTINUE. Internet provider Kaztelekom, which is controlled by the state and special services, has resumed an information blockade. It blocks access to the Eurasia website and information that the National Security Committee deems dangerous. Meanwhile, only selected media outlets were allowed to attend a roundtable discussion of a new draft political parties bill in the Institute of Strategic Studies, although all journalists had been invited one day earlier. In another incident in early May, railroad police in Semipalatinsk seized copies of the most recent issue of the paper "Kazakhstan" from a local activist of the opposition Democratic Choice for Kazakhstan (DVK). The railroad police acted without a warrant and did not make case materials available to the activist's defense attorney. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Report," 12-19 May)

JOURNALIST FACES CRIMINAL CHARGES. A criminal case of hooliganism has been brought against human rights journalist Ziyakhidin Mamazhanov from the Djalalabad Region. According to these charges, in December he told his daughter-in-law that she should move to her parents' residence while his son was in Russia for temporary work. The police allege that the journalist stole 15,000 soms and threw away his daughter-in-law's possessions. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Report," 12-19 May)

JOURNALISTS DETAINED AFTER RALLY. Bishkek police detained and brought to a police precinct RFE/RL correspondent Zharkyn Temirbaeva and the editor of a local newspaper whose name was not reported. The journalists had attended a 16 May rally to protest the 1999 border agreement with China in which Kyrgyzstan had ceded 95,000 hectares of land. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Report," 12-19 May)

PRINT SHOP VERSUS FREEDOM OF THE PRESS. International organizations are involved in the launch of an independent publishing house in Bishkek welcomed by Kyrgyzstan's independent media. ("Media Insight Central Asia," Issue 23)

JOURNALISTS PROTEST THREATS TO SAFETY. Macedonia's Association of Journalists was planning to stage peaceful protests throughout the country on 20 May, Makfax news agency reported. The association called on journalists throughout Macedonia to don bulletproof vests and helmets to show their intentions to protect their personal safety in light of increasing threats to their lives as a result of their work. The association stressed that it will not allow the protests to be abused for any purposes unrelated to securing the safety of journalists. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 May)

COURT HANDS DOWN LANDMARK RULING ON COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT. A court in Chisinau ordered the owner of a website to pay 360 lei ($27) in damages to three British authors whose works it carried without their permission, AP reported. The amount is minuscule by Western standards but is a considerable sum in Moldova, where the average monthly salary is 603 lei. Internet surfers could read the books for free, but the site's owners made money through advertisements. The court made its ruling in March but publicized it only now. The case against the website's owner was brought to the court by the British-based Publisher's Association, which praised the ruling, saying that it upholds the principle of copyright. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 May)

'GAZETA WYBORCZA' DAILY SUES POPULIST AGRARIAN FOR SLANDER... Agora -- the publisher of Poland's largest daily, "Gazeta Wyborcza" -- wants an apology in the press and 50,000 zlotys ($12,000) in damages from the leader of the radical agrarian union Self-Defense, Andrzej Lepper, PAP reported on 21 May. Lepper is accused of disseminating lies about massive tax breaks that allegedly benefited Agora. Lepper asserted during his parliamentary speeches in February and April, as well as in his recently published book, that Agora took advantage of tax breaks amounting to "many billions of zlotys" as the result of an amendment of the law on corporation tax adopted in 2000. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 May)

...WHILE AGRARIAN WANTS TO SUE 'WPROST' WEEKLY. Lepper told journalists on 21 May that his lawyers will sue the weekly "Wprost" for comparing him with Adolf Hitler, PAP reported. This week's issue of "Wprost" presents Lepper's photograph on the cover with the inscription "Heil Lepper!" Lepper wants the weekly to pay 1 million zlotys in damages for charity purposes. "Using Lepper as a scarecrow, showing photographs of Lepper as Hitler in the 'Wprost' weekly is unacceptable. This quite simply suggests that if Lepper came to power he would do what Hitler did," Lepper commented. Meanwhile, a recent poll by CBOS found that Lepper's Self-Defense gained 3 percent support compared with a similar poll last month, and is currently supported by 13 percent of Poles. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 May)

NEWSPAPER FOUNDER MURDERED IN SIBERIA. Entrepreneur Aleksandr Plotnikov was found murdered in his dacha in Tyumen Oblast in Siberia on 19 May, RFE/RL's Tyumen correspondent reported. Police currently believe the murder was a contract hit. Plotnikov recently lost a legal bid to restore his control over the local newspaper "Gostinyi dvor," of which he was one of the founders. Meanwhile, Aleksei Simonov, chairman of the Glasnost Defense Foundation, told reporters in Moscow on 17 May that he believes that criminal investigations into the deaths of journalists should not be conducted by local law enforcement or investigative organs but by the Prosecutor-General's Office, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May)

'NOVAYA GAZETA' TO APPEAL TO RUSSIAN SUPREME COURT AND EUROPEAN COURT. The embattled paper "Novaya Gazeta" will appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg if Russian courts uphold a ruling that it must pay $500,000 in compensation to Mezhprombank, the paper's editor in chief Dmitrii Muratov told Interfax on 22 May. Mezhprombank filed a lawsuit against the paper, claiming that its article allegedly prompted a client to withdraw a large sum from his bank account. A Basmanny district court granted the bank's lawsuit, which was later upheld by the Moscow City Court. According to Muratov, as soon as the court's ruling is confirmed, bailiffs may appear in the paper's editorial office. The editor in chief said the newspaper will file an appeal with the presidium of the Moscow City Court, but that it is very likely to uphold the previous court finding. Muratov believes the bank's lawsuit against his paper "has purely political motives," and said that "Novaya Gazeta" has lately been "facing more and more lawsuits," including over articles it published several years ago. (Interfax, 22 May)

ST. PETERSBURG DUMA MEMBER FILES SUIT AGAINST 'NOVAYA GAZETA.' St. Petersburg parliamentarian Yurii Shutov has brought a libel suit against "Novaya Gazeta" and journalist A. Shalaev. Shutov claims that parts of a 13 May article titled "40 Months Of Solitude" are libelous. Shutov, who is currently in prison, wants a court ruling that the paper should publish a retraction and make a public apology. In addition, Shutov wants the paper's publishers and Shalaev each to pay him 250,000 rubles. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Report," 12-19 May)

TV-6 DEBUT COULD BE DELAYED. After a meeting on 16 May with Media Minister Mikhail Lesin, Media Sotsium General Director Oleg Kiselev told Interfax that the company may start broadcasting on channel six in late May or early June. Kiselev said the ministry and company are bringing their positions "closer together," and the company may initially have only temporary permission to broadcast. The station was previously expected to come back on the air on 26 May, but the Media Ministry refused to give the new company a new broadcasting license until after the existing one has been annulled, reported. According to the website, complications arose because the proprietor, Moscow Independent Broadcasting Corporation (MNVK), has not yet been liquidated legally. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 May)

TV TOP BRASS TOLD TO DROP BRAZEN PUTIN PRAISE. According to the BBC on 20 May, citing "Moskovskii Komsomolets," the Kremlin's Presidential Chief of Staff Aleksandr Voloshin called in the ORT head and the RTR chief to tell them that the two state-run national networks were engaging in "bootlicking which verges on sabotage." "Moskovskii Komsomolets" quoted a confidential source within the Kremlin who said the heads of ORT and TNT were taken to task for failing to find exactly the right note in their positive coverage of the president. (BBC World Service, 20 May; and "Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Report," 12-19 May)

SIX ARRESTED FOR SUSPECTED INVOLVEMENT IN KILLING OF EDITOR. Samara Oblast Prosecutor A. Yefremov told a news conference in Samara on 6 May that six men have been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the 29 April murder of V. Ivanov, editor in chief of the paper "Tolyattinskoye Obozreniye." A team of 11 investigators are looking into various scenarios, in particular that Ivanov's struggle against organized crime and corruption at the Volga car plant or in local government could have been the motive. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Report," 12-19 May)

KABARDINO-BALKARIAN JOURNALISTS SPEAK OUT. Kabardino-Balkarian journalists told a Moscow news conference on 16 May that the republic's president, V. Kokov, has led a campaign against the independent local press. According to V. Khatazhukov, editor in chief of the independent paper "Adyge Kheku," his newspaper has not been published since the republic's 13 January presidential elections because it published materials about other candidates for republican presidential office. He spoke of a secret agreement among local officials to refuse to rent office space to his newspaper. A former reporter for state television, S. Kusova, claimed that the habits of Soviet-era censorship are alive in local television. Such behavior by the Kremlin-backed republican authorities feeds separatist sentiment in Kabardino-Balkaria, the journalists asserted. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Report," 12-19 May)

MOSCOW INTERNET JOURNALISTS PREVAIL IN COURT OVER KHANTY-MANSII OFFICIALS. The Moscow City Arbitration Court rejected a suit filed by the Khanty-Mansii Autonomous Krug Interior Office against journalists. Khanty-Mansii police wanted the Internet site to refute its 8 February report and pay them 50 million rubles in moral damages. The report alleged that police chiefs enlisted soldiers to fight in Chechnya who had previously been in the ranks of the punishment police battalion. The Interior Office maintained that the report damaged the image of law-enforcement agencies in Khanty-Mansii and throughout Russia. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Report," 12-19 May)

KRASNODAR KRAI CALLS FOR PROTECTION OF MORALS IN BROADCASTING. The Krasnodar Krai legislature has called on President Vladimir Putin, the Federation Council, and the State Duma to pass a federal law to establish a Higher Council for the Protection of Public Morals in TV and Radio Broadcasts. The legislature insists that television and radio is "continuously abused" throughout Russia because it "spreads propaganda rejecting spiritual and moral values," giving rise to "contempt for the history, traditions, and customs of the Russian nation and state." Numerous media outlets "consistently instill the cult of violence and profit-making." According to the appeal, the need to imitate "the civilized West" is presented as an alternative to "the ideals of collectivism and unity, friendship between peoples" which are basic to Russian mentality. Such media outlets "contribute to forming a lustful society of individualists" who gradually give up their human dignity and honor. Although a doctrine of Russia's information security exists, "the state has completely lost control over activities of state and private TV and radio companies," claims the Krasnodar legislature. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Report," 12-19 May)

VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT RADIO EXECUTIVE IN JAGODINA. On 9 May, a bomb exploded under the car of Goran Djurdjevic, the head of Jagodina Radio broadcaster Novi Put, according to a police statement. No one was injured, but several parked cars and the windows of nearby homes were damaged in the blast. In another violent incident on 13 May, a hand grenade was thrown at Goran Djurdjevic. ("ANEM Media Update," 11-17 May)

POSTAL DIRECTOR SUES 'BLIC' EDITOR. On 15 May, Serbian Postal Offices General Manager filed libel charges against "Blic" Editor in Chief Veselin Simonovic and three of his journalists. ("ANEM Media Update," 11-17 May)

EDITOR FINED BY KIKINDA COURT. On 14 May, a Kikinda municipal court fined "Kikindske Novine" Editor Zeljko Bodrozic 10,000 dinars ($150) in a libel suit brought by the general manager of the Toza Markovic plant. The article, published in January, was titled "Born For Reforms." A Toza Markovic worker reportedly physically assaulted Bodrozic at the end of the trial. The case will be appealed. ("ANEM Media Update," 11-17 May)

DIRECTOR OF MAGYAR SZO FINED. On 16 May, the Subotica Municipal Court fined the director of the Hungarian-language daily "Magyar Szo" 15,000 dinars ($225) plus court expenses of 13,500 dinars. Mihok was fined over the article "Guests At Don Corleone's Dinner" on 13 May 2001 after it was deemed insulting to the former director of the Pionir candy factory and current chairman of the board, Miroljub Aleksic. The editor said he never mentioned Aleksic by name in the article. ("ANEM Media Update," 11-17 May)

PREMIER STRESSES THE IMPORTANCE OF FREE MEDIA. Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda stressed the importance to his country of free and professional media during a visit to RFE/RL Broadcast Center in Prague and said RFE/RL continues to occupy an important place in Slovakia's media landscape. In an interview with RFE/RL's Slovak Service, Dzurinda said he believes it will be possible to forge a coalition without former Premier Vladimir Meciar after the parliamentary elections scheduled for September. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 May)

DAILY TO PAY COMPENSATION TO ULTRANATIONALIST LEADER. A Zilina regional court on 21 May upheld the decision of a lower court obliging the daily "Novy cas" to pay 5 million crowns ($105,414) in damages to Real Slovak National Party (PSNS) Chairman Jan Slota for having published false information about him, CTK reported. In 1999, "Novy cas," the largest-circulation daily in the country, reported that Slota was seen drunk in a Bratislava restaurant and urinated on the restaurant's terrace. At that time, Slota was chairman of the Slovak National Party (SNS). His controversial statements eventually led to his replacement by Anna Malinkova and an subsequent split in the SNS, which led to the establishment of the PSNS. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 May)

STATE SWITCHES OFF RUSSIAN TV. Russian ORT and RTR TV broadcasts in Tajikistan have been restricted or halted. According to local experts, the main reason for these measures is not debt but the government's effort to halt broadcasts not under its control. ( ("Media Insight Central Asia," Issue 23)

INFORMATION POLICY TAKES EARLY SHAPE. The State Information Policy and TV and Radio Broadcasting Committee has drafted and sent to the cabinet a concept for state information policy. The concept will be the fundamental document making it possible "to do conscious work on legislation in the sphere of information policy," said Ivan Chizh, the committee head. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Report," 12-19 May)

SUSPECT IN JOURNALIST'S MURDER RELEASED... On 17 May, the man accused in the July 2001 murder of leading TV journalist Igor Aleksandrov was acquitted by the Donetsk Court of Appeals in eastern Ukraine. The court ruled that there was not enough evidence to convict Yurii Verdyuk and instructed officials to reopen the murder investigation, according to local and international news reports. Law-enforcement officials arrested Verdyuk in August, a month after the murder, but he was not charged until mid-December. On the morning of 3 July, Aleksandrov, director of the independent television company Tor, was assaulted by unknown attackers with baseball bats. The journalist died in hospital on 7 July. Aleksandrov's colleagues believe the murder was connected to his television program, "Bez Retushi" ("Without Retouching"), which featured investigative coverage of government corruption and organized crime. The program often criticized Slavyansk city officials. (Committee to Protect Journalists, 17 May)

...AFTER FLAWED INVESTIGATION... Shortly after the murder, Donetsk regional Prosecutor Viktor Pshonka launched an official investigation. According to the local press, Donetsk regional Governor Viktor Yanukovich and Ukrainian Interior Minister Yuriy Smyrnov were directly involved in supervising the investigation. The chief of the Donetsk Ministry of Internal Affairs, General Vladimir Malyshev, claimed without elaborating that revenge was the leading motive in the murder. A parliamentary investigative commission, was established in September; within months, it accused the Ukrainian Security Service of falsifying evidence. See or contact, alupis (Committee to Protect Journalists, 17 May)

...WITH OTHER SIDE EFFECTS. The Donetsk Court of Appeals informed Verdyuk that he has a right to sue prosecutors for keeping him illegally in custody for nine months. Aleksandrov's widow was pleased with the "unexpected" court verdict. The journalist's family has repeatedly proclaimed Veredyuk's innocence. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Report," 12-19 May)

WHAT DOES CHIEF CENSOR'S DISMISSAL REALLY MEAN? Uzbekistan's law on state secrets gives a vague and general definition of state secrets: "Top secret, secret, and confidential defense, political, economic, technological and other data protected by the state and specified in special lists will be the Republic of Uzbekistan's state secrets." Unlike the similar Russian law, observes Viktoriya Blonskaya of the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, the Uzbek law does not include an official list of state secrets. Therefore, if media outlets in Uzbekistan want to know whether the data they want to report is deemed secret, they must apply to the Committee for the Protection of State Secrets in the Media. This month's dismissal of Erkin Komilov, head of the Committee for the Protection of State Secrets in the Media -- along with the demotion to a new, advisory status for the committee -- is the subject of lively discussion among journalists in Uzbekistan. Some thought the step spells the elimination of censorship. Some others believe that Komilov's dismissal was meant to mollify the United States with a limited liberalization of censorship. According to local observers, it is too soon to see if the Uzbek media is able to work under freer conditions. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Report," 12-19 May)

PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE TO 'ASSIST' IN ANNUAL MEDIA PLAN. Effective from March, Uzbekistan's media must heed the counsel of the presidential press service, which requires a media plan one year in advance. ("Media Insight Central Asia," Issue 23)

NEW BOOK ON RUSSIAN MEDIA LAW AND POLICY UNDER YELTSIN. A 572-page study, "Russian Media Law & Policy in the Yeltsin Decade: Essays and Documents," edited by Monroe E. Price, Andrei Richter, and Peter K. Yu has recently been published. The book deals with the tumultuous days in the first decade of post-Soviet Russia; struggles for journalistic editorial autonomy; media wars between the Yeltsin government and the Russian legislature; and the role of the U.S. other governments and nongovernmental organizations in shaping the new media.

ARTICLE 19: 'ACCESS TO THE AIRWAVES.' On 15 May Article 19 published "Access to the Airwaves," a set of principles on how to implement a system of broadcast regulation consistent with international standards on freedom of expression and which promotes a diverse and pluralistic broadcast sector. The principles are based on the premise that in a democratic society, freedom of expression must be guaranteed and may be subject only to narrowly drawn restrictions. They apply to specific regimes for the regulation of broadcasting but also apply more generally to state and private action. They recognize the need for independent broadcasting, free of government or commercial interference, as well as the need in some areas for positive action to ensure a lively, diverse broadcasting sector. The principles also cover: broadcast licensing systems; independence of regulatory bodies; election coverage; restrictions on content; and transformation of state broadcasters into "true" public service broadcasters. For more, see or e-mail:

AFGHAN AND UZBEK JOURNALISTS MEET IN TERMEZ. "Unless freedom of expression and democracy are based on a strong economy, they can spark tension and conflicts in society," said reporters from northern Afghanistan who attended a seminar in Uzbekistan, where they met with Uzbek colleagues to discuss media liberalization. ( ("Media Insight Central Asia," Issue 23)


By Alexandra Poolos

In February 1993, Jonathan Randal, a correspondent for "The Washington Post," traveled to Banja Luka, Bosnia, to report on the forced expulsion of non-Serbs from their homes and lands. As part of his research, Randal interviewed Bosnian Serb housing administrator Radoslav Brdjanin, an avowed radical Serb nationalist. Randal quoted Brdjanin as saying the "exodus" of non-Serbs should be carried out so as to create an "ethnically clean space" in Bosnian Serb territory. Brdjanin argued for a peaceful, "voluntary movement" and said Muslims and Croats "should not be killed, but should be allowed to leave -- and good riddance."

Brdjanin and another Bosnian Serb, Momir Talic, are now defending themselves at the United Nations war crimes tribunal against charges related to the persecution and expulsion of more than 100,000 non-Serbs during the Bosnian war. Both defendants have pleaded innocent to 12 counts of war crimes, including genocide. The prosecution at The Hague-based court has subpoenaed Randal to testify against Brdjanin, saying the journalist -- who is now retired -- has evidence that goes to the "heart of the case."

But on 10 May, Randal appealed his summons at a hearing before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), arguing that journalists should not be compelled to give evidence at war crimes trials. Such testimony, he said, would set a dangerous precedent that could compromise the work of reporters. A decision in Randal's appeal, which is not expected for a few weeks, will influence the role of journalists as witnesses in future war crimes trials and will be especially critical when the International Criminal Court comes into existence this summer.

Randal's defense lawyer, Mark Stephens, told RFE/RL that his client believes journalists should be required to give evidence only when it is "absolutely necessary" to prove guilt or innocence. "Mr. Randal believes that this is an important point of principle, that journalists should only be given the obligation to give evidence when it is absolutely necessary and when the evidence they've got is compelling testimony that goes to the heart of the case, and [when] it's testimony which can't be gotten from any other source. In this particular case, the evidence can be gotten from a variety of other sources, and it doesn't go to the core or the heart of the charges against Mr. Brdjanin," Stephens said.

Randal and his lawyers are arguing that his evidence amounts to hearsay because Randal relied on a translator during his interview with Brdjanin. Stephens said he believes the prosecution is pursuing the summons only to make an example out of Randal, an internationally respected journalist. "[The prosecution] started this particular approach, and they don't want to be seen to climb down. They readily acknowledge that there are other people who could give this evidence, and in those circumstances the question one would have is, 'Why on Earth don't they go to those individuals who could give that evidence, who could more credibly give that evidence?' Mr. Randal can only give hearsay evidence. That is, he listened to the interview via a translator," Stephens said.

Stephens said Randal is objecting to his subpoena because he wants to protect other journalists from being required to testify at war crimes trials. Stephens said that compelling journalists to give testimony will make them potential "targets." The dangers are especially worrying, Stephens said, for journalists in countries such as Yugoslavia. "If a Serbian journalist had had a similar interview with Mr. Brdjanin, and he had said similar things, that journalist still living in Yugoslavia probably would not have the wherewithal to resist the subpoena in the same way Mr. Randal has that luxury. And also that particular journalist would be in personal danger, probably, because of where they live," Stephens said.

But Florence Hartmann, a prosecution spokeswoman for the ICTY, said that being a journalist is, in itself, dangerous. While she acknowledges there are some additional dangers involved in giving testimony at a war crimes trial, she believes that it is a journalist's duty. "Testifying puts journalists in danger. But testifying, in the first stage, is [the] writing [of] the article. Then, [let's] stop journalism. It's also testifying to write an article. Being a witness of some events is always dangerous. But testifying in court, especially to corroborate what you've already written in the newspaper, doesn't put journalists in danger," Hartmann said.

Further, Hartmann explained that it is necessary for Randal to take the stand if his article is going to be introduced as evidence. "In our system, you cannot bring as evidence an article without bringing a journalist to corroborate the article, saying in front of the court that the article was written in this condition, that a journalist was present at this meeting, that the accused said to him directly what is written in the article. It's a way to corroborate or to authenticate a written document," Hartmann said.

David Badge is analyst at the International Press Institute, a media-rights organization based in Vienna. Badge said that by forcing Randal to testify, the ICTY could weaken the "privileged position" journalists enjoy as impartial observers to events. "[Journalists] could be seen to be partial, and once that's perceived, they could lose their objectivity and balance. But even more importantly, journalists are put in a dangerous position from time to time, and this may mean when questioning people who come, say, from a criminal background [that] their lives may be at risk. It's also important to realize that the public needs information like this, and if journalists are perceived to be handing over this confidential information, they may not to be able to get this [type of] information again," Badge said.

Badge also believes that requiring journalists to testify takes the onus off prosecutors in collecting the necessary evidence against war crimes suspects. "I would find it disturbing if this set a precedent for the appearance of journalists to once again carry out the work of what I think is the duty and the role of the prosecutor's office and very much the administration of justice in general," Badge said.

Defense lawyer Stephens said the ICTY must take into account the future of international law and its impact on journalism when it rules on Randal's appeal. He said that if The Hague wins its battle to force Randal to testify, it will fundamentally impair the ability of reporters to gather information. Journalists, he fears, could be seen as the investigative arm of a judicial system or government and not as impartial observers.

(Alexandra Poolos is an RFE/RL correspondent.)