9 August 2002, Volume
MACHIAVELLIAN MEDIA MANIPULATION?
Writing in "Transitions Online" on 2 August, Laura Belin provides a thoughtful review of a 197-page book, "The Rational Politician: Exploiting the Media in New Democracies," by Andrew K. Milton, published in 2000. She notes that "the scholarly literature on transitions from authoritarian rule pays relatively little attention to the media's contribution" to this process. Belin calls Milton's detailed analysis of media policies in Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia a "welcome contribution." The first three chapters of Milton's readable book set forth theoretical arguments about institutions and transitions from authoritarianism to democracy. In Belin's view, this section is the book's "greatest strength" and has major implications for press freedom. One of Milton's main arguments is that creating new institutions, such as electoral processes, is a rather different process from restructuring existing institutions, such as the news media. For Milton, rational choice theory and organizational analysis help explain official policies toward the media as well as why media behavior may have changed less than political rhetoric would suggest. For new politicians given the opportunity to exploit the media, "the imperatives of democratization can sometimes be less potent" than winning elections or nation building. Old relationships between political elites and journalists need to be undone so as to gain media freedom in postcommunist countries, but new democratic actors have no incentive to fundamentally change those relationships. "The Rational Politician" argues that the main obstacle to democratizing existing institutions in postcommunist countries lies in the nature of the institutions themselves, not in the Leninist legacy of those institutions. For the complete text, see http://www.tol.cz. CC
CIVIC GROUPS CALLS FOR FREE AND PLURALISTIC MEDIA.
Civic groups in Afghanistan are calling on the government to transform the state-run broadcaster into a public-service media outlet, adopt an access-to-information law, and remove restrictive provisions in the press law, reports U.K.-based Article 19. At a 30-31 July meeting, journalists, academics, and NGOs made recommendations for promoting an independent and pluralistic media in Afghanistan http://www.article19.org/docimages/1321.doc in preparation for a major United Nations-sponsored seminar on independent media on 3-5 September. A recent report in Index on Censorship (INDEX) observes that the new press law passed in April lacks clear guidelines for protecting journalists from threats or legal action if they report on sensitive issues. Although the law creates a media review commission to oversee press complaints, it does not set out a framework for it (see http://www.indexonline.org/news/20020510_afghan.shtml). Article 19 welcomed the Afghan government's recent "Policy Directions on Reconstruction and Development of Media," which sets forth media regulation and development goals. See http://www.article19.org/docimages/1322 for Article 19's English-language analysis and http://www.article19.org/docimages/1323 for its Dari-language analysis of the document. CC
EMBATTLED TV STATION MAY FACE DELAY IN RESUMING BROADCASTS.
The independent television station A1+, which was forced to cease broadcasting in April after losing a tender for its broadcast frequency, may be unable to resume broadcasts before the end of this year, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Following criticism by the international community for the way the tender was held, President Robert Kocharian told Council of Europe officials in May that A1+ may participate in tenders planned for October for four other frequencies. But Grigor Amalian, head of the government commission charged with organizing the new tenders, said they may be postponed as "there are concerns that this does not seem to be the right time" to hold them. He did not elaborate. A1+ owner Mesrop Movsisian told RFE/RL he believes the decision on whether or not to postpone the tender will depend on how the campaign for next year's presidential poll, in which Kocharian is seeking a second term, develops. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August)JOURNALISTS VISIT TURKEY.
In late July, a group of Armenian journalists made their second visit to Turkey. The visit was organized by the Yerevan Press Club and the Association of Diplomatic Correspondents of Turkey, with the assistance of the Center for Global Peace of the American University in Washington, D.C. The visit included a roundtable with Greek journalist George Terzis, the media program director of the European Center for Common Ground (Brussels), who discussed the role of the media in the rapprochement of Greece and Turkey. The Armenian journalists also met with parliamentarians and the Armenian-language press of Turkey. (Yerevan Press Club, 2 August)IRAN STATE TV AND RADIO OPENS OFFICE IN YEREVAN.
On July 29, the Central News Service bureau of Iranian State Television and Radio opened in Yerevan. (Yerevan Press Club, 2 August)
CPJ: INDEPENDENT MAGAZINE, EDITOR HARASSED.
On 7 August, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) expressed deep concern over the government's recent use of defamation lawsuits and official pressure to silence the Baku-based independent magazine "Monitor," which is known for its critical reporting on officials. In an open letter to President Heidar Aliev, CPJ also noted concern over the ongoing harassment of the magazine's publisher and editor in chief, Elmar Huseinov. According to Azerbaijani and international reports, on 29 July a Baku Court found Huseinov and Eynulla Fetullaev, a reporter for "Monitor," guilty of defamation and ordered them to pay a fine of 50 million manats ($10,200) and publish a retraction of the article. The recent difficulties for "Monitor" began after the magazine's 6 April launch when the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry sued "Monitor" for defamation. In its first issue, the magazine published a critical first-person account by Fetullaev of his experience in the military. In addition, upon the release of its first edition, "Monitor" could not print later issues because both state and private printing houses refused to print it. Huseinov said he now fears that a criminal defamation prosecution based on Fetullaev's article will be launched against him and the author. CPJ noted that this is "simply the latest episode in the government's relentless persecution of Huseynov [sic] and his publications." (Committee to Protect Journalists, 7 August)
OFFICIAL BRINGS LIBEL SUIT AGAINST OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER...
Anatol Tozik, the chairman of the powerful and fearsome State Monitoring Committee, has filed a libel suit with a district court in Minsk against the Minsk-based private newspaper "Nasha svaboda" and its staff writer, Mikhail Padalyak, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 31 July. Tozik is demanding some $110,000 in damages from "Nasha svaboda" for running an article in July that he claims injured his "honor, dignity, and business reputation." The text of the article in question states: "Anatol Tozik, who is holding a monopoly for supplying the current president with analytical information on economic, business, and financial matters, has repeatedly approached [President Alyaksandr] Lukashenka with personal complaints about current Prosecutor-General [Viktar] Sheyman's unsuitability for the position." Padalyak claims that the article was based on analytical memos of Russian special services. "This is nothing more than an order from the top-level authorities to stifle the independent press," "Nasha svaboda" Editor in Chief Pavel Zhuk commented on the lawsuit. Zhuk previously ran two newspapers -- "Svaboda" and "Naviny" -- that were shut down by authorities. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August)...RESULTING IN HEAVY FINE FOR 'NASHA SVABODA.'
A district court in Minsk on 2 August fined independent newspaper "Nasha svaboda" some $55,000 in the libel case brought by Anatol Tozik, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. The court also ordered staff writer Padalyak, who wrote the article, to pay Tozik some $2,700 in damages. Some commentators say the damages are exorbitant in the country where the average monthly wage is around $100 and claim the verdict may be tantamount to the paper's liquidation. In the past, authorities have shut down two periodicals run by "Nasha svaboda" Editor in Chief Zhuk -- "Svaboda" and "Nashy naviny." "The court has fulfilled Lukashenka's order," Zhuk told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service. Padalyak claimed in his article that the Kremlin is now working on a strategy to replace Lukashenka with some other politician who could be as politically loyal to Moscow as Lukashenka but more compliant regarding economic issues. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August)INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER'S OFFICE BURGLARIZED.
The office of the Minsk-based private weekly "Zhoda" (Accord) was burglarized early on 5 August, Belapan reported. "Zhoda" Editor in Chief Alyaksey Karol told the news agency that the thieves stole hard discs, video adapters, and memory modules from four computers, as well as a modem, but did not take money, video cameras, or other expensive equipment in the office. Karol did not rule out that the burglary may have been masterminded by Belarus's secret services, noting that it would fit well into a broader context of relations between the government and the independent press. "Zhoda" was established in 1992 by Belarusian social-democratic activists, but now it is an independent periodical with a circulation of 3,000 copies per week. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August)RFE/RL MEETS WITH OBSTACLES IN MINSK.
On 1 August, a two-meter-high fence was erected around the building housing RFE/RL's Minsk bureau, cutting off for a time access to the bureau and forcing the broadcaster to seek to move from the current location by the end of August. Property rights to the building, which houses one of six McDonald's outlets in Minsk, are the focus of a long-running dispute between Belarusian State University and the U.S. restaurant chain. Minsk-based Belarusian Service personnel are working primarily out of a company apartment, RFE/RL reported. This, however, cannot be a permanent solution because of restrictions on the legal use of private residences in Belarus. Also on 1 August, RFE/RL's Prague office received a hand-delivered letter from the Belarusian Foreign Ministry that threatens the revocation -- without recourse to appeal -- of the official accreditation of all RFE/RL correspondents operating in Belarus if the Belarusian Service "utilized the professional services of nonaccredited correspondents and other individuals on the territory of the Republic of Belarus." RFE/RL Belarusian Service Director Alexandre Lukashuk reported on August 6 that the Belarusian Foreign Ministry has refused to meet with him on the accreditation issue. RFE/RL is asking that accreditation be extended for those correspondents who currently hold it, while those correspondents who are not currently accredited are actively completing all necessary documentation for accreditation. The U.S. Embassy is providing support to RFE/RL in its efforts to deal with both events, though no U.S. citizens work at the Minsk bureau. It has been noted within the diplomatic community in Minsk that a common method for the Belarusian government to rid itself of irritating foreign nationals is to deny extensions of visas, accreditation, and other official permits. CCLUKASHENKA PLEDGES TO MAKE STATE-MEDIA JOURNALISM PRESTIGIOUS.
President Lukashenka said on 31 July that the government will do everything in its power to make working as a journalist for state media a prestigious position, Belapan and Belarusian television reported. Lukashenka made the comments while visiting the editorial office of Belarus' largest government-controlled newspaper, "Sovetskaya Belorussiya," which he ordered earlier this year to become a "European-type publication." Lukashenka suggested that the media should be a mirror of society and tell the truth. "So far it has not been the case and the authorities are to blame for this in many respects," he noted. According to the president, state-media journalists should be given more freedom provided they are committed to accuracy, honesty, and responsibility. Journalists should openly criticize negative occurrences and, if necessary, the authorities, he said. Lukashenka admitted that he has reacted "morbidly" to criticism by the independent press. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August)
FORMER FOREIGN MINISTER RESIGNS EUROPEAN CONVENT POSITION...
Former Foreign Minister Jan Kavan, who was elected UN General Assembly president in mid-June, announced on Czech television on 4 August that he has resigned his post as a Czech delegate to the European Union Convent, CTK and dpa reported. Kavan denied any link between this move and the ongoing investigation into former aide Karel Srba and his alleged plot to have a Czech journalist killed, instead citing time constraints. Kavan is due to take up his UN post in September and is also a deputy representing the Social Democratic Party (CSSD) in parliament. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August)...AS SRBA, ASSOCIATES ARE CHARGED WITH ILLEGAL POSSESSION OF FIREARMS...
In Ceske Budejovice on 2 August, Srba and three other suspects in the alleged plot to kill "Mlada fronta Dnes" journalist Sabina Slonkova were charged with illegal possession of firearms, CTK reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August)...AND POLICE CHIEF SAYS SRBA INVESTIGATION SHOULD BE SPLIT.
Czech Police President Jiri Kolar told Radio Frekvence 1 on 7 August that the investigation into the alleged conspiracy by Srba and his associates to assassinate Slonkova should be conducted separately from the investigation into Srba's alleged economic crimes, which is "more complicated," CTK reported. Kolar said that while the investigation into the suspected assassination attempt could be concluded within several weeks, that on Srba's involvement in suspicious transactions while he was Foreign Ministry secretary could last years. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August)FORMER PARTY CHAIRWOMAN REBUFFED IN BID TO HEAD MEDIA COMMISSION.
Freedom Union-Democratic Union (US-DEU) deputy Hana Marvanova, who chaired the junior governing party until 4 July, failed on 7 and 8 August in her bid to head the Chamber of Deputies' Media Commission, CTK reported. In a secret ballot, Marvanova's candidacy was supported by only 73 deputies, while she needed a majority of the 197 present deputies to be elected. CTK reported that the result of the vote places the ruling coalition in a delicate position, as the government agreement stipulates that the chairmanship of the Media Commission go to a US-DEU member. A second vote on 8 August also failed to muster enough support for Marvanova. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 and 9 August)SENATE AMENDMENT ON FREE ACCESS TO INFORMATION REJECTED.
On 5 August, the Czech cabinet rejected a Senate-sponsored amendment to the law on free access to information under which individuals would have easier access to information they demand from the authorities, CTK reported. Under the rejected amendment, costs individuals have to cover for information demanded from civil servants would have been substantially reduced and civil servants would not have been allowed to refuse information on the grounds of protecting business secrets or personal data. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August)
NAZI-HUNTER'S PLAN MAY CLASH WITH ADVERTISING LAW.
Advertising specialist Kaur Hanson told the daily "Eesti Paevaleht" on 30 July that the plans of Efraim Zuroff, the director of the Jerusalem Office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, to place ads in Estonian newspapers offering a $10,000 reward for reliable information that would lead to the trial and conviction of Estonian Nazi war criminals might conflict with the country's advertising law, BNS reported. Under the law, advertising is deemed offensive if it incites or supports discrimination on the grounds of nationality, race, color, sex, age, language, origin, religion, political, or other circumstances. Hanson said that fanning hatred and interethnic hostility carries a criminal punishment under Estonian law. He called Zuroff a successful propagandist whose efforts in Estonia have produced negative results as "more and more residents of Estonia are feeling a growing sympathy for Arabs and antipathy toward Jews." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July)
PROSECUTOR-GENERAL: 'TOO MUCH FREEDOM OF SPEECH.'
During a 31 July cabinet discussion of increasing violence and the kidnapping of foreign citizens in Georgia, Prosecutor-General Nugzar Gabrichidze said that "too much freedom of speech caused an increase of crime" and called for a serious effort to combat such crimes. He noted that such violence has led to "harsh criticism" of Georgia by the international community. According to the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, he also called for revising the media laws. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August)
FIDESZ ACCUSES GOVERNMENT OF CENSORING MEDIA.
FIDESZ parliamentary deputy Maria Szalai on 5 August said the government is engaging in "intellectual machine-gunning" reminiscent of the darkest communist period, Hungarian media reported. Szalai said there is strong censorship by the two governing parties at Hungarian Television (MTV) and at Hungarian radio. Meanwhile, "Nepszabadsag" on 6 August reported that personnel changes are continuing at MTV, and "Magyar Nemzet" reported that the editor in chief of a morning talk show has been fired without explanation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August)STATE TELEVISION NETWORK REPLACES NEWS DIRECTOR.
Zoltan Rudi has been appointed news director at Hungarian Television (MTV), acting Vice President Imre Ragats announced on 30 July, Hungarian media reported. Rudi replaced Peter Csermely, who quit the post on 3 July, citing political attacks. Rudi began his broadcasting career in 1986 at Hungarian Radio and in 1989 was placed in charge of television coverage of parliamentary sessions, first as a reporter and later as an editor. He held the post of editor in chief of MTV news from August 1997 to October 1998 and left MTV in 1999. He had since been working for the commercial station TV-2. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July)PRIME MINISTER INVITES MEDIA TO COMMITTEE HEARING.
Peter Medgyessy requested that his hearing before the parliamentary commission investigating his counterintelligence past be open to the media, commission Chairman Laszlo Balogh said, according to Hungarian media on 30 July. Medgyessy later testified before the commission on 1 August. Former Interior Minister Sandor Pinter said the document revealing Medgyessy's counterintelligence activity in the communist era, reproduced by "Magyar Nemzet" in June, could not have left the ministry during his term. In his testimony, Pinter explained to the commission that he maintained tight discipline and does not believe that "anybody would have dared to leak the document." The 31 July issue of "Magyar Nemzet" published a copy of an official document terminating the employment of agent "D-209" -- Medgyessy's codename -- effective 31 December 1982. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July)JOURNALISTS' PASTS ARE SLATED FOR SCRUTINY.
Some 1,500 print journalists will be screened beginning in September for involvement with the communist-era domestic security services, "Nepszabadsag" reported on 1 August. A list identifying those to be screened is currently being drafted, said Judit Leb Feher, chairwoman of the panel of judges screening public figures. The law allowing background checks on journalists covers national, regional, and local newspapers and magazines that help shape economic, social, political, and cultural life. The law prescribes that editors in chief and their deputies, editors, copy editors, columnists, and senior staff be vetted. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August)
POLICE CLOSE PROBE INTO DEATH OF OPPOSITIONIST'S DAUGHTER.
Police in Almaty have closed the investigation into the recent death of Leyla Baysetova, daughter of opposition weekly "Respublika" Editor Lira Baysetova, concluding that she was a drug addict who hanged herself with her jeans in a moment of temporary insanity, Kazakh Commercial TV reported on 31 July. Leyla Baysetova was arrested, hospitalized, and died under mysterious circumstances shortly after her mother published material relating to Swiss bank accounts rumored to belong to President Nursultan Nazarbaev and members of his family. Police denied on 31 July that law-enforcement officials were involved in Baysetova's death or that she had been beaten in custody, as alleged by the international watchdog organization Reporters Without Borders. But Kazakh television questioned the police's findings, saying no attempts were made to analyze Baysetova's blood to determine if she had taken drugs and no jeans were presented as evidence. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August)
PRESIDENT DEFENDS RECORD ON FREEDOM OF SPEECH...
There are no media restrictions in Kyrgyzstan, and President Askar Akaev, "as guarantor of the constitution, has always supported freedom and speech and intends to do so in the future," the presidential press service said on 1 August, as quoted by Interfax. During a roundtable discussion in Bishkek on 26 July, Akaev attacked RFE/RL's activities as "information terror directed against the Kyrgyz Republic." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August)...WHILE FAMILY OWNS MEDIA EMPIRE.
Aleksandr Kim, a leading journalist who was forced out of the popular paper, "Vechernii Bishkek" (Evening Bishkek), and now is the owner of the opposition paper "Moya Stolitsa" (My Capital), said in a 5 August "Washington Post" interview that the only profitable businesses in the country have links to the government and Akaev's family. Kim also accused the president's son-in-law, Adil Toigonbaev, of illegally seizing "Vechernii Bishkek" in a complex maneuver based on Toigonbaev's friendly government contacts. According to Kim and several other local sources, Toigonbaev and his cronies control various enterprises, including a TV and print media empire. ("The Washington Post," 5 August)
AD REVENUE UP.
Market-researchers at SIC Gallup Media announced on 19 July that advertising in all media in the first half of 2002 was significantly higher than in same period last year, BNS reported. This was particularly true for TV ads, they reported, whose volume increased by 87.8 percent. The volume of radio ads rose by 54.1 percent, they added. Ad space in magazines increased by 11.7 percent and in newspapers by 2 percent. ("RFE/RL Baltic States Report," 7 August)
NEWS AGENCY DEMANDS DISMISSAL OF EDUCATION MINISTER.
The independent Flux news agency on 5 August sent letters to President Vladimir Voronin and Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev demanding the immediate dismissal of Education Minister George Sima. At a meeting between Sima and students who hope to receive scholarships to Romanian universities, the minister tore a tape recorder from the hands of Flux reporter Natalia Florea and confiscated the cassette recording. Flux said Sima is guilty of "gross misconduct" and of violating several articles of the constitution and the Penal Code. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August)
RSF: NEW MEDIA LAWS THREATEN INDEPENDENCE...
On 7 August, the Paris-based media watchdog Reporters without Borders (RSF) protested the adoption by the Montenegro parliament on 28 July of legislation limiting the editorial independence of the public and private media. On 28 July, legislators modified the law on public information so as to oblige the news media to take account of the views of the leaders of the ruling parties in deciding editorial policy. The parliament also approved a new law that limits the news sources and number of articles that can be published on each of the political parties in an election period. These two laws, ratified by President Milo Djukanovic, run counter to three other bills on the news media that were prepared by the government with the assistance of Council of Europe experts 10 days previously. For more, e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or see http://www.rsf.org. CC...BEFORE POLITICIANS MEET UNDER EU PRESSURE TO REVISE THE LAW...
The pro-Belgrade and pro-independence parties that dominate the Montenegrin parliament agreed under pressure from a delegation of European Union ambassadors in Podgorica on 31 July to launch talks with other political parties on revising controversial media and electoral legislation, RFE/RL reported. Talks began late in the morning the next day. Elsewhere, almost all radio and television broadcasters belonging to the Association of Independent Electronic Media of Montenegro (UNEM) said they will interrupt their broadcasts for half an hour on 1 August to protest the media legislation recently passed by the new majority coalition in the legislature and reluctantly signed into law by President Milo Djukanovic. On 1 August, the Council of Europe criticized the new legislation as being politically motivated and contrary to European norms. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August)...AND PARLIAMENT SPEAKER REBUFFS OSCE ON MEDIA LAWS, BUT COMPROMISE MAY BE IN THE WORKS...
Speaker Vesna Perovic said in Podgorica on 2 August that recent criticism of the new media and electoral laws by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) amounts to treating the parliament with disdain and goes beyond the legitimate offering of advice, RFE/RL reported. Four days later, however, the leaders of all parliamentary political parties agreed in Podgorica on 6 August to seek a consensus on media and election laws, RFE/RL reported. The OSCE was to propose "by the end of the week" a list of recommended changes to the legislation recently passed by the new coalition of pro-Belgrade and pro-independence parties over the objections of President Djukanovic and his supporters. Parliamentary elections will take place on 6 October. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 7 August)
MEDIA MINISTRY SETS UP SPECIAL EQUIPMENT TO COMBAT SUBLIMINAL MANIPULATION...
Deputy Media Minister Valerii Sirozhenko announced that his agency has set up special devices capable of detecting the illegal use of the so-called "25th frame" to send subliminal messages to television viewers, ITAR-TASS and other Russian agencies reported on 8 August. Sirozhenko claimed that many channels use the 25th frame, and if such usage is proven by the new equipment, they will be subject to stiff fines or the revocation of their broadcasting licenses. He also mentioned that the practice was used in the Soviet era "for unclear reasons." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August)ORT: 'WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO EXPERIMENT.'
Shareholders in Russia's largest TV company, ORT, held a meeting on 29 July at which they learned that last year, for the first time, the majority-state-owned broadcaster showed a profit. The profit inspired General Director Konstantin Ernst to call for organizing a new experimental TV channel, to be called "The First Channel." "We have a right to stage experiments," Ernst said. Nevertheless, ORT is weighed down by a $117 million debt it received from Vneshekonombank with 13 percent of its shares pledged as collateral. The deadline for ORT to repay that debt is long overdue, and negotiations involving the Finance Ministry and the Bank of Russia have failed. Some ORT shareholders have called for borrowing from a third party and pledging advertisement time as collateral. An extraordinary shareholders meeting in September will reach a final decision on this proposal. Despite some similarities with the situation of TV-6, which also showed a profit in its last year, no one has accused the ORT management or its majority shareholder of ineptitude. The Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations noted on 29 July that, "unlike ORT, TV-6 lacked the main ingredient of success: the Kremlin as its protecting angel and a tolerant state bank." ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Weekly Report," 29 July-4 August)KULTURA TAKES THE ADVERTISING PLUNGE.
The state-owned Kultura television channel will begin showing paid advertising in the near future, lenta.ru reported on 31 July. According to Kultura General Director Aleksandr Ponomarev, the station -- which is part of the VGTRK holding and features highbrow programming including classical-music concerts, ballet, opera, and dramatic adaptations of literary classics -- needs to develop revenue sources, including advertising. However, Ponomarev said that advertising on Kultura will not be the same as on other television channels, but he did not specify what the difference would be. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July)THE DEATH OF POLITICAL SATIRE ON TV?
Making fun of the authorities seems to be going out of style, according to a long feature in "Izvestiya" on 5 August. "In the West, there is another culture in which comedians make fun of everyone and everything. Here we only make fun of those who aren't dangerous," Duma deputy and Liberal Russia Party co-Chairman Sergei Yushenkov was quoted as saying. The paper noted that the satirical program "Kukly," which was wildly popular during the era of former President Boris Yeltsin, has "turned into a bedtime story for grownups." "Practicing satire today is a joke," said comedian Vladimir Vinokurov. "I can't make myself beat the downtrodden communists. Everything that can be stolen has already been stolen. What is there to joke about?" ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August)HACKERS STRIKE AT SATELLITE TV COMPANY.
The NTV-Plus satellite television company has lost as much as $300,000 to computer hackers in Ivanovo who learned how to create false smart cards, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 August. Genuine smart cards are produced in France and were developed for the banking industry. They had been believed to be 100 percent secure until false ones began appearing at markets in Ivanovo, Moscow, Vladimir, Kostroma, and Nizhnii Novgorod. According to the report, which cited local Interior Ministry sources, an unspecified number of hackers have been arrested and a criminal case against them is being compiled. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August)TV DIRECTORS IN TATARSTAN PRESENT PLANS.
The heads of Tatarstan's two television companies, Ilshat Aminov of the Television and Radio Company Novyi Vek (TRK Novyi Vek) and Irek Murtazin of the State Television and Radio Company of Tatarstan (GTRK Tatarstan), held a joint briefing on 7 August to outline their companies' development plans, intertat.ru reported the same day. TRK Novyi Vek was established in 2001 as an independent channel. Its programs are seen in 90 percent of Tatarstan, as well as in the European part of Russia. Aminov said the station plans to increase its broadcasts to 12 hours per day in September and to 24 hours a day by 2003. GTRK Tatarstan is in the process of joining Russia's VGTRK holding, which should be completed by 2003, the company's director said. The station plans to continue its television broadcasts of 2 1/2 hours per day and radio broadcasts of 3 1/2 hours per day. The company also intends to reduce its staff from 652 employees to 250. GTRK Tatarstan and TRK Novyi Vek have budgets of 65 million rubles ($2.06 million) and 40 million rubles ($1.27 million), respectively. ("RFE/RL Tatar Report," 8 August)INTERNEWS RELEASES NEW DATABASE OF MEDIA OUTLETS.
Internews-Russia has released a new online database of Russian broadcast media outlets, listing over 1,000 media organizations currently operating in the country, Internews-Kyrgyzstan reported. The new Russian-language database, the Atlas of Russian TV and Radio, is available online at http://www.atlas.internews.ru. All the information, collected since the spring of 1998, was provided directly by the participating organizations. At present, the site contains listings for 804 television and 278 radio companies. For more information, contact Tatyana Sadovskaya at email@example.com. CC'KOMPROMAT' DEPLOYED EARLY IN SIBERIAN ELECTION...
TV-6 reported on 7 August that although the 8 September gubernatorial election in Krasnoyarsk Krai is still a month away, local voters have already twice found compromising materials about leading candidates in their mailboxes. In the most recent case, copies of the newspaper "Nashe Delo" were distributed that carried a potentially embarrassing article about Krasnoyarsk Krai legislature speaker Aleksandr Uss. Before that, copies of another newspaper were circulated with articles about Uss's main rivals, Krasnoyarsk Mayor Peter Pimashkov and Taimyr Autonomous Okrug Governor Aleksandr Khloponin. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August)...AND ELECTIONS HEAD PROMISES 'NEW MEDIA MONITORING PLAN.'
A delegation headed by Central Elections Commission head Aleksandr Veshnyakov arrived in Krasnoyarsk on 8 August to oversee the election campaign, ORT reported. Veshnyakov told ORT that his commission intends to work out new organizational approaches to holding elections during this campaign. He said that the finances of all the candidates will be thoroughly examined, all complaints will be investigated, and commission members will meet regularly with candidates and voters. Veshnyakov also said that, although the campaign so far has not gone completely smoothly, there have been no serious violations yet. In an interview with "Izvestiya" on 7 August, Veshnyakov added that the commission has "worked out a new project for monitoring the media" in order to ensure that all stories and advertisements correspond to election law. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August)IDEOLOGUE OF GLASNOST COMMENTS ON SERVILITY OF RUSSIAN JOURNALISTS.
Aleksandr Yakovlev, the ideologue of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's policy of liberalizing the mass media and a former Politburo member, told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 5 August that freedom of speech in Russia is going through a difficult time both because of government policies and the behavior of journalists. "I am enraged by certain ursine actions of the government toward the mass media, but one should not expect anything else. It is much more unpleasant, however, to see how some journalists themselves are trying to serve the authorities, to line up with them. This is a real misfortune," said Yakovlev, who is now a member of the board of trustees of the TVS television company. Another powerful blow against freedom of the press came in the 1990s when the mass media were involved in a "war of kompromat" among financial clans, Yakovlev continued. "If journalists write and tell lies, freedom of speech is perceived as the freedom to lie," Yakovlev noted. "Aggressive cynicism murders freedom of speech." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August)REGIONAL JOURNALIST ALLEGEDLY A VICTIM OF SKINHEAD VIOLENCE.
A 53-year-old journalist was beaten about the head in downtown Penza, allegedly by skinheads retaliating for articles he had written in local newspapers, Infonews reported on 31 July, citing the Privolzhe news agency. Yurii Sorkin, who is a lieutenant colonel in the military reserve, said he was approached by two shaven-headed youths in broad daylight in the center of the city who began beating him. They made no effort to rob him. According to the report, on 19 April, the municipally controlled radio station broadcast a program that asserted that local skinheads are "real patriots" compared to the "bought scribblers" in the local media. The moderator allegedly said he would not be surprised if "the nightstick of anger of patriotic youth were to come down on the heads" of such journalists. The broadcast was replayed several times, and local authorities refused to respond to Sorkin's request for an explanation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July)'LIMONKA' LIVES...
Despite a Moscow court order granting a Media Ministry request to close down the nationalist newspaper "Limonka," the paper continues to publish, with its 201st edition appearing this week, dni.ru reported on 5 August. "Limonka" is the official organ of Limonov's National Bolshevik Party, and it was ordered closed on 26 July after receiving two warnings for publishing materials that inflamed ethnic tension and called for the violent overthrow of the constitutional system. The paper will continue to come out legally as it pursues its case through the appeals process. According to RIA-Novosti on 5 August, an article in "Limonka" said that if it loses its case, the paper will continue to appear in electronic form on the apn.ru website, which is associated with controversial journalist Sergei Dorenko. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 August)...AS NATIONALIST NEWSPAPER, MAGAZINE WARNED BY MEDIA MINISTRY.
The Media Ministry on 8 August issued a warning to the Novosibirsk newspaper "Russkaya Sibir" in connection to two articles that it published this spring, polit.ru and other Russian news agencies reported. The ministry judged that the articles inflamed ethnic tensions, which is a violation of Article 4 of the media law. After a second warning, the ministry may ask a court to revoke a publication's registration. Meanwhile, a municipal court in Moscow granted a Media Ministry request to close down the nationalist magazine "Russkii khozyain." The magazine's deputy editor, Andrei Semiletnikov, has been charged with inciting racially motivated violence at a market in Yasenevo on 21 April 2001. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 August)RUSSIAN FIGURE SKATERS VOW TO SUE OVER U.S. TELEVISION COVERAGE.
Russian Olympic champions Anton Sikharulidze and Yelena Berezhnaya said on 2 August that they plan to sue some unspecified U.S. television networks for news reports they broadcast alleging that figure-skating competitions were fixed at the Salt Lake City Winter Games, Russian and international media reported. "I saw our pictures appearing on the screen while they were talking about some kind of Russian mafia," AP quoted Sikharulidze as saying on Russian television. The two pairs skaters were mentioned in media reports pertaining to the arrest in Italy on 31 July of Alimzhan Tokhtakhunov, a Russian citizen who is accused of scheming with Russian and French skating officials to rig the pairs and ice-dance competitions in February. Sikharulidze and Berezhnaya narrowly won the pairs competition in a hotly disputed decision that led to a second gold medal being awarded to Canada's Jamie Sale and David Pelletier. "It's time for the Canadian and U.S. people to calm down and be happy with the [duplicate] gold medals they were given as a gift," Sikharulidze said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August)SIBERIAN OIL TYCOON WINS LIBEL SUIT.
The Nizhnevartovsk City Court in Tyumen Oblast has found in favor of V. Palyi, general director of Slavneft-Nizhnevartovsk oil company, in his libel suit against the Tranzit and Sfera TV companies. In late 2001, the two TV companies aired an eight-part documentary series in its "Criminal Russia" series about Palyi's alleged involvement in fuel-business scams. Sfera officials vowed to appeal the ruling, which is to take effect on 7 August, in the Khanty-Mansii Autonomous Okrug Court. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Weekly Report," 29 July-4 August)KIRIENKO SAYS HE RECEIVED PERMISSION TO POACH.
The press secretary for Sergei Kirienko, presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District, threatened to file suit if newspapers in the Republic of Komi do not issue a retraction of reports that Kirienko and some companions engaged in illegal fishing of grayling from a protected river in a national park, presscenter.ru reported on 31 July. Kirienko's press secretary claimed that Kirienko received written permission in advance from local natural-resource officials to catch the fish. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August)BUSINESSMAN LOCKS OUT JOURNALISTS.
Conflicting ownership claims between a local businessman and the city administration prompted V. Korshunov, general director of the private Telecommunications Company, to give an order to lock out journalists from the municipally owned paper "Rybinskiye Izvestiya" in the city of Rybinsk in Yaroslavl Oblast. Only after Rybinsk city prosecutor M. Nazarov warned Korshunov that he might stand trial for his actions were journalists allowed back into the paper's building. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Weekly Report," 29 July-4 August)U.S. AMBASSADOR IN MOSCOW CALLS FOR END TO CD PIRACY...
Alexander Vershbow, the U.S. ambassador to Russia who also took part in political and economic negotiations held by U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton in Moscow on 1 August, alleged that the Russian defense industry is involved in the production of pirate CDs and that Russia must stop this practice if it wants to join the World Trade Organization, "Vedomosti" and other news agencies reported on 1 August. Vershbow also revealed that in June he sent a letter to Media Minister Mikhail Lesin in which he drew the minister's attention to the fact that Russia, where annual domestic demand for CDs does not exceed 10 million copies, currently produces 200 million discs per year and occupies second place after China in the manufacturing of illegal audio recordings. Vershbow added that he presented to Lesin a list of Russian defense enterprises producing pirate CDs, including one factory that is headed by Oleg Gordiiko, who heads a commission on intellectual property rights within the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August)...PROMPTING FACTORY TO DISPUTE AMBASSADOR'S CHARGES.
Managers of the Urals Electronics Factory are considering filing a defamation suit against U.S. Ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow for his claims that the plant produces pirate CDs, strana.ru reported on 2 August. According to local media in Yekaterinburg, the plant held a press conference on 1 August at which managers said Vershbow's charges are "completely unfounded" and that controls exist at the plant to prevent unauthorized CD production. A spokesman admitted that the plant does not have a current license to produce CDs but said that its application has been submitted and it expects to receive the license this month. The plant produces about 10 percent of Russia's audio CDs and 80 percent of its multimedia discs. The U.S. Embassy issued a press release saying that Russia's inability to protect intellectual property threatens foreign investment and the development of the domestic entertainment industry. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August)INTELLECTUAL-PROPERTY THEFT REPORTEDLY AT EPIDEMIC PROPORTIONS.
Forty percent of all musical compact discs produced in Russia are illegal, pirate copies, RosBalt reported on 5 August, citing an Ekho Moskvy interview with the head of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry's intellectual property commission, Oleg Gordiiko. Gordiiko said that this represents enormous losses for the Russian economy. Commenting on a recent letter from U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow claiming that Russian defense plants, including one headed by Gordiiko himself, are largely responsible for producing pirate discs, Gordiiko said that U.S. producers currently have no presence in the Russian market and "they just want to clean up the market for themselves." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 August)STUDY OF INTERNET IN PRIMARY SCHOOLS TO INCREASE.
Svetlana Ivanova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Education Ministry, announced that in the upcoming school year, the ministry will introduce a program of Internet studies beginning with the second grade, ITAR-TASS reported on 6 August. An Internet studies course designed for the second-graders is called "Information-Communication Technologies" and aims to teach them basic computer skills and how to find information on the Internet. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August)MOSCOW-BASED ENTITIES DOMINATE REGISTRATION OF RUSSIAN DOMAIN NAMES.
The total number of domain names registered within the ".ru" zone jumped to around 135,000 as of 1 August -- more than double the number registered at the same time last year, Interfax reported on 1 August, citing the press service of the Russian Scientific and Research Institute for the Development of Public Communications. The total jumped by 60,000 in 2001, while another 112,000 were added in the first half of this year, the agency reported. According to the agency, more than 66 percent of ".ru" domain names are registered in Moscow, while St. Petersburg has 5.8 percent of the total. Some 60 percent of the registered domain names belong to legal entities, while less than 1 percent are being used by individual entrepreneurs. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 August)
NGO PROTESTS MEDIA MANIPULATION.
The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia (HOPS) said in a statement in Belgrade on 31 July that ethical principles have recently been widely violated in the Serbian media. The statement referred specifically to the publication in mass-circulation newspapers of transcripts of, or excerpts from, private telephone conversations involving prominent officials in the run-up to the 29 September Serbian presidential election. HOPS argued that the "publishing of such contents and the ensuing scandal-mongering...diverts attention from serious topics and is reminiscent of manipulation methods [employed by] the previous regime" of President Slobodan Milosevic. The statement added that such practices help create a "mood of paranoia typical of markedly undemocratic countries." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 August)EDITOR IN CHIEF OF RADIO JASENICA FIRED.
On 7 August, the Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) "strongly protested" the firing of Zoran Stanosevic as editor in chief of Radio Jasenica in Smederevska Palanka. On 29 March, the Smederevska Palanka Municipal Assembly voted to dismiss Radio Jasenica Director Dragoslav Travica and Stanosevic on the strength of votes from the opposition (Socialist Party of Serbia) and part of the divided governing coalition, DOS. The radio station's new acting director, Zivko Petrovic, canceled Travica's contract on 31 May. Stanosevic has now also been dismissed due to his work as an ANEM correspondent. ANEM calls the dismissals a blow to independent journalism, particularly since Radio Jasenica was an early ANEM member and since 1996 was part of the independent media's struggle against the Milosevic regime. Citing its changed editorial policy and failure to fulfill ANEM media criteria, the ANEM Assembly has canceled Radio Jasenica's membership in its organization. CC
NEW PROSECUTOR-GENERAL PROMISES TO SOLVE GONGADZE CASE...
The Ukrainian parliament on 4 July approved by 347 votes President Leonid Kuchma's candidate for prosecutor-general, Svyatoslav Pyskun. The Prosecutor-General's Office had long been discredited under its previous head, Mykhaylo Potebenko, partly due to his is failure to make any progress in solving the murder of opposition journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. Pyskun promised shortly after his appointment to resolve Gongadze's murder. RFE/RL contributor Taras Kuzio, who is resident fellow and adjunct professor at the Centre for Russian and East European Studies in Toronto, noted that the most contentious issue in any investigation will be whether Pyskun utilizes the tapes made secretly by security guard Mykola Melnychenko in Kuchma's office, the FBI expert reports on the tapes, and the testimony Melnychenko has offered to give in the United States. Pyskun has created a new investigative group on Gongadze and has hinted at undertaking a fifth autopsy on the headless corpse found in November 2000. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August)...SPARKING QUESTIONS ABOUT ITS SUDDEN URGENCY.
Why is Pyskun in such a hurry to deal with this case, which is not the only example of political repression or intimidation of journalists, Kuzio asked in the 7 August "RFE/RL Newsline" piece. One key factor is the presidential elections due in October 2004, he offered: The Gongadze scandal is one of the main reasons why Kuchma is so discredited domestically. The "Kuchmagate" affair that erupted after November 2000 led to the creation of Ukraine's largest protest movements and the defeat of the pro-Kuchma For a United Ukraine (ZYU) in the March elections. Any candidate proposed by Kuchma to replace him as his chosen successor would stand little chance of being elected, unless Kuchma succeeds in salvaging his image. The opposition plans to launch mass protests calling for early presidential elections on 16 September, the second anniversary of Gongadze's abduction. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 August)
UNION OF INDEPENDENT JOURNALISTS WEBSITE.
On 6 August, the Union of Independent Journalists of Uzbekistan announced that it has launched a Russian-language version of its website with the assistance of the Toronto-based media organization IFEX and the Baku-based Journalists Trade Union in addition to its English-language website. In the near future, it also plans to launch an Uzbek-language website. CCPEN: AMNESTY IMPRISONED WRITERS.
On 8 August, the Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC), International PEN, London called for including imprisoned writers and journalists in the likely amnesty to mark Uzbekistan National Day on 1 September. Among them are the noted writer Mamadali Makhmudov and two other writers who have been detained since 1999. Previous hopes that they would be included in an amnesty were not fulfilled. Concern is growing for their welfare, as recent months have seen a rise in reports of appalling prison conditions and rampant ill treatment. Makhmudov was among six sentenced to between eight and 15 years in prison on 18 August 1999 for their alleged involvement in the Uzbek opposition movement. Their convictions were part of a wider clampdown against opposition figures after a series of bomb explosions in Tashkent in February 1999. Arrested three days later, Makhmudov was then charged with threatening the president and the constitutional order and sentenced to 14 years in prison. Also convicted were Mohammed Bekzhon, a journalist, who received 15 years in prison, and Yusif Ruzimuradov, a former editor, who is serving eight years. Makhmudov and his co-defendants are imprisoned because of their links to Muhammad Solih, the exiled leader of the opposition party Erk, who is also a writer. (Bekzhon is Solih's brother). Solih was the only candidate to stand against President Islam Karimov during presidential elections in 1991. Erk lost the elections and was banned in 1993, and Solih fled into exile in 1994. CC