13 September 2002, Volume 2, Number 35
INTERNATIONALIFEX MEETING ON FREE EXPRESSION AFTER 11 SEPTEMBER. The International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) held its 10th General Meeting on 11 September with more than 90 free-expression advocates and media professionals from 52 countries to discuss freedom-of-expression issues and develop joint-action campaigns. A key theme of the meeting was the worldwide impact of the 11 September 2001 attacks and the ensuing war on terrorism on freedom of expression. Discussion also focussed on journalists' safety in dangerous zones, media rebuilding in Afghanistan and other war-torn countries, and insult laws. For more, contact email@example.com. (IFEX communique, 10 September)
RSF: INTERNET FREEDOMS THREATENED. The Paris-based media watchdog group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in its report issued in early September warns that Internet freedoms have been curtailed in the year since the 11 September 2001 attacks on the U.S. Governments around the world have increasingly used security services to control online activity, according to RSF's report, "The Internet on Probation." See the complete RSF report at http://www.rsf.org/IMG/doc-1274.pdf. (IFEX communique, 10 September)
CPJ ISSUES REPORT ON POST-11 SEPTEMBER PRESS FREEDOM. A year after the 11 September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, journalists around the world face a complex new press-freedom landscape with more restrictions and charged rhetoric, according to a report released on 10 September by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). The report, titled "Looking Forward, Looking Back," retraces the immediate aftermath of the attacks, when the U.S. government launched its "war on terrorism" with strong rhetoric discouraging dissent, as well as increased restrictions on civil liberties in the name of national security. According to CPJ's report, this new attitude had a ripple effect around the world. The full report is available at http://www.cpj.org/briefings/2002/9-11_essay/9-11_essay.html.
IFJ REPORT: 'JOURNALISM AND THE WAR ON TERRORISM.' The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has prepared a report on how the 11 September events have affected journalism in 40 countries. The IFJ report says that traditional liberties have been cut back in pursuit of the "war on terror." See the full report at http://www.ifj.org/publications/download/war.pdf.
EUROPEAN JOURNALISTS CONCERNED ABOUT 'WAR PROPAGANDA.' On 9 September, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), a regional organization of the International Federation of Journalists with 200,000 members in 29 countries, warned governments about a "dangerous cocktail of intolerance and war propaganda." According to Gustl Glattfelder, the chairman of the EFJ Steering Committee: "Governments must not apply undue pressure on media in the debate about military action over Iraq. There is a dangerous cocktail of intolerance and war propaganda at work which can compromise independent journalism." He also said that "in the past year some racist and right-wing groups have tried to stir up popular feelings against immigrants and people of different religions." The current media climate, according to the EFJ, requires professionalism and high standards in journalism so that people will be fully informed about the consequences of a new military campaign.
AFGHANISTANMEDIA CONFERENCE ADOPTS FREE MEDIA RESOLUTION. An international conference on press freedom in Afghanistan has adopted a statement calling on the Afghan government to enshrine the right to freedom of expression in the constitution, introduce access-to-information laws, and transform the state broadcaster into a public-service outlet by June 2004, reports Article 19. The group was among six organizations, including the International Press Institute, Pakistan Press Foundation, World Press Freedom Committee, World Association of Newspapers, and the CPJ, who attended the conference in Kabul on 3-5 September. Organized by the Ministry of Information and Culture, and funded by UNESCO, the Baltic Media Center, Internews, and the BBC, the conference brought together officials and over 120 media professionals and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to discuss plans for a free and independent media in Afghanistan. The declaration calls for the adoption of 10 measures, including the immediate suspension of provisions in the press law that require publications to obtain licenses. View the complete statement at http://www.article19.org/docimages/1341.doc. (IFEX communique, 10 September)
ARMENIATV STATION OWNER RESURFACES, ASKS FOR GOVERNMENT PROTECTION. Artashes Mehrabian, owner of the independent Abovian TV station, reappeared late on 8 September, one day after his family reported him missing, and addressed a letter to President Robert Kocharian and law enforcement agencies requesting protection, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 9 September. Mehrabian denied he was abducted on 6 September, explaining that he had received threats from three unknown men who ordered him to cease broadcasting until after the local elections scheduled for 20 October. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September)
AZERBAIJANRSF CONCERNED OVER DEATH THREATS TO JOURNALISTS. The RSF expressed concern on 5 September over death threats received by journalists at the Azerbaijani opposition daily "Hurriyet", including Editor in Chief Aydyn Guliev (see "RFE/RL Media Matters," 6 September 2002). The threats came after the paper ran an article on 30 August accusing a senior customs official, Mubariz Panakhov, of being involved in oil smuggling on the Turkish border which allegedly garnered $7 million annually. According to the RSF, individuals who said they were friends of Panakhov reportedly made death threats against Guliev some of his other colleagues. The unknown assailants stated that they would blow up "Hurriyet's" offices if any more articles appeared. On 3 September, unidentified vehicles crashed into Guliev's car. (RSF, 5 September)
NEW EDICT ON STATE SECRETS TO BE REVISED? Shahin Aliev, who heads the legal department within the presidential administration, met in Baku on 6 September with journalists and editors to discuss their objections to President Heidar Aliev's recent decree on state secrets, Turan reported. That decree places the responsibility for not divulging state secrets on journalists and editors. Aliyev hinted that the decree could be revised to take into account journalists' objections that its provisions restrict media freedom. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 September)
PRESIDENT APPROVES CREDITS FOR MASS MEDIA... In a decree issued on 5 September, President Aliyev allocated a total of 3 billion manats ($612,000) from the National Fund to Support Business to develop the media, Turan and zerkalo.az reported. The Azerbaijani government disbursed 17.3 billion manats in credits for media outlets earlier this year. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 September)
...BUT EDITOR SAYS PRESS NEEDS 'DEMOCRATIZATION, NOT LOANS.' According to the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, Aydyn Guliev, editor in chief of the opposition paper "Hurriyet," said that independent media outlets may not receive loans from the Azerbaijani government unless they agree to change their editorial policies. He said that the country's press needs "democratization rather than loans." CC
BELARUSJOURNALIST GOES ON TRIAL ON CHARGES OF LIBELING PRESIDENT. A district court in Minsk on 11 September opened the trial of Viktar Ivashkevich, the editor in chief of the independent newspaper "Rabochy," Belapan reported. Ivashkevich is charged with libeling President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in August 2001, when a special issue of "Rabochy" published an article titled "A Thief's Place Is in Prison" alleging that the president and his entourage may be involved in serious economic crimes. If convicted, Ivashkevich could receive a five-year prison sentence. "I think this is a show trial to warn other journalists and editors that they should think well before publishing something bad about the president," Ivashkevich told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service the previous day. "The reprisals against the 'Nasha svaboda' newspaper and the journalists of 'Pahonya' [as well as] my trial are links of the same chain," he added. The judge announced that the trial will be conducted behind closed doors. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September)
HUNGARYPOLICE TO QUESTION STAFF OF OPPOSITION DAILY. The Budapest police anti-organized-crime unit is preparing to question the editor in chief and a journalist of the "Magyar Nemzet" on suspicion of violating data-protection legislation, "Magyar Hirlap" reported on 11 September. On 18 June, "Magyar Nemzet" published documents relating to Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy's past in the communist-era secret services. "Magyar Hirlap" commented that the police stance is impossible to understand, as it contradicts an earlier ruling passed by Budapest Prosecutor's Office with respect to another case involving "Magyar Nemzet." In that case it was established that journalists cannot be charged with violating data-protection legislation. "Magyar Hirlap" also objected to the police action as the prime minister is a public figure and all citizens have a right to know about his past. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September)
RIGHT-WING MEDIA FIGURES MAY FLEE TO AUSTRIA. Leading personalities of the now defunct "Press Club" program on Hungary's ATV channel intend to apply for symbolic asylum in Austria, "Nepszabadsag" reported on 9 September. One of them, journalist Istvan Lovas, announced that they will establish the Voice of Freedom Radio, which he said will be modeled on RFE/RL and will be broadcast from Austria "so as not to get in the way of the Hungarian radio and television authority." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 September)
LITHUANIAPARLIAMENT PASSES LAW TO PROTECT MINORS FROM 'NEGATIVE INFORMATION.' On the first day of the fall session, 10 September, the parliament overrode the veto of President Valdas Adamkus and passed again without any changes the "Law on Protection of Minors from Negative Public Information," BNS reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September)
MACEDONIAINTERIOR MINISTRY TARGETS THE PRESS... The Interior Ministry on 6 September that the ministry has filed charges against journalist Marijan Gjurovski of the opposition weekly "Start" because of a report that suggested the involvement of the Interior Ministry in a "conspiracy to incite war." On 9 September, "The Independent" reported that the ministry is planning to arrest some independent journalists, including Saso Ordanoski. Some observers believe that the charges are part of a campaign against leading opposition representatives and the media in the run-up to the 15 September parliamentary elections. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 September)
...AS NATO AMBASSADOR BLASTS ATTACKS ON MEDIA... NATO Ambassador to Macedonia Nicolaas Biegman issued a statement on 9 September criticizing pressure by the Interior Ministry on independent media, Makfax news agency reported. "I am shocked by recent attacks against independent media and individual journalists as by legal maneuvers against media outlets, which are inappropriate especially during an election campaign," Biegman said. He added, "Supporting a free and independent media is fundamental for any country that wishes to be part of a new Europe." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September)
...WHILE NGO CRITICIZES GOVERNMENT OVER NEWSPAPER. The Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI) has criticized plans by the Macedonian government to reverse the 1995 privatization decision regarding the mass-circulation daily "Vest," dpa reported from the Austrian capital on 6 September. The government claims that "irregularities" in the privatization procedure have been discovered, but the IPI fears that the authorities want to silence a critical voice. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 September)
MOLDOVAPRESIDENT DENIES HAVING ORDERED HALT OF ROMANIAN TELEVISION PROGRAMS. The presidential office denied in a 6 September press release that President Vladimir Voronin ordered that Romanian Television's Channel 1 broadcasts to Moldova be halted, Romanian radio reported. The release said that the cessation of broadcasts on 12 August must be solved in line with the current legislation on foreign-television broadcasts in Moldova. It also said the matter is under the jurisdiction of the Moldovan Radio-Telecommunications Department. In a separate statement, the Ministry of Transportation and Telecommunications, to which the Radio-Telecommunications Department is subordinate, said the agreement on broadcasting the Romanian channel's programs has run out, as have the funds for covering the expense of the broadcasts. The ministry said it "received too late" an addendum to the expired agreement that was recently approved by the Romanian government. The ministry said that for the addendum to become effective and for the broadcasts to be resumed it must be ratified by the Moldovan parliament. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 September)
ALLEGED ATTACKERS DENY THEY THREATENED VENDOR OF PUBLICATION. Gelu Mocanu and Boris Cepoi denied at a press conference at the Infotag news agency on 6 September that they attacked or threatened a vendor of the "Sens" publication, as alleged by the publication's Editor in Chief Valeriu Renita on 4 September. They also denied being bodyguards for Popular Party Christian Democratic Chairman Iurie Rosca, saying they do not even know Rosca. Mocanu said he presumes the allegations stemmed from the bad relations between Rosca and Renita and that he intends to sue Renita for libel. Mocanu said he knows the vendor he allegedly attacked, but he claimed: "I did not take away his newspapers. They were old and I advised him not to tout them to people. For compensation, I gave him 27 lei ($2). Then we drank coffee in a nearby cafe, after which he proposed throwing the newspapers in a garbage container, which he did. The garbage was smoldering, so the newspapers naturally caught fire," Mocanu said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 September)
MONTENEGROSTATE MEDIA CHIEFS RESIGN. Following the all-party agreement on 10 September on the rules for the 20 October parliamentary elections and a number of related issues, the heads of state-run radio and television, as well as of the state-run daily "Pobjeda," resigned, AP reported from Podgorica on 12 September. Radovan Miljanic, who had been editor in chief of Radio Montenegro since 1998, said, "I am leaving my post convinced it is the only way to safeguard the dignity of my profession." The news agency reported that President Milo Djukanovic agreed with the opposition that his supporters in the top media posts should quit in the interest of calm in the run-up to the elections. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September)
POLANDEUROPEAN JOURNALISTS ACCUSE GOVERNMENT OF 'POLITICAL MANIPULATION' OVER ADVERTISING BAN. Leaders of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) have condemned the government of Poland for "political manipulation of the media market" over a ban on certain state advertising in some of the country's major newspapers. The EFJ protest follows a decision to restrict lucrative advertisements for treasury bills and bonds only to government-friendly media. "The fact that advertising has been withdrawn from some of the highest-circulation daily newspapers shows that this is an act of political spite, and is not based on economic judgement," said the EFJ's Gustl Glattfelder. He said the papers affected by the ban are those critical of government policy and that many of them may suffer due to the loss of income. The EFJ also supports protests in Warsaw by journalists, editors, and media owners against the ban and plans to raise the issue with the Council of Europe and the European Union.
ROMANIACPJ EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER MISSING JOURNALIST. On 11 September, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) expressed its concern over the case of missing journalist, Iosif Costinas. The 62-year-old reporter for the Romanian independent daily "Timisoara," has not been seen since early June. His reporting focused on sensitive political issues, such as unsolved murders that occurred during the 1989 anticommunist revolt, in which his city of Timisoara played a key role. Costinas also called attention to the continued presence of communist-era secret-police agents in the government. Prior to his disappearance, according to AP, Costinas was writing a book about organized crime. The deputy editor of the paper "Timisoara" told AP, "We believe it is very probable that his disappearance is connected to what he wrote." (CPJ, 11 September)
PRESIDENTIAL COUNSELOR WANTS XENOPHOBIC TV CHANNEL OFF THE AIR. Presidential Counselor Corina Cretu said on 11 September that the National Council of Television must "take measures" against the private television channel Oglinda TV (OTV), Mediafax reported. Cretu criticized, in particular, OTV's talk show "Dan Diaconescu Live," saying the talk show "has been turned into an instrument of hatred, intolerance, racism, and anti-Semitism." According to Cretu, the show has become "a platform for the dissemination of incitement to violence [and] attacks on democratic values and on the institutions of the state based on the rule of the law." She said moderator Diaconescu's "passivity, lack of professionalism, and bad faith" in failing to counter guests who present such opinions on the show demonstrates that OTV is "pursuing cheap sensationalism and breaking the country's laws." Cretu's statement came after Greater Romania Party leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor was interviewed on the program. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September)
ROMPRES TO KEEP ITS NAME. The official Romanian news agency Rompres will keep its current denomination and will not be renamed Agerpres, as it was in the communist era, Mediafax reported on 10 September. A mediation commission of the parliament's two chambers decided to reject the text of the bill on the functioning of the agency that was approved by the Senate. Unlike the text approved by the Chamber of Deputies, the Senate voted to return the agency's name to Agerpres. The commission struck that provision from the bill, arguing that it would create association with the communist era and would require additional and unnecessary expenditures for the agency. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September)
RUSSIACHECHEN ADMINISTRATION HEAD'S PRESS SECRETARY WOUNDED. Unidentified gunmen broke into the home in Gekhi of writer Lechi Yakhyaev late on 10 September and shot and seriously wounded him, Interfax reported the following day. Yakhyaev is Chechen administration head Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov's press secretary. Kadyrov attributed the attack to Yakhyaev's professional activities, while Chechen Security Council Secretary Rudnik Dudaev said the motive was robbery, according to ITAR-TASS. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 September)
MYSTERIOUS DEATH OF EDITOR IN RYAZAN OBLAST. The dead body of Leonid Kuznetsov, editor of the independent paper "Meshchyorskaya nov," was found near his bicycle outside the town of Kasimov in Ryazan Oblast. His paper was often seen by local authorities as taking a critical stance. Police investigators blamed his death on a road accident. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations Russia Weekly Report," 2-8 September)
BOMB ROCKS WALKING TOGETHER HEADQUARTERS. A previously unknown group called the Red Partisans on 11 September claimed responsibility for a bomb that exploded earlier that day outside the Moscow headquarters of the pro-Putin youth movement Walking Together, lenta.ru and ntvru.com reported. The bomb -- equivalent to about 400 grams of TNT -- exploded just after 1 a.m. local time, breaking windows and damaging the office door. No one was injured in the incident. According to a statement sent by the Red Partisans to the online newspaper gazeta.ru, Walking Together was targeted because it supports "the policies of [President Vladimir] Putin, which are fatal for Russia and shameful to the youth of the country." "As a pro-presidential organization, you share the responsibility for all the crimes of the authorities against our people. Therefore, we declare war on you. Mark well, our struggle against you and the Putin regime will continue until total victory," the statement read. Walking Together leader Vasilii Yakimenko said that he does not believe the explosion was organized by supporters of writer Vladimir Sorokin, who faces charges of disseminating pornography on the basis of Walking Together's complaints. "Sorokin is not the kind of writer for whom anyone would commit a terrorist act. This explosion was mindless hooliganism and stupidity," Yakimenko was quoted by lenta.ru as saying. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September)
TRIAL OF NATIONAL BOLSHEVIK WRITER TO BE OPEN. The trial in Saratov of writer and National Bolshevik leader Eduard Limonov (whose real name is Eduard Savenko) and five fellow party members will be held in open court, Ekho Moskvy, lenta.ru, and other Russian news agencies reported on 9 September. The Saratov Oblast Court, which had earlier ruled at the request of the Federal Security Service (FSB) that the trial would be held behind closed doors, reversed itself and ruled that sessions will be open to the media when the trial resumes this week after a two-month break. Limonov and his colleagues are accused of acquiring weapons with the goal of preparing terrorist acts and of creating illegal armed formations, although they deny the charges. Limonov and one other defendant, Sergei Aksenov, are also accused of calling for the violent overthrow of the government. The National Bolshevik Party newspaper "Limonka" was closed down in July. Limonov has been held since 7 April 2001. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 September)
PROSECUTORS TO INVESTIGATE SPS LEADER'S ALLEGATIONS OF PHONE TAPPING. The Moscow Oblast Prosecutor's Office has opened a criminal investigation into the appearance in the media of transcripts of telephone conversations held by State Duma Deputy and Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) leader Boris Nemtsov, ntvru.com reported on 9 September. Oblast Prosecutor Mikhail Avdyukov said the investigation has been opened at Nemtsov's request. "The goal of the investigation is to establish who was directly responsible for using technical means to eavesdrop on Nemtsov's telephone conversations," Avdyukov said. He added that the investigation will also look into accusations of eavesdropping made by other political figures, but he did not name any of them. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 September)
LEFTIST OPPOSITION LEADER CALLS FOR OVERSIGHT OF MEDIA. Nearly 600 delegates from 71 regions took part in the founding congress of the Party of Russia's Rebirth in Moscow on 7 September, Russian news agencies reported. The party is based on the Rossiya movement of Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, although a formal declaration of cooperation between the two will only be made in October following the next Rossiya congress. By a vote of 577 to two, Seleznev was elected to head the party, polit.ru reported on 7 September. Speaking to the congress, Seleznev called on President Putin immediately to order the establishment of public oversight boards for all television channels, polit.ru reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 September)
LIBERAL FACTIONS ESPOUSE 'LIFTING CENSORSHIP.' SPS leader Nemtsov told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 5 September that "confidential negotiations" are being held with representatives of all liberal parties and groups in order to develop a unified platform for the 2004 presidential election. He added that the liberal platform would include a demand for the "lifting of censorship." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 September)
MEDIA WARNED FOR KRASNOYARSK ELECTION VIOLATIONS. Elections officials in Krasnoyarsk Krai have issued more than 120 administrative warnings against krai media outlets for violations of the mass-media law in connection with the ongoing campaign for governor, RosBalt reported on 5 September. The worst offenders, according to the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, were two local television stations, TVK-6 and Telesfera. Local prosecutors say that the editors of 22 administration-controlled municipal papers will be held responsible for violations. The independent newspapers "Segodnyashnyaya gazeta" and "Komsomolskaya pravda-Krasnoyarsk," as well as the state-owned paper "Krasnoyarskie novosti" have been given written warnings. According to the law, papers that receive two warnings could have their registration annulled by the Media Ministry. Voting in Krasnoyarsk Krai will be held on 8 September. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 September)
RFE/RL HOLDS ROUNDTABLE ON TATAR-LANGUAGE MEDIA. On 27 August, Radio Azatliq (RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service) held a roundtable in Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan, in cooperation with Tatarstan Radio and Television on the eve of the third World Tatar Congress in that city. The roundtable -- which was also televised -- featured Rafael Khakimov, state adviser to the Tatarstan president and director of the Kazan Institute of History; Damir Iskhakov, ethnologist at the Kazan Institute of History; Milewshe Aituganova, deputy chairwoman of the Yanga Gasyr television and radio company in Kazan; Elfiya Minnulina, Tatar news editor at the intertat.ru news site. Frank Williams, RFE/RL director of marketing and affiliate development, shared his own knowledge of the growth of Welsh-language media in Britain. The session was chaired by Kerim Kamal, a broadcaster in RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service, and was sponsored by RFE/RL's Regional Analysis. For an English-language transcript, see http://www.regionalanalysis.org/events/briefings/2002/09/roundtables.asp.
OFFICIALS PRESENT LATEST CREATIONS AT BOOK FAIR. The 15th International Book Fair opened in Moscow on 4 September, featuring stands representing 82 countries, Russian news agencies reported. Among the presentations at the fair was Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov's book "Terrorism Is To Blame," strana.ru reported on 5 September. The book reportedly describes the history of the growth of terrorism in the North Caucasus. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov also presented a book at the fair, strana.ru reported on 5 September. Ivanov's book is called "Russia's Foreign Policy in the Age of Globalization" and reportedly presents Ivanov's vision of a multipolar world order and a significantly expanded role for the UN in world affairs. It was also announced at the fair that a new biography of President Putin by journalist Oleg Blotskii is currently being translated into nine foreign languages. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 September)
MEDIA REFLECTS ON 11 SEPTEMBER EVENTS. All the national television channels marked the 11 September anniversary with special programming and extended newscasts. RTR reminded viewers that 96 Russian citizens were among the victims of the New York attacks. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September)
SERBIAB92 BROADCASTS ENTIRE MILOSEVIC TRIAL. The portion of the war crimes trial of former President Slobodan Milosevic dealing with Kosova was to conclude in The Hague on 10 September, international media reported. Subsequent phases of his trial will center on war crimes committed in Croatia and Bosnia under his leadership. The Belgrade broadcaster B92 continues to broadcast the trial in its entirety, including daily summaries of developments. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September)
SLOVAKIAARCHBISHOP: MEDIA TYCOON 'DEMORALIZES NATION.' Roman Catholic Archbishop Jan Sokol on 8 September called on the faithful not to cast their ballots for "nonbelievers," stirring protests in several Slovak circles, TASR and CTK reported. Sokol said in the letter that people should not vote for the Alliance for New Citizens (ANO), whose leader, media tycoon Pavol Rusko, "demoralizes our nation and its most precious group, the youth, through his television." Smer (Direction) leader Robert Fico said the separation of church and state must be made into law. ANO, the Social Democratic Alternative, and other formations protested the letter. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September)
HACKER TRIES TO SABOTAGE ANO'S ELECTION CAMPAIGN. ANO on 10 September launched a complaint with police against an unknown perpetrator who forged the signature of ANO leader Rusko and sent it in an e-mail with attachments infected with a computer virus, CTK reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 September)
UKRAINEINTERNET JOURNALIST REQUESTS PROTECTION. Olena Prytula, the editor in chief of the "Ukrayinska pravda" website, has sent an open letter to Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Piskun, Security Service head Volodymyr Radchenko, and Interior Minister Yuriy Smyrnov, asking them to provide protection for her, the website reported. Referring to a source in the Prosecutor-General's Office, Prytula wrote that her life may be in danger in connection with the investigation into the death of journalist of Heorhiy Gongadze, who worked for "Ukrayinska pravda" before his disappearance in September 2000. Prytula noted that the murderers of Gongadze may be also interested in killing her since, according to her source in the Prosecutor-General's Office, she is an "important witness" in the Gongadze case. Prytula recalled that Gongadze asked the Prosecutor-General's Office for protection in July 2000 but the office ignored his request. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September)
NEWSPAPER ORDERED TO PUBLISH MOTION TO LIFT TYMOSHENKO'S IMMUNITY? The Kyiv-based newspaper "2000" on 6 September published on six full pages a request by Prosecutor-General Piskun to the Verkhovna Rada to lift the deputy immunity of opposition leader Yuliya Tymoshenko. "Ukrayinska pravda" suggested that the request -- which has not yet been addressed by parliament -- was publicized following an instruction from either the presidential administration or the Prosecutor-General's Office in order to start an anti-Tymoshenko campaign in the state-run media. According to the published request, prosecutors suspect Tymoshenko of bribery, abuse of office, forgery, embezzlement of property, and tax evasion. The charges are connected with Tymoshenko's work as head of Unified Energy Systems of Ukraine in 1995-97 and her position as deputy premier in Viktor Yushchenko's cabinet in 1999-2000. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 9 September)
REGIONALCOUNCIL OF EUROPE TO CONVENE REGIONAL MEETING ON DEFAMATION AND FREE EXPRESSION. The Council of Europe will hold a regional conference on 17-18 October on defamation in the context of European standards and freedom of expression in Southeastern Europe. It will bring together legal experts, judges, parliamentarians, and journalists. The conference in Strasbourg will examine excessive legal penalties for defamation and their effect on free expression; journalists' responsibilities; defamation of public figures; a survey of defamation laws in Southeastern Europe; and recommendations for improving journalistic practices and defamation laws in the region. The conference will be aired live at http://www.coe.int and the public will be invited to e-mail questions and comments. For more information, see http://www.humanrights or http://coe.int/media/events/2002/Conf_Defamation.htm or contact firstname.lastname@example.org. (IFEX communique, 10 September)
IWPR HOLDS A CONFERENCE ON SITUATION IN CENTRAL ASIA. The Bishkek office of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) held a conference in Bishkek on 9 September devoted to changes in the Central Asian states after 11 September. U.S. Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan John O'Keefe, Kyrgyzstan's Deputy Prime Minister Djoomart Otorbaev and parliament deputies Zainidin Kurmanov and Marat Sultanov, experts, journalists, and human rights activists from Kazakhstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan also participated in the conference. ("RFE/RL Kyrgyz News," 9 September)
CORRECTION: In last week's issue of "RFE/RL Media Matters," a Kremlin connection was incorrectly ascribed to the polit.ru website. According to the editor of polit.ru, the site has "never been in any way affiliated with the Kremlin or any branch of the federal or local government," but is "wholly owned" by a small company, OGI, which has a publishing house and chain of bookstore-cafes. The editor regrets this error.
END NOTEWHAT IS THE FUTURE OF STATE BROADCASTING IN BOSNIA, MONTENEGRO, AND SERBIA?
By Tanya Domi
Across the Balkans, governments are lurching toward democratic reform of the public-broadcast sector. As part of the entry price for possible European Union membership, state media structures in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Serbia must be transformed from communist-era state-controlled mouthpieces into European-style, regulated, balanced, public-service broadcasting systems (PBS). But reform is not going easily or quietly into the night. Because for these postcommunist, postconflict regimes, television is the ultimate prize -- to the power brokers who are losing it, as well as for those who hope to one day wield editorial control over it. Caught between upcoming national elections and changing political agendas, Bosnia, Serbia, and Montenegro are in various stages of reform of their broadcast sector.
The Balkans media environment is largely defined by fluctuating domestic political agendas. These agendas are not necessarily informed by politicians who are seeking to establish broadcast laws that protect the public interest. Politicians in the Balkans are not necessarily keen to support measures to ensure diversity, editorial independence, financial transparency, or pluralism in the state broadcast media. There are inherent tensions between the rights of journalists -- who for decades have lived and worked under autocratic state control -- to gather news, versus parliamentary factions, which often are reluctant to give up control of unimpeded editorial control over, and unlimited access to, state television.
The Balkans media environment is also affected by diverging American and European concepts on the nature of public-service television. In the European tradition, state media is publicly funded, usually through a combination of direct state funding plus subscription fees along with some advertising. The American practice, however, views television as an independent, commercially viable sector funded by advertising revenues generated from a free market economy.
In Bosnia, these divergent American and European approaches to public broadcasting have dominated. The U.S. successfully argued for including a controversial section in the broadcast law which stipulates a strict formula for advertising -- giving rise to what many critics feel undermines the PBS public interest. American supporters believe that a PBS system without advertisements is not fiscally viable and precludes the development of a commercial TV market. It remains to be seen -- especially in light of the depressed state of the Bosnian economy -- how this potential ad "market" can grow.
Due to the recalcitrance of officials in the Republika Srpska, Wolfgang Petritsch, the former high representative in Bosnia, imposed a public-service broadcasting act during his last days in office in May 2002. Petritsch left in place a viable, legal framework, along with a fledgling organizational structure, that may be able to deliver much-needed ethnically balanced, nationwide TV broadcasts. This is particularly important in Bosnia, given its tragic media legacy of appeals to the harmful excesses of ethnic nationalism and political manipulation. The public-broadcasting law also contained regulatory provisions for Muslim-Croat federation and Republika Srpska television laws. Concerns remain, however, about the slow pace of development of TV programs. To date, PBS has broadcast some sporting events, for example, the Olympics and more recently, the World Cup soccer championship.
Montenegro has gone to great lengths -- at least on paper -- to take civil-society interests into account in developing its new PBS law. In 2001 and in the first six months of this year, a national working group tried to reform all Montenegrin media laws and drafted new provisions considered consistent with European and international standards. This working group was composed of government lawyers, journalists, advocates, and national policy advisors, advised by the Council of Europe, the European Media Institute, the London-based freedom of expression group Article 19, and the U.S. government-funded IREX Pro Media. This working group produced a package of legal reforms on public-service broadcasting, public information, television and radio frequency regulation, and defamation. If adopted as proposed, Montenegro would lead media reform in the postconflict states of the former Yugoslavia, according to many international groups.
But if "adopted as proposed" is the caveat in discussing Montenegro's media reforms. Montenegro is caught up in a major political crisis, to determine its place not only within a new federation with Serbia, but also in Europe. In May of this year, Javier Solana, the EU's high representative for foreign policy and security, brokered the Belgrade agreement. This agreement reinforced the EU's goal of keeping Serbia and Montenegro in a federation, delaying a Montenegrin voter referendum on independence --- the main plank of Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic's Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS).
Observers of Montenegrin politics believe that the Belgrade agreement weakened Djukanovic's standing, contributed to the DPS loss in July of its majority in the ruling parliamentary coalition, prompting parliamentary elections on 20 October. Seizing an opportunity to act against DPS -- as well to address alleged manipulation of state media by the ruling party -- the new parliamentary majority made major amendments to the draft media laws, drawing sharp criticism from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The Montenegrin parliamentary crisis precipitated an intervention by the OSCE's electoral unit, which has expressed concerns about state media in every election it has observed in the past few years. The OSCE recommended that the new amendments to the media law be dropped and a new set of amendments be adopted to improve media regulations during elections.
After weeks of bickering and posturing, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported, the parties represented in the parliament agreed in Podgorica on 10 September to set down rules for members of the editorial board of state-run media. The next day, AP reported, the heads of state-run radio and television resigned. AP reported that Djukanovic agreed with the opposition that his supporters in the top media posts should quit in the interest of calm in the run-up to the elections. Consideration of new media legislation has been put off until 16 September.
Serbia, or at least its government, embodies the most basic stage of reform of the broadcast sector. In July of this year, the parliament passed the repeatedly delayed Broadcast Act, which establishes the Republican Broadcasting Agency, regulates the issuance of licenses and transforms Radio Television Serbia (RTS) into a public-service broadcaster. But much-needed laws on telecommunications, public information, and defamation have yet to be adopted. Serbian independent media experts, along with the OSCE and the EU, drafted the Serbian broadcast law. The OSCE is playing a key role in supporting the first phase of the law's implementation and will be monitoring procedures for appointment of the members of the Broadcast Council. The nomination process for the Broadcast Council is under way: Parliament will elect a total of nine representatives -- four each from among nominees from the government, the civil society and media sector, plus one representative from Kosova.
Implementation of the new broadcast law faces several formidable challenges. One particularly difficult problem is how to regulate the licensing of over 1,200 radio and television stations currently operating in Serbia. According to experts, the frequency spectrum can only support some 300 media outlets in accordance with international standards. The arbitrary and politically motivated way in which broadcast licenses were granted under the Milosevic regime will be a difficult legacy for the Serbian government to overcome -- and it is open to question if it really wants to do so . Another difficult challenge is that of transforming RTS into a genuine public-service broadcaster. Massive layoffs will be required: the current RTS staff is 6,000 strong and that has already been reduced from its original staff of 8,000. Despite some reservations, the Independent Journalists Association of Serbia and ANEM have expressed support for the law, particularly, restructuring RTS into a public broadcaster. This major reform of the public-broadcasting sector will take several months -- before and after -- the 29 September elections.
How will the upcoming Serbian elections affect the country's capacity to continue with the reform process? The roots of democracy in Serbia are weak, particularly since the establishment of an independent, legally protected, and financially sustainable broadcast media sector faces so many serious obstacles. The jury is still out on how the politically fractured governments of Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia will respond to the challenge of the democratic reform of its public-broadcast sector which is key to the development of viable democracies in their countries
Tanya Domi is the former spokesperson for the OSCE Mission to Bosnia-Herzegovina. She is a free-lance writer in New York City.