4 October 2002, Volume 2, Number 38
AFGHANISTANKABUL MEDIA: QUANTITY, LITTLE QUALITY. A glut of poor-quality publications are turning off readers in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, according to two Afghan free-lance journalists. In an article in the "Afghan Recovery Report" of the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting, Qadam Ali Nekpai and Ahmad Shifaee wrote that 140 publications are now available and more are being launched daily. After interviewing booksellers, journalism professors, and newspaper editors, the reporters conclude that most literate Afghans rarely read newspapers. The journalists quoted Aziz Fanoos, director of Kabul University's journalism department, who said that many readers believe newspapers are filled with falsehoods. The distance between the people and the press, Fanoos said, is growing wider by the day. Mohammad Naseem Sabah, editor of the economic magazine "Iqtesad," said there were too few experienced editors and journalists. Ahmad Zia Syamak, editor of the government-backed weekly newspaper "Anees," noted, "During the last two decades of war, people have simply fallen out of the habit of reading newspapers." For the complete text of this article, see http://www.iwpr.net/index.pl? archive/arr/arr_200209_27_2_eng.txt (IJ Net, 23 September)
BELARUSWRITERS UNION APPOINTS NEW HEAD. Belarusian writers elected 30-year-old novelist Ales (Alyaksandr) Pashkevich the chairman of the Union of Belarusian Writers (SBP) at their extraordinary congress in Minsk on 24 September, Belapan reported. Volha Ipatava, the previous chair of the SBP, said the election of Pashkevich was a "victory of the democratic forces among the literary community." Some Belarusian media suggested before the congress that the authorities planned to take control of the writers' organization by pressuring writers to elect a submissive SPB leadership. "Our realities show that it is impossible for democratic writers to cooperate with the current authorities," Ipatava told the congress prior to the election. Earlier this year, the government took control of several literary periodicals that belonged to the SBP and introduced ideological censorship. "Writers said today that they will be looking for nonstate support to publish their works and will not beg for money from the state, which hates the Belarusian language and does not give a damn about the national culture," translator Lyavon Barshcheuski commented on the congress. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 September)
NEWSPAPER MAY FACE BAN FOR REPORTS ON OFFICIAL TRADE UNION... Trade Union Federation of Belarus (FPB) head Leanid Kozik has requested that Information Minister Mikhail Padhayny close the opposition newspaper "Narodnaya volya," Belarusian Television reported on 25 September. Kozik said "Narodnaya volya" published a series of articles that presented the recent FPB extraordinary congress in a "distorted" way and insulted the 4.5 million FPB members. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 September)
...WHILE DEMOCRATIC TRADE UNIONS SUPPORT JOURNALISTS WITH CONVICTIONS. The Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions on 25 September approved a resolution supporting Viktar Ivashkevich, the editor in chief of the independent trade-union newspaper "Rabochy," who was recently convicted of defaming Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and sentenced to two years' confinement, Belapan reported. The congress vowed to make every effort to ensure that "Rabochy" continues to be published. Ivashkevich said the newspaper's future depends on whether the democratic unions need it and are willing to finance it. Ivashkevich has appealed his sentence, which in the meantime has been reduced under an amnesty law to one year in an "open-type corrective labor institution," as in the case of journalists Pavel Mazheyka and Mikola Markevich. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September)
BULGARIATV ANCHOR JOINS GOVERNMENT TEAM. The well-known TV journalist Dimitar Tsonev will replace Tsvetelina Uzunova as the Bulgarian government's spokesman, local media reported on 2 October. Forty-three-year-old Tsonev, who was the anchorman of the political television show "Po sveta i u nas" (Around The World And Here At Home), was asked by Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski to take over the position. Journalists have recently chided Saxecoburggotski and other members of the government for poor relations with the media. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October)
CZECH REPUBLICRFE/RL ENDS CZECH BROADCASTS. In a statement released on 30 September, RFE/RL President Thomas Dine said that after 51 years of "devotion in promoting freedom and democracy," the end of broadcasting by the organization's Czech Service, Radio Svobodna Evropa (RSE), is a "sad event." But he added that "looking back, RFE/RL takes great pride and pleasure in the enormous effort of this service in disseminating truthful news and information to the Czech and Slovak peoples" and to the "great impact" produced by the broadcasts "over the course of half a century." Dine said that RSE provided "accurate news and information" during the dramatic days of the Cold War and the Prague Spring and provided on-the-spot reporting of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of communism. He said the "eloquent pleas" of "the newly democratic nations of Central Europe" and "in particular Czech President Vaclav Havel" persuaded U.S. authorities not to end RFE/RL broadcasts, adding that Prague became "the new home" of RFE/RL in "a symbolically important situation that remains relevant today." He said the end of the Czech broadcasts came due to budgetary constraints and that while there is still a need for the broadcasts in the Czech Republic, "we are now needed more urgently elsewhere." He ended by quoting a "Mlada fronta Dnes" reader, who wrote on 27 September that "RSE has every right to [pass into history] with its head high because it fulfilled its mission flawlessly." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September)
ESTONIAESTONIA JOINS EU ELECTRONIC INFORMATION-EXCHANGE PROGRAM. In Tallinn on 20 September, Economy, Transport, and Communications Minister Liina Tonisson and European Commissioner for Enterprise and Information Society Erkki Liikanen signed a memorandum on Estonia's joining the European Union's electronic information-exchange program, eContent, ETA reported. The program has three main areas of activity: improving access to, and expanding the use of, public-sector information; enhancing content production in a multilingual and multicultural environment; and increasing the dynamism of the digital-content market. In talks with Prime Minister Siim Kallas, Liikanen offered his help in solving problems that may arise in the work of the European Future Convention. He also delivered a report at the telecommunications and information-technologies forum in Parnu called From Vision to Solutions 2002. ("RFE/RL Baltic States Report," 2 October)
CHARGES AGAINST JOURNALIST DROPPED. Charges of inciting ethnic hatred have been dropped against Mart Ummelas, a reporter for "Vikerradio." Radio listener David Abramson had persuaded authorities to initiate an investigation after he protested a 13 August broadcast in which Ummelas read from a book on interpretation of dreams. According to Hans Ernits' book, "A Small Dictionary of Dream Language," dreaming about Jews may result in bad consequences. ("SL Ohtuleht," 27 September)
GEORGIAPOLICE ATTACK ON TV STATION CONDEMNED. In a 2 October press release, Reporters Without Borders called for the punishment of some 30 police officials who the report claims broke into an independent TV station in the west Georgian town of Zugdidi on 27 September and beat up journalists. The attack took place hours after the station broadcast a report criticizing police action against demonstrators in Zugdidi. Three senior local police officials were reported to have participated in the attack. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October)
HUNGARYHUNGARIAN RADIO CHAIRMAN COMPLAINS ABOUT GOVERNMENT PRESSURE. Karoly Szadai, chairman of the board of trustees of Hungarian Radio, on 23 September said he will approach President Ferenc Madl and parliamentary speaker Katalin Szili over what he called "government pressure that could jeopardize the basic functioning of the state-owned radio network," Budapest dailies reported. Szadai said he is preparing to ask the Constitutional Court to rule on whether the present system, whereby the government finances the state-owned media, is legitimate. Szadai said most members of the board fear that "government control of the purse strings will create political pressure." The board consists of five opposition deputies and four representatives of the governing coalition. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September)
RIGHT TO LAUNCH OWN TELEVISION STATION... A new television station with a center-right orientation will start broadcasting 17 hours of programming daily via cable in early December, former government spokesman Gabor Borokai told "Nepszabadsag" on 1 October. He said funding for Hir TV (News TV) will be provided by Hungarian hotel- and catering-industry investors, adding that the owner is a Hungarian-born foreigner. The station could reach as many as 1.8 million households, and it will broadcast news every 20 minutes. Its editor in chief is Imre Dlusztus, a former newspaper editor who said he wants "a moderate television station that will remind viewers that the past 12 years have not been in vain." He also said a survey found that 69 percent of Socialist supporters and 71 percent of FIDESZ voters say Hir TV is necessary. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October)
...WHILE PROSECUTOR-GENERAL CHALLENGES FORMER TELEVISION DIRECTOR'S DISMISSAL. The Prosecutor-General's Office on 1 October challenged the appointment of Hungarian Television (MTV) interim President Imre Ragats, arguing that the chairman of the MTV board of trustees should not have accepted the resignation of former MTV President Karoly Mendreczky in July. The prosecutor's office initiated a lawsuit with the Metropolitan Court to void Mendreczky's resignation and Ragats's appointment as interim president, Hungarian media reported. The move came one day after MTV's board of trustees on 30 September failed to elect a new MTV president. The board has announced that it will invite new bids for the post. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October)
KAZAKHSTANEDITORS OF ECONOMIC PUBLICATION PROTEST HARASSMENT. The editors of the privately owned newspaper "Economy, Finance, Markets" have written to Prosecutor-General Rashid Tusupbekov complaining of illegal actions by customs officials, police, and national-security officials which, they claim, are intended to prevent the production and distribution of the newspaper, Interfax reported on 26 September. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September)
EDITOR ACQUITTED OF LIBEL IN ATYRAU... After a one-day court hearing on 18 September, Saghynghaliy Khafizov, an editor of the newspaper "Altyn ghasyr" in the western Kazakhstan city of Atyrau, was found not guilty of insulting the personal dignity and honor of President Nursultan Nazarbaev. Earlier this year, Khafizov turned down a presidential award, saying he could not accept a prize from "a corrupt person," RFE/RL reported on 19 September. On the same day, the newspaper's chief editor, Zhumabay Dospanov, who is also a regional leader of the opposition Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan, told RFE/RL that his colleague's acquittal represented a significant win for opposition forces. ("RFE/RL Central Asia Report," 26 September)
...AS MINISTER PROMISES MORE OPEN INFORMATION... Kazakh journalists could find further encouragement in promises made on 19 September by Deputy Minister for Culture, Information, and Public Accord Ardaq Doszhan. Addressing a meeting of government officials and print editors at the Ministry of Transportation and Communications -- a meeting that played like an attempt at building trust between the first and fourth estates -- Doszhan pledged that in the future, government officials would be "very open and eager" to provide information to journalists and grant interviews, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Furthermore, he said that the procedure to accredit correspondents to government summits and conferences would soon be simplified. ("RFE/RL Central Asia Report," 26 September)
...BUT POLICE RAID ALMATY NEWSPAPERS... On 23 September, police in Almaty raided a publishing house that prints opposition newspapers such as "SolDat" and "Qazaqstan." As Channel 31 television reported, police officers searched the New Press Almaty publishing house and confiscated 2,500 copies of the business review "Ekonomika. Finansy. Rynki." The order suspending the paper had been issued two weeks prior by the city's deputy prosecutor-general. The newspaper's lawyers said the ruling was under appeal and not currently actionable, and that in any case, the police had no business shutting down the paper, which legally was something only special executors could do. Suspiciously, electricity at the publishing house had been shut off several hours before the police raid. All in all, New Press Almaty's managers reckoned they were being pressured and punished because they printed opposition newspapers, the television said on 23 September. ("RFE/RL Central Asia Report," 26 September)
...AND DRAFT MEDIA LAW SAID TO PROMISE LITTLE... On 19 September, Tamara Kaleeva, the chairwoman of Adil Soz (Just Word), a nongovernmental organization for the defense of free media, told a news conference at the National Press Club in Almaty that the new media law would not ameliorate conditions for independent journalists, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service and Interfax reported. She said the government was not taking the drafting process seriously, since the working group -- put together by the Ministry of Culture, Information, and Public Accord -- included no lawyers who were specialists in media or information. Instead of an open process with public debate and input reflecting best practices, Kaleeva predicted that, in time-honored fashion, the ministry would compose the draft; the Interior Ministry, National Security Committee, and Prosecutor-General's Office would add their proposals; and the government would get another restrictive law to protect its own interests. "Even the best version of the law doesn't remove unjustified legal restrictions from journalists' activities, because their work is regulated by a complex system of norms and rules," said Kaleeva, as cited by Interfax. Her colleague Illiodor Kalsin told the same press conference that genuine freedom of speech in Kazakhstan would require the revision of a host of regulatory documents and licensing laws, the Administrative-Violations Code, and the country's Criminal and Civil codes. He compared a journalist to a sapper in a minefield: "A step to the right or a step to the left and you are blown up," Kalsin said, according to Interfax-Kazakhstan on 19 September. ("RFE/RL Central Asia Report," 26 September)
...WHILE 'OUTRAGEOUS' ASSAULTS ON JOURNALISTS CONTINUE. Adil Soz activists offered, through numbers, a snapshot of the situation for Kazakh journalists. In 2002, there had been 23 attacks on journalists and media offices. Five journalists have been prosecuted this year for insulting the dignity and honor of the president. Four have been murdered. Meanwhile, on 20 September, Nazarbaev, during an appearance on national television to take questions from viewers, called assaults on journalists "outrageous." "We will fight against this and other types of crime, and [investigations] into all these cases will definitely be brought to a conclusion," the president said. ("RFE/RL Central Asia Report," 26 September)
LATVIACRIMINAL POLICE CHIEF ON LEAVE AS SLANDER INVESTIGATION CONTINUES. State Police Chief Juris Reksna on 2 October accepted Criminal Police Chief Valdis Pumpurs' request to be relieved of his duties while an investigation continues into a possible slander campaign directed at People's Party's deputies, LETA reported. Prime Minister Andris Berzins has already dismissed Interior Minister Mareks Seglins over alleged misuse of the police force for political aims. Berzins on 2 October filed a request by Latvia's Way parliamentary deputies for prosecutors to investigate allegations that two of its employees ordered the printing of defamatory leaflets, according to a BNS report the same day. Earlier in the day, People's Party Chairman Andris Skele and Latvia's Way Deputy Chairman Ivars Godmanis in interviews with Latvian State Radio urged voters to disregard the slander scandal and cast their ballots on 5 October based on party platforms. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October)
MACEDONIAJOURNALISTS PROTEST VIOLENCE. Several hundred journalists staged a protest in front of the Macedonian Interior Ministry on 30 September, Makfax news agency reported. The protesters demanded an end to violence against journalists, recalling that over the past three years there have been more than 40 attacks on journalists. A protest letter to the Interior Ministry argued that "the authorities...did nothing to track down the perpetrators. They also did nothing to prevent the wrongdoers from resorting to their twisted methods of keeping the public and journalists silent." The protest follows the recent assault on Zoran Bozinovski, a journalist from the private local Radio Tumba in Kumanovo, who was severely beaten by a group of masked men armed with iron bars on 26 September. Bozinovski later accused a member of the special police unit known as the Lions of having been among the perpetrators. Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski assured the journalists that an investigation is under way. The Lions are widely regarded as an arm of Boskovski's Internal Macedonian Revolution Organization (VMRO-DPNME). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October)
MOLDOVAROMANIAN TV BROADCASTS TO BE RESUMED. The Moldovan cabinet on 2 October approved a draft law on the ratification of a memorandum of understanding with Romania, making possible the resumption of Romanian Television's Channel 1 broadcasts in Moldova, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Under the memorandum, Romania should grant Moldova a long-term loan of 20 billion Romanian lei ($623,092) to cover costs related to the broadcasts. Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev said the suspension of the broadcasts on 10 August has been "misinterpreted" in Moldovan media reports, which suggested it was politically motivated. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October)
MONTENEGRONEW EDITORS ELECTED. On 24 September, Montenegrin Radio and Montenegrin TV elected acting editors in chief: Milutin Tomasevic for radio and Natasa Novovic for television. Currently, Tomasevic is the editor of Montenegrin Radio's domestic political program and Novovic is the chief editor of Radio Free Montenegro. ("ANEM Weekly Update," 21-27 September)
JOURNALISTS RESIST POLITICAL MANIPULATION. The Association of Professional Journalists (UPN) issued a statement in Podgorica slamming the recent changes in top management of state-run media as politically motivated, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 29 September. Elsewhere, the Independent Union of Journalists of Montenegro (NSNCG) called on journalists to be critical in their coverage of politicians in the run-up to the 20 October parliamentary elections. The union appealed to journalists not to simply repeat what politicians say. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 October)
MEDIA PROTEST OVER DELAY IN MEDIA LAW. On 24 September, most members of the Association of Independent Montenegrin Broadcasters suspended their programs for 30 minutes to protest a delay in the implementation of the country's new media laws, adopted last week but not due to come into effect until May next year. Only Radio Free Montenegro did not join the protest. Further protest blackouts are planned. ("ANEM Weekly Update," 21-27 September)
ROMANIAJOURNALIST ACQUITTED OF LIBEL. Journalist Dumitru Tinu was found innocent on 2 October by a Bucharest court of libel charges brought against him by miners' leader Miron Cozma, AP reported. Cozma, who is serving an 18-year sentence for leading a rampage through the capital by miners in 1991, sued Tinu after the journalist described Cozma in 1999 in an editorial in the daily "Adevarul" as "a notorious terrorist." The editorial referred to an additional attempt by Cozma's supporters to reach the capital and overthrow the government by force. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October)
RUSSIAWAVE OF VIOLENCE AGAINST JOURNALISTS IN PENZA. On 24 September, the New York-based media watchdog group Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), expressed "deep concern" over a wave of violent attacks against journalists near the southern city of Penza. Most recently, Igor Salikov, director of information security at Propaganda publishing house, was killed soon after a newspaper printed by his employer published a series of articles alleging that local authorities were involved in corruption. Salikov, 37, was killed on 20 September in Arbekov, a town near Penza. He was walking from his car to his home with his wife when two unidentified individuals shot him in the chest and head. According to the state-run Moscow daily "Rossiskaya gazeta," Salikov had been preparing articles for the Penza weekly "Moskovskii komsomolets v Penze," which is published by Propaganda, about local official corruption. Local authorities have opened a criminal investigation into the killing. Salikov's murder is the latest in a series of attacks against reporters in Penza: On 11 August, two unidentified men entered the office of the opposition newspaper "Lyubimiy gorod" and beat editor Anton Sharonov unconscious. The next day, several individuals abducted the deputy director of the Propaganda publishing house, Yurii Frolov, who has disappeared. On 14 August, Viktor Shamaev, a crime reporter for "Penzenskaya pravda", and editor of the paper "Dlya sluzhbenovo polzovaniya," was abducted in Arbekov, taken to a basement, where he was tied to a stool, beaten, and told to give up journalism and leave town. He was released and reportedly remains in Arbekov. (Committee to Protect Journalists, 24 September)
DEPUTY PROSECUTOR-GENERAL CASTS DOUBT ON DEAD JOURNALISTS IDENTITY. Sergei Fridinskii told Interfax on 27 September that it is not certain whether a man killed during fighting early on 26 September in Ingushetia between Chechen fighters and Russian forces is British free-lance television journalist Gervaise Roderick John Scott. He said the man's appearance does not correspond to the photograph in Scott's passport, which was found on the body. On 28 September, Interfax quoted Fridinskii as saying that identification is problematic because the dead man's face was too badly damaged by an explosion to compare with the passport photo. But he added that the dead man had London subway tickets in his pocket. Russian officials said the previous day that the man presumed to be Scott and the other killed Chechen fighters were wearing NATO uniforms. But no Russian official has yet explained why the man would have carefully transferred a London subway ticket from his civilian clothes to the pocket of his NATO uniform before crossing the Georgian-Russian border. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 September)
LIBERAL WEEKLY ALLEGES LINKS BETWEEN WALKING TOGETHER AND SKINHEADS. "Novaya gazeta," No. 70, reported on alleged links between the pro-Putin youth movement Walking Together and Moscow skinhead groups. According to the weekly, the head of the northeast section of the Moscow chapter of Walking Together, Aleksei Mitryushin, was formally the head of a skinhead group called the Rabid Stallions, which the paper says "particularly distinguished itself" during the June soccer riots in downtown Moscow. Mitryushin is quoted in the article as admitting his past connection with the Rabid Stallions and said that his colleagues at Walking Together are aware of it... Finally, the weekly quoted an unidentified alleged member of a skinhead group called United Brigade-88. "Walking Together approached us.... They use us, but we have our own interest -- financial. Back then a meeting was called to defend NTV at Ostankino, and we were ordered to break it up. We were given a certain sum of money," the source was quoted as saying. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 September)
SECOND WRITER TO FACE PORNOGRAPHY CHARGES... Prosecutors have filed a criminal case on charges of disseminating pornography against writer Kirill Vorobev, who writes under the penname Bayan Shiryanov, polit.ru and other Russian news agencies reported on 26 September. The case is the second stemming from complaints against writers filed by the pro-Putin youth movement Walking Together. In July, similar charges were filed against Vladimir Sorokin. Vorobev was expected to answer prosecutors' questions on 27 September. Earlier this week, Vorobev filed a complaint against Walking Together alleging that members of the group publicly insulted him and threw tomatoes at his photograph during a demonstration. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September)
...WHILE EMBATTLED WRITER SHORTLISTED FOR PRESTIGIOUS PRIZE. Sorokin was named one of six finalists for the 2002 Booker-Open Russia prize, RosBalt and other news agencies reported. "Including Vladimir Sorokin on the shortlist is in this case the only way we could protest the persecution of this writer and the legal threat against him," said prize jury Chairman Vladimir Makanin. Other finalists include Dmitrii Bortnikov, Sergei Gandlevskii, Vadim Mesyats, and Oleg Pavlov. The winner of the $12,500 prize will be announced on 5 December. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October)
ROLE OF HANDICAPPED IN RUSSIA (RE)VIEWED. An international film festival devoted to the problems of handicapped people will run in Moscow from 26-29 September, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. Some 140 art films and documentaries from around the world featuring themes such as discrimination against the handicapped will be screened. Sergei Miroshnichenko, documentary film director and chairman of the festival, explained that he hopes the festival will help explain how WWII veterans, many of whom are disabled, had to learn to readapt to Russian society. "My father returned from World War II blind," Miroshnichenko said. "And I remember very well his stories about the huge number of handicapped in our country; that is, people without hands, noses.... They were called 'samovars.' These people were simply thrown away. In our country for some reason, everywhere health, strength, and courage are honored -- even at the House of Cinematography." He explained that the festival could not be held at that prestigious venue because it is not handicapped accessible. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 27 September)
SAMIZDAT CHRONICLER PASSES INTO HISTORY. Tatyana Mikhailovna Velikanova was born in Moscow on 3 February 1932 and died in her native city on 21 September 2002. In 1980, Velikanova was sentenced to a nine-year term of imprisonment for the "most remarkable publishing venture of the Soviet era," writes Majorie Farquharson in "The Independent." For 14 years, the samizdat "Chronicle of Current Events" gave an uncensored account � written in a "neutral and unassuming voice" -- of Soviet society. It was the only underground journal devoted to freedom of information, and started as a brief account of the fates of the seven who protested on Red Square against the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. By the time the Soviet authorities suppressed it in 1983, the "Chronicle" had regular rubrics on emigration, religion, nationalities, psychiatry, prisoners, and the press. As its editor, Velikanova faced the constant threat of arrest -- as did its contributors from throughout the USSR. How could the contributors be sure that the "Chronicle" would reproduce their words fairly and protect their identity? The journal's continual growth in depth and scope was testimony to Velikanova's integrity and skill. She also overcame technical problems, such as typing copies on manual machines and distributing them to trusted people. The journal also faced the risk of being discredited through information planted by the KGB and each issue carefully corrected any previous errors. A "Chronicle of Current Events" is available in English from Amnesty International and in Russian on the website of the human rights group Memorial (http://www.memo.ru). CC
GOVERNMENT TO ROOT OUT ILLEGAL MULTIMEDIA PRODUCTION. Speaking at a government session devoted to the protection of intellectual property, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said that 50 percent of videocassettes, 65 percent of audiocassettes, and 95 percent of DVDs produced in Russia are made illegally, while the illegal multimedia market is worth about $5 billion a year, RTR reported on 3 October. He said it is remarkable that while in the past most unlicensed multimedia products were imported into Russia, now they are produced domestically. This booming black market is robbing the state of significant tax revenues, Kasyanov noted. He urged the government to address the problem systematically by keeping better track of audio and video production, creating an efficient legislative framework for copyright issues, and improving the coordination of government agencies dealing with intellectual-property protection. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 October)
PENZA RESIDENTS DOGGED BY ADS. In the city of Penza, a homeless dog bearing the logo of LUKoil painted on his fur can be seen running around the streets of one neighborhood, ntvru.com reported on 18 September, citing "Molodoi leninets." The dog was reportedly lured with pieces of sausage and then the company's name was painted on its fur. According to the website, dogs bearing the brand names Sony, Camel, and Dosya have also been seen on city streets. Specialists at the oblast veterinary laboratory said that the practice raises questions not only of ethics, but health. Chief veterinarian Ivan Samushkin said, "Smear yourself with oil paint, walk around for a week, and then let's see whether it affects your health or not." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September)
SERBIAINDEPENDENT MEDIA FACES FRESH ATTACKS. On 27 September, the Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) protested "renewed exploitation of the judiciary" in an effort to suppress "full and objective information," thereby allegedly reverting to a "notorious control mechanism of the Milosevic regime." In Kragujevac, on 25 September, a municipal court convicted and fined "Nezavisna svetlost" journalist Gordana Bozic in a libel case brought by Kragujevac Mayor Vlatko Rajkovic. The charges arose out of Bozic's reports on frequent criminal charges brought against directors of youth organizations, noting cases involving political parties' youth organizations. According to ANEM, there has recently been a return to the practice of banning local independent broadcasters. Local authorities in the southern Serbian city of Pirot have announced they intend to dismiss the current affairs editors of local broadcaster RTV Pirot, while the authorities in the nearby city of Kursumlija have attempted to bar TV Kursumlija from using its transmission facilities. B92 has received a summons to appear in the city court in Smederevska Palanka on libel charges brought by Mayor Radislav Ljubisavljevic. The mayor is seeking 2 million dinars for "mental anguish and damage to his reputation" allegedly caused by publication of a statement -- never denied by Ljubisavljevic -- by a Democratic Alternative official that Ljubisavljevic had been sentenced to two years' probation in 1994 and was also charged with forgery and abuse of authority. ("ANEM Weekly Update," 21-27 September)
PARLIAMENTARIAN DEMANDS PROSECUTION OF 'JOURNALIST WARMONGERS.' Journalists who took part in promoting the wars in the former Yugoslavia must answer for it in court, the head of the Vojvodina Assembly, Nenad Canak, said on 22 September. ("ANEM Weekly Update," 21-27 September)
UKRAINEKUCHMAGATE AND GONGADZE MURDER 'CANALIZED' BY OFFICIAL MEDIA... According to Ukrainian sociologist Viktor Stepanenko, the unsolved murder of Internet journalist Heorhiy Gongadze and the unanswered questions of "Kuchmagate" (the scandal connected with the publication of secret audio tapes made by former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko in President Leonid Kuchma's office) are still two of the most serious topics in Ukrainian political life. The authorities have so far managed to "marginalize" (or, to use a technical term coined by official political consultants in Ukraine, "to canalize") opposition activities and the mass political protests that resulted from Kuchmagate, Stepanenko writes. In official media outlets, the large-scale political scandal and public reaction to it have often been presented as a routine criminal case and an insidious intrigue by political opponents, who are often portrayed as "irresponsible adventurers, losers, and marginal players." The remark by Interior Minister Yuriy Smyrnov at a recent news conference about "criminals and mentally ill people who are attracted by the upcoming protests" is fully in line with this manipulative strategy. The official propaganda machinery has contributed enormously to making the moral and rational choice of political positions for a majority of citizens a very complicated and nearly impossible issue, he adds. ("RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 24 September)
...AS INFORMATION ACCESS INCREASES 'POLITICAL CULTURE.' According to a poll of a representative sample of 1,800 respondents by the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Sociology in March 2001, the more people were informed about Kuchmagate from various sources, the more they believed in the authenticity of Melnychenko's tapes. An analysis of the March 2001 survey also reveals a clear correlation between the level of respondents' knowledge of Kuchmagate and their readiness to take part in the "For the Truth" protest campaign in 2001, Stepanenko reports. Kuchmagate has confirmed the axiom that citizens' knowledge and free access to different sources of information increase their ability to make political decisions and develop their political culture. ("RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 24 September)
UNIAN JOURNALISTS COMPLAIN OF POLITICAL PRESSURE, CENSORSHIP... Journalists of the Kyiv-based independent news agency UNIAN on 1 October posted a statement on the UNIAN website (http://www.unian.net) saying they have been subjected to censorship and have come under "fierce pressure regarding the formation of [our] independent information activity" since the appointment of a new UNIAN executive director, Vasyl Yurychko, a week ago. "We feel that people representing the political interests of the authorities -- in particular, those of the administration of the president of Ukraine -- are interfering with journalistic matters at the agency," the statement reads. The journalists warn that they will go on strike if "the situation does not change and if the authorities continue to grossly interfere with UNIAN's editorial policy." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October)
...AFTER INCIDENT INVOLVING OPPOSITION LEADERS. AP reported that the UNIAN journalists' statement appeared after a dispute between Yurychko and three Ukrainian opposition leaders over whether the opposition could hold a news conference at the agency's headquarters. In its regular news issue on the afternoon of 1 October, UNIAN carried a message saying that opposition lawmakers Yuliya Tymoshenko, Oleksandr Moroz, and Petro Symonenko "have begun brutally to pressure" the agency. Quoting UNIAN General Director Oleh Nalyvayko, the agency said Petro Yakobchuk from "Yuliya Tymoshenko's press service" demanded earlier the same day, "in the form of an ultimatum," that the agency provide its premises at 1 p.m. for a news conference featuring Tymoshenko, Moroz, and Symonenko. Nalyvayko reportedly refused, saying it was the first time he faced "such a brazen and gross [example of] pressure on the independent media." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October)
END NOTESELLING THE PARTY OF POWER
By Laura Belin
In all three parliamentary elections in post-Soviet Russia, the "party of power" has enjoyed far more money, administrative resources, and media exposure than any of its rivals. However, converting those advantages into votes has not come easily. Russian electoral history shows that "selling" the party of power requires more than saturation coverage on state television.
Kremlin spin doctors learned their first painful lessons about electioneering in 1993, when Russia's Choice, led by former acting Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar, ran a notoriously incompetent campaign. Heavy-handed news and analysis programs, along with Western-style television advertisements featuring prosperous families, appear to have alienated the majority of the population who were struggling to survive high inflation. Some campaign videos focused on the untelegenic Gaidar or showed others extolling Gaidar's intelligence and dedication. Despite receiving more airtime during newscasts on the two state-owned television networks than did all other 12 parties combined, Russia's Choice gained only 15.5 percent of the party-list vote, well behind Vladimir Zhirinovskii's Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia. (Thanks to its many prominent regional and local candidates, however, Russia's Choice did win more of the 225 single-member districts than did any other bloc.)
By 1995, Gaidar's party looked like a spent force, so the Kremlin created a new party of power. Its leader, Viktor Chernomyrdin, had headed the government since December 1992, but he was not associated with "shock-therapy" economic reforms. Although inflation had come down considerably since 1993, the party of power did not dwell on the promise of prosperity. Instead, Chernomyrdin's Our Home Is Russia (NDR) bloc campaigned on themes of stability, experience, and professionalism. Image-makers depicted the prime minister as a custodial figure. Billboards showing Chernomyrdin holding his hands in the shape of a roof over the bloc's logo, which looked like a house, inspired jokes that the NDR was offering voters a "krysha" (roof), Russian slang for mafia cover or protection.
Many NDR videos juxtaposed images of Chernomyrdin with feel-good images, such as efficient factory workers. Some paid commercials also contrasted Chernomyrdin's steady leadership with disorder and buffoonery in the State Duma: Footage of the September 1995 Duma brawl in which Zhirinovskii pulled a woman's hair was a staple of NDR advertisements. NDR also benefited from several clips run repeatedly on state television that technically were not political advertisements. One featured No. 2 candidate Nikita Mikhalkov as an astronaut commenting on how beautiful Russia looked from space. All the while, news programs on channels 1 and 2 focused on positive messages about the government and upbeat assessments of the prime minister's bloc.
Still, the election results were disappointing: NDR finished third in the party-list voting with 10 percent, or less than half as much as the Communists received. Even worse, NDR won only 10 of the 225 single-member districts, compared to 58 for the Communists and 20 for the leftist Agrarian Party.
The party of power's spin doctors adopted a much different strategy in 1999, and not only because of NDR's underachieving four years earlier. Building a campaign around the themes of experience and professionalism would have played to the strengths of the Kremlin's arch-rival, the Fatherland-All Russia movement led by former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov. Primakov was perceived as having guided Russia from a period of economic turmoil following the August 1998 ruble devaluation to a period of relative stability. Luzhkov had run the Russian capital for most of the decade.
Rather than putting political heavyweights at the top of the party list, Unity showcased figures who were well-known and well-liked but apolitical: Minister for Emergency Situations Sergei Shoigu, Olympic wrestling champion Aleksandr Karelin, and famous criminal investigator Aleksandr Gurov.
Unity's campaign images emphasized youth, vigor, and action. News and analysis programs showed Shoigu helping to resolve crises around the country. Most of Unity's free airtime consisted of wordless footage of the bloc's leaders, set to music without any voice-over or even a catchy slogan. Shoigu appeared overseeing rescue efforts, attending government meetings, and playing soccer.
Karelin was shown training for, and winning, wrestling matches. Gurov took part in various law-enforcement activities. The candidates did mouth brief statements in one paid advertisement, but their words had little to do with the Duma, policy stands, or politics in general. Instead, they were uncontroversial messages along the lines that Russia should be a strong state with fair laws and citizens who can "save our country ourselves."
Unity's strong showing, nearly matching the Communist share of the party-list vote and far outpacing Fatherland-All Russia, cannot be attributed entirely to clever spin doctors. The bloc also benefited from growing admiration for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and the popular military campaign in Chechnya, conditions that were absent in 1993 and 1995. (Although Putin did not appear in advertisements for Unity, his endorsement of the bloc received much news coverage.) Nevertheless, the image constructed for Unity and its leaders reflected a far more sophisticated use of state power than was apparent during the two previous Duma campaigns.
Laura Belin has been covering Russian politics since 1995. She recently completed a doctorate on the Russian media in the post-Soviet period.