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Media Matters: October 18, 2002

18 October 2002, Volume 2, Number 40
U.S. AT OSCE: FREE PRESS 'MAIN SUPPORT OF DEMOCRACY.' Speaking at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Permanent Council on 10 October, Ambassador Steven Miniker, the head of the U.S. OSCE delegation, said that a free press is the main support of democracy, since it informs citizens of a wide range of views on vital issues. He cited the role of the press in exposing governmental abuses, including criminal acts by officials, and again urged that a special OSCE conference be held on corruption and on media access to public information. Despite "alarming trends," on a positive note Miniker referred to the granting of licenses to three independent radio stations in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan's official declaration that it has ended censorship. In regard to Kazakhstan, however, Miniker repeated his alarm at "the escalated campaign of attacks on independent media outlets." He noted the "almost total lack of freedom of expression in Turkmenistan, and he repeated concern over official censorship of the media in Ukraine and expressed hope that the government of Azerbaijan would amend its broadcasting laws. Miniker also noted Russian President Vladimir Putin's decree annulling former President Boris Yeltsin's 1991 decree which accredited RFE/RL in Moscow. While expressing his understanding that the official purpose of the Putin's decree was to "provide all foreign bureaus with equal legal status," Miniker said it was "unclear what the practical effects" of Putin's decree would be. According to Miniker, "it is important to continue uninterrupted RFE/RL broadcasts" because they provide "a valuable service to the citizens of Russia." CC

OFFICIAL OPPOSED TO TV ACCESS FOR RELIGIOUS GROUPS. Speaking on ANS television on 16 October, State Committee for Work with Religious Structures Chairman Rafiq Aliyev spoke out against giving airtime on state TV to certain religious communities, FBIS reported the same day. In his view, such access would "destabilize the balance between religious sects." Aliyev referred to Baptists, Jehovah's Witness, Greater Grace Church, Krishna Consciousness, Baha'is and other religious communities in Azerbaijan. CC

WHAT IS THE BOTTOM LINE FOR NEW STATE MEDIA LOANS? After a meeting in December 2001, President Heidar Aliyev decreed a new loan scheme. The governmental National Fund for Business Support will provide credits of 3 billion manats ($612,000) until the end of 2002. According to Economic Development Minister Farhad Aliev, the fund's total three-year budget is 250 billion manats, including a major share for the media sector, reported the Institute for War and Peace Reporting's Caucasus Reporting Service on 17 October. While some editors maintain that the budget was not large enough to solve the media's fiscal headaches, others saw political conformity as the real bottom line. Farhad Aliev, however, denied a political agenda, saying that the paper's commercial reputation rather than its political profile would be the key criterion. Under the Aliyev decree, media can receive low-interest loans for up to five years of between $1,000 and $100,000. Farhad Aliyev said that his ministry had received over 70 loan applications; of the nine business-plans, only three had passed muster; and that no one has received any credits. Media that receive funding will likely find it difficult to repay the loans. Some fear that if media outlets cannot afford to reimburse the state, it will move to take them over, requisition their property, and their staff could face jail sentences of up to 15 years. CC

PRESIDENT TO NOMINATE STATE BROADCASTING COUNCIL. On 9 October, President Aliyev signed a decree to set up the state broadcasting council. Under this decree, Aliyev will name all nine members to that legislative oversight council, reports the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations. CC

COURT UPHOLDS CONVICTION OF EDITOR FOR LIBELING LUKASHENKA. The Minsk City Court on 15 October rejected the appeal of Viktar Ivashkevich, the editor in chief of the independent newspaper "Rabochy," against the ruling of a district court sentencing him to two years in a corrective-labor facility for libeling President Alyaksandr Lukashenka during the presidential election campaign in 2001, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported. A September 2001 issue of "Rabochy," all copies of which were seized by authorities before they hit the newsstands, alleged that Lukashenka made money by exploiting the Russia-Belarus custom union and giving trade preferences to some firms and organizations, including Torgexpo and the so-called Esambaev Fund. The KGB refused to provide any information regarding the allegations, asserting that all materials from its investigations into these firms and organizations have been destroyed. "I'm sure the court will rule to acquit me after the political situation in Belarus changes," Ivashkevich commented. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October)

LAWYER GETS SUSPENDED PRISON TERM FOR SLANDERING PROSECUTOR-GENERAL. A district court in Minsk on 11 October sentenced former lawyer Ihar Aksyonchyk to a 1 1/2 year prison term suspended for two years for slandering Prosecutor-General Viktar Sheyman, Belarusian media reported. The trial was held behind closed doors. Earlier this year, Aksyonchyk alleged that Sheyman might have had a role in the abductions and murders of journalist Dzmitry Zavadski and opposition politicians Viktar Hanchar and Yury Zakharanka. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October)

LOWER HOUSE TO QUESTION PROSECUTOR-GENERAL ABOUT DISAPPEARANCES. The Chamber of Representatives has endorsed a motion by deputy Valery Fralou to question Prosecutor-General Sheyman about investigations into the disappearances of some of President Lukashenka's major political opponents in 1999-2000, Belapan reported on 16 October. In particular, Fralou wants to know who gave the orders to arrest and subsequently release Dzmitry Paulichenka, the commander of an elite police unit, who was alleged to be in charge of a death squad involved in the abduction and murder of opposition politicians Zakharanka and Hanchar, businessman Anatol Krasouski, and journalist Zavadski. Fralou also wants Sheyman to explain why the whereabouts of Zavadski are still unknown despite the arrest and conviction of his alleged kidnappers this past March. Fralou is expected to raise the issue of disappearances at a parliamentary hearing on 23 October. Sheyman is among the officials invited to speak at the hearing. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October)

PRESIDENT PLEDGES EXTRA FUNDS FOR HISTORICAL MOVIE. Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 10 October promised to allocate an additional 400 million Belarusian rubles ($214,000) early next year for the shooting of a historical epic movie called "Anastasiya of Slutsk," Belapan reported, quoting the presidential press service. Lukashenka made this pledge during his visit to the film set in response to director Yury Yelkhau's request for more funding. The movie's original budget was equal to 1.4 billion Belarusian rubles. According to scanty historical accounts, Anastasiya of Slutsk was a duchess who played a major role in defending the town of Slutsk (south of Minsk) from an invasion of Crimean Tatars in the 16th century. Lukashenka reportedly said the picture should be "a genuine Belarusian film" showing the true history, culture, and mentality of the ancestors of present-day Belarusians. Slutsk in the 16th century was in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, a vast multiethnic state comprising the whole area of today's Belarus as well as large chunks of Ukraine and Lithuania. The official written language of the duchy was Ruthenian, a Slavic language closely related to modern Belarusian and Ukrainian. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October)

GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCES EXCLUSIVE NEW MEDIA POLICY. Government spokesman Dimitar Tsonev announced on 14 October that only four radio and television stations will be invited to attend monthly media briefings with Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski, reported. The media briefings will be open for journalists of state-owned Bulgarian National Radio and Bulgarian National Television as well as for the private Darik Radio and bTV. Newspaper editors, who felt excluded, have criticized the decision as "unwise." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October)

JOURNALIST AWARDED PRESTIGIOUS PRIZE. On 16 October, the South East Europe Media Organization (SEEMO) and its international jury awarded Croatian journalist Denis Latin the 2002 "Dr. Erhard Busek -- SEEMO Award for Better Understanding in South East Europe," in recognition of his outstanding efforts in journalism which have contributed toward better understanding in Southeastern Europe. Latin was selected from among more than 400 nominations. Latin, a leading political journalist in Croatia, is the editor and presenter of a popular political TV program, "Latinica," on Croatian Radio and Television. He is also a columnist for the magazine "Nacional." (SEEMO, 16 October)

REPORTER THREATENED IN ABKHAZIA. For the past month, Izida Chaniya, editor in chief of a Russian-language paper "Nuzhnaya gazeta" in the Abkhaz capital Sukhum, has been subjected to frequent phone calls telling her she will be killed unless she leaves Abkhazia, reports the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations. Reportedly, the United Nations office based in Abkhazia has expressed its concern over this situation. CC

AUSCHWITZ SURVIVOR WINS NOBEL PRIZE FOR LITERATURE. The Swedish Royal Academy on 10 October awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature to Hungary's Imre Kertesz for his work "presenting the experiences of a fragile man exposed to the barbaric tyranny of history," Hungarian and international media reported. Kertesz, a survivor of Nazi concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald, wrote his novels about the Holocaust and its aftermath. His books were less popular in Hungary than in Western Europe. The 73-year-old writer is the first person in Hungarian literary history to win the prestigious award. Hungarian President Ferenc Madl sent a congratulatory telegram to Kertesz, saying, "It is again a feast to be Hungarian." Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy released a statement expressing his gratitude to the writer "for bringing such glory to his homeland." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October)

CNN REPORTER DENIED VISA. On 9 October, the Paris-based media group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) protested the refusal of the Iranian authorities to grant a visa to CNN journalist Christiane Amanpour as a "clear attack on press freedom." Amanpour is covering U.K. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw's current Middle East tour. Iranian officials gave no reason for refusing Amanpour's visa application. During her last visit to the country, she prepared a report on Iranian young people that seems to have displeased the regime, which is in the habit of blocking the return of journalists who have prepared critical reports. CNN is viewed by Iranians via satellite. (RSF, 9 October)

NEW PERIODICAL TO BE LAUNCHED. On 10 October, three well-known journalists, Sergei Kozlov, Yurii Krinitsiyanov, and Oleg Kviyatkovskii, announced that they plan to launch a new monthly periodical, "Ves Mir" (The Whole World) with a print run of 5,000. ("RFE/RL Kazakh News," 10 October)

ZURICH OFFICES OF KOSOVA PAPER TARGETED IN FAILED BOMB ATTACK. On 16 October, RSF condemned an attempt to bomb the Zurich-based offices of the Kosovar paper "Bota Sot." The attempted bombing of the Albanian-language newspaper, with a grenade hidden inside a package, occurred on 27 September, but was not made public until the newspaper's lawyers issued a statement on 14 October. RSF Secretary-General Robert Menard recalled that one of "Bota Sot's" reporters, Bekim Kastrati, was murdered in 2001. The law firm which represents "Bota Sot" reported that a hand grenade, concealed in a package, was received at the paper's Zurich office on 27 September, but failed to detonate when the package was opened. It was later defused by the Zurich police. Swiss federal prosecutors are now in charge of the investigation. In related news, on 8 October, United Nations police in Kosova arrested three persons in connection with the murder of Kastrati, who was killed in Kosova on 19 October 2001. (RSF, 16 October)

PRESIDENT SEES RADIO BROADCASTS AS 'INFORMATION TERROR.' RFE/RL's coverage of an increasingly tense political scene in Kyrgyzstan has clearly irritated President Askar Akaev in Kyrgyzstan. Indeed, in late July, Akaev labeled these broadcasts a "threat to the state," and foreign-financed "information terror" according to the AKIpress website. After Akaev's comments, according to opposition political activists, RFE/RL's signal has become more difficult to receive in Kyrgyzstan, "Eurasia Insight" reported on 16 October. CC

LATVIA'S WAY EXPELS MEMBER FOR INVOLVEMENT IN SMEAR CAMPAIGN. The board of Latvia's Way decided unanimously to expel parliament deputy Peteris Apinis from the party following a meeting with him on 14 October, BNS and LETA reported the next day. During the meeting, Apinis admitted that he authored the text mocking members of the People's Party that was later printed on leaflets and distributed. Apinis said that he had written the text for other purposes and that it was printed without his permission or even knowledge. He told reporters that the text to some extent expressed the truth, and therefore no charges should be brought against him, but he refused to provide more information because the police investigation is still under way. Party Chairman and Prime Minister Andris Berzins said Apinis was expelled for discrediting the party and violating its charter, as he had not informed the board about his involvement in the matter. The leaflet scandal, which prompted Berzins to dismiss Interior Minister Mareks Seglins, probably factored into why Latvia's Way candidates were not elected to the new parliament on 5 October. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October)

CHISINAU WEEKLY'S EDITOR IN CHIEF DETAINED... Sergiu Afanasiu, editor in chief of the weekly "Accente," and two of the weekly's journalists were detained by the authorities on 10 October, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. They were charged with blackmail and accepting bribes. Police searched the offices of the weekly, confiscating $1,500 in cash, materials prepared for the next issue of the weekly, and archives. A spokesman for the Interior Ministry said Afanasiu asked for a bribe from a businessman to refrain from publishing compromising materials on him. Afanasiu's lawyer, Roman Mihaes, said the case is a police fabrication aimed at preventing the weekly from publishing compromising materials on State Security Service Director Ion Ursu, Interior Minister George Papuc, and Moldovan Ambassador to Russia Vladimir Turcanu. He said that those three have warned him in the past to stop publishing such materials. "Accente" staff members said police acted on the orders of the highest echelons of Moldovan leadership. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October)

...AND WEEKLY'S STAFF PROTEST AGAINST 'POLICE ABUSE.' The staff of the "Accente" weekly on 14 October began a 24-hour hunger strike to protest the arrest of Afanasiu, Flux reported. On 15 October, authorities arrested "Accente" journalist Valeriu Manea, who had earlier been detained and released. The Union of Moldovan Journalists on 14 October issued a declaration calling the "Accente case" an "extremely serious attack against the democratic principles" of a constitutional state and a flagrant breach of the freedom of speech, as well as "an attempt to intimidate" Moldovan media. Visiting Council of Europe Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer said the Council of Europe will carefully monitor the case. He said that "arresting a journalist is a very serious problem," and added that Moldovan authorities should only do this if they have "very serious" evidence of wrongdoing. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October)

COUNCIL OF EUROPE OFFICIAL OUTLINES STEPS ON ROAD TO DEMOCRACY. Walter Schwimmer said in Chisinau on 15 October that more political will is needed to ensure that Moldova fulfills the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe's (PACE) resolutions so it can be prepared to take over the council's Committee of Ministers next May, Flux reported. He added that, by implementing democratic reforms, Moldova can advance toward European integration and that chairing the committee offers a great opportunity in that respect. He said it is very important that Moldovan authorities revise the law on transforming Teleradio Moldova into a public company and to ensure freedom of expression and media ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October)

SENATE REJECTS PRM-SPONSORED MOTION. The Senate on 10 October rejected a motion submitted by the opposition Greater Romania Party (PRM) to debate what the motion defined as "democracy in danger," RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. As part of the PRM motion, it was stated that the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) has reintroduced censorship. The motion was defeated by a vote of 79 against and 30 in favor, with 10 abstentions by Democratic Party senators. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October)

PRESIDENT DENIES DEFENDING VACAROIU, ACCUSES JOURNALISTS. President Ion Iliescu on 10 October accused journalists from the daily "Romania libera" of deliberately falsifying his statement on the "Vacaroiu affair." Iliescu said that the report in the daily said "Iliescu considers that Vacaroiu is the victim of a calumny," whereas his statement was "he [i.e., Vacaroiu] considers he is the victim of a calumny." The journalists who misquoted him, Iliescu said, either did that on purpose or should be sent back to school to learn basic rules of grammar. He also said he "reserves the right" to refuse contact with journalists who "are either unprofessional or of bad faith," since this is not the first such incident. He added that he did not wish to comment on the affair, according to the daily "Curentul." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October)

WHO IS IN CHARGE HERE? Writing in "The Moscow Times" on 8 October, Alexei Pankin, editor of the media journal "Sreda," observed new ironies in the Russian media scene. The day after presidential aide -- and chief Kremlin spokesman on Chechnya -- Sergei Yastrzhembskii announced that the "freedom of speech orgy in Russia has come to an end," the presidential administration information department -- headed by Yastrzhembskii -- announced that President Vladimir Putin had revoked Boris Yeltsin's 1991 decree on RFE/RL. Pankin noted the freedom leitmotiv: "An orgy of 'svoboda' (freedom) and a radio station named Svoboda." Yet, Pankin observed, Yastrzhembskii, known as the Kremlin PR boss, expounded on government support of the media, and the education and training of journalists. Yastrzhembskii made public a proposal "to create permanent media-training centers in the capitals of the federal be overseen by the [editor's note: Kremlin-friendly] Media-Soyuz, the presidential information department, [state-owned television and radio company] VGTRK and ITAR-TASS." Pankin added that a high-level official recently confirmed to him that the Kremlin information department six months ago was given the mandate to oversee the Russian media. CC

KREMLIN REACTION TO RFE/RL'S REPORTING ON CHECHNYA... Ever since Yeltsin's 1991 decree, and especially after the start of the first Chechen war in 1994, Russian Communists and other antiliberal and anti-Western elements have demanded a halt to RFE/RL's activities in Russia, reported "Eurasia Insight" on 16 October. Shortly after the Russian forces again invaded Chechnya in the fall of 1999, the Kremlin launched a propaganda campaign against RFE/RL as a result of its hard-hitting coverage of the war. Interviewed by the daily "Gazeta" in early 2002, Yastrzhembskii stated that "[Radio] Liberty's coverage of the Chechen war in 1999-2000 was, in our opinion, one-sided, biased, and far from neutral: the radio station was supporting the separatists' activities," as quoted by "Eurasia Insight." The latest Russian pressure campaign against RFE/RL -- in which on 4 October President Putin cancelled Yeltsin's 1991 decree which guaranteed the legal and operational status of the RFE/RL Moscow bureau -- is apparently connected with the Congressional mandate to begin broadcasts in three North Caucasus languages, including Chechen. Russian Media Minister Mikhail Lesin called the decision a "very serious policy mistake." ("Eurasia Insight," 16 October)

...IS IT A WARNING? Several Russian human rights activists and media analysts link Putin's decree to the RFE/RL's North Caucasus broadcast services. "I think it is a symbolic move...connected with the beginning of their broadcasts in Chechen," Aleksei Simonov, the head of the Glasnost Defense Fund, wrote on the website, as cited by "Eurasia Insight." "They were warned that there would be certain countermeasures in this regard. Maybe these are those countermeasures." Others view Putin's decree in the context of the Kremlin's information policy. Igor Yakovenko, secretary-general of the Russian Union of Journalists, said that the "authorities are slowly eliminating those [media outlets] that pursue an editorial policy other than the one that is supported by the Kremlin." Russian Duma Deputy and veteran human rights advocate Sergei Kovalev, believes that the Kremlin has "drawn a line which [the radio], if it wants to work unhindered in Russia, should not cross." ("Eurasia Insight," 16 October)

'OPEN' SECRETS, SHUT CASE? Writing in "The Moscow Times" on 17 October, Matt Bivens described a few telling moments from the Igor Sutyagin case, a former arms control specialist at the USA-Canada Institute, who is now in Lefortovo prison awaiting trial on charges he spied for the U.S. Igor's father, Vyacheslav, said that after Federal Security Service (FSB) investigators arrived at his son's office in 1999 and saw that Igor had 15 Russian and Western publications -- available at Moscow news kiosks -- piled on his desk, they demanded to know why Igor needed so many newspapers and who had given him permission for them, Bivens reported. Although Sutyagin never had access to top-secret materials -- and reportedly his writings about military matters drew solely upon open sources -- Igor is still awaiting trial and has been imprisoned for three years. The elder Sutyagin, according to Bivens, said that FSB agents have told his son he is simply too smart to be released because he can cull secrets even from open sources. "They told him he has the mental ability to generate state secrets inside his head," he said. CC

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LAW TO BE AMENDED? On 16 October, the Russian Duma approved in its first reading amendments to the law on intellectual property. The vote was 299 in favor with no votes opposed, according to ITAR-TASS. According to Nikolai Gubenko (independent), chairman of the Committee on Culture and Tourism, the amendments would bring Russian law into conformity with the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, which Russia joined in 1995. The bill would also bring certain trade aspects of intellectual-property rights into correspondence with World Trade Organization requirements. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October)

PUTIN ORDERS NEW ENCYCLOPEDIA. President Putin has signed a decree ordering the preparation and publication of a new Big Russian Encyclopedia, reported on 15 October. According to RIA-Novosti, the project will be headed by Academician Yurii Osipov, who has been given one month to form an editorial board. Putin's decree also orders all state agencies at all levels to cooperate in preparing the major reference work. The work will become the first complete encyclopedia published in Russia since the Big Soviet Encyclopedia of 1978. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October)

INTELLIGENCE OFFICER FACES TRIAL FOR TV APPEARANCE. In a closed session of the Moscow Military District Court, Aleksei Ivanov, a senior lieutenant of Russian military intelligence (GRU), stands accused of abusing his status as a security officer, "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 16 October. The accusations stem from an appearance Ivanov made on an STS television show called "Harem," in which female audience members observe and evaluate the masculine qualities of male contestants. Ivanov participated in some "adventure" scenes shot in Africa. GRU officials now charge that Ivanov violated the organization's secrecy and illegally crossed several international borders, the daily reported. If convicted, Ivanov faces up to three years in prison. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October)

REQUIEM FOR AN INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER. The independent newspaper "Novyi Reft," which was published in the Sverdlovsk Oblast village of Reftinskii, has closed, RFE/RL's Yekaterinburg correspondent reported on 16 October. The newspaper's former editor in chief, Eduard Markevich, was shot dead in September 2001 outside of his home, and his widow, Tatyana Markevich, has now closed the newspaper because of fears for her own life and that of her son. Following her husband's death, Markevich had been putting out the newspaper almost by herself. Now she no longer feels that she can put out an independent newspaper and plans to leave the village entirely, RFE/RL's correspondent reported. Recently, someone threw a dumbbell through her apartment window with a note attached reading, "Remember, you do not have to do this." The newspaper was published for six years with a print run of about 2,000 for the town that has a population of 19,000. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October)

FEDERAL COUNCIL CHAIRMAN UNVEILS HIS NEW WEBSITE. Russian Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov has launched a personal website (, Russian agencies reported on 9 October. Visitors can see 25 different headshots of Mironov -- smiling, frowning, smiling with teeth, with clasped hands, and jacketless -- as well as a dozen photos of Mironov fishing and wearing a variety of hats. Also accessible are announcements of the upper legislative chamber's press service, as well as news about legislative initiatives. In an interview with TV-6 on 3 October, Mironov denied that he has hired a personal image maker since his arrival in Moscow in December 2001, but he did admit that he got his hair cut and has now started combing his hair "more thoroughly in the morning." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 October)

HACKERS TARGET FSB SITE. A spokesman for the FSB told ITAR-TASS on 15 October that the number of hacker attacks this year on his agency's website ( might exceed 1 million, about twice as many as the agency experienced in 2001. He added that the attempted break-ins are not "the machinations of foreign intelligence organizations," but the work of domestic hackers. In one case, the FSB traced an attack to a hacker in Krasnoyarsk Krai, and he was subsequently sentenced to one year's probation. The spokesman noted that global cybercrime is growing at a rate of about 10 percent per year. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October)

LESS THAN HALF OF RUSSIANS OWN A HOME PHONE. The All-Russian Public Opinion Survey Center (VTsIOM), conducted a selective representative poll of over 2,000 adult Russians in September, Interfax reported on 9 October. The poll revealed that only 43 percent of Russians have a telephone at home and that 9 percent of those polled own a mobile phone, (6 percent in 2001). Some 7 percent own a home computer (5 percent in 2001). The poll found that 11 percent of Russians use a computer daily or several times per week at home, at work, or in other places; 3 percent use computers about once a week. Some 83 percent of Russians has never used a computer. Four percent of Russians use the Internet daily or several times a week at home, at work, or in other places, while 2 percent use the Internet once a week. According to the poll, 91 percent have never used the Internet. CC

TOP TV RATINGS FOR PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE. Ratings agency AGB has calculated that nearly 1.5 million Serbian television viewers watched the 9 October debate between Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica and Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported on 10 October. The only larger audience recorded by the ratings service was that for the final game of the World Basketball Championship in September, which the Yugoslav team won. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October)

THREE HUNDRED JOURNALISTS PROTEST GOVERNMENT CENSORSHIP. A moment of truth arrived for many Ukrainian journalists after they faced increased censorship when they tried to cover nationwide protests on 16 September -- the second anniversary of the disappearance of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. On 5 October, they formed the first independent journalists' trade union, mobilized by their realization that, regardless of their political views, they are all subject to government-imposed censorship. Four well-known Ukrainian journalists -- Yuliya Mostovaya, deputy editor in chief of the paper "Dzerkalo Tyzhnia"; Yevhen Hlibovitskyy, senior correspondent at 1+1 TV; Andriy Shevchenko, former news anchor at Novy Kanal TV; and Roman Skrypin, anchor and editor at STB TV -- spoke at RFE/RL on 11 October. They noted that 300 reporters from throughout Ukraine have joined this new trade union not due to political or economic motives, but because they believe they can no longer practice their profession under present conditions in Ukraine. The four speakers highlighted various aspects of the ongoing government campaign to "manage the media" in Ukraine. Mostovaya described a basic government censorship technique, known as " temnyk," whereby reporters are issued written orders on how to treat -- or ignore -- political and business topics of the day. Major media outlets are merely sideline businesses for a few oligarchs who are economically and politically dependent on President Leonid Kuchma, according to Hlibovitskyy. Skrypin observed that "censorship is a strangling snake," noting that managers simply order reporters not to run news items if they have received telephone calls from Kuchma's office. Watching Ukrainian television is boring, observed Shevchenko, since TV channels usually feature very similar politically vetted commentaries and often even run the same video footage. In the face of pervasive government influence over the media in Ukraine, the speakers noted the importance of international broadcasting which reaches a well-informed and politically active audience. Shevchenko observed that not long ago, when a bus driver switched on RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, passengers were visibly startled at the new information they were receiving about their own country. CC

KUCHMA WILLING TO 'INVESTIGATE' CENSORSHIP CHARGES. On 8 October, President Kuchma announced that he is "prepared to investigate together with journalists" charges of censorship, the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations (CJES) reported. If censorship cases are discovered, Kuchma said, then a way of struggling against it "must be found" even in relation to most Ukrainian media which is privately owned. Journalists responded that they are prepared to supply Kuchma with relevant examples of political censorship, according to CJES. Two days later, the parliamentary Freedom of Speech and Information Committee began to prepare hearings on political censorship to be held in December. Parliamentary Chairman Volodymur Lytvyn declared that information on media ownership in Ukraine must be made public. CC

OPPOSITION DEMONSTRATION SENTENCES PRESIDENT TO 'PUBLIC CONDEMNATION'... Some 20,000 demonstrators took part in a "people's tribunal" on President Leonid Kuchma in Kyiv on 12 October, Ukrainian and international news agencies reported. The unauthorized antipresidential rally on Kyiv's European Square was organized by the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, the Communist Party, and the Socialist Party. Participants in the rally "sentenced" President Kuchma in a mock trial to "the highest form of people's punishment -- public condemnation" for a number of alleged crimes, including the issuance of threats to journalists. Following the rally, opposition representatives passed to the Prosecutor-General's Office their demand to bring Kuchma to court trial. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October)

...AS JOURNALIST COVERING PROTEST BEATEN 'ACCIDENTALLY'... The 12 October demonstration took place without incident apart from a reportedly accidental beating of a journalist, Oleh Zavada, by plainclothes police officers. Zavada inadvertently bumped into an officer who was taking photographs, prompting other police officers to beat him. A lawmaker prevented Zavada's detention, and the journalist was subsequently hospitalized with symptoms of a concussion. ("RFE/RL Poland, Belarus and Ukraine Report" 15 October)

...AND JUDGE OPENS CRIMINAL CASE AGAINST KUCHMA. Kyiv Court of Appeals Judge Yuriy Vasylenko has opened a criminal case against President Kuchma in connection with charges by opposition lawmakers that he violated 11 articles of the Criminal Code, including the murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, Ukrainian and international news agencies reported on 15 October. Vasylenko said he made his decision on the basis of an appeal by lawmakers, documents from the ad hoc parliamentary commission set up to investigate the murder of Gongadze, and evidence included in the secret audio recordings made by former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 October)

LESYA GONGADZE'S LAWYER DETAINED. After Heorhiy Gongadze's mother, Lesya, sent a complaint to Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Pyskun that her previous charges against President Kuchma and other Ukrainian officials had not been considered "in accordance with regulations," her lawyer Ondriy Fedur was detained on 12 October. According to the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, Fedur's car was seized by the tax police on suspicions of forgery, but the lawyer attributes the action to his suit against Pyskun. CC

CASE AGAINST REPORTER IN DONETSK REOPENED. According to the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations on 13 October, the Ukrainian Prosecutor-General's Office has reopened a criminal case against Donetsk-based reporter Volodymyr Boyko which had been closed in August. The charges have been brought by the state tax administration, but Boyko regards the case as part of Donetsk "clan politics." CC

SOLANA SLAMS KYIV FOR 'PLAYING WITH THE RULES.' "Europe won't be stable and secure if Ukraine is not stable and secure," AP quoted EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana as saying at a two-day conference held in Warsaw on EU-Ukrainian relations. Solana said his main concern is that Ukraine is not making progress on its democratic path. He called for allowing freedom of the media and eliminating murky links between politics and business. "Ukraine is not playing by the rules but playing with the rules. We would like one day to embrace your country, but we have to know what country you are," Solana said. "But at this time I have to tell you this is impossible," he added. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 October)

STATE MONOPOLY ON INTERNET ACCESS ABOLISHED. The Uzbek government has lifted restrictions on Internet access, according to "Vedomosti" on 15 October. Users are no longer obliged to use only the centralized state Internet provider UzPAK. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 17 October)


By Roland Eggleston

Germany's second-largest publisher, the von Holtzbrinck Group, says it has begun an investigation into its history in the 1930s and admits that its founder, Georg von Holtzbrinck, joined the Nazi Party in 1933 -- the year Adolf Hitler came to power.

The revelations have created a minor sensation because von Holtzbrinck enjoyed a reputation after World War II as a friend of Israel who cultivated the support of Jewish leaders and gave financial and other support to many institutions in Jerusalem. He also built his publishing house into the second largest in the country and took over other publishers in the United States, Britain, and Switzerland. The prestige enjoyed by the publishing house is illustrated by its list of authors --- ranging from Boris Pasternak to Thomas Mann, Jean-Paul Sartre, Ernest Hemingway, and Tom Wolfe.

How much von Holtzbrinck used his publishing house to support the Nazis and whether it used slave labor are among the questions being investigated. The company says the investigation is being carried out by an independent researcher who is expected to complete his work in about one year. It has declined to identify him or provide any information about his nationality or credentials. The investigation was ordered by von Holtzbrinck's 39-year-old son, Stefan, who is now president of the company. The older von Holtzbrinck died in 1983, apparently without disclosing much about the company's activities during the Nazi era.

A company spokeswoman, Helga Konrad, said the researcher has been promised complete independence and full cooperation from the company, including access to all of its archives. "The company feels it has a responsibility to investigate the past. The researcher will have complete independence and will have total access to the company archives. The results of the investigation will be made known in a public report in about a year."

After the war, the von Holtzbrinck Group grew into Germany's second-biggest publishing house, after Bertelsmann. It has five publishing houses in Germany. Its foreign properties include the Macmillan Group in England and two New York publishing houses. It also owns the St. Martin's Press, which is one of the largest trade publishers in the U.S. It also publishes the highly respected liberal German weekly "Die Zeit."

German commentators have largely refrained from speculating about what may be discovered in von Holtzbrinck's past. But some see similarities with this month's revelations about its biggest rival in Germany, the Bertelsmann publishing group. Bertelsmann acknowledged this month that it used its ties with the Nazi regime to transform itself from a provincial publisher of Lutheran religious books into a mass-market publisher. After the war, it became one of the world's largest media empires, with a portfolio of media properties in Europe and the United States, including the Random House publishing company.

Bertelsmann acknowledged its past after a five-year examination by a historical commission that included an American historian, Saul Friedlander from the University of California at Los Angeles. The commission demolished the claim in the 1985 edition of Bertelsmann's official company history that its wartime chairman, Heinrich Mohn, was a staunch opponent of Hitler who fell into trouble by publishing banned texts. The commission discovered that, in fact, Mohn was a member of a group that supported the Nazi SS special police through monthly donations and also aided other Nazi causes. He never joined the Nazi Party, however.

The commission says Bertelsmann's fortunes were built on publishing heroic and escapist literature for Nazi soldiers. It published 1,200 books with titles such as "Bombers Over Poland" and "Day and Night Against the Enemy." More than 19 million copies of these books were printed. The commission found no evidence that Bertelsmann used slave labor at its home plant at Gutersloh in Germany. But they said a printing house in Lithuania used for some of its publications did employ slave labor.

Bertelsmann has tried to make amends for its past. It was among more than 6,000 German companies that agreed in the year 2000 to pay a total of $4.5 billion in compensation to laborers forced to work for the Nazis.

The commission that investigated Bertelsmann's past concluded that its approach during the Nazi era was dictated mostly by commercial considerations. "Above all else," the commission said, "during the Third Reich, Bertelsmann remained a business enterprise whose publishing decisions were based on turnover, profit, investments, and other fiscal data."

Publishers have become the latest in a string of German industries that have been forced to face difficult truths about their wartime histories. Others include prominent banks and car manufacturers. Experts say it has taken so long for German publishers to come under scrutiny because many companies are still family owned. Inquiring into the company's past necessarily means inquiring into the past of a father or grandfather and many Germans are reluctant to do that.

Roland Eggleston is a RFE/RL correspondent.