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Media Matters: November 15, 2002

15 November 2002, Volume 2, Number 44
COUNCIL OF EUROPE CONFERENCE ON MEDIA TERRORISM AND SECURITY. The Council of Europe Media Division will hold a Conference on Media Terrorism and Security on 25 November in Strasbourg. The conference will also be broadcast live on the Council of Europe's website. For further information, visit or

JOURNALISTS' FEDERATION: WEAK MEDIA PLURALISM IN EUROPE. The political will of European governments to preserve media pluralism is "weaker than ever," according to a recent study by the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) titled "Media Ownership: Threats on the Landscape." The report provides "compelling evidence" of the effects of media concentration on media pluralism, according to the EFJ. View the report at: (IFEX Communique, 12 November).

2003 FRIENDLY FELLOWSHIPS FOR PRINT JOURNALISTS. Mid-career print journalists from former Soviet countries are eligible to apply for 2003 Alfred Friendly Press Fellowships (AFPF). The application deadline is 1 February 2003. The AFPF is the only journalism training program to offer six months of hands-on experience in a U.S. newsroom for some 12 fellows per year. Alfred Friendly, the Pulitzer Prize-winning former managing editor of "The Washington Post," created the fellowship in 1983. For more information, see

CARTOONISTS STRENGTHEN NETWORKS IN EASTERN EUROPE. Cartoonists may be more prone to attacks due to their higher public profile, according to a recent Cartoonists' Rights Network (CRN) workshop. CRN sponsored a workshop in Romania for cartoonists from nine countries, including Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and Ukraine. The workshop was convened to strengthen CRN support for an affiliated cartoonists' network in Eastern Europe. In December, CRN plans to hold another workshop in Ukraine. (IFEX Communique, 12 November).

OSCE WELCOMES AMENDMENTS TO LAW ON RADIO AND TV. On 11 November, the OSCE Presence in Albania welcomed the unanimous adoption of the Amendments to the "Law on Public and Private Radio and Television in the Republic of Albania" by the Albanian Parliament on 7 November. The amendments create a legal framework for implementation of the memorandum of understanding for the mapping of radio and television frequencies in Albania, signed by the National Council of Radio and Television (NCRT), the OSCE Presence in Albania, DANIDA Albania, and IREX Albania on 24 July 2002. The mapping of radio and television signals will provide the authorities with an accurate view of the coverage of each station and frequency and will lead to a new national frequency plan within the next five months. During this period, no new licenses will be issued. Visit or contact

PRIVATE MACEDONIAN-LANGUAGE RADIO STATION LAUNCHED IN ALBANIA. The first private Macedonian-language radio station in Albania began broadcasting on 7 November, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported. Radio Prespa is run by the Prespa Association and is based in the eastern Albanian town of Liqenas. The former Macedonian ambassador to Albania and the state-owned Macedonian Radio and Television (MRTV) helped launch the project. The Albanian state-owned Radio Korca has daily half-hour broadcasts in Macedonian. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November)

GOVERNMENT AMENDS DRAFT MEDIA LAW... The Armenian Justice Ministry has revised a draft media law that was withdrawn in March after being severely criticized by both local journalists and Council of Europe experts, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported on 11 November. The original bill provided for the creation of a government agency charged with "state oversight" of the media that would also issue and revoke the licenses without which media outlets would not be permitted to function. It also required journalists to pay to interview government officials. The new version of the bill does not include this agency or any licensing requirements, but it does uphold a constitutional provision that authorizes the imposition of restrictions on press freedom in the interests of state security. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November)

...BUT JOURNALISTS CRITICIZE IT. At a 12 November meeting at the Justice Ministry, Armenian journalists criticized the new draft media law on the grounds that it fails to define journalists' rights and holds journalists responsible for the publication of information containing state secrets rather than the person who provided the information, Noyan Tapan reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November)

NEW TENDER HELD FOR BROADCAST FREQUENCIES. More than a dozen television and radio stations submitted bids on 8 November for nine television frequencies and one FM frequency in Yerevan and elsewhere in Armenia, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. The television stations participating in the tender include A1+, which was forced off the air in April after losing an earlier tender. Media watchdogs, the United States, and the Council of Europe all criticized the effective silencing of A1+, which they suspected was motivated by the station's outspoken criticism of the government. A bid by the independent television station Noyan Tapan was rejected on the grounds that it failed to specify for which frequency it had been submitted. Noyan Tapan Director Tigran Harutiunian protested the ruling, which he said is illegal. The outcome of the tender will be made public on 19 November. ("RFE/RL Newsline, 11 November)

COUNCIL OF EUROPE CRITICAL OF NEW PUBLIC-TV LAW. A Council of Europe delegation on an official visit in Baku publicly criticized the new public-television law on 8 November. The delegation was critical of certain provisions of the law that it claimed may obstruct development of independent media, particularly that the president will appoint officials to regulate broadcasting and issue licenses to regional television stations. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly Report," 4-10 November)

TV DIRECTOR THREATENS TO GO ON HUNGER STRIKE. Mustafa Dibirov, director of private Balaken TV-DM company, announced on 7 November that he is prepared to undertake a hunger strike to protest official pressure from the executive authorities and law enforcement agencies in the Balaken district. The station's difficulties began after it aired reports about local officials' alleged illegal activities. Dibirov demands resumption of his station's broadcasts, as well as a renewed investigation into the death of his brother Telman, who was the station's cameraman. Telman Dibirov was killed in August 1999, shortly after the station aired a video showing police dispersing a protest rally in a district village. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly Report," 4-10 November)

OPPOSITION PAPER FACES RENEWED THREAT OF CLOSURE. The editor of the opposition paper "Yeni Musavat," Rauf Arifoglu, held a meeting with lawyers to discuss various lawsuits against the paper filed by the Defense Ministry, the former head of the Privatization Committee, and other officials. The suits call for the paper to be shut down and for a criminal case to be brought against Arifoglu. In the editor's opinion, the Azerbaijani authorities have filed suits in response to a report in his paper about a $100 million fine imposed by a U.S. court on the country's president, Heidar Aliev, and his son. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly Report," 4-10 November)

THIRD REFUSAL FOR BAPTIST BOOK IMPORTS. The Baptist Church in Baku has for the third time been refused permission to import 3,000 copies of the Book of Proverbs in Azerbaijani that are currently being held in customs. Pastor Ilya Zenchenko, head of the Baptist Union in Azerbaijan, told Keston News Service on 11 November that Rafik Aliev, chairman of the State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations, which is in charge of the compulsory prior screening of all religious literature imported or produced in country, was responsible for the latest refusal. Zenchenko fears the incident may be used as a pretext to close down the Baptist Church on grounds of "infringement of the law about the reception of religious literature." (Keston News Service, 12 November)

EDITOR ORDERED TO UNDERGO PSYCHIATRIC TREATMENT. A court in Minsk ruled on 4 November that Uladzimir Kozhevnikov, editor in chief of the newspaper "Detektiv," undergo psychiatric testing and be placed in a psychiatric hospital. The court ruling is not subject to appeal. The ruling was the result of a suit filed by the owner of the Chastnyi Detektiv publishing house, Alyaksandr Usenya, who had accused Kozhevnikov of "failing to abide by a court ruling" and demanded that a criminal case be brought against the editor. Usenya alleged that the paper had not refuted an untrue report about the publishing house or paid compensation to its owner. The court examined copies of the paper's published report refuting the original article, as well as bank documents confirming that the paper had paid compensation to the publishing house. Usenya also told the court that Kozhevnikov had allegedly shown him a medical certificate indicating that he had a case history in a psychiatric clinic. This allegation served as the basis for the subsequent court ruling. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly Report," 4-10 November)

FORMER COMMUNIST OFFICIAL CHARGED WITH SHUTTING OFF BROADCASTS DURING 1968 INVASION. A former high-ranking communist official, Karel Hoffmann, was Charged on 1 November with treason for his alleged role in the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, AP and CTK reported. Prosecutor Dagmar Machova said Hoffmann is accused of having ordered Czechoslovak state radio and television to stop broadcasting during the invasion, thus preventing statements by the country's leaders condemning the invasion from reaching the public. Hoffmann was in charge of communications at the time the pact's troops invaded Czechoslovakia. Machova said Hoffmann, 78, faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November)

EDITOR SUBJECTED TO BEATING. On 5 November, Iosif Chumburidze, editor in chief of the newspaper "Tbilisi," was beaten by unknown assailants. His colleagues believe that the attack was revenge for an article printed in "Tbilisi" about the alleged illegal privatization of the Samshoblo publishing house, which was taken over by Kakha Imnadze, President Eduard Shevardnadze's press secretary. Shevardnadze has asked law-enforcement agencies to make special efforts to solve the crime. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly Report," 4-10 November)

CONVICTED WRITER SPEAKS WITH PERSIAN SERVICE. Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court on or around 10 November sentenced 27-year-old Amir Abbas Fakhravar, a journalist who worked for the now-banned pro-reform dailies "Mosharekat" and Khordad," to eight years in prison, RFE/RL's Persian Service reported on 11 November. Fakhravar said that he was convicted for his book "Inja Chah Nist" ("This Place Is Not a Ditch"), which was a finalist for the 2001-02 Paulo Coelho Literary Prize. Fakhravar said that in the last year he was arrested four times and tortured. Fakhravar has 20 days to appeal the sentence, which is particularly severe because he was accused of criticizing the supreme leadership. Fakhravar is not sure if he should appeal, and when he was sentenced to prison, his father advised him not to request a pardon, telling him, "Go with your head held high, and we will honor you." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November)

JUDICIARY PLACES LIMITS ON KURDISTAN PROVINCE PRESS. Hiwa Qavami, a reporter from the Kurdistan Province town of Sanandaj, told RFE/RL's Persian Service on 12 November that the local judiciary has banned local newspaper distributors from carrying special inserts from reformist publications like "Hayat-i No" and "Iran." The reason for this is that the inserts carried a great deal of news about the government's activities and they also were geared toward Kurdish issues and local concerns, according to Qavami, but the judiciary cited national-security concerns and said such news excites the locals. It is not just reformist publications that carry special inserts. "Jam-i Jam," which is affiliated with the official and hard-liner-headed Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, every Wednesday carries an eight-page, full-color insert that is dedicated to Kurdistan Province and will continue to be allowed to do so. Qavami speculated that the judiciary wants "Jam-i Jam" to be the dominate publication in the local press. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November)

INDEPENDENT JOURNALIST CHARGED, FORCE-FED... Sergei Duvanov was formally charged in Almaty on 7 November with the rape of a 14-year-old girl, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. According to the Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI), Duvanov faces a 10-year prison sentence if convicted. The following day, prison personnel began force-feeding Duvanov, who began a hunger strike late last month and who was reportedly unable to stand and could barely speak. In a letter passed to his lawyers and supporters on 6 November, Duvanov proclaimed his innocence and said he would rather die than submit to the destruction of his honor and dignity. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 November)

...AS INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY EXPRESSES CONCERN. In a statement released on 7 November, the OSCE expressed concern over the circumstances of Duvanov's detention and urged Kazakh authorities to "conduct promptly a full, fair and transparent investigation" with the participation of "independent foreign experts to handle possible DNA evidence," Reuters reported. The EU issued a similar statement on 7 November calling for "a full, transparent and objective investigation" to "dispel all doubts" surrounding Duvanov's arrest. Addressing the OSCE's Permanent Council in Vienna the same day, the deputy head of the U.S. delegation to the OSCE said the United States shares the EU's concern over the Duvanov case. He said Washington hopes that "any legal process of Mr. Duvanov will be both transparent and in accordance with international standards." The IPI called upon the Kazakh government to release Duvanov on bail so that he can devote himself to his legal defense. ("RFE/RL Newsline, 11 November)

DUVANOV ABANDONS HUNGER STRIKE... At the recommendation of his supporters and lawyer, Duvanov ended on 9 November the hunger strike he began 10 days earlier to protest his detention on charges of raping an underage girl, Interfax and AP reported on 11 November. Three of Duvanov's close associates who also began a hunger strike as a mark of solidarity have said they will continue their protest. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 November)

...AS POLICE DETAIN HIS SUPPORTERS... Police detained about a dozen of Duvanov's supporters who staged a silent protest on 12 November outside an Almaty theater by carrying umbrellas inscribed with the journalist's name, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. Forty participants in five previous demonstrations in support of Duvanov have likewise been detained; three of them were sentenced to between two and four days' administrative arrest and 12 were fined, according to Roza Taukina, who heads the nongovernmental organization Journalists in Trouble. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November)

...AS U.S. CALLS FOR FAIR TRIAL... Speaking in Washington on 12 November, U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher acknowledged that the charges of raping an underage girl brought against Duvanov are serious, Reuters and AFP reported. He said Washington's "primary concern is that any legal process against him be carried out in a fair, transparent, and open manner." Boucher added that the United States had communicated to the Kazakh authorities its concern over Duvanov's health. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November)

...AND LAWYERS DETAIL VIOLATIONS OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE CODE... Meanwhile, a U.S. law firm has compiled a memorandum, a copy of which has been made available to "RFE/RL Newsline," detailing violations of the Criminal Procedure Code in Duvanov's case. The memorandum, dated 12 November, notes among other violations that the senior investigator in the case has affirmed the alleged rape took place, thereby violating the presumption of innocence; that Duvanov was not permitted access to a lawyer within the legally required time period; that, although his formal detention and arrest were conducted in violation of the legally required time frame, he was not released pending trial; that he was not permitted to confront the complainant prior to his interrogation; and that his request for scientific tests to be conducted at the scene of the alleged crime was refused. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November)

...AND HUNGER STRIKER IS TURNED AWAY FROM HOSPITAL, ENDS PROTEST. Nurbolat Masanov, one of three leaders of the Committee for the Release of Sergei Duvanov who began a hunger strike in Almaty on 6 November to protest the journalist's arrest, was forced to discontinue his hunger strike on 13 November on doctor's orders, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. An ambulance rushed him to a state hospital, but officials refused to admit or treat Masanov, who instead was taken to his home to recover. Another opposition activist, Marat Uatkhan, immediately began a hunger strike to replace Masanov. The other two strikers have been advised by doctors to quit but have refused to do so, Interfax-Kazakhstan said on 13 November. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November)

LICENSES SUSPENDED FOR FIVE BROADCASTERS. On 10 November, a special governmental commission on broadcast licenses suspended for three months the licenses of five broadcasting companies, Aktsent of Lisakovsk, Avy of Kostanai, Rudnyi Dausy and Sana of Rudnyi, and Art-studiya of Shymkent. The commission ruled that the companies have failed to honor their commitments to expand local broadcasting and to report more local news. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly Report," 4-10 November)

KFOR NO LONGER TO PROVIDE POLICE ESCORTS FOR SERBIAN JOURNALISTS IN KOSOVA. On 8 November, the Beta news agency reported that the Kosovo Force, or KFOR, has refused to provide journalists with escorts when they travel from Gracanica to Prishtina, since it views the security situation as no longer necessitating them, although Serbian parliamentarians will still be provided police escorts. Serbian journalists, however, believe they still need the protection of international troops and, therefore, they have decided not to provide live coverage of the 9 November Kosovar parliament session in Kosova. ("ANEM Media Update," 2-8 November)

JOURNALISTS PROTEST RESTRICTIONS ON MEDIA. Dozens of journalists picketed the parliament on 12 November in protest against infringements of the freedom of expression by the government, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Journalists Union Chairman Valeriu Saharneanu said that despite a parliamentary decision, Romanian Television's Channel 1 broadcasts have still not been resumed. The protest was also directed at recent measures against the "Accente" weekly and its staff. While the demonstration was going on, the Audiovisual Council announced it has withdrawn the broadcasting licenses of several radio stations for violating broadcasting regulations. The stations affected include Bessarabia's Voice, of which Saharneanu is director. Audiovisual Council Chairman Ion Mihailo said Bessarabia's Voice has never broadcast newscasts or other programs taken from Moldovan state radio, but it continuously carries newscasts and programs of foreign stations, including the BBC, Voice of America, and RFE/RL. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November)

PARLIAMENT SPEEDS UP MEDIA REFORMS. The legislature voted on 12 November to bring three media laws supported by the Council of Europe into effect within eight days and not in the spring of 2003 as originally planned by the last legislature, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November)

UPPER CHAMBER APPROVES RESTRICTIONS ON COVERING ANTITERRORISM OPERATIONS... The Federation Council approved on 13 November amendments to the law on the mass media that would regulate the coverage of antiterrorism operations, RTR and other Russian news agencies reported. According to Interfax, 145 senators voted in favor of the amendments, one voted against, and two abstained. According to RFE/RL's Russian Service, First Deputy Chairman of the council Valerii Manilov told senators before the vote, "With the help of these [amendments], we can increase the effectiveness of the fight against terror and consolidate our society for this fight." In a written message to Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov submitted before the vote, Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii appealed to senators to reject the amendments, writing that they "would create the basis for limiting freedom of speech and persecuting the mass media." He called the language in the amendments "slippery and vague" and said the changes would make it possible for the executive branch "to prosecute any journalist writing about Chechnya or terrorism." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November)

...AND AMENDMENTS TO MASS-MEDIA LAW PROVOKE CRITICISM. Critics have labeled amendments to the law on the mass media that were approved by the Federation Council on 13 November as too broad and vague, Russian news agencies reported on 14 November. The amendments not only ban publication of information about antiterrorism personnel and on the construction of weapons and explosives but also could be interpreted as banning criticism of government actions whenever antiterrorism operations are being conducted. Deputy Sergei Mitrokhin, deputy head of the Yabloko Duma faction, said the new law would mean the introduction of censorship and that it would shift the burden of protecting state secrets from the government to journalists. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November)

MEDIA EXPERT: MEDIA-LAW AMENDMENTS SUPERFLUOUS... In a detailed analysis of the new amendments to the media law translated by the OSCE and presented on 13 November to the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna, leading Russian media expert Professor Mikhail Fedotov asserted that there is actually "no need" for it, since media law already prohibits the use of the media for "criminally punishable acts." Comparing the old and new versions of the media-law amendments, Fedotov states that the new law "bluntly identifies" the media as a "potential source of intelligence information distribution" that may also be applied, through the provisions of this amendment, to the Internet. He suggests that by replacing the phrase "terrorism and extremism" with "extremist activity," the Russian authorities are now employing a "more global term" in the new law. He also highlights a key logical -- and operational -- inconsistency in the new law: "the chief or representative of the executive staff" who must set "procedure for admitting journalists into the area of operations" and "how much information the staff may provide" reporters, "has no right to provide such information." CC

...AND GUIDELINES FOR MEDIA COVERAGE ALREADY EXIST. Fedotov, secretary of the Russian Union of Journalists, states in the commentary translated by the OSCE and distributed by the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations on 12 November that various international documents, such as the UNESCO Declaration (1977), the UNESCO Manila Resolution on Terrorism and the Media (2002), and Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Resolution 1003 (1993) on Ethics of Journalism, already provide the media with "clear reference points." Russian journalists, in Fedotov's view, need to develop further the Project on Ethical Principles of Professional Behavior of Journalists Covering Terrorist Acts and Counterterrorist Operations approved for discussion by the Federal Council of the Russian Union of Journalists in October 2001. CC

MAJORITY FAVORS CENSORSHIP DURING HOSTAGE CRISES. Sixty-one percent of Russian citizens believe it is necessary to impose censorship during emergency situations involving hostages, according to a nationwide survey of 1,600 people conducted by the Agency of Regional and Political Research (ARPI), reported on 13 November. About 35 percent of respondents oppose censorship in such situations. Meanwhile, Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader and Deputy Duma Speaker Vladimir Zhirinovskii told reporters in Moscow on 14 November that "the state must control all processes in the country -- from the weather to the mass media," RosBalt reported. "Terror is a war in which the front is everywhere. Why in such a war should journalists have unlimited freedom while the rest of the public faces rights limitations?" Zhirinovskii was quoted as saying. "The number of insane people in the country is increasing, violence and debauchery are on the rise and all this is the work of journalists," Zhirinovskii added. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 November)

BEREZOVSKII'S FOUNDATION PROMISES LEGAL SUPPORT TO ANYONE CHARGED UNDER NEW LAW... The Civil Liberties Foundation, which is funded by self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovskii, announced on 13 November that it will provide free legal aid to any journalist who is brought to trial under the new amendments if they become law, reported. Foundation head Alex Goldfarb referred to a recent FSB search of the offices of the newspaper "Versiya" and its questioning of several "Versiya" staff members (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 and 13 November 2002) as evidence that the repression of the Russian media based on the new law has already begun. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November)

...AND MASS-MEDIA CHIEFS SUPPORT NEW RULES. The so-called Industrial Committee, which unites the proprietors and senior managers of the largest national electronic and print media and which is headed by ORT General Director Konstantin Ernst, supports proposals to revise the mass-media law to regulate coverage of antiterrorism operations, reported on 12 November, citing REN-TV President Irena Lisnevskaya. She said that the committee met earlier that day and decided to adopt a convention on crisis coverage that it will propose for inclusion in the revised law, which would make its provisions obligatory for all media whether they endorse the convention or not. The pro-government entity elected Sergei Arkhipov (Russia Media Group) as vice president for radio broadcasting, Lisnevskaya as vice president for television, and Yurii Zopol (Video International) as vice president for business issues. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November)

JOURNALIST: 'ONLY RESPONSIBILITY EARNS PRESS FREEDOM.' In an article titled "Only Responsibility Earns Press Freedom" in the 12 November issue of "The Moscow Times," media specialist Alexei Pankin notes a "golden rule" for journalists around the world: "If journalists don't hold themselves in check, the state will do it for them." He observes that there are good guidelines for covering terrorist incidents and natural disasters, referring to Russian translations of Florida's Poynter Institute and the Visegrad Four recommendations drawn up by Hungarian experts sponsored by the BBC. Pankin concludes by saying that "We [journalists] are responsible not only to our audience; we also bear responsibility for our own professional freedom." CC

ELECTION COMMISSION WANTS TO EASE SUSPENSION OF MEDIA DURING CAMPAIGNS. The Central Election Commission (TsIK) will push for amendments to Russia's media law that would create a "legal basis for temporarily suspending the activities of media outlets that have violated the rules of [campaign] agitation during an election campaign," RosBalt reported on 6 November, quoting TsIK member Sergei Bolshakov. Speaking at a seminar in St. Petersburg, Bolshakov said the sanction would apply to media that continued to break the rules on campaign coverage even after a journalist, editor, or editorial collective had been fined. Bolshakov has long advocated tighter media regulation. For instance, in early 2000 he suggested that it was illegal for the media to publicize appeals to boycott the presidential election. The commission's current initiative faces uncertain prospects. In 1999, the Media Ministry rejected the commission's efforts to enforce a ban on "agitation" by journalists. ("RFE/RL Newsline, 11 November)

FSB INTERROGATES 'VERSIYA' STAFFERS. Rustam Arifdzhanov, the editor in chief of the weekly "Versiya," was interrogated by FSB officers in Moscow on 12 November, TVS and reported. The previous day, FSB officers questioned "Versiya" journalist Andrei Soldatov for a second time, and a staff member who handles computer equipment was summoned for an interview on 14 November. The Federal Security Service is investigating an article Soldatov wrote for the 27 May edition of the weekly. However, speaking to TVS, Arifdzhanov speculated that the FSB is more broadly interested in his newspaper's sources and methods of reporting. Investigators told him they continue to examine the computers and server confiscated during a search of "Versiya" offices on 1 November. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November)

INDEPENDENT PAPERS IN PERM AND PETROZAVODSK SUBJECT TO SEARCHES. On 12 November, the editorial offices of the paper "Zvezda" in the Urals city of Perm and "Guberniya" in the Karelian city of Petrozavodsk underwent searches, the Glasnost Defense Foundation reported the same day. Both papers, according to the 14 November edition of "Nezavisimaya gazeta," are "known for criticism of local authorities." In Perm, the FSB regional branch searched the chief editor's office and "Zvezda's" crime archives. According to "Nezavisimaya gazeta," the search lasted for five hours, and the FSB took documents, hard drives, and journalist Konstantin Bakhayev for questioning. Although no official document to that effect was presented, the FSB claims that the paper has exposed one of its agents. The paper's editor in chief was also ordered to sign a document promising not to discuss the search. Meanwhile, in Petrozavodsk, 15 tax policemen searched "Guberniya's" premises. According to "Nezavisimaya gazeta," the search lasted all day and the paper's management was asked to hand over all financial records plus "drugs [and] weapons." After the search failed to turn up anything illegal, the police took three computers. No documents were taken, but tax officials are posted in each office, "paralyzing" the newspaper's work. According to Larisa Zhdanova, "Guberniya's" editor in chief, the search may be part of an effort to prevent the release of the paper's current issue, which is slated to run an article on local-government misuse of official housing. "Guberniya" has already won two suits against the tax authorities and recently underwent three other inspections. A recent health inspection lasted three days, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 14 November. CC

MARI-EL JOURNALISM PRIZE NAMED FOR SLAIN JOURNALIST. Last week, the Mari-El branch of the Russian Journalists Union named an annual journalism prize after Leonid Plotnikov, who was murdered on 19 October. His colleagues noted that Plotnikov assisted many local opposition publications, despite threats from the local authorities. (Glasnost Defense Foundation, 11 November)

REPORT: RUSSIAN MEDIA IS 13 TIMES MORE LAW-ABIDING THAN THE AVERAGE RUSSIAN. The weekly "Kommersant-Vlast" published statistics for the first 10 months of 2002 showing that the Russian media overwhelmingly abide by the media law. During this period, the Russian Media Ministry issued 22 official warnings (last year, only nine were issued) to 10 television stations, eight newspapers (two were warned twice), one journal, and one radio station. Eight media outlets were issued warnings for incitement of ethnic hostility; seven for not showing enough children's programs; two for infringing the stipulations of their broadcast licenses; and one each for calling for the overthrow of the existing order, for the public insult of an official, and for denying airtime to a member of parliament. The author of the article drew the following conclusion: Only twenty, or 0.06 percent, of the total of 36,000 registered Russian media outlets infringed the law during this period. If one compares that figure to the 1.2 million people, or 0.8 percent, who commit crimes during an average year, that means that the Russian media are 13 times more law-abiding than the average Russian citizen. (Glasnost Defense Foundation, 11 November)

YAVLINSKII: SEMIOFFICIAL PROPAGANDA 'MOST DANGEROUS THREAT.' Speaking at an unofficial Moscow peace conference on Chechnya, leading liberal politician Grigorii Yavlinskii said on 9 November that he wanted to focus attention on what he feared was a surge of interethnic hatred in Russia, fueled by semiofficial propaganda, AP reported the same day. "Attempts to practically create an image of lower races and unacceptable nationalities in government and semiofficial propaganda is the most dangerous threat to the future of our country," Yavlinskii said. CC

PUTIN PROVIDES LENGTHY BUT CUTTING RESPONSE TO FRENCH REPORTER'S QUESTION ON CHECHNYA... In a lengthy and increasingly heated response during an 11 November EU-Russia-summit press conference to a French reporter's question on Russian use of land mines in Chechnya, President Vladimir Putin's comments on radical Islam ended with a "crude joke," noted "The Moscow Times" on 13 November. Putin ironically invited the reporter to Moscow for a circumcision, where the operation would ensure that "nothing grows back." Putin's comment was carried at once by nonstate Russian media but elicited a delayed reaction in the West due to translation problems. Putin's joke was edited out of footage on state-controlled Channel 1 and RTR and also out of the report of the presidential press service, noted "The Moscow Times," but nonstate NTV and TVS television carried Putin's remarks in full, as did the paper "Kommersant." CC

...AND RUSSIAN PRESS REACTS. "The Russian press uncharacteristically let Putin's remarks on Chechnya speak for themselves instead of providing the usual commentary," RFE/RL reported on 13 November ("Central Asia : Russia's Rising Image -- Still No Local Alternative To Russian Media (Part 3),", 14 November 2002). RFE/RL cited the following responses from the Russian media. The official ITAR-TASS news agency avoided the issue altogether, announcing in a headline that "Russia-EU summit shows Russia's rising prestige." "Izvestiya" newspaper conveyed the official line that "Europe has become deaf" to Russia's warnings about terrorism. The respected business daily "Kommersant" took an ironic tone. "Kommersant" called Putin's outburst an "unwise" move ending in "serious scandal," but noted, as cited by Reuters the same day, that Western reporters reveal "maniacal stubbornness" in questions on Chechnya. According to Reuters on 13 November, the daily "Komsomolskaya pravda" said that, "The president [Putin], of course, got angry and overstepped accepted conventions," but that "the journalist got an exhaustive reply." Ekho Moskvy radio commentator Andrei Cherkizov said, as cited by Reuters, that "[Putin's joke] is the blunt expression of a lack of culture," and called it "political boorishness." CC

MOSCOW COURT SUPPORTS DROPPING CHARGES AGAINST ANTI-SEMITIC PUBLISHER. On 10 November, a Moscow district court ruled in favor of the decision of the Moscow Prosecutor's Office to drop charges of inciting ethnic hatred against anti-Semitic publisher Viktor Korchagin, according to a RIA-Novosti report on the same day. Moscow prosecutors have repeatedly refused to bring charges against Korchagin, arguing that "experts" had determined that his writings did not incite hatred against Jews. In July, the Media Ministry ordered that his newspaper "Russkie vedomosti" be closed for inciting ethnic hatred, but the Moscow district court ruled that the Moscow Prosecutor's Office was correct to drop the charges. (Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union, 13 November)

POLICE HUNT PETERSBURG LIBRARY THIEVES... The recent spate of thefts of rare academic books from St. Petersburg libraries might be part of a wave of similar crimes across Europe, reported on 12 November, citing unidentified Western book dealers who are reportedly consulting with Russian police investigating the cases. The report says, without giving details, that a number of rare scientific volumes have been stolen from Western museums and libraries in recent months. In the last 10 days, two first-edition copies of Isaac Newton's "Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica" and several other rare volumes were reported stolen. According to, the Newton volumes, which were published in 1687 and of which only about 200 exist, are worth about $300,000 each. Police have determined that the thieves gained access to the St. Petersburg libraries by posing as graduate students. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 November)

...AND MAKE FIRST ARREST. Police have arrested an unidentified 29-year-old woman in connection with the thefts of rare library books in St. Petersburg, AP and Russian news agencies reported on 14 November. Police would only say that the woman is not registered in St. Petersburg. None of the stolen books have been recovered, RosBalt reported. The woman is being held in connection with the theft, but it is believed that several similar crimes at two other city libraries around the same time were all the work of one group. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November)

NEW IMAGES FOR BREZHNEV AND ANDROPOV? State-controlled ORT, the country's leading national television channel, on 11 and 12 November broadcast a primetime documentary devoted to the 20th anniversary of the death of former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. The film, called "Moscow-9," depicted the man who led the Soviet Union for 18 years as a sympathetic and charismatic personality who fell victim to Communist Party leadership intrigues during his long illness toward the end of his life. The film was hosted by Brezhnev's former KGB bodyguard, Major General Vladimir Medvedev, and included documentary footage from the archives of the FSB. "Krasnaya zvezda" on 11 and 12 November published a long interview with former First Deputy Chairman of the KGB Filip Bobkov and KGB General Viktor Sharapov devoted to the 20th anniversary of the ascent of former Soviet leader Yurii Andropov, who succeeded Brezhnev. Both paid lavish tribute to the man whose tenure as head of the KGB was marked by a merciless campaign against dissidents. Bobkov said that Andropov's creation of the KGB Fifth Directorate, which was responsible for combating dissent, was motivated by Andropov's belief that the "war of ideas" must be carried out by specially dedicated organizations. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November)

TV REPORTER RESIGNS TO PROTEST CENSORSHIP. Oleksandr Piddubny, a well-known reporter for the First National TV station, announced his resignation on 9 November. He attributed his decision to differences with the station's policies and to censorship of Ukrainian television. After Piddubny signed a manifesto on censorship in the Ukrainian media, he was reprimanded by the station's management and then removed from a program because, the managers alleged, he had taken bribes for favorable coverage. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly Report," 4-10 November)

MEDIA COVERAGE OF PARLIAMENT EASED. Last week, President Leonid Kuchma signed amendments to the law on media procedures for reporting on national and local government officials, including lifting restrictions on coverage of parliament. The amendments will take effect on the day of its official publication. ("Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations CIS Weekly Report," 4-10 November)

ONLINE RUSSIAN EDITION OF "FIRST AMENDMENT HANDBOOK." A Russian-language version of "The First Amendment Handbook," a popular legal primer first published in 1986 by the U.S.-based Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, is now available online from the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations. The handbook includes chapters on libel, confidentiality, gag orders, court access, freedom of information, and copyright. The new Russian translation is at or in English


By Ron Synovitz

The Paris-based nongovernmental organization Reporters Without Borders says that a year after the collapse of the Taliban regime, many Afghan journalists still face the threat of physical attack, even death, if they report on sensitive issues.

The remarks were published on 13 November in a study that highlights a series of incidents where provincial governors or regional militia commanders have clamped down on Afghan journalists and the Afghan nationals who help foreign journalists report critically about the commanders.

Reporters Without Borders says there are many positive signs about press freedom within Kabul itself. For example, today's report notes that there are now some 150 news publications circulating in Kabul.

But a spokesman for Reporters Without Borders, Vincent Brossels, told RFE/RL that many Afghan journalists are prone to self-censorship out of fear of reprisal from allies of government ministers or commanders of the regional armed factions across Afghanistan. "One year after the fall of the Taliban, especially in Kabul, I think the situation is quite positive. But there are still some dangerous aspects for journalists, especially outside of Kabul, because the situation in the capital and other Afghan towns is very different," Brossels said.

Brossels said the efforts of Afghan President Hamid Karzai to encourage a free and independent press differ sharply from the actions of some provincial leaders. Brossels pointed to Herat Province Governor Ismail Khan and ethnic Uzbek militia commander Abdul Rashid Dostum in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif as local leaders who Reporters Without Borders believes are actively suppressing journalists. "We know that the government of President Hamid Karzai has made many efforts toward [establishing] press freedom, especially to permit the private press to develop in the capital. But other [governing officials in the provinces], like Ismail Khan and Abdul Rashid Dostum, or others, have been trying to prevent the development of a free press in the country," Brossels said.

As an example, Brossels noted cases of Afghan journalists being beaten by members of regional militias after they have filed reports that are critical of regional commanders. "Currently, there is a huge problem in Mazar-i-Sharif. When you are trying to investigate about sensitive issues like the mass graves of Taliban soldiers, or when you are trying to investigate the wrongdoings of local warlords or even government ministers, you can be in trouble," Brossels said.

Delegates from Reporters Without Borders met recently with officials in the Afghan Information Ministry to discuss legal changes needed to bring Afghanistan's press laws in line with international standards. Brossels said those talks have been encouraging. "We've gotten some good feedback from [the Afghan Information Ministry], especially about the [Afghan] press law. And we hope that soon they will make real reforms of the press law, and also of the Criminal Code, to prevent the jailing of journalists because of their writings. Because still, this threat is [hanging over the] heads of the journalists in Afghanistan," Brossels said.

Reporters Without Borders points out that it is still forbidden for many subjects to be written about by Afghan journalists. It says such restrictions often lead Afghan journalists to approach with caution any story focusing on Islam, ethnic tensions, the alleged crimes of regional militia commanders or other threats to Afghan national unity.

It notes that at least one Afghan newspaper has been closed since the fall of the Taliban due to allegations that it had "insulted Islam." The group also notes the kidnapping and beating of an Afghan cameraman named Najib who had helped a British reporter make a documentary film about the deaths of hundreds of Taliban soldiers near Mazar-i-Sharif. The documentary blamed the deaths on General Dostum.

Brossels said there is an enormous difference emerging in the kind of reporting done by Afghanistan's state broadcast media compared to the private Afghan newspapers and international radio stations that work in Afghanistan. "There is a very specific style in the news of the government [broadcast] media. And the government is still controlling this media. There is not much voice for criticism of the authorities. But the opportunity is there now for Afghans to get a few international radio stations with programs in Pashto and Dari. It's really a big opportunity," Brossels said.

Reporters Without Borders is also accusing the U.S. military of keeping international media, including the Associated Press Television Network, out of some zones where U.S. troops have been operating. It says U.S. troops or their Afghan allies have suppressed at least six journalists and detained one Pakistani newsman. The group also says the U.S. military tried to prevent journalists from investigating the killings of some 50 Afghan civilians attending a wedding party in July when U.S. aircraft targeted villages in the central province of Uruzgan.

Ron Synovitz is an RFE/RL correspondent based in Prague.