23 February 2001, Volume
EIM NEWSLETTER ON CIS CONDITIONS.
The January 2001 issue of the European Institute for the Media (EIM) Newsletter on media in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) has been issued. This monthly bulletin contains a CIS country-by-country listing; information is grouped into five categories for each country: media news; media and government; law; conferences; new technology. This project is partly funded by the Commission of the European Union through its Initiative for Human Rights and Democracy. The newsletter is also available in Russian by contacting Program Administrator Ljudmila von Berg at email@example.com. (EIM, 16 February)
REPORTING RESTRICTIONS ANNOUNCED.
Armenian Justice Minister David Harutiunian told journalists in Yerevan on 15 February that in order to ensure the impartiality of the court, verbatim publication of the testimony given by the 13 defendants will be forbidden, Noyan Tapan reported. Summaries of testimony will be permitted. All domestic and international media organizations wishing to cover the trial will be accredited to do so. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February)JOURNALISTS 'FIRST PUNISHED THEN AMNESTIED.'
The Annual Report of the Yerevan Press Club Commission on Protection of Freedom of Speech and survey of violations of journalists' rights in 2000 is available. (Yerevan Press Club Weekly Newsletter, 10-16 February)PARLIAMENTARY HEARINGS ON DRAFT TV AND RADIO LAW.
On 14 February the Standing Committee on Science, Education, Culture, and Youth Issues of the Armenian National Assembly held hearings to discuss amendments to the draft broadcast law of independent TV and radio companies as well as the Yerevan Press Club (YPC), the Journalists Union of Armenia (JUA), and Internews Armenia (IA), who also joined the deliberations. The committee approved in principle of these amendments. As for another set of amendments, discussion of the YPC, JUA, and IA proposals was postponed at the request of the Council of the Public TV and Radio deputy chairman. In his opinion, since these amendments relate to public broadcasting, the council needed more time to consider the proposals. (Yerevan Press Club Weekly Newsletter, 10-16 February)
JOURNALISTS PREVENTED FROM COVERING VETERANS' PROTEST FAST.
For several days, police moved against reporters to try to prevent them from covering the mass protest fast of Karabakh war veterans in Baku, the Azerbajian Human Rights Center reported on 21 February. Police used nightsticks to beat a woman reporter, Sevindzh Muradkhanli from "Adalyat" and "Alillyar;" plain-clothes cops shoved another woman journalist, Saadat Akifgyzy, from "Avropa", taking away her work ID. While a camera crew from the independent TV station "Space" was forcefully prevented from filming a policeman beat a one-legged veteran, Azerbaijan State TV was allowed to film cops getting bested by veterans -- so as to prove the protesters' "aggressiveness." (Azerbaijan Human Rights Center, 21 February)BAKU AUTHORITIES BAN JOURNALISTS' PROTEST.
The Baku municipal authorities have rejected as "inexpedient" a request by the Union of Editors of Azerbaijan to stage a picket of the Council of Ministers' building on 16 February to protest the newsprint shortage, Turan reported. Deputy Mayor F. Huseynova said the government is working to overcome that deficit. Prime Minister Artur Rasizade said on 12 February that the recent steep increase in the price of newsprint is temporary and that the price will fall once the Russian State Duma ratifies a bilateral agreement abolishing dual taxation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 February)FOUR OF FIVE INDEPENDENT TV STATIONS BACK ON AIR...
All four of the independent television stations in Azerbaijan that had been closed during a recent governmental campaign against the media have been reopened. The fourth and last one to go back on the air -- Gutb TV in the northern town of Guba -- resumed broadcasting on 21 February after a three-week shutdown. But Simurg TV in the northwestern town of Tovuz remains closed because of a licensing problem. Once one of the strongest news producers in Azerbaijan's regions, Simurg TV was closed in June of 1999 as the first official act of the new local governor. Four of the eight independent stations in the outlying regions of the country had been shut down over the past five weeks; the other closed stations include Khayal TV, also in Guba, Mingechevir TV in Mingechevir, and DMR TV in Balakan. The closures knocked out independent news to hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis. (Internews Azerbaijan Press Release, 22 February)TWO INDEPENDENT BAKU TV STATIONS STILL FACE HURDLES.
BTR TV in Baku has been closed since May 1997 because it has been unable to secure an official broadcast frequency and license. Another independent TV station in Baku, ABA, was denied government permission in January to receive its own frequency and license to broadcast. ABA currently rents a frequency from the Ministry of Communication. (Internews Azerbaijan Press Release, 22 February)
'THE CENSOR'S SCISSORS' AWARDED PRIZE.
Siarhej Astautsou, free-lance contributor to the RFE/RL Belarus Service, has been awarded the Belarus Association for Independent Writers best book award for 2000. Although his book, "The Censor's Scissors" could not find a publisher in Belarus, the author managed to get it published in Poland. Many of the stories included in the book were first aired by RFE/RL.
NEW RADIO DIRECTOR HOSPITALIZED...
In what looks more and more as a replay of the earlier "Czech scenario," Ivan Borislavov, whose recent appointment as new director of state radio triggered the protests of journalists, was hospitalized on 18 February after a heart attack, AP reported. His condition was said to be stable. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 February)...WHILE IFJ BACKS JOURNALISTS' PROTEST.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) on 16 February said it "shares the worries" of Bulgarian Radio journalists and of the Union of Journalists (Podkrepa) over the procedure that led to the selection of Borislavov as new director- general of Bulgarian Radio. The IFJ said journalists and media staff "should have been fully consulted" over the appointment made by the National Council of Radio and Television and that it supports the journalists' demands "for the reform" of that council to ensure that it ceases to be political and "becomes a truly independent public service broadcaster, in line with European standards". ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 February)
NOVA DIRECTOR AGREES TO OBEY COURT RULING.
Nova TV Director Vladimir Zelezny has agreed to comply with a court ruling by the International Court of Arbitration in Paris to pay U.S. cosmetics heir Ronald Lauder $27 million, AP reported on 20 February. The court ordered Zelezny to pay Lauder's Bahamas-based company CME (Central European Media Enterprises) $23 million plus $4 million in interest for its 5.8 percent stake in CNTS, which managed Nova before Zelezny began broadcasting in new studios under the same name and hiring away the best talent. Lauder claims the Czech government's failure to protect his investment per a Czech-U.S. agreement has cost his company $500 million. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 February)COURT OVERTURNS SENTENCING OF 'MEIN KAMPF' PUBLISHER.
The Prague City Court on 20 February overturned a December 2000 sentence of the Prague District Court against the publisher of the Czech-language translation of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf" and sent the case back to the district court for re-examination, CTK reported. That court had convicted Michal Zitko to a suspended sentence of three years in prison and ordered him to pay a large fine. The City Court ruled with reference to Zitko's appeal that several "serious judicial mistakes" were made at that trial. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 February)AUDITORS BEGIN WORK AT TV.
The private PriceWaterhouseCoopers auditing company on 14 February began reviewing the records of Czech Television to establish whether the recent turmoil at Czech TV was in any way connected to financial improprieties, dpa and CTK reported. Members of the dismissed Radio and Television Council had claimed when the conflict broke out that it was partially prompted by attempts to cover up such improprieties. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 February)TWO FORMER MANAGERS LEAVE TV.
Former News Director Jana Bobosikova and former Financial Director Jindrich Beznoska, both appointed by Jiri Hodac during his brief tenure as director general, have left Czech Television, CTK reported on 15 February. Vera Valterova, who was interim manager after Hodac's resignation, remains on the staff "for the time being" and expects "to be informed in writing about the management's future plans regarding me," CTK quoted her as saying. Bobosikova addressed a letter to interim Director Jiri Balvin saying she was resigning because she disagrees with his "management method" and with the fact that Balvin had allegedly allowed himself "to be completely controlled by union leaders." She said she firmly believes Balvin should never have paid wages to the strikers for the period during which the labor action took place. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February)
SENTENCED AUTHOR FEARS 'ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN.'
Temirtas Tleulesov, author of two anti-corruption books, "Ordaly Zhylan" (Nest of Vultures) and "Shymkentskaya Mafia" (Shymkent Mafia), told RFE/RL's Kazakh Service by telephone that all accusations against him are politically motivated and that "anything can happen with me in a jail cell, in case if I am captured by the police." ("RFE/RL Kazakh News," 21 February)OFT-INTERRUPTED TRIAL AGAINST 'SOLDAT' PAPER RESUMED.
The trial against SolDat newspaper resumed on 21 February, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. "SolDat" Editor-in-Chief Ermurat Bapi and well-known Kazakh historian Karishal Assanov stood trial in Almaty, accused of "insulting the dignity and honor of the Kazakh president." Last summer, "SolDat" published Assanov's article critical of the president. In an earlier stage of the trial on 13 February, journalist Askhat Sharipzhanov was summoned to appear in court, although he bore no relation to Assanov's article, according to his brother, a reporter for RFE/RL's Kazakh Service. ("RFE/RL Kazakh News," 22 February)
KYRGYZ OPPOSITION PAPER SUSPENDS PUBLICATION.
The editorial board of the opposition weekly "Res Publika" said on 21 February that publication of the paper has been suspended, Interfax and RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The publishing house Uchkun has been ordered not to print further issues of "Res Publika" until the paper pays a fine of 200,000 soms ($7,000 at the 1999 exchange rate) imposed two years ago for publishing an open letter by employees of State Radio and Television criticizing that body's chairman, Amanbek Karypkulov. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February)COURT POSTPONES APPEAL BY OPPOSITION NEWSPAPER...
The Bishkek City Court on 20 February postponed indefinitely hearings on an appeal by the opposition newspaper "Asaba," RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. A Bishkek district court ordered the paper last fall to pay 5 million soms (about $105,000) in compensation to parliament deputy and former Communist Party of Kirghizia First Secretary Turdakun Usubaliev. UsubAliyev had complained that "Asaba" has insulted him systematically over a period of eight years. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 February)PRESIDENTIAL OFFICIAL TO WITHDRAW SUIT AGAINST PAPER.
The head of the presidential administration announced at a 17 February roundtable that he would withdraw his lawsuit against the "Komsomolskaya Pravda in Kyrgyzstan" weekly. The official had accused the paper of insulting him and demanded a 3.2-million-som (about $65,000) compensation. ("RFE/RL Kyrgyz News," 19 February)PARLIAMENT MEMBER VERSUS JOURNALIST.
Parliamentarian Akbokon Tashtanbekov told RFE/RL on 14 February that he had filed a lawsuit against the "Vecherny Bishkek" daily for what he said were slanderous assertions in an 8 September 2000 article entitled "Division of Property by Fists." ("RFE/RL Kyrgyz News," 14 February)PARLIAMENTARIANS CRITICIZE AUTHORITIES.
Ten members of the parliamentary "Kyrgyzstan" group on 13 February criticized the country's current political situation, maintaining that authorities oppress journalists and jail opposition politicians. Economic sanctions or criminal cases are standard responses to criticism, they said, pointing to recent lawsuits against the independent papers "Asaba," Res Publica," and "Delo Nomer," the trials of opposition leaders Feliks Kulov, Topchubek Turgunaliev, and Daniyar Usenov, and the criminal case brought against human rights activist Ramazan Dyryldaev. ("RFE/RL Kyrgyz News," 13 February)LIBEL TO BE DROPPED FROM CRIMINAL CODE?
Parliament member Azimbek Beknazarov told RFE/RL on 20 February that several deputies have prepared an amendment to the Criminal Code which would exclude the clause on libel, limiting libel charges to the Civil Code. According to Beknazarov, the practice should end the practice of libel being charged as a criminal offense. President Askar Akaev, at a 17 February roundtable with the opposition, maintained that journalists must be held responsible for what they write. ("RFE/RL Kyrgyz News," 20 February)
MINISTER OFFERS RESIGNATION.
Interior Minister Dosta Dimovska offered her resignation on 16 February to Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski in order to take "moral responsibility" for the ongoing scandal over alleged ministry wiretaps of top political, media, and business figures, AP reported. It is not clear if Georgievski will accept the resignation of his close political ally, who denied any wrongdoing. Dimovska argued that "old structures" linked to the previous Social Democratic and Communist governments are trying to "politically eliminate me in the interest of foreign countries," Reuters reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 February)CONCERN OVER DRAFT LAW ON PUBLIC INFORMATION.
In a 21 February 2001 letter to Macedonian government officials, the International Press Institute (IPI) and its affiliate, the South East Europe Media Organization (SEEMO), expressed their extreme alarm over a draft law on informing the public, which has reportedly been approved by the Macedonian government with a view to replacing a number of repressive and outdated laws still in force from the period when Macedonia was still part of Yugoslavia. In particular, IPI and SEEMO are concerned that the proposed legislation contains restrictions on freedom of expression that breach international standards. Furthermore, if adopted by parliament, the law would constitute unacceptable government interference in media regulation and undermine the fundamental independence of the media. The proposed requirement that journalists hold government-issued ID cards "is contrary to international law," while proposed "compulsory registration of media outlets is not only unnecessary but can effectively hinder press freedom and provide the government with an opportunity to interfere by preventing media outlets from publishing." The draft provision that the "misuse of press freedom should be punished in accordance with the criminal law of Macedonia...runs counter to the European trend that any breaches of restrictions on freedom of expression should be regulated by civil law." (International Press Institute, 21 February)
RFE/RL EXPANDS BROADCASTS.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty President Thomas A. Dine announced on 19 February that RFE/RL is increasing its broadcasts to Moldova. Dine said RFE/RL has been the only international broadcaster with a program dedicated to Moldova since the Romanian Service opened a bureau in Chisinau in 1997 and began broadcasting 25 minutes a day of special programming for Moldova. That will now increase to one hour a day, five days a week, and the Romanian Service will now be known as the Romania-Moldova Service. ("RFE/RL Newsline, 22 February)
FORMER DISSIDENT TO SUE SECURITATE ARCHIVES COLLEGE...
Gabriel Andreescu, a prominent anti-Ceausescu dissident, told journalists on 20 February that he is suing the National College for the Study of the Securitate Archives (CNSAS), Mediafax reported. Andreescu said the college "infringes the legal right of citizens to have access to their own [Securitate] file." He said he has several times applied to the CNSAS to see his file but has never received a reply. Andreescu also said he is suing the CNSAS for having refused his request to make public information on the collaboration of Romanian Orthodox Church Synod members with the former secret police. Andreescu said CNSAS members are "defying Romania's citizens through their impertinence and lack of competence." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 February)...SUSPECTS FORMER FOREIGN MINISTER OF HAVING BEEN SECURITATE AGENT.
Andreescu also said he suspects CNSAS member and former Foreign Minister Andrei Plesu was a Securitate collaborator, but cannot prove his suspicion. The Group of Social Dialogue (GDS), at whose seat Andreescu met journalists, distanced itself from his declarations and said that Andreescu, a former GDS chairman, "ceased to be an active GDS member" more than one year ago. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 February)
JOURNALIST DETAINED IN CHECHNYA.
Anna Politkovskaya, a "Novaya gazeta" reporter, was detained on 21 February in Chechnya as she was gathering material about refugees, according to the Glasnost Defense Fund. In response to her colleague's efforts to obtain her release, Kremlin official Sergei Yastrzhembskii's staff told Vyacheslav Izmailov that "she behaves badly." (Glasnost Defense Fund, 21 February) Reuters reported the same day that Yastrzhembskii's office said that Politkovskaya will be released as soon as weather permitted her transport by helicopter and that she was "being well treated and had been fed." The spokeswoman also said that the reporter, although properly accredited to work in Chechnya, had "broken the rules by traveling there without registering her whereabouts in a military press office."JAPANESE CORRESPONDENT ATTACKED.
The correspondent of Japanese newspaper "Asakhi," Khidaki Soedzima, was attacked on 22 February in Moscow. According to Kiodo Tsusin Agency in Moscow, the correspondent was beaten and robbed by an unknown young man near his home. The correspondent lost consciousness in the attack and is now in hospital. (Center For Journalism in Extreme Situations, 22 February)'NIZHNEVARTOVSK' JOURNALIST ATTACKED.
The editor-in-chief of Russkoye Radio v Nizhnevartovske and "Panorama Nizhnevartovska" weekly, Andrei Goryunov, was beaten on 20 February at the entrance to his house. According to one supposition, the attack was connected with his professional activities. The crime could also have been committed on personal grounds or connected with his political activities. (Center For Journalism in Extreme Situations, 21 February)MEDIA-MOST TO SUE GOVERNMENT.
Media-MOST announced on 16 February that it plans to sue the Russian Finance Ministry to recover $300 million lost in 1997-98, Interfax said. Meanwhile, Gazprom-Media suggested that Media-MOST is breaking Russian law by holding a stockholder meeting in Gibraltar, the news service said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 February)TURNER TALKING TO GAZPROM ON NTV STAKE.
Representatives of American media magnate Ted Turner met on 15 February with representatives of Gazprom to discuss the possible acquisition of a stake in NTV, Interfax reported. The same day, NTV announced that it had received a $50 million credit from embattled oligarch Boris Berezovsky. In other media moves, a Spanish court refused to take Vladimir Gusinsky into custody, saying that house arrest is sufficient, AP reported. Poll results released on the same day showed that only 12 percent of Russians now believe that the governments efforts against Media-MOST and NTV have a political foundation, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February)VGTRK BUDGET FIGURES DON'T LIE.
In early February, the Chamber of Auditors revealed the results of its audits of VGTRK (the company that runs RTR) for 1998-99 and the first six months of last year. The auditors' report finds that "if the Prosecutor's Office measured VGTRK and Media-MOST by the same yardstick, VGTRK would have long since been declared bankrupt [and] its chairman, Oleg Dobrodeyev, would be under investigation and Media Minister Mikhail Lesin, who worked with VGTRK since its creation in 1991 and was largely responsible for its financial matters, would be sitting in prison," reports "The Russia Journal." Even after he became media minister, Lesin has continued to play an active part in VGTRK's financial activities, reports the journal. Further, the auditors revealed that VGTRK's losses increase each year. "In the last six months alone, losses totaled almost $200 million," even though it has received budget financing of nearly $100 million and loans from commercial banks totaling nearly $122 million for the same period, according to the journal. While "most of the loans and the budget money (almost 62 percent) went to paying old debts and interest on debts," "The Russia Journal" also noted that auditors had found that "loans made to VGTRK were obviously higher than what was strictly needed." Even though VGTRK was always in the red, loans were made to "purchase expensive foreign cars and buy securities." ("The Russia Journal," 17-23 February)RSF OUTLINES STATE CAMPAIGN TO CONTROL TV...
"Facts make it clear that the Russian government is conducting a deliberate policy of controlling all nationwide radio and television media in Russia," the media watchdog group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), said on 8 February. "Legal, commercial, and financial considerations put forth to establish the legality of current operations in no way exonerate the Russian authorities from their political responsibility." The RSF points to the government campaign to take control of Russia's most popular TV channel, ORT, and "plans for ORT to be merged with the totally state-owned channel RTR." The RSF traces the Kremlin campaign to "take control of the only private radio and television company with a national audience, Media-MOST, and its TV channel, NTV." Putin's acceptance that western press groups buy NTV shares "have been nothing more" than PR gestures "to hide the state's determination to take control of the only independent channel with a national following," according to the RSF. Further, the RSF alleges that "Vladimir Gusinsky was blackmailed in an affair involving the minister of information himself and Gazprom." After his jailing in June 2000, Gusinsky was released and charges dropped "after he signed a secret agreement with Gazprom last July initialed by Minister of Information [Mikhail] Lesin" that a lawsuit would be dropped if he agreed to transfer Media-MOST to Gazprom. After Gusinsky publicly rejected this agreement, he stood accused of "wide-scale fraud." In addition, the RSF singles out several political Media-MOST positions unpopular with the Kremlin: it endorsed Putin's presidential rival, Grigorii Yavlinsky; the radio station "Ekho Moskvy" is critical of corruption and presents critical views of the Chechnya war, while the daily "Segodnya" has run many articles on the political rise of certain Federal Security Service leaders. In conclusion, the RSF asserts "the confrontation staged by the Russian authorities against the 'oligarchs' of the news sector, accused of having personally profited through their links with power, is on the verge of being resolved with a pure and simple state takeover of the television channel with the biggest viewing audience, ORT, and the only private channel with a national audience, NTV." (RSF Press Release, 8 February)...WHILE FOUR LEADING PRESS GROUPS ALSO CRITICAL.
The World Press Freedom Committee issued a 16 February 2001 press release jointly with three other leading press freedom organizations. It read, in part: "The undersigned organizations, members of the Russian Press Freedom Support Group that visited Moscow in July 2000 to demonstrate concern over the future of freedom of the press in Russia, call upon the Russian authorities to do everything in their power to preserve the editorial independence of NTV, the only national television outlet currently free of direct government influence...The outcome of negotiations to preserve NTV as a private and independent broadcaster will determine the impression the world will have of the Russian government's sincerity in its public affirmations of support for press freedom. If conditions for genuine independence of NTV are not preserved, international opinion will be bound to conclude that the government is determined to curb press freedom in Russia, its solemn statements to the contrary notwithstanding."ANOTHER RESTRICTION ON THE MEDIA?
According to "Segodnya" on 20 February, Deputy Media Minister Vladimir Grigorev has said that "the Russian advertising market is too small to support the current number of mass media outlets," and therefore the government plans to stop issuing licenses to new media outlets for at least a year. The paper said that officials it has questioned say that the Media Ministry does not have any legal basis for taking this step. The Media Ministry also said it does not consider it possible to extinguish a credit to ORT before the end of 2002, Interfax-AFI reported. The EBRD said on 20 February that it is not conducting any talks about the possible purchase of shares in NTV. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 February)WILL YASTRZHEMBSKII BECOME KREMLIN SPOKESMAN?
"Segodnya" reported on 20 February that presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii may become the deputy director of the presidential administration and assume the role of chief Kremlin spokesman. Yastrzhembskii had no comment. But in an interview with that paper the same day, Yastrzhembskii did say that Russia should consider copying Britain's new anti-terrorist law as a means of eliminating groups supporting pro-independence Chechens. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 February)ENTREPRENEURS REJECT BEREZOVSKY APPEAL.
An executive meeting of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs on 14 February voted unanimously to issue a statement indicating their belief that Media-MOST head Vladimir Gusinsky must pay the "hundreds of millions of dollars" he owes to Gazprom and that Gazprom has the right to seek redress if he does not, Russian agencies reported. The statement said that "the country needs independent television," although it added that "independent television should not be offensive." The statement concluded that the group rejected media oligarch Boris Berezovsky's plan to collect funds in support of NTV. Meanwhile, the Moscow arbitration court postponed until 3 October a hearing of a suit by a Gazprom-Media subsidiary against Media-MOST, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 February)IVASHOV SAYS U.S. WAGING 'INFO WAR.'
Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, the head of the Defense Ministry's International Defense Cooperation Department, said on 16 February that the Bush administration has launched "an information war" intended to soil Russia's reputation and lower "Russia's role on the international scene," Russian agencies reported. Ivashov also said "nobody in the world" believes that a U.S. national missile defense system (NMD) would be about only "rogue states." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 February)UNION OF JOURNALISTS CREATED IN CHECHNYA.
The Union of Journalists of the Chechen Republic was created and registered by the Chechen Republic department of the Russian Federation Ministry of Justice in mid-January. The former Union of Journalists, organized in 1995, had 125 members. Today, most of those journalists work outside the republic. Among the important tasks of the new Union of Journalists will be rebuilding the broadcast media and "reunifying" journalists. About 40 journalists inside and outside Chechnya have already expressed their willingness to join the new union. According to Khozha Gerikhanov, the union's elected chairman, its main function will be defending the rights and freedoms of journalists as well as their economic and professional interests. (Center For Journalism in Extreme Situations, 22 February)TV AUDIENCE RESEARCH GROUP ESTABLISHED.
First Deputy Media Minister Mikhail Seslavinsky told Interfax on 14 February that the country's television networks, advertisers, and other experts have created a media committee for research on Russian television audiences. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 February)WILL THE 'REAL' MEDIA ELITE PLEASE STAND UP?...
Writing in "The Moscow Times," sociologist Boris Kagarlitsky presents a bleak view of the media elite in his country. He argues that "Our media elite was never interested in...independent journalism." Rather, its members wanted to "become part of the newly forming ruling class or even to lord it over the ruling class" since they "emerged from the Soviet political incubator" and "never saw any real difference between information and propaganda." Kagarlitsky asserts that "the Soviet propaganda apparatus was simply privatized." Trouble between the Kremlin and the media elite only arose when their interests "parted ways," it said. ("The Moscow Times," 16 February)...AND UNTIL IT DOES, PEOPLE WILL NOT CARE.
Only when the press is willing to "separate itself from the authorities altogether" will journalists be able to "see the entire corrupted political system as a whole," according to "The Moscow Times" piece. While this critical perspective is "difficult and dangerous" for journalists, "only then will the press be protected by public opinion." According to Kagarlitsky, "the Russian press does not have such [popular] support" because it does not currently deserve it. ("The Moscow Times," 16 February)GORBACHEV TO HAVE OWN TV SERIES.
A TV series called "Secrets of Power," produced by a German-Hungarian television company, will show Gorbachev asking 13 major world politicians, including Helmut Kohl, Yasser Arafat, Nelson Mandela, George Bush, and Pope John Paul about their private lives and the motives behind some of their decisions, Reuters reported. (Reuters, 15 February)TIME-BASED PHONE CHARGES INCUR NEW CRITICISM.
Members in the Greater Urals interregional economic association sharply criticized on 16 February the introduction of per/minute telephone charges, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. One member, Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel, said that the measure will lead to a decline in living standards, force pensioners to discontinue their telephone service, and slow the use of the Internet in the country as a whole. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 February)POLICE ARREST WEBSITE CREATORS.
Police have arrested a group of people who set up the kogot.ru website several years ago to distribute information discrediting well-known people, strana.ru reported on 14 February. Meanwhile, a Kostroma student was sentenced to 18 months in jail for hacking, "Segodnya" reported on the same day. Also on 14 February, Interfax-Moscow reported that up to 15 percent of all Internet providers and operators in the Russian capital have experienced problems with hacking and other crimes. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 February)
FORMER STATE MEDIA DIRECTOR REMANDED IN CUSTODY.
The former director of Radio Television Serbia has been remanded in custody for a month by the Belgrade District Court. Dragoljub Milanovic is accused of willfully endangering the lives of employees on 23 April 1999, when NATO bombs slammed into the broadcaster's Belgrade headquarters, killing 16 staff members. Family members of the bomb victims claim that Milanovic had known ahead that the building would be bombed on that night but did nothing to protect the lives of the employees. (ANEM Weekly Media Update, 14 February)JOURNALISM WITHOUT PARTY CONTROL?
Tanjug's union, Nezavisnost, called on 9 February for all leading parties in Serbia to withdraw their members from management structures in all media houses. (ANEM Weekly Media Update, 10 February)TV B92: SAME CONDITIONS AS MILOSEVIC REGIME.
Asked what he promised to independent media, Yugoslav Telecommunications Minister Slobodan Orlic told "Glas javnosti" that a future Serbia would be built on two paths, one covering state media and the other for the independent media. Orlic cited B92 Television which, several months after the downfall of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, was in the same position as under his regime, the only difference being that the company's journalists no longer feared for their lives. (ANEM Weekly Media Update, 10 February)KOSTUNICA APPEALS FOR TEMPORARY MEDIA PERMITS.
Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica appealed on 14 February for the independent electronic media to be issued with temporary licenses until formal legislation on telecommunications is adopted. (ANEM Weekly Media Update, 14 February)STATE MEDIA TAX ABOLISHED.
The Serbian Parliament has voted to abolish the controversial television tax used to finance Radio-Television Serbia, the former propaganda infrastructure of ousted Yugoslav President Milosevic. The tax was levied on the electric power bills of all Serbian householders. Finance Minister Bozidar Djelic said that the state should begin to build a new national TV network and that an interdepartmental group on reform of state television would be headed by future state Media Director Miodrag Isakov. Djelic also announced new legislation on television within three months. (ANEM Weekly Media Update, 14 February)KOSTUNICA SHY OF MONTENEGRIN TV.
Vojislav Kostunica has ignored repeated invitations from Montenegro's state TV to appear in a debate with Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic. TV Montenegro has received no response to three invitations in the past month to the Yugoslav president to meet Djukanovic in a three-hour program in February. (ANEM Weekly Media Update, 14 February)DUVE: IF THERE WAS NO B92, THERE WOULD BE NO OTPOR.
OSCE Media Representative Freimut Duve said on 14 February that the new Serbian authorities should not interfere in media activities. He told Radio B92 and Beta that the Serbian government and parliament must decide on a model to transform state media into public broadcasting services, adding that it would be a long and difficult process. (ANEM Weekly Media Update, 15 February)MEDIA COOPERATION IN BUJANOVAC.
Government negotiator Biserka Matic Spasojevic met Presevo Mayor Riza Halimi on 12 February to discuss improving the flow of information to Albanians in the Kosovo border region of south Serbia. According to the Bujanovac Press Center, the talks focused on Halimi, as leader of the Albanian Party for Democratic Action, taking a more active role in press conferences in the town. The Belgrade coordination team has called for public presentation of Albanian opinion at press conferences rather than only through Albanian media. (ANEM Weekly Media Update, 13 February)JOURNALIST BEATEN.
An Italian journalist said today that he was harassed and beaten up by Albanian extremists in the village of Konculj two days ago. He said he was robbed of his cameras, material, mobile phone, and some money. The next day the rebels brought him to a KFOR checkpoint and released him. (ANEM Weekly Media Update, 16 February)
SPY NOVELIST AWARDED RUSSIAN PRIZE.
At an awards ceremony in Moscow on 21 February, Rakhim Esenov, Turkmen historian and Ashgabat-based RFE/RL correspondent, received an award from the "Literaturnaya Rossiya" weekly. He won first prize for his novel "An Intelligence Agent named Aga Berdiyev" in the weekly's competition and received a car. (RFE/RL Turkmen Service, 21 February)
PRESIDENT NOT TO RESIGN OVER MISSING JOURNALIST CASE.
Leonid Kuchma said on 21 February he will not step down because of the allegations of his complicity in the disappearance of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, Interfax reported. "I won't even speak on this topic," Kuchma said during a call-in interview with readers of the Kyiv-based "Fakty" newspaper. "I want to tell people: you need to believe in your country, you need to believe your president. I am looking in your eyes and I am ready to swear on the Bible and the constitution that I have never, under no circumstances given an order to destroy a man," Kuchma said in the section of the interview that was broadcast the same day by the ICTV television channel. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 22 February)CIVIC INITIATIVE WANTS TO SUE PRESIDENT FOR SLANDER.
Lawmaker Serhiy Holovatyy told journalists on 15 February that the National Salvation Forum Civic Initiative intends to sue President Kuchma, parliamentary speaker Ivan Plyushch, and Premier Viktor Yushchenko for slander, Interfax reported. Holovatyy was referring to the statement of the three leaders in which the Forum was described as a group seeking salvation "for themselves from political bankruptcy and oblivion...[and] criminal responsibility" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 February 2001). The Forum currently unites 63 representatives of political parties and public organizations. Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko said the previous day that the Forum was created in "an unconstitutional way." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February)GROUP TO ASK FOR UKRAINIAN SUSPENSION...
"The murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze may not be further ignored," Robert Menard, head of the Reporters Without Borders organization to protect journalists, said in a letter to President Kuchma, Interfax reported on 15 February. Menard added that if the Gongadze case is not clarified in the next few weeks, his organization will ask the Council of Europe to suspend Ukraine's membership, and will request the EU "to make all necessary conclusions regarding its political and economic relations with Ukraine." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February)...WHILE GONGADZE'S WIFE APPEALS ONLY FOR TRUTH.
Myroslava Gongadze, wife of the missing journalist, told the Ekho Moskvy radio station that she only wants to learn the truth about her husband's fate, Reuters reported on 14 February. "Being at the center of these events is terrifying for me, but we must have an impartial investigation," Gongadze said. She added that the blame for the current political unrest in Ukraine "lies solely with the investigative organs: their complete inactivity." According to her, the refusal of Ukrainian officials to unambiguously identify the headless body found near Kyiv and believed to be her husband's signals that they are covering up his murder. "There is only one explanation: if there is no crime, then there is no perpetrator of the crime," she said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February)STUDENTS STAGE RALLIES OVER MISSING JOURNALIST.
Some 100 students, led by the "For Truth" youth group, handed over a petition to the U.S. embassy in Kyiv on 15 February, asking the U.S. government to use its influence to solve the mystery of missing journalist Gongadze, Interfax reported. The group also asked for an expert assessment in the U.S. of the tapes that allegedly prove President Kuchma's complicity in Gongadze's disappearance. Another 50 students picketed the Education Ministry the same day, demanding that the educational authorities reinstate students from Rivne who say they have been expelled from their college for taking part in anti-Kuchma protests. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 16 February)
MEDIA LAW REFORM TEXT SOON IN RUSSIAN.
A Russian-language version of "The Enabling Environment for Free and Independent Media" will soon be available at the Moscow Media Law and Policy Center at http://www.medialaw.ru Authors Monroe Price and Peter Krug of Oxford's Program in Comparative Media Law and Policy have used a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) grant to produce the study. The text is available in English at http://pcmlp.socleg.ox.ac.uk/EnablingEnvironment.pdf The study is meant to provide guidelines for establishing media to advance democratic principles. Defamation rules and freedom of information laws are examined, as well as the rule of law, separation of powers, an independent judiciary, and the establishment of reliable legal regulatory bodies. The study also considers the state of the economy, demand for information, and ethnic and political pluralism. The Media Law and Policy Center, at the Moscow State University School of Journalism, promotes a free and independent press through research and education on the law and the media. (International Journalists' Network, 20 February)