9 March 2001, Volume
COUNCIL OF EUROPE MEDIA ACTIVITIES.
Various media activities (training sessions, conferences) on topics ranging from media accountability to promoting interethnic peace and training for judges in media law are listed in a Council of Europe press release. These activities are conducted in Albania, Croatia, Romania, Bosnia, and the Former Yugoslavia. (Council of Europe Press Release, 1 March)WORLD INTERNET SOCIETY MEETING.
The Internet Society's INET 2001 will be held in Stockholm, Sweden from 5-8 June 2001. Information can be found at http://www.isoc.org/inet2001/ The Information for Development Program (infoDev) of the World Bank: http://www.infodev.org The International Institute for Communication and Development: http://www.iicd.org (Democracy IT Group, 28 February)
U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT REPORT ON FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND PRESS.
The recently issued State Department report on Armenia, in its section on freedom of speech and press, notes that "[t]here is no official censorship, publications present a variety of views, and the opposition press regularly criticizes government policies and leaders, including the President, on sensitive issues such as the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process and privatization." Among negative phenomena, the report mentions, in particular: the one-year suspended sentence of Nikol Pashinian, the chief editor of "Oragir" daily; the absence of announced legal action regarding the beatings of the "Haikakan Zhamanak" staff and arson at the office of "Novoye Vremya" newspaper; limited resources and small newspaper circulation, newspapers' dependence on patronage from economic or political interest groups and individuals; major influence of the President's Office on the state TV news coverage; and the inadequacy of the broadcast law. For complete text, see: http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2000/eur/index.cfm?docid=672 (Yerevan Press Club Newsletter, 24 February-2 March)
STATE TV JOURNALIST COUNTS U.S. SPIES.
Alyaksandr Zimouski said in a "special edition" of his weekly program "Rezanans" on Belarusian Television on 28 February that some 430 "workers of U.S. special services" were brought to Belarus by the U.S. embassy as diplomats during the past eight years, Belapan reported. According to Zimouski, U.S. intelligence activities in Belarus now focus on discrediting all aspects of Belarus's policies, provoking and escalating political and economic controversies between Belarus and other countries, financially supporting the Belarusian opposition, and stirring up "separatist sentiment and interdenominational controversies." Zimouski noted that earlier the U.S. intelligence services focused on recruiting agents and informers in Belarus. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 March)YOUTHS MOCK TV SPYMANIA.
The Youth Front, an organization associated with the opposition Belarusian Popular Front, staged a happening at the offices of Belarusian Television on 6 March to mock TV propaganda programs and documentaries, Belapan reported. Four activists dressed in black and wearing "spy" sunglasses delivered a document confirming the transfer of 288 Belarusian rubles ($0.23) to television for advertising the organization. Last week, Belarusian Television said the CIA helps the Youth Front organize subversive operations in Belarus to topple Alyaksandr Lukashenka. "We decided to pay Belarusian Television [for advertising our] goals -- we [really] want to lead young people to the presidential election this year in order to topple the regime," Youth Front leader Pavel Sevyarynets said, adding that his organization got the money from "our American masters." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 March)
PRESIDENT HAILS FREE PRESS.
Mesic told an OSCE-sponsored conference on media freedom in Zagreb on 28 February that he is glad the gathering is taking place in his country, because "those who have experienced the misuse of the media can best discuss the issue," dpa reported. He added that "controlled media [under the communists and HDZ] taught us to respect freedom of the press." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 March)
PREMIER ORDERED TO PAY JOURNALIST DAMAGES IN LIBEL SUIT.
Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman was found guilty of libel in Prague City Court on 28 February and must pay a journalist damages of 300,000 Czech crowns ($8,000), CTK reported. In June 1999, Zeman accused Ivan Brezina of writing newspaper and magazine articles promoting nuclear energy for the state-owned power utility CEZ, operator of the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant. Zeman must also make a public apology. Zeman has lost a series of libel suits and has issued apologies -- sometimes years later -- to several political opponents, including Civic Democrat Deputy Chairman Miroslav Macek and former Foreign Minister Josef Zieleniec. Zeman has said he will appeal the verdict. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 March)STATE RADIO NIXES CHURCH PROMO.
State-run radio has banned an advertisement by Catholic bishops on the grounds that it amounts to proselytism. The ad read: "The Church is not a museum, but a living community that counts on you. Remember your faith at the time of the census." The ad ran without a ripple on private channels, but after it was on state radio on 22 February, state network officials ordered it be taken off the air. The radio's directors denied political interference and said they made the decision independently. "Opinions circulate that the politicians exerted pressure in order to impede the transmission of the announcement," said Father Daniel Herman, spokesman of the Czech bishops' conference. "The fears are caused by what is seen as an excessive presence of Catholics in the country." (Zenit.org, 1 March)
WHO IS BEHIND ATTACK ON JOURNALIST?
In a 5 March 2001 letter to President Eduard Shevardnadze, the International Press Institute strongly condemned the assault on a Georgian journalist. Tamaz Tsertsvadze, editor of the Tbilisi weekly newspaper "Meridiani", was attacked on 24 February. Tsertsvadze was severely beaten with steel bars and was later taken to hospital in critical condition and diagnosed with a concussion, a broken nose, and several broken ribs. Tsertsvadze believes the threats were carried out by people connected to the ruling party, the "Union of Citizens". (International Press Institute, 5 March)
OPPOSITION CALLS FOR INQUIRY INTO TV FINANCES.
The Alliance of Free Democrats is asking the Prosecutor's Office to investigate possible crimes in misusing the funds o f state-run Hungarian Television during the tenure of TV President Laszlo Zsolt Szabo, who resigned on 27 February. In related news, Socialist Party Deputy Chairwoman Ildiko Lendvai said her party is calling for the establishment of a parliamentary investigative committee, and for a probe by the State Audit Office into the finances of the TV. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 March)
NEW JOURNALISTS' RIGHTS NGO SET UP.
RFE/RL reports that on 5 March, a group of independent journalists announced the creation of a new journalists' rights organization, "Tauqymet." Well-known journalist Tatyana Deltsova said at a 5 March Almaty press conference that in recent months journalists started facing many problems, such as harassment in official trials and beatings. The problems faced by "SolDat" and "21 VEK" newspapers -- periodicals sued by Almaty officials for allegedly insulting the dignity and honor of the Kazakhstan president -- were also mentioned, as was the 2 March robbery of TV journalist and politician Gulzhan Ergalieva. Delstsova also announced that membership in the new organization was open to any Kazakhstan journalist. ("RFE/RL Kazakh News," 6 March)INTERNET TRAINING CENTER SEMINAR ON PRESS FREEDOM.
On 2 March, the Internet Training Center held a seminar, "Press Freedom, Security of Society and Individuals." Issues such as Internet usage in Kazakhstan, state attempts to impose control over the Internet, and use of the Latin alphabet for Kazakh were discussed. According to some experts and independent journalists, some recent regulations proposed by the Kazakhstan government could impose stricter controls over the flow of information through the Internet. Also some thought that it was too soon for the Kazakh language to switch to the Latin alphabet, others reportedly thought a rapid switch to the Latin alphabet was needed. ("RFE/RL Kazakh News," 2 March)
ACCUSATIONS AGAINST INDEPENDENT PAPER DROPPED.
Chief editor of the independent "Delo Nomer" weekly Victor Zapolsky informed RFE/RL on 7 March that the National Security Service has dropped charges against the paper. According to Zapolsky, the Prosecutor-General decided to close the case on 15 February, but the paper was informed on 6 March. A criminal case was filed on 29 November and the paper was accused of divulgence of state secrets in its coverage of a closed trial against former Kyrgyz Vice President Feliks Kulov. ("RFE/RL Kyrgyz News," 7 March)TWO OPPOSITION PAPERS JOIN FORCES.
Chief editor of the "Res Publica" weekly Zamira Sydykova and owner of the "Asaba" paper Melis Eshimkanov held a joint news conference in Bishkek on 7 March to announce that the editorial boards of the two papers would conduct joint activity while publication of "Asaba" is suspended. The "Res Publica" weekly has two editions -- one in Kyrgyz and the other in Russian. "Asaba" is the Kyrgyz-language edition. Sydykova said at the press conference that the Uchkun publishing house is now searching for grounds not to print "Res Publica" by saying there is a paper shortage. ("RFE/RL Kyrgyz News," 7 March)COURT SUSPENDS PUBLICATION OF OPPOSITION PAPER.
Bishkek's Lenin District court has issued orders to the Uchkun publishing house not to print any further issues of the biweekly newspaper "Asaba" until it pays a total of 8 million soms (about $160,000) in three separate fines, the paper's editor Melis Eshimkanov told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 6 March. The fines were imposed on charges of tax evasion, failure to repay a loan, and insulting former Communist Party of Kirghizia First Secretary Turdakun Usubaliev. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 March)
ONLY RUSSIAN-LANGUAGE DAILY CEASES PUBLISHING.
"Ekho Litvy," which celebrated its 60th anniversary last year, was not published on 2 March due to financial problems, BNS reported. The paper, which has a press run of 5,000-8,000, had been the Russian-language publication of the Lithuanian Communist Party until it was privatized by its staff in the early 1990s. The paper's director-general, Raisa Stankeviciene, said the financial difficulties were caused by the ongoing simultaneous negotiations between three shareholders with potential buyers, whose identities were revealed. The paper's staff believed the publication had stopped only temporarily and would resume in "maybe 20-30 days." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March)
TIME RUNNING OUT FOR YU-INFO TV.
Montenegrin authorities will allow transmitters of YU-Info Television inside military facilities in that republic, but only for a short time, said the Montenegrin minister for information on 19 February. He denied a statement from the Yugoslav information minister that an agreement had been reached to allow YU-Info equipment to remain in military facilities until the end of the early parliamentary elections in Montenegro, scheduled for 22 April. (ANEM Weekly Media Update, 17-23 February)TV CHANNEL FOR POLITICAL PARTIES.
The Montenegrin political parties are to get a state TV channel as of 13 March dedicated to coverage of their campaigns in the run-up to the early parliamentary elections. Equal status will be given to all political parties. Its editor-in-chief will be picked by the TV Montenegro board, with the approval of political parties in parliament. This channel will broadcast on state TV's third channel, according to Tanjug. (ANEM Weekly Media Update, 17-23 February)
NEW SECRECY LAW PROTESTED.
In Romania, the head of the Media Committee in the Romanian Senate, Adrian Paunescu, criticized the law as "dangerous". The prime minister, who attended the plenary meeting of the two chambers, replied that "this is the international practice," though he admitted that the law opens some space for "abuse of law" and "planting" bodies of evidence in order to frame someone. Analysis of the draft law can be found at http://www.article19.org/docimages/962.htm. (Article 19 Press Release, 7 March)
INFO DOCTRINE AUTHOR SPEAKS HIS MIND.
Anatoly Streltsov of the Russian Federation Security Council -- one of the main authors of its Information Security Doctrine -- made a presentation on 6 March, reports "RFE/RL Media Matters." He stressed the need for the Russian government to maintain vigilance on the information front at a Moscow conference, "Russia and Europe in the Global Information Society," sponsored by the European Institute of the Media. After Andrew Strolein, editor of the "Central European Review," outlined basic technology for trying to preserve email privacy and protecting journalistic sources, Strelstov commented that the editor's presentation sounded like a "primer for spies."PAVLOVSKY URGES BETTER INFORMATION SECURITY...
In an interview published in the 6 March "Krasnaya zvezda," unofficial presidential political adviser Gleb Pavlovsky said that the army must reform in order to be able to meet the challenges ahead, including new threats to information security. He said that "in the modern world, it is necessary, while preserving openness, to either regulate the parameters of this openness or agree to another's, sometimes anonymous, shadow control." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 March)...AS 'SREDA' EDITOR POINTS TO ONE WAY TO GET IT.
In the 6 March issue of "The Moscow Times," "Sreda" editor Aleksei Pankin said that Moscow could get all the help it needs to improve Russia's image by being more forthcoming. He noted that Patrick Cockburn, the Moscow correspondent of "The Independent," had said that "if [Moscow officials] create an information vacuum regarding a situation of interest to the public, you cannot complain when that vacuum is filled by the opinions of your enemies." But Pankin said that "for a businessman like [Media Minister] Mikhail Lesin, a free image looks even worse than a trap." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 March)NO LIBERALIZATION IN TELECOMMUNICATIONS...
Minister of Communications and Informatization Leonid Reiman told RIA-Novosti on 21 February that his agency would like to keep intact "natural monopolies" in the telecommunications area and will oppose alternatives being advocated by the Anti-Monopoly Ministry. Any additional players in the market, Reiman said, would work against the development of Russian telecommunications. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 5 March)...AS NEW MEDIA RESTRICTIONS APPEAR LIKELY.
Deputy Press Minister Vladimir Grigoriev retreated from his own statement that the government plans to place a one-year moratorium of licensing new media outlets, "Vremya Novostei" reported on 21 February. But despite this withdrawal from a position he took in the 19 February "Financial Times," Grigoriev's plan looks more like a trial balloon than a mistaken statement. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 5 March)DUMA TO DISCUSS RESTRICTIONS ON INTERNET.
"Novaya gazeta" reported on 22 February that the Duma plans to discuss amending the law imposing state restrictions on the Internet. But the amendments will toughen the law rather than weaken it, the paper said, giving Moscow the right to impose the same restrictions on foreign information products coming into Russia as it does on domestic products. Indeed, the paper suggested that the Internet censorship model to be applied will come from China or North Korea. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 5 March)KREMLIN READY TO REVIVE FOREIGN PROPAGANDA MACHINE.
The Kremlin has decided to restore a Soviet-style administration for conducting foreign propaganda, "Novye Izvestiya" reported on 1 March. Under the Soviets, such efforts were under the supervision of the CPSU Central Committee and the KGB. Now they presumably will be directed by the presidential administration. The newspaper quotes Press Minister Lesin as saying that an advertising campaign must "correct" what he called "the shameful image of Russia created by the Western media." ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 6 March)EURASIAN TV ACADEMY LAUNCHED.
A Eurasian television academy opened in Moscow on 1 March to help promote cooperation among television employees of all types in the CIS and Baltic countries, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March)ELDERLY TRUST THE MEDIA, ENTREPRENEURS DON'T.
According to polls conducted by monitoring.ru, "the highest level of trust in the media is found among the elderly while the lowest is among self-employed people, of whom only 16 percent believe media reports and 58 percent do not," "Novoye vremya," no. 8, reported. National television networks have the highest level of credibility, then national newspapers, and then local television channels. Other sources enjoy little or no credibility, the polls said. Only one quarter of the population now read a daily newspaper, the polls found, but 76 percent of adults say they watch television nearly every day. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 March)LESIN SAYS RUSSIAN PRESS FREER THAN AMERICAN.
"Vremya novostei" on 28 February reported that Media Minister Mikhail Lesin believes that Russian media outlets have "more freedom of speech" than do their American counterparts. He said that "media in the United States express the views of only about 50 people," the wealthy owners of the media. In Russia, the situation is much better, he suggested. But not everyone in Russia agrees. "Segodnya" on 28 February reported its survey of people on the question of whether the human rights situation in Russia had improved or deteriorated since President Putin took office. Some 715 people said it had improved; 2,690 said it had deteriorated. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 March)MOSCOW DENOUNCES U.S. HUMAN RIGHTS CRITICISM.
The Foreign Ministry said that Moscow will not tolerate either the tone or the content of criticism of Russian practices by the U.S. State Department's annual human rights report, Russian agencies reported. The ministry release was especially critical of U.S. findings about threats to freedom of speech. It said that "in Russia, no one is afraid to speak aloud about still existing problems." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March)MOSCOW SEEN WASTING MONEY ON U.S. AD CAMPAIGN.
"Versty," no. 3, suggested that Media Minister Mikhail Lesin's plan to launch a propaganda campaign to improve Russia's image in the United States may be not only unnecessary but counterproductive, and at the very least will be extremely expensive. The journal noted that U.S. polls show that 52 percent of Americans currently have a positive attitude toward Russia and that 55 percent of Americans back continued U.S. assistance to Moscow. Consequently, the journal said, "it is not worth returning to reciprocal propaganda attacks. Instead, it is necessary to seek new mutual interests." Moreover, the Russian government is prepared to spend $50-100 million on this project. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 March)FOREIGN REPORTERS STILL HAVE 'MINDERS.'
Foreign reporters in Moscow must be "accredited with the Russian government and the Foreign Ministry, which in turn allocates you a minder," notes the "Guardian." Recently, his rather non-plussed minder handed the reporter an envelope containing "a lengthy diatribe sent to the Russian Foreign Ministry from a provincial Russian politician complaining about [the journalist's] report." The offended local politician's first impulse was to complain to the powers-that-be for redress. The provincial official also assumed that the "offender will be disciplined or leant on." In addition, the official assumed that the foreign journalist's article "had obviously been 'ordered' -- that is written on someone else's (and not one's editors) instructions and paid for." ("The Guardian (UK)," 1 March)CORRUPTION, POLITICS, AND THE FREE PRESS.
Speaking at the Carnegie Endowment, Matt Bivens, the former editor of "The Moscow Times," focused on politics, corruption, and press freedom in Russia. Although there are still a few people in government unmarred by major scandals (such as Alexei Kudrin, Viktor Khristenko, and German Gref), the government is ridden with corruption and Bivens listed numerous high-profile investigations. Corruption and disregard for civil liberties have resulted in harassment of journalists, including RFE/RL journalist Andrei Babitsky and media oligarch Vladimir Gusinsky. Bivens noted that press freedom usually declines as elections draw near, citing the angry stand of the Central Election Commission against the "None of the Above" campaign before the March 2000 presidential elections. Media outlets that question the official "Chechen terrorist" version of fall 1999 Moscow bombings appear more likely to have financial problems and experience journalist intimidation. (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 22 February)YAROSLAVL SLANDER CASE TIED TO CORRUPTION...
Elvira Mezhennaya, editor-in-chief of Gorodskoy Telekanal (city TV channel) will stand trial on criminal charges on 11 March in Yaroslavl. Last year, she was charged with slander by a senior Inspection Audit Department (KRU) official and the deputy procurator decided that this case is of major public significance. As a result, a local investigator proposed to the Press Ministry of the Russian Federation that control be established over information distributed by Gorodskoy Telekanal. After several months of investigation, the prosecutor returned the case for further investigation; and recommended that Mezhennaya's property be sealed. The oblast governor, Anatoly Lisitsin, was also deemed to have suffered in this case -- as were 33 other persons. In response to an official letter from Gorodskoy Telekanal to the oblast prosecution office demanding that it evaluate why the KRU had destroyed its inspection materials about the financial and economic activities of the oblast administration, an additional criminal case was brought against those employees of Gorodskoy Telekanal who made this demand. (Glasnost Defense Foundation, 6 March)...AS IS PENSA'S.
The press center of Governor of Pensenskaya Oblast Vasily Bochkarev issued a statement that: "Due to continuing misinformation in a number of oblast media, that sometimes turns to direct insults, touching the honor and dignity of the governor, Vasily Kuzmich Bochkarev has ordered that the prosecutor's office and the Ministry of Interior investigate all facts of slander in accordance with Russian Federation law." Earlier, twelve officials of the Pensa Oblast government brought a case in defense of their honor and dignity against the editors of "Novaya Birzhevaya Gazeta" and other journalists and editors, including the special "Izvestiya" correspondent; "Novaya gazeta"-"Mir Ludey," "Moskovsky Komsomolets," and "Nasha Pensa." The case was initiated because of an appeal to President Putin from the Pensa Citizen's Unity voters association published in "Novaya Birzhevaya Gazeta" referring to the "selfish and destructive policy of the governor and his team." The statement also claims that "oblast power has begun persecuting the independent press" and that Pensa Oblast is turning into a private holding controlled by the governor and his entourage. In their law suit, the governor's cronies claimed that the statement is false and demanded a compensation in the amount of 1,200,000 rubles from "Novaya Birzhevaya Gazeta," and 250,000 rubles from the journalists who sighed the address. Within a month, fourteen more officials joined their colleagues in taking legal action for slander. (Glasnost Defense Foundation, 6 March)BUT NEWSPAPERS NOT IMMUNE FROM CORRUPTION.
Widespread corruption among leading Russian newspapers was exposed by a public relations agency which offered 13 newspapers a story about a non-existent electronics firm and got the story published, only after paying a fee demanded by the newspapers, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Prominent Russian newspapers, including "Moskovsky Komsomolets," "Komsomolskaya Pravda," and "Nezavisimaya Gazeta," demanded a substantial fee for publishing the bogus story. All the newspapers praised the firm and its equipment, and some even quoted the supposed manager of the bogus firm. Of 21 newspapers approached, 13 fell for the trap, demanding from U.S.$130 to $1,200 to publish the fake story. The Russian anti-monopoly policy ministry said it would launch an investigation, reported the Interfax agency. (International Journalists Network, 5 March)NTV CREDIBILITY HIGH...
The following responses are taken from the Foundation for Public Opinion, dated 9 February. For all viewers in Russia: More accurate and objective: NTV=37% ORT=32%; For all viewers in Russia who receive the NTV signal: NTV=47% ORT=29%. (Ellen Mickiewicz , 3 March)...SUPPORT ACTIONS BEGIN IN ALTAI...
The Yabloko branch in Altai Krai on 2 March announced the beginning of actions in support of NTV, Interfax-Eurasia reported. The action, which the group hopes to spread across Russia, includes the organizing of pickets and the collection of signatures in support of the independent channel. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March)...AND MEDIA WATCHDOG MEETS GAZPROM MEDIA BOSS IN NY.
Alfred R. Kokh, general director of Russia's Gazprom Media, visited the New York offices of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) today to assert that his company's long-running dispute with Vladimir Gusinsky's NTV television network was purely a business matter. During a two-hour meeting, CPJ executive director Ann Cooper stressed that CPJ remains concerned about any outcome that might affect the editorial independence of NTV journalists. Kokh laid out several scenarios by which Gazprom Media believes the dispute could be resolved, including a deal with a foreign investment consortium led by U.S. media executive Ted Turner. He claimed his primary goal was to recoup Gazprom's investment in NTV, and argued that NTV's journalistic independence and economic value would both be enhanced if no single shareholder held a controlling stake in the network. (Committee to Protect Journalists, 6 March)MORE MEDIA TRIALS.
A Chita court on 28 February suspended local broadcasts of ORT and Mayak because of debts, Interfax-Eurasia reported. A Moscow court on the same day refused to release Media-MOST official Anton Titov from detention, Interfax said. The arbitration court prohibited Media-MOST from voting the 19 percent share of NTV stock in an upcoming 12 March shareholders meeting in Gibraltar, but Media-MOST officials dismissed the order, Interfax-AFI reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 March)INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER IN REGION SHUT OUT OF PRESS CONFERENCES...
One of the most popular independent publications in Omsk Oblast has lost its right to attend public press conferences, RFE/RL's Omsk correspondent reported on 28 February. In response to this problem and the fact that Omsk Oblast officials control all television channels and the majority of the newspapers available in the region, the Union of Journalists and Association of Omsk Journalists have opened an independent press center in Omsk, from which the independent press agency Do-Info can operate. Do-Info chief editor Viktor Korob told RFE/RL that the opening of the center will create a platform for the distribution of different points of view. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 March)...AS NEW 'KREMLIN-BACKED' MEDIA UNION OPENS REGIONAL BRANCH.
Meanwhile, in Nizhnii Novgorod, the Media Union, a newly created organization which is considered to be close to the Kremlin, announced that it is opening a new regional branch there, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 28 February. Media Union head Aleksandr Lyubimov said that his group is ready to serve in the capacity of a main body between the media, authorities, and business. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 March)NO CHARGES YET ON SIXTH ANNIVERSARY OF LISTEV MURDER.
Police have not yet arrested anyone for the 1 March 1995 murder of the first General Director of ORT and well-known television journalist Vladislav Listev, but prosecutors told Interfax that it is "still early" to talk about the case being hopeless. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March)NEW INVENTION PROTECTS PEOPLE FROM TELEVISION, COMPUTER RADIATION.
A new bioresonance pictographic modulator has been developed by Russian scientists at the Infotekh laboratory to protect people who watch televisions, operate computers, or use cell phones from harmful radiation, Interfax reported on 4 March. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 March)ACADEMICIAN CALLS FOR INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY CENTER.
Vladimir Fortov, the vice president of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said on Ekho Moskvy on 1 March that the Russian government must help to set up an interagency center for information technology. Such a center would help to ensure that new ideas spread through the economy and contribute to growth, he said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 March)POLICE CLOSE BEST RUSSIAN REFERENCE SERVER.
The MVD Main Administration for Combat Economic Crimes closed public access to the biggest Internet-based informational system "Intergrum-Techno," regions.ru reported on 21 February. "Intergrum-Techno" united over 700 official and commercial databases, including the State Committee for Statistics, Custom Committee, and newspapers "Kommersant" and "Argumenty i Fakty". The official reason for the action was "violation of third-party copyrights", but in fact, the MVD may have acted to become a player in the struggle for control of Inergrum-Techno after the death of its creator Yuri Polyakov last week. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 5 March)START-UP FOR PUTIN'S INTERNET INTERVIEW.
More than 6,000 people have sent in questions in advance of President Putin's Internet interview scheduled for 1500 GMT on 6 March, Reuters reported. The questions range from "who is your favorite writer?" to how Putin thinks he would react if a former Gestapo officer were elected federal chancellor in Germany. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 March)COMPUTER SECURITY EXPERTS TO BE TRAINED AT STATE UNIVERSITY.
Chelyabinsk State University has set up a program to train computer security specialists, "Vremya MN" reported on 2 March. Up to now, the paper said, such specialists have been trained in Russia only at the FSB academy, but it added that the FSB will play a role in supervising the work of students at Chelyabinsk "from the very first days" of their instruction. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 March)UNUSUAL ADS CONFUSE MUSCOVITES.
Some Moscow residents have made the mistake of assuming that giant poster ads for a male strip club somehow are connected with and point the way to the offices of the Office of the Russian Prosecutor-General and the Federation Council, "The Moscow Times" reported on 5 March. Moscow Duma members are seeking to have them removed both to end this confusion and because people are "deeply offended" by the pictures. "Barebreasted ladies are a sight people have already gotten used to," deputy Mikhail Moskvin-Tarkhanov told the paper, "but guys in briefs are an outrage." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 March)PAPER PRINTS GOVERNMENT WARNING ON CHECHEN INTERVIEW.
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 5 March printed a warning from the Media Ministry that it violated the law by publishing an interview with Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov, but the paper said that it ran the interview because it believes that readers have the right to make up their own minds and also because the paper supports the "ideals of press freedom." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 March)GOVERNMENT LAUNCHES MEDIA OFFENSIVE IN CHECHNYA.
Television and TV transmitters in Grozny -- with a radius of 20-40 kilometers -- began relaying RTR and Radio Rossii broadcasts on 27 February, Russian media reported. Relay stations have also been repaired in ten other Chechen towns, according to ITAR-TASS, which means that the broadcasts can be received on 70 percent of Chechnya's territory. Russia's First Deputy Media Minister Mikhail Seslavinskii told that agency that last year Moscow spent 60.8 million rubles ($2.1 million) to restore those transmitters. The second Russian TV channel, ORT, will be broadcast in Chechnya as of May. The Russian broadcasts are, however, only one aspect of Moscow's campaign to provide the Chechen population with information. Glasnost-North Caucasus on 20 February quoted Chechnya's new minister of information and the press, Vassilii Vasilenko, as saying that the Russian government has allocated a total of 125 million rubles for the Chechen media. Vasilenko, who previously headed state radio and television in the Republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia, said a new "informational doctrine" has been drafted for Chechnya. "We will organize a TV company with the most modern equipment, and train journalists and technical staff," the new minister is quoted as saying. Work on the installation of 17 broadcasting mechanisms will soon begin. A new printing house is also to be opened in the republic, and will start publishing a state newspaper, Vasilenko said. ("RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 2 March)JOURNALIST BEATEN BY SERVICEMEN IN CHECHNYA.
Two drunken Russian Federal Forces servicemen brutally beat Aleksandr Stepanov, RIA-Novosti special correspondent on 2 March in Khankala. After RIA-Novosti demanded at the United Russian Federal Forces press center that the case be investigated and the servicemen punished, the Chechnya procurator flew to Khankala to investigate and a criminal case has been brought. (Glasnost Defense Foundation, 6 March)
BELGRADE 202 TO BECOME CITY RADIO.
Belgrade 202 is to be transformed from a state broadcaster into a city radio station, the company announced on 17 February. The statement added that the potential audience for the radio was a quarter of the Yugoslav population. The station is to be operated as a public service with institutional autonomy editorial independence and primary responsibility to the public, Tanjug reported. (ANEM Weekly Media Update, 17-23 February)BROADCASTERS WHO IGNORED OFFICIAL MOURNING TO LOSE LICENSES?
The Yugoslav information minister on 20 February attacked broadcasters who had failed to respect yesterday's national day of mourning for those killed in the 16 February convoy attack and warned that their "scandalous editorial policy" could be taken into account when the frequency permits were redistributed, reported Tanjug. (ANEM Weekly Media Update, 17-23 February)STATE MEDIA -- A HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUE?
The Serbian deputy prime minister stated on 22 February that the future of Serbian State RadioTV (RTS) is a human and civil rights issue, adding that the government plans for RTS to become "a public service at the service of all citizens." The official said that the draft proposal on RTS reform would be ready in a month and that a group of professionals from the media center and the Independent Association of Journalists were working on a draft proposal on media transition. Under this proposal, the government would name 17 "impartial figures" to the RTS management board and that the RTS employees would elect three. The government, he said, is searching for public funding for RTS and denied speculation that state TV would be terminated. He also said in future the first channel will be information based, the second cultural and scientific, and the third commercial, dedicated to sport and entertainment. According to him, there are currently around 8, 000 RTS employees. From 1995 to 2000, 1,200 workers were expelled for political reasons. (ANEM Weekly Media Update, 17-23 February)BBC MODEL FOR RTS?
The trade union of Radio Television Serbia and G17 plus called on 20 February for state television to be reformed on the model of the BBC so as to become "a barrier to all political influence." (ANEM Weekly Media Update, 17-23 February)WEBSITE TO BE SUED FOR LIBEL.
The leader of the Party of Serbian Unity on 20 February denied accusations on a website that he had helped destroy evidence about the murder of Zeljko "Arkan" Raznatovic. Borislav Pelevic announced that he would file a lawsuit against the unknown author of the site, which also claimed that Pelevic had been merely pretending to be a professor and a Serbian voluntary guard general. He is seeking one million German marks in compensation. He denied the claims at a press conference, where he also showed his diplomas, decorations, and promotion to the rank of general that the late Arkan had awarded him. (ANEM Weekly Media Update, 17-23 February)JOURNALIST ATTACKED AS TRAITOR.
A Deutsche Welle correspondent was attacked and threatened as a "traitor" in Kursumlija on 22 February. Radovan Delibasic, who also reports for Belgrade daily "Glas Javnosti," was assaulted as he left the market by an unknown man who threatened to cut his throat. He was slightly injured in the attack. (ANEM Weekly Media Update, 17-23 February)
LEFTIST DAILY TO BE RUN BY FORMER EDITOR OF CZECH CONSERVATIVE NEWSPAPER.
Petr Sabata, who headed the largest Czech daily, "Mlada fronta Dnes," from 1993 to 2000, became the new chief editor of the Slovak daily "Pravda" on 1 March, CTK reported on 28 February. "I like this job offer as 'Pravda' is the first serious newspaper on the Slovak media market and it has a great future," Sabata commented on his appointment. Despite the fact that Sabata edited the right-of-center "Mlada fronta Dnes" in Prague, he said he will not change the leftist orientation of "Pravda." According to polls, "Pravda" is the third most popular daily in Slovakia -- it is read by 6.5 percent of Slovaks, while 24.8 percent claim to read "Novy Cas" and 6.6 percent peruse "Sport." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 March)
CACHE OF SUBVERSIVE LITERATURE DISCOVERED IN NORTH.
Some 7,500 books and pamphlets and 1,500 leaflets calling for the overthrow of the Tajik government have been confiscated from a member of a criminal group in the town of Chkalovsk, in northern Tajikistan, Interfax reported on 28 February quoting a Tajik Interior Ministry source. The man is reportedly a supporter of the Muslim extremist party Hizb-ut-Tahrir, some 100 of whose members have reportedly been arrested since the start of the year. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 March)
INTERNATIONAL GROUP'S STUDY OF MELNYCHENKO'S TAPES PROVES INCONCLUSIVE.
The Vienna-based International Press Institute on 28 February said it cannot prove the authenticity of the tapes publicized by former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko, which link Kuchma to the disappearance and murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. Acting on a request from a Ukrainian parliamentary commission, the institute said it consulted a number of technical experts who stated that it was nearly impossible to determine whether the digitally recorded tapes had been manipulated. Simultaneously, the institute said it is hard to believe that the hundreds of hours of recordings have been doctored. "If the existing evidence had consisted only of the approximately 25-minute-long recordings related to the Gongadze case, one could possibly imagine some manipulations or doctoring by a 'potential aggressor,'" the institute said in a statement. An RFE/RL correspondent who recently met with Melnychenko wrote in the 28 February "Daily Telegraph" that Melnychenko has 1,000 hours of recordings. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 March)STUDENTS PROTEST KUCHMA HOMAGE TO NATIONAL POET.
Some 20 Ukrainian students from Kyiv and Lviv set up a camp of five tents in the capital's central park to continue protests demanding President Leonid Kuchma's resignation. Last week police tore down a camp of 50 tents on Khreshchatyk Street in downtown Kyiv. Kuchma is due to visit the park on 9 March to lay flowers at the monument to national poet Taras Shevchenko in commemoration of poet's birthday. Yuriy Lutsenko, a leader of the "Ukraine Without Kuchma" protests, said some 1,000 people will come to the park on 9 March to prevent Kuchma from approaching the monument. "Shevchenko is a sacred person for our nation, and it is amoral for President Kuchma to come here," Reuters quoted one student as saying. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 March)INTERNATIONAL SLEUTHS TO LOOK FOR UKRAINIAN DEFECTOR?
President Kuchma told reporters from Poland's PAP news agency in Kyiv on 5 March that Ukraine has requested help from Western private detective agencies in investigating the bugging scandal provoked by former presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko, Interfax reported. Kuchma added that international detectives are working independently from Ukrainian investigators. Referring to Melnychenko, Kuchma said: "Some say he is a hero, but the majority of people say he is a traitor, and I agree with them. For me, he is not a human at all." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 March)
BOSNIA JOURNALISM SCHOOL CONTINUES WORK WITH FRENCH.
The Media Plan Institute's (MPI) School of Journalism in Sarajevo will continue work with the High College of Journalism of Lille, France, which has been assisting its journalism training since 1998. Under an agreement signed on 27 February, MPI's School of Journalism will adopt standards of education set forth by its French partner and reform its syllabus to introduce a specialized course in journalism based on European principles, the SAFAX news agency reported. The two schools will also work together on student and teacher exchanges and on media research in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and other parts of Southeastern Europe, SAFAX said. Currently, MPI's School of Journalism provides one-year training programs for young journalists and trains graduates who wish to supplement their education with hands-on training in print media, news agencies, television, radio, and online journalism. Upon the completion of a final examination, journalists receive certification from both the Media Plan Institute and the High College of Journalism of Lille. The main sponsors of the school are the French government and the European Commission. For more information, contact MPI by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website at http://www.mediaplan.ba (International Journalists Network, 5 March)SEMINAR EXAMINES MEDIA'S ROLE IN PREVENTING AIDS.
A seminar about the media's role in preventing the spread of AIDS in Eastern Europe was held last month in Kiev, Ukraine, according to a recent UNESCO release. The event, organized by UNESCO and the Ukrainian Institute of Journalism "Taras Shevchenko," brought together more than 40 journalists and several HIV/AIDS experts from more than 12 Eastern European countries. By the end of 2000, it was estimated that about 36 million people in the region were infected with HIV or AIDS, UNESCO reported. The Kiev seminar was the first regional effort in preparation for the UN General Assembly Special Session on AIDS, from 25 to 27 June, the release said. For more information, visit UNESCO's release at http://www.unesco.org/webworld/news/2001/010223_media_aids.shtml (International Journalists Network, 5 March)ZAVADSKY NOMINATED FOR OSCE PARLIAMENT ASSEMBLY JOURNALISM AWARD.
The delegation of the Belarus Supreme Council nominated Dmitry Zavadsky for the OSCE Prize for Journalism and Democracy. Among other journalists who were awarded this prize are Adam Mikhnik and Andrei Babitsky. According to Anatoly Lebedko, the head of the delegation of the Supreme Council, by nominating Dmitry Zavadsky for the OSCE award, they want to attract world attention to two important problems of Belarus: the disappearance of political opponents of the Belarus regime and freedom of speech. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situation, 23 February)
SECRET TAPER TALKS TO RFE/RL ON GONGADZE CASE.
RFE/RL correspondent Askold Krushelnycky and two other journalists met in mid-February with Mykola Melnychenko, the former bodyguard of Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma who secretly tape-recorded the president.
Below is the second part of Krushelnycky's account of the meeting written for RFE/RL on 1 March and dealing with the Gongadze case:
Mykola Melnychenko fled Ukraine on 26 November -- two days before the publication of excerpts from secret tapes he had made of his former boss, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma. Melnychenko, who served as a presidential bodyguard for seven years, says he decided to publish the excerpts in the wake of last September's disappearance of opposition journalist Heorhiy Gongadze.
The debate over the authenticity of the tapes -- which purportedly have Kuchma saying he wished Gongadze could be kidnapped by Chechen "bandits" -- will not be resolved quickly.
Kuchma's aides have said that the tapes, which have fueled recent protests in Ukraine calling for Kuchma's ouster, were manipulated to alter the meaning of his recorded remarks. Perhaps feeling the heat of mounting public pressure, Kuchma himself wrote a letter published 27 February in Britain's "Financial Times" newspaper saying the attacks against him were politically motivated. He added that Gongadze's death, although tragic, was not grounds for a murder accusation, and called allegations of his involvement "completely untrue."
The Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI) has been asked by Ukrainian investigators to arrange for an independent analysis of Melnychenko's digital tapes to determine whether they had been altered. In a statement released on 28 February, IPI said that the nature of digital recording made it impossible to say "with a nearly absolute level of certainty" that the tapes had not been tampered with. It added, however, that the finding "does not imply that the tapes are inauthentic."
Melnychenko had said he was waiting for the IPI results before releasing more excerpts of his recordings regarding the Gongadze case and other criminal dealings by Kuchma. It is not clear how he will proceed now. But for those who trust the authenticity of the tapes, the new excerpts still in Melnychenko's possession may provide additional details about the disappearance and death of the outspoken journalist.
Gongadze's headless corpse was discovered in a wood outside the Ukrainian capital Kyiv weeks after his disappearance on 16 September. In the interview with RFE/RL, Melnychenko said the still-unreleased excerpts indicate that Gongadze was meant to be "removed" even earlier. But he said the journalist unwittingly bought himself time by filing a complaint that he was being followed with Deputy Interior Minister Yury Opasenko.
According to the former bodyguard, Gongadze gave Opasenko the license plate numbers of the cars he said had been following them. The deputy minister then caused delays by making official inquiries about the cars, which he traced back to the state security services.
Melnychenko said his recording captures Interior Minister Yury Kravchenko telling Kuchma that Opasenko was not trustworthy and that he regretted not firing him earlier.
On 16 September, a Saturday, Kuchma and Kravchenko were together on a hunting expedition. Four days later, when the press had already begun to ask questions about Gongadze's disappearance, Melnychenko says he recorded Kuchma asking a security official whether the journalist was alive or dead. Kuchma goes on to say that Gongadze should be found because the situation looked bad for the president.
Melnychenko said that at this stage Kuchma already knew Gongadze was dead, and was only feigning concern. The former bodyguard said of the Ukrainian president: "Kuchma can be a very good actor and he is a very cunning man."
Since leaving his homeland three months ago, Melnychenko has been living in hiding with his wife and their four-year-old daughter. Ukraine has issued a warrant for his arrest, and Melnychenko said he is aware of intelligence efforts to track him down.
He also said he is worried about his family's safety and is concerned that Kuchma's allies may have hired professional killers to find him. But he said he has no plans to seek permanent asylum.
"I have not applied for political asylum in any country because I expected, and still expect, that the situation in Ukraine will change for the better, that Kuchma will leave and democratic forces will come to the government," Melnychenko said.
Melnychenko told his interviewers he hopes to return to Ukraine to testify if Kuchma goes to trial. He said he is afraid that if he applied for political asylum Kuchma's supporters would use that to discredit him and the authenticity of his recordings.
"Why should I ask for political asylum? Why should I be afraid? Of whom, Kuchma? He should be frightened of me. If I ask for political asylum in another country, that will immediately provoke a misleading reaction from Kuchma's people. They would say, 'Look, he's frightened, he's fleeing from justice.' But I'm not frightened. If these recordings were fake, then I would have sought political asylum straight after the first excerpts were published. But I am confident [of the tapes' authenticity] and Kuchma also knows that these recordings are accurate," Melnychenko said.
Melnychenko dismissed claims by the Kuchma administration that he is an employee of foreign intelligence agencies looking to destabilize Ukraine. He says frustration with the rampant corruption he saw in the presidential office is the only reason behind his decision to put the safety of himself and his family at risk. ("RFE/RL Poland, Belarus and Ukraine Report," 6 March)