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Media Matters: March 23, 2001

23 March 2001, Volume 1, Number 7
MEDIA FREEDOM AT RISK. Media freedom is now at risk in the Russian Federation and in many other post-Soviet states, according to Alexander Lupis, coordinator of the Europe and Central Asian Program at the Committee to Project Journalists (CPJ) speaking at an RFE/RL briefing this week. He appeared in connection with the release of CPJ's annual report, "Attacks on the Press in 2000." Citing that report, Lupis noted that in Russia, "the ascendancy of President Vladimir Putin sparked an alarming assault on press freedom," including the imposition of censorship in Chechnya and attacks on journalists and media outlets "in the name of strengthening the state." Elsewhere in the post-Soviet region, Lupis said, the CPJ had found that conditions for journalists have deteriorated as well. In Ukraine, the problems are seen in the government's apparent involvement in the murder of Heorhiy Gongadze. Lupis noted that media defense organizations like CPJ have an especially difficult time in tracking moves by governments concerned about their public image even though they seek to restrict the media. In some post-Soviet states, regimes use economic pressure and other less obvious but very effective restrictions in muzzling the media. (RFE/RL Press Release, 20 March)

'ATTACKS ON THE PRESS IN 2000.' The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) issued a 550-page report which documents 605 cases of media repression in 131 countries, including assassination, assault, imprisonment, censorship, and bureaucratic harassment. CPJ's report notes several disturbing trends: Of the 24 journalists killed for their work, at least 16 were murdered, and in all but two instances, those who ordered the murders remain at large, since the assassinations of journalists are seldom vigorously investigated and the killers rarely convicted, particularly in Russia; The number of journalists in prison at the end of 2000 declined from a year earlier (from 87 to 81); In Eastern Europe many states have turned to more subtle methods to control the press -- punitive tax laws, expensive libel suits, and advertising boycotts. Journalists are increasingly using the Internet and other technologies to bypass restrictions, but the consequences can include more repression, violent attack, and even death. The entire text of the book "Attacks on the Press in 2000" is available on CPJ's website ( (Committee to Protect Journalists, 19 March)

DIGITAL VIDEO AND INTERNATIONAL NEWS. A digital video conference, "A New Look at the World: Digital Video and International News," which will examine the impact of multimedia technologies on international news coverage, will be held at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York on 4-5 May. Experts from some of the nation's leading media companies will explain how new technologies are affecting news organizations. To learn more about the conference and register online, visit: (, 15 March)

DRAFT PRESS LAW DEEMED 'THREAT.' The London-based press freedom group Article 19 analyzed a draft Freedom of the Press law and deemed the current draft law, despite some positive aspects, as a serious threat to media freedom. Many of the draft's provisions make the journalist bear primary responsibility for what is printed, although the owners and editors make most of these decisions. Article 19 singled out the following provisions: journalists must undergo state licensing; government enforcement of journalistic ethics; criminal penalties for distribution of allegedly false information; the legal obligation to right of reply; criminal sanctions for violation of orthography obligations; compulsory free-of-charge publication by state bodies in the private press during legal states of emergency; broadly defined conditions for prior press censorship; and a very narrow definition of journalism. For more, contact or see (Article 19, 15 March)

EDITOR SUMMONED TO PROCURATOR. The National Scout Movement requested the Prosecutor-General to institute a criminal action for alleged libel against the chief editor of "Haikakan Zhamanak" daily. In the plaintiff's view, its 21 February article slandered the Scout Movement founded by the Dashnaktsoutiun Party as a terrorist organization which is behind the 27 October 1999 shootings in the Armenian parliament. Recently the paper's chief editor was summoned to the Yerevan Prosecutor's Office, where he told the Prosecutor's Office that 99% of the sources were based on the 27 October case materials. ("Yerevan Press Club Newsletter," 10-16 March)

NEWSPAPER GIVEN OFFICIAL WARNING. The Prosecutor's Office gave an official warning on 6 February to "Belorusskaya Delovaya Gazeta," warning the paper against further violations of the press law against divulging materials of an inquest. The material in question, "The Blood of Almaz," appeared in the paper on 19 December. The article detailed alleged grave offences committed by former officers of the Almaz special military unit. The gang is suspected of murdering several businessmen in the Minsk Oblast as well as an Azerbaijani family in Minsk. While some suspect the Almaz group of involvement in the kidnapping of ORT reporter Dmitry Zavadsky, the author concluded that this was improbable since the gang's other crimes were motivated by financial profit. The paper's editor told the deputy prosecutor-general that in his opinion, the newspaper did not divulge inquest secrets. The journalists are not involved in the inquest, nor did they sign secrecy agreements, nor, in fact, were they shown any case materials. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 19 March)

INDEPENDENT PAPER'S DATABASE STOLEN IN MOGILEV. The Mogilev-based independent newspaper "De-Facto" was robbed twice in ten days, according to on 27 February. The burglars used keys to open the lock of the office and stole the computer used for layout, and the archive of the newspaper. Journalists believe that the burglars were after the database, since many valuables in the office were left. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 19 March)

VALENTINE'S DAY PRESS BAN IN GOMEL FACTORY. On 14 February, the director-general of Gomselmash factory signed Order no. 46, "On the procedure for relations with mass media." According to this directive, the editor of the factory newspaper must screen any document sent by a factory worker to the media and must also give his permission for any press contacts. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 19 March)

NTV 'DOBERMAN' BANNED. On 25 February, NTV broadcast a French film, "Doberman"; its broadcast was suspended on the territory of Belarus. For several days during the NTV screening of the film, viewers in Belarus were instead shown the "KVN" quiz show, normally shown by ORT. A text on the screen informed viewers: The film "Doberman" has been forbidden for broadcasting in Belarus by a ruling of the Expert Commission on the Prevention of the Propagation of Pornography, Violence, and Cruelty. The expert committee, part of the Ministry of Culture since 1992, offers the government its findings on a film's potential 'harm' to public morals -- it has already blacklisted 27 films, reported on 27 February. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 19 March)

PROTESTING JOURNALISTS MAY FACE SANCTIONS. The acting director of Bulgarian state radio on 18 March threatened to discipline some 500 journalists who have been protesting for over a month against the appointment of Ivan Borislavov as the new radio director, "Monitor" reported. Alexander Barzitsov, who is substituting for Borislavov while he recovers from a heart attack, urged the journalists to drop plans to launch a civil-disobedience campaign on 19 March. He said the planned campaign "seriously threatens national security," and commented that "we shall not allow anybody to use the national radio in this manner and we shall react in the adequate legal way." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 March)

HAVEL'S FIRST ONLINE CHAT LASTS FOUR MINUTES. Czech President Vaclav Havel's first-ever Internet question-and-answer session lasted four minutes before an estimated 10,000 visitors overloaded the Prague Castle's website, CTK reported. After the site crashed, Havel answered questions, but readers had to wait 15 minutes for responses to their questions. Among the questions he answered, Havel expressed his opinion that the direct popular election of the president -- as opposed to the current election by parliament -- would better balance the Czech constitutional system; and mad cow disease is "punishment of humans by nature for feeding those vegetarians [cattle]...pulverized carcasses." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 March)

PUBLISHER'S MURDER CONDEMNED. In a 14 March 2001 letter to President Lennart Meri, the International Press Institute strongly condemned the murder of a newspaper publisher in Estonia. According to IPI sources, Vitaly Khaytov, 57, chief executive of the leading Russian-language daily "Estoniya" and the weekly "Vesti Nedelya Plus", was shot dead in Tallinn on 10 March. He was killed with two shots to the head while sitting in his car in a suburb of the capital. The motive for the murder was unknown, police said. Khaytov, a Russian citizen, worked as director-general of the Vesti publishing house since 1995, in charge of publishing "Estoniya" and "Vesti Nedelya Plus." His 32-year-old son, Marian Khaytov, was shot dead in a similar attack in Tallinn last spring, with police citing controversial business interests as a possible cause of his murder. No one has been charged in that killing. (International Press Institute, 15 March)

AMENDMENTS TO MEDIA LAW PASSED? According to Interfax-Kazakhstan and local NGO sources, the Mazhilis (lower house) of the parliament of Kazakhstan passed during its plenary session on 21 March the government-initiated draft law "On Introducing Amendments into the Mass Media Law." At this point there is no information available about the vote itself and conflicting information as to which provisions and in what form they remain in the approved draft law. There also are serious procedural questions about the consideration of the draft law and the final vote. It is believed that the Mazhilis-approved version of the draft law defines the Internet and websites as mass media but does not require registration with the Ministry of Information. Most reports also indicate the Mazhilis passed the proposal to restrict retransmission of foreign programming to 50 percent as of 1 January 2002 and to 20 percent a year later instead of the most recent "compromise" version which foresaw restrictions to 50, 30, and 20 percent on 1 January 2002, 2003, and 2004 respectively. (OSCE Mission Statement, 21 March)

MEDIA MANAGER CHARGED WITH OWNING ILLEGAL WEAPON. Vladislav Salagaev, the director of the popular NS independent radio station in Almaty, was charged on 13 February with illegal possession of weapons. The office of the radio station was searched on the pretext that the Tax Service suspected the NS administration of avoiding taxes. Authorities claimed that pistol shells were found during the search in Salagaev's office. NS staff have filed a complaint of the actions of the police, and the station's lawyers have filed a protest against the tax police. NS Radio is an active partner of Ekho Moskvy radio station, which is a branch of the Media-MOST holding company. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 19 March)

FIRST INDEPENDENT NEWS AGENCY. The first independent news agency, called Kosovska Mreza, will be founded in May, Kosovska Mitrovica Radio director announced on 15 March. With the support of the OSCE, Kosovska Mitrovica Radio will spearhead the launch of an independent media network at the end of March and will begin work in April. "We have 25 radio stations within the independent media network, but only four of these have fully-established news programs," SRNA quoted the radio director as claiming. ("ANEM Weekly Media Update," 10-16 March)

OFFICIAL DEFENDS LIBEL SUITS AGAINST JOURNALISTS. Meeting in Bishkek on 16 March with editors of independent and opposition media outlets, Secretary of State Osmonakun Ibraimov denied that the numerous libel suits that have brought several publications to the verge of ruin were politically motivated, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. He said it is normal for individuals to "defend their dignity in court." Meanwhile, two of the newspapers threatened by closures as a result of such lawsuits, "Asaba" and "Res Publica," published a further joint edition on 16 March. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 March)

BREAKDOWN IN MEDIA SITUATION, VIOLENCE AGAINST REPORTERS. Reporters without Borders (RSF) expressed its concern about acts of violence by Albanian extremists against journalists and the destruction of TV relay stations in the Tetovo region. According to RSF, the 14 March protest by Albanian radicals was the scene of attacks against two Macedonian journalists who had come to cover the event. Atanas Sokolovski, a journalist with the TV station A1, was manhandled while trying to interview Albanians. He was taken to hospital, where his condition was listed as serious. A correspondent from the Sitel TV station was also beaten by demonstrators and her video camera was broken. Moreover, the general media situation remains troublesome in the Tetovo region. Macedonian public television is the only station still on the air after the two relay stations of the region's private TV stations were destroyed by mortar and rocket-launcher fire from armed Albanian groups. On 14 March, broadcasts by the two nationally broadcast private TV stations, A1 and Sitel, were interrupted in Tetovo and two days later the transmitters of local private stations ETV Art, TV Kis, and TV Koha were destroyed. Publications have allegedly not been available in Tetovo in recent days. (Reporters without Borders Press Release, 20 March)

PRESIDENT SAYS RFE/RL 'PARTISAN.' President Ion Iliescu on 16 March said Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty played an important role before the fall of the Nicolae Ceausescu regime, but that it later became "stridently partisan" and backed his political opponents. Romania-Moldova Service Director Nestor Ratesh said in reaction that RFE/RL "does not engage in polemics with its critics" and believes it has always "provided accurate and balanced" reporting. Ratesh said it is "natural " that "those who dislike such reporting" disagree with RFE/RL's positions. In an editorial broadcast on 17 March, Ratesh said that democratic reforms in Iliescu-led post-1990 Romania are encountering difficulties, the media is weak, and electronic media subordinated to the rulers. In that situation, international broadcasters, including RFE/RL, attempt to "substitute and provide alternative sources of information." He also said tension between governments and the media is "natural" in any democracy, but "in the democratic West governments rarely indulge in virulent criticism of the media." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 March)

PUTIN SAID TO BE PLANNING GOVERNMENT MONOPOLY ON RADIO, TV BROADCASTING. "Vremya MN" reported on 14 March that President Vladimir Putin is expected to issue a decree soon to set up a state enterprise that will broadcast radio and television signals. Communications Minister Leonid Reiman said the government has already considered the matter. In a related development, sources at TV-6 told Interfax on 14 March that the former deputy head of the presidential administration, Igor Shabdurasulov, will become chairman of the directors' council of that station. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 March)

PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY CHALLENGES MAYOR, TV HEAD, TO DUELS. Presidential envoy to the Far Eastern federal district, Konstantin Pulikovskii, has challenged Vladivostok Mayor Yurii Kopylov and Vladivostok State Television and Radio Company (VGTRK) Chairman Valerii Bakshin to duels, Interfax- Eurasia reported on 16 March. Pulikovskii issued the challenge at a press conference in Vladivostok that day. Pulikovskii advised Kopylov, "Choose your weapon and if we fight, I will not miss." According to "Segodnya" the next day, Pulikovskii was speaking in jest, but the words express his dissatisfaction with the conduct of the gubernatorial campaign in the krai. According to Pulikovskii, since the departure of former Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko, little has changed in terms of campaign tactics and the media is "pouring out filth" about various candidates. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 March)

GAZPROM TO GET OUT OF MEDIA ACTIVITIES? Audit Chamber official Mikhail Beskhmelnitsyn told Interfax-AFI on 16 March that Gazprom has agreed to end its investments in the media and concentrate its activities in the gas industry. He said Gazprom will redirect the approximately 6 billion rubles ($210 million) it now has invested in media outlets into gas production. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 March)

NEW INDEPENDENT PAPER SMASHED IN CHERKESSIA. On 7 February, two unknown offenders wearing black masks broke into the office of "Vozrozhdenie Respubliki" newspaper and beat its editor-in-chief Rashid Khatuev and head editor Vladimir Panov. The offenders, armed with metal rods, then smashed the office equipment and left. As a result of the assault, Rashid Khatuev was admitted to hospital with fractured ribs. During its two-week existence, "Vozrozhdenie Respubliki" newspaper had published articles critical of President of Karachai-Cherkessia Vladimir Semyonov. Secretary of the Security Council of Karachai-Cherkessia only comment on the assault was that its perpetrators were trying to destabilize the republic. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 19 March)

CHELYABINSK OFFICIAL PROCLAIMS 'CORRECT INFO POLICY'... The chairman of the Chelyabinsk Oblast legal assembly information policy committee held a meeting with local journalists on 12 March. He declared that he was on the verge of promulgating "a series of oblast laws relating to the mass media." He also announced the formation of a public council in which media representatives would assist in the development of a "correct information policy." ("Glasnost Defense Foundation Digest," 19 March)

...AFTER LEADING REPORTER IS MURDERED... A few days before the official meeting with Chelyabinsk Oblast reporters, Leonid Grigoriev was brutally murdered by unknown persons. For many years, Grigorev had worked in the Chelyabinsk Oblast radio station, had been the press secretary for the mayor of Chelyabinsk and had later been employed as an editor for the Ural-Press-Inform news agency. ("Glasnost Defense Foundation Digest," 19 March)

...AND TV STATION MAY BE CLOSED FOR DEBTS. The Chelyabinsk TV station, Reporter, may have to close down for non-payment of debts after its owners said they would only come up with the needed funds if Chelyabinsk Governor Vladimir Shamanov publicly stated that the station is "necessary." Station employees have gone on protest strike. ("Glasnost Defense Foundation Digest," 19 March)

DRAFT BROADCAST LAW GIVEN TO GOVERNMENT. The draft of the new Broadcasting Act was given to the Serbian government, the Media Transition Law group coordinator told B92 on 16 March. The Media Transition group is currently at work on the Public Information Act proposal, which will be given to Serbian government in two or three weeks. ("ANEM Weekly Media Update," 10-16 March)

MINISTER ASSERTS MEDIA MUST BE 'INDEPENDENT'... The main task of the Federal Ministry for Information and the new authorities is to fight for varied media and to create open public broadcast services, the federal minister for information said on 10 March during talks with the head of OSCE media sector in Belgrade. As for the transformation and transition of state media, the minister stressed that the Serbian and Yugoslav governments are working towards their transformation into public services. The media outlets' future must be determined by professional journalists' organizations; Serbian and Yugoslav political structures can only provide logistic support. The minister stressed that protection of the independent media is also the authorities' duty, asserting that: "We will follow only one rule: the respect for European standards. This is how we differ from the previous authorities: journalism must be independent, professional, and unbiased," Tanjug reported. ("ANEM Weekly Media Update," 10-16 March)

...BUT PRESIDENT'S PARTY ACCUSES MEDIA OF 'ORCHESTRATED ATTACKS.' The Democratic Party of Serbia leaders are too often the subjects of orchestrated attacks from the free media, the party stated on 10 March, adding that the attacks were neither accidental nor politically neutral. The party statement accused "so-called" free media of giving space to anyone who wants to lay blame on the Democratic Party of Serbia or its officials. ("ANEM Weekly Media Update," 10-16 March)

TWO FORMER RIVAL PAPERS TO MERGE? The Vojvodina daily "Kikindske" -- a staunchly anti-Milosevic paper -- could be facing oblivion or consolidation with its journalistic archenemy, former left-coalition journal "Komuna." Rumors about the fate of the two journals have spread in northern Banat recently, after "Komuna" was returned to its founder, the Kikinda Municipal Assembly. As the B92 correspondent reported, the local Democratic Opposition of Serbia does not want to finance two papers indefinitely. After three weeks of negotiations, a decision was reached to finance both papers from the municipal assembly budget for two months and then let the market show which of the two would survive. ("ANEM Weekly Media Update," 10-16 March)

BELGRADE DAILY GETS PARTIAL PAYMENT FROM STATE. Belgrade daily "Glas javnosti" received a payment of 217,000 dinars on 10 March as partial payment of the amount taken by the state last year. According to the newspaper, the money in question is what the newspaper was forced to pay the government on 1 October 1999 so that state financial inspectors would allow the printing house and staff to continue their work, since its premises and equipment had been sealed, SRNA reported. ("ANEM Weekly Media Update," 10-16 March)

MILANOVIC DETENTION EXTENDED. Former Radio Television Serbia (RTS) Director Dragoljub Milanovic has been detained for an additional two months, the lawyer for families of RTS employees killed during the NATO bombardment of the television building announced on 16 March. Milanovic's detainment was extended not as part of the investigation of the employees' deaths, but rather to investigate his financial malfeasances, his lawyer said. ("ANEM Weekly Media Update," 10-16 March)

'PINK' BUILDING FACES DEMOLITION. The new Radio/TV "Pink" building in a residential part of Belgrade faces demolition for violating its building permit, "Glas javnosti" reported on 13 March. ("ANEM Weekly Media Update," 10-16 March)

TV ANCHOR: OFFICIAL VENGEANCE FOR INDEPENDENCE... On 8 February, an anchorman of a leading Ukrainian TV channel, 1+1, publicly expressed his profound concern about freedom of speech in the country. He demanded that President Kuchma, as the guarantor of the right to freedom of information, should promptly discharge the chairman of the Security Service from his post and immediately stop the use of army and police to pressure the media. The statement, submitted to Interfax-Ukraine news agency, claims that it has become a rule for state officials not merely to interfere directly with the media coverage of political developments, but also to use their official status to take vengeance on mass media which dare to express independent views. The statement goes on to say that lately, the TV company has had to face this type of systematic treatment on the part of Security Council leadership. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 19 March)

...WHILE INDEPENDENT WEBSITE HACKED. After a routine update of the website of "Antenna" (, the page suddenly stopped working on 16 February. Investigation revealed that the server had been cracked and the host DNS tampered with. The hacker may have had political motives, since "Antenna" is an independent political newspaper published in Cherkassy and well known outside its home region. Its full online version is one of the few websites of regional media critical of President Kuchma. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 19 March)

BOMBS THROWN AT NEWSPAPER OFFICE. On 17 February at around 5 AM unknown offenders threw two petrol bombs at the windows of the office of the newspaper "Tovarishch." The specially designed window resisted the blow; only the outer wall of the building and the outside of the window frame were touched by the fire. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 19 March)

'IZVESTIYA' CENSORED... On 9 February, the "Izvestia" daily wrote that its local issue, printed in Kiev under agreement with the Kievskaya Pravda publishing company, had been censored. Three features on its first page had been deleted and replaced by other articles. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 19 March)

... AS IS 'KOMMERSANT-UKRAINE'... On 7 February, the Military Cartographic factory of Kiev refused to print the current issue of "Kommersant-Ukraine," in violation of its contract with the newspaper. The editorial board made it known that its 7 February issue did not appear for reasons of political censorship by the printing house, because its first page showed a photograph that could be understood to have anti-presidential meaning. According to the editorial board, the printing ban was stated orally over the telephone by the head of the printing factory. The article in question was about the Ukraine without Kuchma movement. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 19 March)

...CENSORSHIP PROTESTED. The Ukrainian board of "Kommersant" has made an official statement that, although not involved with the Ukraine without Kuchma movement and having due respect for the president of Ukraine, it sees its professional duty in providing its readers with the most comprehensive and unbiased information on events in Ukraine and in the rest of the world. This standpoint will not change under any pressure. The incident happened on the eve of meetings between the presidents of Ukraine and Russia scheduled for 11-12 February. The newspaper board demands that measures should be taken to prevent such incidents from happening in the future, since they are not only incompatible with democracy, but lead to tension in Ukrainian-Russian relations. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 19 March)

THIEVING COPS BEAT ON-THE-SPOT REPORTER... On 5 February in Kherson, four militia officers battered the editor-in-chief of "Novy Den" independent newspaper, regional council member Anatoly Zhupina. The attack was reported by the "Forum" web-newspaper ( Anatoly Zhupina told a correspondent of Den newspaper over the phone that in the evening of 5 February, he had been sitting in a cafe where there were four divisional inspectors from various parts of Ukraine, who had come to Kherson for an advanced militia training course. According to witnesses, after a few drinks one of the officers decided to inspect the contents of the cash register. The cashier asked the customers for help and they tried to calm the cop. His friends came to his aid and started a fight. Anatoly Zhupina used his cellular phone to call the local Suvorov district militia department. The "heated-up" militiamen did not like this and set upon the journalist. The fight left the 46-year-old editor with a broken nose and heavily bruised face. A militia squad soon arrived and put an end to the squabble; however, it appeared that patrol militia sergeants have no right to arrest militia officers.

...WHILE BACK AT THE POLICE STATION. The criminal investigations officer at the Kherson militia department told the reporter to sign a police document about the incident, but it lacked an addressee. The reporter read the militia protocol, which noted the time of the offence as two hours later than it had occurred. When the journalist pointed this out, the investigator tore up both documents. An action was not brought against the police offenders, the case is being investigated as a "service offence." (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 19 March)

MEDIA OWNER THREATENED. On 8 February, the owner of Continent radio station Sergei Sholokh solicited the help of Ukraine's Prosecutor-General after receiving a series of threats. In late January, Sholokh's car was hit by a heavy truck; on 30 January, he received phone threats. On 3 February, during a disagreement in Sholokh's apartment block, his neighbor "tried to break into my flat brandishing a stool...and threatened to kill me. [He also] said I would never come out into the street alive because his friend the district militia officer Oleg would take me to jail for the night, and there I would get it." Sholokh asked the Prosecutor-General to verify the situation and if warranted to instigate proceedings on "life threats from unknown persons" and to take necessary protective action. Sholokh concluded by saying, "I hope you will not respond to this statement as you did to similar statements made by my late employee, Gongadze." (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 19 March)

KHERSON EDITOR ASSAULTED. On 27 February, there was an assault on the editor-in-chief of the Kherson newspaper "Nash Chas." He was admitted to hospital with open fractures of the skull and brain concussion. Doctors describe his present state of health as "fair." Meanwhile, the head of the Oblast Department of Interior gave a press conference at which he ruled out any political or professional motive behind the attack; he also warned journalists that providing biased information is against the law on information. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 19 March)

FBI ASSISTANCE FOR NEW AUTOPSY OF GONGADZE? In a 16 March letter to the United States ambassador in Kyiv, Reporters without Borders (RSF) urged the FBI team in Ukraine to perform a new autopsy on the body of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. According to RSF information, the public prosecutor rejects any new autopsy of the murdered journalist's body despite his mother's wishes and has only acquiesced to a new DNA test by the FBI team, which has been in Kyiv for more than ten days, after President Kuchma agreed to an FBI offer of help. Although the American team's procedures and expertise must be submitted for approval to the Ukrainian authorities, the team's presence may lead to clarification of aspects in the official Ukrainian investigation. To date, the Ukraine Prosecutor-General has rejected all cooperation with the parliamentary investigative committee and continues to refuse Gongadze's mother and wife full access to the file. (Reporters without Borders, 16 March)

PREMIER CALLS FOR FULL INVESTIGATION OF GONGADZE CASE. Viktor Yushchenko on 16 March called for a thorough investigation into the murder of Gongadze, Interfax reported. Yushchenko added that he does not believe President Kuchma ordered Gongadze to be killed. "Morally, I cannot assume that the country's president may somehow be involved in Heorhiy Gongadze's disappearance. It would be a tragedy for me," Yushchenko said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 March)

U.S. AMBASSADOR CRITICIZES AUTHORITIES, OPPOSITION. Carlos Pascual on 16 March criticized the actions of both opposition demonstrators and the authorities during violent protests in Kyiv on 9 March. "The events on 9 March were disappointing from all sides. The challenge for Ukraine's authorities is to give the people confidence that they can express dissent without fear of violent repression. Peaceful action is also very important on the part of demonstrators and restraint is also required [on their part]," AP quoted Pascual as saying. Pascual spoke after presenting a new $750,000 media development fund in Ukraine, a two-year project sponsored by the U.S. to encourage an independent press. The fund is aimed at improving the legal, administrative, and tax environment for Ukrainian media, expanding the use of the Internet, improving professional standards among journalists, and providing direct grant support for Ukrainian media and non-governmental organizations. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 March)

JOURNALIST DETAINED. Tulkun Karaev, a member of Kashkadarya Regional Council of the Society of Human Rights in Uzbekistan and correspondent of Moscow-based Prima news agency, was detained on 15 February by police at the Tashkent airport on his return from Yekaterinburg, where he had attended a human rights training course organized by the Yekaterinburg Memorial Society. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 19 March)

NEW ONLINE BELARUS MEDIA REPORT. Internews Belarus has recently prepared a media report about media-related events in Belarus in English at (Center for Civil Society International, 16 March)

NEW ONLINE LITERARY JOURNAL ON CENTRAL ASIA. "Central Asia Fiction" is at and is dedicated to the promotion and development of literary fiction about modern life in the Central Asian republics of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The journal seeks stories and photos for its summer issue. The "Central Asia Fiction" website: (Center for Civil Society International, 16 March)

ARTICLE 19 LAUNCHES BELARUS BULLETIN ONLINE. Article 19 has set up a new web page with a regularly updated bulletin to document the frequent violations of media freedom in Belarus. It currently has a staff member based in Belarus. The "Belarus Bulletin" provides a regularly updated online survey of events relating to freedom of expression in Belarus. The abuses are divided into the following categories: Warnings; Tax Inspections; Access to official information; Printing; Distribution; Electronic Media; Developments in Government and Law; Information on Health of Head of State; The disappearance of ORT's Dmitri Zavadsky. The page can be found in the programmes/europe section of Article 19's website: (Article 19, 15 March)

MINSK JOURNALIST ATTACKED. Marat Gorevoy, correspondent of the Belapan news agency, was attacked on 2 February on the outskirts of Minsk. According to the reporter, the attack may have been related to his work as a journalist; he has frequently pointed out instances of ethnic and religious discrimination in Belarus. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 19 March)

CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS INITIATED AGAINST JOURNALIST. According to the "Ekho" newspaper of February 13, quoting Turan news agency, the police of the Sabail region have instigated criminal proceedings for hooliganism against the vice editor-in-chief of the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat" Shain Jafarli. On November 25, Shain Jafarli allegedly beat two women who brought complaints to the editorial office. Jafarli has signed a written undertaking not to leave the city. As of 16 March, a trial was in preparation against the journalist on these charges, according to the Turan News Agency. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 19 March)

SEPTEMBER DATE SET FOR SWITCH TO LATIN ALPHABET. The first meeting of a special committee to develop plans for the transfer of the Azerbaijani alphabet from Cyrillic to Latin was held on 15 March, according to "Zerkalo." Further preparations for the planned September transfer date will take place during a 20 April conference in which 100 media representatives will take part. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 19 March)

INDEPENDENT PAPER FAILS TO APPEAR. The print version of the independent weekly "525" did not appear on 16 March due to newsprint shortages, the "Ekho" newspaper reported the same day, but it was on the Internet at

FIRST TOURIST NEWSPAPER LAUNCHED. The first-ever tourist newspaper was issued in March. As of now, it is an Armenian/English biweekly. "Tourism Today" is eight pages, with a circulation of 3,000. ("Yerevan Press Club Newsletter," 10-16 March)