29 April 2001, Volume 1, Number 12
ARMENIAONE NEW STATE BROADCAST DIRECTOR. On 16 April, the Council of Armenian State Television and Radio appointed Armen Arsumanian to head National State Television. A native of Yerevan, Arsumanian is a graduate of the Yerevan State Institute of National Economy. Since 1987, he worked in various print and broadcast media. From 1997-1998, Arsumanian was on the Armenian Presidential Press Service staff. A year later, he was named director of the state TV newscast. The Council of Public Television and Radio postponed until May the appointment of a new director of National State Radio, due to organizational reorganization and reregistration. (Yerevan Press Club Newsletter, 14-20 April)
AZERBAIJANREPORTERS ATTACKED, ARRESTED IN BAKU. On 21 April 2001, police violently attacked, harassed, and arrested a number of journalists who were covering a protest rally by the opposition Democratic Party of Azerbaijan. The editor in chief of the tri-weekly newspaper "Hurriyyet," Suleyman Mammedli, was attacked by the deputy chief of the Baku Senior Police Department, Yashar Aliev, who was beaten and insulted by the police officer. Two other "Hurriyyet" journalists, Heidar Oguz and Jesur Mammedov, were also attacked by a group of policemen --even though they showed their press identification -- and were then driven to the police station. The imprisoned journalists are in need of medical assistance. (Baku Journalists Trade Union, 25 April)
JOURNALISTS CALL FOR RELEASE OF COLLEAGUES. The Yeni Nasil Union of Azerbaijani journalists and the Ruh Committee for the Protection of Journalists' Rights have issued a statement calling on the Azerbaijani government to release journalists detained during an opposition demonstration on 21 April, Turan reported on 23 April. Meanwhile, "Azerbaycan" on the same day denounced the opposition for holding that rally. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 April)
BAKU ADMINISTRATION DEMANDS PAPER'S CLOSURE. According to the Glasnost Defense Foundation in Azerbaijan, Ali Gadzhiev, head of the Baku city administration's executive council, has brought a lawsuit to close the newspaper "Yeni Zaman" because it has printed "unsubstantiated materials critical of Baku's new mayor." At an 18 April press conference, the paper's editorial board rejected the official's charges and accused the city administration of putting pressure on critical publications. (Glasnost Defense Foundation Digest, 23 April)
NEW WEEKLY LAUNCHED. A new weekly, "Sobytiya" (Events), which will cover socio-political and cultural events, was launched. The 42-page newspaper will have an initial print run of 3,000 copies. (European Media Institute CIS Report, March)
JOURNALISTS HANDBOOK ISSUED. A new book called "Journalists in Emergency Situations" was published by the Committee to Protect Journalists RUH. This publication has recommendations on how to behave in emergency situations (rallies, potentially violent situations, police attacks), and case studies by international journalist organizations. The book was sponsored by Internews and printed in 700 copies. (European Media Institute CIS Report, March)
BELARUSNEWSPAPER EDITORS APPEAL TO OSCE'S DUVE... On the eve of OSCE Media Freedom Commissioner Freimut Duve's visit to Belarus -- scheduled for 25 April -- the editors in chief of 15 non-state newspapers sent him a letter describing increased pressure on independent publications, particularly economic pressure. Independent newspapers must pay five times more to distribute their publications than the state press as established by the republican state association "Belpochta," which has a monopoly. The editors appealed to the OSCE to assist in the development of an alternative means of delivery of printed matter in Belarus. (Glasnost Defense Foundation Digest, 23 April)
...BUT HE CANCELS VISIT. Duve, however, canceled his trip to Belarus after Minsk denied a visa to his adviser, U.S. diplomat Diana Moxhay, AP reported on 24 April. Duve argued that Belarus -- an OSCE member -- does not have the right to dictate the composition of the delegation, which was planning to investigate press freedom. Duve said he wants to set a precedent for all 55 OSCE members that OSCE delegations should be independent of outside interference. Duve added that Belarusian officials did not give a reason for denying the visa to his adviser. Duve told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service the same day that his adviser had been given a Belarusian visa one month ago for a visit that was subsequently postponed. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 April)
BULGARIAMEDIA PROTEST AGAINST GOVERNMENTAL PRESSURE. The publishers of Bulgaria's most circulated papers on 23 April accused the government of increasing interference in the freedom of the press ahead of the general elections, Reuters reported. A declaration issued by the Union of Bulgarian Newspaper Publishers and printed in 13 newspapers said the signatories "express our grave concern and categorically denounce increasing instances in which levers of powers are used to exert pressure on daily newspapers and interfere with the editorial policy of many publications." They pledged not to "yield to manipulation, pressure, and threats, regardless of where they come from and from whom." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 April)
GEORGIAMEDIA WATCHDOG RECOMMENDS ON COMMUNICATIONS LAW AMENDMENTS. The London-based media group Article 19 commented on draft changes to Georgia's Law on Communications. The group welcomes those aspects of the draft meant to clarify criteria for obtaining a license as that will help make the process more transparent. In a detailed analysis, Article 19 sets out these -- among several others -- as points of concern: the minimum percentages for locally produced programming should be reduced to realistic levels and imposed progressively so that broadcasters can build up to them over time, and the draft should include a provision to ensure the de jure and de facto independence of the Regulatory Commission for Licensing. (Article 19, 24 April)
KAZAKHSTANGOVERNMENT MEDIA TO REIGN? During a 16 March visit to the state Kazakhstan TV/Radio, President Nursultan Nazarbaev declared that: "Kazakh authorities will not allow foreign mass media to dominate the broadcast territory of Kazakhstan, which belongs to the state." (Internews Kazakhstan Bulletin, 20 April)
OPPOSITION PAPER AGAIN ATTACKED. Ermurat Bapi, editor in chief of "SolDat" newspaper, told RFE/RL that on 21 April unknown persons entered the newspaper's office and destroyed computers and software. As a result, the paper must further delay the printing of its next issue. According to Bapi, the persons who destroyed the software most likely were computer specialists: the destroyed software was carefully selected for maximum damage and a computer virus was introduced. ("RFE/RL Kazakh News," 26 April)
PROTESTING BARD RETURNS PRESIDENTIAL AWARD. Well known bard and poet Shamil Abiltay announced on 26 April that he had decided to refuse the title of Kazakhstan's Honored Art Worker, given to him by a Kazakh presidential decree on 11 September 1998 to protest the proposed introduction of a new Kazakh anthem, allegedly written by President Nazarbaev. According to Abiltay, it would be "a crime against the entire Kazakh nation" to replace the current anthem of Kazakhstan, written by classic Kazakh composer Mukhan Toleubaev, with the "primitive creation of a sudden poet." The Kazakh parliament is scheduled to resume deliberation on the introduction of a new anthem in the near future. ("RFE/RL Kazakh News," 26 April)
SOROS FOUNDATION LAUNCHES INDEPENDENT MEDIA PROGRAM. Qayrat Zhantikin of the Soros-Kazakhstan Foundation told RFE/RL on 25 April that his organization had started a program -- with an annual budget of $30,000 -- to support the country's independent periodicals and broadcast media. ("RFE/RL Kazakh News," 25 April)
INTERNEWS BULLETIN ISSUED. A new bulletin issued by Internews covers such issues as the introduction of a bill proposing tax privileges for the media; the rising media empire, Khabar, controlled by President Nazarbaev's daughter; a late-March journalism seminar in Karaganda, organized by the Karaganda Center for Media Legal Assistance; and news about Internews-sponsored training seminars in Pavlodar and Almaty. A complete Russian version is at: http://www.internews.kz/rus/bulletin/102/index.htm (Internews Kazakhstan Bulletin, 20 April)
KYRGYZSTANOPPOSITION PAPER DECLARED BANKRUPT. The Bishkek City Arbitration Court ruled on 20 April that the opposition paper "Asaba" is bankrupt and appointed a local business to take over the paper, estimate its value, and sell it in a month. Melis Eshimkanov, the paper's owner, told RFE/RL on 20 April that a local business, Lion Technics, plans to publish a new pro-government paper under the "Asaba" name. The Kyrgyzstan Arbitration Court ruled on 27 December 2000 that "Asaba" must pay 1.1 million soms (about $22,000) to Lion Technics as repayment for a 200,000-som loan it received in 1994. The paper could not repay the sum and a court suspended it on 6 March. ("RFE/RL Kyrgyz News," 20 April)
ANTI-DRUG CONFERENCE IN BISHKEK. Journalists from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Uzbekistan took part in a conference called: Bishkek Initiative: For Systematic And Truthful Information, Journalists Against Drugs. Held in Bishkek on 23-24 April, the conference was organized by the Russian Union of Journalists, the Kyrgyz Association of Ethnic Russians, called Soglasie, and the Medical Center of a Dr. Nazaraliev. They discussed media policy, common media space, and covering drug addiction, ("RFE/RL Kyrgyz News," 21 April)
MOLDOVA'BOURGEOIS' NEWSPAPERS BARRED FROM INAUGURATION. Journalists from several opposition newspapers were denied accreditation for the inauguration of President Vladimir Voronin on 7 April. The official reason given by the inauguration committee to reporters from "Flux," "Tara," "Jurnal de Chisinau," and "Trud-Moldova," was that "a limited number of seats had been reserved for the news media." However, journalists from "Tara" and "Flux" were told by guards at the entrance to the inauguration hall that they were not allowed in because they represented "bourgeois" papers. (Moldova Media News, 24 April)
MEDIA FUNDING APPROVED. On 10 April, the Romanian parliament amended the 2001 national budget to earmark $81,000 to support four Romanian-language weeklies in Moldova: "Literatura si Arta," "Florile Dalbe," "Glasul Natiunii," and the monthly "Limba Romana." (Moldova Media News, 24 April)
REGIONAL PRESS CENTER OPENED. As of April, journalists from northern Moldova can turn to the Balti Press Center which will host monthly meetings of journalists with local government officials, civil society activists, and the judiciary. The Balti Press Center will also produce a weekly bulletin. (Moldova Media News, 24 April)
RUSSIASUPREME COURT UPHOLDS USE OF ANONYMOUS DENUNCIATIONS. The Russian Supreme Court on 24 April found that existing Russian legislation allows the use of anonymous denunciations by law enforcement and security agencies, Russian news agencies reported. In taking this position, the court rejected a suit brought by the All-Russian Social Movement For Human Rights. Meanwhile, FSB representative Natalya Komarova said on Ekho Moskvy the same day that FSB instructions about the use of such denunciations prevent any possible violation of the rights and freedoms of citizens. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 April)
JOURNALISTS WITHOUT FRONTIERS CALLS FOR SANCTIONS ON RUSSIA. The international media watchdog group Journalists without Frontiers on 23 April called on the Council of Europe to impose sanctions on Russia for "repeated violations of press freedom," AP reported. Also on 23 April, representatives of the European Union met in Moscow with former NTV leaders Yevgenii Kiselev and Grigorii Krichevskii and also with the former editors of the news magazine "Itogi," Sergei Parkhomenko, and "Segodnya," Mikhail Berger, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Interfax reported that 20 former TV-6 employees are now working at NTV, but the agency reported that with the exception of Kiselev, none of the other former NTV employees are working for TV-6. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 April)
FRANCE 'WORRIED' BY RUSSIAN MEDIA TURMOIL. French Foreign Minister Herbert Vedrine said in Paris on 19 April that the French government is "disappointed and worried" by moves against NTV's independence and the closure of the daily newspaper "Segodnya" and the news magazine "Itogi," all of which were part of the Media-MOST group, Western agencies reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April)
ROGOZIN CLAIMS MEDIA LAWS ARE AMONG 'MOST LIBERAL' IN EUROPE. Responding to criticism by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) about Moscow's handling of NTV, Dmitrii Rogozin, the head of the Russian delegation in Strasbourg and chairman of the Duma's International Affairs Committee, said that Russia has "one of the most liberal laws on mass media in Europe," ITAR-TASS reported on 24 April. Indeed, he said, while problems do exist in the Russian mass media, "we are daily confronted with facts of violation of freedom of speech in all countries of Europe." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 April)
MEDIA BATTLES SAID TO MIRROR AMERICAN POLITICS. Divisions between Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. are playing themselves out in the fights over control of Russian media outlets, "Ekonomicheskaya gazeta," no. 15, reported. The newspaper's editor, Peter Proskurin, said that it was no accident that Ted Turner, who is closely allied with the Democrats, was on one side of the NTV battle and that the group of Vladimir Potanin and Boris Jordan had closer links with the Republicans. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 23 April)
U.S. CRITIQUED FOR 'DOUBLE [MEDIA] STANDARD.' Kremlin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii told Interfax on 21 April that the United States has a double standard when it comes to assessing media developments in Russia. He said that the recent shift in ownership at Russia's NTV television network is very similar to control fights over ABC and Disney in the U.S., but that Washington fails to recognize this fact. Meanwhile, "Novye Izvestiya" the same day carried a statement by the EU's Lord Russell-Johnson expressing that organization's dismay with the state of media freedom in Russia and saying that Europe will be "closely watching" what Moscow does in the future. Russell-Johnson's statement followed an EU statement that said recent actions against NTV and other media outlets are "damaging Russia's democratic credentials," AP reported on 20 April. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April)
U.S. PLANS TO BROADCAST TO NORTH CAUCASUS SLAMMED. In an exclusive interview with Interfax on 18 April, FSB spokesman General Zdanovich said that "not only armed international terrorists but also those who wield pens and sit at computers" are acting against Russia today. He said his agency is angry at plans by the U.S. to have RFE/RL begin broadcasting to the North Caucasus, and that such broadcasts would destabilize the situation. He warned that "there are definitive normative documents which limit the zone of broadcasting by Radio Liberty on the territory of the Russian Federation. If violations of this law are registered, we will make corresponding reports to the justice and press ministries." Meanwhile, the information administration of the Russian President said that a decision by the Dutch authorities to close a Dutch version of the Kavkaz-Tsentr website that supports Chechen independence is "a step which cannot fail to find a positive response," the news agency said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 April)
KREMLIN NEEDS MEDIA CHANGES BEFORE MAKING GOVERNMENT SHIFTS. "Argumenty i fakty," no. 16, argued that the Russian authorities had moved so quickly and brutally to take control of NTV so that there would not be any media opposition or even commentary on Kremlin plans for shifts in the government itself. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 23 April)
FSB TO NAME JOURNALISTS ENGAGED IN 'INFO WAR...' General Aleksandr Zdanovich, a spokesman for the Federal Security Service (FSB), said his agency plans to "reveal the identities of journalists involved in waging information warfare against Russia," "Novye Izvestiya" reported on 20 April. The paper noted that the FSB officer has mentioned only RFE/RL and its coverage of, and possible broadcasting to, Chechnya. The paper said that the FSB will have to make good on its threat: "Otherwise, everyone will see that either the general is deranged, or something is wrong with Russia -- if the list of enemies of the people includes both the 'hostile' Radio Liberty and every journalist who refuses to think and write the way the FSB would like them to." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April)
...AS IT ADVANCES EXPANSIVE VERSION OF ESPIONAGE. Retired FSB Lieutenant General Sergei Dyakov said in an interview published in "Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie," No. 14, that journalists who learn secret information during their professional activities should be charged with spying if they publish or disseminate it. He also called for strengthening the country's espionage laws to cover more kinds of information, particularly in the economic realm. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April)
PUBLIC BACKLASH PREDICTED OVER USE OF SECURITY SERVICES AGAINST MEDIA. Writing in "Novaya gazeta," No. 28, journalist Aleksandr Petrov said that President Putin's use of the country's security services may have won him a temporary victory but is likely to generate a public backlash in the future. "President Putin promised to give us civilization within two presidential terms and then to honestly return all forfeited liberties. Like in Chile," Petrov said. He added that "traditionally, Russian tsars make generous promises, but once the repressive mechanism has been established, who will dismantle it? The Kremlin's many losses in this battle -- and the awakened consciousness of at least part of Russian society -- prove that this outcome is only temporary." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 April)
ONE RUSSIAN IN FIVE ANGRY ABOUT NTV CASE. According to the National Public Opinion Research Center, 20 percent of all Russians said they are "indignant" about the recent takeover of NTV by Gazprom-Media, "Profil," No. 14, reported. Twenty- eight percent said they are indifferent, 23 percent said they are confused by what had happened, and 5 percent said they are satisfied. But the poll also found that 43 percent of Russians believe that the moves against NTV were the first step in an assault on freedom of the press, with 41 percent having the opposite view. Meanwhile, Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko on 23 April repeated his charge that Washington has "openly adopted a double standard" in its assessments of recent developments in the Russian media, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 April)
ONLY 6 PERCENT BACK GAZPROM IN NTV DISPUTE. According to a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation and reported by Interfax on 19 April, only 6 percent of Russians support Gazprom's control of NTV, while 41 percent support the "old" and independent NTV. But 38 percent said that they are not in favor of either side. At the same time, the poll showed that only one Russian in four thinks he or she knows what President Vladimir Putin's position on the media controversy is. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April)
GUSINSKY HEADS TO ISRAEL AS MOSCOW FILES NEW CHARGES... Embattled Russian media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky flew first to Gibraltar and then to Israel on 24 April after Spanish courts lifted all restrictions on him, Reuters reported. Meanwhile, Russian prosecutors said on the same day that they have filed another charge against him, this time for laundering 2.8 billion rubles ($97 million), and that they have asked Interpol to detain him, Russian and Western agencies reported. Gusinsky, for his part, said in an interview published in Britain's "The Guardian" on 24 April that he expects the Russian authorities to move next against his holdings in the Ekho Moskvy radio station. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 April)
...AND HE CONFIRMS PLANS TO SELL NTV HOLDINGS... In an interview on CNN on 20 April, media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky confirmed that he will sell his shares in NTV and that he is currently considering what to do about his stake in the weekly news magazine "Itogi." Meanwhile, Russian prosecutors insisted that Gusinsky is not free to travel from Spain because he is still wanted on a Russian warrant, Reuters reported the same day. Meanwhile, Gusinsky's lawyer, Yurii Bagraev, said prosecutors have tried to force him off the case, Interfax reported on 20 April. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April)
...AND FINDS POSSIBLE BUYER -- IN UKRAINE. Vladimir Rabinovich, the head of the All-Ukraine Jewish Congress, has confirmed that he will seek to acquire NTV shares held by Gusinsky's Media-MOST group, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 24 April. In other media moves, Interfax reported the same day that negotiations are taking place to sell the controlling share of stock in Ekho Moskvy to the staff of that radio station. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 April)
STATE'S SHARE ON TV MARKET WILL BE NOT INCREASED. VGRTK head Oleg Dobrodeev said in an interview published in "Argumenty i fakty," no. 15, that the Kremlin has no plans to increase its present share in the market and has not allocated any funds to do so. He insisted that the trend toward privately owned media will continue and predicted that NTV will emerge as the best nongovernment channel in about six months. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 23 April)
NOBODY'S PUPPET -- NTV SHOW? On Lenin's birthday, 22 April, NTV's famous satirical "Kukly" puppet show tested the limits of its new management's pledge not to censor it, reports "The Moscow Times." A latex version of President Vladimir Putin was shown as a Chinese leader during the Cultural Revolution fighting "enemies of the state" -- NTV founder Vladimir Gusinsky and Boris Berezovsky, who sheltered NTV at his TV6 station. The archenemy, Putin was told, was actually sparrows -- also known as journalists -- because they fly out of control and may release droppings on people's heads. The Kremlin decided that one can defeat these flying "enemies of the state" simply by telling citizens via radio: Sing and dance to prevent the sparrows from resting and after 20 minutes in flight they will fall dead of exhaustion, the paper reports. Although daily quotes "Kukly's" producer, Vasilii Grigorev, as saying that "'Kukly' is Putin's favorite show," the 22 April show ended with a somber message: that a government which orders letting sparrows fly themselves into airy oblivion will also lead its country to mass starvation after locusts have laid waste its crops. ("The Moscow Times," 23 April)
MEDIA TROUBLES CONTINUE, SPREAD. On a day when most reports consisted of claims and denials about possible sales of media outlets and new jobs for certain journalists, the most obvious trend on the Russian media scene was the spreading of problems as the result of the exodus of journalists from NTV. Their arrival at TV-6 has infuriated the journalists already there, and other state-controlled stations have offered the latter positions if they want them, Russian agencies reported on 19 April. Meanwhile, "The Moscow Times" reported the same day that the controversies in the Russian capital are beginning to spread to the regions, particularly since networks in the center must work with affiliates in the far-flung portions of the country. Also on 19 April, the Duma considered two variants of legislation about foreign investment in Russian media outlets, Interfax-Northwest reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April)
RUSSIAN PEN CLUB CALLS FOR GLASNOST ON LIMONOV. The executive committee of the Russian PEN Center on 23 April called on Russian law enforcement agencies to provide "glasnost" in the course of their investigation of writer and National Bolshevik Party leader Eduard Limonov, Interfax reported. Limonov has been charged with the illegal ownership of firearms. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 April)
TATAR OPPOSITION POLITICIAN ARRESTED FOR DISSEMINATING 'EXTREMIST' LITERATURE. Fanis Shaikhutdinov, 35, one of the leaders of the Tatar Public Center's branch in Naberezhnie Chelny, has been arrested by the local branch of the Federal Security Service (FSB) for disseminating what that agency called "extremist" Muslim and pro-Chechen literature, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 23 April. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 April)
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY THEFT SAID DECLINING. Ivan Bliznets, the director of the Russian Patent Agency, told Interfax on 19 April that theft of intellectual property such as books and audio and video materials is still high but has declined somewhat over the last several years. He said that a few years ago, "more than 90 percent of Russian audio and video production" was pirated, while the figure now is only 60 to 70 percent. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April)
'KOMMERSANT' LAUNCHES NEW WEEKLY IN GERMANY. Moscow's "Kommersant-Daily" newspaper has launched a weekly publication for Europe, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 21 April. The paper is being issued in a print run of 60,000 copies. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 April)
OLD 'ITOGI' ONLINE, NEW 'ITOGI' HITS THE STREETS. The former staff members of the "Itogi" issued their weekly via the Internet, Interfax reported on 24 April. Former Editor in Chief Sergei Parkhomenko said that his team will continue to work and share their writings with readers via the Internet. Meanwhile, the new "Itogi," without Parkhomenko, the former staff, or the support of the U.S. news magazine "Newsweek," appeared on 23 April, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the following day. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 April)
NEW BOROVIK AWARD FOR JOURNALISTIC COURAGE. CBS, "U.S. News and World Report," and the American Foreign Press Club have established the Artyom Borovik Award to be presented annually for journalists who show "personal courage" in covering political and social developments in Russia, "Izvestiya" reported on 18 April. Borovik, a prominent investigative journalist and the publisher of "Top Secret" and "Versiya," died in a still unexplained air crash last year. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 23 April)
INTERFAX OFFICIAL NAMED TO PUTIN'S STAFF. President Putin has appointed Igor Porshnev to be chief of the information administration of the presidential staff, Interfax reported. Porshnev had been director of the political information section of Interfax. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April)
'MEDIA INTERACTION PLAN' IN VELIKY NOVGOROD. The Veliky Novgorod city administration created a department for interaction with media which asked local reporters what type of "media interaction plan" was most convenient. According to the Internet site regions.ru, the city representatives suggested that journalists join them during their trips so that "they could properly cover the city administration." (Glasnost Defense Foundation Digest, 23 April)
SOME JOURNALISTS DO NOT THINK MEDIA SHOULD BE CRITICAL OF ELECTED LEADERS. Gennadii Subotin, deputy editor of "Samarskaya Izvestiya" -- the region's largest circulation daily -- told the "Christian Science Monitor" in its issue of 23 April that "The Russian people elected Vladimir Putin as president. It was completely wrong of NTV to continue criticizing the authorities after the people had spoken like that." According to the "Christian Science Monitor," "there is a gnawing awareness [among journalists in Samara] that their relative freedom could be temporary." Yelena Orlova, news manager for SKAT-TV, told the daily that "We don't have major problems with official pressure...but it's mainly because [Samara Oblast Governor Konstantin] Titov is an open and modern politician." She continued, "The key problem across this country is that we depend on the good will of the men in power for our freedom rather than firmly established rights." ("RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 25 April)
ADVERTISERS USE PRINT MEDIA LESS THAN WESTERN COUNTERPARTS DO. Western advertising firms spend approximately 70 percent of their budgets to place advertisements in newspapers and journals, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 19 April. But Russian agencies spend only about half as much. As a result, these media outlets have significantly less income and independence than their Western counterparts, the paper said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April)
INTERNET EVER MORE IMPORTANT FOR DELIVERING NEWS. According to "Izvestiya" on 19 April, Russians going on line have turned away from sites like "Anecdotes from Russia," which were the most popular Russian Internet destinations only one year ago, to those that carry news. While the number of Russian web-surfers remains relatively small, "Izvestiya" notes, it is an elite audience and one newsmakers want to reach. The paper said that "today's reality is on Ru.net this evening, [and] in the newspaper tomorrow morning." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April)
RUSSIA: WORLD'S NEW COMPUTER PROGRAMMING CENTER? Anatoli Karachinskii, founder and head of Information Business Systems (IBS) Group, told President Putin that Russia "can only survive on oil and gas for so long. Sooner or later, we'll have to develop and market our greatest resource, our people." In April, according to the magazine, Putin hosted a three-hour session with 10 top Russian information technology entrepreneurs. The theme of the meeting was reportedly to make the country a center for offshore programming. In the spring of last year, IBS founded a subsidiary, Luxoft, to hire a host of programmers -- and keep them employed in Russia. ("Time Europe," 30 April)
ANOTHER DESCENDANT OF SOVIET ELITE GIVEN CULTURE POST. Just as President Putin last week named the daughter of Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin to oversee the Kremlin museums, on 18 April Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi appointed Aleksandra Sholokhova, the granddaughter of Soviet writer Mikhail Sholokhov, to head the State Museum of Classics of Soviet Literature, Interfax reported. And in another echo of the Soviet era, the first all-Russian student forum opened in Moscow on 18 April, the first such gathering since the demise of the Komsomol, "Izvestiya" pointed out the same day. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 19 April)
RAISING 'A GENERATION OF MONSTERS?' Karen Shakhnazarov, one of Russia's leading film directors and the head of Mosfilm, said in an interview published in "Izvestiya" on 19 April that the absence of restrictions on what can be shown on Russian television is having a negative impact on children and making them into "a generation of monsters" capable of violence and even sadism. "Komsomolskaya pravda" published an interview the same day with Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi, who called for limiting the number of foreign films coming into the country. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 April)
SERBIAORLIC DEMANDS DISMISSAL OF ABSENT BROADCAST OFFICIALS. On 14 April, Federal Information Minister Slobodan Orlic appealed to the new Radio Television Serbia board of directors to dismiss Milorad Komrakov, Dragoljub Milanovic, Tatjana Lenard, Spomenka Jovic and Zeljko Avramovic, saying that these officials hadn't come to work in the past five months. (ANEM Update, 14-20 April)
MINISTER DISCUSSES STATE TV'S FUTURE. State-run Radio Television Serbia is in need of reorganization, Federal Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic maintained on 11 April. Appearing on a Radio Television Serbia program, he said: "I don't think there are valid reasons for the national television to broadcast its programs on three channels. I propose that one of those channels be sold, or that Channel Two be privatized, or let's say half owned by the state television. As for the Channel One, the national program that can be viewed in each part of the country would then be broadcast there. That program would also have to have the best informative programs [which] promote the national values of our culture, language spoken in this country... As for the commercial programs, they could be broadcast on this Channel, but they wouldn't be financed from the government's budget," he concluded. (ANEM Update, 14-20 April)
MEDIA 'NOT A PRIORITY' FOR NEW GOVERNMENT? Speaking at a Belgrade Media Center conference, media analyst Jovanka Matic said on 18 April that reform of the media system is not a priority for the new government. Matic maintained that the government is exerting new pressure on the media by delaying reforms so long as to nullify real reform and does not understand the importance of "creating necessary conditions for media pluralism." She also observed that the official government view is still predominant at Serbian State Radio/TV, although the election of new members to the Serbian State Radio/TV Board no longer includes politicians. The Belgrade Media Centre organized the discussion on media reform to mark the publication of "File No. 9" by the Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia. (ANEM Update, 14-20 April)
DID MARKOVIC ORDER ARTICLE LINKED TO JOURNALIST'S MURDER? Yugoslav Left President Mirjana Markovic gave the order for the article published in the 6 April 1999 issue of the daily "Ekspres Politika" which accused journalist Slavko Curuvija of treason five days before he was murdered, its former editor-in-chief, Djordje Martic, told police during a hearing. A Belgrade assistant district attorney told Beta this was why he requested that Belgrade police interrogate Mirjana Markovic and former "Politika" Director Dragan Hadzi Antic as early as 30 January. (ANEM Update, 14-20 April)
'NO GO' FOR HUNGARIAN JOURNALS. Imre Borbelj, Carpathian representative of the World Association of Hungarians, was detained and then returned from the Yugoslav side of the border near the town of Szeged, the Vojvodina daily "Magyar Szo" reported on 19 April. Borbelj was denied entry to Yugoslavia because he had 20 copies of the Cluj-Napoca journal "Hungarian Minority" and 10 copies of the Budapest journal "Gate." After Borbelj left these journals on the Hungarian side of the border he was given permission to enter, B92 reported. (ANEM Update, 14-20 April)
SLOVAKIALEADING MEDIA FIGURE ESTABLISHES NEW PARTY. Pavel Rusko, the former director of TV Markiza, Slovakia's most influential private television channel, announced on 22 April that he has established a new political formation called The Alliance of the New Citizen, AP reported. Rusko said the main aim of his party is to improve the country's economic situation. The alliance is to be a center-party concentrating on reducing unemployment, improving heath care, and education, as well as the general security of citizens. It will seek to reduce state influence on the economy, support the private sector, and decentralize administration, Rusko said. The next Slovak parliamentary elections will take place in September 2002. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 April)
TAJIKISTANOSCE MEDIA ASSISTANCE. The OSCE Mission in Tajikistan announced on 23 April that it will conduct a media training and assistance program for four local newspapers in the Gorno-Badakshan Autonomous Oblast. It will also supply the papers with newsprint and ink. Due to a lack of electricity, newspapers are the only source of information for the mountainous region's isolated population. For more, contact Filaret Motco, the OSCE Mission to Tajikistan's political and media officer, at email@example.com or see http://www.osce.org/tajikistan/ (Independent Journalists Network, 23 April)
UKRAINECABINET ASKS KUCHMA TO FIRE STATE BROADCASTING CHIEF. All ministers have signed a petition by Premier Victor Yushchenko to President Kuchma to change the management at the National Television and Radio Company of Ukraine (NTRCU), the "Eastern Economist Daily" reported on 24 April, quoting Yushchenko's spokeswoman, Natalya Zarudna. Zarudna said all members of the government agree that NTRCU chief Vadym Dolhanov is in fact working against the president since state television often gives air-time to critics of the government. Zarudna added that state television does not fulfill its main function of providing objective information. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 April)
UZBEKISTANINDEPENDENT JOURNALISTS UNION PROGRAM. At a 15 April meeting, a new journalists group declared its intention to follow the precepts of the International Federation of Journalists and to try to play a role similar to that which the media plays in democratic societies. It will publicize possible ways to develop a free civil society and will monitor those rights and freedoms set forth in the Helsinki Declaration of Human Rights and other international documents. The organization also intends to work with the international media and to organize training sessions for local journalists. When the group met 10 days later, journalists from Namangan, Dzhizak, and Kashkariya expressed interest in setting up local branches in their areas. Due to a lack of funding, local journalists in Kashkadariya will have to pay for a training session on the role of journalists in building a civil society. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org (Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, 23 and 26 April)
REGIONALCENTRAL ASIAN MEDIA CONFERENCE. On 20 April, the Bishkek office of the British Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) held in Bishkek a conference "Caught in the Crossfire: Media, Conflicts in Security Laws." Journalists and experts from the five Central Asian states, Great Britain, and Russia plus President Askar Akaev's press secretary took part. The participants discussed press freedom and government doctrines of information security. Oleg Panfilov, director of the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, observed that press freedom in Russia has deteriorated since the information security doctrine was adopted last year. Roslana Taukina of Kazakhstan said that 80 percent of media outlets in her country now belong to President Nursultan Nazarbaev's family. Akaev's press secretary announced that Kyrgyzstan's democracy in Kyrgyzstan is irreversible and that Akaev plans to adopt a law prohibiting criminal lawsuits against journalists, but that the parliament opposes this measure, although others disputed this claim. ("RFE/RL Kyrgyz News," 20 April)
ASSOCIATION OF CENTRAL ASIAN JOURNALISTS LAUNCHED. A five-member working group to organize an association of Central Asian journalists was formed at a 20 April Bishkek conference. The working group members are Chinara Jakypova of Kyrgyzstan, Tatyana Deltsova of Kazakhstan, Shukhrat Babadjanov of Uzbekistan, Andrei Aranbaev of Turkmenistan, and Lidia Ismailova of Tajikistan. ("RFE/RL Kyrgyz News," 21 April)
END NOTEAN END TO DENIAL
By Paul Goble
Fifteen years ago an accident at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine spread radiation across a broad swath of the USSR and Eastern Europe and then forced the Soviet leadership to open the way for glasnost and the ultimate demise of communism in Europe.
On 26 April 1986, a test at the Chornobyl nuclear plant went badly wrong, an explosion occurred and a massive amount of radiation was released into the atmosphere. The initial Soviet response was first to deny that there had been any problems at the plant and then to insist that Soviet nuclear engineers were in complete control of the situation.
Had the reactor been located further from the Soviet borders with the West and had the radiation plume not passed over Scandinavia, the Soviet government might have been able to get away with such denials -- just as Moscow often had succeeded in doing with earlier disasters.
But once Swedish scientists monitored the radiation cloud, radio and television stations in Eastern and Western Europe began to report that an accident had taken place. And Soviet citizens quickly learned what had in fact happened, some from crossborder Polish television broadcasts and others from international radio broadcasters.
Mikhail Gorbachev, who had become general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union only 13 months earlier, was faced with a crisis. If he followed the standard Soviet protocol on such matters, he would not only lose face at home and abroad as a reformer but also risk losing his power base within the Soviet leadership.
Confronted with this choice, Gorbachev first equivocated and then signaled that he was willing to allow the Soviet media to report more accurately on what had happened. Soviet newspapers, radio stations, and television networks began to tell Ukrainians, Russians, and Belarusians more of the story, and Gorbachev sought to use this new openness, which he eventually labeled "glasnost," as a means to win popular support and defeat his political enemies.
For the first time, Soviet citizens were hearing more or less accurate information about a disaster in their country not just from foreign radio "voices" but also from their own media. That did not lessen their fears about the consequences of the Chornobyl accident, but it did mean that they now looked to their domestic media as a source of news.
Gorbachev's own hesitations and statements then and later make it clear that he did not recognize what he had begun or where it would lead. Once the Soviet media implicitly -- and in some cases explicitly -- acknowledged that Soviet outlets had not told the truth in the past about Chornobyl and nuclear power, Soviet citizens and a growing number of Soviet journalists began demanding for a fuller accounting on other issues as well.
Over the next five years, this process accelerated, forcing Gorbachev and the Soviet government to confront ever more controversial questions about the rule of the communist party and Soviet nationality policies.
And, as Soviet claims were shown to be hollow and false, ever more citizens of the USSR turned away not only from the system as a whole but from Gorbachev -- the man who had allowed these revelations to occur. That shift contributed to the collapse of communism, the demise of the Soviet Union, and the difficult period of transition away from a totalitarian system toward democracy and freedom.
The Chornobyl accident in the first instance called attention to the incredible dangers inherent in the use of atomic power, and many people in Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia are still suffering from exposure to radiation.
But at the same time, the aftermath of that accident highlighted the incredible power of a more open press to change people's minds and ultimately to change the course of history.