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Media Matters: June 1, 2001

1 June 2001, Volume 1, Number 17
TV JOURNALIST'S CAR VANDALIZED. On 17 May, someone damaged the car of award-winning Bulgarian TV journalist Tsvetana Paskaleva, director of many documentaries on the Nagorno-Karabakh war. Her new documentary interviews participants of the Shushi-Lachin operation. Paskaleva links the attempt to exercise pressure not only with the film "The Faith and the Spirit," but also to her activities in protection of Samvel Babayan (the former minister of defense of the unrecognized republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, sentenced to 14 years' imprisonment for plotting the attempted assassination of the republic's President Arkady Ghukasian in March 2000). An official investigation of the incident is underway. ("Yerevan Press Club Newsletter," 19-25 May)

OPPOSITION WEEKLY EDITOR QUESTIONED ON SOURCES... Recently, Armenian authorities have become very attentive towards the radical opposition weekly "Chorrord Ishkhanutyun" ( In late March, the newspaper was deprived of its property. On 10 May the editor in chief of "Chorrord Ishkhanutyun" was interrogated by the Military Procuracy over several recent articles critical of the authorities' handling of the terrorist attack on the parliament on 27 October 1999. The prosecutors demand the editor reveal the authors of these articles. ("Yerevan Press Club Newsletter," 19-25 May)

...WHILE AUTHORITIES VIOLATE THE LAW... On 16 May, the tax inspectors seized many documents during a check of "Chorrord Ishkhanutyun's" founder and publisher Ogostos agency's activities. They acted without a written order of the minister of state revenues, as required by law; the order was issued two days later. Tax officials dictated a statement for the agency's director to sign. The law does not provide for such checks, reports the Yerevan Press Club. The Ministry of State Revenues issued a statement, published in the "Aravot" daily on 19 May, that "what concerns the fact that the law does not provide for such visits, then what is not prohibited by law is allowed." ("Yerevan Press Club Newsletter," 19-25 May)

...AND WEEKLY SEES POLITICAL MOTIVES. On 21 May, "Chorrord Ishkhanutyun" weekly protested the authorities' actions. The statement also mentions that "Chorrord Ishkhanutyun" is highly critical of President Kocharian, the government, and corrupt officials. ("Yerevan Press Club Newsletter," 19-25 May)

STORMY WRITERS' UNION CONGRESS. The XIII Congress of the Writers Union of Armenia took place on 17-19 May. As the Yerevan Press Club was told by an "Aravot" daily reporter, on 19 May when the chairman of the Writers Union was to be elected, an official request was made that all reporters leave the room. A scuffle between some particularly adamant writers and angered journalists reportedly ensued; one reporter had his camera broken by the official who had ordered the journalists to leave the room. Eventually, the journalists were allowed to remain. ("Yerevan Press Club Newsletter," 19-25 May)

DAILY'S PUBLICATION RESUMED. On 19 May, after a two-day pause the publication of "Haikakan Zhamanak" daily restarted. The stoppage was caused by a conflict with the Gind private publishing house. ("Yerevan Press Club Newsletter," 19-25 May)

'VARKANISH' MAGAZINE PUBLISHED. On 21 May a new monthly information and analytical magazine, "Varkanish" (Rating), was launched. The magazine was founded and published by Media Model. Its first issue presents ratings of government and political figures of Armenia, local TV companies, as well as the TV channels rebroadcast in Armenia. The circulation of the magazine is 1,000 copies. The chief editor is Margarit Grigorian. ("Yerevan Press Club Newsletter," 19-25 May)

EDITORS APPEAL FOR RELEASE OF COLLEAGUE. The "Zerkalo" newspaper reported that a 25 May meeting of editors asked that a Baku court release on bail the arrested AVA TV financial director Shamil Safaev. ("Zerkalo," 26 May)

NEW YOUTH BULLETIN. On 27 May, the Secular Progress Youth Organization (SPYO) released a new bulletin, "Yeni Nesil" (New Generation), with news on sociopolitical issues, activities, and problems of young people. An online version is also available. Contact: ("Eldar Zeynalov," 24 May)

BELARUSIAN WRITERS HOLD CONGRESS. Some 400 members of the Union of Belarusian Writers held a congress in Minsk on 29 May, Belapan reported. The congress elected Volha Ipatava as the union's new head. Ipatava will replace Uladzimir Nyaklyayeu, who in June 1999 decided to remain abroad after having gone to Warsaw, arguing that the authorities were fabricating a case against him on charges of financial misdeeds. Nyaklyayeu, who subsequently lived in Poland and Finland, has recently returned to Belarus. Nyaklyayeu urged the congress to adopt a resolution supporting the democratic opposition in Belarus and condemning Alyaksandr Lukashenka as an illegitimate president, but delegates refused to discuss the issue. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 May)

OLDEST SARAJEVO DAILY RESUMES PUBLICATION. Sarajevo's largest and oldest daily, "Oslobodjenje," reappeared at newsstands today after not being published for four days due to a strike by its journalists, dpa reported on 24 May. The newspaper had never ceased publication in its history, even publishing daily news during the siege of Sarajevo. The staff went on strike on 17 May after a 20 percent wage cut in April. After negotiations with shareholders and management, the striking staff was promised its full pay for April along with a change of management. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May)

NEW RADIO CHIEF. Polya Stancheva, a radio journalist, was designated on 28 May by the National Radio and Television Council to be the new head of state radio in a move aimed at terminating the months-long crisis at Bulgarian radio, AP and Reuters reported. Last month, a court of justice invalidated the nomination of Ivan Borislavov to that position. Borislavov's appointment triggered protests from radio journalists, who said he lacked the professional qualifications for the job. Stancheva said she will ask the protesters to return to their jobs. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May)

LOWER HOUSE ELECTS NEW TELEVISION COUNCIL. The Chamber of Deputies on 25 May elected the 15 members of the new Television Council, CTK and AP reported. The council's mandate is for six years. The move ends the crisis that erupted in December 2000 when television journalists refused to work under former Czech Television Director Jiri Hodac, who eventually resigned. The new council is to appoint the director of Czech Television within two months. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May)

BROADCASTING COUNCIL TO MONITOR RFE/RL. The Czech Council for Radio and TV Broadcasts approved a request by its Deputy Chairman Petr Stepanek and councilman Petr Zantovsky to monitor the broadcasts of RFE/RL, the daily "Lidove noviny," reported on 28 May. Both Stepanek and Zantovsky were appointed to the council by Vaclav Klaus' Civic Democratic Party. According to Petruska Sustrova, the journalist reporting on the decision, "Czech Radio Free Europe is the only public station that regularly and to a large extent analyzes both domestic and foreign developments and brings extensive commentaries. This is nothing new, and to find this out no monitoring is necessary." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May)

NEW RUSSIAN-LANGUAGE PAPER LAUNCHED. The Reform Party published the first number of a Russian-language newspaper called "Liberal Forum" with a press run of 15,500 copies of which 14,000 were distributed as a supplement to the 19 May edition of the Russian-language daily "Molodezh Estonii," BNS reported. The newspaper, which is expected to be issued twice a month, will be primarily circulated in Tallinn and northeast Estonia. ("RFE/RL Baltic States Report," 28 May)

OFFICIALS REJECT BASAEV VIDEO CLAIMS. Georgian presidential spokesman Kakha Imnadze on 22 May again denied that "several thousand" Chechen fighters are currently encamped in Georgia's Pankisi gorge, Russian agencies reported. The previous day, the office of Russian presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii had released a videotape in which Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev appealed to his fellow commander Ruslan Gelaev and others to return to Chechnya from Georgia. Imnadze cast doubt on the authenticity of the videotape, which he said may have been as intended as a "provocation." He said that if Russian authorities had reliable information that Chechen fighters were in Pankisi, they should have informed Tbilisi of their whereabouts. Meeting in Moscow the same day with Russian Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo, Georgian Interior Minister Kakha Targamadze said Georgian police are verifying Basaev's statements, and that if they prove to be true they will take measures to apprehend him, after which he will be extradited to Russia, Interfax reported. The Georgian National Security Ministry has not yet made any public comment on the Basaev tape. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 23 May)

SKOPJE OSCE MISSION CHIEF CRITICAL OF BROADCASTS. The Head of the OSCE Spillover Monitoring Mission to Skopje pointed out that "Some TV news programs [on 26 May] evening broadcast patently false and potentially dangerous information about the activities of the OSCE Mission to Skopje." The OSCE official maintained that "such patently irresponsible and baseless attempts to discredit the Mission are extremely unhelpful and may put Mission personnel at risk from members of the public." (OSCE Press Release, 27 May)

NEW LAW ON STATE SECRETS. The parliament's commission that supervises the activity of the Romanian Intelligence Service decided on 24 May to initiate a new draft of the law on state secrets, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The Constitutional Court has ruled a previous version of that law to be unconstitutional. Commission Chairman Ion Stan said that Romania currently lacks legislation on protecting state secrets, although it has pledged to pass such a law as part of its preparations for NATO accession. He also said that in preparing the new version of the law, the members of the commission will take into consideration NATO expertise as well as U.S. legislation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May)

PENAL CODE TO RESTORE PENALTIES ON JOURNALISTS. Several opposition parties on 28 May criticized the intention of Justice Minster Rodica Stanoiu to have provisions criminalizing "offense of authority," "insult," and "calumny" by journalists returned to, and stiffened in, the Penal Code. Last year the Chamber of Deputies amended the code, reducing those penalties or doing away with the provisions altogether. The Senate is about to begin debates on the amendments. President Ion Iliescu last week said journalists should not face prison sentences for what they write but that "insult" and "calumny" should be sanctioned by professional organizations representing journalists. Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said the government has "not yet" discussed the draft proposed by Stanoiu. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May)

INVESTIGATION OF SALE OF PRO-NAZI, ANTI-SEMITIC BOOKS AT FAIR. The Supreme Court on 28 May asked the Prosecutor-General's Office to launch an investigation into sale of pro-Nazi and anti-Semitic propaganda at the Bucharest International Book Fair that recently closed in the Romanian capital, Romanian Radio reported. Earlier, several Romanian publishers and the fair's director protested against the sale at the fair of such books as Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf" and the famous anti-Semitic hoax "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion." Both books have been on sale in Romania for years alongside similar literature, despite provisions in the Penal Code against distribution of such publications. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May)

OBSERVERS SENT TO JOURNALIST'S TRIAL. Two representatives of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) arrived in Moscow on 29 May en route to Vladivostok to support Russian journalist Grigory Pasko, who is facing a second trial on charges of treason and revealing state secrets. CPJ board member Peter Arnett and Europe program consultant Emma Gray will be in Vladivostok on 4 June, when the closed trial is scheduled to begin in the city's military court. Prior to the trial, Arnett and Gray plan to meet with justice and military officials in Moscow to highlight CPJ's concerns about renewed charges against Pasko. Pasko was an investigative reporter with "Boyevaya Vakhta," the newspaper owned by Russia's Pacific Fleet. He was arrested on 20 November 1997, and accused of passing classified documents to Japanese NHK television. Pasko maintained that he passed no classified material, and that he was prosecuted for working with Japanese news outlets that publicized environmental hazards at the Pacific Fleet's facilities. The journalist spent 20 months in prison awaiting trial. On 20 July 1999, he was acquitted of treason, but was found guilty of abusing his authority as an officer. He received a three-year sentence but was released under an amnesty program. The prosecution and defense appealed the ruling. On 21 November 2000, the Military Collegium of the Russian Supreme Court canceled the lower court's verdict and called for new hearings. If convicted, Pasko faces a sentence of 12 to 20 years in prison. (CPJ Press Release, 29 May)

INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST UNDER CONTINUING PRESSURE. According to the Canadian daily "The Globe and Mail," Oleg Lurye's "investigative reporting has annoyed the Kremlin and caused him no end of trouble, from harassment to physical attack." Last December, the reporter was attacked by four men; his face still bears the scars of that episode -- which is still unsolved. His articles in the independent paper "Novaya gazeta" have "exposed corruption at the highest levels, provoking scandals, embarrassing authorities, and forcing the dismissal of cabinet ministers." Lurye was one of the first to break the news "on Pavel Borodin, the Kremlin property chief who was accused of pocketing millions of dollars from a $488 million renovation of Kremlin buildings." The ensuing investigation eventually alleged the involvement of former President Boris Yeltsin's family. Lurye's other articles have tackled insider deals by the "prime minister, a top prosecutor, a Kremlin chief of staff, the nuclear energy minister, and some of Russia's wealthiest tycoons." As a result, every few months Lurye receives death threats. ("The Globe and Mail," 26 May)

PUTIN SAYS BUSH-SCHROEDER TRANSCRIPT 'AN ANTI-RUSSIAN PROVOCATION.' President Vladimir Putin said that a purported transcript of a conversation between U.S. President George W. Bush and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was "an anti-Russian provocation," Russian news agencies reported on 22 May. Putin said that he has "no reason to believe it," adding in colorful language that there was no basis for the main holders of Russian debt to break economic ties with Russia. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 28 May)

JUSTICE MINISTER SAYS RUSSIAN PRESS 'FREER THAN ANYWHERE ELSE.' Yurii Chaika said on 25 May that the press in Russia is "freer than anywhere else in the world," Russian and Western agencies reported. His comments came during his meeting with visiting Council of Europe head Walter Schwimmer. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May)

YASTRZHEMBSKII WANTS MEDIA THAT CARRY EXTREMIST VIEWS PUNISHED SEVERELY. Presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii said that the publication of an interview with Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov in "Novaya gazeta" on 28 May indicates that "the time has come to amend existing legislation with provisions which would call for severe sanctions for offering airtime or newspaper space for the dissemination of extremist views," Interfax reported the same day. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May)

SIBERIAN PRESS MINISTRY OFFICIALS CHECK MEDIA. The Siberian regional department of the Russian Ministry of the Press has initiated lawsuits against those founders of media outlets that have not obeyed registration regulations. Only 46 percent of 1,539 media outlets registered in Altai Krai, Republic of Altai, Omsk, Tomsk, Kemerovo, and Novosibirsk regions have submitted their publications to the department as required. Editorial boards and founders (838 in total) will receive warnings and if they do not reply within a month, cases will be submitted to the courts which may fine offending outlets or order their closure. ("European Media Institute Newsletter," 23 May)

MEDIA-MOST ORDERED DISSOLVED, BUT WILL APPEAL. An arbitration appeals court on 29 May ordered the liquidation of Media-MOST, the holding company of embattled media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky, to pay for taxes, Russian and Western agencies reported. The court overturned an earlier finding by a lower court that had rejected a suit by the tax inspectorate; that first-instance court said that the tax authorities have no right to file suits concerning issues not involving tax collection. Following the verdict of the appeals court, Dmitrii Ostalskii, a spokesman for Media-MOST, said that the company will appeal because of the "clearly discriminatory character" of the court's ruling. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 May)

GUSINSKY SAID TO HAVE BOUGHT INFLUENCE IN U.S. According to an article in "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 24 May, exiled media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky has used American public relations and law firms to provide funds to American politicians who are prepared to support his positions. Because of his success in purchasing influence in this way, the article suggests, Gusinsky sees the U.S. State Department and the Congress as "his own resources." The article then details what it says has been the role of Congressman Tom Lantos (D-California), who the paper says has "handled Project Gusinsky" since 1995. Meanwhile, the Duma International Relations Committee asked the Russian Foreign Ministry and other agencies the same day to clarify whether various Russian "oligarchs" were involved in the dissemination in the U.S. Congress of what they called the draft "anti-Russian resolution" that calls for Russia's exclusion from the G-8, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May)

NTV CHIEF PROMISES NO CUTS IN NEWS STAFF. In an interview published in the 25 May "Izvestiya," NTV General Director Boris Jordan said that he will not reduce staff in the newsroom even as he works to cut costs. "NTV will remain an information channel -- this is our unchanged position," he said. He also said that he is not now seeking investors, preferring instead to put the company into good working order. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May)

JORDAN SETS NEW ETHICAL NORMS FOR NTV JOURNALISTS. Boris Jordan, the general director of NTV, said that he will introduce a new journalistic code of ethics for journalists working there, Interfax reported on 23 May. Involved in the production of this code will be two American journalists, one European, and three Russians. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 28 May)

KREMLIN SAID PLANNING TO TAKE OVER BEREZOVSKY'S TV-6. "Tribuna" reported on 28 May that officials in the Russian president's office are making plans to take over TV-6, which is still controlled by Boris Berezovsky. The oligarch controls the station through shadow companies with headquarters in Cyprus and the government will find it easy enough to find tax evasions in both, the paper said, and then force them to yield their shares in TV-6. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May)

TV3 LAUNCHED IN THE NORTHWEST. The TV3 channel will broadcast to the entire Northwestern region. A 15-minute regional program, which will be shown every weekday at 2300 local time, will cover St. Petersburg and regional news. These programs will be produced by a special ORTV company to be headed by Tagi Guseinov, former Russian Radio reporter. Mikhail Velikoselskii, formerly of St. Petersburg TV, was appointed the company's editor in chief. The channel's managers say that broadcasting St. Petersburg news to all cities in the TV3 network is a first step to restoring the Leningrad and later St. Petersburg TV broadcasting area. There are plans for the new TV channel to expand its broadcasting to at least twenty regions in Russia. The news segments will contain mainly analytical materials and reports from the entire Northwestern region, with about half local news. ("European Media Institute April Newsletter," 23 May)

ALUMINUM COMPANY TO HELP CREATE SIBERIAN TV. Press Minister Mikhail Lesin and state television officials said that they have reached agreement with Leonid Drachevskii, the presidential envoy to the Siberian federal district, on the creation of a Siberian television channel, "Kommersant-Daily" reported The channel will be sponsored by Russian Aluminum which is under the control of Oleg Deripaska. He also signed the accord, the paper said. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 28 May)

ROSTOV TV TO CLOSE AFTER DECADE. Shans TV in Shakty in the Rostov region -- its only local broadcaster -- was closed after almost a decade of operations. The company's director and editor in chief told journalists that the TV station's troubles began after the 18 February mayoral elections. The local authorities ordered the station to leave its offices in the municipal building. A special committee of the local administration and the city Duma was created to audit the station's operations. ("European Media Institute April Newsletter," 23 May)

NEW TV CHANNEL FOR SOUTHERN FEDERAL DISTRICT. A new TV channel which will broadcast to the entire Southern federal district (SFD), will be created shortly. Sergei Epifantsev, SFD deputy presidential representative, said that a HF frequency would soon be provided. The administration of the presidential representative has already purchased some equipment for the new company. It will also produce programs for the new channel in cooperation with a regional broadcaster. Sergei Epifantsev disclosed that the administration already received proposals from state broadcasting company (SBC) Don-TR (Rostov-on-Don), Kuban and Stavropol SBCs, and from Rostov-based Yuzhnii Region (Southern Region) broadcasting company. The first program is scheduled to be broadcast on 13 May, the first anniversary of the establishment of federal districts in Russia. ("European Media Institute April Newsletter," 23 May)

TATARSTAN GETS NEW TV TRANSMITTERS. Five TV transmitters of the Italian Technosystem were recently installed in Naberezhnye Chelny, Niznekamsk, Leninogorsk, Bilyarsk, and Shemordan. RTR and state broadcasting company Tatarstan programs will be broadcast on other channels. ("European Media Institute Newsletter," 23 May)

NEW SATELLITE TV IN YEKATERINBURG. A new satellite TV project, Evraziya-TV, was presented in Yekaterinburg. Organized by the Oblastnoe Televideniye (Regional TV) company, broadcasting is planned for the Sverdlovsk and neighbouring regions. The TV signal will be transmitted via the Yamal-100 communication satellite. ("European Media Institute Newsletter," 23 May)

ALTAI TV IS SWITCHED OFF. As of 5 April, ORT and RTR programs are restricted to evening broadcasts in the Altai region because the broadcasting center owes the Altaienergo electricity company 200,000 rubles (about $6,900). The electricity company has warned that if the debt is not fully paid, the transmitting center will be cut off from electricity supply completely. To make matters worse, the local communications satellite is malfunctioning. As a result, after 15 March, over three-quarters of the Altai population cannot watch ORT. After 26 March, due to debts for electricity, Radio Russia programs have not been broadcast on long, medium, and UHF bands. ("European Media Institute Newsletter," 23 May)

'NOVAYA GAZETA' LAST INDEPENDENT NATIONAL PAPER? The twice-weekly newspaper, "Novaya gazeta" is "perhaps the last truly independent national newspaper in Russia," reports the Canadian daily "The Globe and Mail." It focuses on high-level official corruption and in combination with regional newspapers, it has "built a circulation of 1.5 million" readers across the country. But the newspaper conducts regular office checks for bugging devices. Security cameras have been installed in its best reporters' apartment buildings. Before articles are published, lawyers eyeball every major story to be sure it can be defended in court. "Novaya gazeta" has endured 40 lawsuits and seven major tax inspections, reports the paper. Just before it published an expose on illegal Kremlin campaign financing, "unknown hackers broke into its computer system and destroyed an entire edition of the paper." ("The Globe and Mail," 26 May)

'IZVESTIYA' ISSUES A SPECIAL EDITION FOR KAZAKHSTAN. "Izvestiya" reported on 29 May that it has begun publication of a special daily edition of the paper for Kazakhstan. The new paper, launched on 28 May, is called "Izvestiya-Kazakhstan." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 May)

'VESTNIK EVROPY' TO REAPPEAR. A literary journal founded by historian Nikolai Karamzin and in which Aleksandr Pushkin's first publication appeared will resume publication, Interfax reported on 24 May. "Vestnik Evropy," which came out from 1802 to 1830 and again from 1866 to 1918, was one of Russia's most important "thick" journals in the 19th century. Among the organizers of its renewal are the All-Russian State Library of Foreign Literature and Yegor Gaidar of the Institute of Economics of the Transition Period. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May)

NIZHNII NOVGOROD: THREE NEW PAPERS. Three newspapers were launched in the Nizhnii Novgorod region: "Khoroshie Novosti" (Good News), will have a print run of 388,000; The Nizhnii Novgorod edition of the Moscow-based "Versiya" (Version) paper will come out in 100,000 copies; and "Doroga Glazami Detei" (Road as Viewed by Children), of the Highway Patrol of the regional Department of Internal Affairs in 3,800 copies. ("European Media Institute Newsletter," 23 May)

KOMSOMOLSK-NA-AMURE: 13 OF 18 PAPERS CLOSED BY TYPHOONS. Publishing of 13 newspapers (out of 18) has ceased in Komsomolsk-na-Amure because of newsprint shortage. Local printing houses say that the shortage was caused by recent typhoons in Sakhalin. The Sakhalin-based plants are the main suppliers of newsprint for the Far East periodicals. ("European Media Institute Newsletter," 23 May)

GERMAN PAPER ISSUED IN AMUR REGION. The first issue of the monthly paper "Erbe" (Heritage) appeared on newsstands in Svobodny (Amur region). The local branch of the Blagoveshchensk-based Center of German Culture is its publisher. ("European Media Institute Newsletter," 23 May)

DEUTSCHE WELLE NOW ON SATELLITE. NTV-Plus started 24-hour broadcasting of Deutsche Welle programs via the company satellite to Russia. ("European Media Institute Newsletter," 23 May)

'RUSSIAN MEDIA ELITE IN 2001.' The German Friedrich Ebert Foundation has published a study, based on polling of over 200 journalists and editors. The publication, "The Russia Media Elite in 2001," ascertains their views on Russian domestic and foreign issues. The project was designed by the German pollster SINUS with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation; polling was conducted by the All-Russian Centre for Public Opinion Research (VTsIOM). ("European Media Institute Newsletter," 23 May)

RADIO MAYAK PLANS TO CHALLENGE EKHO MOSKVY. The managers of Radio Mayak announced that they plan to try to attract the audience Ekho Moskvy now has by going to a 24-hour format in cities where Ekho Moskvy is popular, RIA-Novosti reported on 28 May. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 May)

...OPENS A BUREAU IN ARKHANGELSK. With funding from TV6-Pomorye, the national radio broadcaster Mayak has opened a new bureau in Arkhangelsk. Local journalists will produce four hours of daily programming which will also be broadcast in the FM band (103.4 MHz). ("European Media Institute Newsletter," 23 May)

SAKHALIN RADIO SLASHES BROADCASTS. As of 16 April, Radio Sakhalin has slashed the volume of daily broadcasts on the island from its regular 14 to two hours per day. This cutback is due to the federally financed station's debts. This is the second time broadcasts have been cut in six months and the staff warns it will not be able to alert the population to the island's frequent natural disasters. ("European Media Institute Newsletter," 23 May)

STATE ELECTRONIC MEDIA TO PAY MORE FOR BROADCASTS. The Anti-Monopoly Policy Ministry has approved a 30 percent increase in the price for broadcasting through state-owned facilities as of 1 July, RIA-Novosti reported on 24 May. The new rates, both for signals beamed from Ostankino and also for uplinks to telecommunications satellites, are explicitly not being applied to private companies. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 28 May)

PUTIN WANTS RESTRICTIONS ON FOREIGN OWNERSHIP OF ELECTRONIC MEDIA. According to Dmitri Kozak, the deputy chief of the presidential staff, President Putin favors placing limits on foreign ownership of national electronic mass media but does not think that there should be any restrictions on foreign shares of the print media, Russian agencies reported. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 28 May)

'SEGODNYA' DIES ON INTERNET. The Internet edition of "Segodnya" was ended by the team of journalists who had put it out since Gazprom-Media took over and then shut the print version, Interfax reported on 25 May. Mikhail Berger, the editor of both, said that the journalists "stopped the publication of the Internet version because we have lost every chance to acquire the rights to publish the printed version." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May)

NEW INTERNET SERVICES IN NIZHNII NOVGOROD. The Nizhnii Novgorod-based Kommercheskie Informatsionnye Seti (Commercial Information Networks), a subsidiary of Golden Telecom, has initiated flexible tariff plan service of high-speed ADSL Internet access services to businesses and individual subscribers in the city. ("European Media Institute Newsletter," 23 May)

KAZAN UNION OF INTERNET USERS AND OPERATORS LAUNCHED. A nonprofit organization, the Union of Internet Users and Operators, was founded in Kazan. The new association is part of a project of the Human Rights Committee of the Republic of Tatarstan in co-operation with the Friends and Partners international foundation. All major ISPs operating in Tatarstan, including Intelset, Teleset, MELT, ABAK Telecom-Service, Comtat, Linet, Internet Centers of Kazan Aviation Institute, and Kazan State University, belong to the new union. The Moscow-based Agency of Social Information, the Human Rights Ombudsman in the Republic of Tatarstan, the Committee of the State Council for Legislation, Parliamentary Regulations and Ethics, the Tatarstan Association for Promotion of the UN, and the Association of Human Rights Organizations in the Russian Federation Autonomous Republics will also cooperate with the new organization. ("European Media Institute Newsletter," 23 May)

PATRIARCHATE ANGRY BY PRESS REPORTS ON ALEKSII II. Vsevolod Chaplin, the official representative of the patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church, told Interfax on 25 May that the church very much regrets recent articles about the church hierarchs, including Aleksii II. He said that reports that Aleksii had been married in his youth are "nothing other than an attempt without justification to penetrate into his personal life" and that Aleksii II like anyone else "has the right to decide what to reveal or not reveal about his personal life." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May)

MUFTIATE UPSET BY TENDENTIOUS TREATMENT OF ISLAM IN RUSSIAN MEDIA. Ravil Gaynutdin, the head of the Council of Muftis of Russia, decried on 25 May the "distorted and tendentious discussion of Islam which links religion to terrorism and separatism," Interfax reported. Interfax led its story in which this statement appeared with a report that the Council of Muftis of Russia has confirmed a Muslim's right to have more than one wife. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May)

TAX BREAKS FOR LOCAL MEDIA MAY BE PRESERVED. First Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Shatalov said on 24 May that his ministry does not exclude that existing tax breaks for local and especially rural media outlets will be preserved, Interfax reported. He said that the ministry is discussing whether to extend the breaks that had been scheduled to end on 31 December 2001. Shatalov also said that the government plans to eliminate the tax on purchasing foreign currency by 2003-2004. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May)

INCREASED CHARGES FOR RADIO, TV BROADCASTING APPROVED. The Anti-Monopoly Policy Ministry has approved a 30 percent increase in charges for broadcasting state radio and television through state broadcasting facilities and uplinks to telecommunications satellites, RIA-Novosti reported on 24 May. A ministry spokesman explicitly said that the increased charges will not apply to privately owned electronic media. Meanwhile, Russian Aluminum said it is prepared to invest $10 million in the creation of Siberian TV, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May)

KOSTROMA DROPS MEDIA FUNDING. The Kostroma city administration stopped financing local media. Thus the newspaper "Kuryer" (Courier), which was founded by the city administration on the eve of the gubernatorial elections, went bankrupt. The newspaper's total debt exceeds 250,000 rubles (over $9,000). Next on the list to stop getting funds from the local authorities are the "Kostromskie Vedomosti" (Kostroma News) newspaper and a Kostroma-based TV station. ("European Media Institute Newsletter," 23 May)

PROTEST TO SOUTHERN FEDERAL DISTRICT REPRESENTATIVE. Correspondents of national and regional Russian and foreign publications and news agencies sent a complaint to Viktor Kazantsev, Southern federal district presidential representative. The journalists consider it improper that regional news reports often originate in Moscow while the local administration of the presidential representative remains silent. The directors of regional ORT and NTV bureaus, ITAR-TASS news agency, "Parlamentskaya gazeta," "Nezavisimaya gazeta," Radio Liberty, BBC, Rostov Radio, and the chief editor of the "Novyi Standart" paper signed the appeal. Later, ORT and ITAR-TASS correspondents asked that their signatures be removed from the statement. ("European Media Institute Newsletter," 23 May)

NEW MEDIA WORKERS TRADE UNION IN SVERDLOVSK. The Sverdlovsk regional department of the Ministry of Justice recently registered the first Trade Union for Information Service (TUIS) for Yekaterinburg-based commercial broadcasting companies. About forty producers and technical experts of the Oblastnoe Televideniye TV company are members of the new professional association. The new trade union was formed due to a conflict between journalists and the TV company's head, Aleksandr Mikh. In an open letter to regional officials, journalists requested an investigation into the TV company management's use of the budget. ("European Media Institute Newsletter," 23 May)

SPS PLANS CONFERENCE ON MEDIA FREEDOM. The coordinating council of the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) has decided to hold an international conference in Moscow in July on the problems of press freedom and the mass media in Russia, Interfax reported. SPS leader Boris Nemtsov said that media magnates Gusinsky and Boris Berezovskii could take part via a telebridge from abroad. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May)

PRODUCER THREATENED OVER BROADCAST. The Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) is alarmed at telephone threats received by Marina Fratucan over her program for UrbaNS on ethnic cleansing in 1992 in the Srem region of Vojvodina broadcast on TV Novi Sad on 23 May. The program featured Antun Skenderovic, the vice president of the Democratic Alliance of Croats in Vojvodina; Nebojsa Popov, the editor in chief of "Republic" magazine and Vojislav Seselj, the president of the Serbian Radical Party. Viewers were invited to phone in their accounts of Seselj's direct involvement in the expulsion of Croats from Vojvodina. Almost every call from residents of the Srem villages directly accused Seselj of ethnic cleansing. Since the program was aired, Marina Fratucan has received a steady stream of serious telephone threats from callers who said they are Serbs who had fled from Croatia, Slavonia, Baranja and western Srem. Fratucan told Belgrade daily "Danas" that she couldn't understand the reaction, adding that journalists have a responsibility to ensure that the issue of ethnic cleansing was treated. (ANEM Press Release, 28 May)

MEDIA MAN OFFICIALLY ELECTED HEAD OF NEW PARTY. Pavol Rusko, former director general of the private Markiza television, was elected on 26 May as chairman of the newly established Alliance for a New Citizen (ANO), CTK reported. Rusko, who is still board chairman at Markiza TV, said he will resign from that position and entrust his shares to a lawyer's office. He also said he will resign as ANO head if the party's performance in the 2002 elections is poor. In other news, Eximbanka Governor Ludomir Slahor was elected on 26 May as chairman of the extraparliamentary Social Democratic Party (SDSS), replacing Jaroslav Volf. The SDSS is negotiating with the Party of the Democratic Left to run on joint lists in 2002. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May)

PRESIDENT ACQUIRES NEW HONORARY TITLE. The World Humanitarian Turkmen Association has bestowed on Saparmurat Niyazov the title "Turkmenbashi the Great," Interfax reported on 24 May citing the Turkmen press. Two days earlier, Niyazov had professed to being weary of the cult of personality of which he is the focus. On 23 May, Niyazov criticized editors of media outlets for lavishing disproportionate praise on him and thereby creating the impression that there are no other topics on which to comment. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May)

AUTHORITIES SAY GONGADZE CASE NOT SOLVED YET. Interior Minister Yuriy Smyrnov told the parliament on 25 May that his previous statement on the successful outcome of the investigation into the murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze was "premature," Interfax reported. Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko also told the parliament he has "no grounds to state that the killing of Heorhiy Gongadze has been solved." Last week Smyrnov claimed that Gongadze was killed by two criminals who in turn were later murdered. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 May)

JOURNALIST AND FAMILY DETAINED, THREATENED. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) protested government efforts to silence U.S.-based Voice of America journalist Jahongir Mamatov who reports on human rights issues in Uzbekistan. His relatives living in Samarkand are facing trumped-up criminal charges. On 17 May, police officers and officials from the National Security Service (SNB, KGB successor) searched the home of Mamatov's older sister, Mehriniso Murtazayeva, on a collective farm near Samarkand. The police confiscated materials related to Mamatov, according to CPJ sources. That same evening, police and SNB officers also searched Mamatov's home in Samarkand, where his younger sister Nadira Murtazayeva resides. According to CPJ, an undercover officer handed Nadira's 12-year-old niece a small bag with an illegal substance, and told her to take it home to Nadira. Officers then searched the house, arresting Mehriniso and Nadira on narcotics charges. They were then detained in the SNB prison in Samarkand. On 20 May, both detainees were transferred 500 miles (800 kilometers) to an SNB prison in Nukus, a city in Karakalpakistan. The next day, the Murtazayeva family sent two lawyers to Nukus, but officials did not allow the lawyers to meet with them. Mehriniso was released from prison later that day, but she and her husband still face narcotics charges. On 23 May, Nadira was transferred from the SNB prison in Nukus to a nearby Interior Ministry prison. Nadira is also to be charged with "anti-constitutional activities," since she had documents in Mamatov's handwriting, according to a CPJ source. The Murtazayeva family remains concerned about Nadira's health. The government defense lawyer has informed them that she was beaten by police officers and is in poor condition. Mamatov says, according to RFE/RL's Uzbek Service, that his sisters are harassed due to his criticism of the Uzbekistan government and its president, Islam Karimov. Mamatov says he will bring a lawsuit against President Karimov. (CPJ, 25 May)