22 June 2001, Volume
CIS MEDIA BULLETIN ISSUED.
The May 2001 issue of the European Institute for the Media Newsletter on media developments in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) is a regular free newsletter on media developments in this region and includes information in five categories for each country: media news; media and government; media law; media conferences; and new media technology. There is a Russian-language version of the newsletter by e-mail: email@example.com. (The European Institute for the Media, 15 June)NEWS ON WORLD INFORMATION SOCIETY SUMMIT.
For information on the World Summit on the Information Society to take place in Geneva in 2003, see http://www.itu.int/newsroom/press/releases/2001/12.html. To participate in discussions on possible civil society aspects of this conference, see firstname.lastname@example.org e-list. (Mike Gurstein at email@example.com, 8 June)
A REFUTATION BY ANY OTHER NAME?
On 12 June in the Ararat regional court in Masis, Marineh Gabrielian's slander suit against the local newspaper "Ararat" continued. Last June, during Ms. Gabrielian's election campaign to become village leader, the "Ararat" newspaper published a letter signed by 150 villagers, alleging that the candidate had kept an Azerbaijani prisoner and sold him. Gabrielian, who lost the election, appealed to the court with a demand that the newspaper publish a refutation. During one year, however, the plaintiff did not submit the required text. Meanwhile, Gabrielian's lawyers maintained in court that the defendant, particularly the paper's editor, should be ordered to prepare a refutation. The villagers came to the support of the paper's editor, confirming the letter's validity, whereas the plaintiff brought forth no witnesses. The court is expected to reach a decision on 15 June. ("Yerevan Press Club Weekly Newsletter," 9-15 June)
ALPHABET REFORM TO BE EXPEDITED.
Under a presidential decree published on 19 June, President Heidar Aliyev enumerated official measures aimed at raising the standard of Azerbaijani-language use and expediting the transition from the Cyrillic to the Latin alphabet, Turan reported. Those measures include creating a state language commission, and drafting a law on the state language and a program for improving the teaching of the Azerbaijani language, and are to be completed within one month. In addition, the government is instructed to institute penalties for "covert and open propaganda against the state language and resistance to the use of the state language and Azerbaijani alphabet." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June)
ARTICLE 19 POSTPONES MINSK PRESS CONFERENCE.
The London-based media watch group Article 19 announced on 20 June the postponement of its press conference due to take place on 21 June at the Minsk Public Press Center. The conference was to be the official launch in Belarus of the new Article 19 report on freedom of the media, "The Mechanics of Repression: Obstacles to Free and Fair Elections in Belarus." Three Article 19 London-based staff members were not granted entry visas for Belarus in time. The conference has been postponed until the week of 9-13 July. (Article 19, 20 June)GOVERNMENT IMPLICATED IN DISAPPEARANCE OF JOURNALIST.
In a letter to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Reporters without Borders (RSF) asked that light be shed on the disappearance of cameraman Dmitri Zavadski. "Two officials from the Prosecutor-General's Office recently denounced the existence of a "death squad" which was reportedly created by current highly placed state officials and which is allegedly responsible for several disappearances, including that of Dmitri Zavadski," noted Robert Menard, the organization's secretary-general. According to the RSF, in a press release issued on 11 June, two officials in the Belarusian Prosecutor-General's Office, Dmitri Petrushkevic, who oversees the Zavadski case, and Oleg Slutshev accused Prosecutor-General Viktor Sheiman and the assistant director of the presidential administration Yuri Sivakov of having created a "death squad" in 1996, when they were Security Council secretary and minister of the interior, respectively. The two Prosecutor-General's Office officials claim that the group's alleged involvement in Zavadski's disappearance could be established through DNA testing of a blood stain in the vehicle of one of the group's assumed members. A spokesperson from the Belarusian Prosecutor-General's Office characterized the accusations as "absurd." (Reporters without Borders, 15 June)PRESIDENT SET TO WITHSTAND 'ONSLAUGHT' BY FOREIGN MEDIA IN ELECTION CAMPAIGN.
Alyaksandr Lukashenka told workers of the Vavilov Mechanical Factory in Minsk on 14 June that he "feels nationwide support" in the run-up to the 19 September presidential elections, Belarusian Television reported. Referring to the appearance of four of his potential election opponents on Russia's ORT television on 10 June, Lukashenka accused them of resorting to "dirty [campaigning] techniques." He assured his listeners that the authorities are able "to withstand the [propaganda] onslaught" that has already begun and is being planned "from the side of foreign media, including Russian ones." On 11 June, four Russian television channels suddenly went off the air in Minsk, spawning rumors that it was Lukashenka's revenge for ORT's promotion of his opponents. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June)
IFJ CONCERNED BY JOURNALIST TRIAL...
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has expressed concern over the trial of a Czech journalist accused of revealing classified information, CTK reported on 14 June. Former Nova TV reporter Tomas Smrcek is charged with intentionally jeopardizing classified data by showing a document on TV related to allegations that the head of military counterintelligence had covered up for an agent accused of drunk driving. The IFJ called on the Czech government, parliament, and Supreme Court to recognize public interest as a legal defense for publishing classified information. Senate Deputy Chairman Jan Ruml, who attended the closed trial, said the protection of classified data "cannot be abused to the detriment of a journalist who is obliged to inform the public." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June)...WHO IS ACQUITTED.
A Prague court on 15 June acquitted television journalist Tomas Smrcek of charges that he had harmed national security by displaying a secret document in a broadcast, CTK reported. The verdict was greeted by applause by journalists present in the audience. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June)POLITICIANS DISAGREE ON REPORT ON RFE/RL BROADCASTS.
Petr Pleva, a parliamentary deputy representing the opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS), on 19 June told journalists in Brno that a report submitted to the Chamber of Deputies' Media Commission by the Council on Public Czech Radio indicates that RFE/RL's broadcasts in Czech infringe on legislation forbidding political involvement by public broadcasters, CTK reported. Freedom Union Deputy Vladimir Mlynar said he does not share Pleva's interpretation of the report and that "in the document it is stated that the Czech Radio 6-Radio Free Europe has satisfied the [legal] stipulations." The report was submitted to the council by an expert staff of Prague's Charles University and referred to coverage of strikes at Czech Television in December 2000-January 2001. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June)
'AUTHORITIES CONTINUE POLITICAL CENSORSHIP OF INTERNET.'
On 20 June, the Eurasia website announced that the Kazakhstan authorities continue to practice political censorship of the Internet. The national Internet provider Kaztelekom "arbitrarily" limits reader access to the Eurasia website, which provides access to the country's political opposition. In particular, asserts Eurasia, readers have been prevented from reading the 18 June "Central Asian Bulletin" interview with Kazakh opposition leader Akezhan Kazhegeldin. For more see, eurasia.org.ru or http://22.214.171.124. (Eurasia Press Release, 20 June)
TROOPS HOLD BACK RELIEF CONVOY DUE TO JOURNALISTS.
Reuters reported from Bedinje on 12 June that Macedonian soldiers held back 26 trucks because journalists were in the relief convoy. The guerrillas insisted that journalists be present to witness the restoration of water supplies to Kumanovo from a rebel-held reservoir. Meanwhile, Kumanovo has been without normal water supplies for over one week. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 13 June)
JOURNALISTS FROM MOLDOVA AND TRANSDNIESTER DISCUSS COOPERATION.
Representatives of news organizations from the Moldovan capital Chisinau and Tiraspol, the capital of the breakaway Transdniester Republic, met on 14 June to discuss possibilities of increasing professional exchanges. The meeting was organized by the Moldovan Journalists' Union (UJM) and the Independent Journalism Center. Vasile Sturza, special representative of the Moldovan president at talks with Transdniester, who was present at the meeting, said that the boost to cooperation between media professionals from the two sides is likely to provide an impetus to top-level negotiations on the future status of Transdniester, reported Infotag. ("Moldova Media News," 18 June)JOURNALISTS PROTEST PRESS FREEDOM VIOLATIONS.
Six Moldovan journalists' groups protested on 4 June what they called "violation of the right for diverse opinions" on the state TV channel. The Independent Journalism Center, the Committee for Press Freedom, the Moldovan Journalists' Union, the Associations of Independent Press and of Electronic Media, and the Center for Promotion of Freedom of Expression issued the protest after the news director of TV Moldova banned the airing of Press Club, a monthly program on domestic media issues. "The program is no longer in line with the guidelines governing the activities of the state broadcaster," said the TV news director, explaining his decision to ban the show only hours before broadcast. The program had reports on this year's Press Freedom Week, a conference on defamation, a meeting of journalists with non-parliamentary parties, and a debate on human interest reporting in Moldova, reported Interlic. ("Moldova Media News," 18 June)PARLIAMENT REJECTS PROPOSAL FOR PUBLIC BROADCASTER.
On 1 June, the parliamentary Commission on Culture, Science, Education, and Mass Media rejected a draft law which provided for the transformation of the state company Teleradio-Moldova into a public broadcaster. Under the proposed law, the amount of state financing would have been limited to the resources needed to retransmit radio and TV programs. The draft, which received a positive review from the Council of Europe, would have introduced an obligatory tax for owners of TV sets to supplement the company's budget. At present, the activities of Teleradio-Moldova are regulated by the 1995 Broadcast Law which defines the company as a "public institution," which is largely state-funded and the company chairman is appointed by parliament, reported Curier Media. (Moldova Media News, 18 June)MOLDOVAN STATE BROADCASTER TO COOPERATE WITH TRANSDNIESTER.
On 1 June, the state Teleradio-Moldova announced plans to extend cooperation with TV and radio companies in the breakaway Transdniester Republic. Soon, Teleradio will start rebroadcasting shows produced in the Transdniester capital Tiraspol, reported Curier Media. (Moldova Media News, 18 June)GAGAUZ JOURNALISTS FORM UNION.
Journalists from the Gagauz autonomous area in Moldova created their own union in May. According to Petru Ilaniji, chairman of the new union, its main goal is to bring together journalists writing in the Gagauz language, ensure revival of Gagauz national awareness and improve working conditions. The Gagauz journalists' union was created as a regional chapter of Moldovan Journalists' Union. (Moldova Media News, 18 June)
LAWMAKERS ACCUSE TELEVISION OF POLITICAL BIAS.
A group of 80 legislators from the Solidarity Electoral Action of the Right, Law and Justice, and Civic Platform electoral committees have accused Polish Television of meddling in the ongoing election campaign, Polish Radio reported on 20 June. The legislators demand in a written statement that the Polish Television Program and Supervisory Council explain its "shocking decision" to air a documentary accusing Justice Minister Lech Kaczynski of involvement in a financial scandal. PAP reported the same day that the board of the Association of Polish Journalists in Polish Television said the documentary testifies to the fact that public television is being used for "political manipulation." (RFE/RL Newsline, 21 June)JUSTICE MINISTER, HIS BROTHER TO SUE TELEVISION FOR SLANDER.
Justice Minister Lech Kaczynski and his twin brother Jaroslaw Kaczynski plan to sue Polish Television for a feature alleging that their former party, the Center Alliance, received some $600,000 from the Foreign Debt Servicing Fund (FOZZ), Polish media reported on 18 June. Lech Kaczynski said the feature, which was broadcast in prime time on 17 June, was "an exceptionally perfidious manipulation" in the run-up to the 23 September parliamentary elections. Lech Kaczynski, who has become very popular in the post of justice minister, formed the Law and Justice election committee along with his brother. According to Polish media, the FOZZ case is the largest financial scandal in post-communist Poland. Prosecutors suspect that FOZZ, which employed many communist-era secret service officers, embezzled some 354 million zlotys ($89 million) from the state in the early 1990s. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June)
'SOVETSKAYA ROSSIYA' JOURNALIST VICTIM OF KNIFE ATTACK.
"Sovetskaya Rossiya" journalist Aleksandr Frolov was hospitalized on 19 June following a knife attack by an unidentified assailant, Interfax reported. A criminal investigation has been launched. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June)DUMA REJECTS LIMITS ON FOREIGN MEDIA OWNERSHIP.
Reuters reported that on 21 June the Duma voted down the second reading of a draft law which would set limits on foreign interests in Russia's main TV stations. During three votes, the bill failed to win the needed approval of 226 deputies in the 450-seat State Duma. The rejected bill would have barred foreigners from setting up Russian TV stations which reach more than half of the country's territory and also limited to 50 percent shares held by foreigners, stateless persons or those with dual nationality. Communist deputies rejected the bill on the basis that its provisions should be extended to other media and foreign participation limited to 30 percent. Liberal members said the rules were too restrictive. The bill will now be turned over to a Duma committee for redrafting and will probably be resubmitted later this year. (Reuters, 21 June)SCANDINAVIANS INVESTING IN RUSSIAN PRESS.
Ogvind Nordsletten, Norway's ambassador in Moscow, told RIA-Novosti on 16 June that Norwegian and Swedish firms are preparing to invest in "Izvestiya," "Komsomolskaya pravda," and other Russian press outlets. He noted that Sweden's Modern Times Group has already purchased 75 percent of the shares in Moscow's Daryal-TV. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June)REPORTERS SANS FRONTIERES SAYS RUSSIA AN ENEMY OF PRESS FREEDOM.
Speaking in Moscow, Robert Menard, the secretary-general of Reporters sans Frontieres, said that "Russia is on our organization's list of countries which are enemies of press freedom," Ekho Moskvy radio reported on 14 June. At a press conference on 15 June, Menard said that "with the coming to power of President Putin, our organization has seen a worsening in the situation of press freedom in Russia." Among the officials who are the worst enemies of the press, Menard named Media Minister Mikhail Lesin, who he said is "an advertising monopolist on state television channels." That makes him the Russian "[Silvio] Berlusconi, albeit of a smaller caliber" than the Italian prime minister. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June)VIEWERS TURNING FROM NTV TO TV-6.
Between the beginning of April and the end of May, Muscovites changed their television viewing habits, according to polls conducted by Gallup Media and reported by Interfax on 16 June. The number of people watching television fell about 10 percent over that period. Moreover, the percent watching NTV fell from 19 to 13 percent, while the percent watching TV-6 rose from 7.4 percent to 10.9 percent. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June)PROSECUTORS AGAIN SUMMON TV-6 DIRECTOR.
The Prosecutor-General's Office on 20 June called Arkadii Patarkatsishvilii, the chairman of the director's council of TV-6, for questioning and said that if he does not appear within a week's time, prosecutors may seek his arrest, Russian agencies reported. Investigators want to question him in connection with the flight of Nikolai Glushkov, who had been arrested for crimes committed while he was first deputy general director of Aeroflot. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June)PUTIN LASHES OUT AT GAZPROM, GUSINSKY.
Putin said on 19 June that Gazprom has misspent "enormous sums," and called on its new head, Aleksei Miller, to make the firm more transparent, Russian and Western agencies reported. Putin said that Miller should not focus on tracking down lost funds because "this should be looked at by law-enforcement agencies." Putin also said that embattled media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky "received a billion and does not intend to pay it back." Instead, Putin remarked, Gusinsky is "running between Israel and Washington and buys groups of influence in the United States to carry out actions against us." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June)BEREZOVSKY, GUSINSKY SPEAK ON MEDIA'S ROLE.
In a documentary film on the development of the Russian media over the last decade, two embattled media magnates describe how they view the role of the press in their country, Interfax reported on 14 June. Berezovsky said that he "never in the course of the decade viewed the mass media as a business." Instead, he said he considered it "a powerful lever of political influence," one that would promote political reforms. Vladimir Gusinsky for his part said that in 1996 the Russian government suddenly realized that the media could be a political weapon. "But as soon as [the government] used it as a weapon, we began to die. There remain only means of agitation and propaganda which people ceased to believe. And they began to listen to the Voice of America at night." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June)YELTSIN DISMISSES REPORTS OF HIS FAMILY'S INFLUENCE AS MEDIA INVENTIONS.
Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin said on ORT television on 12 June that reports about his family having broad influence over the state and society are "lies and myths" created by the media and his political opponents. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 20 June)COMMUNISTS TURN TO REGIONAL TV WITH STORY OF LAND CODE SESSION.
Deputy (Communist) Ivan Melnikov, who heads the Duma Committee on Science and Education, told Interfax on 19 June that the Moscow media distorted the nature of the Communist protest against the adoption of the land legislation on 15 June and that to set the record straight his party has been forced to prepare a 20-minute television program that it is sending to regional television outlets for distribution. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June)OSTANKINO FIRE BLAMED ON BUILDERS.
Investigators looking into the causes of the 27 August 2000 fire that damaged the Ostankino television tower in Moscow have concluded that several of those involved in building the tower are criminally liable, Interfax reported. Prosecutors have opened cases against them, the news service said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June)TV BLACKOUT IMPOSED IN FAR EAST REGION.
Kamchatskenergo again cut off electricity supplies to the regional television and radio transmission center in Kamchatka Oblast on 19 June, but this time local television broadcasts plus those of countrywide television channels were also affected. As a result, residents were forced to rely on newspapers and two local radio stations for their news, ITAR-TASS reported. According to a press release from Kamchatskenergo, the transmission center has an unpaid debt of some 2 million rubles ($68,650) for electricity supplied in May and June. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June)PASKO TRIAL DELAYED AGAIN...
The new trial of military journalist Grigorii Pasko was postponed again on 19 June to 11 July, Interfax-Eurasia reported. According to the agency, the chairman of the court refused to explain why the proceedings have been postponed for the third time. The first postponement occurred when neither the judge nor the prosecutor showed up for the proceedings, and the second time, the judge complained that he was ill. Pasko faces charges of state treason for having disclosed information about the hazardous environmental practices of the Pacific Fleet. He was first arrested in 1997 and was acquitted of charges of treason in 1999. However, last November, the Supreme Court ordered him to face a new trial. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June)...AS DARKIN HEARING ALSO POSTPONED.
Also in Vladivostok, a hearing in the case against newly elected Primorskii Krai Governor Sergei Darkin was postponed from 19 June to 21 June, Interfax-Eurasia reported. Darkin is accused of violating election law by giving an unpaid interview to Ekho Moskvy radio on 30 May. The second round of gubernatorial elections in that region was held on 17 June. The name of Darkin's chief competitor in that race, Viktor Cherepkov, was struck off the ballots just three days before that election when a local court found that similar interviews Cherepkov gave to Ekho Moskvy and NTV constituted an election law violation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June)TWO MEDIA WATCHDOG GROUPS TO AFFILIATE.
On 15 June, the international human rights organization Reporters sans Frontieres and the Glasnost Defense Foundation conducted a joint press conference to announced a plan to open an affiliation of the Reporters sans Frontieres in Russian Federation in affiliation with the Glasnost Defense Foundation. Reporters sans Frontieres was established in 1985, while the Glasnost Defense Foundation had its tenth anniversary in June. The event was not covered by the state media. See http://www.svoboda.org/archive/hr/freedom/0601/ll.061501-2.shtml or www.rsf.fr (Glasnost Defense Foundation, 18 June)FORMER 'ITOGI' STAFF PREPARES NEW PUBLICATION.
The former staff of "Itogi" is preparing to launch the first edition of a new weekly in September, Interfax reported on 17 June. "Itogi's" former editor in chief, Sergei Parkhomenko, told the agency that everything is proceeding as planned and that the new publication will have approximately 80 pages each week. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June)IRKUTSK OFFICIALS LAMBAST ANTI-SEMITIC PAPER.
An article in the 31 May issue of "Vostochno-Sibirskaya Pravda," the official newspaper of the Irkutsk Oblast administration, sharply criticizes a local anti-Semitic publication called "Russky Vostok" (Russian East) published by the "Vernost" (Fidelity) organization. Although not mentioned in this article, the head of the "Vernost" organization is a deputy in the regional legislature. "Russky Vostok" has a circulation of 7,000 and regularly prints anti-Semitic articles, which, as the article's author points out, are blatantly illegal under laws prohibiting the incitement of ethnic hatred. For more, see http://www.fsumonitor.com. (Union of Councils for Soviet Jews, 8 June)PETERSBURG HATE PAPER TO BE SHUT?
The Jury of the Union of Journalists has voted to urge the Ministry of the Press to shut down the St. Petersburg paper "Novy Peterburg" due to an article in that paper which incites ethnic hatred, according to an article in 13 June "Versiya." The article in question reported on Jews who supposedly fought on the side of Nazi Germany. (Union of Councils of Soviet Jewry, 17 June)MEDIA MINISTRY PROMOTES RUSSIAN LANGUAGE.
The Media Ministry wants Russians to use their own language correctly and others to learn to use it, Interfax reported on 15 June. To that end, it is distributing funds to regional electronic media outlets, the news service said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June)TELEPHONE RATES UP AND DOWN.
Russian telephone companies plan to raise intercity rates an average of 33 percent as of 1 July, Interfax reported on 19 June. But "Vremya MN" reported on 20 June that Rostelekom is cutting charges for most international telephone calls as of the same date. Changes in these prices are likely to affect both telephone usage and Internet connectivity. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June)54,000 VILLAGES REMAIN WITHOUT TELEPHONES.
According to a report in "Vremya MN" on 15 June, there are approximately 54,000 settlements in Russia that do not have a telephone. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June)WHISKEY FOR PUTIN WEBSITE DESIGN WINNER.
Officials presented a bottle of Jack Daniel's whiskey to the winner of a competition to design the pages of Putin's website www.president.kremlin.ru, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 19 June. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June)INTERNET E-BOOK MARKET LAUNCHED.
Electronic Book, a Russian book company, has announced that it will distribute electronic books via the Internet, "Nezavisimaya gazeta-Ex Libris," No. 11, reported. It will charge from five to 120 rubles for each book sent out online. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June)NOVOSIBIRSK UKRAINIANS COMPLAIN ABOUT RUSSIAN FILM.
The Ukrainian National Cultural Autonomy of Novosibirsk Oblast has appealed to Putin and other Russian officials to prevent the showing of the film "Brat-2," which they said belittles the national and human worth of ethnic Ukrainians and thus violates the Russian Constitution. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 18 June)MOSCOW HAS NO INFORMATION ABOUT U.S. SUPPORT FOR UKRAINIAN OPPOSITION PRESS.
In response to a Duma inquiry, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it does not have any information that the United States is financing the opposition press in Ukraine, Interfax reported. The ministry said that American and European officials have talked about the creation of a Fund for the Development of Ukrainian Mass Media to which Washington has contributed $750,000. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 June)ZINAIDA SHAKHOVSKAYA BURIED IN PARIS.
Princess Zinaida Shakhovskaya, the longtime editor of the Paris newspaper "Russkaya mysl," and a distinguished essayist and historian, was buried at the St. Genevieve des Bois cemetery outside Paris, "Izvestiya" reported on 14 June. Shakhovskaya, who was born in 1906, fled Russia after the revolution, fought in the French Resistance, was in Moscow in the 1950s with her Belgian diplomat husband, and worked in French state radio during a career spanning more than 60 years. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June)
TADIC: LEVEL PLAYING FIELD FOR ELECTRONIC MEDIA.
Allocation of national frequencies for the electronic media will be the same as those for local and regional frequencies, federal Telecommunications Minister Boris Tadic told the Belgrade press on 9 June. Allocation criteria will include program orientation, the staff's professional qualifications, proper documents, the quality of technical equipment, adequate premises, and secure financial backing, Tadic said. In response to journalists' comments that only those media outlets which had been in privileged positions during the last decade would be able to ensure such conditions for themselves, Tadic replied that he "completely" agreed with those who demanded a fair process, but also claimed that it was not up to his ministry to ensure that all media start with a level playing field. He asserted it was up to the Treasury or the Ministry of Internal Affairs which are "authorized to...put those media back to the starting line" and "invited" them to take part in the process. ("ANEM Media Update," 9-15 June)MEDIA TO BE REIMBURSED FOR INFORMATION ACT FINES.
The Serbian government had prepared a fund from which money paid as fines to the former regime under the now-repealed Information Act will be reimbursed on 18 June, the Serbian finance minister said on 13 June on the Radio Television Serbia program "Pitajte Vladu" (Ask the Government). ("ANEM Media Update," 9-15 June)SERBIAN STATE TV EDITOR GOES ON STRIKE.
On 11 June, an editor at Radio Television of Serbia (RTS) went on strike to protest that "nothing had changed" at state-run television since 5 November. As he told Radio B92, he is protesting because people who are members of the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) and Yugoslav Left (JUL) are still employed at RTS and even edit some programs. New RTS Director Aleksandar Crkvenjakov told Radio B92 that during the next week openings for positions in all the editing boards would be announced, and so staff could choose their superiors. ("ANEM Media Update," 9-15 June)TANJUG TO BE 'RESTRUCTURED.'
The federal government has appointed a commission to prepare a proposal on the restructuring of the state-run news agency Tanjug, Beta reported on 18 June. The commission will be headed by Deputy Information Minister Vlatko Vujovic and consist of prominent government and Tanjug officials. Tanjug dates back to the early days of the rule of Josip Broz Tito as the government's news agency. In more recent years, it became a mouthpiece of Milosevic. It is not clear whether Tanjug will remain a state news agency or be privatized. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June)FIRST PRIVATE ALBANIAN-LANGUAGE RADIO STATION.
The first private Albanian-language radio station began broadcasting a test program in Bujanovac in southern Serbia on 10 June. Radio station Toni is owned by Jeton Ismaili, who is a journalist at the local newspaper "Jehona" and Radio Deutche Welle correspondent. Ismaili said that this radio station would soon start broadcasting a twenty-four hour musical and entertainment program, and that later on it would start broadcasting news programs as well. Two months ago in Presevo, the state-run radio station Radio Presevo, which also broadcasts in Albanian, began a test program. ("ANEM Media Update," 9-15 June)JOURNALISM AWARDS.
The daily newspaper "Danas" presented an award for journalistic courage and special achievements in investigative and analytical reporting on 8 June to Vranje Radoman Iric, a Radio B92 and Radio Free Europe correspondent, and Belgrade journalist Petar Lukovic. During the "Danas" award ceremony, its editor in chief praised Iric's reporting on the southern Serbia crisis and on "crimes perpetrated by both sides," B92 reported. ("ANEM Media Update," 9-15 June)
RETAIL SALES OF BIBLE TO BE BANNED.
A Turkmen government agency informed bookstores in March that the Bible may no longer be offered for sale in either the Russian or Turkmen, Keston News Service reported on 20 June. The Koran reportedly is still freely available. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June)
JOURNALIST CONVICTED OF DEFAMATION.
In an 18 June letter to Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) strongly protested the recent conviction of Oleg Liachko, editor of the independent Kyiv weekly "Svoboda", on defamation charges. On 7 June, Liachko was found guilty by the Minsk District Court in Kyiv of defaming former Prime Minister Vasyl Durdynets and General Ivan Hryhorenko, the head of the Interior Affairs Administration for the Odessa Region. The verdict came almost four years after charges were first filed and after an earlier trial ended in acquittal. According to CPJ sources in Kyiv, Liachko was given a two-year suspended sentence and barred from all journalistic activities for the length of his two-year sentence. According to CPJ, the verdict was a form of retribution for Liachko's critical reporting on official corruption and sets a negative precedent for other independent journalists who have endured years of official harassment. The Prosecutor-General's Office had originally filed defamation charges against Liachko in July 1997 following the June publication in the independent weekly "Polityka" of articles in which Liachko criticized the then prime minister, General Vasyl Durdynets, and the Interior Ministry chief for the Odessa Oblast, General Hryhorenko. Almost a year later, in June 1998, Liachko was formally charged with defamation under Section 2 of Article 125 of the Ukrainian Penal Code. In November, the case was finally submitted to Kyiv's Pecherskyy District Court. On 23 December, Judge Mykola Zamkovenko acquitted Liachko on the defamation charges, after determining that his articles had not violated Ukraine's mass media laws. Liachko's travails did not end; in November 2000, the Kyiv Municipal Court nullified Judge Zamkovenko's acquittal and sent the case to the Minsk District Court in Kyiv for a retrial, resulting in the 7 June verdict against Liachko. (Committee to Protect Journalists, 19 June)EU PRESIDENT URGES RESPECT FOR PRESS FREEDOMS.
Swedish Prime Minister Goeran Persson, who simultaneously presides over the EU, said in Kyiv on 20 June that Ukraine will have to guarantee press freedoms and other democratic standards if it wants closer ties with the West, AP reported. "We want to have growing cooperation and partnership with Ukraine," Persson noted, adding that the EU wants to stimulate its potential future members -- Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia -- to deepen cooperation with Ukraine. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 20 June)
ONLINE UKRAINIAN MEDIA BULLETIN APPEARS.
The first online issue (May 2001) of the European Institute for the Media (EIM) bulletin on media developments in the regions of Ukraine, the "Ukrainian Media Bulletin," was released. The EIM aims to provide media professionals and researchers worldwide with a regular free bulletin on media developments in Ukraine. This bulletin contains information grouped into five categories: media news; media and government; media law; media conferences; and new media technology. Information is provided by EIM correspondents in Ukraine. The 17-page bulletin is produced under the EIM program "Media for Democracy in the CIS (2000-2003)," partly funded by the Commission of the European Union. The bulletin is also produced in Russian or Ukrainian. For more information, contact Svetlana Selyutina, regional director, at: firstname.lastname@example.org. (EIM, 15 June)