10 September 2001, Volume
FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION NETWORK LAUNCHED IN CENTRAL ASIA/CAUCASUS.
A new network, the Central Asia and South Caucasus Freedom of Expression Network (CASCFEN), was launched on 4 September. It will coordinate activities in the interest of freedom of expression and of the press, support for independent media and the rights of journalists. CASCFEN will be composed of the Journalists' Trade Union (JuHi) and the National Committee of International Press Institute of Azerbaijan, the Independent Association of Georgian Journalists, the Media Institute in Georgia, the Public Association of Journalists in Kyrgyzstan, the National Association of Independent Mass Media of Tajikistan, and the Union of Independent Journalists of Uzbekistan. The fledgling network's headquarters will be located in Baku, Azerbaijan, where JuHi will coordinate its activities. CASCFEN will also use the JuHi website to place materials on the Internet. Participating organizations will use the network to exchange information, support members' initiatives, and lobby at an international level. Network organizers plan to work with other international groups, such as the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), the Council of Europe, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). For more information on CASCFEN, visit JuHi at http://www.juhiaz.org. (FSUMedia Mailing List, 4 September)LENIN LIBRARY'S VERY SPECIAL HOLDINGS.
Russia's Lenin Library -- one of the world's largest with some 42 million items -- has three more previously secret archives, "The New York Times" reported. These collections, now open, include an erotica archive with some 11,000 items; extensive holdings of Russian emigre literature with 700,000 books, journals, newspapers, and other documents; and foreign-language items which the Kremlin deemed unacceptable for Soviet citizens. ("The New York Times," 5 September)
TRIAL AGAINST PAPER CONTINUES.
Court proceedings in the libel suit against the regional "Ararat" newspaper continued on 5 September. During its 31 August session, the court had determined the issues that the plaintiff, Marineh Gabrielian, wants the newspaper to retract: that an Azerbaijani prisoner of war who was kept in Gabrielian's house in 1993 was later sold to his own family (allegedly for $25,000). This information, given in a letter by 115 residents of Khachpar Village and published by "Ararat" newspaper, is denied by the plaintiff. The defendant, "Ararat" Editor-in-Chief Karineh Ashughian, cited the villagers' signatures and their evidence and refuses to publish a retraction. Court sessions on 3 and 5 September were devoted to determining the validity of the published information, and those who had signed the letter were summoned as witnesses. All insisted that the information in the letter was correct. Meanwhile, the editor-in-chief asked that the proceedings be halted and the case transferred to the prosecutor's office for investigation -- particularly allegations relating to the Azerbaijani prisoner of war. (Yerevan Press Club Newsletter, 1-7 September)BROADCASTERS LICENSING COMPLETED.
The National Commission on Television and Radio (NCTR) granted broadcast licenses to another 13 TV and radio companies on 5 September. Under Armenian broadcast law, licenses must be granted within 10 days of a decision and the fulfilling of procedural requirements. Thus, the re-licensing process of private broadcasters that started on 2 August was completed. As Yerevan Press Club was told by NCTR Chairman Grigor Amalian, applications for the licenses were filed by 40 of 42 previously licensed TV and radio companies, with the exception of "Lori-Vanadzor" radio and Spitak TV. Thirty-eight were re-licensed while two stations were rejected: joint-stock companies AATV and the Republican Center of Cable Television Systems. According to the NCTR chairman, those requests were denied because the enterprises were licensed only to build and maintain cable broadcasting systems but not to broadcast and produce. (Yerevan Press Club Newsletter, 1-7 September)THREE TYPES OF BROADCAST LICENSES.
The procedure for licensing the production of TV and radio programs was published on 5 September. By law, license applications must be submitted to the National Commission within 30 days after publication. The law stipulates the granting of three types of licenses: production (with no expiration); broadcasting; and production and broadcasting. (Yerevan Press Club Newsletter, 1-7 September)SOVIET OFFICIALS STOLE EROTICA FROM CLOSED COLLECTION IN LENIN LIBRARY.
The "International Herald Tribune" on 6 September reported on the unveiling of the Russian State Library's Soviet-era collection of erotica. The supervisor of this section of the library, Marina Chestnykh, told the paper that "sex didn't exist in the Soviet Union" and consequently the collection was closed to all but the most senior party officials. She said that they liked to visit the collection and sometimes carried away a postcard or two. "It was theft, of course," Chestnykh said. "But how could a librarian stop them? They were party officials." (RFE/RL Newsline, 7 September)BAKU COURT ORDERS CLOSURE OF PAPER...
Baku's Nizami district court ruled on 4 September that independent newspaper "Bakinskii bulvard" must cease publication. It also fined the paper's founder, editor-in-chief, and a journalist 80 million manats ($17,090) each for slandering Mayor Hajibala Abutalibov, Turan news agency reported. Abutalibov had taken issue with an article in June criticizing what the paper termed the illegal demolition of streetside stalls in the capital. (RFE/RL Newsline, 5 September)...AND OPPOSITION PROTESTS.
The opposition Adalet and Musavat parties have issued statements condemning a district-court ruling against independent newspaper "Bakinskii bulvard" as politically motivated and a violation of the principle of freedom of the press, Turan reported on 6 September. The court ordered that the paper cease publication. Also on 6 September, two Baku district courts warned publishing houses and distribution networks not to print or distribute any further copies of "Bakinskii bulvard." (RFE/RL Newsline, 7 September)PRESS SUFFERS UNDER GOVERNMENT RESTRICTIONS.
According to a news briefing on press conditions in Azerbaijan released on 4 September by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), President Heydar Aliyev's government is using an arsenal of questionable methods -- including defamation laws, cumbersome regulations, and selective government subsidies -- to quash public criticism. Ever since Aliyev became president of the oil-rich Caspian nation in 1993, he has presented himself as a politician committed to democracy and press freedom. Yet a recent government campaign against independent media outlets, combined with new regulations requiring newspapers to use the Latin alphabet rather than Cyrillic, have burdened the already-struggling independent Azerbaijani press. For more information, visit www.cpj.org. (Committee to Protect Journalists, 4 September)BOOK SALES DROP MORE THAN 90 PERCENT IN TWO YEARS.
According to Baku's "Express," book sales in Azerbaijan have dropped massively over the past two years. Moreover, the paper said, the average person in the country spends only 500 manats ($0.11) on books each year. (RFE/RL Newsline, 31 August)
MEDIA CAMPAIGN TO RE-ELECT LUKASHENKA.
Article 19, the Global Campaign for Free Expression, on 6 September launched "The Mechanics of Repression:Presidential Election Update," a follow-up to a May 2001 report on freedom of expression surrounding the October 2000 parliamentary elections. On the eve of the 9 September presidential elections, the report alleges a full-scale state-sponsored assault on independent voices in the country in order to guarantee re-election for the incumbent, Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Since May, Article 19 claims, the pattern of media repression has intensified with non-state newspapers subject to repeated tax and financial inspections, warnings, thefts of essential equipment and seizures of text. This approach has been coupled with severely limited access of opposition candidates to state-owned media, the group argues. (Article 19 Press Release, 6 September)LUKASHENKA INSPECTS MILITARY EXERCISES, DECRIES U.S. 'INFORMATION PRESSURE.'
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who turned 47 on 30 August, spent his birthday inspecting and watching over Belarus's largest military exercises in the post-Soviet era, which are being held in Hrodna Oblast. "The exercise scenario has been made maximally close to the real scenario of hostilities. The present war, as Yugoslavia's experience shows, is a blitzkrieg operation with a serious information effort to prepare international opinion," Belarusian Television reported. Lukashenka reportedly told Belarusian commanders from which direction they might expect hostile information inflows. "Today we have elements of information pressure on Belarus, beginning with these minor statements by Radio Liberty, and so on, up to political statements like [U.S.] Secretary of State [Colin] Powell's message [on Belarus's 10th anniversary of independence]," the Belarusian president noted. (RFE/RL Newsline, 31 August)KGB LOOKS FOR ITS OFFICER LINKED TO VIDEOTAPE.
The KGB has launched an official search for officer Henadz Uhlyanitsa, who has been considered missing since 27 August, Belapan reported on 30 August, quoting KGB spokesman Fyodar Kotau. Uhlyanitsa was last seen hours before the release of a videotape on which a man claiming to be him alleged government involvement in the disappearance of Belarusian opposition politician Viktar Hanchar. The KGB refused to acknowledge the man on the tape is Uhlyanitsa. Kotau said he doubts that Uhlyanitsa disappeared voluntarily and is inclined to think that "something wrong has happened" to him. Meanwhile, the opposition Youth Front has suggested that the videotape may be a provocation to discredit all previous revelations about the complicity of top officials in the disappearances of opposition figures in Belarus. (RFE/RL Newsline, 31 August)
COMMUNIST JOURNALIST INDICTED.
David Pecha, the editor of the ultra-leftist magazine "Pochoden" (Torch) has been indicted for "supporting a movement aimed at suppressing the rights and freedoms of citizens," Reuters and AP reported on 4 September. In the last two years Pecha has published at least 11 articles demanding the return of communism through "revolutionary means" and has called for "the destruction of the entire capitalist system." Prosecutor Jaroslav Horak of Sumperk said Pecha was not indicted for his political beliefs, but for having called for implementing them by violent means. Horak said the offense carries a sentence of up to eight years in prison but added that he will seek a suspended sentence. (RFE/RL Newsline, 5 September)IN RETIREMENT, CZECH PRESIDENT TO RETURN TO WRITING.
Vaclav Havel on 29 August told journalists in Prague that after his mandate ends in early 2003 he intends to "return to my old love -- writing," AP reported. Havel said his next book will be "something between [former U.S. Secretary of State] Henry Kissinger and [U.S. underground poet and novelist] Charles Bukowski." He said the book is not going to be "serious memoirs" but rather "a series of loose personal reflections." He said that after 2003 he intends to "withdraw from public life as much as possible and catch up with lost time in reading, studying, and writing." However, he added, "I may still consider speaking my mind on human rights issues or similar things if I am asked to do so, but not on politics." He said that "looking back" at the year 1989 from the perspective of what he knows now, "I would have done quite a few things differently." As for the world at large, "I do not condemn it, it's just that sometimes I do not understand it," Havel said. (RFE/RL Newsline, 30 August)
CABINET OK'S FORMATION OF NATIONAL BROADCASTING COMPANY.
The cabinet on 20 August endorsed a bill under which state-owned Estonian Television and Estonian Radio would be combined into Eesti Rahvusringhaaling (Estonian National Broadcasting Company), BNS reported. The proposed merger is expected to reduce expenses as there will be a single management and more flexible utilization of funds. The law would not allow advertisements to be broadcast on the public television station, which would be financed in part by charging fees for broadcast permits issued to private television stations. The law must still be approved by parliament. (RFE/RL Baltic States Report, 6 September)
JOURNALISTS GROUP PROTESTS VIOLENCE.
The Independent Association of Georgian Journalists expressed "special anxiety" about the media in Georgia. In recent years, violent incidents against reporters have not been resolved. The recent murder of journalist Giorgija Sanaja "confirms the catastrophic situation in which the Georgian media are forced to work," the group said. The results of the investigation "deprive us of any hope that Sanaja's murderer will be punished," particularly since the investigation is being conducted by some of the same people who allegedly "exposed the journalists to aggression," including Venedi Benidze, assistant to the general public prosecutor who two years ago threatened to kill a journalist, it said. Despite numerous protests to the Office of the Public Prosecutor and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the situation has not changed since these officials ignore journalists who, in their opinion, support reform elements in Georgia. Therefore, there is possible political motivation behind the violence against journalists, they said. The Independent Association of Georgian Journalists called on international organizations and journalists associations to express their support to media workers in Georgia and demand that the Georgian government take radical measures on journalists' safety. For more, email: email@example.com. (Independent Association of Georgian Journalists, 6 September)
OPPOSITION CALLS MIEP ARTICLE 'FASCIST.'
Free Democratic Party Deputy Gabor Fodor on 6 September said an article written by extremist Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP) Deputy Chairman Lorant Hegedus Jr. is "fascist." The article, published in a MIEP magazine in Budapest's 16th district, said a Christian Hungarian state would have deflected the devastation by the Tatars and Turks, as well as the Habsburg rule, if "a horde of vagabonds from Galicia had not entered the country as a result of the 1867 compromise [with the Habsburgs]." In what appears to be a reference to Jews, Hegedus called on Hungarians to "exclude them, otherwise they will do the same with you." Fodor said Prime Minister Viktor Orban encourages such manifestations by not condemning them outright. Magda Kovacs Kosa, the Socialist chairwoman of parliament's human rights committee, labeled the article "hate speech and fascist" and said its publication "should not go unpunished." (RFE/RL Newsline, 7 September)
LAW ON BROADCASTING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGES PROTESTED.
Bizness & Baltija media-group owner Vladimir Gurov has submitted an appeal to the Constitutional Court against the Radio and Television Law provision that limits the use of languages other than Latvian to 25 percent of total daily broadcasting time, BNS reported on 10 August. He claims that the law contradicts the constitution's articles on human rights, freedom of speech, and ethnic minorities' right to preserve and develop their language and culture, as well as the European Convention on Human Rights and Basic Freedoms and the Covenant on Civic and Political Rights. Ojars Rubenis, the chairman of the National Radio and Television Council, asserted that Latvia's audio/visual laws were approved by the European Union and that the European Commission did not object to the restrictions on foreign languages. The Constitutional Court's acting chairman, Romans Apsitis, said that the court panel will review Gurov's claim in the next few weeks and will decide whether a case should be opened. (RFE/RL Baltic States Report, 6 September)
'NEWSWEEK' APPEARS IN POLISH.
The inaugural issue of the Polish-language version of U.S.-based "Newsweek" magazine hit Polish newsstands on 3 September, focusing its cover story on Poland's financial woes, AP reported. "Newsweek Polska" is the fifth foreign-language version of "Newsweek," following editions in Japanese, Korean, Spanish, and Arabic. "Newsweek Polska" is being published by German media group Axel Springer, which now has 16 magazines in Poland. A staff of 50 working under Editor in Chief Tomasz Wroblewski will report on Polish topics, and will also draw from "Newsweek" reports from around the world. (RFE/RL Newsline, 4 September)
PREMIER SAYS NO CHANGE FOR TELEVISION COUNCIL.
Premier Adrian Nastase on 3 September told a forum of the Party of Social Democracy (PSD) leadership that the cabinet has decided to leave unchanged the makeup of the Television Council Board, which was appointed by the previous government. Nastase said that experience has proved that "collaboration with the incumbent board is possible" and that changing the board's structure before its mandate runs out next year will "unwarrantedly produce [political] waves." He said some PSD leadership members are dissatisfied with television coverage of their party, but "so are probably other parties and I do not believe the television as such is subservient to any single formation." (RFE/RL Newsline, 4 September)
In a "New York Review of Books" article on Russian President Vladimir Putin, a Russian human rights activist and parliamentarian, Sergei Kovalev, highlighted Putin's campaign to seize control of Media Most -- the destruction of NTV, "Itogi," and "Segodnya" -- as one of his two "notable actions." (The other action being the second Chechen war, "which has proved every bit as criminal, bloody and hopeless as the first.") Kovalev notes that "this [media] campaign revealed the dim-witted vengefulness of the people who make up the 'brain' of Putin's team, not to mention the Soviet and Chekist mentality of the president himself." Common to both the Chechen and the anti-media campaign, according to Kovalev, are "literacy in legal matters" and deliberately misleading the public via official rhetoric. ("The New York Review of Books, 9 August)ONE RUSSIAN IN THREE DOES NOT READ BOOKS.
According to a survey conducted by VTsIOM and reported by "Kommersant-Daily" on 5 September, Russians spend a smaller percentage of their free time reading books than Americans -- and that one in three Russians does not read any books at all. A decade ago, strana.ru reported the same day, only one Russian in six did not read books. "Kommersant-Daily" noted that for the last decade, the total print runs of books have fallen by 75 percent and of newspapers by almost 70 percent. (RFE/RL Newsline, 7 September)SEVEN IN 10 BACK STATE CONTROLS OVER MEDIA.
In a poll conducted by the ROMIR organization and reported in "Profil" on 27 August, 71.9 percent of Russians said that "on the whole" it is necessary to introduce control over media reporting. Only 22.1 percent opposed such controls. (RFE/RL Newsline, 4 September)GOVERNMENT WANTS TO END MEDIA TAX BREAKS.
As of 2002, the government plans to do away with special tax exemptions and other benefits that the media have enjoyed, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 29 August. If the government succeeds in pushing this measure through the Duma, the paper said, it will lead to the collapse of many of the country's newspapers and journals. (RFE/RL Security Watch, 3 September)TATARSTAN JOURNALISTS CALL FOR KEEPING TAX BREAKS FOR MEDIA.
Interfax-Eurasia reported on 6 September that the leadership of the Union of Journalists of Tatarstan and the editors of nine major papers and journals there have sent a letter to the republic's government urging that it work to preserve the tax breaks that media outlets now receive. If these breaks are taken away, the authors of the appeal said, prices for newspapers and journals will rise by 60-70 percent, fewer people will buy them, and some media outlets will cease to exist. (RFE/RL Newsline, 7 September)YASTRZHEMBSKII WANTS TIGHTER STATE CONTROL OVER MEDIA REPORTS ON CHECHNYA.
Sergei Yastrzhembskii, the Kremlin's spokesman on Chechnya, said on 31 August that many journalists have made poor choices and have included statements by anti-Moscow Chechens in their reports, Russian and Western news services reported. As a result, he said, "the law must regulate this question." He said that the government "must respond to every case" in which journalists violate the rules and report what "bandits" are saying. Yastrzhembskii also condemned the 1996 Khasavyurt accords between Moscow and Chechnya as "treason" and said they will not be repeated. But "Kommersant-Daily" on 31 August carried an interview with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, who said that talks will eventually end the war and that Russia should "summon the courage and arrange a moral Khasavyurt." (RFE/RL Newsline, 4 September)PUTIN NAMES LEFTIST POLITICIAN TO HEAD STATE BROADCASTING SYSTEM.
President Putin on 1 September named Gennadii Sklyar, the current deputy governor of Kaluga Oblast who has longstanding ties to various left-wing groups, to head the Russian Television and Radio Network, ORT television reported. Sklyar began his career during the Soviet era as a Komsomol official in a secret defense telecommunications enterprise. He twice ran unsuccessfully for the Duma, in 1995 as a candidate of the nationalist Congress of Russian Communities and in 1999 as a member of General Andrei Nikolaev's bloc. Sklyar is a frequent contributor to "Sovetskaya Rossiya" and "Pravda," smi.ru reported on 3 September. (RFE/RL Newsline, 5 September)ORT ANNOUNCES NEW PRO-KREMLIN PROGRAM.
The Russian television network ORT plans to launch a special analytical program on 1 September, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 23 August. The program, to be called "Curfew," will be hosted by a number of well-known journalists loyal to the Kremlin, including Mikhail Leontiev, Mikhail Sokolov, Aleksandr Nevzorov, and Vitalii Tretyakov. Meanwhile, Tretyakov, who earlier served as editor in chief of "Nezavisimaya gazeta," said in an interview published in "Vremya Novostei" the same day that he has launched a new publishing group that will issue at least nine new independent papers, following the rubrics of the paper he used to head. He stressed that the news operations of these publications will be completely under his control. (RFE/RL Security Watch, 3 September)SHORTAGE OF SATELLITES FORCE DOMESTIC RADIO AND TV TO TURN TO FOREIGN SUPPLIES.
Officials of the National Association of Television and Radio Broadcasters of Russia said on 4 September that a shortage of channel space on Russian satellites is forcing an increasing number of that group's member stations to turn to foreign satellite operators to deliver their programs, Interfax reported. (RFE/RL Newsline, 5 September)NEW TARIFF BOARD WON'T CONTROL COMMUNICATIONS CHARGES.
German Gref, the minister for economic development and trade, said that the newly created Unified Tariff Board will control charges for all natural monopolies except telecommunications, "Vremya novostei" reported on 6 September. Gref said that Communications Minister Leonid Reiman, who has the ear of President Vladimir Putin, has succeeded in getting his sector excluded from oversight by the new board. (RFE/RL Newsline, 7 September)GOVERNMENT TV REQUIRES REGIONAL TV CENTERS TO USE ITS LOGO.
Viktoriya Arutyunova, the deputy director of state television channel RTR, announced that, from next month, the channel will require regional television centers that are part of the state television system to use its logo on the air, polit.ru reported on 22 August. (RFE/RL Security Watch, 30 August)TWO MEDIA OUTLETS GO OFF THE AIR.
Mounting debts and wage arrears have forced Moscow's Sport FM radio station to cease broadcasting, Interfax reported on 3 September. Meanwhile, a television station in Lipetsk has gone off the air at least temporarily because of a dispute between its owners and creditors, the news service reported the same day. (RFE/RL Newsline, 4 September)LOCAL TV STATION SHUT DOWN IN LIPETSK.
The All-Russia State Television and Radio Company (VGTRK) turned off transmissions from the Lipetsk television company, TVK, on 3 September, Interfax reported. VGTRK was fulfilling the orders of the federal Media Ministry. The previous week, local police blocked employees from entering company headquarters. According to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 31 August, the TV station was one of the most popular in the oblast, and "people trusted its objective reporting." The newspaper also noted that TVK was one of the few local media outlets critical of Lipetsk Governor Oleg Korolev and concluded that a "cleansing" of local media in advance of April 2002 gubernatorial elections is likely underway. Former TVK General Director Aleksandr Likov told "Kommersant-Daily" the previous day that he has evidence that a shareholders meeting changing the company's leadership took place in the office of Deputy Governor Sergei Dorovskii. (RFE/RL Newsline, 5 September)PRIVATE POLICE RAID LIPETSK TV STATION.
In a letter to Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo, Information Minister Mikhail Lesin and the governor of Lipetsk region, Oleg Korolev, Reporters without Borders (RSF) protested the 30 August 2001 takeover by a private police force of the regional TV station TVK in Lipetsk. According to the RSF, on 30 August the Lipetsk offices of the regional television station TVK were raided by armed men acting on behalf of Energuia, a shareholder company seeking to force a change of management. According to Station Director Alexandre Lykov, a court decision had previously barred Energuia from calling a shareholders meeting, required before any change of management can take place. Under Lykov's leadership, TVK has been critical of Korolev, the regional governor. The station's news programs were not broadcast on 31 August. (Reporters without Borders, 5 September)STRUGGLE OVER LIPETSK STATION CONTINUES.
Journalists at the television company TVK in Lipetsk have refused to vacate the station's premises for a second day in a row, RFE/RL's Lipetsk correspondent reported on 6 September. Earlier, the federal Media Ministry stopped broadcasts from the television station for a 10-day period. The conflict has arisen amid a shareholder battle for a controlling stake in the company. TVK journalists are demanding that the former director of the station, Aleksandr Lykov, be reinstated. They also believe that the struggle over control of the station is linked with upcoming gubernatorial elections. (RFE/RL Newsline, 7 September)NTV SERIES CREATOR SAYS PUTIN ERA RECALLS THAT OF NICHOLAS I.
Leonid Parfenov, the author of a new series of NTV programs about the life of Nicholas I, told Interfax on 2 September that the reign of that tsar had many of the same features as does today's Russia: the construction of a state ideology, the appearance of official art, and the rise of a bureaucracy. (RFE/RL Newsline, 4 September)MOSCOW ETHNOLOGIST BACKS LATINIZATION IN TATARSTAN.
Valerii Tishkov, director of the Moscow Institute of Ethnology, said that Moscow should back the introduction of the Latin script in Tatarstan because that will help anchor the central Volga republic into Europe and reduce the influence of the Muslim East, "Zvezda Povolzhya" reported on 30 August. (RFE/RL Newsline, 4 September)TV CHANNEL AIRS PRO-LUKASHENKA FILM.
Russia's state-run RTR channel on 2 September broadcast a half-hour documentary praising Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. The film, which attempted to portray Lukashenka's human side, showed him having a modest breakfast at his country residence, playing an accordion, describing his fascination with sport and abstinence from alcohol, driving the presidential car himself, reciting poetry, and attempting to sing. "This is a very difficult job [to be a president]. The president has no days off. Neither days nor nights," Lukashenka said in the documentary. (RFE/RL Newsline, 4 September)OSTANKINO TV TOWER TO BE WORLD'S TALLEST AFTER RECONSTRUCTION.
Vladimir Kurochkin, the deputy general director of Russian state television, told Interfax on 24 August that reconstruction of the Ostankino television tower will increase its height to the point where it will be the tallest structure of its kind in the world, Interfax reported. (RFE/RL Security Watch, 3 September)WITNESSES UNDERMINE CHARGES AT KHOLODOV MURDER TRIAL.
Expert witnesses on 28 August told the trial of officers accused of killing journalist Dmitrii Kholodov in 1994 that the explosive device used in that case did not contain materials from military stores, Interfax reported. That assertion undermines charges against defendant Colonel Pavel Popovskikh and five of his colleagues, who stand accused of plotting to kill Kholodov because of the journalist's writings about corruption in the military. (RFE/RL Security Watch, 3 September)MEDIA UNION EXPECTS TO GAIN REGISTRATION THIS YEAR.
Aleksandr Lyubimov, the president of Mediasoyuz, said on 30 August that his organization already enjoys de facto registration with the government and will have de jure registration before the end of 2001, Interfax reported. (RFE/RL Newsline, 31 August)PAVLOVSKII PROMOTES RUSSIAN-UKRAINIAN TIES ON THE INTERNET.
Gleb Pavlovskii, who serves as President Putin's media adviser, has launched a new Internet site, Ukraine.ru, to promote Russian-Ukrainian relations, Internet.ru reported on 23 August. On its opening page, Pavlovskii said that his main goal is to inform Russians about developments in Ukraine where, he said, "Putin is even more popular than in Russia." He added that Putin wants both countries to be part of a "united Europe" but not become "copies of the West." He said his site will also seek to overcome obstacles to this among many Ukrainians: the notion of some in the Ukrainian elite that Russia remains a threat and that Ukraine can join Europe without Russia. (RFE/RL Security Watch, 3 September)MOSCOW SAYS IT IS WATCHING COMPUTER TRIAL IN U.S. CAREFULLY.
The Russian Foreign Ministry on 31 August said that it is watching closely the U.S. trial of Russian programmer Dmitrii Sklyarov because of its implications for copyright issues, ITAR-TASS reported. The ministry issued a statement warning Russian programmers traveling abroad about the possibility that they might run afoul of American law. (RFE/RL Newsline, 4 September)RUSSIAN HACKERS PLAN AN 'ELECTRONIC PICKET' TO PROTEST SKLYAROV TRIAL.
A group of Russian programmers told Interfax on 4 September that they plan to set up "an electronic picket" on the Internet in support of Russian programmer Dmitrii Sklyarov, who is facing trial in the U.S. for violating intellectual property laws. The group's leader, Ilya Vasilev, who heads the Civilian School of Hackers, said that "electronic pickets are a new form of struggle in the 21st century." (RFE/RL Newsline, 5 September)RUSSIAN INTERNET USERS OFTEN AVOID PAYING.
According to an article in "The Moscow Times" on 4 September, some 40 percent of Russians who go online do so without paying anyone for it. Some take home access codes from work, others use stolen passwords, and still others hack through the firewalls of servers, the paper said. Such attitudes both reflect and reinforce the reluctance of Russian web users to purchase anything online, it concluded. (RFE/RL Newsline, 5 September)PIRACY PROMPTS JAPANESE INTERNET PROVIDER TO END OPERATIONS IN RUSSIA.
Nifty, Japan's largest Internet service provider, told RIA-Novosti on 6 September that it has ceased operations in 26 Russian cities because of the enormous losses it has sustained as a result of the unauthorized use of its services through illegal connections. The company's spokesman added that Nifty will not resume its operations in Russia until the government succeeds in preventing such piracy. (RFE/RL Newsline, 7 September)FAR-LEFT PARTIES TURN TO INTERNET -- BECAUSE IT'S CHEAPER.
Noting that the Internet is "cheaper than the publication of newspapers," a group of left-wing parties on 31 August announced their intention to create a special Internet site for leftist groups "who are outside the KPRF," Interfax reported. The groups involved in this project include the Russian Communist Workers Party, the National Bolshevik Party, and the Avantgard of Communist Youth. (RFE/RL Newsline, 4 September)SOROS TO END FUNDING FOR PARIS EMIGRE PAPER?
The Open Society Institute, which is supported by international financier and philanthropist George Soros, announced on 4 September that it will no longer provide financial support to the Paris-based "Russkaya mysl" because that paper no longer promotes the free exchange of ideas but rather promotes a single point of view, Interfax reported. Instead, OSI officials said that they plan to create a new journal, "Vestnik Evropy," to promote the free flow of information. But following this report, Irina Krivova, the editor in chief of "Russkaya mysl," denied that Soros or OSI had ever provided the paper any grants or subsidies. (RFE/RL Newsline, 5 September)THICK JOURNALS LARGELY IGNORE THE 1991 COUP ATTEMPT.
According to an article in "Izvestiya" on 30 August, only one of the four Russian "thick" journals devoted much attention to the 10th anniversary of the August 1991 failed coup. That lone journal was "Zvezda." All the others, the paper said, ignored the anniversary despite their reputations of being social-political as well as literary journals. (RFE/RL Newsline, 31 August)PRIME MINISTER CALLS FOR NEW HISTORY TEXTBOOKS.
Mikhail Kasyanov said on 30 August that his government is unhappy with the current contemporary Russian history textbooks now being used in schools and has directed the preparation of new ones before the 2002-2003 school year, Interfax reported. He said that the books now in use address conflicts and corruption but ignore significant accomplishments of recent times, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Institute of Russian History Director Andrei Sakharov said the same day that the government will also reduce the number of texts available and allow only approved textbooks to be used in schools. In a related move, the Enlightenment Publishing House announced that it is developing plans to issue electronic textbooks that can be distributed and modified more easily, the news service reported. (RFE/RL Newsline, 31 August)ANNA AKHMATOVA MUSEUM.
For information on the Anna Akhmatova museum in St. Petersburg, see http://whererussia.com/spb/article?id=1014 (Center for Civil Society International, 1 September)
'MEDIA IN SERBIA: TEN MONTHS ON.'
Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) Chairman Veran Matic said in a press release on 28 August: "One of the first immediately noticeable results of the political changes of 5 October 2000 was the opening up of the state and quasi-state broadcast and print media in Serbia to the representatives of the former opposition bloc and NGO sector. High hopes raised in the aftermath of the October changes - that the media field would be efficiently and swiftly reformed in a just manner, that political influence on the media would be largely eliminated - have nonetheless proved to be overly optimistic." (ANEM Media Update, 25-31 August)ACCOUNTABILITY FOR AGITPROP?
Federal Information Minister Slobodan Orlic began the process of establishing criminal accountability for journalists and editors who disseminated hate speech during the past 10 years. "Only the Association of Journalists of Serbia has established judicial procedures to deal with violations of rules for professional journalists and editors," the assocation's president, Nino Brajovic, told daily "Glas javnosti." Brajovic said that the following journalists -- who used to be prominent editors in the state-run media -- had been expelled: Milorad Komrakov, Goran Matic, Dragan Hadzi-Antic, Zoran Jevdjovic, Dragoljub Milanovic, Dusan Cukic, and Djordje Matic. Expulsion procedures are also continuing against two other journalists. (ANEM Media Update, 25-31 August)SHOULD 'HATE SPEECH' LAW BE REDRAWN?
Association of Jounralists President Nino Brajovic also noted that "the criminal code in its present form contains no mention of hate speech," but only contains provisions on dissemination of religious, racial, and ethnic hatred. "On that grounds everybody should be held responsible, while hate speech is a slightly broader category," Brajovic commented. Brojovic said that he opposed bringing charges against 1,000-2,000 journalists who had worked in the media under the Milosevic regime because he was against the notion of collective guilt. "There will always be some people who will applaud the government, but there should be certain mechanisms which prevent journalists from disseminating hate speech. It is possible to provide the necessary legal provisions against that in the Information Act," Brajovic said, noting that Orlic had at first opposed such a law. (ANEM Media Update, 25-31 August)MINISTER ADVOCATES LEGAL ACCOUNTABILITY FOR HATE SPEECH.
Federal Information Secretary Slobodan Orlic called on professional journalists' associations on 27 August to begin the process of establishing the criminal accountability of certain journalists who "disseminated hate speech" during the past decade. In an interview with FoNet news agency, Orlic said that the journalists' responsibility was not identical to the politicians' responsibility, but that it was evident that both were responsible for disseminating hate speech during the years of armed conflict. (ANEM Media Update, 25-31 August)MILANOVIC TRIAL SET FOR SEPTEMBER.
Legal proceedings against former Radio Television of Serbia (RTS) General Director Dragoljub Milanovic will begin in the Belgrade Second Municipal Court on 13-14 September. Milanovic is accused of allowing 16 employees of state-run television to be killed during a NATO bombing raid on an RTS television building on 23 April 1999. Milanovic, who is in custody, will face the criminal charge of endangering public safety. (ANEM Media Update, 25-31 August)TV KOSAVA JAMMING TV NIS SIGNAL.
Belgrade-based Television Kosava has been jamming the signal of Television Nis for the several days by broadcasting their programs on channel 57, which has been used by this local television station for the past five years, ANEM reported on 28 August. The director of the town's public company, Info Nis, Television Nis' parent company, said that due to TV Kosava's signal-jamming, programs broadcast on TV Nis could only be seen on several streets in the entire city. (ANEM Media Update, 25-31 August)PHOTOGRAPHER BEATEN.
The bodyguards of one of the participants in a shooting incident reportedly assaulted a "Blic" photographer in plain view of policemen, the photographer has alleged. The incident occurred during a police investigation after Slobodan Arambasic and Dusan Trkulja fired shots at each other, wounding Trkulja. Arambasic's bodyguards reportedly punched him in the stomach, ordered him to stop taking photographs, and demanded that he give them his film. None of the police officers did anything to protect the photographer, he told the press afterwards. Some other reporters also had their film taken, and a videocassette was taken from Television Kosava crew, the photographer added. According to unofficial information, Arambasic and Trkulja are co-owners of the betting place Zona srece Radnicki, located at the Sports Club Radnicki in Zvezdara. (ANEM Media Update, 25-31 August)
SON OF SLAIN JOURNALIST CRITICIZES INVESTIGATION...
Oleksiy Aleksandrov, son of slain journalist Ihor Aleksandrov, has written in an open letter that the official investigation into his father's death is inefficient, AP and the "Ukrayinska pravda" website reported on 29 August. Aleksandrov said his father was killed because he was planning to publicize the corruption activities of several local officials in Slavyansk, eastern Ukraine, where he ran a television station before his death. He also said the investigators are trying to cover up the real reason for his father's death, adding that they recently told his mother "in confidence" that his father's attackers mistook the journalist for someone else. Last week, Deputy Prosecutor-General Serhiy Vynohradov said police have arrested one suspect in the case. (RFE/RL Newsline, 30 August)...AND PROSECUTOR-GENERAL SAYS TV JOURNALIST KILLED BY MISTAKE.
Mykhaylo Potebenko on 30 August said that telejournalist Ihor Aleksandrov was killed by mistake, STB Television reported. Potebenko said that Aleksandrov was mistaken for a lawyer with an office in the same building who was the intended victim. Potebenko added that the attackers were told only to beat the lawyer but "they overdid the job." According to the prosecutor-general, "the [arrested] murderer is already giving testimony." Aleksandrov's son has recently cast doubt on the official investigation into his father's death. (RFE/RL Newsline, 31 August)
HEAD OF INDEPENDENT UNION OF JOURNALISTS DETAINED.
Government authorities have detained the president of the Union of Independent Journalists of Uzbekistan (UIJU), Ruslan Sharipov, in response to a series of articles he wrote on human rights violations in the country, according to the Journalists Trade Union of Azerbaijan. Sharipov was detained on 31 August by Kibrayskiy district security officials, who confiscated his passport and journalist accreditation. According to Sharipov, officials suspected him of being involved in terrorist activities. Sharipov's articles included reports on the government's persecution of Muslims, involving imprisonment and torture, a growing trend about which Human Rights Watch (HRW) raised concerns in a memorandum released on 20 August. HRW also notes that sentences of as much as 15 to 20 years in prison have been meted out for such crimes as possessing Islamic literature not published by the government. (FSUMedia Mailing List, 5 September)