2 November 2001, Volume 1, Number 36
INTERNATIONALMEDIA GROUP: CONCERN OVER RUSHED COUNTERTERRORISM LAWS... On 23 October, the world's largest journalism group, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), issued a 25-page report, "Journalism, Civil Liberties And The War on Terrorism." Based on surveys in over 20 countries, the report condemns attempts to manipulate media in the aftermath of 11 September. The IFJ condemns governments that are moving too quickly to pass counterterrorism laws: "In Canada, the United States, Great Britain, Australia, France, Russia and within the European Union, there is a rush to legislate new rules on phone-tapping, police surveillance, encryption technology, detention of migrants, control of the Internet and freedom of movement." "Journalists should be among the first to question politicians who make quick-fix promises in the name of security, particularly when our ability to collect and store information, to protect sources of information, to carry out legitimate inquiry, and to be independent of the policing and security services, are also at risk." (International Federation of Journalists, 23 October)
...AND PROPOSES NEW JOURNALISM PROGRAMS. At an October meeting in Stockholm, the IFJ World Executive Committee adopted a program to support journalists: an international campaign to publicize useful material and guidelines for journalists and media covering the current crisis; The provision of data on the safety of journalists and health and safety matters and to promote risk awareness among media unions; the promotion of tolerance and quality in journalism, to counter prejudice and cultural misunderstanding through various initiatives during 2002, including the launch of five regional prizes for tolerance in journalism and by reinvigorating the International Media Working Group Against Racism and Xenophobia (IMRAX); the promotion of international solidarity among journalists from all cultures and traditions in the current conflict, particularly from the Arab world; international and regional seminars and conferences on war, terrorism and the role of media with the support of appropriate international agencies and press freedom groups. For more, write email@example.com or see http://www.ifj.org/ (International Federation of Journalists, 23 October)
BELARUSMINSK COURT ADJOURNS ORT CAMERAMAN ABDUCTION TRIAL. The Minsk District Court has adjourned the trial of four defendants who are accused of kidnapping ORT cameraman Dzmitry Zavadski and committing some 20 other grave crimes, Belarusian Television reported on 25 October. The trial, which started on 24 October, was adjourned due to the illness of the main suspect, Valery Ihnatovich, who denies his involvement in the kidnapping and has gone on hunger strike in protest. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October)
BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINACHIEF MUFTI SAYS 'THE GUARDIAN,' BULGARIAN MEDIA MUST APOLOGIZE. Chief Mufti Selim Mehmed on 31 October urged "The Guardian" and Bulgarian newspapers that reprinted an article by that British daily to apologize for reporting that Muslim fundamentalists are being trained in the village of Surnitsa, southern Bulgaria, BTA reported. The call was voiced in the local mosque and in the presence of diplomats from the United States, Russia, Turkey, and several Arab countries. The mufti's office organized a tour of the village and of its school, which offers Koran classes to trainees from all over Bulgaria, in an effort to counter the allegations. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November)
NEW NON-NATIONALIST BOSNIAN TV STATION ON THE AIR. Television of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina began broadcasting on two channels on 26 October, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. It replaces the former Television Bosnia and Herzegovina. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October)
BULGARIAGOVERNMENT PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR BOSNIAN TV. The government agreed to provide funds to construct transmitters on Croatian territory to relay programs of Bosnian federal television to areas of Bosnia-Herzegovina with a predominantly Croatian population, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Zagreb on 25 October. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October)
CROATIAN NEWS AGENCY BECOMES PUBLIC. The parliament has passed legislation to transform the state-run news agency Hina into a public institution subject to the same standards and transparency as are public broadcasting stations in EU countries, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported on 26 October. Hina was long regarded as the mouthpiece of the government of the late President Franjo Tudjman. Without state financial support, a Croatian news agency would have little hope of surviving. The new legislation gives Hina the chance to stay afloat free of political meddling. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October)
PARLIAMENT AMENDS MEDIA LAW. The parliament on 25 October amended the Bulgarian Media Law, replacing the current National Council on Radio and Television with an Electronic Media Council, BTA reported. The members of the new council are to be appointed within two weeks by the parliament and by President Petar Stoyanov. The council's prerogatives include the licensing of all radio and television stations broadcasting in Bulgaria and calling tenders for licensing of new broadcasting operations. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October)
CZECH REPUBLICCPJ CRITICIZES GOVERNMENT. The New York-based Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) on 24 October issued a statement criticizing the Czech government over its intention to sue the political weekly "Respekt," CTK reported. The CPJ said the envisaged multiple complaints by ministers against "Respekt" could destroy the weekly financially and Prime Minister Milos Zeman must understand that criticism of cabinet members is at the very core of democratic debate. "Respekt" publisher Karel Schwarzenberg told CTK the same day that the decision to sue the weekly "deviates from the Masaryk tradition" and that "instead of moving toward, say, Belgium, we are moving toward Belarus." In a related development, Petr Bilek, the editor in chief of the weekly "Reflex," said on 24 October that his weekly will appeal a recent decision of a Prague court that "Reflex" must apologize to Karel Brezina, minister without portfolio, for having printed a cartoon rendering of Brezina naked. The cartoon depicted the minister as sex-obsessed. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October)
MORE INTERNATIONAL REACTIONS TO GOVERNMENT'S SUIT AGAINST WEEKLY... Timothy Balding, general director of the World Association of Newspapers, on 25 October denounced Czech Premier Milos Zeman's intention to have each member of the cabinet launch legal action against the weekly "Respekt," CTK reported. He called the intended multiple lawsuits "a totally unacceptable threat to the freedom of the press" and said the action was "completely out of place in a democracy." CTK on 25 October quoted Transparency International representative Brady Clough as saying governments and journalists should struggle together against corruption rather than fight one another. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October)
...SEEMS TO BEAR FRUIT. Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik said on Czech Radio on 25 October that he will not launch a personal lawsuit against "Respekt" but would join one launched by the government collectively, CTK reported. Tvrdik said he did not attend the cabinet meeting that made the decision to launch individual lawsuits by ministers and that if he had been present he would have voted against it. Justice Minister Jaroslav Bures earlier said he will only demand an apology from "Respekt," while Culture Minister Pavel Dostal and Industry and Trade Minister Miroslav Gregr said they support launching a "criminal lawsuit" by the government but will not file individual suits. Also on 25 October, "Respekt" Editor in Chief Petr Holub said he is considering appealing to the Czech Constitutional Court, as he believes the government's decision amounts to an infringement on the freedom of the press. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October)
IPI CONDEMNS CZECH PREMIER OVER 'RESPEKT' AFFAIR... The Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI) wrote to Milos Zeman on 29 October, condemning the threatened multiple lawsuits against the weekly "Respekt," CTK reported. It said the organization "considers the incarceration of journalists as a serious infringement of basic human rights and regards restrictions on journalists as a gross violation of the right to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media, regardless of frontiers, as guaranteed by Article 19 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights." The organization urged Zeman "to ensure that journalists reporting on events in the Czech Republic are allowed to carry out their profession without further harassment." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October)
BALVIN ELECTED NEW CZECH TELEVISION GENERAL DIRECTOR. Jiri Balvin was selected on 31 October by the Czech Television Council to be the next general director of Czech Television, CTK reported. Balvin has filled that position on an interim basis since the crisis at Czech Television that ended in January 2001. He was supported by 10 of the council's 15 members. The appointment is for six years. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November)
U.S. HELSINKI COMMISSION CONCERNED ABOUT 'RESPEKT' AFFAIR. Congressman Christopher Smith, the co-chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, has expressed "concern" over plans by the Czech government to file multiple lawsuits against the weekly "Respekt," CTK reported on 30 October. Smith wrote that "using criminal charges against journalists to punish them for what they write is simply inconsistent with OSCE standards, which the Czech Republic has freely pledged to observe." Even the threat to bring charges "chills free speech, " Smith wrote. He expressed the hope that the government in Prague will reconsider its decision. On 31 October, the World Association of Newspapers asked Prime Minister Milos Zeman in an open letter to do everything in his power to "remove criminal libels from the statute books." The letter was written in connection with the recent sentencing of former "Nove Bruntalsko" Editor in Chief Frantisek Zamecnik to 16 months in prison for libel. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October)
COURT APPROVES SEIZURE OF TV MOGUL'S PROPERTY. A Prague city court on 24 October rejected an appeal by television mogul Vladimir Zelezny of a lower court decision to have Zelezny's property seized in order to finance his 27.1 million crown ($722,590) debt to Central European Media Enterprises (CME), CTK reported. An international arbitration court ruled in February that Zelezny, Nova television's controlling license-holder, must compensate CME for having interrupted cooperation with that company in mid-1999. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October)
GEORGIASECURITY OFFICIALS RAID INDEPENDENT TV STATION... On the morning of 30 October, some 30 National Security Ministry officials forced their way into the premises of the independent Georgian TV station Rustavi-2 and conducted a two-hour search, Reuters reported. National Security Ministry official Malkhaz Salakaya said the raid was prompted by suspicion that the station has withheld some 1 million laris ($480,000) in taxes, but Rustavi-2 General Director Nika Tabatadze said an audit the previous week failed to uncover any irregularities. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October)
...PROVOKING PUBLIC OUTCRY. Parliamentary deputies and NGOs immediately condemned the raid on Rustavi-2's premises as an attempt to silence a media outlet widely respected for its hard-hitting but objective reporting, an accusation the National Security Ministry denied in a statement released later the same day. Hundreds of citizens of Tbilisi congregated at the TV station's headquarters, ready to thwart any further reprisals against it. The parliament's Human Rights Committee met in emergency session to discuss the implications of the raid, which parliament speaker Zurab Zhvania termed an act of political persecution, Reuters and Caucasus Press reported. On 31 October, thousands of people congregated in central Tbilisi to protest the raid against Rustavi-2. They then marched on the parliament building, where the parliament bureau called on Zhvania to ask President Eduard Shevardnadze to convene an emergency parliament session on 1 November. Deputies demanded that Shevardnadze also attend that session. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October)
PRESIDENT DOWNPLAYS DANGER TO FREE SPEECH... In a statement read on Georgian National Television later on 30 October, President Shevardnadze proposed conducting an independent audit of Rustavi-2's finances, and sought to reassure the population that "as long as I remain president, freedom of speech in Georgia will not be in danger," Reuters and Caucasus Press reported. Rustavi-2 President Erosi Kitsmarishvili accused Shevardnadze on 30 October of ordering the raid, recalling that during a conversation in August Shevardnadze had implied that the station was guilty of withholding taxes, Caucasus Press reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October)
...AS PARLIAMENT SPEAKER WARNS OF POSSIBLE COUP... Addressing parliament on 30 October, speaker Zhvania suggested that the move against Rustavi-2 presaged a coup d'etat that would render the parliament superfluous, Caucasus Press reported. He said the struggle against corruption has triggered a counteroffensive aimed against civil society and freedom of speech, according to Reuters. In recent months Zhvania has consistently sought to exert pressure on Shevardnadze by highlighting the latter's apparent inability to counter corruption and impropriety. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October)
...AND MINISTER RESPONSIBLE STEPS DOWN. National Security Minister Kutateladze announced his resignation following a 31 October session of the National Security Council during which Zhvania called on both Kutateladze and Interior Minister Kakha Targamadze to step down, Caucasus Press reported. But parliament Deputy Tedo Paatashvili argued that Kutateladze, being "a professional," could not have acted on his own initiative. Paatashvili said Targamadze and Prosecutor-General Gia Meparishvili should also resign. Rustavi-2 General Director Tabatadze claimed last week that Targamadze had threatened in a telephone conversation to "destroy" the TV station, but later shrugged off that threat as "a joke." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October)
MACEDONIAMULTILINGUAL NEWSPAPER PUBLISHED IN MACEDONIA. In an effort to overcome the isolation and polarization of Macedonia's main ethnic groups, the newspaper "Gostivar Voice" began publication on 22 October with a print-run of 3,500 copies, the Interethnic Project Gostivar said in a press statement. The monthly appears in Albanian, Macedonian, Turkish, and Romany editions. The newspaper has support from local and Dutch non-governmental organizations and from the Dutch government. It will be distributed for free. It raises issues often avoided by some other publications, including drug use, ecology, and the situation of local gays and lesbians. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October)
INFORMATION CHIEF SLAMS MACEDONIAN-LANGUAGE MEDIA. At a press conference that the Skopje daily "Utrinski vesnik" of 27 October described as "scandalous," the ethnic Albanian director of the Macedonian state Agency for Information, Bebi Bexheti, accused ethnic Macedonian journalists of partisan and unjust reporting during the conflict. Bexheti said that most information spread by Macedonian-language media was provided by sources from the Interior Ministry or by party leaderships. Bexheti added that Macedonian-language media did little or nothing to inform the public about the hardships of Albanian refugees, while the fate of Macedonian displaced persons was widely covered. "Instead of building bridges to the Albanians, the Macedonian media present the Albanians as being the reason for all the trouble that happens in this country. Macedonian journalists do not know anything about Albanian culture and life," the daily "Vest" cited Bexheti as saying. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October)
MONTENEGROOPPOSITION BOYCOTTS STATE MEDIA BOARDS. The government has appointed oversight committees for the state-run media, namely Radio-Television Montenegro and the daily "Pobjeda," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 31 October 2001. The opposition Socialist People's Party (SNP) said it will not take part in the committees' work because it does not consider the state-run media to be objective. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November)
RUSSIAGAZPROM-MEDIA CHOOSES NEW LEADERS. Aleksandr Dybal was elected president of the directors council of Gazprom-Media and Boris Jordan was appointed general director of the firm at a stockholders meeting on 25 October, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Gazprom announced that it has chosen a consultant to manage the sale of its media holdings, the news service said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October)
GAZPROM CONFIRMS PLAN TO RESTRUCTURE ITS MEDIA HOLDINGS. Gazprom head Aleksei Miller on 24 October confirmed his firm's plans to restructure its holdings of media shares, Interfax-ANI reported. In an interview published in "Itogi" the same day, Alfred Kokh, who has retired from his past position as head of the directors' council of NTV and head of Gazprom-Media, announced that he will take part in the formation of a consortium that may purchase some of Gazprom's media holdings, Interfax reported. Meanwhile, magnate Boris Berezovsky said he does not intend to sell his holdings in TV-6 to LUKoil or anyone else, the news service reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October)
MORE MOVES ON MEDIA CHESSBOARD. Aleksandr Lyubimov, the head of the Media Union, on 26 October welcomed the decision of the Duma Budget Committee to back away from the elimination of tax benefits for media outlets, Interfax reported. The same day, First Deputy Media Minister Mikhail Seslavinskii called for the most rapid development possible of a new law on television and radio broadcasting, the news service said. Also on 26 October, TV-6 General Director Yevgenii Kiselev said he is certain that there is no legal basis for the liquidation of his company, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 October)
MIRONOV WANTS OMBUDSMAN FOR MEDIA. Oleg Mironov, the human rights ombudsman for the Russian Federation, told journalists on 29 October that he believes there should be a similar official to protect the mass media, RIA-Novosti reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October)
INDEPENDENT MEDIA IN SAKHA UNDER POLITICAL PRESSURE. Officials from a local communications inspectorate on 30 October suspended broadcasts of the independent Viktoriya radio station in Yakutsk, Ren-TV reported. The communications officials claim the suspension was necessary because the station lacks the proper technical documents. In addition, according to Ren-TV, they are trying to get the Media Ministry to pull the station's broadcasting license once and for all. However, station General Director Aleksandr Glotov said the real reason for the suspension is that local authorities are trying to control independent media during the lead-up to 23 December presidential elections. Vyacheslav Zhevalun, the acting general director of a joint-stock company that controls the independent CTC TV station, concurs. He said communications inspectors are conducting inspections more frequently, and have asked that a report about one candidate, Deputy Prosecutor-General Vasilii Kolmogorov, be aired. According to some media outlets, Kolmogorov is the candidate preferred by the Kremlin. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October)
MORE MOVES ON THE MEDIA FRONT. The Duma on 31 October passed on second reading a measure that would free print publications from having to pay sales taxes, Interfax-AFI reported. In an interview published the same day in "Itogi," Presidential adviser Sergei Yastrzhembskii said Russia plans to study American limitations on media reporting about statements of terrorists in order to develop rules for Russian media. Also on 31 October, "The Moscow Times" reported that the Media Ministry is looking into gaining control of the pulp and paper industry to use as an additional lever on the media. Meanwhile, polit.ru reported on 31 October that "Vremya novostei" is going to close after its issue on 2 November. On 19 October, that paper carried an article suggesting the Russian elite does not approve of President Putin's support of the U.S.-led antiterrorist campaign. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November)
LIBERAL NEWSPAPERS INCREASINGLY ANTI-AMERICAN. Writing in the usually liberal "Obshchaya gazeta" on 25 October, Academician Sergei Alekseev said that in his judgment, "the so-called antiterrorist campaign led by the U.S. is in the final analysis directed against Russia." Moreover, Alekseev continued, by joining the antiterrorist coalition, Russia has put its own interests at risk. Meanwhile, Father Mikhail Ardov of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church said in an interview published in "Novaya gazeta" the same day that the 11 September attacks were "an act of providence" to punish the U.S. for "its arrogance and betrayal of Christian civilization." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October)
FIRST RUSSIAN BOOK ON WALLENBERG RELEASED. The first Russian volume on Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Jews from Nazi concentration camps during World War II, will be formally presented on 25 October, Interfax reported on 24 October. The book's author, Lev Bezymenskii, said he had faced a difficult task because "there are simply no documents [available in Russia]: neither investigation records nor protocols of the interrogations" because the KGB kept them classified and away from public view, a position, the Russian security services have maintained. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October)
ANOTHER REGIONAL BROADCASTER GOES OFF THE AIR... Pskovenergo has restricted electricity supplies to the oblast radio and television broadcasting center in a number of raions in the oblast, Interfax-Northwest reported on 24 October. Tatyana Churikova, the deputy director of Energosbyt, an affiliate of Pskovenergo, said the reduction of electricity supplies is due to the center's outstanding 3-million-ruble ($102,000) debt, which has been allowed to accumulate over a period of 10 months. Programs of the ORT, RTR, and the Kultura channel as well as Radio Mayak have been affected by the cuts. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October)
...AS ANOTHER COMES BACK... The same day, broadcasts of ORT, RTR, NTV, and Radio Mayak were resumed in Primorskii Krai after going off the air on 18 October. According to ITAR-TASS, the krai's broadcasting center was given more time to pay its debt to the local electricity supplier Dalenergo. According to RFE/RL's Vladivostok correspondent, Dalenergo officials acknowledged that their decision to restore power came following pressure from Moscow, and that not one of the central TV stations, ORT, RTR, or NTV, has paid their debts to the local broadcasting center. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October)
RADIO STATIONS GO OFF THE AIR IN KALININGRAD... Four radio- transmitting stations in Kaliningrad Oblast have lost their power because the local electricity supplier has cut off their electricity due to unpaid debts, Interfax-BNS reported on 31 October. Local television stations remain on the air. Kaliningrad is the most recent region to lose either its radio or television broadcasts; other regions affected have been Kamchatka, Pskov Oblast, and Primorskii Krai. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November)
...AS MEDIA MINISTRY PROMISES TO SET UP NEW MEDIA OUTLETS IN DISTRICTS. Deputy Media Minister Mikhail Seslavinskii told Duma deputies on 31 October that TV and radio companies will soon be set up in each of the seven federal districts, ITAR-TASS reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November)
HACKER SAYS HE FEELS SUPPORT OF RUSSIA. In an interview published in "Argumenty i fakty" on 24 October, Dmitrii Sklyarov, the Russian hacker who is in prison in the U.S. pending sentencing for computer crimes, said Russian officials have been most helpful to him and that he feels the support of all Russians as he seeks to have his conviction overturned. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October)
SLOVAKIAMARKIZA TV REACTS TO COMPETITOR'S VICTORY. A statement issued on 24 October by Markiza TV said the station "respects" the decision of the Media License Council to allow the entry of Czech television magnate Vladimir Zelezny into the Slovak market, but continues to have misgivings about Zelezny's personal integrity, CTK reported. The statement also said the Slovak market is too small to sustain one private and two commercial channels, and that despite the belief that the approval of the license for Zelezny will lead to "healthy competition," Markiza TV believes it will bring about a decline in the quality of broadcasts. Zelezny told the daily "Sme" on 25 October that he will launch judicial procedures against Markiza TV co-owners Pavol Rusko and Fred Klinkhammer. He did not specify on what grounds he intends to do so, but both Rusko and Klinkhammer, who is the executive director of CME, portrayed Zelezny earlier in the week as a crook in connection with the long-standing dispute between the Czech television mogul and CME over ownership rights of the private Czech Nova television. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 25 October)
UKRAINEJOURNALIST FOUND DEAD. Yuriy Honchar, a part-time correspondent for the "Fakty i Kommentarii" newspaper, has been found dead in Kyiv, apparently as the result of violence, UNIAN reported on 25 October, quoting a police source. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 October)
TELEVISION QUESTIONS OFFICIAL VERSION OF JOURNALIST'S DEATH. Ukrainian Television on 28 October broadcast a 25-minute film questioning the official version of the death of journalist Ihor Aleksandrov in Slavyansk, Luhansk Oblast, in July. Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko has announced that Aleksandrov was mistakenly killed by a homeless man who intended to kill Aleksandrov's lawyer. Two former police officers said in the film that Aleksandrov was killed by a group responsible for a number of contract killings in the Luhansk region in recent years. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 October)
END NOTEDEFEATING THE ENEMIES OF OPEN SOCIETIES -- A REPORT FROM THE MEDIA FRONT.
RFE/RL President Thomas A. Dine was in California in late October and gave several addresses at universities there. On 21 October he gave this speech at California State University, Fullerton:
I want to thank Representative Ed Royce [R-California] for inviting me to his Asian Pacific Congressional Advisory Council meeting here at California State University at Fullerton, and to thank him for sponsoring legislation to create Radio Free Afghanistan within Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. I am hopeful that this legislation will be reported favorably out of the House International Relations Committee late this week and reach the House floor for authorization and appropriations over the next two weeks.
Our broadcasts in Dari and Pashto to Afghanistan will be 12 hours per day, seven days a week. As an alternative radio, we will be accurate, objective, and comprehensive in our reporting of news and information.
My hat is off to all of you in this large audience. Looking at you, I see the diversity of our country�s demography; looking at you, I see and feel the openness of our society; being here, I can breathe the spirit of your commitment to policy issues and your desire to participate in political action. This is the strength of America, and this is exactly what our enemies so hate and so want to destroy.
Ethnic Americans are empowered by our common freedoms and by the reliance on the individual. Individual citizens are responsible for themselves and responsible for the way in which each of us is governed. The governed and governors are to interact, are to exchange ideas and perspectives, and governors are to be changed regularly, the whole process being based on the consent of those governed. This powerful paradigm is the basis of what takes place here today, what takes place in America�s grassroots, and it is in this context that American policy is made. When I headed a nation-wide lobbying group, I frequently reminded the membership in all 435 congressional districts that votes in Washington are won or lost at the grassroots. This remains true today. By participating and interacting with your congressman, you are winning his vote on your issue. In Rep. Royce�s case, you are reinforcing his leadership on key issues relating to U.S. policy throughout the countries of the Asian continent.
Our country is at war against terrorists in and around Afghanistan and against terrorism wherever it shows its malicious and murderous head, and I want to use this opportunity to give you a report from the media front. As President Bush and other officials have noted, the war against terrorism is a conflict very different from any that we have fought before. And so it is not surprising that the media front is both different and more important than it was in any war our country has fought and won in the past. Indeed, our victory against the enemies of open societies will depend in large measure on our effectiveness in this zone of the conflict.
Osama bin Laden and his terrorists in the Al-Qaeda organization have sought to use our openness and our technology against us. They used our airplanes to destroy our buildings, and they have sought to use our media to destroy our self-confidence and commitment. But while they have managed to do terrible things, they have seriously miscalculated. While they are enemies of open societies, they do not understand the nature of open societies and consequently cannot grasp that the very openness which has made their attacks possible guarantees that we will be able to respond and defeat them.
I would like to call your attention to three aspects of our war on the media front: first, the challenge of responding to outright lies, second, the challenge of covering what bin Laden and his minions are trying to do, and third, the challenge of promoting the values of open societies against those who would destroy them.
All of you have undoubtedly heard of some of the lies and misinformation that bin Laden and his supporters have been putting out. But you may not realize just how evil these lies are. I would like to give you just one episode of the challenge we face in this area.
Immediately after the attacks against the World Trade Center on 11 September, rumors began to swirl in the Middle East and to be reported on the domestic radio and television outlets in that region that some 4,000 Jewish employees of firms at the World Trade Center had been told not to come to work that day -- supposedly because it was Israel's Mossad rather than bin Laden and his gang that had hijacked the planes and rammed them into the twin towers. This outrageous claim has been accepted by too many media and governmental officials in the Middle East. And as Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League noted, "nobody [there] is challenging this gross lie. Nobody is getting on Arab TV stations and saying it is a lie, it's absurd, and it's a libel."
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty broadcasts to two countries in that region, Iran and Iraq, as well as to the countries of the southern Caucasus and Central Asia. And we have carried stories pointing out that this rumor is totally false and totally evil. I am hopeful that our broadcasts on this point are having an effect. Earlier this week, Steve Fairbanks, the director of our Persian Service, told me that a pro-reform newspaper in Tehran, one of the very few still allowed to publish, had picked up our argument and that his service had highlighted the Iranian newspaper's willingness to speak the truth. There are going to be more lies from bin Laden and his supporters in the future, and we and other members of U.S. international broadcasting are going to be calling them by their proper name: lies.
Some of you may have read about the dispute between the Voice of America and the U.S. Administration over how or even whether to broadcast an interview VOA did with a leader of the Afghan Taliban that gives shelter to bin Laden. I am happy to report that all of us in U.S. international broadcasting are now operating according to the same rules.
RFE/RL�s policy in covering terrorists is clear. We report the news, we do so without fear or favor, but we do not give and will not give air time to terrorists on their terms. Consequently we, like all other journalists, will continue to interview anyone involved, but we will not broadcast interviews with terrorists and those who support them as stand-alones. Instead, we will summarize what they say, put it in context, and explain why the terrorists and their sponsors are saying what they do -- and what the facts are.
In this way, we will not be helping the terrorists to spread their message of hatred and violence but rather undermining their efforts to achieve their ends. As Americans as well as journalists, we can do no less.
Many people have suggested that RFE/RL and other U.S. international broadcasters should simply broadcast what they describe as a single government "line" during this crisis. Such suggestions are misplaced in a double sense. On the one hand, there is no such thing as a single U.S. "line" on this or other issues. As I stated at the beginning, we are a diverse and open society, and our very diversity is a source of our strength. It is no accident that our money carries the slogan "e pluribus unum" and that our unity is based on that diversity.
And on the other hand, the diversity of views and ideas is precisely what bin Laden and his kind are trying to destroy. Were we to move away from that diversity, we would be retreating on an important front in this war and giving him a victory he must not have. Working with our sister stations, the VOA, Radio Free Asia, and all other entities in U.S. international broadcasting under the direction of the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors, we are not about to give way on this principle.
Because of that, I can confidently tell you that our stations will play a key role in the long war against terrorism, and that working with you and all other Americans, we are going to win this war just as we have won in the past.