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Media Matters: November 9, 2001

9 November 2001, Volume 1, Number 37
RSF: 39 'PREDATORS OF PRESS FREEDOM'... On 6 November, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) updated its May 2001 list of predators of press freedom, by adding eight names for a new total of 39. Many are responsible for these press violations: presidents, ministers, public prosecutors, heads of state, revolutionary guides or army leaders. They have jailed, kidnapped, tortured, and sometimes killed journalists. The RSF list includes Mullah Mohammad Omar (Afghanistan), Alyaksandr Lukashenka (Belarus), the kidnapping mafia (Chechnya), Ali Khamenei (Iran), Saddam Hussein (Iraq), Kirsan Iliumjinov (Kalmykia Republic, Russian Federation), Vladimir Putin (Russia), Saparmurat Niyazov (Turkmenistan), Leonid Kuchma (Ukraine), and Islam Karimov (Uzbekistan). Since May, some predators have intensified repression: in Afghanistan, Mullah Omar, after banning the Internet, has ordered the arrest of five foreign journalists since 11 September; and in Russia, President Putin took control of the national media. (Reporters Without Borders Press Release, 6 November)

...UNVEILS 'DAMOCLES' SYSTEM. Several of the 39 'press predators' have ordered the murders of journalists and have never been implicated by the justice system. In response, Reporters Without Borders created the Damocles network to hold them responsible for their crimes, and face international justice. The portraits of the 39 predators are online on (Reporters without Borders Press Release, 6 November)

'SAVE PUBLIC BROADCASTING' CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED. Earlier this year, the congress of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) launched a global "Save Public Broadcasting" Campaign. For more, visit or contact, or see (International Federation of Journalists Press Release, 7 November)

NEW NEWSPAPER MANAGEMENT GUIDE ISSUED. A new newspaper management manual for developing and transitional countries was published by the World Association of Newspapers (WAN). Titled "New Times: Making a Professional Newspaper in an Emerging Democracy," the 468-page manual, written by Tatiana Repkova, a Slovak publisher and newspaper management consultant, covers issues ranging from the role of journalism in emerging democracies to strategic planning, business planning, editorial content, organizational structures, labor organization, human resources, and internal communication. (World Association of Newspapers, 6 November)

APPEALS COURT REDUCES FINE IMPOSED ON NEWSPAPER. On 6 November Azerbaijan's Court of Appeals reduced from 80 million manats ($17,390) to 27 million manats the fine the editor and two journalists from the newspaper "Bakinskii bulvard" must pay for insulting the honor and dignity of Baku Mayor Hadjibala Abutalibov, Turan reported. But the court upheld the decision of a Baku district court to close down the newspaper permanently. Also on 6 November, the Baku municipal authorities refused permission for a picket the following day to protest the closure of "Bakinskii bulvard" and the daily "Milletin sesi" on the grounds that there was "no need" to resort to such political protests, "Milletin sesi" Editor Shahbaz Hudaoglu told Turan. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 November)

PEN CONCERNED BY TRIAL OF EDITOR. International Writers in Prison (PEN) is deeply concerned about the trial of Mikola Markovic, chief editor of "Pahonia" and member of International PEN's Belarusian Center. On 27 August 2001, a lawsuit was filed against "Pahonia" by the Hrodno regional prosecutor on accusations of libel against President Lukashenka, in response to articles published in 2001 in the 36th issue of "Pahonia." Proceedings were instituted although "Pahonia" had received only one warning while the law requires at least two violations of the libel law to institute proceedings. The State Committee for the Press dropped the lawsuit, seeing no legal basis for action. After this decision, another warning was issued to "Pahonia," giving grounds for legal proceedings. The trial has been postponed twice, and is now scheduled for 8 November in Hrodno. (Writers in Prison Committee Press Release, 2 November)

IFJ REPORTS ON PUBLIC BROADCASTING PROBLEMS.... On 7 November, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the world's largest journalists' group, issued a report which called for greater will by the government and solidarity among journalists groups to achieve public service broadcasting in Bulgaria. At the request of the Union of Bulgarian Journalists and the "Podkrepa" Union of Journalists in Bulgaria, the IFJ held a mission to assess Bulgarian broadcasting since the Bulgarian National Radio protests earlier this year and discontent at Bulgarian National Television mismanagement. The mission heard claims of political influence in elections of senior management, allegations of serious financial irregularities in state TV, legislative confusion about Bulgarian National Radio and Television, and a lack of regulations on editorial independence. (International Federation of Journalists Press Release, 7 November)

...AND RECOMMENDS REMEDIES. The IFJ mission recommended that new policies be adopted to achieve a single governing body, free of political interference and influence, with control of technical and program issues plus provisions for broadcasters' editorial independence; legal amendments to eliminate political pressures on radio and TV structures; financial independence for public service broadcasters; merit-based appointments of senior managers; and reforms in industrial relations to ensure staff equity. See: (International Federation of Journalists Press Release, 7 November)

EDITOR THREATENED WITH DEATH. On 31 October, the Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organization (SEEMO), an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), expressed its "deep concern" for the safety of Ivo Pukanic, director of the leading Croatian news magazine "Nacional." According to SEEMO sources, two groups close to the Montenegrin secret services are preparing Pukanic's assassination. The threat is the result of investigative reports published in "Nacional" about the alleged connection between Montenegrin officials and cigarette smugglers in the Balkans. SEEMO has also learned of an attempt to bribe "Nacional" into halting its investigation into the so-called "Balkan tobacco mafia." (South East Europe Media Organization Press Release, 31 October)

SECRET POLICE FILES OPENED. Interior Ministry spokeswoman Zinka Bardic told dpa in Zagreb on 6 November that citizens may now examine 650 files compiled by the SZUP, former President Franjo Tudjman's secret police. Other files were destroyed by the nationalist authorities before they left office at the start of 2000. Bardic added that of the 650 files, "120 contain information on journalists whose phones were tapped by Tudjman's secret police in the 1990s." Rules for viewing files from both the communist period and Tudjman era are much more restrictive than those in Germany for individuals who want to read their Stasi files. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November)

PREMIER GETS OPPOSITION SUPPORT ON 'RESPEKT' AFFAIR... Civic Democratic Party Chairman and Chamber of Deputies speaker Vaclav Klaus said on 6 November that the government's plan to file multiple lawsuits against the weekly "Respekt" is not an attack on the freedom of the press, CTK reported. Klaus was responding to a letter "Respekt" Editor in Chief Petr Holub wrote to Klaus, asking him to state whether the intention is not such an attack and whether the chamber intends to demand that Prime Minister Milos Zeman explain his behavior. Klaus said he is "just one deputy in the chamber" and that he "does not know" whether the house will initiate such a move. "I myself am not going to initiate it and do not know why the chamber should deal with disputes between the government and private entities selling their product on the market," he wrote. He added that anyone who feels harmed by what such "entities" produce can choose how to react, and said, "I do not know why this chance should be denied to the government. This is why I believe the court should decide on the dispute between the government and your publication." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 November)

...AND SAYS 'REPORTERS DO NOT HAVE MORE RIGHTS.' Prime Minister Zeman told an audience at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, on 5 November that journalists do not have more rights than other citizens and if they accuse anyone of corruption, the accused should be able to defend themselves. Earlier on 5 November, Zeman held talks in Silicon Valley with potential investors. He said afterward that due to its highly qualified work force, the Czech Republic could profit from the world economic recession, as international companies are closing down operations where labor costs are high and moving them to places where they can find both skills and cheaper labor. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November)

PUBLISHER OF 'MEIN KAMPF' SENTENCED AGAIN. A court in Prague on 5 November upheld the three-year suspended sentence handed down in December 2000 by a lower court to Michal Zitko, the Czech publisher of a translation of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf," CTK and AP reported. Zitko was also to pay a 2 million crown ($54,000) fine. He again appealed against the court's decision. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November)

PRESS GROUP PROTESTS LIBEL SENTENCE. The World Association of Newspapers (WAN) and World Editors Forum, which represent more than 17,000 publications in 93 countries, expressed "serious concern" at the sentencing of journalist Frantisek Zamecnik to 16 months in jail for libel. Zamecnik, former editor in chief of the communist newspaper "Nove Bruntalsko," published in Bruntal, northern Moravia, was sentenced on 23 October to 16 months in prison for having libeled former Bruntal Mayor Petr Krejci, Social Democratic deputy Jaroslav Palas and Ludmila Navarova, the editor of a rival local newspaper. The articles were printed between September 1988 and November 1999. Zamecnik has been sentenced twice previously on similar charges, but those sentences were suspended. WAN believes that the criminal law is a wholly inappropriate means of dealing with the issue of libel, and that such practice contravenes a number of international agreements. (World Association of Newspapers, 30 October)

TV MOGUL'S LAWYER DETAINED... Ales Rozenhal, the lawyer of Czech television mogul Vladimir Zelezny, was detained on 5 November and the Prosecutor-General's Office is to decide on 7 November whether to file charges against him. The office asked that Rozenhal be taken into custody and a Prague court is to rule on that request, CTK and dpa reported on 7 November. Rozenhal spent the night in jail. He is suspected of committing the same crime as Zelezny -- cheating a creditor, namely the U.S. company Central European Media Enterprises owned by businessman Ronald Lauder. The same charges have been filed against Zelezny. If convicted, Rozenhal faces up to eight years in prison. Throughout the night of 6-7 November, Czech police searched the offices of Zelezny-owned Nova television, CTK reported on 7 November. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 November)

...AND THEN ARRESTED. A Prague court judge on 8 November ordered the arrest of Ales Rozenhal, who is television magnate Vladimir Zelezny's lawyer, CTK and AP reported. The judge said Rozenhal is to remain in police custody to prevent him from trying to influence witnesses or to tamper with evidence during the ongoing investigation. Like Zelezny, Rozenhal has been charged with causing financial damage to a creditor, an offense punishable by up to eight years in prison (RFE/RL Newsline,8 November)

EXPELLED IRAQI DIPLOMAT RECONNOITERED RFE/RL HEADQUARTERS. Former Iraqi diplomat Ahmad Khalil Ibrahim Samir Ani, who was expelled from the Czech Republic in April and who met with suspected terrorist Muhammad Atta in Prague, observed and photographed RFE/RL's headquarters, "Newsweek" reported this week. Czech authorities feared Ani was preparing an attack on the building. Former Deputy Foreign Minister Hynek Kmonicek told the weekly that Ani had drawn suspicion because he never attended any diplomatic event. Kmonicek said Ani met with representatives of the Iraqi opposition to try to convince them to return to Iraq, and in one case even used threats for that purpose. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November)

CHANGED DRAFT STATUS OF PUBLIC BROADCASTING. The government on 6 October withdrew its bill to merge the state-owned national TV network ETV and radio station Eesti Raadio into one public broadcasting unit under one budget, ETA reported. The bill will be supplemented with descriptions of the structure and budget of the merged unit and resubmitted to the parliament. ("RFE/RL Baltic States Report," 1 November)

RUSTAVI-2 RAIDED BY SECURITY MINISTRY... The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) expressed its "deep concern" over "ongoing harassment and intimidation" of TV station Rustavi-2. On 31 October, Rustavi-2, an independent television station based in Tbilisi, was besieged by a Ministry of Security contingent stationed outside its offices. The unit was blocked by several hundred demonstrators. Staff at Rustavi-2 and a related organization, Georgia Online, were forced to lock themselves in the building. Two weeks ago, the TV station underwent an intensive tax inspection which failed to uncover wrongdoing; on 30 October, Ministry of Security staff entered the building and talked to staff. During the two-hour discussion, staff were told to hand over financial documents and that if they refused, special forces would be deployed. TV station cameras filmed the raid live and demonstrators forced the Security Ministry to leave empty-handed. The Ministry of Security actions are thought to be connected to the TV station's news and political programs, which have been critical of the Georgian government. Rustavi-2 has also broadcast reports that Chechen rebels may be hiding in Georgia. (International Federation of Journalists, 2 November)

...HAS JOURNALIST THREATENED, ANOTHER KILLED... Over the last 18 months, the TV station has faced direct and indirect pressure from the Georgian government, reports the International Federation of Journalists. Early last year, Akaki Gogichaishvili, who anchored the "60 Minutes" program on Rustavi-2, was subjected to various threats from businessmen and officials. On 19 May 2000, Gogichaishvili held a press conference, at which he stated that his life had been threatened and that he had been told to leave the country. On 26 July 2001, Giorgiy Sanaya, a newsreader at the television station, was murdered by an unknown assailant. There have been no prosecutions in this case. Before his death, Sanaya and his reporting team had been investigating the situation in the Pankisi gorge on the Chechnya border, reportedly the base for Chechen drug-smuggling operations. Rustavi-2 journalists were investigating this claim and became aware of some videotapes, one of which allegedly showed a Georgian official in the Pankisi gorge. Giorgiy Sanaya presented this material on television and was known to be aware of the tapes. On 2 September, the Rustavi-2 program "60 Minutes" publicly linked this story to Sanaya's murder. (International Federation of Journalists, 2 November)

...RECEIVES OFFICIAL THREATS? On 29 October, in a telephone conversation with Rustavi-2's general manager, Interior Minister Kakha Thargamdze said the TV show should be taken off the air and that, if it failed to do so of its own accord, soldiers would do it for them. He then threatened the possibility of a further investigation into the TV station's finances. In an 30 October press conference, Thargamdze confirmed this threat when questioned by a Rustavi-2 reporter. On the same day, the deputy interior minister, Zurab Chkhaidze, stated that the ministry had filed a criminal action against the TV station. According to the International Federation of Journalists, the Ministry of Security may be pressuring the TV station "to halt its investigations" or "to seek the videotapes." Moreover, the head of the Georgian Human Rights Committee, Helen Tevdoradze, in a recent TV interview claimed that she had the tapes and that they had been deposited at the European Parliament. (International Federation of Journalists, 2 November)

FUGITIVE RUSSIAN NOW MEDIA MOGUL IN GEORGIA? According to the most recent survey conducted by the NNG Consulting Foundation and and summarized on 6 November by Caspian News Agency -- which lists the 10 most influential political figures in the Caucasus -- the fugitive Russian oligarch Badri Patarkatsishvili, who since settling in Georgia several months ago has purchased the Tbilisi Dynamo soccer club and several electronic media outlets, is in ninth place. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 November)

PARLIAMENT PASSES TELECOMMUNICATIONS LAW. The parliament passed on 1 November a new telecommunications law that grants monopoly rights for the fixed-line national phone company Lattelekom until 1 January 2003, a reduction of 10 years, BNS reported. The new law will also allow consumers free access to other public telecoms networks, without changing their telephone numbers, from that date instead of the previously set 2005. One of the owners of Lattelekom, Tilts Communications, has already filed suit against Latvia in a Stockholm arbitration court for breaking the agreement granting Lattelekom a 20-year monopoly on fixed-line telephone communications. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November)

SUSPECTED TERRORIST THREATENS TO SUE IN ROMANIA. Suspected terrorist Mahmud Ahmad Hammud told journalists on 30 October that if he is expelled from Moldova he intends to settle in Romania and to sue the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) and media outlets there, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. Hammud reiterated his denial of membership in Hizballah or having ever been engaged in the trafficking of women or drugs. He said he will open judicial procedure in Romania against the SRI, as well as newspapers and television stations that alleged his involvement in those practices and in terrorism. He also said that should he fail to clear his name he will sue in international courts of justice. The Romanian authorities said they will decide whether to allow Hammud to re-enter the country after examining documents he handed to the Romanian Consulate in Chisinau. Also on 30 October, Moldovan National Liberal Party Chairman Mircea Rusu denied reports in the media that his party has been financed by Hammud. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October)

EDITOR FACES SECOND LIBEL SUIT. Vladislav Asanin, the former editor in chief of the Montenegrin daily "Dan" is being charged with libel by the Montenegrin president after his newspaper reprinted articles on the Balkan tobacco mafia first published in the Croatian news magazine "Nacional" (see above). Asanin's trial is set for 2 November in Podgorica. It is the second trial against Asanin since "Dan" started reprinting articles from "Nacional." In the first trial, on 3 September, Asanin was given a five-month suspended sentence for criminal defamation. The South East Europe Media Organization (SEEMO) noted that, prior to May 2001, "Dan" had reprinted some 60 articles from various foreign media about the link between the Balkan tobacco mafia and Montenegrin officials and that there had been no reaction from the officials in Podgorica until "Dan" began reprinting articles from "Nacional." For more, e-mail: or see (South East Europe Media Organization Press Release, 31 October)

BUCHAREST TRIBUNAL OVERTURNS VERDICT IN MUTLER VS. TOEKES CASE. A Bucharest tribunal on 5 November heeded the appeal of AP journalist Alison Mutler, who was sentenced on 23 March to pay a large fine for having allegedly libeled Reformed Bishop Laszlo Toekes, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Mutler was sued by Toekes after she wrote that he served as an agent of the former communist secret police. Toekes admits to being forced to sign a pledge to collaborate, but claims he never made good on that pledge and was subsequently persecuted by the Securitate. The tribunal's decision is final. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November)

PROSECUTORS SEEK FOUR-YEAR TERM FOR DORENKO. Prosecutors said on 6 November at the trial of TV journalist and Moscow Duma candidate Sergei Dorenko that they will ask that he be sentenced to four years in a prison camp, Interfax reported. Dorenko is accused of running down a navy captain on a motorbike earlier this year. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 November)

JOURNALIST WHO COVERED CORRUPTION GIVEN MVD PRIZE. The Interior Ministry has awarded its annual prize in literature to "Moskovskii komsomolets" journalist Aleksandr Khinshtein for his coverage of corruption not only generally but also within the MVD itself, his paper reported on 6 November. By giving him this award, Interior Minster Boris Gryzlov hopes to show that he is serious about overcoming corruption within his own agency's ranks, the paper said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 November)

SUPREME COURT JUSTICE WANTS OPEN TRIALS OPEN TO MEDIA. Viktor Zhuikov, the deputy chairman of the Supreme Court, said on 2 November that open court cases should be open to the media, and denounced efforts to keep the media out as "a crude violation of the law," Interfax reported. He said that audio recording is now permitted, and that television should be allowed by the agreement of the sitting judge once new legislation is passed. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November)

SUPREME COURT STRIKES DOWN SOME MILITARY SECRECY RULES. The Russian Supreme Court on 6 November ruled that some of the provisions of the Defense Ministry's classification system are not in conformity with the law, NTV reported on 6 November. Among those struck down are some that were used by prosecutors against former Russian naval officer and environmentalist Aleksandr Nikitin in the past and against a variety of scientists and journalists today. The most important finding of the court, however, may be its conclusion that the military cannot classify information about its activities that cause negative effects on people and the environment. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 November)

MOSCOW SEEKS AGREEMENT ON INFORMATION SECURITY. A source in the Foreign Ministry told Interfax that Russia, like all other countries, is vulnerable to attacks on its electronic communications infrastructure. He called on all countries to support a Russian proposal at the United Nations to provide a common defense of information systems against terrorism, asserting that this initiative in no way "is directed at limiting the free flow of information." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November)

PUTIN URGED TO RESTRICT TV VIOLENCE. Shield, an organization of Moscow psychologists and psychiatrists, has appealed to President Putin to restrict violence on the major national television channels, "Izvestiya" reported on 1 November. The group said it is against censorship in general, but that fighting terrorism requires some restrictions on what television shows. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November)

DUMA BACKS ONE MEDIA TAX CONCESSION. The Duma on 1 November approved on first reading an amendment to the Tax Code in order to give the print media a 10 percent tax concession in the value added tax that the media must pay, Interfax-AFI reported. Supporters of the measure say that it is essential for the survival of the country's newspapers and magazines. One media outlet in trouble, "Vremya novostei," announced on 1 November that its fate will be decided in the next day or two depending on whether it can attract new investment, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November)

UNION OF WRITERS OF RUSSIA AND BELARUS PROPOSED. Pavel Borodin, the state secretary of the Russia-Belarus Union, said on 6 November that writers in the two countries should consider forming a common Union of Writers in the Union State, Interfax reported. Borodin said the proposal originated with the International Community of Writers' Unions. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 November)

LESIN SAID TO BE 'MINISTER OF HIS OWN BUSINESS AFFAIRS.' Writing in "The Moscow News" on 6 November, Aleksei Pankin, who edits the media magazine "Sreda," said that Media Minister Mikhail Lesin is known as "the minister of his own business affairs" because he uses his office to enrich his companies and hence himself. Putin insists that "he is just a normal minister," Pankin said, "but for some strange reason no one seems to believe him." Lesin is one of the founders of Video International, which today has a virtual monopoly on the sales of television advertising in Russia. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 November)

BULGAKOV DIARIES TO BE PUBLISHED. The Moscow publishing house VAGRIUS announced on 3 November the publication of "The Diary of the Master and Margarita," containing all known diaries of writer Mikhail Bulgakov from 1922 "to the last day of his life" on 8 March 1940, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November)

JOURNALISTS, MEDIA MINISTRY CLASH IN SARATOV... Journalists in Saratov have appealed to the oblast's legislature demanding that legislators stop financing the oblast's Media Ministry, RFE/RL's Saratov correspondent reported on 6 November. According to the correspondent, the conflict started at the end of October, when local reporters were not allowed to attend the last session of the oblast's government and were told that future sessions would also be closed. Journalists informed the local media minister, Yurii Sanberg, about the problem and appealed to the local prosecutor. Only the prosecutor responded, warning Saratov Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov that by barring access he is violating the law on mass media. The journalists are now asking the deputies to eliminate funding for the ministry in next year's budget, and to instead use the money for social needs. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 November)

...AS COMBATIVE MEDIA NOW CONSIDERED UNNECESSARY IN PRIMORE. The OTV-Prim television company and Ekho Moskvy vo Vladivostoke radio station have stopped their local broadcasts, reported on 5 November, citing Vostok-Media. Vostok-Media explained the closures by asserting that the situation in the krai is now less "politicized" under new Governor Sergei Darkin: "Darkin's administration does not want to fight with anyone, nor does anyone want to fight with him." In addition, according to the agency, Vladivostok Mayor Yurii Kopylov controls the most popular newspaper and several popular television and radio programs, which as a result strive to create a positive image of the city's administration. During recent gubernatorial elections, Ekho Moskvy carried an interview with Darkin's chief competitor, Viktor Cherepkov, and that interview was subsequently used by the local election commission to disqualify him. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 November)

BATTLE FOR UDMURT TELEVISION ENDS? All-Russian State Television and Radio Company (VGTRK) in Moscow has named Vera Kadyrova as its new director for its Udmurtia branch, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 5 November. Kadyrova was presented to station workers in Izhevsk on 2 November by the head of Udmurt's government, Yurii Pitkevich. Kadyrova is a former commercial director of the station. The station had been embroiled in controversy since the beginning of October when VGTRK named a new person to head the company, but the old director with the support of the Udmurt legislature refused to relinquish his position. VGTRK responded by suspending broadcasts. According to the agency, a compromise of sorts was reached under which Sergei Nikitin, a Muscovite, served as director only until Izhevsk mayoral elections on 21 October, after which Kadyrova was named as the new director. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November)

COMMUNISTS THREATEN TV JOURNALISTS IN BIROBIDZHAN. Communist Party officials in Birobidzhan, the capital of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, have threatened to smash the cameras of any journalists who try to film their meetings on 7 November, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 6 November. The television journalists believe that the local Communist Party has taken this position because it blames the local TV media for its heavy losses in recent elections to the oblast's legislative assembly. ("RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 7 November)

WESTERN JOURNALISTS CONFIRM PRESENCE OF POTENTIAL TALIBAN RECRUITS. Meanwhile, RFE/RL's correspondent in the city of Chally, Tatarstan, reported on 2 November that a number of Western television and radio journalists have visited the city following reports of potential Muslim volunteers for the Taliban. One reporter for Deutschland Radio said that they had discovered about 70 members of the Tatar Public Center who said they would like to join the Taliban. On 31 October, Tatarinform reported that officials from the Chally administration visited the center's office and expressed their extreme displeasure that local Tatar Public Center head Rafis Kashapov was being interviewed by foreign journalists. The Tatar newspaper "Kyzyl Tang" called for an end to the bombing of Afghanistan in its 27 October issue, according to RFE/RL's Kazan bureau. The daily said that bombings against a country -- where the one-story buildings are made of dung and the primary means of transportation is by donkey -- can only serve to annihilate the peaceful population rather than plants and factories. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November)

MENATEP TO BUY OUT U.S. TELECOM OPERATOR IN RUSSIA. The Menatep financial group has reached an agreement to purchase the Russian holdings of the U.S. telecommunications company Andrew Corporation, Prime-TASS reported on 6 November. The details of the accord have not been made public, but a Menatep spokesman said this action will allow his company not only to control more of the Russian market in this sector but to enter the American telecommunications market as well. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 November)

KREMLIN MEDIA ADVISER CRACKS DOWN ON HIS OWN WEBSITE. Gleb Pavlovskii, the Kremlin media adviser and head of the Fund for Effective Policy, has ordered the operators of his own website,, to be more careful in their reporting, "Vedomosti" reported on 1 November. Pavlovskii was angered by the site's false report on 29 October that Aleksei Miller had resigned as head of Gazprom. One of the webmasters told the paper that Pavlovskii had received a reprimand from above for that error and so is now "making excuses." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November)

U.S. CASE AGAINST RUSSIAN HACKERS SAID ILLEGAL. The Chelyabinsk regional office of the Federal Security Service (FSB) has concluded that the American indictments of Russian hackers Vasilii Gorshkov and Aleksei Ivanov for breaking into computer systems and stealing credit-card numbers are illegal, "Chelyabinskii rabochii" reported on 1 November. The FSB offices said that the methods employed by the U.S. law enforcement agencies were "illegal and criminal," including what the FSB called "the unauthorized entry into the virtual space of Chelyabinsk Oblast" in Russia. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November)

NEW BROADCAST LAW DEMANDED. On 7 November, the Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) expressed its "outrage" at Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic's accusations that, by urging the adoption of new broadcast legislation, "ANEM and B92 are seeking privileges." Djindjic told the Peace Institute in Washington on 6 November that he is "irritated" by a question at why some Serbian independent media are in a worse situation than under the Milosevic regime. In response to ANEM and B92's criticism that new frequency licenses had still not been issued, the prime minister implied that they are seeking privileges; according to ANEM, B92 is "broadcasting in full accordance with the law" and because B92 respects current law that it cannot compete in the market. Furthermore, ANEM stressed, it has never claimed that the media situation is worse than it was under Milosevic. Rather, in a 30 October press release, it said that the legal infrastructure for the independent media in Serbia today "has not improved since the Milosevic regime." It was the Milosevic regime's strategy to leave the independent electronic media in limbo, without licenses and under constant threat of closure -- and that situation persists today. ANEM has also demanded the urgent adoption of new regulations for media and telecommunications, primarily the new Broadcast Act, so as to remedy this situation. The Serbian government has neither tabled the new legislation nor implemented the existing law. The current Broadcast Act states, in Article 7, that the government is obliged to call a public competition for frequency use once a year and reach a decision on the allocation of frequencies within three months of that. It is therefore legally feasible to grant temporary frequency licenses under the old legislation, which is what ANEM has requested. (ANEM Press Release, 7 November)

LEAFLETS OF BANNED ISLAMIST PARTY FOUND IN UNIVERSITY Tajikistan Interior Ministry officers have found leaflets distributed by the banned Hizb ut-Tahrir Islamic party at Khujand State University and elsewhere in the republic, Asia-Plus reported on 31 October. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 November)

MINISTER: HONORED JOURNALISTS 'DIED OF ALCOHOLISM.' During a 5 October interview, Internal Affairs Minister Yuri Smyrnov claimed that "80 percent" of the 18 dead journalists whose names will be carved on a memorial plaque in Kyiv "died naturally of alcoholism." Since he claimed he did not want to offend their relatives, Smyrnov refused to name the journalists. He did specify, however, that this "observation" did not apply to the two celebrated cases -- those of Heorhiy Gongadze or Ihor Aleksandrov -- of journalists who died violent deaths. ("European Media Institute Ukraine Newsletter," September)

POLICE (OFFER TO) ARM JOURNALISTS. In early October, the head of the Internal Affairs Kharkiv directorate, Serhiy Husarov, said that although he could not station guards at the entrance to every journalist's house, "he was ready to provide [journalists] with pistols and rubber bullets" -- although there is no need for such measures. Husarov did say he had received top-level official instructions to "communicate more closely with journalists." Meanwhile, in Cherkasy, police provided 22 journalists with gas pistols and tear gas for their own protection. ("European Media Institute Ukraine Newsletter," September)

INFORMATION PROTECTION PLAN. Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh said in Lviv on 26 October that the Ukrainian government is developing a national information security plan and that next year's budget would include funds to "successfully protect and promote national interests in this sphere." Meanwhile, the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council expressed dissatisfaction with state information policy, particularly in regard to the print and electronic media's "negative impact on Ukrainian civil society and its national identity." It also expressed concern at the lack of regulation over the Internet. ("European Media Institute Ukraine Newsletter," September)

EU COMPLETES CHORNOBYL INFORMATION PROJECT. Officials of the EU TACIS program on 5 November said they have completed a $1.2 million project aimed at informing the public in Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia about the consequences of the Chornobyl nuclear disaster, AP reported. The TACIS project included a collection of scientific information about the catastrophe's aftermath, which was then distributed with the inclusion of new statistics and recommendations on how to survive in affected areas. The information is published in books, booklets, videotapes, and compact discs distributed to government institutions, lawmakers, and various regional organizations. "We cannot clean food products from radiation with CDs, but we can learn from them that 90 percent of all products in Ukraine are clean and that people don't need to do something special about them," one of the program's participants said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 November)

COMMUNISTS WANT U.S. AMBASSADOR OUT. The Communist Party of Ukraine has called on the Foreign Ministry to declare U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Carlos Pascual persona non grata for interfering in Ukraine's internal affairs, Ukrainian media reported on 30 October. Communist Party leader Petro Symonenko said Pascual has grossly interfered in the country's affairs by sending a letter to the Ukrainian parliament and urging the "so-called parliamentary majority" to adopt laws on curbing copyright violations. According to Symonenko, some legislative provisions designed to crack down on Ukraine's market in pirated video, audio, and computer software were inspired or even dictated by U.S. experts. The U.S. previously indicated that it could impose sanctions over Kyiv's inability to curb the piracy of intellectual property. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October)

POET ARRESTED. The International League for Human Rights, a New York-based NGO, expressed its concern over the detention of Uzbek poet Yusuf Dzhumaev, who is a member of the banned secular opposition movement Birlik. Dzhumaev was arrested on 23 October by officers of the SNB (former KGB) Bukhara regional branch. They searched his home and reportedly confiscated his poems, his daughter's poems, and books by Uzbek writers. The SNB officers apparently told him he was being arrested in connection with the publication of his poems on a Muslim website that the authorities reportedly considered to be subversive. Based on these allegations, Yusuf Dzhumaev is said to have been charged with "undermining the constitutional order of the Republic of Uzbekistan." Representatives of several independent human rights organizations in Uzbekistan believe that he was arrested because he had openly criticized a number of officials of the Karakul district of the Bukhara region, where he used to live, and accused some of them of corruption. (International League for Human Rights, 7 November)

AZERBAIJANIS ANGERED BY ARMENIAN JOURNALISTS' COMMENTS... The Karabakh Liberation Organization and Azerbaijani women's organizations denounced comments of 10 visiting Armenian journalists about Nagorno-Karabakh, Turan reported on 1 November. The visiting journalists said that Karabakh should be independent. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 November)

...WHILE ARMENIAN JOURNALISTS' GROUP CLAIMS DISTORTION. In late October, journalists from Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh met their Azerbaijani partners near Baku to discuss their project, "Karabakh Conflict in the Mirror of Media and Public Opinion in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Nagorno-Karabakh," conducted by the Yerevan and Baku press clubs with the Stepanakert Press Club. The final meeting discussed the results of opinion polls and media monitoring held in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Nagorno-Karabakh. According to the Yerevan Press Club (YPC), the 2 November issue of the Azerbaijani paper, "Zerkalo," "induced anti-Armenian hysteria" and "accused the Azerbaijani project participants of treason and toadying" by asserting that "the enemy is not satisfied with 20 percent of occupied land...sends his envoys for espionage." The YPC stated, however, that most other media outlets provided accurate coverage of the meeting. ("Yerevan Press Club Weekly Newsletter," 7 November)