10 December 2001, Volume
AZERBAIJANI, CENTRAL ASIAN BROADCASTS EXPANDED.
On 3 December, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty announced that it has expanded its broadcasts in the Azerbaijani, Farsi, and Turkmen languages. "As part of RFE/RL's contribution to the war on terrorism, today we have increased by two hours broadcasting in Turkmen, added one and a half hours to our Azerbaijani-language broadcasts and an additional hour to our Farsi broadcasts," said Thomas A. Dine, RFE/RL president. Over the next two months, RFE/RL will phase in over 20 hours per day of expanded broadcasts in the Azerbaijani, Farsi, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Tajik, Turkmen, and Uzbek languages and expand Arabic broadcasts by Radio Free Iraq. (RFE/RL Press Release, 3 December)
TWO JOURNALISTS RELEASED FROM PRISON.
On 6 December, a Baku court released two reporters from the weekly "Ulus" and handed down suspended sentences. The newspaper's founder, Yaqub Abbasov, received a 14-month suspended prison sentence, while deputy editor Surkhay Qojayev was given a one-year suspended prison sentence. Arrested on assault charges in July, both journalists were released immediately after the ruling was announced. (Azerbaijan Journalists' Trade Union, 5 October)OSCE OFFICIAL CONCERNED AT SITUATION OF MEDIA.
Gerard Stoudmann, who heads the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), told journalists in Baku on 29 November, one day after a meeting with President Heidar Aliev, that ODIHR is concerned at restrictions on media freedom in Azerbaijan, in particular the arrests and trials of journalists and editors of media outlets, TURAN reported. Stoudmann also said that the ODIHR and the Council of Europe's Venice Commission will assist Azerbaijan in drafting new election legislation. International observers cited flaws in the country's election laws as contributing to the unsatisfactory conduct of both the presidential poll in 1998 and the parliamentary ballot in 2000. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November)STATE TV TO START FOREIGN BROADCASTS.
The state television channel, AzTV-1, will begin broadcasting to Europe, Asia, and the Near East, the paper "Zerkalo" reported on 30 November citing the Ministry of Communications. Improvements of AzTV-1's technical capacity will also continue, the paper reported. ("Zerkalo," 30 November)
JUDGE FAILS TO TRY JOURNALIST BECAUSE OF LOST CASE FOLDER.
The judge of a district court in Hrodna on 5 December canceled the case of Mikola Markevich, the editor in chief of the recently banned independent weekly "Pahonya," Belapan reported. Markevich was to stand trial for organizing an unauthorized picket in defense of his newspaper last month. After ransacking the courtroom for the missing case folder, the judge told the journalist to come a few hours later. However, the folder was lost for good. Markevich called the happening symbolic, adding, "there cannot be order in this country under this regime." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 December)JOURNALISTS WARN AGAINST RESTRICTIVE DRAFT MEDIA LAW.
The Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) said that the draft media law that will soon be debated by the National Assembly calls for serious curbs on the freedom of the press, Belapan reported on 30 November. BAJ lawyer Mikhail Pastukhou said the bill, if adopted in its current form, would ban any mentioning of the activities of unregistered political parties and nongovernmental organizations in the media, whereas the current law only bans publishing statements on behalf of such parties and organizations. The draft bill provides for a simplified court procedure for closing a newspaper. To ban a newspaper, a judge would only have to establish the lawfulness and validity of warnings issued to the newspaper by an authorized governmental agency. The draft bill also bans media outlets from receiving financial support or equipment from foreign organizations and individuals as well as from anonymous sources. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 December)
JEWISH ORGANIZATION SLAMS SECOND PUBLICATION OF 'MEIN KAMPF' TRANSLATION.
The Shalom Jewish organization denounced on 4 December the publication of a second Bulgarian translation of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf." Shalom Chairman Emil Kalo told dpa, "the emergence of these fascistic politics must be condemned." He said the motivation behind the book's publication was not to make money, but to encourage right-wing extremism, and pointed out that the costs of pasting posters announcing the book's publication are higher than the publishers' possible profits. Kalo said the authorities should act as they did last year, when a first Bulgarian translation of "Mein Kampf" was published. At that time, part of the print run was confiscated because the imprint did not identify the publisher. In order to circumvent legislation prohibiting dissemination of fascist propaganda, this second printing includes a foreword to qualify the book as a "history text." The book is selling at a price of 25 leva ($11.40). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 December)
PRESIDENT: 'CANNOT CONFIRM' PLANNED IRAQI RFE/RL ATTACK.
In an interview with CNN on 2 December, Czech President Vaclav Havel said suspected terrorist Muhammad Atta, who died in the attacks against the United States on 11 September, visited the Czech Republic on two occasions -- once in 2000 and once this year -- but that he cannot confirm that Atta was planning a terrorist attack against the RFE/RL headquarters in Prague because there are no recordings of his conversations with the Iraqi diplomat who was later expelled from the Czech Republic. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 December)PRIVATE TV DISCONTINUES BROADCASTS...
The private TV-3 Czech channel discontinued broadcasts on 2 December and ran text onscreen saying it was doing so as a result of a 20 November decision by the Council for Radio and Television Broadcasts, CTK reported. The text said broadcasts will be "definitely ended" on 6 December. On 20 November, the council began debates on allegations that TV-3 has been involved in illegal broadcasts, and the council's Deputy Chairman Petr Stepanek said fines of millions of crowns might be imposed on the station. Council Chairman Martin Muchka told CTK the decision to interrupt the broadcasts was "hasty." He said TV-3 had been warned that its broadcasts were not respecting legislation and that corrective measures should be taken by 5 December. In September, a dispute reminiscent of that at Nova TV broke out between TV-3 and the holder of the station's broadcasting license, Martin Kindernay, after the Council for Radio and Television Broadcasts refused to transfer the license to the Luxembourg firm KTV, which is owned entirely by Kindernay. Kindernay later asked for a license transfer to the Czech RTV Galaxie, and that request was approved. Experts said the new dispute may end in international arbitration, as the council did not have the right to refuse the transfer of Kinernay's license to KTV. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 December)...AND LAYS OFF MOST OF ITS STAFF.
Sixty percent of the private TV-3 channel's staff received notices on 1 December that their contracts were terminated, CTK reported. TV-3 interrupted broadcasts the same day. Station Director Jan Martinek said that the remaining staff members have been assured that conditions are being maintained for the possible resumption of broadcasts in the event that the Council for Radio and Television Broadcasts reverses its decision. The dispute at TV-3 pits Czech businessman Martin Kindernay, who owns the station's broadcasting license, and the station's Norway-based investor European Media Ventures EMV, dpa reported. Last month, regulators with the broadcasting council ruled in favor of a Kindernay request to transfer TV-3's license to RTV Galaxie, a company that Kindernay controls, instead of to a company controlled by EMV, in which Kindernay holds a stake. Under Czech law, only Czechs can hold broadcasting licenses. But EMV continued operating T-V3, prompting Kindernay to lodge a "pirating" complaint with the broadcasting council. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December)
SUSPECT ARRESTED IN MURDER OF JOURNALIST.
Georgian police detained on 5 December, but have not yet formally charged, former police officer Grigol Khurtsilava on suspicion of having murdered TV journalist Giorgi Sanaya in July, newly appointed Interior Minister Koba Narchemashvili told journalists the same day, Caucasus Press reported. Narchemashvili added that Khurtsilava has confessed to the murder, and that Sanaya was shot with a police firearm that Khurtsilava failed to surrender when he was dismissed from the police force in August 2000, according to Reuters. The motive for the killing remains unclear. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 December)
UPDATE ON MEDIA FRONT.
Defense Ministry Political State Secretary Janos Homoki won a libel suit against the Internet magazine "Stop." On 8 August, "Stop" published a story suggesting that corruption was involved in the procurement of MiG fighter jets, and hinted at Homoki's involvement. In other developments, the Complaints Committee of the National Radio and Television Board condemned the "Press Club" program aired on the cable channel ATV, saying that the opinions expressed on 9 November by Duna TV Deputy Culture Director Zsolt Bayer "exceed socially accepted moral and ethical norms." Bayer, while discussing incidents at commemorations of the 1956 uprising, said the present opposition should "go to hell for good and be glad that they won't be hanged from a lamppost." The program has since been taken off the air. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November)PARLIAMENT ACTS TO PROTECT LANGUAGE.
The parliament passed a bill aimed at preserving the Hungarian language from foreign influences. The bill states that as of 1 January 2003, all Hungarian-language publications and radio and television broadcasts in foreign languages will be required to provide Hungarian-language versions of all advertisements. The texts of information bulletins for customers and the names of businesses must also be presented in Hungarian beginning in 2003. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 November)COURT PASSES RULING ON 'LEX REPASSY.'
The Constitutional Court on 4 December ruled by six votes in favor and four against to slap down elements of the law that has come to be known as "Lex Repassy," Hungarian media reported. FIDESZ deputy Robert Repassy had proposed in his bill that newspapers and other media be obliged to carry responses to opinions they publish. The law was passed by the parliament in May, but was not promulgated after President Ferenc Madl referred it to the court for consideration of its constitutionality. The court ruled that the requirement does not violate the constitution, but at the same time it said the manner in which the parliament passed the measure, by simple majority, is unconstitutional. Repassy said he regards the court's ruling as a success. Opposition Socialist Party Deputy Andras Toth, however, said his party was assured by the court's ruling that the bill was essentially qualified as unconstitutional. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 December)PASTOR SUES WEEKLY.
Calvinist pastor Lorant Hegedus is suing the weekly "Magyar Narancs" for 5 million forints ($17,500) in damages for the weekly's description of him last June as a "chief Nazi of advanced age," and a "grandpa figure of Hungarian political anti-Semitism." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December)
JOURNALIST DIES AFTER ATTACK...
Journalist Gundars Matiss died on 28 November from injuries sustained as a result of a 15 November attack, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF). He had been in a coma since the assault. Colleagues of Matiss do not exclude the possibility that the journalist's assault was related to his investigative reporting, which had focused on crime, reports RSF. Matiss was a reporter for the newspaper "Kurzemes Vards" in the port city of Liepaja. The journalist focused on smuggling in the Liepaja port. The last article 35-year-old Matiss published before his death concerned four high-ranking Liepaja officials whom he believed were involved in the illegal alcohol business, reported "The Baltic Times." (Rsf.org)...AND POLICE TAKE THEIR TIME.
According to "The Baltic Times," "Kurzemes Vards" reporter Kaspars Migla said that the staff was "disappointed with the police's handling" of the case and that "the police only opened an investigation five days after [Matiss] was attacked." ("The Baltic Times")
COURT ORDERS RUSSIAN-LANGUAGE WEEKLY CLOSED DOWN.
A Chisinau court of justice on 3 December ruled that the Russian-language weekly "Kommersant Moldovy" must be closed down for "unconstitutional activity," Infotag reported. The court was acting on a legal suit launched by the Prosecutor-General's Office, which claimed that "Kommersant Moldovy" supports the separatist Transdniester regime and thereby infringes on the constitutional provision stipulating that Moldova is a "unitary state." The staff of the weekly responded that the ruling was politically motivated and signifies "the end of Moldovan democracy." They said that "Kommersant Moldovy" has "occasionally reprinted Transdniester mass media reports for the purpose of providing readers with a multifaced access to information." They also warned that opposition parties in Moldova can now "expect a similar fate." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December)NEW BROADCAST LICENSE PROCEDURE SLAMMED.
In a 15 November letter to President Vladimir Voronin, the Moldovan Media Association was critical of parliament for passing a new law on broadcast licenses which introduced two types of licenses, partially in response to the new Audio-Visual Coordinating Council's complaint about "chaos" and "piracy." Under the new law, Moldovan broadcasters retransmitting programs of foreign radio and TV stations are required to purchase a "retransmission license," while foreign broadcasters must obtain an "access license." The letter says that the new licenses will worsen Moldova's relations with neighboring countries, particularly Russia, which, the letter claims, is the country's "strategic partner." Previously, broadcasters were required to have a "transmission license." Many stations used this license to rebroadcast foreign, mainly Russian, programs. The letter noted that officials will now be able to exercise direct control over the country's news market. The Moldovan Media Association represents 26 media outlets, most of which publish and broadcast in Russian. ("Moldova Media News," 26 November)FINANCIAL DATA IS HARD TO GET...
According to an 18 November survey of 83 national and local news organizations conducted by the NGO Access Info, 79 percent of respondents said that it is "extremely difficult" to get data from officials on corruption. Some 46 percent of those polled had difficulty obtaining information on disbursement of foreign credits, and close to 40 percent reported it was hard to get data on state budget allocations, officials' salaries and perks, and on privatization. ("Moldova Media News," 26 November)...AS OFFICIALS CITE 'COMMERCIAL SECRETS.'
"Commercial secret" is the reason most often given by officials to deny journalists access to information; other popular pretexts include "the person in charge is not available," "permission for release of information must be granted by a higher authority," and "the information is not for public use." Almost half of all journalists' requests for information are denied, according to the 18 November survey. ("Moldova Media News," 26 November)
PREMIER MAKES DOCUMENTS ON ANTONESCU'S WAR CRIMES PUBLIC.
Premier Adrian Nastase said during a teleconference with Romania's prefects on 27 November that the role of wartime Nazi ally Marshal Ion Antonescu in Romanian history must "be treated with responsibility," Romanian media reported the next day. Nastase, who was criticized in several media outlets for having pledged during his recent U.S. visit that the cult of Antonescu will be curbed, showed the prefects the transcript of a government meeting of November 1941, when Antonescu asked whether his orders to execute 200 Jews for every Romanian soldier killed as a result of an explosion at the occupying Romanian army's headquarters in Odessa had been carried out. He also showed the prefects the reply of Transdniester Governor Gheorghe Alexianu, who said the Jews had been shot or hanged from lampposts, and a letter revoking the order for mass executions one month later when it turned out that the attack had been organized by the NKVD. Historians estimate the number of Jews killed following the incident in Odessa to be as high as 20,000, and the number of Romanian and Ukrainian Jews killed during the Holocaust in territories occupied by the Romanian army at between 120,00 and 410,000. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 November)RFE/RL PRESIDENT, DIRECTOR, VETERAN JOURNALISTS DECORATED.
President Ion Iliescu on 30 November decorated with different orders RFE/RL President Thomas Dine, Director of Broadcasting Jeff Trimble, and five veteran journalists of the Romanian Service, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The ceremony commemorated 50 years of RFE/RL broadcasts. Iliescu said the honors represent "a sincere, though perhaps belated" acknowledgment of the fact that "Romania's history in the years of the totalitarian regime cannot be written without emphasizing the role played by the station on our lives under the conditions then prevailing." He said RFE/RL had been Romania's "window to the normal world outside," and a source of "adequate and pluralist information." In his speech, the president mentioned the still-unclarified circumstances surrounding the deaths of three directors of the Romanian Service (Noel Bernard, Mihai Cizmarescu, and Vlad Georgescu), physical attacks on other journalists working for RFE/RL, and the 21 February 1981 terrorist attack on RFE/RL when it was headquartered in Munich. Iliescu said the authorities are fully collaborating with "competent international forums" to fully explain the circumstances of those incidents. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 December)
TV-6 JOURNALIST CLAIMS TO HAVE BEEN BEATEN FOR POLITICAL REASONS...
Ildar Zhandarev, co-anchor with Boris Berman of the "Without Protocol" program broadcast on TV-6, was attacked on 29 November when entering his home, Ekho Moskvy reported. Zhandarev was robbed and beaten. He left the Sklifosovskii hospital on 30 November. Although the Moscow police initially considered the case to be criminal, Zhandarev claimed that he was attacked for political reasons, Ekho Moskvy reported. Before he came to TV-6, Zhandarev was the anchorman of "Interesting Movie" on NTV. The attack on Zhandarev came just a few days after another TV-6 journalist, Vasilii Utkin, was attacked in the street. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November)...AND CPJ PROTESTS.
On 30 November, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) protested the attack on Zhandarev, saying that the reporter was assaulted in his apartment building at about 3 a.m. as he returned from his late-night program. The masked attackers struck the journalist with a blunt object, taped his mouth and eyes shut, and then handcuffed him, according to local press reports. The attackers stole Zhandarev's money and apartment keys, as well as valuables from his apartment. The perpetrators said that someone had "ordered" the attack against Zhandarev and that he and his program "got on people's nerves," Zhandarev told Ekho Moskvy. The police have launched an official investigation into the attack. (CPJ Press Release, 30 November)U.S. AMBASSADOR EXPRESSES CONCERN ABOUT TV-6.
U.S. Ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow told reporters in Vladivostok on 3 December that he is "somewhat worried by the situation around TV-6." He said that the U.S. "is concerned that a truly independent voice could be lost as a result of the dispute" over the station. He also expressed the hope that the dispute can be resolved without the channel being closed. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December)NEWSPAPER SAYS LUKOIL TAKING CONTROL OF TV-6 ON KREMLIN'S ORDERS.
LUKoil head Vakhit Alekperov is taking control of TV-6 not because of his business interests, but under the direct instruction of the Kremlin, which would like to put a leash on the independent station, "Moskovskie novosti" wrote on 4 December. The paper argued that, had Alekperov really needed a mass media outlet, he never would have sold the profitable REN-TV, as he did recently. Furthermore, Alekperov also has personal interests in the deal -- by abiding by the Kremlin's will now, he can expect many more favors from it in future, the daily said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 December)MOSKOVIA TV OWNED BY 'NEW OLIGARCH' CLOSE TO PUTIN.
Up until 26 November "Moskovia" was a little-known television channel, even in the Russian capital, and had kept silent on domestic political issues. And it would probably have remained little known, except for the fact that it is run by Mezhprombank chairman Sergei Pugachev, a man whom "Izvestiya" and the "Ekspert" economic weekly have already branded as the "new oligarch" close to President Vladimir Putin. Mezhprombank is believed to be Russia's largest private bank. It is also the country's third-biggest bank after the Savings Bank (Sberbank) and the Foreign Trade Bank (Vneshekonombank). According to "Obshchaya gazeta," Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin recently protested Pugachev's claims that the government owes $200 million to Mezhprombank. Soon after, the Prosecutor-General's Office started investigating Kudrin's activities when he was in charge of St. Petersburg's finances in the mid-1990s, "Obshchaya gazeta" reported on 29 November. According to the weekly, Putin stopped the investigation and ordered that the debt be repaid to Mezhprombank. ("RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 3 December)PASKO TRIAL DELAYED.
The tribunal of the Pacific Fleet hearing the case of military journalist Grigorii Pasko, who is accused of divulging state secrets, has announced an "interruption" of the trial at the request of federal prosecutors, TV-6 reported on 3 December. Meanwhile, Pasko's lawyer, Ivan Pavlov, said the prosecution is under pressure by the Federal Security Service (FSB) to use delay tactics because it feels the indictment is unsubstantiated. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December)REGIONAL MEDIA FALTER IN NATIONAL AND LOCAL ADVERTISING REVENUE.
Writing in "The Moscow Times" on 27 November, commentator Aleksei Pankin reported that the advertising market in Russian regions lags far behind that in Moscow. Last year, the regional advertising market grew by 2 percent compared with the 45 percent growth recorded in Moscow (where advertising may be sold through the market nationwide). According to Pankin, the 20 largest Russian media markets -- excluding the city of Moscow and Moscow Oblast -- account for 43 percent of the total market and less than 24 percent of the advertising market. Pankin explained that advertising budgets are being spent centrally rather than regionally, and are therefore not particularly well-targeted to their audience. ("RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 29 November)VORONEZH MAYOR WANTS LOCAL MEDIA TO VET THEIR MATERIALS WITH CITY HALL.
NTV reported on 23 November that from now on all printed and video materials produced by Novovoronezh newspapers and television station on the work of local authorities must be approved by the city administration. Novovoronezh Mayor Vladimir Sinitsyn told the network that his directive applies only to interviews with local officials. Two years ago, Sinitsyn issued another directive requiring local policemen to inform local authorities of the arrival of any press representatives from other cities and accompany them to city hall. That directive was later annulled by the prosecutor's office. ("RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 29 November)SAKHA ELECTIONS OFFICIALS CHARGE MEDIA WITH BIAS.
The Sakha (Yakutia) Republic's election commission has proposed opening a case against Russian Public Television and NTV because those stations have allegedly broadcast material promoting the interests of specific candidates running in 23 December presidential elections, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 3 December. The local election commission plans to forward its complaint to the Central Election Commission. The same day, the local commission also issued fines against three local newspapers: "Molodezh Yakutii," "Vybor naroda," and "Moskovskii komsomolets v Yakutii." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December)ARABS WANT TO INVEST IN RUSSIAN MEDIA.
The ambassador of the Palestinian Autonomy in Moscow, Khairi Oridi, told "Izvestiya" on 30 November that many Russian newspapers are too pro-Israeli and to change this situation Arab capital might invest in Russian mass media. Oridi added that investments would go to "purely Russian newspapers friendly to Arabs." ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 5 December)MORE BOOKS ABOUT PUTIN.
The Russian market for political best-sellers is inundated with books about President Putin, which has led to the establishment of his own small cult of personality, polit.ru reported on 3 December. Political scientist Vadim Pechenev, in his newly released book "Putin: Last Chance for Russia?" compares the Russian president with the hero of the Aleksandr Pushkin poem "Yevgenii Onegin," while in his book "Russian Challenge," the French author Victor Lupan makes comparisons between Putin and Napoleon. Finally, the astrologer Aleksandr Astragor, in his book "The Mystic Side of Putin," offers his readers a formula of Putin's soul that, in his view, is governed by the planets Mars, Venus, and Pluto. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December)
POLICE DEMAND EDITORS NAME SOURCES FOR HAGUE-WANTED LIST STORIES.
The editor of the popular weekly "Reporter," during questioning by the Belgrade police, refused to reveal the sources for recent revelations regarding an alleged secret wanted list of the UN war crimes tribunal based in The Hague. Belgrade investigators visited the "Reporter" offices on 24 November where they questioned Editor in Chief Vladimir Radomirovic and journalist Jovica Krtinic. The public prosecutor launched a probe yesterday into "Reporter" and Belgrade daily "Blic" under accusations of spreading false information following reports of a list of over 360 Serbian policemen wanted as either witnesses or suspects by The Hague tribunal. "Reporter" issued a statement that its staff had not named sources in line with journalistic ethics of confidentiality. The statement claimed that the police had cited the Serbian Information Act introduced under the former regime, under which journalists were obliged to name names. ("ANEM Media Update," 24-30 November)ROW OVER POLICE CONTINUES.
The editors of the weekly "Reporter" said in Belgrade on 27 November that they stand by their story regarding a list of police -- including members of the elite Red Berets -- allegedly wanted by The Hague, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The editors accused the Serbian government of trying to mislead the public and police by denying the authenticity of the list. But Dusan Mihajlovic, who heads the police, repeated his earlier assertion that the list is a fabrication. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 28 November)ORLIC: 'PASS THE LAW ON BROADCASTING.'
On 27 November, the Yugoslav secretary of information called on parliament to adopt new legislation on information in light of the current debacle over an alleged wanted list of The Hague tribunal. Slobodan Orlic said the current "legal vacuum" had led to the "painful questioning of journalists" from the weekly "Reporter," which last week published a list of over 350 Serbian policemen they claimed are wanted by The Hague tribunal. "The proceedings and the sanctions against those who violate the laws must be defined up front, and any arbitrary action and improvisation must be ruled out," said Orlic. "Reporter" claimed on 23 November that police had persistently threatened its editor in chief under the Serbian Information Act in a bid to extract the source of the story. ("ANEM Media Update," 24-30 November)BROADCAST LAW IN PARLIAMENT BY DECEMBER.
The Serbian government has announced it will table draft broadcasting legislation in parliament during December. Deputy Prime Minister Zarko Korac said on 27 November that the legislation was similar to that in developed European countries. He emphasized the urgency of the legislation in order to secure the independence and progress of electronic media. "For the first time, the Serbian government has confirmed its determination to seeing Radio Television Serbia into a public broadcast service which will serve the interests of the people," said a statement issued by Korac's office. The deputy prime minister also underlined the government's determination not to influence professional decisions of Radio Television Serbia's editors and its support for restoring the reputation and importance of the state media. The chairman of the Serbian parliament, Dragan Marsicanin, told B92 on 28 November that the draft law on broadcasting would be tabled in mid-December and that this is likely due to international pressure. ("ANEM Media Update," 24-30 November)ONE MORE DAILY NEWSPAPER FOR CAPITAL.
Editor in Chief Predrag Popovic presented the first issue of "Nacional" to a 4 December press conference at Tanjug's Belgrade offices, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported. He said he is sure that the new daily will find a solid readership because its journalists are "exclusively" young people without ties to older media organizations. Popovic denied that there is any link between his paper and the Croatian weekly of the same name. The new daily will have a print run of 50,000 copies, printed by Borba, and published by NIP Info Orfej. Many observers regard the Belgrade newspaper market as already saturated and in need of a shakeout. Serbs are traditionally avid newspaper readers, but the growth of poverty since the late 1980s has forced many to limit their expenditures for newspapers and magazines. The market in the more affluent diaspora is heavily dominated by "Vesti," which was founded in Germany by Serbian journalists a decade ago in response to the sanctions imposed on Belgrade. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 December)
INTERIOR MINISTRY'S REGIONAL OFFICE PLEDGES PROTECTION TO JOURNALISTS.
"Holos Ukrayiny" reported on 1 December that the Interior Ministry's directorate in Cherkasy Oblast has taken "unprecedented measures" to protect local journalists. According to the Cherkasy police department, every editorial board and every local correspondent working for a national paper "will permanently be protected by the heads of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry's directorate in Cherkasy Oblast, the chief of the ministry's special services, and the ministry's district and city directors." Thirty-six journalists in Cherkasy have already received protective aerosol gasses from law-enforcement agencies, while the police department is pledging to issue permits that would allow members of the media to carry guns that fire rubber bullets. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 December)KUCHMA AIDE: PRESS KNEW 'WHAT I WAS THINKING.'
Presidential administration chief Volodymyr Lytvyn on 1 December said he will head the For a United Ukraine election bloc, Interfax reported. Rumors and announcements that Lytvyn will lead the pro-presidential For a United Ukraine in the 31 March 2002 parliamentary election have been reported in Ukrainian media for several weeks. Asked why he was so slow in confirming his decision, Lytvyn said, "I have been reading the press [where everybody seemed to know] what I was thinking while I actually did not." President Kuchma said the same day that Lytvyn's main task in the parliamentary election campaign is to ensure the creation of a pro-government majority in the new parliament. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 December)PARLIAMENT ENDORSES ANTIPIRACY BILL...
The parliament on 29 November voted by 227 to 115 to pass on first reading a government-sponsored bill aimed at combating the piracy of compact discs, Interfax reported. In particular, the bill provides for issuing licenses to domestic producers and exporters/importers of CDs and imposes fines on those producing CDs without licenses. The U.S. has repeatedly threatened economic sanctions against Ukraine for its failure to protect copyrights in the sphere of CD production and sales. The Ukrainian government estimates that the country may lose at least $400 million annually if such sanctions are imposed. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November)...WHILE PIRATE 'HARRY POTTER' SELLS FOR $2 PER COPY.
Video copies of the wildly popular "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" are on sale in Ukraine since 28 November for a little more than $2 a tape, dpa reported on 29 November. The film appears to have been recorded using a video camera at a pre-premiere screening and re-recorded with a voice-over in Russian. Sound quality is scratchy and silhouettes of an apparently U.S. movie audience are visible at the end of the film. Traders said the tape has found some buyers but that Ukrainian consumers seemed to prefer action features or cartoons. Ukrainian pirate traders appeared to be distributing the films via networks of street traders, many literally operating "underground" in full view at entrances to metro stations in large cities. Most late-release films and CDs are available at similar stands for between one-tenth and one-twentieth of their Western retail price. Traders of pirated goods in Ukraine typically avoid prosecution by bribing police or making fake certificates on their products. ("RFE/RL Business Watch," 4 December)
RESTRICTIONS IMPOSED ON JOURNALISTS' TRAVEL TO REGIONS BORDERING AFGHANISTAN.
Eleven districts of Uzbekistan that border on Afghanistan have been declared off-limits to anyone other than local residents and holders of special permits, AP reported on 3 December, quoting unnamed Uzbek government officials. The region involved includes the border port of Termez from which international relief agencies hope to be able to transport humanitarian aid by road to northern Afghanistan. Beginning immediately, foreign journalists and aid workers may not travel to or transit the region without a special permit. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December)
TRANSDNIESTER NEWS NOW ON WEB.
Internet resources on the breakaway Transdniester region of Moldova was launched in November at tiraspol.net. The website has links to Russian-language sites featuring political, economic, social, and cultural regional trends. "Pridnestrovie Online" is a project of the private company Mir Kompyuterov (Computer World) from Tiraspol. ("Moldova Media News," 26 November)HOW NONPROFITS CAN PROFIT.
The City University of New York's Center for the Study of Philanthropy has issued a new publication, "E-Way to Philanthropy: How Nonprofits Can Use Information Technology," on areas such as acquiring computer hardware and software; setting up a local network and connecting to the Internet; developing and maintaining an effective nonprofit website; and fundraising via the Internet, including cultivating donors and guarding donor privacy and security. For more information, contact email@example.com.
TV JOURNALIST REJECTS TRANSDNIESTER ALLEGATIONS OF BIAS.
Russian TV presenter Yevgenii Revenko on 29 November rejected as "nonsense" the allegations of Transdniester "Information Minister " Boris Akulov that the report on Transdniester broadcast on RTR television on 25 November was biased. Revenko told the Russian news agency RIA-Novosti that his station's correspondents "reported what they really saw." He added that he has no idea "with what court the unrecognized republic intends to file suit" against the Russian network, since "a country called the Transdniester Moldovan Republic cannot be found on any map." He also said that the name Boris Akulov "means nothing" to him. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 November)NTV-UKRAINE TO START IN JANUARY 2002.
Ukrainian media mogul Vadym Rabynovych has announced that a new television company, NTV-Ukraine, will go on air in January 2002, Interfax reported on 30 November. Rabynovych said 90 percent of the company's staff will be made up of Ukrainians and 10 percent of Russians. "The new channel will be an information channel, the policy of [Russia's] NTV will be preserved, this is the main thing. We will select topics together when we do the news. We consider ourselves the junior partner of the Russian [NTV television]," Rabynovych said. Rabynovych also said NTV-Ukraine will be bilingual, but added, "Making a new television program, we know that 99 percent of Ukraine's people want to watch Russian channels and read Russian newspapers." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 December)TAJIKISTAN, RUSSIA SEEK AGREEMENT ON REBROADCASTING.
A Russian media delegation headed by presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembskii arrived in Dushanbe on 3 December for talks with the Tajik leadership on the resumption of broadcasting in Tajikistan of Russia's ORT and RTV programs, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. The Tajik government suspended rebroadcasting of ORT in mid-October and cut retransmission of RTV due to the Russian companies' accumulated debts. RTV has signaled its readiness to repay that debt but ORT has not yet done likewise ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 December)YUGOSLAV GOVERNMENT BAILS OUT YU-INFO CHANNEL.
On 28 November, the federal Yugoslav government undertook to settle the debts of the YU-Info television network, company director Zoran Predic said the next day. The company's accounts have been blocked for the past 10 days due to its failure to pay a debt of half a million German marks. Predic expressed the hope that the federal government would "take care of" this debt by the end of the week. YU-Info was set up during the last days of the Milosevic regime to broadcast government propaganda into Montenegro after the southern republic's state television stopped relaying Radio Television Serbia news from Belgrade. ("ANEM Media Update," 24-30 November)
INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION NEEDED TO INVESTIGATE GONGADZE CASE
By Myroslava Gongadze
For some time, there have been discussions about the need to organize an international commission to investigate Heorhiy Gongadze's murder on 16 September 2000. The first public efforts -- spearheaded by the Paris-based NGO Reporters Without Borders -- to involve international organizations in investigations of Gongadze's murder date to the summer of 2001. In the face of unrelenting pressure from Gongadze's family and colleagues -- and after mass street protests -- Ukrainian law enforcement agencies finally asked for foreign assistance. First, the Ukrainian government turned to the Russian Federation and then the American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Such assistance, in all probability, has provided the only concrete facts in the investigation. For example, the DNA tests conducted by the FBI in May finally identified the headless corpse as being that of Gongadze.
Such successful cooperation with international experts should have prompted Ukrainian authorities to seek additional assistance. But the Ukrainian Prosecutor-General apparently feared unexpected results from such investigations. Ukrainian authorities did not want to open up the Gongadze case files to international experts -- especially since Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma was suspected of complicity in Gongadze's murder. As a result, in late spring, Ukrainian cooperation with international experts ended and Ukrainian law enforcement agencies continue to ignore the requests of his family, who also have legal claims. The Ukrainian authorities ignore -- or conveniently forget -- their own laws: a victim's family has the right to have detailed information on case materials, to write appeals, and to present evidence relevant to the case.
The failure of the Ukrainian government to counter serious charges of high-level crime and corruption has also resulted in more lethal attacks on Ukrainian journalists. In Donetsk, Ihor Aleksandrov, director of the local television station TOR, was savagely attacked and died on 7 July. This time, the police attempted to show how efficient they were and proclaimed that the crime had been solved by announcing that Aleksandrov had been "killed by mistake." In an open letter, Aleksandrov's son Oleksiy rejected this claim. A commission of investigative journalists working with Reporters Without Borders has supported Oleksiy's views. And later in July, the publisher of the Lugansk newspaper "21st Century," Oleh Breus, was killed. (For updates on the situation of Ukrainian journalists, see http://www.imi.com.ua)
The systematic violation of human rights and freedom of the press -- along with the Ukrainian government -- has impelled the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) to examine the situation in Ukraine. In the spring of this year, PACE threatened to expel Ukraine, which has been a PACE member since 1995. On 27 September, the Council of Europe adopted a resolution drafted by PACE deputy Hanne Severinsen:
"The Assembly condemns the aggression against, intimidation, and even murder of journalists, members of parliament, and opposition politicians in Ukraine. It calls on the Ukrainian authorities to ensure the rule of law, to conduct their media policy in a way which will convincingly demonstrate respect of the freedom of expression in the country, and to improve the legal framework of the media and the safety and working conditions of journalists.
"In particular, the Assembly urges the authorities concerned to: 1) accelerate and complete the investigations of the disappearance and murder of Mr. Heorhiy Gongadze, or initiate -- if necessary -- a new independent investigation in this matter, with the help of international experts; 2) to conduct a full, transparent, and impartial investigation of the murder of Mr. Ihor Aleksandrov and in other cases of journalists who have died in dubious circumstances."
Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on the Freedom of the Media Freimut Duve in September wrote to Walter Schwimmer, the Council of Europe secretary-general, to express his support for an independent international commission on the Gongadze case -- as has the U.S. OSCE delegation. In this way, international organizations are trying to find new ways of cooperating to solve major criminal cases.
On 30 November the Rapporteur Group for Democratic Stability -- which reports to the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers on issues of democracy -- heard a report from the Ukrainian delegation on the Ukrainian police investigation into the Gongadze case. Thanks largely to the Belgian PACE delegation, the Rapporteur Group has decided to keep under review the issue of establishing an independent investigative commission. But, according to Reporters Without Borders, new objections have been raised to this commission on the grounds that member states are unlikely to offer the necessary assistance of investigators.
On 11 December, the PACE monitoring commttee will discuss Ukrainian compliance with its Council of Europe obligations. An important meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Council of Europe will take place in January to vote on whether or not to form an international commission to investigate the Gongadze case. Consensus of all Council of Europe members is required. It remains an open question whether Ukraine will provide real assistance to the commission's investigations.
Myroslava Gongadze is a Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow at the International Forum for Democratic Studies. (firstname.lastname@example.org)