11 January 2001, Volume 2, Number 2
INTERNATIONALUNICEF HIGHLIGHTS PLIGHT OF CHILDREN IN TRANSITIONAL SOCIETIES. In a study prepared for UNICEF, an Innocenti Research Center report, "Young People in Changing Societies" calls attention to the situation of 65 million young people aged between 15 and 24, of the so-called "transition generation" in the 27 countries of Eastern Europe and the countries of the former Soviet Union. The complete report, with numerous diagrams and statistical material, is available in English and Russian, along with a summary in Italian, at http://www.unicef-icdc.org/monee7/index.html.
UN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONER PRAISES NGO ROLES. Mary Robinson, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, in a 15 December letter to NGOs, is "heartened by the active role being played by an increasing number of NGOs in the preparatory process" for the World Conference against Racism in Durban next year." She observes that there are "the seeds of a worldwide movement against racism" and that the [UN] World Conference will "serve as the launch pad for the movement against racism, much as Beijing was for the women's movement." Robinson calls attention to a newsletter issued by her office, "Durban 2001: United against Racism". The first issue included information on NGO involvement in conference preparations, accreditation and a schedule of pre-conference NGO meetings. For more information, contact Laurie Wiseberg at OHCHR-NGO@SERVER.UNOG.CH. (MINELRES, 8 January)
ULTRA-NATIONALIST WEBSITE. The Forza Nuova, a small but aggressive "formation" is trying to link together xenophobic, fundamentalist and Nazi/fascist groups in Europe. The Forza Nuova-inspired multilingual website "Third Position International" (http://ds.dial.pipex.com/third-position/) features contributions from Germany, Italy, Poland, Croatia, Britain, France, and Romania. According Italian investigative sources, Forza Nuova can draw upon some 30 billion lira ($15 million) from commercial activities in the U.K. where its leaders have gone to escape Italian justice. At present Rome's Ministy of Internal Affairs is considering disbanding Forza Nuova. For more information, contact Francesco Strazzari email@example.com (MINELRES, 8 January)
GRANTS FOR WOMEN SCIENTISTS. The Women's International Science Collaboration (WISC) Program, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and administered by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), is a program intended to increase the participation of women in international research projects. This program provides grants to individual US scientists who plan to establish new research partnerships with their colleagues from Albania, Armenia, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. The grant, up to $4,000, will provide travel and living support for the US woman scientist. Contact NSF's Eastern Europe Program staff who can advise regarding applications for NSF international supplements (firstname.lastname@example.org). (Civil Society mailing list, 28 December)
CHARTER FOR A FREE PRESS. The Free Press Charter incorporates ten nonbinding provisions approved by journalists from 34 countries at a London conference convened by the World Press Freedom Committee in 1987 and has been endorsed by world leaders, including United Nations Secretaries General Boutros Boutros-Ghali and Kofi Annan and UNESCO Directors General Federico Mayor and Koichiro Matsuura and by US President Bill Clinton on 20 December. The World Press Freedom Committee, a coordination group of national and international news media bodies with 44 free-press organizations on six continents, is dedicated to the protection and promotion of press freedom around the world. The Charter for a Free Press reads as follows:
A free press means a free people. To this end, the following principles, basic to an unfettered flow of news and information both within and across national borders, deserve the support of all those pledged to advance and protect democratic institutions.
1.Censorship, direct or indirect, is unacceptable; thus laws and practices restricting the right of the news media freely to gather and distribute information must be abolished, and government authorities, national or local, must not interfere with the content of print or broadcast news, or restrict access to any news source.
2. Independent news media, both print and broadcast, must be allowed to emerge and operate freely in all countries.
3. There must be no discrimination by governments in their treatment, economic or otherwise, of the news media within a country. In those countries where government media also exist, the independent media must have the same free access as the official media have to all material and facilities necessary to their publishing or broadcasting operations.
4. States must not restrict access to newsprint, printing facilities and distribution systems, operation of news agencies, and availability of broadcast frequencies and facilities.
5. Legal, technical and tariff practices by communications authorities which inhibit the distribution of news and restrict the flow of information are condemned.
6. Government media must enjoy editorial independence and be open to a diversity of viewpoints. This should be affirmed in both law and practice.
7. There should be unrestricted access by the print and broadcast media within a country to outside news and information services, and the public should enjoy similar freedom to receive foreign publications and foreign broadcasts without interference.
8. National frontiers must be open to foreign journalists. Quotas must not apply, and applications for visas, press credentials and other documentation requisite for their work should be approved promptly. Foreign journalists should be allowed to travel freely within a country and have access to both official and unofficial news sources, and be allowed to import and export freely all necessary professional materials and equipment.
9. Restrictions on the free entry to the field of journalism or over its practice, through licensing or other certification procedures, must be eliminated.
10. Journalists, like all citizens, must be secure in their persons and be given full protection of law. Journalists working in war zones are recognized as civilians enjoying all rights and immunities accorded to other civilians. (World Press Freedom Committee, 2 January)
REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS: PRESS FREEDOM VIOLATIONS IN 2000. The Paris-based media defense group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), issued its annual survey of world-wide media freedom on 3 January. It reported that in the year 2000, 26 journalists were killed while practicing their profession or for their opinions, 329 were arrested, 510 were attacked or threatened and 295 media were victims of censorship. On 4 January 2001, 77 journalists were in jail (compared to 85 on 1 January 2000) for attempting to freely practice their profession. Close to one-third of the world's population is living in countries without any press freedom; the RSF refers to three particularly serious media violations in Ukraine, Russia and Turkmenistan. The most serious current case is that of Georgy Gongadze, an editor of an Internet publication critical of the Ukrainian government who has been missing for three months. The RSF reported that "shortly before his disappearance, in a letter to the state prosecutor, he denounced what he considered to be "premeditated intimidation to scare him or put a stop to his activities". On his site, http://www.pravda.com.ua, he published articles on corruption among senior officials. "A decapitated body found in November 2000 near Kiev could be that of Gongadze, but results of analyses have not been revealed," according to the RSF. French photographer Brice Fleutiaux was released on 12 June after nine months of detention in Chechnya; he stated that he had been "detained by different groups" and "had experienced very difficult times but had not been tortured." In Turkmenistan, in May 2000, the telecommunications minister withdrew the licenses of all private Internet access providers for alleged "violations of the law". The state can now screen sites and make certain sites inaccessible for Internet users in the country. It also controls all e-mail circulating in the country. (Reporters Without Borders, 3 January)
ARMENIAORT AND RTR MAY STOP BROADCASTS. The Armenian re-broadcasting unit owes 220,000 USD to the Russian TV companies RTR and ORT, reported company director Robert Arutunyan on 8 January. Since no new agreement has been reached on this issue, RTR and ORT may halt broadcasts to Armenia in the near future. See http://www.rbc.ru/rbcfreenews.shtml?/20010108180127.shtml
AZERBAIJANOPPOSITION 'BETRAYED' BY EUROPE? After November's parliamentary elections, the opposition parties announced a unanimous parliamentary boycott, since they believed their candidates had been "unfairly excluded from the poll and electoral laws had been violated." Opposition parties "hoped this move would persuade the Council of Europe to bring pressure on President Aliev" and force him to nullify the election results. In December, the Council of Europe and the OSCE "urged the opposition to abandon the boycott and acknowledge the legitimacy of the newly elected parliament." In response to Council of Europe protests, Aliev's officials overturned election results in 11 voting districts across Azerbaijan and announced that some highly placed officials had been charged with intimidating local electoral commissions. "Independent observers had reported violations in a further 88 districts and, according to Azerbaijani law, if the results are overturned in 25 districts or more, the government is forced to call new elections." Aliyev also agreed to bring forward the second round of voting from January 4 to January 7 in order to ensure that Western monitors would be able to attend. Head of the OSCE Mission in Azerbaijan praised Aliev's actions to address violations reported in November's elections, although a few weeks earlier the OSCE Mission had labelled voting results a "complete fabrication". Azerbaijan's ongoing bid to join the Council of Europe will be formally reviewed on 17 January. "It is clear that this issue lies at the heart of the Council's recent volte-face over Azerbaijan's parliamentary elections." (Institute for World and Peace Reporting, Caucasus Service, 8 January)
BELARUSMINSK SYNAGOGUE FIREBOMBED. As-yet unidentified assailants on 27 December threw firebombs at a synagogue in Minsk, AP reported on 29 December. A security guard was able to extinguish the flames before any serious damage was caused. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 January)
STREET VENDORS ON STRIKE. Entrepreneurs who sell goods on street corners are on strike across Belarus to protest the introduction of new income-tax and customs laws that they say will undercut their business, Interfax-West reported on 3 January. Organizers hope that more than half of the registered traders in Minsk, Borisov, Slutsk, Soligorsk, Grodno, Gomel, Mozyr, Rogachev, and Vitebsk will take part. Currently the strike is set to end on 5 January, but organizers said they may extend it if their demands for modification of the regulations are not met. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January)
BOSNIABBC TRAINING PROGRAM FOR BROADCASTERS. The BBC School of Broadcast Journalism in Sarajevo is seeking applications for its second "Training The Trainers" program, with a deadline of 15 January. Six experienced television and radio journalists from Bosnia and Herzegovina will be chosen to attend the eight-week course in Sarajevo and in London. Candidates for the program must be working broadcasters with at least three years' experience and be demonstrably committed to a continuing career in the broadcast media. They must have an excellent command of English. For more information, visit http://www.bbcschool.sarajevo.btinternet (International Journalists' Network, 8 January)
BULGARIARFE/RL UNCOVERS RESPONSIBILITY FOR 1980s TURKISH MINORITY PERSECUTION. The RFE/RL Sofia Bureau has researched for over a year the 1984-85 persecution of the country's ethnic Turks in declassified Ministry of the Interior archives. That persecution campaign culminated in the May 1989 forced expulsion of nearly 300,000 Turks from Bulgaria which communist propaganda presented as a voluntary act. After the fall of communism, Bulgaria's ethnic Turks had their rights restored. Legal action was initiated, but has never been completed due to lack of evidence, against former communist dictator Todor Zhivkov, and the then-Interior Minister Dimitar Stoyanov (both now dead). During its research, RFE/RL found such evidence in a document, hidden in an obscure file, signed by former Interior Minister Stoyanov on 10 December 1984, which ordered the forceful assimilation of one million ethnic Turks. The order was given to the State Security's Sixth Department, which was known to have dealt with the cases of dissidents. In fact, RFE/RL found that seven out of the Department's nine branches dealt with minorities, including Roma, Jews, and Armenians. Later programs -- all based on documentary evidence -- will examine various aspects of the assimilation campaign. The first RFE/RL report gave rise to extensive media interest, including the national BTA news agency, national radio, TV, and major private radio stations, AP, Anadolu news agency and AFP. A documentary film on the subject was shown on 9 January. (RFE/RL Bulgarian Service, 5 January)
CZECH REPUBLICMASS PRAGUE PROTEST DEMANDS END TO POLITICAL INTERFERENCE IN TV... About 100,000 people participated in a mass protest on 3 January in Prague's main Wenceslas Square against political interference in Czech public television and for the freedom of expression of journalists, CTK and international agencies reported. AP said this was the biggest rally since the 1989 "Velvet Revolution." Zeman criticized the rally as "unnecessary," telling CTK that "in a parliamentary democracy, demonstrations...cannot be the way of changing the law," but his presumptive heir, Deputy Premier Vladimir Spidla, addressed the gathering, explaining the government's decision to amend the law on TV and radio. Thousands also gathered in protest rallies in Brno and Ostrava. The Czech Council of Economic and Social Agreement, made up of representatives of the government, employers and trade unions, on the same day called on the TV Council to dismiss Hodac. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January)
...AND SENATE ASKS HODAC TO STEP DOWN. The Senate on 3 January approved a resolution demanding that Hodac submit his resignation and that "uncensored and undisrupted" television broadcasts be resumed. The resolution was supported by 42 out of the 68 senators present. Senators representing the Civic Democratic Party either voted against or abstained, CTK reported. Also on 3 January, Prime Minister Milos Zeman told journalists that he "understands" the demands that Hodac be dismissed. Zeman said Hodac has made "two great mistakes." The first mistake was to interrupt broadcasts and the second to appoint as new TV financial director Jindrich Bezonska, Zeman said. Bezonska was formerly employed in a managerial position at the IPB bank, which had to be placed under "enforced administration" by the National Bank last year. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January)
GOVERNMENT APPROVES DRAFT AMENDMENT TO TV LAW. The government on 3 January approved the draft amendment of the law on Czech Television and Czech Radio aimed at making the two institutions more independent of the influence of political parties. Governmental spokesman Libor Roucek told CTK that the cabinet will now ask the Chamber of Deputies to debate the amendment in "emergency procedure." The amendment must be approved by both chambers of the parliament to become effective. Culture Minister Pavel Dostal on 3 January said he is filing criminal charges against Jiri Hodac, whose appointment as director general of Czech Television last month triggered the protests and the strike by newsroom journalists. Dostal said on a program broadcast by the rebel journalists that Hodac's order on the same day to black out news has prevented most viewers from being informed of the cabinet's decision. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January)
RUSSIAN AND POLISH JOURNALISTS EXPRESS SOLIDARITY WITH CZECH COLLEAGUES. The 1,800 members of the Solidarity trade union at Polish state television on 3 January dispatched a letter expressing support for their Czech colleagues who are protesting the appointment as TV general director of a man they believe is politically biased, AP reported. The letter said that "a political grip on public television is a remnant of the communist regime and [that] there is no room for it in a civilized world." The Russian Union of Journalists expressed its support for striking Czech Television employees who have been protesting the appointment of Jiri Hodac, CTK reported on 4 January. The Russian union's statement said that it is confident that the protests, the positions of the country's leaders, and the international solidarity of journalists and human rights activists will lead Prague to reverse its decision. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 January)
...AS INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT FOR STRIKERS GROWS. European Commission spokesman Jonathan Faull on 3 January said the commission will "consider" the appeal of the International Federation of Journalists to intervene in the dispute around developments in Czech TV, Reuters and CTK reported. Faull said the commission is "committed to the principles of freedom of expression and of the media, as we are sure is [also] the Czech government." In a statement released in London, the International PEN Club said it is "worried" about those developments, which show "clear signs of political interference in, and manipulation of, public news." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January)
KAZAKHSTANALMATY RESIDENT THREATENS SELF-IMMOLATION IN FRONT OF PRESIDENTIAL PALACE. Mrs. Gulshat Rysbayeva announced on 4 January that she was planning to stage a self-immolation in front of the presidential palace in Almaty on 8 January. An economist by profession, Rysbaeva, along with her son and husband are all unemployed. She also said that she had asked the mayor of Almaty to permit her to hold the self-immolation action, but the city administration has not responded. (RFE/RL Kazakh News, 4 January)
OPPOSITION LEADER RESPONDS TO PRESIDENTIAL CHALLENGE. Former Kazakh Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin, who now heads the opposition Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan, told RFE/RL's Kazakh Service on 3 January that he is "prepared to answer the frivolous and politically motivated charges" of embezzlement and tax evasion brought against him by the Kazakh authorities in "any legitimate independent court in the world." He noted that he had twice been thwarted in an attempt to do so, when he was detained at Moscow airport in September 1999 and in Rome in July 2000. Replying to questions from TV viewers in Kazakhstan late last month, President Nursultan Nazarbaev had argued that Kazhegeldin should return to Kazakhstan to answer prosecutors' questions, Interfax reported on 28 December. Kazhegeldin also rejected Nazarbaev's accusation that he spent $18-20 million on election campaigning, pointing out that he was refused permission to contend either the January 1999 presidential elections or the October 1999 parliamentary ballot. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January)
AMBIVALENCE OVER PRISON AMNESTY. A poll conducted on 4 January by the staff of RFE/RL's Almaty bureau revealed that most of those questioned approve the amnesty for some 27,000 prisoners signed in late December by President Nursultan Nazarbaev to mark the 10th anniversary of Kazakhstan's Declaration of Sovereignty. Some respondents, however, attributed the gesture to the authorities' inability to provide food and clothing for the entire prison population, while others expressed concern that the release of prisoners will increase the incidence of tuberculosis nation-wide. Reuters reported in February 2000 that over 10 percent of the prisoners released under an amnesty in Kazakhstan in 1999 suffer from that disease. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 January)
KOSOVAGRENADE ATTACK ON PRISTINA'S LAST ACTIVE ORTHODOX CHURCH. The only functioning Serbian Orthodox church in the Kosovan capital Pristina was damaged on 22 December by a hand grenade thrown from a passing vehicle. No one was injured. This is the first reported attack on an Orthodox church in Kosova since September of last year. The Keston Institute is not aware that anyone has been prosecuted for these attacks. (Keston Institute, 5 January)
KYRGYZSTAN0PPOSITIONIST'S APPEAL NOT YET CONSIDERED. During a brief meeting with an RFE/RL reporter on 5 January in a camp outside Bishkek, opposition leader Topchubek TurgunAliyev said that the Supreme Court had not responded to his 27 November appeal, although the law gives that body a one-month deadline. Turgunaliev, recognized by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience, says the criminal case against him was organized by the security services. Chairman of the Guild of Prisoners of Conscience in Kyrgyzstan, he was accused of "ideological leadership" of a 1999 presidential assassination plot. Sentenced in September 2000 to 16 years of imprisonment, Turgunaliev's term was later reduced to 6 years. Several others sentenced along with TurgunAliyev have already been released (RFE/RL Kyrgyz News, 6 January)
CRACKDOWN ON ISLAMIC GROUPS WILL CONTINUE. As President Askar Akayev establishes the administrative groundwork for his third term, a government crackdown in Kyrgyzstan is continuing. Authorities are targeting activists of the Hizb-ut-Tahrir movement, charging that the group supports regional Islamic insurgent activity. Some group members deny affiliation with insurgents. See http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/rights/articles/eav010501.shtml ("Eurasiaweek," 8 January)
FOUR UZBEK CONVERTS TO CHRISTIANITY OSTRACIZED. Some 1,000 residents of the village of Kurkol in Djalalabad Oblast convened a meeting on 3 January at which they demanded that four ethnic Uzbeks who recently converted to Christianity leave the village, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. The local Muslim Religious Board estimates that some 130 local residents have recently converted to Christianity. In late December, police in the southern city of Osh arrested five members of the banned Hizb-ut-Tahrir organization who had pasted in public places leaflets calling for the overthrow of the Kyrgyz leadership and the establishment of an Islamic caliphate in the Ferghana valley, Russian agencies reported. Up to 300 people, most of them Hizb-ut-Tahrir members, were arrested in southern Kyrgyzstan in 2000 for distributing religious literature. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January)
ULTIMATUM TO UZBEK CONVERTS RETRACTED. The standoff in the village of Kurkol in Kyrgyzstan's Djalalabad Oblast between local villagers and ethnic Uzbek Jehovah's Witnesses was resolved peacefully on 4 January thanks to the intervention of Interior Ministry and Security Service officials, RFE/RL's Bishek bureau reported. Villagers had demanded on 3 January that the four Uzbeks either reconvert to Islam or leave the village. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 January)
OPPOSITION PARTY ADVISES LEADER TO LEAVE COUNTRY. The Political Council of the opposition Ar-Namys (Dignity) Party proposed on 3 January that its founder and chairman, former Vice President Feliks Kulov, leave Kyrgyzstan to avoid possible imprisonment, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported the following day. The Bishkek Military Court is due to resume on 9 January its review of its August decision to acquit Kulov on charges of abuse of his official position while serving as national security minister. If the court reverses the acquittal, Kulov could be sentenced to eight years imprisonment. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 January)
POLANDNURSES END SIT-IN, MARCH INSTEAD. Nurses and other health care workers ended a 17-day sit-in at the Polish Health Ministry on 29 December but then joined in a march through Warsaw to protest the government's planned health care reforms, AP reported. Similar marches took place in other Polish cities, as did strikes at several dozen hospitals across the country. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 January)
ROMANIAMINORITIES REMAIN FEARFUL. A few days after the December electoral defeat of anti-Semitic presidential candidate Vadim Tudor, "thugs broke into the Jewish museum in Bucharest, shouting "where is the soap made from human fat?" (that is, from the victims of Auschwitz). Before escaping, the men attacked two guides -- Holocaust survivors -- and smashed windows and exhibits. Afterwards, President Iliescu published a strong condemnation, saying that he would not tolerate anti-Semitic incidents and promising to punish the perpetrators. Anti-Semitic threats are issued by the right-wing Great Romania Party, one of whose election slogans declared that "Iliescu is selling Romania to a Jewish conspiracy." Before World War II, Romania was home to nearly 1 million Jews, the third-largest Jewish community in Eastern Europe, after the Soviet Union and Poland. Some 400,000 Romanian Jews perished in the death camps, while tens of thousands were murdered by Romanian fascists. Nevertheless, after the Holocaust, Romania had the largest East European Jewish community outside of the USSR. According to a World Jewish Congress survey, about 12,000 Jews live in Romania today -- with only 1,000 under the age of 40. Today, the Great Romania Party is the main parliamentary opposition, with a third of its support from young people. The main target of the racist incitement is the Hungarian minority, whose standard of living is higher than most Romanians and who represent 2 million of the country's 12 million inhabitants. While Gypsies, Jews and Germans are the party's secondary target, other ethnic minorities also suffer from racist incidents. ("Haaretz," 4 January)
RUSSIACHECHEN NGO ACTIVIST ABDUCTED, FEARED DISAPPEARED. Chechen community leader, Imran Ezhiev, chair of the Chechnya and Ingushetian branch of the NGO Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, was abducted inside Ingushetia and taken to an unknown location by armed men on 5 January, reported the International League for Human Rights. The Russian-Chechen Friendship Society monitors human rights in the North Caucasus, as well as facilitating searches for relatives. In the past five months, Ezhiev has been subjected to three such arbitrary detentions. Ingushetia is home to some 200,000 Chechens displaced by the armed conflict. Some ninety minutes before he was abducted, colleagues report, Ezhiev telephoned Stanislav Dmitrievsky, co-chair of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, to discuss their participation in a 20-21 January human rights conference in Moscow. Ezhiev said that he would bring to the conference an appeal to President Putin signed by ten thousand Chechen displaced persons. Ezhiev also told Dmitrievsky of continuous Federal Security Service (FSB) harassment and expressed fear for his life. Five minutes after Ezhiev left, a large group of unidentified armed men in camouflage burst into the Society�s office, looking for him. Ezhiev has not been seen since.
Although Ingushetia�s Interior Ministry (MVD) and the local FSB office told Ezhiev's relatives that he was not in their custody, two previous incidents cast doubt on these denials. Ezhiev was held without charges for four days in September 2000, when he was en route from Ingushetia to Chechnya to attend a meeting of Chechen diaspora representatives, displaced persons� (IDP) camp leaders, and Akhmad Kadyrov, head of the Chechnya provisional government. At this meeting, Ezhiev planned to raise IDP problems and allegations of Russian army maltreatment. A month later, Ezhiev was detained for one day; MVD officers burst into the Friendship Society�s office, confiscating office equipment and detaining Ezhiev on charges of "sheltering rebels" and "collaborating with Aslan Maskhadov, elected Chechnya president." On the night of Ezhiev's 14 October release, Ruslan Akhamatov, a Society representative and Ezhiev's relative -- while wearing Ezhiev's jacket -- was fatally stabbed in the back by unknown persons while walking to the refugee camp in Yandare. In addition Ezhiev is a key witness in the abduction of human rights activists from Nizhny Novgorod by Ingush special forces. The group was released after ransom was paid. The Sunzhensky District Prosecutor�s office is currently conducting an investigation into the case. (International League for Human Rights Press Release, 9 January)
INTIMIDATION CAMPAIGN AGAINST INVESTIGATORY PAPER. In an 8 January 20001 letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) informed him that after a thorough investigation into the murder of Igor Domnikov, a reporter for the independent, twice-weekly newspaper "Novaya gazeta", the organization has concluded that Domnikov was targeted by assassins who sought to intimidate his paper and CPJ has placed Domnikov on its annual list of journalists killed in the line of duty. At first, the Interior Ministry actively investigated Domnikov's murder, promising to conclude the investigation by the end of the summer if "Novaya gazeta" agreed not to disclose any details of the case to the public, reported CPJ. In early fall, however, authorities downgraded the case's high-priority status and "archived" it as allowed by law for cases unresolved within a three-month deadline. "Novaya gazeta" specializes in investigative journalism, including high-profile corruption cases involving government officials. CPJ is concerned about recent attacks and threats against three other "Novaya gazeta" journalists, including repeated death threats against reporter Oleg Sultanov that police have also failed to investigate. In January 2000, Sultanov claimed to have received threats from Federal Security Service agents who were angered by his articles on corruption in Lukoil, the giant Russian oil company closely linked to the Russian government. On 17 December, reporter Oleg Lurye was brutally beaten outside his home; 12 hours later, Lurye's editor, Georgy Rozhnov, was threatened by phone that he would be beaten "unless his newspaper stopped investigating corruption in the government." CPJ is "gravely disturbed by the lack of progress in the investigation and by the apparent reluctance of police to bring the perpetrators to justice." For more information, e-mail: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, Internet: http://www.cpj.org/ (Committee to Protect Journalists Press Release, 8 January)
APPEALS COURT REINSTATES CHARGES AGAINST GUSINSKII. A Moscow court on 5 January reinstated fraud charges against media magnate Vladimir Gusinskii, Reuters reported. A lower court in December had said the charges were without foundation, but prosecutors had appealed that ruling. Gusinskii remains in Spain, free on bail pending a Spanish court's decision on whether to extradite him to Russia. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 January)
MOSCOW MUSIC ACADEMY CONDUCTS WORKSHOPS. Seminars for DJs, music directors, sound editors, producers, and other personnel at regional Russian radio stations, are offered in Moscow by the Center for Contemporary Music Culture at the Russian Music Academy. Sessions can last from seven to 10 days. The workshops are led by experienced professionals from the leading Moscow-based radio stations and professors from the Music Academy. The training costs from U.S.$100 to $200 per person. The organizers can assist in finding the accommodations for which the participants are financially responsible. For more information, contact Vladimir Kozlov at 7-095-202-77-04. (International Journalists' Network, 8 January)
ONLY ONE RUSSIAN IN 100 ONLINE AT HOME. Only 4 percent of all Russians have their own computer at home, the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion told Interfax on 4 January and only one has the ability to go online from his or her residence. Among residents of Moscow, these figures are 16 percent and 3 percent respectively. Slightly more have access to computers and the web at work. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 January)
RUSSIANS TRUST PUTIN BUT NOT THE COURTS OR MEDIA. A poll conducted by ROMIR in December found that 72 percent of Russians were inclined to trust the Russian president and that 26 percent approved all of his actions, ITAR-TASS reported on 3 January. But only 25 percent said they trusted the judicial system and 30 percent said they had no faith in the courts. The same poll found that only six percent of Russians fully trust the media, 37 percent "rather do not trust" media outlets, and 16 percent say that they do not believe newspapers or the electronic media at all. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 January)
GREENS TO BRING SUIT AGAINST CENTRAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION. Environmental groups circulated a petition in over 60 of Russia's regions and garnered 2.5 million signatures in a request to hold a referendum to overturn the recent Duma decision permitting the import of spent nuclear fuel into Russia. The Central Electoral Commission (CEC), however, declared over 600,000 of the 2.5 million -- of the required two million -- signatures invalid. In an effort to have at least 126,000 signatures reinstated, environmentalists plan to take the decision to court -- most likely in the Chelyabinsk, Voronezh, Vologda, Far East and Primorye regions, where high numbers of signatures were rejected. The CEC rejected addresses with wrong street abbreviations or from villages without street addresses (villages may only have one unnamed street). Alexander Karpov of the St. Petersburg Society of Naturalists, which participated in the petition, said that 126,000 signatures would be enough to set the referendum's wheels in motion again. He added that only a few challenges may be necessary since the cases are based on precedent and "one victory in the courts could mean that we get back tens of thousands of signatures." A CEC spokeswoman, who refused to identify herself, confirmed that signatures had been rejected "owing to multiple inaccuracies," while Dmitri Krasnyansky, deputy head of the St. Petersburg Electoral Commission, said that CEC rules were "highly subjective." ("The St. Petersburg Times," 26 December)
TATAR OPPOSITION SLAMS RUSSIA'S 'COLONIALIST' POLICY. Supporters of the moderate nationalist Tatar Public Center convened a protest meeting in Kazan on 2 January at which they condemned what they termed Moscow's "colonialist" policy aimed at restricting the rights of Russia's national republics, RFE/RL's Tatar Service reported. Participants also criticized the decision of the Tatar authorities to proceed with the distribution of the new Russian passports, objecting that those passports "feature numerous Orthodox symbols," and that they fail to specify the holder's ethnicity. Protest participants similarly condemned the adoption of the melody of the old Soviet anthem as Russia's new national anthem. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 January)
ANTI-SEMITIC EX-GOVERNOR NAMED TO FEDERATION COUNCIL. The Union of Councils for Soviet Jews (UCSJ) today sent a letter to the newly elected governor of Krasnodar Kray, Aleksandr Tkachev, protesting his 5 January decision to appoint his predecessor, Nikolai Kondratenko, to represent the region in the Federation Council (the upper house of the Russian parliament). Former Governor Kondratenko is one of Russia's most notorious anti-Semites, well known for publicly accusing Jews of everything from destroying the USSR to somehow "inventing" homosexuality. Kondratenko is also known for discriminatory statements and policies against other ethnic minorities in the Krasnodar Krai, including Armenians and Meskhetian Turks. (Union of Councils for Soviet Jews, 6 January)
ATHEISTS FIGHT FOR RIGHTS AS POWER OF CHURCH GROWS. Russia's beleaguered atheists have formed a new society -- Moscow authorities refused to register the organization -- to campaign against the growing power of the Church in government and what they perceive as the 'threatening clericalisation' of society. After 70 years of promotion by the Soviet regime, atheism has become deeply unfashionable over the past decade amid the fashion for the Russian Orthodox faith. Polls suggest 55 percent of the population are Orthodox believers, about 3 percent being regular churchgoers, while 40 percent are indifferent to religion or do not believe. About 5 percent remain committed atheists. Geraldine Fagan, Moscow representative of the Keston Institute, which monitors religious freedom in the former Soviet Union, said the atheists' campaign reflected widespread concerns about the power accumulated by the Orthodox Church. �The Russian Constitution says everyone has a right to express any religion or none, but there is a growing sense that the Orthodox Church has a free rein,� she said. ("The Observer (UK)," 7 January)
LAST MINUTE RE-REGISTRATION OF KOSTROMA PENTECOSTALS. Two Pentecostal churches in Kostroma region northeast of Moscow that experienced attempts to liquidate them in court last year were re-registered on 29 December by the regional justice administration just two days ahead of December�s re-registration deadline. The justice administration had itself brought the unsuccessful liquidation suit against the Kostroma Christian Center and the Grace Church last summer, but the court in November ordered the justice administration to re-register the two churches within one month. (Keston News Service, 3 January 2001)
DRUGS OVERWHELMING TUVA. The rate of drug addiction in the Tuva Republic last year rose to almost four times Russia's national average, the republic's Ministry of Health announced on 4 January. Tuva has 226.1 addicts per 100,000 members of the population, compared to the national average of 59.7 addicts per 100,000, Interfax-Eurasia reported. According to the agency, the number of addicts in the republic has increased 40 times during the last 10 years, and the number of crimes involving the illegal sale of drugs has risen 10 times. Last fall, RFE/RL's Kyzyl correspondent reported that Tuva is becoming a "second Colombia," where the local narco-business is becoming the republic's primary business activity. Two reasons why the local population is turning to the sale of drugs is that the amount of arable land in the republic is shrinking and the rate of unemployment in Tuva is one of the highest in Russia. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 January)
ONLY 58 PERCENT OF RUSSIA'S 16-YEAR-OLDS WILL REACH 60. The State Statistics Committee told Interfax on 4 January that if existing mortality trends continue, only 58 percent of young men aged 16 now will reach their 60th birthday. Committee experts noted that this was only slightly better than the projections for 16-year-olds in 1897 when 56 percent were expected to reach 60. The demographers also pointed out that Russians had the longest life expectancies in 1985-86, 64.91 for men and 74.55 for women. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 January)
AVERAGE MONTHLY SALARY OF $80 IN TATARSTAN. According to official statistics for 2000, the average monthly salary was 2230 rubles [approx. USD 80] in Tatarstan. Wages for oil workers rank highest at some seven thousand rubles; computer specialists, journalists, and "information specialists" come in second place, with an average of 4430 rubles; bank employees are in the third place with 4275 rubles; construction workers average 3099 wages, while transport workers average 2630 rubles. Doctors (1471 rubles), teachers (1146 rubles) and collective farmers of Tatarstan (1066 rubles) are the lowest-paid workers. (�RFE/RL Tatar Weekly Review,� 4 January)
SERBIAOTPOR WEBSITE STRUCK BY HACKER. A hacker managed to disable administrators' access to the websites of both the Center for Free Elections and Democracy and resistance movement Otpor on 25 December. Officials from both organizations have launched a full-scale investigation into the attack, together with their German-based provider BG DREAM. A spokesman for the company said this was the first time somebody had hacked into Otpor's site. (�ANEM Report,� 30 December)
'UNDERGROUND' PLAYWRIGHT SUED FOR HARASSMENT The Helsinki Human Rights Committee (HHRC) filed charges on 4 January against well-known playwright Dusan Kovacevic for allegedly harassing a publicist for an article she wrote last month. Ljiljana Djurdjic criticized the playwright in an article on the role of the intelligentsia, published 12 December in daily Danas. Kovacevic is the author of the film script for "Underground." In a statement issued 4 January, the HHRC said it was "concerned" about the case, "especially since it comes from those who constantly emphasize to the media their loyalty to democracy and condemn the old ways." (�ANEM Report,� 4 January)
...AND 'UNDERGROUND' CUT FOR TV. Emir Kusturica�s film "Underground" was broadcast twice over New Year by Radio Television of Serbia but with a cut of ten minutes. It is not yet known whether the film producer and distributor Komuna Company or RTS was responsible for the cut, which included a popular scene. (�ANEM Report,� 5 January)
OSCE FINDS BALKAN MEDIA POLITICIZED. Freedom of media is not the main issue in the Balkan region, OSCE Media Representative Freimut Duve said today, emphasizing that the main problem was rather the overwhelming politicization of local media. "The problematic use of media is in the spreading of conflicts among entities. Many people's political relevance depends on those conflicts and they are afraid that, when conflict ceases, they will have no power," he said in an interview with the "Frankfurter Rundschau." Nevertheless, according to Duve, there is a new generation of journalists in Zagreb and Belgrade who understand their profession. "Had young people been unable to get information on the Internet, there would not have been a plebiscite on Slobodan Milosevic's departure from the political scene," Duve said. (�ANEM Report,� 4 January)
YUGOSLAV FM ASSURES U.S. CONGRESSMAN OF IMPROVED HUMAN RIGHTS. Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic assured United States Helsinki Commission Chairman Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) on 5 January that his government is committed to improving human rights conditions and building democratic institutions. Congressman Smith raised the release of Kosovar Albanians in Serbian prisons, turning over persons indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague for war crimes and crimes against humanity, and bringing those responsible for the assassination of journalist Slavko Curuvija to justice. The foreign minister responded that a long-awaited amnesty law would soon be adopted and bring the issue of imprisoned Kosovar Albanians to an end. He acknowledged that all countries must respect international obligations, including participation with The Hague Tribunal. (Helsinki Commission News, 5 January)
SLOVAKIAROMA SAY PLANNED CENSUS DISCRIMINATORY. Romany activists in Slovakia sent an open letter to President Rudolf Schuster, Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda and to the parliament, protesting against the fact there will be no Romany-language version of the questionnaire to be used in the population census planned for 26 May, CTK reported. The activists say the census is therefore "discriminatory" and that it will be impossible for members of the Roma minority to understand the questions. The cabinet on 20 December 2000 decided that the questionnaires will be printed in Slovak-Hungarian, Slovak-Ukrainian and Slovak-Russian versions. Government Commissioner for Romany Affairs Vincent Danihel said he believes the cabinet will reconsider its decision. "I think some mistake has been made, as a Slovak-Romany version was also originally considered," he said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January)
TURKMENISTANAMNESTY FAILS TO FREE RELIGIOUS PRISONERS. The amnesty which last month freed nearly two-thirds of Turkmenistan's prison population has not benefited the five religious prisoners known to Keston News Service. Their names are not included in the list of those freed; Baptist and Jehovah's Witness sources are not aware of any release of their prisoners. Shagildy Atakov, a Baptist, serving a 4-year sentence in labor camp on charges of swindling was arrested on 18 December 1998; Yazmammed Annamammedov, a Jehovah's Witness, serving a 4-year sentence for alleged possession of weapons, sentenced in Serdar (Kyzyl-arbat) on 13 December 1999; Guvanch Ashirov, a Jehovah's Witness, serving an 18-month sentence, was arrested in August 1999; Igor Nazarov, a Jehovah's Witness, sentenced on 14 March 2000, is serving an unknown sentence in a labor camp in Tedjen for refusing military service, his second prison term on the same charge; Nuryagdy Gaiyrov, a Jehovah's Witness, serving a one-year sentence in a labor camp in Tedjen for refusing military service and was sentenced on 19 January 2000. In addition to these five known prisoners, there are a number of believers who have been subjected to internal deportation. (Keston Institute, 5 January)
COURT ORDERS CONFISCATION OF PENTECOSTAL CHURCH. Ashgabat's Kopetdag district court ruled on 4 January that a private house in the city belonging to Pastor Viktor Makrousov, and which is used by the Pentecostal congregation for religious services, is to be confiscated without payment of compensation, Keston News Service reported the same day. Makrousov said he will appeal that ruling. The presiding judge initially refused foreign diplomats entrance to the courtroom, but allowed them to attend the afternoon session after the Turkmen Foreign Ministry intervened. An OSCE representative in Ashgabat said the court ruling "appears to have very little legal foundation" and "seems to be motivated by an intent to stop Pastor Makrousov's religious activities." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 January)
UKRAINEKUCHMA SEEKS FOREIGN HELP ON GONGADZE CASE. Arguing that "as president, I need the truth more than anyone else does," President Kuchma said on 30 December that he would welcome the arrival of foreign experts to probe the case of missing journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, Interfax-Ukraine said. Meanwhile, Reporters without Borders told Interfax on 29 December that its experts will arrive in Kyiv on 8 January to investigate Gongadze's disappearance. And DPA reported the same day that Ukrainian parliamentarian (Reforms and Order Party) Serhy Holovaty said that German forensic specialists have confirmed that a body believed to be Gongadze's is in fact that of the missing journalist. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 3 January)
JOURNALIST'S DEATH SAID BECOMING 'POLITICAL CHERNOBYL'. Writing in Moscow's "Argumenty I fakty" on 3 January, Aleksandr Kondrashov said that the murder of Heorhy Gongadze is now known in Ukraine as "Kuchmagate" and that it is rapidly becoming a "political Chernobyl" for President Kuchma. And he added that this explosion is likely to extend to Russian political figures as well. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January)
MOSCOW PROTESTS UKRAINIANIZATION OF TV RADIO. The Russian Foreign Ministry on 3 January issued a press release saying that it is surprised by Ukrainian efforts to ban Russian-language programming on that country's television and radio channels, ITAR-TASS reported. It said that "the squeezing out of the Russian language from Ukrainian mass media is a policy underlying de-russification of all sides of Ukraine's social life." The ministry added that it creates the impression that "somebody in the Ukrainian political establishment does not like the improvement of Russian-Ukrainian relations, including in the humanitarian field which gained significant momentum during the recent visit of Leonid Kuchma to Russia." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January)
UZBEKISTANHUMANITARIAN WORKERS FACE HARD TIMES. Uzbekistan authorities are making life difficult for humanitarian aid workers. Various Westerners report being subjected to intensive scrutiny from Uzbek security forces and tax officials. The persecution is fostering feelings of resentment and resignation among those who arrived in Uzbekistan with charitable intentions. See http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/insight/articles/eav010201.shtml (Eurasiaweek, 8 January)
FREE INTERNET ACCESS FOR JOURNALISTS. The Uzbekistan journalism training center, "Ilkhom," is providing free access to the Internet and is teaching journalists how to use Internet browsers, according to Lutfullah Kabirov, the center director, in a report from Internews-Uzbekistan. Located in Tashkent, "Ilkhom" has provided training for 50 professional journalists for the past four years. The center has received a total of $20,000 towards purchase of new computers, which would give Uzbekistan's journalists access to international sources of information. Two previous projects, financed by Eurasia Foundation, were aimed at heightening editors' knowledge of modern technology through special seminars teaching computer skills. In 1998, the center received awards for its activities from the European Council and from the U.S. embassy in Uzbekistan. (International Journalists' Network, 8 January)
INTERNEWS SITE. The Internews site in Uzbekistan now features transcriptions and images in English, Russian and Uzbek, from the weekly regional television news exchange, "Zamon." Independent regional television stations from throughout Uzbekistan contribute stories to "Zamon." (International Journalists' Network, 8 January)
REGIONAL EVENTS, TRENDSCENTRAL ASIAN ART TRENDS. The USSR's collapse had a devastating impact on culture in Central Asia and the Caucasus. The creative processes of artists, writers and musicians have suffered as they struggled to adjust to market realities. Yet some artists persist in creating new works. http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/qanda/articles/eav010301.shtml (Eurasiaweek, 8 January)
RECENT PUBLICATIONS, WEBSITESU.S. HELSINKI COMMISSION'S NEW WEBSITE. The United States Helsinki Commission launched a newly updated Internet website on 8 January allowing for greater ease in searching the Commission's archive of documents and information. The new Helsinki Commission website (http://www.csce.gov) uses some of the latest information technology, making research easier and more thorough. The Commission's website provides instant access to the agency's latest press releases and reports on recent hearings and briefings in addition to an electronic subscription service. Using the Commission's subscription page, readers with e-mail may choose to receive press releases, notices, reports and other documents on issues in which they are most interested. Text material on the Helsinki Commission's web site can be translated into German, Spanish, French and Italian through an unofficial, independent translation service. (Helsinki Commission Press Release, 8 January)
ACCESS TO HUMAN RIGHTS DOCUMENTS. Access to Human Rights Documentation by Janusz Symonides and Vladimir Volodin (Paris: UNESCO, 1997). Language: English. See erc.hrea.org/Library/reference/unesco97.html (�Human Rights Education Newsletter,� December)
END NOTELinking Russia Together
By Paul Goble
The Internet and television are providing long-distance educational opportunities for Russians in communities that are too small, too poor or too isolated to otherwise gain access to such training. And this new educational form is thus playing an increasingly important role in linking the far-flung regions of that country together.
Aleksandr Tikhonov, a former education minister who is spearheading the drive to introduce long-distance learning, said last week that some 300,000 students currently receive all or part of their instruction via these electronic channels, up from 10,000 five years ago and far fewer than the one million he projects over the next two or three years.
While even those numbers seem small, Tikhonov points out just how important long-distance learning is for his country. It "is more important than for Belgium, say or the United States because we have no roads." Moreover, even where roads exist, many people in Siberia or the Far East cannot afford to travel to educational centers. And consequently, their ability to receive instruction via television or the Internet is critical.
Building on the Soviet-era external correspondence programs, the new Russian long-distance learning effort focused first on the Internet but increasingly is based on satellite television. Few Russians, especially outside of Moscow or other major cities, have access to the Internet, although a Siberian university in Tomsk has promoted precisely that kind of teaching, supplementing this with cassettes when the lines are down.
Satellite television as a delivery vehicle for instruction has begun to take off and appears likely to dominate the situation at least over the next several years. The Modern University for the Humanities, set up in 1992, has used satellite channels rented on the American LMI I satellite to reach advanced students. And last year, Teleshkola, a commercial satellite learning channel for school-age children, went on the air.
The Russian government has announced plans to invest $140 million to help support these and related efforts and is actively seeking funding from the European Union, the World Bank and other international bodies.
Not only is this long-distance learning giving new opportunities to people in areas with few or no good alternatives, it is linking together the Russian state and the Russian nation. The Moscow University for the Humanities, for example, takes pride in the fact that its broadcasts reach not only Russians in the former Soviet republics but also Russian speakers in Israel as well.
But if long-distance learning has an increasing number of enthusiastic supporters, it also has its critics and faces some potentially serious obstacles to realize its full potential.
Critics of long-distance learning in Russia make the same points that the critics of this educational tool have long made in the West: Education requires interaction with the faculty, something that television and the Internet as it exists in Russia do not easily allow, and even more with other students, an even greater challenge for this medium.
Russian defenders of long-distance learning respond, again as do supporters of this kind of educational arrangement in the West, that they do not view long-distance learning as a replacement for traditional schools and universities but as a supplement, especially for those who might not have similar opportunities any other way.
More serious than this debate, however, may be the obstacles this form of learning must overcome if it is to succeed. As elsewhere around the world, many people, sceptical of the method, tend to view its graduates as second-class citizens in the educational world. That view is reinforced by certain government polices: the state gives draft deferments to students enrolled in physical universities but not to those in virtual ones.
But given Russia's enormous size and current resources, the advocates of such long-distance learning appear certain, there really is no other way for much of that enormous country to jump start itself into the high-tech world of the twenty-first century.