2 February 2001, Volume 2, Number 5
INTERNATIONALSIX RESOLUTIONS ON MEDIA FREEDOM THREATS. The General Assembly of the International Press Institute passed six resolutions on the following topics: the increased use of lengthy suspended jail sentences against journalists; attempts by governments to restrict the movement of journalists; the growing tendency to politicize news and current affairs programming as well as the management of publicly-owned broadcasting systems; the increasing restrictions on public access to, and distribution of, information on the Internet and the manner in which intergovernmental organizations have ignored violations against freedom of opinion and statement in their member states. All resolutions are posted at http://www.freemedia.at/index1.html (International Press Institute, 29 January)
LSE CIVIL SOCIETY FELLOWSHIPS AVAILABLE. Lord Dahrendorf Civil Society Scholarships offer opportunities for doctoral work in the study of civil society across disciplines (economics, sociology, political science) and countries. Of particular interest are comparative (cross-national, historical) and empirical projects and they address methodological and measurement issues. Scholarships are available. Contact Jane Schiemann at: email@example.com or see http://www.lse.ac.uk/depts/ccs (Center for Civil Society International, 29 January)
HUMAN RIGHTS PROGRAM IN CHICAGO. Applications are open for up to two residential fellowships from leading human rights activists in or outside of the U.S. The fellowships are primarily intended as a sabbatical period for well-established activists who seek an opportunity to reflect on their experiences in an academic environment. Each fellowship will last between three and six months. Successful candidates will have the opportunity to do research, to collaborate with faculty and students on projects of interest, to participate in courses or workshops, and to engage in activities away from the pressures of their work. The fellowships include tuition, living costs, and travel. Deadline is 28 February 2001. For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org or see http://www.humanities.uchicago.edu/cis/hr (Center for Civil Society International, 19 January)
ARMENIALEFTIST PARTIES CALL FOR JAILED BUSINESSMAN'S RELEASE. Representatives of the Armenian Communist Party and the Union of Rightist Forces appealed last week to Armenian National Security Minister Karlos Petrosian to release entrepreneur Arkadii Vartanian, but Petrosian replied that it is too early to do so, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. Vartanian was taken into custody on 30 October following an unsanctioned march by his supporters to the presidential palace and later charged with calling for the overthrow of the Armenian leadership. He was transferred on 22 January from a remand prison to a Yerevan hospital after his wife Elena had said he was in danger of suffering a stroke. Vartanian's lawyer, Samvel Jaghinian, said on 26 January that his client's condition remains grave and he is unable to participate in the ongoing investigation, according to Noyan Tapan. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January)
RETRANSMISSION OF RUSSIAN TV RESUMED. Armenia resumed retransmission of the Russian state-run TV station ORT on 28 January, but currently those broadcasts can be viewed only in Yerevan and neighboring districts, ITAR-TASS reported. Rebroadcasting was suspended one week earlier because of a financial dispute. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January)
CHURCH-STATE CONCORDATE TO BE SIGNED? An agreement between the Armenian government and the Armenian Apostolic Church granting the dominant religion a privileged status should be signed in early 2001 on the 1700th anniversary of Armenia's conversion to Christianity, according to Human Rights Without Frontiers (http://www.hrwf.net or email@example.com). The forthcoming agreement is expected to further strengthen the church's official position and would represent the final stage of privileged cooperation of the Armenian Apostolic Church with the state. (Human Rights Without Frontiers, 26 January)
PUBLIC BROADCASTING COUNCIL FORMED. On 19 January, under the terms of the new broadcasting law, President Robert Kocharian signed a decree appointing the five members of the new Council of the Public Television and Radio. (Yerevan Press Club Newsletter, 19 January)
AZERBAIJANWAR INVALIDS CONTINUE HUNGER STRIKE. Some 500 veterans of the Karabakh war entered the sixth day of their hunger-strike on 27 January to demand a threefold increase in their pensions and invalid benefits, Turan reported. Etimad Asadov, who heads the Society of Veterans of the Karabakh War, told Turan that the strikers are waiting for President Aliyev to issue a statement in response to their demands. A senior Azerbaijani official said last week that those demands will not be met as the strike has political connotations. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January)
JOURNALISTS PICKET CITY HALL. The Baku Press Club and the "Rukh" journalists' organization asked the Baku mayor for a permit to picket the State Customs Committee on 31 January. The action was planned because, due to the committee's policies on the price of imported newsprint, most newspapers are on the brink of collapse. ("Ekho," 30 January)
TWO TV STATIONS CLOSED ON DAY AZERBAIJAN JOINS COUNCIL OF EUROPE. As Azerbaijan officially joined the Council of Europe on 25 January, a regional independent TV station, Mingechevir TV, stopped broadcasting. The head of the station ended operations after being warned by the local police chief -- allegedly on orders from the governmental radio frequencies commission and the Ministry of Internal Affairs -- that continuing would result in criminal charges since the station does not operate on an official frequency. Another independent TV station in Balakan is in a similar situation and ceased broadcasting on 8 January after the station director was forced to write a letter that he would not open his television station until he had an official government broadcasting license. Four other regional stations have received official letters warning them that they do not have licenses, giving rise to concern that these stations may soon also be intimidated into closure. (International League for Human Rights, 26 January)
BELARUSOSCE DENIES LUKASHENKA'S CHARGES OF ANTI-STATE CONSPIRACY... The OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group in Minsk has denied Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka's accusation of conspiring with the Belarusian opposition in order to destabilize Belarus with "a corps of 14,000-18,000 militants" disguised as election monitors, Belapan reported on 29 January. The OSCE mission said its activities in Belarus "promote the establishment of democratic institutions according to OSCE standards." The group stressed in a statement that under Belarus's electoral code all citizens have the right "to undertake domestic election observation." The statement also denied Lukashenka's claim that he has put the OSCE mission's budget under his control. Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry said it has requested that the OSCE mission submit all projects it has planned this year in Belarus for preliminary "coordination" with the government. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 January)
...WHILE OPPOSITION FIGURE SLIGHTS THEM. Former Premier Mikhail Chyhir told Belapan the same day that Lukashenka will soon back down on his anti-OSCE rhetoric. Chyhir added that such situations have happened "more than once." According to Chyhir, Lukashenka makes his "extravagant statements" because of a feeling of political impasse and his uncertainty whether he will win this year's presidential ballot. Commenting on Lukashenka's claim that the president controls the OSCE mission's budget, Chyhir said "this is not far from saying that Belarus will control the Pentagon's budget." Simultaneously, Chyhir admitted that Lukashenka's recent anti-OSCE charges are the most "scandalous" pronouncement in the entire history of this organization. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 January)
TRADE UNIONS BACK LEADER'S PRESIDENTIAL BID. The Presidium of the Belarusian Federation of Trade Unions on 25 January endorsed the proposal by "trade unionists and other citizens" to field Federation leader Uladzimir Hancharyk in this year's presidential elections, Belapan reported. RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported the same day that the Federation nonetheless fears possible reprisals by the authorities because of Hancharyk's presidential bid. According to some opinions voiced during the Federation Presidium's gathering, the Minsk City authorities have recently applied "large-scale pressure" to city working collectives in order to split the trade union movement and create a government-controlled trade union structure in the capital. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January)
CROATIAHAGUE, CROATIA DIVIDE WAR CRIMES CASES. Matijas Hellman, who heads the Zagreb office of the Hague court, said on 29 January that the tribunal will process up to 250 cases in Croatia. The court will "leave" an unspecified additional number of cases to the Croatian courts, dpa reported. Mesic recently decided not to release to the state archives presidential documents belonging to his predecessor, Franjo Tudjman. His decision effectively bars the tribunal from access to Tudjman's tapes and transcripts, the news agency added. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 January)
CZECH REPUBLICPREMIER SAYS CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULING HAS NO IMPACT ON 'OPPOSITION AGREEMENT.' Milos Zeman told journalists on 25 January that the so-called "opposition agreement" between his own Social Democratic Party (CSSD) and the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) will not be affected by the ruling of the Constitutional Court on amending the electoral law, CTK reported. Zeman said the CSSD and the ODS agreed to amend the law and in line with the agreement jointly submitted the bill. The court's ruling, he said, must be viewed "like a natural disaster, for which one cannot blame the government." Havel told journalists on 25 January after meeting with leaders of the newly-established regions that he believes 14 electoral districts, instead of the 35 proposed in the rejected amendment or the eight districts existing at present, would be a "rational" idea, since the number of the new regions is also 14. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January)
LOWER HOUSE ELECTS DEPUTY OMBUDSMAN... Anna Sabatova, former spokeswoman of Charter '77, was elected on 25 January by the Chamber of Deputies to the position of deputy ombudsman, CTK reported. Sabatova received 92 votes, 42 more than former ODS Senator Jan Voracek. Sabatova's husband, Human Rights Commissioner Petr Uhl, said he will resign on 31 January, when his wife will be sworn in. Uhl said he wants to avoid any possible situation leading to a conflict of interests. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January)
...BUT REJECTS BILL ON REFERENDA. A bill on referenda drafted by the government failed on 25 January to obtain the backing of at least 120 deputies in the Chamber of Deputies, and is consequently considered to have been rejected. The bill would have allowed the population to be consulted on important internal and foreign policy matters. It was backed by 98 deputies from the CSSD and opposed by 68 deputies from different parliamentary groups. The rejection of the bill means that no referenda on questions such as EU membership or the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant can be conducted, and Deputy Premier Pavel Rychetsky said the cabinet is unlikely to submit another bill before the end of its term in office. Some deputies favored submitting separate bills on different referenda and refused to support a bill that dealt with plebiscites in general. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January)
GEORGIAJEHOVAH'S WITNESSES ATTACKED AGAIN. Renegade Orthodox priest Mkalavishvili and over 50 of his followers on 22 January attacked the private house of Jehovah's Witnesses at Abashidze 37 in the Vake region of Tbilisi, Human Rights Without Frontiers reported. They started ringing the doorbell and banging on the door of a family of Jehovah's Witnesses where meetings are often conducted. The family phoned the police and soon the police were also banging on the door. According to the report, the family looked through the peephole and saw that Mkalavishvili and his followers were standing side by side with the police, so they refused to open the door. Eventually, the police and Mkalavishvili and his followers left. Later, the police reportedly phoned and said, "Why didn't you open? We heard you were having a meeting and we were interested in seeing what was going on." (Human Rights Without Frontiers, 26 January)
POLICE PREVENT DEMONSTRATION BY FORMER PRESIDENT'S SUPPORTERS. Georgian police on 25 January prevented supporters of deceased President Zviad Gamsakhurdia from staging a march to the state chancellery in Tbilisi to demand Shevardnadze's resignation and the release of persons they consider political prisoners, Caucasus Press reported. Police rounded up the protesters, forced them into buses and drove them miles outside the city limits before releasing them. Parliament deputy Djemal Gamakharia (21st Century) condemned the police measure as a violation of human rights, and claimed that the whereabouts of some 50 demonstrators are still unknown. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January)
PACE OFFICIALS INVITED TO INSPECT PANKISI GORGE. Revaz Adamia, who headed the Georgian delegation to last week's session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, has invited that body to send representatives to Georgia to investigate Russian claims that there are an estimated 7,500 Chechen refugees currently living in the Pankisi gorge on 27 January. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January)
HUNGARYINTEREST GROUP DEMANDS BANNING OF EXTREMIST PARTY. An organization calling itself The Forum for the Defense of People Persecuted by Fascism in Hungary asked the prosecutor-general on 25 January to ban the extremist Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP) for its recent proposal to have war-time Prime Minister Laszlo Bardossy retried. The organization's chairman, Endre Kadar, said that MIEP's "revisionist policy" infringes on the stipulations of the 1947 Paris peace treaty, MTI reported. In other news, the Christian Democratic Party on 25 January has also protested against the proposed retrial of Bardossy. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January)
ROMA SITUATION SEEN AS 'SCARY.' A presentation at the Woodrow Wilson International Research Center on 25 January referred to a recent recommendation by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban that "hard work [is] the solution for the Roma's problems," reported the country's largest circulation daily "Nepszabadsag." The article also referred to the large percentage of Romany children sent to special-needs schools, lack of training for employment, discrimination by authorities, and police violence against the Roma as a "general phenomenon in Hungary." ("Nepszabadsag," 25 January)
KAZAKHSTANSEVEN TV COMPANIES PROTEST MEDIA LAW AMENDMENTS. Seven TV stations ("RIKA-TV" (Aktyubinsk City), "Otyrar (Shymkent City), "Adan" (Karaganda City), "Kalken-TV" (Ust-Kamenogorsk), "Labris" (Ekibastuz City), "Channel 43," and "Channel 29" (Temirtau City) suspended most broadcasts on 30 January to protest proposed amendments to the country's media law. The 20 percent air-time limit on retransmission of foreign mass media is of particular concern since most of Kazakhstan's independent TV stations cannot afford to produce enough of their own material. Such a limit, it is feared, would lead to loss of advertising revenue and likely closure of the stations. Journalists are also worried about the requirement that websites register as media outlets. For more information, contact oleg@INTERNEWS.KZ
JOURNALISTS CRITICIZE NEW DRAFT MEDIA LAW. Several independent journalists and NGOs that represent journalists interests addressed an open letter to Kazakhstan's parliament on 26 January demanding that the new draft media law be sent back to the cabinet for amendments, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. They object specifically to articles of the draft law that introduce limitations on transmissions by foreign media and stricter controls on publishing Internet newspapers. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January)
SLAVS AT ODDS OVER NEW ETHNIC PARTY. Yurii Buniakov, who heads one of the organizations that represent Kazakhstan's Russian population, has criticized plans by a rival Russian group to create a political party that will represent the Russian community in Kazakhstan, RFE/RL's Almaty bureau reported on 26 January. Buniakov said the planned "Russian Party" may exacerbate tensions both between Russians and other ethnic groups, and within the Russian community. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January)
POLICE BLOCK HARE KRISHNA LITERATURE DISTRIBUTION. Local police in Aktobe detained two women for selling Hare Krishna literature, claiming that this was illegal as the group was not registered with the regional Justice Department. The Kazakh authorities are putting increasing pressure on religious communities that do not have registration, with officials repeatedly claiming that existing law requires religious groups to register before they can conduct any activities. A possible amendment to the law may bring in this requirement, despite the fact that it conflicts with Kazakhstan's human rights obligations. (Keston News Service, 22 January)
KYRGYZSTANKYRGYZ PROSECUTOR ARGUES KULOV SENTENCE JUSTIFIED. Prosecutor-General Chubak Abyshkaev told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 29 January that the seven-year jail sentence handed down one week earlier to former Kyrgyz Vice President Feliks Kulov was "fair" and in accordance with the country's laws. He said that Judge Nurlan Ashymbekov made "a big mistake" in acquitting Kulov last August while pronouncing three of his subordinates guilty. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 January)
ORIGINAL JUDGE DISAGREES. Judge Nurlan Ashymbekov, who acquitted Kulov on charges of abuse of his official position last August, told RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau on 26 January that he still considers Kulov's guilt not proven, and that his acquittal was just. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January)
MOVING TOWARDS TOTALITARIANISM? A Kyrgyz human rights activist forced into exile told an RFE/RL briefing on 26 January that President Askar Akaev's government, in which the West placed so many hopes, is moving toward totalitarianism. Ramazan Dyryldaev, who heads the Kyrgyzstan Committee for Human Rights, said that this drift toward ever more authoritarian rule reflects Akaev's desire to remain president for life. Dyryldaev himself decided to remain in the West after Kyrgyz authorities raided the headquarters of his organization last July and arrested and beat his son. Moreover, he said, Akaev's moves against other political opponents suggest that Dyryldaev would not be able to speak out if he returned home. Because international financial institutions are less likely to assist clearly undemocratic governments, Dyryldaev pointed out, Akaev has organized a new human rights public relations campaign to convince people that conditions in his country are better than in reality. Akaev apparently reasons, Dyryldaev said, that after he gets the money, the international lenders will pay less attention to what is taking place and he can crack down on the Kyrgyz people even more thoroughly than he has up to now. (RFE/RL Briefing Report, 26 January)
MACEDONIAJOURNALISTS' AND OPPOSITION POLITICIANS' PHONES TAPPED. In a 19 January letter to the minister of police, the human rights group Article 19 stated that it is extremely disturbed by reports of the unauthorized tapping of the phones of some 25 journalists and opposition politicians over recent months and called upon the minister to take immediate action to investigate such claims. The nature of the telephone conversations recorded, the number of journalists and opposition politicians subject to the tapping and that the recorded conversations date from the months leading up to the September 2000 local elections, suggests that the initiative for this surveillance has come from the authorities and is politically motivated. (Article 19 Press Release, 19 January)
MOLDOVATHREE PARTIES ACCUSE BRAGHIS ALLIANCE OF DISHONEST CAMPAIGNING. The leaders of the Democratic Party, Communist Party, and Party of Revival and Accord have complained to the Central Electoral Commission that the Braghis Alliance is violating democratic principles in its campaigning for the 25 February parliamentary elections, Infotag reported on 29 January. In a letter to the Commission, they charge that "electoral headquarters have been set up in the localities headed by deputy ministers, governmental department directors, or senior officials from the State Chancellery Office. Practically the entire system of the central executive power...[is] campaigning in favor of the Braghis team, and are continuing to perform their official duties." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 January)
PARLIAMENTARY IMMUNITY TO BE ABOLISHED? The Constitutional Court on 25 January ruled that a bill proposed by 34 deputies to amend the constitution to abolish parliamentary immunity in Moldova is in line with existing legal procedure. The bill's backers argued that all citizens are equal before the law and parliamentarians must not enjoy any privilege. They also say other legislatures, such as the Austrian and the Swiss, have also abolished such immunity. In line with existing legislation, the parliament may start debates on the bill six months after the court's ruling and must end them within six months. If it does not do so, the court's ruling loses its legal force and the procedure must be started anew. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January)
MEDIA NEWS BULLETIN. For articles on a seminar on media and the election campaign, press association pledges of unbiased election coverage, election coverage likely to disrupt broadcast schedules, the broadcasting council's monitoring of election coverage, southeast Europe's training workshop in Chisinau, the electoral commission passing regulations on election coverage, broadcasters announcing election ad rates, the Council of Europe's campaign on multiethnic issues, and imperfect laws hindering the work of the broadcast council go to: http://ijc.iatp.md (Moldova Media News, 29 January)
MONTENEGROMONTENEGRO TO ARREST VISITING KARADZIC. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a top Montenegrin police official told "Dnevni avaz" of 29 January that the police will arrest former Bosnian Serb leader and indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic if he tries to enter Montenegro. Karadzic's mother is seriously ill near Niksic, dpa reported. The Karadzic family, like the Milosevic family, is originally from Montenegro. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 January)
PRESIDENT WANTS REFERENDUM, PRESIDENTIAL VOTE AFTER ELECTIONS. Djukanovic told a Podgorica news conference on 25 January that he wants a referendum on independence and new presidential elections to follow soon on the heels of the 22 April early parliamentary elections, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. "After the formation of the new parliament, I will propose at its first regular session calling a referendum on the legal status of Montenegro. It is fully logical that after the referendum, citizens should say whom they want to lead them in the next period," Djukanovic added. The president stressed that he expects the EU to respect the will of the Montenegrin voters. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January)
POLANDTELECOMMUNICATIONS GIANT FINED FOR MONOPOLISTIC PRACTICES. The Competition and Consumer Protection Office has levied a fine of 54.1 million zlotys ($13.2 million) on Telekomunikacja Polska SA for the company's failure to abandon monopolistic practices, as demanded by the office in 1998, Polish media reported on 29 January. According to the anti-monopoly office, Telekomunikacja Polska SA -- which controls 98 percent of the fixed-line market and is the only long-distance provider in Poland -- has imposed excessive charges for long-distance calls, in this way covering a shortfall brought about by low charges for standard, monthly bills as well as for local call tariffs. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 January)
RUSSIAPUTIN URGES IMPROVING RUSSIA'S IMAGE ABROAD. President Vladimir Putin said that Russian diplomats must work harder to improve Russia's image abroad. Arguing that "someone is still benefiting from cultivating the image of a dangerous Russia," Putin said that "a struggle for influence over public moods abroad becomes one of the more pointed and pressing foreign policy problems." To that end, he called for the use of "all available levers: media publications, broader contacts between public organizations, [and] propaganda for the achievements of our culture and science." He said Russian diplomats must develop "more active work with representatives of foreign media." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January)
CORRUPTION COSTS RUSSIA $15 BILLION A YEAR. Duma Security Committee Deputy Chairman Aleksandr Kulikov said that corruption and organized crime cost the country's economy approximately $15 billion a year, RIA-Novosti reported on 28 January. He said that criminal structures currently control some 40 percent of private businesses and approximately two-thirds of state-owned ones. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 January)
SCHERSTYUK SAYS INFO THREAT SERIOUS. In an interview published in the 24 January "Krasnaya zvezda," Security Council First Deputy Secretary Vladislav Scherstyuk said he does not believe that the free press is at risk in Russia, but he argued that information security requires a broad approach, not only to protect state secrets but also to protect the channels of information. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 29 January)
JOURNALISTS SET UP PUBLIC NTV FUND. The Russian Union of Journalists and the Glasnost Defense Fund announced the creation of a public fund to support NTV. For Voluntary (Hard Currency) NTV Fund Contributions: OAO "Alfa-Bank," Moscow (Swift code ALFA RU MM, corr. account #890-00-61-537, Bank of New York, New York). Or AKB "Kapital Ekspress," Moscow (corr. account #30109 840 1 0000 0000 064). Or Union of Journalists of Russia, 119021, Moscow #4 Zubovsky Bulvar (Account No. 40703840900001000031 in AFB "Kapital Ekspress"). Any use of funds from this account will be approved by the Oversight Council of delegates from major Russian societal organizations. Or contact firstname.lastname@example.org (Human Rights Movement Information Center, 29 January)
GAZPROM-MEDIA TAKES CONTROL OF NTV. After a court on 25 January seized the 19 percent share in NTV that had been owned by Media-MOST, Gazprom-Media gained a controlling stake in the NTV television company, Gazprom-Media chief Alfred Kokh announced on the same day, Interfax reported. Kokh immediately announced a reshuffling of the company's board, but he said that both he and President Putin oppose changing the journalistic staff. "Putin told me," Kokh said, "'Shares and finances are undoubtedly your prerogative. but don't touch the journalists, don't touch the management -- that is already my prerogative because I am the guarantor [of the constitution] and should secure the unconditional observation of freedom of speech.'" ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January)
MORE PRESSURE ON MEDIA-MOST. Russian prosecutors searched the offices of Media-MOST for the 28th time on 26 January, Russian and Western agencies reported. They also questioned managers and journalists at the company, leaking charges that many of them had large foreign currency accounts and prompting a sharp response from Media-MOST lawyers. Meanwhile, Gazprom-Media said it wants to call a stockholders meeting; the courts have blocked Media-MOST's 19 percent voting stock in NTV, Gazprom-Media has a majority and plans to replace some of the members of the board. NTV lawyers said they will appeal, and NTV leaders appealed to President Putin to intervene with prosecutors. In response, officials said that Putin will meet with NTV leaders on 29 January. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January)
PUTIN TELLS NTV STAFF HE WANTS STATION TO REMAIN INDEPENDENT... During a two-hour meeting on 29 January, President Putin told NTV staffers that he wants the station and its reporters to remain independent, privately-owned, and critical, but that the station's financial situation, including Media-MOST debts, is something he could not intervene on, Russian and Western agencies reported. NTV Director Yevgenii Kiselev said Putin had denied there were any political motives behind recent legal moves against Media-MOST -- prosecutors continued on 29 January to confiscate financial documents at that holding company's headquarters -- but Kiselev said he and his colleagues remained unimpressed. In addition, Putin's spokesman said that the Russian leader said he would welcome foreign investment in the station, a statement that came as financier George Soros told Reuters that he is joining U.S. media magnate Ted Turner in bidding for a 25 percent stake in the company. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 January)
PRESS LAW AMENDMENTS THREATEN MEDIA FREEDOM. Amendments offered by Unity, the OVR, and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia's factions in the Duma threaten freedom of the press in Russia, polit.ru reported on 23 January. One of the proposed changes would strip regional officials of the right to license outlets. Another would deprive freelancers of their status as journalists. And a third allows for prosecuting the media for "deliberately spreading false information," something that could be used against many media outlets. Yabloko faction leader Sergei Ivanenko said that adoption of any of them would mean a return to the communist past. But even the Communists are not pleased with them. Communist faction member Aleksandr Kravets told RBK on 23 January that these changes were "an assault on a free press." But he said his faction wanted to introduce a ban on any disrespect shown to the state anthem and flag. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 29 January)
INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS SET UP ASSOCIATION. Editors and publishers from Russia's regions decided on 26 January to set up an Association of Independent Publishers and Editors to defend their rights, ITAR-TASS reported. The heads of more than 20 leading regional publications took part in the Moscow meeting. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January)
SOME DOUBT PUTIN IS FOR MEDIA FREEDOM. In its question of the day feature on 27 January, "Segodnya" reported that 1,069 people had said that President Vladimir Putin is "a convinced supporter of media freedom," but 2,755 said that he isn't. On 29 January, the same paper reported that if Kremlin-backed modifications to the press law go through, press freedom in Russia will have to be put in quotes. But Unity deputies in the Duma said that the modifications are nothing more than improvements in the press law, "Vremya MN" reported on 27 January. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 January)
ARE MEDIA FREE ENOUGH? Some 42 percent of Russian citizens think that TV, radio, and the press have sufficient freedom, while 18 percent believe that they have too much freedom, according to an opinion poll conducted by the All-Russia Public Opinion Center from 26 to 28 January. The poll involved 1,600 respondents. But one-third of those polled said that there is not enough freedom, while 7 percent of the respondents were undecided. (Interfax, 29 January)
EVERY RUSSIAN REGION VIOLATES MEDIA FREEDOM IN ITS OWN WAY. An 800-page study of the state of media freedom in 87 of the 89 regions of Russia -- Chechnya and Ingushetia were not included -- found that "each region violates media freedom differently but each of them does so," according to a review of that document published in "Zhurnalist," no. 12. The Moscow and St. Petersburg regions were rated the most free, with the non-Russian ethnic republics occupying most of the bottom rungs in the rankings. Meanwhile, according to the 25 January "Nezavisimaya gazeta," several Duma deputies want to give the federal government the exclusive right to license publications, a power the paper said would certainly be used to limit free speech. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January)
'VEDOMOSTI' JOURNALIST STABBED. Vladislav Maksimov, 28, the deputy editor of the industry and energy resources section of "Vedomosti," was stabbed nine times on 24 January and hospitalized in serious condition, "The Moscow Times" reported on 26 January. "Vedomosti" editor Mark Whitehous said he did not believe that the attack is in any way connected with Maksimov's job. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January)
PACE FOCUSES ON EXTREMIST GROUP. A British delegate to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Sarah Ludeforth, has forwarded to the PACE Committee on Rights and Liberties materials from a BBC story on the Russian Labor Party, thus creating another problem for Russia in that body, "Izvestiya" reported on 25 January. On this film, that party's leader, Anatolii Kubanov, dismissed his party's expulsion from Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia by saying that "expelling us from the LDPR for extremism is like expelling someone from the SS for anti-Semitism." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January)
ULTRANATIONALIST GROUP BANNED IN KARELIA. The Republic of Karelia's Supreme Court ruled on 25 January to ban the activities of the organization, Russian National Unity (RNE), ITAR-TASS reported. The court was responding to a petition from the republic's Justice Ministry. According to the agency, supporters of RNE have been distributing leaflets in the republic. In 1999, a Moscow city court banned the activities of RNE in that city. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January)
NGO CONCENTRATION CAMP NEAR MOSCOW EXPOSED. Russian police have arrested the organizers of a totalitarian-style concentration camp near Moscow, "Tribuna" reported on 26 January. The organizers of a group called "Brotherhood of Candidates to Become Real Humans" lured young people from throughout Russia and Ukraine with promises of Moscow jobs and then forced them into selling goods for the group and treated them like concentration camp inmates, the paper said. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January)
PUTIN'S DECISION TO PULL CRIMINAL CODE CHANGES EXPLAINED. An article in "Obshchaya gazeta," no. 4, suggests that President Putin pulled liberalizing amendments to the criminal code not so much because of pressure from the security organs or because of the shortage of judges but rather as a sop to liberals in his inner circle, an effort at public relations, and a means of checking threats posed by security ministers. Regardless of which explanation is true, "Obshchaya gazeta" said, "none of them shows the president in a favorable light." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January)
DUMA GIVES FINAL APPROVAL TO PRESIDENTIAL IMMUNITY BILL... By a vote of 280 to 130, the Duma on 25 January gave final approval to a bill that provides immunity to former presidents unless a simple majority of both houses of the parliament lifts it in the event that such individuals are charged with serious crimes, Russian and Western agencies reported. The measure now goes to the Federation Council. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January)
...AND APPROVES LONGER TERM FOR CONSTITUTION COURT JUSTICES. On 25 January, the Duma voted 302 to 108 to give final approval to an amendment to the country's constitutional court law extending the term of office of justices from 12 to 15 years and removing the age limit of 70, ITAR-TASS reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January)
NUMBER OF PRISONERS, DETAINEES TO FALL. Justice Minister Yuri Kalinin said that if the Federation Council approves a Duma-passed measure, the authorities will release approximately 250,000 prisoners, "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 26 January. In addition, he said that the new legislation will reduce the number of people detained before sentencing and limit their time behind bars. At present, he said, more than six million people pass through such detention centers each year, some 60 percent of whom are awaiting sentencing. If the new law is approved, none of them can be detained longer than a year without being sentenced. Even now, Kalinin said, the courts release more than 120,000 such detainees, an indication that they are being held illegally. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January)
MUSCOVITES AGAINST STATE FUNDING OF PARTIES. According to an Ekho Moskvy report cited by "Vremya MN" on 27 January, only 2 percent of Muscovites questioned in a recent poll favor state financing of political parties. Eighty-nine percent oppose the idea. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 January)
EXTREME AND ARBITRARY HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS CONTINUE IN CHECHNYA. The Boston-based Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), an independent human rights documentation organization, released a report on 25 January -- based on extensive evidence collected last month -- which provides further evidence of a continuing human rights crisis in Chechnya. Previously reported mass arrests, torture, and disappearance of civilians persist at an alarming level, the group said. Those interviewed by PHR described shelling of civilian dwellings and schools, extortion at checkpoints and looting during sweep operations; torture by Russian forces at detention centers including mutilation and electric shock; and the arbitrary killing of non-combatants. See the report at http://www.phrusa.org (Center for Civil Society International, 25 January)
PACE CHECHNYA DECISION HAILED. Russian officials, politicians, and the media welcomed the decision of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) to reseat Russia's representatives, Russian and Western media reported on 26-27 January. PACE chairman Lord Russel-Johnston said that he does not expect the question of Russia's participation to be raised again this year, but he expressed the hope that Russian parliamentarians will cooperate with PACE in seeking peace in Chechnya. They will be under little domestic pressure to do so: a ROMIR poll reported by ITAR-TASS on 26 January said that more than 50 percent of Russians think Moscow should decide for itself what to do in Chechnya and 34 percent said Russia should ignore the PACE recommendations. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January)
BEREZOVSKY FUNDS TO SUPPORT CIVIL RIGHTS IN REGIONS. The Civil Liberties Foundation, established in December 2000 by embattled media magnate Boris Berezovsky, will now focus its grants toward media and human rights groups in the regions, "Segodnya" reported on 26 January. Foundation spokesman Pavel Arseniev said that up to now most grant money has ended up only in Moscow and St. Petersburg with other regions receiving little or nothing. The step also follows statements by some human rights activists that they will not accept funds from this group. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January)
ECONOMIC PROBLEMS HIT REGIONS FIRST. According to a UN report cited by "Vremya MN" on 27 January, economic problems including unemployment have hit not the major cities as Russian officials had predicted, but rather the weakest regions and population groups. Moreover, the paper said that the Economics Ministry calculates that overall unemployment is likely to rise from an actual rate of 11.8 percent to 15 percent in the next three years. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 January)
OPPONENTS OF IMPORTING NUCLEAR WASTES WRITE TO PUTIN. Hundreds of Russian organizations opposed to a Duma-approved measure that would allow Russia to import nuclear wastes for profit issued an appeal to President Putin on 29 January to block the measure, Interfax reported. The letter said that such imports will lead to "shoving millions of cubic meters of radioactive waste underground and will result in the radioactive contamination of vast territories." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 January)
THREE-FOURTHS OF RUSSIANS NEVER USED A COMPUTER. A ROMIR poll reported by ITAR-TASS on 28 January found that 74 percent of Russians have never used a computer and 73.5 percent said they have never used the Internet. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 January)
NEW RESIDENCY HURDLES. Some two million citizens of other CIS countries who are living permanently in Russia were informed that as of 1 January they must obtain residence permits since their old Soviet passports are no longer sufficient, "The Moscow Times" reported. Those who arrived after 1 October 2000 have to present passports of their countries of citizenship. Those 585,000 who are permanently registered will get residence permits, while 382,000 will be given temporary 90-day permits. The estimated 500,000 to 600,000 people who have not obtained Russian citizenship and have lost the citizenship of their countries of origin will now be treated as people without citizenship. Svetlana Gannushkina, head of Grazhdanskoye Sodeistviye, which assists refugees and other migrants, described the situation as a "catastrophe," because people were given no warning. ("The Moscow Times," 17 January)
14,000 RUSSIAN WOMEN ARE VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE. Jewish women in Russia are taking part in an effort to confront the growing problem of domestic violence against women in that country, according to Rita Drozdinskaya, executive director of the Jewish Community Center in Voronezh. In 1997, the most recent year for which data are available, more than 14,000 women in Russia were killed due to domestic violence, but the lack of statistics about domestic violence short of murder makes it difficult to assess the problem. In Voronezh, a crisis center has been set up but there is not enough funds for a women's shelter. In Tula, the local media at least publicizes the issue. Currently, there is no Russian law which permits prosecution of perpetrators of domestic violence; a draft bill was never brought to a vote in the last Duma. Moreover, local police say they lack financial and human resources to deal with the problem. (RFE/RL Briefing Report, 26 January)
MUSLIMS FIRST UP FOR MANDATORY LIQUIDATION. The authorities in Russia's North Caucasian republic of Kabardino-Balkaria have initiated suits in court to liquidate 38 local religious organizations that failed to gain reregistration before the deadline of 31 December 2000. Thirty-seven of the 38 are Muslim religious organizations and the 38th is a Jehovah's Witness community. (Keston News Service, 24 January)
CENTER FOR HUMANITARIAN AID. The Center for Humanitarian Aid (CHA) is a Moscow-based and registered, non-profit, non-governmental, secular charity, founded and managed by a group of non-paid volunteers from Russia, the U.K. and the U.S. The group operates a daily soup kitchen and distributes free clothing and medicine for the Moscow's needy. It would like to find assistance in launching its day school for street children. For more information, contact Julia Ponomarenko at email@example.com (Center for Civil Society International, 29 January)
SERBIASERBIA TO HAVE LAW ON COOPERATION WITH HAGUE. Serbian Justice Minister Vladan Batic said in Belgrade that his Yugoslav colleague Momcilo Grubac is preparing a text to define and regulate cooperation with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, "Danas" reported on 30 January. The daily added that Hague chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte approves of the idea. Batic argued that "The Hague is a political reality whether we recognize this or not. Ignoring the Hague tribunal is politically damaging," Reuters reported. Elsewhere, Kostunica said that Belgrade is developing its cooperation with the court on a "step by step" basis, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. He told "The Wall Street Journal" in Davos that the matter of Milosevic will be clarified "in a few days." He stressed that his priority is establishing a democratic Serbia with secure borders, adding that "most of the other things are rubbish." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 January)
DJINDJIC TAKES CHARGE OF SERBIAN GOVERNMENT. Djindjic and his reform government were sworn in on 25 January. As prime minister, Djindjic has arguably the single most powerful job in Belgrade. Djindjic said: "We shall not organize a witch hunt, but we won't let the members of the former regime hold on to the assets they plundered from the people," AP reported. He added that "my government won't lie to you, and we won't steal. And this is a solemn pledge." The governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition has already outlined a broad package of political and economic reforms. They include promoting democracy and transparency while eliminating crime and corruption. One high priority is depoliticizing the police, military, media, and judiciary. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January)
SERBIAN GOVERNMENT SACKS MILOSEVIC'S SECURITY CHIEF. One of the first acts of the new government was to appoint former police official Goran Petrovic to head the huge security apparatus. His predecessor, Rade Markovic, resigned just hours earlier, Reuters reported. Serbian Interior Minister Dusan Mihajlovic said that Petrovic knows the problems of the security forces well and can be counted on to "democratize" them. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January)
DID SERBIAN FORCES BURN BODIES OF KOSOVAR VICTIMS? Washington-based National Public Radio quoted Serbian eyewitnesses as saying that Serbian forces burned the corpses of up to 1,500 ethnic Albanian atrocity victims in 1999. The burnings allegedly took place at the Trepca lead mining and metallurgical complex near Mitrovica. If the story is true, the figure would account for about one-half of the Kosovars still reported missing from the 1998-1999 conflict, AP reported on 25 January. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January)
SERBIAN WITNESSES SAY BODIES BURNED TO HIDE EVIDENCE. One witness said that the bodies were first dug up from mass graves that NATO satellites had identified in their search for evidence of war crimes, AP reported from Washington on 25 January. The bodies were too large to fit inside Trepca's furnaces, so they were first ground up in an ore-processing machine, the witness added. The witnesses gave only their first names. One of the men said: "The point was not to hide the bodies in mass graves but to totally destroy them. It would be as if these people never existed." He added: "I think our people understood that sooner or later some of these Western organizations, like the Hague tribunal, might come into Kosovo. We needed a good way to destroy the evidence," Reuters reported. Another witness added: "This was a horrible scene because there were so many -- like a factory assembly line, but with bodies." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January)
MILOSEVIC HAD WARNING THAT TV TOWER WOULD BE BOMBED... Slobodan Milosevic was informed in advance that the state television building would be bombed, Hague tribunal Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte said on 23 January. Del Ponte made the revelation in a meeting with the families of the 16 employees killed after the director of state media failed to evacuate the building. According to some reports at the time, the employees were locked into the central Belgrade premises on the night of the fatal attack. The Milosevic regime later exploited the deaths of the television workers extensively for anti-NATO propaganda. A lawyer representing the parents of the employees killed, Slobodan Sisic, said that if the Hague tribunal provided written proof that Milosevic had known of the bombing the whole case would be changed. ("ANEM Weekly Media Update," 24 January)
...AND COULD BE CHARGED WITH DEATHS. Carla Del Ponte's statement opened the possibility of charging Milosevic with the deaths of 16 employees, Belgrade lawyer Borovije Borovic said on 24 January. Borovic told Radio B92 that he saw no reason why the Hague tribunal chief prosecutor should not be called as a witness. ("ANEM Weekly Media Update," 24 January)
JOURNALIST'S HOUSE SHOT AT. Journalist Rajko Djurdjevic's Belgrade house was sprayed with bullets on 20 January, the day after his guest appearance on TV Palma to discuss the situation in southern Serbia. Belgrade daily "Glas Javnosti" reported that several bullets were fired at the doors and windows of his family home and graffiti reading "KLA" was spray-painted on his gate. ("ANEM Weekly Media Update," 24 January)
POLICEMAN HITS RADIO B92 JOURNALIST. A federal police officer hit a Radio B92 reporter on 24 January as a group of journalists were entering the Federal Foreign Ministry building along with members of the association of families of missing Kosovar Serbs, who were going in for talks with Carla Del Ponte. One of the security guards then pushed Igic and hit him. The Yugoslav Minister of Internal Affairs apologized to the reporter the next day. ("ANEM Weekly Media Update," 25-26 January)
TIJANIC BECOMES OFFICIAL MEDIA ADVISOR. Journalist Aleksandar Tijanic has become President Vojislav Kostunica's official media adviser, according to the "Official Gazette" on 23 January. (ANEM Weekly Media Update, 24 January)
SLOVENIAOLD DIRECTOR IS NEW DIRECTOR OF SLOVENIAN TELEVISION. The Radio and Television Council voted by a narrow majority to keep Janez Cadez as head of Radio and Television Slovenia, "Dnevnik" reported on 26 January. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January)
TURKMENISTANNATIONAL SECURITY COMMITTEE TO BE STRENGTHENED. President Saparmurat Niyazov announced in Ashgabat on 26 January that the National Security Committee will be enlarged this year by some 1,000 personnel at the expense of the armed forces, Interior Ministry, and border guards, Russian agencies reported. Niyazov also called on the National Security Committee to draft clear procedures for the registration of foreign visitors, noting that every state has the right to bar "unwelcome guests" and intercept pornography and unacceptable religious propaganda. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January)
BAPTIST PRISONER RECOVERS FROM HEART ATTACK. Baptist prisoner Shageldy Atakov is recovering from a heart attack he suffered earlier in January in a labor camp. The 38-year-old had to spend a week in the labor camp's sick-bay, although he is now reportedly back in the main camp. Atakov is serving a four-year sentence on charges of swindling, which church members insist were instigated to obstruct his activity with the church. (Keston News Service, 26 January)
PROTESTANT CHURCH TOLD TO STOP MEETING. Officers of the police, political police, and the city administration raided a meeting of a Protestant Christian church in the Turkmen capital Ashgabat on 10 January. They warned those present not to take part in such "illegal" meetings in the future and took down their names and personal details. The next day these people were summoned to the city administration and warned again not to attend "illegal" meetings. (Keston News Service, 25 January)
PENTECOSTAL CHURCH CONFISCATION APPEAL POSTPONED. A hearing due to have taken place on 24 January at the Ashgabat city court to consider Pentecostal pastor Viktor Makrousov's appeal against the confiscation of the city's Pentecostal church has been postponed. Five cases, including Pastor Makrousov's, have been deferred to an unspecified date because the judge was "not ready." (Keston News Service, 24 January)
UKRAINEPACE VOICES CONCERN ABOUT MEDIA FREEDOM IN UKRAINE. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on 25 January adopted a resolution expressing its deep concern about "intimidation, repeated aggressions, and murders" committed against journalists in Ukraine and condemning the Ukrainian authorities for violations of the freedom of expression, Reuters reported. The resolution calls for an independent probe into the disappearance of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze and the tapes that allegedly implicate President Leonid Kuchma in Gongadze's presumed death. Meanwhile, the Paris-based human rights group Reporters Without Borders accused the Ukrainian authorities of serious failings in the investigation of Gongadze's disappearance. "Everything indicates that Gongadze was murdered because he was an inconvenience for the authorities.... Those who are responsible for this murder should be searched for at the top of the state...in the direction of the Interior Ministry," Reporters Without Borders head Robert Menard said in Strasbourg. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January)
KYIV TO SILENCE BBC, VOA, DEUTSCHE WELLE IN UKRAINIAN? The National Council for Television and Radio has announced an open tender for the 101.9 FM band on which the Kontinent radio station rebroadcasts Ukrainian-language programs from the BBC World Service, Voice of America, and Deutsche Welle, Interfax reported on 25 January. Kontinent Director Serhiy Sholokh accused the government of planning to shut down the last remaining independent mass media in Ukraine or to frighten them into silence. The BBC World Service supported Kontinent, saying that offering Kontinent's frequency for sale "is a clear breach" of the council's 1997 decision to give Kontinent that frequency for 10 years. The BBC added that the tender terms "make it almost impossible for the station to retain its frequency." The council responded that Kontinent's license for broadcasting expired last year. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January)
NGO SEEKS PARTNERS. The environmental and cultural NGO called "Bakhmat," in the town of Artemovsk, eastern Ukraine, is looking for organizations and groups in the CEE and especially Poland which work in the sphere of democratization and transparency in "closed" state institutions (orphanages, boarding schools, asylums) and which could share experiences. See http://www.bakhmat.org (Center for Civil Society International, 22 January)
REGIONALARMENIA, AZERBAIJAN ACCEPTED INTO COUNCIL OF EUROPE. The official ceremony marking the acceptance of Armenia and Azerbaijan into full membership of the Council of Europe took place in Strasbourg on 25 January. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 January)
CENTRAL ASIAN STATES ASSESS NARCOTICS THREAT. Kyrgyz police confiscated 5,370 kilograms of contraband drugs in 2000, an increase of some 50 percent over the previous year's figure of 3,555 kilograms, Interfax reported on 29 January quoting a Kyrgyz government official. The amount of heroin from Afghanistan confiscated was 216.7 kilograms, which represents a tenfold increase over 1999. That figures pales, however, in comparison with neighboring Tajikistan: Tajik presidential press spokesman Zafar Saidov told Asia Plus-Blitz on 29 January that last year Tajik police intercepted 7,128 kilos of drugs, of which 1,882 kilos was heroin. In Turkmenistan, 2,200 kilograms of drugs were confiscated in 2000, of which 10 percent was heroin, Interfax reported on 29 January. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 January)
SOUTHEAST EUROPE DEMOCRACY PROJECT KICKS OFF IN MONTENEGRO. The EU-funded Democracy in Practice project was initiated in Montenegro on 23 January. Over two years, Article 19 will work with NGOs from Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Montenegro, and Romania, raising awareness on freedom of information and the right to speak freely on matters of public interest without fear of criminal charges. As well as carrying out in-country and international activities, the partner organizations (human rights, women's and journalists' groups) will meet regularly and exchange information on strategies and methods. (Article 19 Press Release, 23 January)
NEW REPORTS, WEBSITESRELIEFGUIDE, ONLINE GATEWAY TO GLOBAL AID. ReliefGuide focuses on the aid community (NGOs, UN, governments) and the commercial sector (suppliers, consultants, researchers.) The site includes: Tender Pages to over 1000 specialized worldwide located suppliers; Supplier Guide with access to ReliefGuide's database of over 1,000 equipment and service suppliers; Disaster Pages with updated data on operations, logistics, and country information; On-line/off-line assistance and consultancy services; a 24-hour on-line global network; and a newsletter. ReliefGuide's services are free of charge and without any commitment. Registered organizations and individuals will receive a bi-weekly newsletter. Register at http://www.reliefguide.com/joinreliefguide/ or visit http://www.reliefguide.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org (Center for Civil Society International, 29 January)
'KALMYKIA: FROM OBLIVION TO REASSERTION?' This report provides background information on Kalmykia, one of the least-known constituent republics of the Russian Federation, and assesses recent developments in culture and language. It highlights the recently adopted (October 1999) Language Act of Kalmykia, asserting that the law reflects a modern handling of the respective position of the Russian and Kalmyk languages. For complete text: email@example.com or see http://www.ecmi.de (European Centre for Minority Issues, Working Paper No. 10, October 2000)
NEW PUBLICATION LAUNCHED IN MOLDOVA. "We won't forget" is the title of a new magazine published by the Union of Jewish Organizations in Chisinau. The quarterly publication, to appear in Russian and in Romanian, aims to fill an information void about Jewish history and catastrophes suffered by European Jews, said the publication's editor-in-chief. "As long as people ignore their past there is a danger of tragic history being repeated," he said. Along with journalists, contributors to the new publication will include poets and scientists. (Moldova Media News, 29 January)
END NOTEA Difficult Combination To Sustain
By Paul Goble
A Moscow newspaper has suggested that Russian security forces may have been behind the disappearance of a humanitarian relief worker in Chechnya because he and his organization were simultaneously involved in human rights advocacy.
Writing in "Novye Izvestiya," Natalia Konovalova said last week that rumors are now circulating that Russian security forces rather than Chechen fighters "might have been involved" in the disappearance of Kenny Gluck, a U.S. humanitarian assistance worker in the North Caucasus for the international aid group "Doctors without Borders."
Konovalova notes Gluck's "frequent" accusations of human rights abuses against Russian commanders as the source of what she calls his "rather tense relations" with them and a possible motive for their taking "revenge" against someone they suspected of having a "'pro-Chechen'" stand. Indeed, she says, Gluck regularly "compiled reports on human rights abuses" there.
In the course of her argument, the Russian journalist points to another "nuance" as well: "Doctors without Borders is the only international aid group [in Chechnya] which is also involved in human rights activities." Consequently, she suggests, Russian officials might have had a particular interest in silencing him before the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe last week discussed ending Russia's suspension for Chechnya.
But as Konovalova freely admits, "no clues have been found, and no separatist groups have claimed responsibility" for Gluck's disappearance. And as she also makes clear, the existence of motive alone does not prove that Russian security forces or groups tied to them were in fact responsible for Gluck's fate, however convenient for them his removal from the scene might have been.
Nonetheless, the inherent tension she points to between humanitarian assistance work and human rights activism calls attention to the more general problems when an individual or group attempts to do both at the same time.
Humanitarian assistance workers, the experience of the international aid community suggests, must be able to cooperate with local officials at least to the point that they can do their jobs. They need to be able to arrange for the arrival and distribution of goods, and to do that, they need to enjoy sufficient respect that they are not politically engaged with one side or the other of a conflict.
Human rights workers, in contrast, generally are in a confrontational relationship with the powers that be. They are in the business of pointing out abuses by the authorities, frequently to the point of denouncing them to international organizations and in the media of foreign countries. By doing so, human rights activists almost inevitably infuriate the officials on the territories where the activists work.
Individuals and groups involved in each of these activities have been increasingly concerned about these tensions, especially since the disappearance in Chechnya of another American, Fred Cuny, six years ago. As American journalist Ken Anderson points out in his book, "The Man Who Tried to Save the World," Cuny attempted to combine humanitarian assistance and human rights activism and got into trouble as a result.
Cuny went to Chechnya twice as a humanitarian assistance worker. But between his visits, he wrote articles and gave interviews in the United States about Russian actions in Chechnya, which he argued violated basic standards of human rights. For his remarks, he was much criticized by Russian officials. And when he returned, he soon disappeared and is presumed by most observers to have been killed.
Cuny's family became convinced that Fred had been killed by a group of Chechens because Russian officials had put out the word that he was acting as a political agent and that, as a result, the Russian government was fully responsible for his death, a position both Moscow and some Western governments have disputed. But because his body has never been found, the debate on his fate remains open.
The Cuny case remains at the center of discussions about the limitations on those who want to meet humanitarian needs and also to defend human rights. But if no word is soon forthcoming about the fate of Kenny Gluck, his name and his experiences may spark an even broader debate on this issue.
To the extent that happens, the Gluck case could become the occasion for a wholesale reexamination of both humanitarian assistance and human rights activism.