1 June 2000, Volume 1, Number 3
AZERBAIJANPRE-ELECTION CRACKDOWN? In a 19 May letter to President Heidar Aliev, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) stated that it was deeply disturbed over the recent closure of the Baku-based magazine, "Monitor Weekly," and by Aliev's continued refusal to review the legality of the Interior Ministry's takeover in October 1999 of the independent station Sara Radio/TV. The CPJ believes Azerbaijani officials are using licensing laws and trumped-up tax charges in an attempt to silence all independent media in the country before the November parliamentary elections. (CPJ; International Freedom of Expression [IFEX], 22 May)
JOURNALIST DETAINED AND BEATEN. Over a dozen Baku police entered the editorial offices of the newspaper "Bu Gun," on 27 May without explanation and reportedly beat some of the journalists. Previous to this, the local police severely beat and detained journalist Revan Chinghizoglu as he was reporting on a minor disturbance. (Journalists' Trade Union, 29 May)
FORMER PRESIDENT OPENS WEBSITE. Ayaz Mutalibov, who has lived in Moscow since the Azerbaijan Popular Front thwarted his bid to regain power in May 1992, has launched a personal website at http://www.mutalibov.ru, Turan reported on 27 May. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May)
BELARUSU.S. OSCE DELEGATION CITES PRESS RESTRICTIONS. In a press statement, Ambassador David T. Johnson, head of the U.S. mission to the OSCE, noted that Belarus was not meeting the four criteria set down by the OSCE troika as needed to "end the current climate of fear," including giving the opposition access to the state media. (U.S. OSCE press statement, 25 May)
CPJ PROTESTS CONTINUING HARASSMENT OF INDEPENDENT MEDIA. Writing to Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) noted on 25 May that it was "deeply disturbed by the continuing pattern of official intimidation of the independent press in Belarus." The CPJ went on to say it wished to call the president's attention to the most recent examples: the independent weekly "Nasha Niva" is threatened with closure; the "Reporter" newspaper in Grodno is being refused registration; journalists have been attacked and detained while covering demonstrations; and a journalist has been harassed and threatened by the KGB. (CPJ, IFEX, 25 May)
SHUSHKEVICH GIVEN 3O SECONDS OF TV TIME. The television program "Panorama" announced on 26 May that Stanislau Shushkevich, speaker of the last Supreme Soviet, will be given a minute--or maybe more--of air time "for free speech." Shushkevich, speaking in Belarusian, said the country was being run by a man whose term of office expired almost a year ago and that despite Lukashenka's sweeping powers, the standard of living in Belarus had plummeted and that neighbors were living much better. At that point, the broadcast was cut off and the moderator announced that his program had nothing to do with these statements and launched into a fierce attack on Shushkevich. Two days later, Shushkevich came to the RFE/RL Minsk bureau and finished his speech to his countrymen. (RFE/RL Belarusian Service, 29 May)
CZECH REPUBLICCZECHS SPLIT OVER SALE OF 'MEIN KAMPF.' Thirty-nine percent of Czechs are opposed to the sale of a Czech-language edition of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf" while 30 percent do not mind its being sold on the free market, CTK reported on 25 May, citing a poll conducted by the IVVM Institute. Thirty-one percent had no opinion on the matter. Among those approving the sale, 49 percent said they oppose any censorship, while 28 percent said they believe that the book provides a lesson about the dangers of Nazism and 12 percent said the book is "part of history." Four percent of those opposed said that a ban would increase interest in the book. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 May)
GEORGIAPRIVATE TV-STATION TRIAL POSTPONED. According to the Caucasus Press, earlier this year the owners of TV-25 (the only privately-owned TV station in Batumi) were forced to sell 75 percent of their shares to a certain Michael Gagoshidze. The station, which had received training from Internews in Georgia, apparently had angered local officials because it sometimes covered social problems in Adjaria on its "Akhali Ambebi" news show. The owners of TV-25 have pressed their case against Gagoshidze, but they are fearful of returning to Batumi since several threats have been made against them. The judge ruled on 29 May that the trial will only proceed if the owners are present and he postponed the trial by one week. Numerous NGO officials were in Batumi for start of the trial. (RFE/RL Georgian Service, 29 May)
INTERNET PROVIDER LAUNCHES MEDIA SUPPORT PROJECT. The Internet service provider SaNet Network has begun a new project aimed at aiding Georgian mass media in using Internet facilities more efficiently. SaNet will offer a one-year term of free web hosting for corporate sites provided by the press, TV/radio companies, and news agencies, and will grant up to 5 megabytes of space on the Internet until May 2001. Georgi Kashia, SaNet general director, said the program is "targeted towards popularizing the Internet and developing a more open, democratic society." SaNet can be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com or on the web at http://www.sanet.ge. (Public Interest Protection League, 29 May)
HUNGARYFIDESZ DEPUTIES SEEKS TO AMEND MEDIA ACT. FIDESZ parliamentary deputy Szilard Sasvari, who is also chairman of the parliament's culture committee, has submitted a motion to amend the Media Act. His proposal would allow all parliamentary groups to delegate a member to the public media boards of trustees, based on the model of the National Radio and TV Board. Opposition Free Democrat Ivan Peto proposed instead that board appointments be split equally between coalition parties and the opposition. Sasvari's motion is an attempt to solve a recent crisis that emerged after the parliament's February vote in favor of media boards of trustees that consist solely of representatives of governing parties. (RFE/RL Newsline, 26 May)
INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONSINTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND'S MEDIA POLICY CONDEMNED. Twenty-seven International Freedom of Expression (IFEX) member groups condemned on 23 May the IMF policy to deny credentials to public access TV, community radio, student and academic publications was issued by IMF staff prior to the IMF meeting in Washington in April. WORT-FM, the "Boulder Weekly," KAOS radio of Olympia, Washington, and CorporateWatch website were all denied access to the meetings. (World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters [AMARC], 23 May)
INTERNATIONAL PEN CLUB MEETING ENDS IN MOSCOW. Calling on Russian President Vladimir Putin to immediately halt the war in Chechnya, Nobel Laureate Guenther Grass and other noted authors, including Chengiz Aitmatov, Andrei Bitov, Vasilii Aksenov, and Andrei Boznesenskii also expressed their concern about efforts to pressure the independent media in Russia and the persecution of journalists, such as Grigorii Pasko and Andrei Babitskii. (Segodnya, NTV, 27 May)
OSCE/UN ISSUE POLICE/MEDIA GUIDELINES FOR BOSNIA. The UN and OSCE mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina have issued a joint set of guidelines to improve relations between police and reporters. A recent OSCE survey found that almost 25 percent of journalists interviewed believe police actions should be monitored. In incidents reported by journalists, police abuse is alleged in 12 percent. (International Journalists' Network Newsletter, 22-26 May)
COUNCIL OF EUROPE WILL DISCUSS MEDIA POLICY. Ministers responsible for media policy in the 41 Council of Europe member states will meet 15-16 June in Krakow, Poland. Topics will include digital technology, the Internet, pluralism, freedom of expression, and the right to privacy. For more information go to: http://www.humanrights.coe.int/media/activities/minconf/Cracow@20programme.doc. (International Journalists' Network Newsletter, 22-26 May)
KAZAKHSTANKAZAKH OPPOSITION, PRESS TARGETED FOR REPRISALS. Igor Poberezhskii, who is former Kazakh Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin's press secretary, was stabbed and seriously wounded in Moscow on 25 May, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported. On 24 May, filmmaker Rashid Nugmanov, a member [and foreign affairs coordinator] of Kazhegeldin's Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan, was detained at Almaty airport on his arrival from France, where he has lived for the past seven years, and ordered to report to the Almaty tax police the following day. And on 25 May, police confiscated the entire 26 May print-run (53,000) copies) of the independent weekly, "Nachnem s Ponedelnika," together with documents found during a search of the newspaper's Almaty editorial office. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 May). In an interview with RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, the paper's deputy editor said the police were "looking for some letters, especially those from America." The Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations reported on 25 May that "Nachnem s Ponedelnika" has lost at the highest appeals court and may result in the closure of this "unique newspaper" (the newspaper has published some reports on corruption in Kazakhstan). (RFE/RL Kazakh Service, 25 May)
AUTHOR RELEASED, BUT CHARGES STILL PENDING. After Temirtas Tleulesov announced he planned to publish a Russian-language version of his book on corruption in Kazakhstan, he was arrested on 19 May in Shymkent. In a telephone interview with RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, Tleulesov said he was released from prison on 28 May, but charges against him are still pending and he cannot leave Shymkent. Tleulesov, a former member of south Kazakhstan's regional council, said the actions against him were organized by Nurdaulet Sarsenov, a Majlis member and a leading figure in Tleulesov's book. According to Boris Shin, first deputy regional prosecutor in southern Kazakhstan, Tleulesov is accused of hooliganism. (RFE/RL Kazakh Service, 30 May)
KYRGYZSTANJOURNALIST WINS PRIZE. The International Women's Media Foundation announced in Washington on 29 May that it has given Zamira Sydykova its annual award for her journalism under continued government pressure and persecution. Sydykova founded the independent "Res Publica" weekly in 1992 and was sentenced to 18 months of suspended imprisonment in July 1995 after being accused of libeling President Askar Akaev; she was sentenced in 1997 for the same offense--this time against the manager of the state gold company--spending two months in jail. "Res Publica" has not been published since 28 March when it was sentenced to pay the equivalent of a $7,000 fine for publishing a letter critical of the head of the State TV and Radio Company. Sydykova will receive a crystal statuette and $2,000 at a ceremony in the United States in October. (RFE/RL Kyrgyz Service, 29 May)
ROMANIACPJ PROTESTS ASSAULT ON JOURNALIST. In a 26 May letter to the Romanian general prosecutor, Mircea Cristea, CPJ stated it is troubled by the brutal assault on Valentin Dragan, a journalist with the weekly newspaper "Cuget Liber" in Constanta and urgently requested further information about the status of the investigation. (CPJ Press Release, 29 May)
RUSSIAKREMLIN OFFICIAL SEES MEDIA SITUATION AS PROBLEMATIC BUT NOT GLOOMY... Addressing the National Association of Television and Radio Broadcasters on 25 May, first deputy head of the presidential staff Igor Shabdurasulov predicted that relations between authorities and mass media "will not be unclouded and problem-free in the foreseeable future." Nevertheless, he insisted that "fears and gloomy anticipation are groundless" and that the situation around TV-Tsentr and Media-Most should not be assessed as a threat to democratic achievements. He did agree, however, that law enforcement agencies' actions against Media Most were "disproportionate." Earlier this week, an anonymous source in the presidential administration told Interfax that neither President Putin nor his staff were informed in advance about the 11 May raid on the Moscow headquarters of the Media-Most Group. The source also expressed regret that the operation had not been carried out in a "more moderate fashion." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 26 May)
...BUT TV ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT IS PESSIMISTIC. At the same meeting, National Association of Television (NAT) President Eduard Sagalayev pointed out that several State Duma bills depriving the media of privileges, including the draft Russian Tax Code, "could seriously complicate the media's, especially the electronic ones', activities." Amendments and extensions to the federal law "On Advertisement" are of "a purely expedient and populist nature and pose a threat to all of television's activities." Sagalayev announced that he intends to meet with the State Duma leadership, chairmen of the committees on information policy and budget and the leaders of major Duma factions to try to prevent the "economic strangulation of the electronic media." "Our television is not fully free and independent even now," the NAT president said, stressing that "if TV and radio companies are limited in their opportunities to make money and deprived of the privileges, the situation will be exacerbated" and "virtually all these companies will find themselves in the pockets of the authorities, financial industrial companies, or shady structures."
ORT WINS FIVE-YEAR EXTENSION... Russian Public Television (ORT) has won a tender to operate Channel 1 for another five years, Media Minister Mikhail Lesin announced on 24 May. TV-Tsentr is also competing for a license to continue operating Channel 3, but it was not known as of mid-morning Moscow time whether it succeeded. Prior to the tender, analysts told RFE/RL that ORT was unlikely to lose its license and was included in the tender primarily to create the impression of fair competition. Both companies were forced to compete for their licenses because they had received two warnings from the Media Ministry for improper election coverage. Protestors had gathered in Moscow on 19 May to support TV-Tsentr's bid, saying that the station has been unfairly targeted in a crackdown on free speech. TV-Tsentr is controlled by Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May)
...BUT IS IT CURTAINS FOR PUTIN PUPPET? NTV anchorman Yevgenii Kiselev announced on 29 May that NTV has reached an agreement with the Kremlin to withdraw the puppet caricature of President Vladimir Putin from the cast of the popular satirical show, "Kukly." An NTV spokeswoman told dpa that the Kremlin had asked the producers of "Kukly" to no longer feature the Putin puppet, which has an extremely large nose and wears the neckkerchief characteristic of the Soviet-ear Pioneers. According to Kiselev, the "authorities will now leave [NTV and Media-Most] in peace," referring to the recent police raid on Media-Most headquarters. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 May)
AXING OF GOSKINO STIRS PASSIONS. President Vladimir Putin's decision to abolish the State Committee for Cinematography and its transfer to the Culture Ministry has provoked both controversy and outrage. While in Soviet times Goskino regulated all film production in the country and acted as a censor, in the past decade it has turned into an influential structure protecting the interests of the studios and filmmakers. With the status of a government minister, Goskino head Aleksandr Golutva had access to the prime minister and president. Cinematographers' Union chairman and filmmaker Nikita Mikhalkov said the industry became attractive to the Culture Ministry because of its revival. "No one expressed any interest [in Goskino] some five to seven years ago. Why was it necessary to make this decision in haste and now? The answer is simple: The industry has started to be profitable," Mikhalkov said. While most cultural establishments are dependent on the cash-strapped Culture Ministry, the film industry, so successful in Soviet times and almost dead in the early 1990s, is beginning to thrive, with more movies being shot at the big Mosfilm and Lenfilm studios. Naum Kleiman, director of the Cinema Museum, said that if film studios are put under the control of the Culture Ministry they will lose their independence, have their income stripped, and go bankrupt. The likely result is that they will be privatized and purchased by TV magnates who have no interest in film production. "The studios will then become an adjunct of television. As an industry, cinema will be dead," Kleiman said in an interview. ("The Moscow Times," 25 May)
DEFENSE MINISTRY CURBS MILITARY JOURNALISTS' ACTIVITIES... Under a May 20 Russian defense minister's directive, the Defense Ministry's press service and its divisions will be resubordinated to the Main Department of Educational Work (MDEW) "for the purpose of improving the information provision of the Russian Armed Forces." Resembling the Main Political Department of Soviet times, the MDEW will monopolize the information meant for civilian use. The once-omnipotent Main Political Department is reacquiring its former influence. De-ideologization of the armed forces is over, the pendulum has swung to the opposite side. From now on, the Defense Ministry's press service subordinate to the MDEW is tasked with not only informing Russian citizens and the media but, also to educate them in the proper patriotic spirit. Pedagogical "recipes" for such education will be supplied by staff methodologists of the reviving MDEW. ("Segodnya," 23 May)
...WHILE THE DUMA MUFFLES MEDIA MENTION OF DRUGS. Amendments to the media law passed by the Duma on 24 May ban "dissemination in the media and via computer networks, information on the ways and means of invention, manufacture, and the use of drugs and on locales where drugs and psychotropic substances may be purchased," including mention of "drug propaganda." For example, phrases such as "injecting heroin is more addictive than marijuana smoking (three violations of the law here)" cannot be used. For every such blunder, a warning is issued. After receiving two warnings, a newspaper or TV channel "could be shut down." Oleg Zhukov, Moscow senior narcologist and president of the "No to Alcoholism and Drug Addiction" foundation, said, "There can be no doubt that the idea of fighting drug use will now be reduced to absurdity. This ban destroys the possibility of a public discussion of the problem. That's a throwback to the repressive Soviet system and our bureaucrats are still thinking within its categories." Deputy Media Minister Mikhail Seslavinsky admitted, "Yes, the amendments do restrict your freedom of speech somewhat. Essentially, we just repeated the wording of the law on drugs. That's the best we could do." ("Izvestia," 26 May)
NIKITIN SAYS SITUATION IN MURMANSK IS WORSE. Retired Navy Captain Aleksandr Nikitin--who was accused of espionage and treason for his role in revealing data about Russia's nuclear fleet but acquitted by a St. Petersburg court last December--recently returned to the Kola Peninsula for the first time since 1995. In an AFP interview, Nikitin commented that the situation is "even worse than five years ago," adding that he is "increasingly concerned" about decommissioned nuclear submarines left to rot in ports on the peninsula." ("RFE/RL Russian Regional Report," 24 May)
CRITICAL NEWSPAPERS COME UNDER PRESSURE IN PSKOV. RFE/RL's Pskov correspondent reported in the 13 May edition of "Korrespondentskii chas" that the oblast newspapers "Panorama" and "Tak Nado" have come under pressure from local authorities in the past few weeks after publishing articles critical of Governor Yevgenii Mikhailov and his associates. The oblast printing house has unofficially warned the newspapers' editorial staff that it may be forced to cease printing them. More recently, the "Panorama" editors were told they should start looking for new premises. RFE/RL's Russian Service noted that during the run-up to last year's State Duma elections, "Panorama" and "Tak Nada" had supported Mikhailovs' favored candidate, Mikhail Kuznetsov, and that it was largely due to this support that Kuznetsov went on to win the election as the State Duma deputy for Pskov oblast. ("RFE/RL Russian Regional Report," 24 May)
CALL TO ACTION FOR RUSSIAN MEDIA FREEDOM. The Glasnost Defense Foundation appealed to journalists on 25 May to join its action "The Voice of Glasnost," by publishing at least one article on the defense of journalists' rights (it is ready to offer its monitoring data on the violation of media rights, as well as its Glasnost Map). "Share your own problems, and the problems facing your colleagues, with your readers! At the next stage of 'The Voice of Glasnost' action, we will collect appeals to the State Duma and the Russian Federation President calling for a ban on punitive measures against the media." Phone: 7-095-201-4420; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.gdf.ru. (Glasnost Defense Foundation press release, 25 May)
SERBIACOURT SKIRMISHES. Radio Pancevo brought charges on 20 May against the Ministry of Interior for obstruction of its property, said Goran Matic, Radio B2-92 lawyer. First, the radio's wave frequency was diverted on 17 May, later that day only folk music was heard. On 17 and 18 May, engineers were prevented from approaching the radio's transmitter. "We have demanded from the court to prescribe summarily that the Serbian Ministry of Interior to allow our technicians to approach the transmitter at Milic Heights," Radio B2-92 cited Matic as saying. The Belgrade Commercial Court refused on 25 May to grant a temporary order for Studio B to honor a 1999 contract to produce a Radio B2-92 radio program. Judge Milojka Zekovic, turning down the application, scheduled the main hearing of the ANEM case for 31 May. ANEM had sought enforcement of the contract with Studio B for its associates to produce and rebroadcast a program under the title "Third program of Studio B/B2-92" and compensation for every day the rebroadcast has not been permitted. (ANEM Report, 20-26 May)
THE MEDIA REGAINS SOME GROUND--AND AIR... SRNA news agency reported that representatives of the daily "Borba" spoke to representatives of the daily "Blic" on 20 May to overcome current misunderstandings. Radio Index was on air again as of the morning of 20 May. Radio station representatives said they were broadcasting only music and the news each hour. In cooperation with the Internet media company "Free Serbia," as of 20 May, Radio Pancevo resumed broadcasting its program via the Internet. The program is available at: http://www.freeserbia.org. The news is broadcast each hour and morning news daily from 8 to 8:45. Headline news of the informative show "Paralele," will be broadcast daily at 4 pm and 9 pm. Ljubisav Aleksic, who was appointed editor-in-chief of Radio-Television Studio B by the Serbian government after it seized control of the station from the city of Belgrade, stated that "a few employees of the previous Studio B crew were back to work" on 20 May and called on the others to "follow their example." In his statement for the daily "Danas," Aleksic refused to specify when the program would be regularly on the air again. (ANEM Report, 20-26 May)
...AND ALSO LOSES. The Belgrade Commercial Court today annulled 10 years of investments by ABC Produkt in the former of public firm Glas on 20 May, confiscating all its assets and the company's subsidiary printing firm which had printed a number of respected independent newspapers for several years. The staff of "Glas Javnosti" has also been evicted from the company's premises on Vlajkoviceva Street, according to a statement released today by the paper's director, Slavoljub Kacarevic, in the name of ABC Produkt. Disruption of RTV Pancevo's signal, which began last week, has been stepped up, particularly in the past 48 hours, "Glas Javnosti" reported on 26 May. TV Pancevo Director Ofelija Backovic told the daily that viewers from other towns had notified the station to say that they were unable to receive the program on Channel 37 and that there were signal interruptions--particularly during news programs--in certain parts of Pancevo itself. "RTV Pancevo wrote to the Federal Ministry of Telecommunications on 17 May demanding that the disruption cease, but the ministry neither replied nor took any action," said Backovic. (ANEM Report, 20-26 May)
OFFICIALS LASH OUT AT THE MEDIA. Deputy Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj launched another savage attack on the independent media on prime time television on 23 May. Speaking on TV Palma, Seselj, who is president of the Serbian Radical Party, accused independent journalists of taking millions of dollars in return for attempting to destabilize the country. Seselj, who earlier this year threatened independent journalists with summary execution, indicated that even more rigorous measures by the state apparatus would ensue. The secretary of the government coalition partner the Yugoslav Left, Ivan Markovic, alleged on 26 May that a number of independent media were charged with supporting terrorism. "The logistical support for this [NATO-sponsored] terrorism is intended to be the lies and manipulations of the so-called free media such as the dailies "Blic," "Danas," and "Glas javnosti," and broadcasters such as Radio Pancevo, TV Kragujevac, and TV Nis, which are operated by local governments under U.S. command," said Markovic, going on to say that such ideas were supported by all the NATO criminals and local punks who flattered themselves by saying that they were the Serbian opposition. He said, however, that "this country has defeated the NATO air force and will certainly defeat NATO terrorists and NATO media." (ANEM Report, 20-26 May)
STATE REPRESSION AGAINST REPORTERS CONTINUES... On 25 May, the Military Court in Nis resumed its investigation of charges against France Press and "Danas" correspondent Miroslav Filipovic, who has been charged with espionage and disseminating false information. Defense lawyer Zoran Ateljevic told Radio B2-92 that a complaint had been lodged on illegalities pertaining to Filipovic's custody and the investigation. These, he said, had not been addressed and the proceedings had continued in the meantime. "We expect the Criminal Council of the Nis Military court to respond to these complaints within 48 hours in accordance with the law," said Ateljevic. Meanwhile, police in Novi Sad on 24 May arrested photographer Miljan Cubranovic and held him for questioning. He was released after being photographed and fingerprinted. This is the third time Cubranovic, who works for the Belgrade daily "Glas Javnosti," has been arrested. A photographer from the Belgrade daily "Danas," was detained for questioning on 25 May as he photographed incidents at the Belgrade University Faculty of Electrical Engineering. Milos Peric had entered the building, which is controlled by private security guards, using identification borrowed from a student. Peric was held in custody for six hours and his camera and film confiscated. The editor of TV Soko, Nebojsa Ristic, was arrested on 25 May in Soko Banja while distributing leaflets and membership applications for the student movement. Also arrested were journalists Strahinja Ciric and Predrag Stevanovic. All were released after several hours. Ristic was convicted in April of the criminal offense of disseminating false information--in contravention of Article 218 of the Serbian Criminal Code--for displaying a Radio B2-92 poster "Free Press" and an Otpor poster in his office window. He was released from prison on 27 March this year after serving more than 11 months of a one-year prison sentence. (ANEM Report, 20-26 May)
...AS DO ATTACKS. Private security guards at the Belgrade University Faculty of Electrical Engineering on 25 May seized a camera from a cameraman working for the production house, Mreza. The camera was returned without tape after an argument in the faculty building. The guards also chased a cameraman from "Free Serbia," who managed to escape. A police patrol in a parked car observed the incident--which occurred after a protest by students at the faculty--but did not intervene. The owner of a daily newspaper in the southern Serbian town of Vranje was attacked in the town center on 26 May. Vukasin Obradovic, who publishes the daily "Novine Vranjskih," told Beta that the driver of a Mercedes had stopped in front of his own car, stepped out and assaulted him--tearing his shirt. He reported the incident to police who said they would investigate. Obradovic said the attack was probably connected with the front page of today's "Novine Vranjskih," which carried a photograph of Otpor members. (ANEM Report, 20-26 May)
TAJIKISTANWORLD ASSOCIATION OF NEWSPAPERS PROTESTS KILLING. In a 24 May letter to President Imomali Rakhmonov, the World Association of Newspapers (WAN) and the World Editors Forum expressed outrage at the murder of the chairman of the state-run radio and TV committee, who was gunned down by six men who blocked his car as it neared his house. The gunmen, dressed in camouflage uniforms, reportedly opened fire with a machine gun, hitting Rakhimov in the chest and head. (WAN press release, 25 May)
TURKMENISTANTURKMENISTAN REDUCES ACCESS TO INTERNET... The Turkmen government has rescinded the licenses of all private Internet providers there as of 29 May, RFE/RL's Turkmen Service reported. State-owned Turkmentlekom is the sole remaining company allowed to provide Internet access. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 May)
...AS TURKMENBASHI 'REFOCUSES' STATE NEWS AGENCY. The Turkmen newspaper "Neytralnyi Turkmenistan" reported on 23 May that President Saparmurat Niyazov adopted a resolution on providing "broader information on all important events in the press and distribute through international channels true information on Turkmenistan...and therefore the Turkmen State News Agency has been renamed the Turkmen State News Service. It will collect, process and distribute rapid, reliable, and comprehensive information about changes in the country within the framework of the president's program of making the 21st century a golden age for the Turkmen people."
END NOTE'Blaming the Messenger?'
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev on the role of the media in his country:
"Some community-based organizations and mass-media violate the constitution and legislation, they fuel the nationalist feelings, they insult human dignity, they protest against the constitutional order, they slander their own country, the country that they live in, the country of their citizenship. But they are not held responsible for this. Fueling all of these unhealthy feelings leads to the funeral of democracy. People need calm and stability. And people all have the right to demand a change in this attitude to their freedom, and the people will be right. Is this the goal of our democracy fighters?
"It was expected that media would support the young state and young democracy and help the formation of the image of the patriotic and law-abiding citizen. But what happened in reality? Both the state and the private media--in their chase after money and sensational news--have forgotten that they are Kazakhstan media. After reading their publications, one begins to think that life in Kazakhstan is as bad as possible. But these are blatant lies!
"Even the foreign media is more objective; even they, with whatever reluctance, still have to recognize our successes.
"Nobody denies that freedom of expression is one of democracy's main achievements, but it should not be used to get even with someone, to misinform the public, and to discredit the state. Instead of providing information to support the courts and the police, to assist in developing public culture, the media has adopted the practice of slandering the law-enforcement system, of speaking about corruption on all corners. As a result, citizens are motivated to disrespect the law. The public has lost its trust in law enforcement and justice; Kazakhstan's international image is declining. By the way, foreign countries pay special attention to creating a positive state image, especially its law-enforcement system. Society and all of the power structures are taking an active part in this process.
"We should take a close look at our media's funding sources, who owns them and, most important, how they obey the 'Law on Mass Media' and the 'Law on National Security.' I believe we will find out a lot of interesting things. Probably, we will find a foreign influence here. Every citizen and journalist should work within the boundaries established by law. Do our journalists not realize there are enough people who wish to slander Kazakhstan even without their efforts? Do some reporters have warm feelings towards Kazakhstan, towards the country that has to overcome many obstacles on its way to stability? Are they unwilling in these attempts to break our country apart?
"On the other hand, officials and ministries are not meeting the media often enough, they do not give the press all the needed explanations and interpretations. Even the state TV channel, 'Khabar,' has 'distinguished' itself. Chasing imaginary objectiveness and independence, it broadcast the tedious coverage of an Ust-Kamenogorsk trial. Instead of giving all sides a chance to express their views, 'Khabar' taped a speech by the Russian Consul who showed an open disrespect and ignored legislation of Kazakhstan in the courtroom. Enough dirt has been poured on Kazakhstan! No more slander of the country, no more discrediting authorities--I am warning you! All of these years, I have protected freedom of expression. Not one newspaper was closed, not one public organization has been banned unlawfully. But let us build our future country together.
"We are not speaking of restricting freedom of expression here. We are speaking of being responsible and of elementary order. Today at this meeting we are discussing this issue openly. We are speaking of the problems ourselves. We could have banned journalists from this meeting, as they were last time our opposition obediently crawled to meet the representative of the bourgeois world. But you are here.
"The position of those who are supposed to protect the law is really surprising. The press, especially the non-governmental one, always publishes articles that not only provide negative information on Kazakhstan but also directly encroach on our constitutional order. The General Procurator's office is always afraid of something, afraid of taking decisions. How many times do we have to recall that the Ministry of Culture, Information and Public Accord is responsible for the formation of Kazakhstan's unified information space, of the republic's positive image both inside the country and abroad?
"It should be understood that we still do not have a clear strategic information policy. For now it's only words. What we need today is a media monitoring system, we need to improve a mechanism to prevent non-objective information, and slander 'by command' through preventing direct or indirect lobbying of final decisions. We should also examine the possibility of creating a specialized body (such as a Chamber of Information) to settle any disputes deriving from journalists' ethics."
("Kazakhstanskaya Pravda," 21 April; "Internews Network-Kazakhstan" newsletter, 18-27 April)