8 June 2000, Volume 1, Number 4
INTERNATIONALSOUTH CAUCASUS JOURNALISTS ISSUE JOINT BULLETIN. The Yerevan and Tbilisi Press Clubs and the Azerbaijani "Yeni Nesil" Journalists' Association have produced the 24th issue of their joint electronic publication. Initiated on 3 December 1999, the journalist organizations have agreed that they will not edit or shorten each others' work, although other media sources which cite their articles may do so. The project is funded by the Eurasia Foundation.
WORLD NEWSPAPER CONGRESS LOOKS AT VIOLENCE. At its 11-14 June congress, the World Newspaper Congress and World Editors Forum will bring together press freedom advocates, including some from Yugoslavia. Radomir Diklic, President of the Association of Private Media of Serbia and chief executive of the Beta News Agency, will report on his country's crisis. More than 1,200 newspaper publishers and executives are expected to attend these meetings. Contact Larry Kilman: email@example.com (World Association of Newspapers Press Release, 31 May).
INTERNATIONAL HELSINKI FEDERATION (IHF) ISSUES MAJOR REPORT. Discussed in a special presentation to delegations of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the 488-page report covers major human rights violations in 44 OSCE countries in 1999. Countries cited for denials of press freedom include Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, and Turkmenistan. Read the report at: www.ihf-hr.org or can be requested from: firstname.lastname@example.org. (IHF Press Release, 1 June)
ARMENIAMEDIA SUBJECT TO ECONOMIC PRESSURES. According to Armenian journalist Mark Grigorian, "ongoing economic and political turmoil means that there are few opportunities for independent media to survive and grow." Of the 1,013 registered mass media outlets in the country, 596 are newspapers and only 50 of them appear regularly. The largest circulation newspaper, "Iravunk," a weekly with 7,000 sales, generates only 60 percent of its income through sales, with other revenue coming from sponsors. Grigorian maintains that those who fund different media are often more important than those who nominally own them, since the former help to define the outlets' political orientations. Since the October 1999 killings in the Armenian parliament, Grigorian told a recent seminar, the Armenian media's financial situation has further worsened and official, particularly economic, pressure on the press has increased. Several enterprises, such as the Tigran Mets printing house and Hay Mamul, a state-run press delivery agency, now enjoy monopoly status. Since the independent media depend on their services, they are vulnerable to official manipulation or discrimination. (Armenpress, 29 May)
AZERBAIJANSEMINAR ON DEFAMATION LAWS. In its first seminar in Azerbaijan, the Council of Europe along with Article 19 (a British NGO with partners in thirty countries), sponsored discussions on May 5 and 6 on various definitions of "defamation" for local journalists, officials, NGOs and lawyers. The "Turan" news agency and the "Yeni Nesil" journalists' association were the local supporters. (International Journalists Network, 29 May - 2 June)
AZERBAIJANI JOURNALISTS PROTEST POLICE ACTIONS. Independent and opposition newspapers in Azerbaijan on 30 May published condemnations of a police attack on the editorial office of the newspaper "Bu gun" three days earlier, Turan reported. Several journalists were beaten during that attack and a photographer taken into custody for questioning. The police action was apparently in retaliation for the journalists' attempt to photograph a scuffle between police and a group of young men outside a Baku cafe. Two journalist organizations and the editors of 17 media outlets issued a statement on 29 May condemning the police action and demanding an investigation. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May)
REPRISALS AGAINST AZERBAIJANI MEDIA CONTINUE. A Baku district court on 31 May fined Elmar Huseinov, editor of the opposition newspaper "Bakinskii bulvard" and one of its journalists, Irada Huseinova, 10 million manats ($2,270) each for an article allegedly insulting Defense Minister Safar Abiev. The article featured evidence linking the minister to economic crimes, Turan reported. An investigation last year into allegations that Abiev had condoned embezzlement within the Defense Ministry proved inconclusive (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2, No. 34, 26 August 1999). Also on 30 May, Huseinov brought a court action against a Baku district tax office that ordered the suspension of publication of the journal "Monitor Weekly," which he also edits, and the sealing of its editorial office. In a third action, a Baku court found the newspaper "Uch nogte" guilty of insulting the honor and dignity of Astara District Administrator Ibragim Guliev, Turan reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2000)
BELARUSBELARUSIAN SOCIAL DEMOCRATS HOLD CONGRESS. At its congress in Minsk on 3-4 June, the opposition Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Popular Hramada, BSDP) re-elected Mikalay Statkevich as leader of the party, Belapan reported. The forum also reaffirmed that the party will participate in this fall's parliamentary election only if the authorities give the opposition access to the state media, expand the powers of the current legislature, and include opposition representatives in electoral commissions at all levels. The delegates gave the BSDP Central Committee the right to convene "a second session of the congress" in July in order to make a final decision on the party's participation in the parliamentary ballot. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June)
TWO INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS GET TWO WARNINGS EACH. Two independent newspapers, the Russian-language "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" and the bilingual "Narodnaya volya," have received two warnings each from the State Press Committee. That gives the authorities grounds, under Belarusian legislation, to seek a legal ban on the publications. Since another independent newspaper, the Belarusian-language "Nasha niva," was earlier given two warnings, "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" on 31 May concluded that the authorities have begun to prepare for this fall's parliamentary elections by muzzling the independent press. "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" was twice warned against "stirring up ethnic intolerance or discord" for two articles published in February. Those articles, according to the newspaper, discussed how Poland and Israel have worked "toward the truth about Auschwitz." To justify the warning, officials claimed that the newspaper quoted well-known or unknown persons, which allegedly characterize the relations between the Polish and Israeli nations. As a result, the opinions of individuals that "stir up ethnic intolerance are identified with the general attitude of one nation toward the other." The second warning refers to a reader's letter published by "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" in March. According to the committee, the letter "insults the ethnic dignity of those Republic of Belarus citizens who are of Russian origin." "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" responded: "Not touching upon what this statement means (particularly since it was impudently torn out of context), we will simply ascertain the obvious: only a blind person may fail to see that we have here in black and white: ROSSIYANE are Russian Federation citizens, not Russians [in Russian: russkie]." "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" said it will sue State Press Committee Chairman Mikhail Padhayny, who signed the warnings, for what it called his "absurd charges" against the newspaper. ("RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 6 June)
CROATIAFRENCH JOURNALIST HELD IN ZAGREB. "Reporters without Borders" on 1 June protested to Croatian President Stipe Mesic the continued detention of Laszlo Liszka, a French reporter of Hungarian origin held in Zagreb since 18 February pending extradition to Budapest. Liszka, author of a book, "Carlos Safe behind the Iron Curtain," (1992) alleging that the Hungarian police provided haven to the international terrorist Carlos, was sentenced in 1998 to a two-year prison term for fiscal fraud. Colleagues assert that Liszka's assertions in his book were the real reason for the charges. (Reporters Without Borders Press Release, 1 June)
CZECH REPUBLICCZECH 'MEIN KAMPF' PUBLISHER INDICTED. Police have brought charges against Michal Zitko, owner of the Prague-based Otakar II publishing house, which printed the first-ever unabridged Czech translation of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf," CTK reported on 2 June, citing "Lidove noviny." Zitko is accused of supporting a movement aimed at suppressing minorities. If convicted, he faces between three and eight years in prison. Zitko said his will be "a classic political trial" and expressed confidence that he will be acquitted. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2000)
CZECH POLICE CONFISCATE COPIES OF 'MEIN KAMPF.' Police on 5 June seized 300 copies of the Czech translation of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf" in a raid on the offices of the book's distributor. A police spokeswoman said the book will also be seized from booksellers, while distributor Pavel Dvorak has been summoned to testify as a witness in the investigation launched against the book's publisher, Michal Zitko. Prime Minister Milos Zeman on 2 June had rejected Zitko's allegation that the government ordered the investigation. He said the cabinet "has never dealt with the issue and has never filed a complaint with the police." He said the police are obliged to act if people file compliants, adding that "as far as I am informed," this has been the case here, CTK reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June)
ESTONIACRIMINAL CASE LAUNCHED AGAINST ESTONIAN STATISTICS DEPARTMENT. Tallinn Police on 2 June launched a criminal investigation into the Statistics Department over allegations of a secret database compiled from the findings of the 2000 census, BNS reported. A watchdog group claimed that the scanning of census forms into computers constitutes the creation of an illegal database. The Statistics Department, for its part, has denied any wrongdoing, saying it is only storing the documents. Interior Minister Tarmo Loodus on 1 June suggested the activities were illegal, while Statistics Department head Rein Veetousme responded that there is a misunderstanding about the situation. Veetousme told BNS that all activities involving data from the census are in strict compliance with the law. "Postimees" added that Finance Minister Siim Kallas is defending the Statistics Department against accusations by Loodus. Kallas is from the Reform Party, while Loodus belongs to the Pro Patria Union. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June)
KAZAKHSTANARAB COUNTRIES DENY KAZAKH MEDIA CLAIMS THEY SUPPORT ISLAMIC EXTREMISM. The ambassadors of Egypt, Libya, Palestine, and Saudi Arabia met with Kazakh Prime Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev on 27 May to protest Kazakh print media articles claiming that their countries support "Islamic extremists," Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 30 May. They objected specifically to an article in the newspaper "Karavan" affirming that Saudi Arabia encourages religious extremism and terrorism. Toqaev undertook to investigate the issue. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 May)
'NACHNEM S PONEDEL'NIKA' IN ALMATY KIOSKS AGAIN. Despite the recent police actions against the newspaper, an eight-page edition of the newspaper went on sale on 5 June. (Journalism in Extreme Situations Press Release, 5 June)
KYRGYZSTANONE JOURNALIST'S TRIAL DELAYED... A Security Ministry official told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service on 3 June that the ministry has appealed to the government to put Roza Kachieva on trial as soon as possible. The official alleged that the investigation was completed on 3 April, but the trial has been delayed because of the involvement of some high-level officials and because Kachieva is sometimes in hospital. Kachieva was detained on 12 January, accused of embezzling about $63,000 from 12 organizations from which she had borrowed money to form the semi-private Shade TV company, which prepared programs later aired by the National TV and Radio Corporation. One of these programs, "Good Morning Kyrgyzstan!" was voted the most popular TV show in the country. (RFE/RL Kyrgyz Service, 4 June)
...WHILE ANOTHER WILL STAND TRIAL SOON. According to information from the Osh Media Center, the trial of Hakimjan Husanov, local Mezon TV station editor, will begin on 9 June. He is accused of stirring interethnic hatred by airing a controversial video clip during the last parliamentary election campaign. The clip was in favor of candidate Davran Sabirov, an ethnic Uzbek, who was elected to the Kyrgyz parliament. (RFE/RL Kyrgyz Service, 6 June)
IMPRISONED POLITICIAN PUBLISHES IN RUSSIAN NEWSPAPER. An article by Feliks Kulov, who has been in Kyrgyz Security Ministry custody since 22 March, appeared in the 31 May supplement to "Nezavisimaya Gazeta." Kulov writes that the Kyrgyz authorities have become enemy number one for its own people and that nobody can win a war against its own nation. Recently, according to Kulov, Kyrgyz officials tried to play on U.S.-Russian tensions, but this policy could lead to worsened relations with both countries. (RFE/RL Kyrgyz Service, 5 June)
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA CONFERENCE PROCEEDINGS. A conference on "The Role of the Mass Media in Post-Soviet Conflicts" was held in Osh on 18-20 May. The proceedings are available from Alisher Khamidov, director of the Osh Media Resource Center, at email@example.com or on the web at: http://www.camsp.osh.kg
MOLDOVAPARLIAMENT REPLACES RADIO-TELEVISION LEADERSHIP. The parliament on 2 June voted to dismiss Tudor Olaru as chairman of the Teleradio-Moldova company, Constantin Rotaru as director of national radio, and Arcadie Gherasim as director of state television, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The Party of Moldovan Communists accused them of "lacking professionalism" and condoning biased reporting. The move was supported by the opposition For a Democratic and Prosperous Moldova Bloc (PDAM), which is part of the opposition Alliance for Democracy and Reforms (ADR) umbrella organization. ADR Chairman Alexandru Mosanu responded that the ADR still exists but might decide to expel the PDAM from its ranks. Communist deputy Iulian Magaleas was appointed Teleradio-Moldova's new chairman. The new television director is Anatol Babel, editor-in chief of the PDAM's daily organ, while the new radio director is Vasile Gribincea, until now deputy editor in chief of the station's news department. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June)
RUSSIARUSSIAN CUSTOMS CONFISCATE AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL REPORT. Customs officials at Moscow's Sheremetevo airport on 30 May confiscated an Amnesty International report on human rights violations in Chechnya, Reuters and other Western agencies reported. Airport officials had said they wanted to prevent the report being used for "commercial purposes." Interfax on 31 May quoted unnamed Russian customs officials as confirming that some 100 copies of an Amnesty International report on human rights violations in Chechnya had been confiscated from Amnesty International employee Marianna Katzarova on her arrival at Moscow's Sheremetevo airport on 28 May. They said she had no documentation explaining why the reports were being imported into Russia. They added that Katzarova may reclaim the copies of the report if she provides documentation certifying that they are intended for legal use rather than commercial purposes. Katzarova had intended to distribute the reports at a human rights seminar in Vladikavkaz. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 June)
BEAT THE PRESS. A member of Buryatia's legislature, Andrei Butyugov, beat up the deputy editor of the local newspaper "Vechernii Ulan-Ude," Dmitrii Rodionov, last month, "Versiya" reported in its issue dated 16-22 May, citing the Fund for the Defense of Glasnost. Butyugov, who has immunity from criminal prosecution as a legislator, explained his action by expressing his indignation over the publication of a series of articles by the journalist in a number of central and local publications. Last March, Butyugov threatened to kill a journalist from a local television company (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 15 March 2000). The threat was captured on video cassette and has been forwarded to local law enforcement officials. According to "Nezavisimaya gazeta," Butyugov himself once worked as a journalist at the Buryatia State Television and Radio Company. ("RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 31 May)
CLINTON URGED TO PRESS PUTIN ON PRESS FREEDOM. After Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told CNN on 1 June that "openness and freedom of the media are an absolute priority of the Russian government" and declared that the recent police raid on Media-MOST's Moscow headquarters "had nothing to do with pressure on the media," media watchdog groups called on U.S. President Bill Clinton to raise these issues at his meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Among those was Robert Coalson of the National Press Institute in St. Petersburg. Writing in "The Moscow Times" on 2 June, Coalson referred to what he calls "creeping xenophobia" in the "past year or so by repeated efforts of authorities at all levels to tar the nonstate media and civic groups generally with the accusation that they are in the pay of either Chechen trorrists or foreign security agencies." Recalling that Putin stated in January that RFE/RL reporter Andrei Babitsky was "clearly in the service of the enemy," Coalson also notes in February that "national state media spread the story that millions of dollars had been smuggled into Russia by Chechecn terrorists to bribe journalists 'to communicate distortions and false information about acting-President Vladimir Putin and the armed forces in Chechnya.'"
CLINTON RAISES ISSUE OF PRESS FREEDOM... At a news conference following talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, President Clinton told reporters that he stressed the importance to the U.S. of protecting the rights of independent media. He also said that he agreed with Putin when the latter said Russia will not have a future if it suppresses civil liberties and freedom of the press. During his call-in show on Ekho Moskvy, Clinton condemned the 11 May police raid of Media-MOST headquarters, saying that he would never send U.S. tax police to check on CNN. "Of course, when you read something that you believe is untrue or unfair, you can get angry," Clinton admitted, but he said the U.S. "has bent over backwards in favor of freedom of the press." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June)
...AS ALBRIGHT VISITS RFE/RL MOSCOW BUREAU. Also on 4 June, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visited the Moscow bureau of RFE/RL. Among the themes discussed, according to the bureau, were freedom of the press and of speech, ecological problems, the administrative reform of the federation, democracy in Russia's regions, the war in Chechnya, human rights, and the development of civil society. U.S.-Russian relations were also touched upon, but Albright did not comment on the summit. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June)
CHRISTIAN RADIO BROADCASTS TO QUADRUPLE. An agreement signed on 23 May between the Russian-state radio outlets Mayak and Yunost and the international Christian broadcaster, Trans World Radio (TWR, based in North Carolina) means that the Bible-centered TWR programs will be aired on 720 transmitters throughout Russia as of 1 June. Radio Mayak is the second-largest national network after Radio Rossiya; Yunost is oriented to youth programming. It also has 15 stations in Belarus plus up to 115 FM transmitters and 25 AM stations in Russia. (Trans World Radio, 30 May)
'PUTIN' PUPPET FINDS BLACKMAIL DOESN'T WORK WITH 'CLINTON.' The puppet modeled after President Putin reappeared on the popular "Kukly" show broadcast on 4 June, suggesting that an announcement by Media-MOST's NTV a week earlier that the authorites had demanded its removal may have been a publicity stunt. In the 4 June episode, the Putin puppet tries to recruit U.S.President Clinton's puppet for Russia's intelligence service, offering him the code name "Saxophonist." The Putin figure then tries to blackmail Clinton, telling him that he will let the American people know that Clinton avoided the draft. And the Clinton puppet responds, "Blackmail? The American people already know all about me.... Sure, I'll work for you, but what I want is money." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June)
...MEDIA-MOST WINS COURT VICTORY. A court in Moscow has declared that the police raid on Media-MOST headquarters earlier in the month was illegitimate, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 3 June. The court ordered that documents seized during the search be returned. According to "Kommersant-Daily," the Prosecutor-General's Office has already stated that it will appeal the court's decision. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June)
AND TV-TSENTER GETS ANOTHER EXTENSION. The Media Ministry on 6 June extended TV-Tsentr's operating license until "a final court decision is reached," Interfax reported, citing Media Minister Mikhail Lesin. TV-Tsentr's license officially expired on 20 May. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 June)
CHECHEN REPORTER ARRESTED. An independent Chechen journalist, Tassia Issayeva, was arrested on 1 June in North Ossetia near the Chechen border, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The RSF reports that Issayeva was arrested during a police inspection in the village of Zaramaga; her videocamera and portable computer were seized. The journalist is allegedly accused of working for the official Chechen news agency, but the Tbilisi-based Chechen Information Center denies this. (RSF Press Release, 5 June)
NEW NEWSPAPER LAUNCHED. Called "Stringer," the paper will be a vehicle for investigative reporting and an outlet for investigations and articles suppressed elsewhere. The paper will be edited by "oft-fired" journalist Leonid Krutakov. More information at firstname.lastname@example.org; after 20 June: http://www.stringer-agency.ru (Johnson's Russian List, 3 June)
SERBIABELGRADE ACCUSES NATO OF WAGING A MEDIA WAR AGAINST YUGOSLAVIA... Federal Information Minister Goran Matic said on 30 May that a media war against Yugoslavia is being conducted from outside the country through global world media under the control of NATO and its allies as well as from within through a media fifth column. Matic's statement, reported by the state-controlled daily "Politika," claimed that the British and American governments were behind this campaign, which had established a special body to organize and finance media within Yugoslavia to destabilize, manipulate, and interfere in the country's internal affairs. Elements of these enemy activities, said the minister, included the establishment of self-proclaimed independent media and broadcasts in Serbian via satellite and shortwave radio from neighboring countries. (ANEM Weekly Report, 27 May-2 June)
...AND SAYS INTERNATIONAL JOURNALISTS SIDING WITH YUGOSLAVIA'S ENEMIES. Yugoslav Information Minister Goran Matic on 30 May also accused the secretary-general of the International Journalists Federation, Aiden White, of "giving instructions and support to the so-called independent Serbian media in order to complement with NATO propaganda in the covering up of crimes in Yugoslavia," the SRNA news agency reports. "The heroic people of Serbia and Yugoslavia know who supports them and who imposes embargoes, kills women and children, destroys bridges and buildings, and who wants to serve NATO and the USA," reads Matic's letter to White. (ANEM Weekly Report, 27 May-2 June)
INDEPENDENT MEDIA FIGHT BACK. The Independent Association of Serbian Journalists on 1 June published its second compilation of cases of anti-media repression. The booklet contains a summary of all repressive measures taken by the Serbian government against independent media in March and April this year and an analysis of state and pro-regime media coverage of recent events in the country. Association representatives emphasized that the government media had again been "typical purveyors of government policy," but had now also been transformed into "spiritual creators and alter egos of the regime," and spread hate speech and intimidation.
'BLIC' TO PRESS CHARGES FOR DISRUPTION OF PROPERTY. The president of the daily "Blic's" administrative committee, Borivoje Pajovic, announced on 31 May that the paper would press charges for disruption of property over the removal of its neon sign from the roof of the Beogradjanka building. The daily would also bring charges against the printing firm Borba for its failure to honor a contract to print "Blic." "They haven't even returned our neon sign," said Pajovic, adding that this was unlawful confiscation of property. (ANEM Weekly Report, 27 May-2 June)
MEDIA FINES REMAIN FAVORITE GOVERNMENT TACTIC. A Belgrade magistrate on 27 May fined the daily "Danas" a total of 570,000 dinars under the Public Information Act. The paper was convicted on charges brought by Deputy Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj over a 24 May article titled, "Lilic demands urgent dismissal of Serbian Radical Party leader." Danas Editor in Chief Grujica Spasovic told Radio B2-92 today that this was the third time Seselj had brought charges against the paper, but today he had actually appeared in court for the first time. If Seselj had cared about the truth, added Spasovic, he would have sued Lilic directly and not used the Public Information Act. Danas has to date been convicted seven times under the Public Information Act and fined a total of 2.2 million dinars . . . Serbian private and independent media were fined a total of 2,230,000 dinars in the past month, the vice president of the Independent Association of Serbian Journalists, Dragan Banjac, said on 30 May at its monthly protest meeting in Belgrade. During May, Studio B was fined three times and weekly "Vreme" and the dailies "Blic" and "Danas" once each. Association official Filip Mladenovic told protesters that "when Serbia becomes a legal state," the media would seek recompense of the fines paid under the 'unconstitutional' Public Information Act . . . Belgrade weekly "NIN" and Editor-in-Chief Stevan Niksic were also fined a total of 230,000 dinars under the Public Information Act. The magistrate convicted Niksic and the magazine on charges brought by gynecologist Milos Ognjevic, who alleged that his honor and reputation had been damaged by an article published last year under the title "A cry for the unborn." (ANEM Weekly Report, 27 May-2 June)
JOURNALIST STILL IN CUSTODY. The president of the Nis military court, Vukadin Milojevic, announced on 1 June that Miroslav Filipovic, the Kraljevo correspondent for France Press and "Danas," will remain in custody for a further 30 days while the investigation of charges against him continue. Filipovic was arrested on 8 May this year, charged with espionage and disseminating false information. According to the defense, Filipovic may be detained only until 18 June. The next day, the Federal Ministry of Information notified France Press that Miroslav Filipovic was not accredited as a foreign journalist. The letter implied that because his documents were not in order, and he was presumably being paid unofficially from a hostile country, his situation was very suspicious. "Why would such a prominent world news agency use an illegal source?" asked Zivadinovic. (ANEM Weekly Report, 27 May-2 June)
REUTERS CORRESPONDENT RELEASED... Reuters Belgrade correspondent Julijana Mojsilovic was released from custody this evening. She was detained on 27 May with 10 others when they attempted to visit Otpor activist Momcilo Veljkovic in prison. (ANEM Weekly Report, 27 May-2 June)
...WHILE OTHER REPORTERS ARE ARRESTED, RELEASED. On 29 May, police detained Milos Maslaric, the head of an independent TV station in Belgrade, who was later interrogated at the local police station. He refused to take part in an inventory of the station's equipment and warned police that the station was the property of the Mladenovac City Assembly. Police then took Maslaric to the station. Meanwhile, they forced entry to the premises, changed the studio's locks and sealed the building. TV Mladenovac, a subsidiary of Studio B, stopped broadcasting on 17 May on police orders. Predrag Cokic, president of the Mladenovac Municipal Assembly, described these police actions as an attack on public and city property, adding this was another attack on the independent media and unnecessary as he would have given the police the keys had they requested them. The town's local opposition described the break in at the already-banned station, surrounded by police cordons for days, as further abuse of the constitution. On 30 May, Krusevac police apprehended Miroljub Arsic, correspondent for the Montenegrin daily "Vijesti;" he was released after two hours' interrogation. Some three weeks ago Arsic had received anonymous telephone threats advising him not to leave his house. (ANEM Weekly Report, 27 May-2 June)
FURTHER COURT ACTION AGAINST MEDIA OUTLETS. Two hearings were held in Novi Pazar on 27 May on charges against the editor of "Sandzacke novine," Amir Numanovic, brought under the Public Information Act. The receivership manager of the Collective Farm in Tutin had filed charges due to an article published last year in "Sandzacke novine." The weekly's editor told Beta that the next hearing was scheduled for 15 June, while the other charge by Slavko Petrovic had been dismissed as unjustified (ANEM Weekly Report, 27 May-2 June). Meanwhile, a hearing of the latest charges against the Belgrade daily "Danas" was adjourned until 2 June because of the funeral today of the paper's co-founder, Nikola Burzan. The original charges were brought by Zrenjanin District Public Prosecutor Risto Davidovic, who claims that his rights were infringed upon in a 19 May article titled "The officials say you have come in vain." The Third Municipal Court on 1 June heard a case brought by ANEM against the Republic of Serbia for disruption of property in the Beogradjanka business offices. Magistrate Savo Mickovic adjourned the hearing until 15 June, although the court has still not ruled on an application by ANEM for a temporary order allowing it use of its leased premises. The Belgrade Commercial Court has also heard an application from ANEM which demanded that the new management of Studio B meet its obligation under the valid contracts with ANEM. Judge Milojka Zekovic rejected an application for a temporary order and ruled that the case should be heard in the Belgrade Higher Commercial Court. (ANEM Weekly Report, 27 May-2 June)
INDEPENDENT RADIO SIGNALS JAMMED. Belgrade's Radio Indeks has been inaudible in most of Belgrade since 9 p.m. on 27 May. Listeners tuning in for the station's main evening news bulletin instead heard trumpet music. Indeks Editor in Chief Aleksandar Vasic told Radio B2-92 that another signal was drowning out Indeks but that the source had not been confirmed. Earlier this evening Otpor activists had called on Belgraders to put speakers in their windows and play Radio Indeks news loudly across the city at 9 p.m.
RADIO 021 SIGNAL JAMMED. The signal of Novi Sad Radio 021, which has been rebroadcasting news from Radio B2-92, has been disrupted since 28 May, according to many listeners. (ANEM Weekly Report, 27 May-2 June)
WHILE TV PANCEVO LICENSE EXPIRES. TV Pancevo's Ministry of Telecommunications contract to use Channel 37 expired on 1 June. The ministry had not yet responded to the station's applications for contract renewal in March, the editor in chief said. TV Pancevo is the last remaining non-regime television station whose signal can be received in Belgrade. TV Pancevo was denounced in late May by Federal Telecommunications Minister Ivan Markovic. Meanwhile, TV Pancevo is expected to continue operating without a valid frequency license. (ANEM Weekly Report, 27 May-2 June)
PAPER SUPPLIES CUT TO INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS IN BELGRADE... Belgrade daily "Glas javnosti" had to reduce its number of pages in late May because only half the required amount of paper has been supplied by the only domestic newsprint manufacture, the Sremska Mitrovica firm Matroz. "Blic" Editor-in-Chief Slavoljub Kacarevic told Beta today that Matroz had reduced the supply of newsprint from ten to five tons a day, citing technical problems at the factory. "It's possible that they'll send us none at all tomorrow," said Kacarevic, adding that "Glas javnosti" had exhausted its paper stocks and was not permitted to import paper. Matroz Director Dragan Lazic said on 31 May that he expected deliveries to be normalized by the week's end. "We have cut supplies to all our customers," said Lazic. The Belgrade daily, "Danas" on 2 June informed readers it had been forced to increase its price and reduce the number of pages. This decision was explained by the drastic fines imposed under the Public Information Act and a lack of paper. "Danas" also disclosed unofficial information that Yugoslavia's only newsprint manufacturer, Matroz, had suspended paper production yesterday "because of problems with paper production machinery." It was expected that production would resume during the day. (ANEM Weekly Report, 27 May-2 June)
...AND IN NIS. The Nis daily "Narodne novine" failed to appear at newsstands on 1 June. Printing house Prosveta in Nis did not print the edition, explaining it had no paper if the Nis daily did not settled its debt of 300,000 dinars.
ANEM STILL DENIED ACCESS TO LEASED PREMISES IN BEOGRADJANKA. Staff and lawyers of the Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) are still unable to gain access to its premises and equipment in the Beogradjanka building, two weeks after the seizure of Studio B. The premises are still blocked by police "until further notice," although these premises have no connection with Studio B. ANEM leased the premises from the Department for Business Premises of the City of Belgrade. (ANEM Weekly Report, 27 May-2 June)
REVERSING ETHNIC CLEANSING -- OF KOSOVO'S LIBRARIES. The International Federation of Library Associations estimates that at least $6.7 million will be needed to rescue Kosova's libraries, damaged by a decade of neglect and a year and a half of fighting. It says most of the books that survived are either outdated or irrelevant to locals because of their language or subject matter. The association's report, which was just made public, says that Serbian authorities followed a systematic policy of destroying Albanian-language literature. The authors, two Scandinavian library experts, based their report on a survey they conducted earlier this year in libraries throughout Kosova. The report says some 100,000 books in Albanian belonging to the National and University Library were destroyed between 1991 and 1995, in what the authors describe as a "process of ethnic cleansing." They say this process also occurred in almost all public libraries in Kosova during the 1990s. The torching of libraries in Kosovar Albanian communities during the fighting in 1998 and 1999 was the culmination of a long policy, it said. As a result, the survey says, "a large share of local public and school libraries need total reconstruction of buildings and collections." Last autumn, the National and University Library of Kosova (sponsored by the Kosova Foundation for an Open Society), conducted its own survey and found that two-thirds of Kosova's 180 libraries had been "annihilated" between 1990 and 1999. Over 900,000 books--or almost half of all library books in Kosova--had been destroyed. The report also call unfounded the controversial accusations made last year by the Belgrade daily "Glas Javnosti," which alleged that Kosovar Albanians had destroyed at least four Serbian libraries and burned 2 million Serbian books. The Scandinavian authors insist that Kosova's public libraries never contained 2 million Serbian books. ("RFE/RL Balkan Report," 2 June 2000)
KOUCHNER SHUTS DOWN ALBANIAN-LANGUAGE DAILY. UN police and KFOR soldiers occupied the Prishtina offices of the daily "Dita" on 3 June. Kouchner ordered the newspaper temporarily closed down because it published an article in April alleging that Serbian UN worker Petar Topoljski committed atrocities against Kosovars during the 1999 conflict. UN officials have suggested that there was a link between the article and the murder of Topoljski in May (see "RFRE/RL Newsline," 18 May 2000). A spokeswoman for Kouchner stressed that persons seeking justice must use the legal system and not take the law into their own hands, AP reported. "Dita's" publisher Behlul Beqaj, who is a long-standing political adviser to Kosovar leader Hashim Thaci, argued that the paper published "facts" and that "if we cover up the facts, we will provoke more hatred." Beqaj stressed journalists have a "moral, professional, and national responsibility" to present evidence against "criminals," dpa reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 June)
SLOVAKIACZECH POET HONORED IN SLOVAKIA. Ludvik Kundera, 80-year-old poet, playwright, and translator, received the Jan Smrek Award for his life work at the international festival of literature in Bratislava on 3 June. (Slovak Ministry of Culture Press Statement, 3 June)
FORTHCOMING BOOK ON NEWSPAPER MANAGEMENT. Slovak journalist Tatiana Repkova will publish a book, "New Times: Making a Professional Newspaper in an Emerging Democracy," later this year. The book will be available in Russian, Slovak, English, Croatian, Bulgarian, and Romanian. Orders can be placed at email@example.com (International Journalists' Network, 29 May-2 June).
TURKMENISTANPRIVATE INTERNET PROVIDER TO DEFY OFFICIAL BAN. The director of Ariana, the leading private telecommunications company in Turkmenistan, told Reuters on 30 May that he will not comply with a government order to shut down Internet access to the company's subscribers. Vagif Zeynalov said that decision is illegal, pointing out that under recent licensing regulations it should have been preceded by checks conducted by the Ministry of Communications. Zeynalov has appealed to the ministry to revoke the ruling. Meanwhile the Moscow-based Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations issued a press release on 29 May saying that the decision to revoke licenses of private Internet providers was taken without the knowledge of President Saparmurat Niyazov. These actions lend weight to the conclusions of some observers that the Turkmen security services may be becoming a law unto themselves. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 15 May 2000)
UKRAINEUKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT REJECTS PRIVATIZATION OF TELECOMMUNICATIONS GIANT. The parliament on 1 June turned down a government-proposed bill to privatize the state telecommunications company Ukrtelekom, Interfax reported. The bill was supported by 222 deputies, just four votes short of gaining approval. The Communist and Socialist factions refused to participate in the vote. The bill called for the state to retain 50 percent plus one share in Ukrtelekom. The lucrative telecommunications company is the most important item in the government's list of firms to be privatized in 2000. Some $500 million in budget revenues is expected to be generated this year from privatization. State Property Fund Chairman Oleksandr Bondar said the government next week will submit the bill for another vote. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 June 2000)