13 July 2000, Volume
NEWSPAPER CONFISCATED IN GYUMRI.
Local authorities on July 8 removed from newstands copies of the "Azg" newspaper which contained an article critical of them. Nevertheless, "Azg" plans to publish similar reports in the future. ("Aragil" Electronic News Bulletin, 10 July)
ARTIFICIAL NEWSPRINT SHORTAGE?
Since May, the "Azerbaijan Bulletin" asserts, an artificial deficit of newsprint has been created in the country. "This crisis is the result of purposeful activity of the State Customs Committee," it says, and is intended to create "obstacles to the delivery of newsprint imported from foreign countries to Azerbaijan." "[I]n the past month, the price of newsprint has gone up by 35 percent" and may, the publication predicts, "increase nearly three-fold in the coming months" noting that "during the parliamentary elections in 1995 the price of paper increased three times." The Baku Press Club convened a 4 July meeting of the independent media to discuss how to prevent the threatened closure of their newspapers. Meeting participants "stressed that this problem was created by government order and has political motives." The first protest action occurred on 5 July when all independent newspapers printed a photo of the head of the customs committee with the slogan, "The paper crisis formed by the State Customs Committee is political censorship." (The "Azerbaijan Bulletin," 6 July)
ORT CAMERAMAN DISAPPEARS AT BELARUS AIRPORT.
Dmitri Zavadsky, a cameraman from Russian Public Television, disappeared on 7 July, ITAR-TASS reported. He was supposed to meet his colleague Pavel Sheremet at the airport but did not show up. Sheremet and Zavadsky were jailed for more than two months in Belarus in 1998. Sheremet told the media on 9 July that he suspects Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka "could not forgive Zavadsky for quitting when he worked as the president's personal cameraman." Belarusian officials said the country's opposition might have kidnapped him to blacken Belarus's international reputation, but the opposition blames the Belarusian secret services for Zavadsky's disappearance. Russian Public Television on 10 July asked the Russian authorities to help find Dmitri Zavadsky, a network cameramn who has beeen missing since 7 July, Belapan reported. Meanwhile, Belarusian police continued their investigation, and the office of Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka denied any knowledge of Zavadsky's whereabouts, AP reported. (RFE/RL Newsline, 10-11 July)
CONFERENCE ON FREE MEDIA SUPPORT IN SOUTHEAST EUROPE.
A conference on media issues in Southeast Europe, scheduled for October 10 to 12 in Sarajevo, will propose an action plan for development of regional strategies to promote free media. Entitled "Free Media in Southeast Europe: Protection of Journalists, Prevention of Conflict and Reconciliation," the meeting is being organized by the Representative on Freedom of the Media of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the OSCE Mission in Bosnia and the Council of Europe. Contact (OSCE BiH) in Sarajevo at e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
or OSCE Vienna at E-mail: email@example.com
or Council of Europe at E-mail: Mario.Oetheimer@coe.int
. (International Journalists Network, 3-7 July)
WORKSHOP FOR MINORITY NGOs.
Some 20 representatives of NGOs representing ethnic minorities in Georgia took part in a workshop in Tbilisi on 27 June; one of the trainers was Nadir Kamaldinov of the Resource Center on National Minorities in Azerbaijan. Among the issues discussed were the national minority situation in Georgia, the activity of Georgian organizations within the NGO framework of the south Caucasus and increasing cooperation between Azerbaijani and Georgian NGOs. For more information, contact Nadir Kamaldinov, Director of the Resource Center on National Minorities in Azerbaijan firstname.lastname@example.org. (Minelres, 9 July)
CENTRAL, EAST EUROPEAN MEDIA NGOs APPEAL FOR SUPPORT.
Seventeen media NGOs from Central and East European countries have called on national and international donors to continue their support for media training in the region, the European Journalism Center reported. Meeting in late June at a roundtable sponsored by the Dutch government in the Netherlands, the NGO representatives issued several resolutions on this issue. For more information, see http://www.ejc.nl/resolution.html
(International Journalists Network, 3-7 July)UIGHUR HUMAN RIGHTS COALITION.
The organization has committees on networking,education/outreach, specific actions and fundraising. For further information, contact Kathy Polia, Executive Director at FreeUyghurs@hotmail.com
. (Turkestan Net, 7 July)
PUTIN CHARGES MEDIA UNDER THREAT FROM ALL SIDES...
In his state of the nation address on 8 July, Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the need to strengthen Russia's civil society and preserve certain essential freedoms, such as that of the press. "It is not possible to have a strong state without respect for human rights and freedoms," he said. While stressing the need for "truly free media," Putin noted that Russia has not "yet managed to work out clear rules guaranteeing genuine independence for the fourth estate" and commented that the media have become a "convenient instrument in the interclan struggle." He went on to say that "journalistic freedom has become a tasty morsel for politicians and weighty financial groups" and that "cenorship does not come solely from the state and interference can be more than just administrative." In another part of his speech on challenges to Russia's sovereignty, the Russian president, citing "forces seeking geopolitical reorganization of the world," advocated "contributing to an objective perception of Russia and providing accurate information on development" in Russia. (RFE/RL Newsline, 10 July)...WHILE RUSSIAN MEDIA REACT TO PUTIN COMMENTS.
Concluding "it is Putin, and not the media, who has the problem," a "Moscow Times" editorial on 11 July critiqued the Russian president's media policy as protection of a "narrow vision of the state." Accusing Putin of disguising a quest for personal power as an attempt to reform the state, influential Russian TV journalist Yevgeny Kiselev on his weekly NTV "Itogi" program on 9 July, asserted that "Putin was throwing down the guantlet to us when he mentioned media which carry out anti-state activity, or more precisely fight against the state, he meant us, the NTV channel, first and foremost." Kiselev went on to say that Putin and his entourage "risk spoiling the investment climate in Russia with their attacks on the press and tough rhetoric." The Russian journalist said his own view of the Russian state was "not as a bureaucratic machine headed by a former member of the power structures and security services, but a democratic Russia and its people." Kiselev advocated an alliance with the leaders of the "civilized world, not with North Korea." (NTV in Russian, 9 July)PRESS FREEDOM SUPPORT GROUP GOES TO MOSCOW.
At the invitation of the Russian Union of Journalists and the Glasnost Defense Foundation, a group of the world's leading free press organizations -- including the Committee to Protect Journalists, the International Federation of Journalists, the International Press Institute, the World Association of Newspapers, and the World Press Freedom Committee -- are going to Moscow from 10-13 July to confer with Russian journalism leaders, meet with political personalities and hold a press conference on their findings. The group has requested a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss press freedom in Russia. (World Press Freedom Committee Press Release, 7 July)TREASON CHARGES FOR CANADA-FUNDED CIVILIAN-MILITARY RESEARCH?
Russian scientist Igor Sutyagin, detained for almost nine months in a Kaluga prison, is accused of "high treason" for allegedly having passed state secrets to foreign citizens. Even before the inconclusive official investigation was initiated, Federal Security Service (FSB) officials "stated on television that Sutyagin was a traitor," according to the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF). The IHF also claims that the scientist "never had access to state secrets." A 5 July IHF letter to the FSB director -- citing the Sutyagin case as a "violation of free expression" -- asks for the scientist's release pending an official review of the case. (IHF Press Release, 5 July) Sutyagin was hired by two Canadian universities with funding from Canada's Department of National Defense and carried out interviews based on questions asked by researchers in 12 post-communist countries. According to a York University official, Russia is the only country of the dozen "where some officials seem to have found a Canadian study of civil-military relations to be a threat to national security," reports the 17 June "The Globe and Mail." (RFE/RL Russian Regional Report, 12 July)AND ARE MISSIONARIES PART OF U.S. PLOT?
Both Russian government officials and clergy of the Moscow Patriarchiate are spreading the view that American Protestant missionaries are in Russia as part of a US government plot to transfer Chukotka, Magadan and other Far Eastern regions from Russian to American sovereignty. As partial evidence, Keston News Service said that Bishop Anatoly Aksyonov of the Moscow Patriarchate's diocese of Magadan and Chukotka had given it a letter on 27 June which the bishop said "fully reflected" his own views. The letter, dated 28 February, was from M.N. Kuznetsov of the Russian Academy of State Service and approvingly mentioned a Russian State Committee on Affairs of the North document warning of what Kuznetsov called "a carefully planned system of measures by the U.S.A., now being executed over a long=term period, to wrest Chukotka away from the Russian Federation and make it part of the U.S.A." "No small part of this system is the religious invasion of a huge number of American Protestant preachers, who have recently been intensifying their activities in the Far East and particularly in Chukotka," wrote Kuznetsov. The pastor of a Pentecostal congregation in Magadan told Keston on 30 June that he and his flock are often accused "of being foreign spies and of getting money from people and transferring it to America." (Keston News Service, 5 July)LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIALS PAY ANOTHER VISIT TO MEDIA-MOST.
[O]n 11 July, federal prosecutors seized documents from two Media-MOST offices in Moscow and at Gazprom headquarters as part of its investigation into the case against Media-MOST head Gusinsky, Interfax reported, citing the information and pulic relations center of the Prosecutor General's office. (RFE/RL Newsline, 11 July)FEDERAL PROSECUTORS PURSUE ANOTHER MEDIA-MOST OFFICIAL...
The Prosecutor-General's Office on 6 July filed criminal charges against Mikhail Aleksandrov, an aide to Media-MOST head Vladimir Gusinsky, ITAR-TASS reported. Aleksandrov is accused of possessing illegal firearms. Media-MOST lawyer Pavel Astakhov labeled the charges against Aleksandrov "absurd" and suggested that they are part of a broader campaign to pressure Gusinsky. Meanwhile, a lawyer for Gusinsky has asked that the Media-MOST head be allowed to visit the U.S. in order to take part in discussions with U.S. congressmen on freedom of the press, human rights, and freedom of religion in Russia. (RFE/RL Newsline, 7 July)... AND DETAIN NTV EDITOR AT AIRPORT.
Yulia Muromtsova, an editor with NTV's "Independent Investigation" program, was detained at a Moscow airport on 7 July en route to Ukraine after police confiscated several grams of marijuana in her possession, according to the Interfax news agency. An NTV spokeswoman, Tatiana Blinova, said she had heard the report of Muromtsova's detention, but had been unable to contact her or to confirm the information through the police, the AP reported.GUSINSKY BLOCKED FROM ATTENDING HEARINGS IN U.S.
The office of the Prosecutor-General announced on 7 July that it will not allow Media-MOST head Vladimir Gusinsky to travel to the U.S. to attend hearings at the U.S. House of Representatives, ITAR-Tass reported. The office also sent an official letter to the Duma's Security Committee outlining the criminal case against Gusinsky, Interfax reported. The letter claimed that Gusinsky had obtained from "commercial banks, notably those that he controlled, loans against shares in organizations and enterprises of which he is the CEO or founder and deposited these into the accounts of other organizations in Russia and abroad." According to prosecutors, Gusinsky "was involved in the fraudulent acquisition of ownership rights to the 11th TV channel." (RFE/RL Newsline, 10 July)INTERIOR MINISTRY FILES FORMAL CHARGES AGAINST BABITSKY...
The Interior Ministry has filed formal charges against RFE/RL correspondent Andrei Babitsky, Russian agencies reported on 6 July. Babitsky is accused ofknowingly using false documents. If found guilty, he could face up six months in prison, according to RFE/RL's Russian Service. Babitsky categorically denies he is guilty and has declared that he will appeal a guilty verdict to the European Court for Human Rights. Also on 6 July, Babitsky's wife, Lyudmila, was in Bucharest to accept an OSCE award for her husband for his coverage of the war in Chechnya. Babitsky himself has been barred from leaving Russia. (RFE/RL Newsline, 7 July)INTERIOR MINISTRY PROMISES EARLY TRIAL DATE FOR BABITSKY CASE.
Vladimir Martynov, head of the Interior Ministry's Center for Public Information, told Ekho Moskvy on 11 July that RFE/RL correspondent Andrei Babitsky will stand trial in the near future on charges of deliberately using false identity documents. According to Martynov, the case will soon be forwarded to a prosecutor's office so that the basis for and legality of the charges against Babitsky can be reviewed. (RFE/RL, Newsline, 12 July)GLASNOST DEFENSE FOUNDATION ISSUES ANNUAL REPORT.
The Glasnost Defense Foundation (GDF) has issued its annual Analytical Report of the media situation in Russia in 1999. The report, based on daily Freedom of Expression in Russia monitoring by the GDF legal experts, analyzes the types and examples of conflicts involving the Russian media, patterns of interaction between the Russian media and government. The report shows that the increased number of lawsuits brought by officials ? especially on the local and regional levels ? constituted the main threat to freedom of expression in Russia in 1999. The authors also examined the new situation in the Russian media as a result of the recent Duma elections. For the first time, a summary version of the report is also available in English and can be found at the GDF website: http://www.gdf.ru/english/main.htm
(Glasnost Defense Foundation Press Release, 10 July)JOURNALISTS SELECT MEDIA MINISTER AS ENEMY NUMBER ONE.
The Union of Russian Journalists on 5 July announced that it has compiled a list of "enemies of the Russian press" based on a poll of its members conducted in June. The enemies list includes Media Minister Mikhail Lesin, Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov, President Vladimir Putin, Tambov Governor Oleg Betin, Saratov Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov, Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov, Kalmykia President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, Justice Minister Yurii Chaika, Presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembsky, Federal Border Guard Service head Konstantin Totsky, Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev and State Duma deputy Aleksandr Nevzorov. (RFE/RL Newsline, 7 July)TV-TSENTR WINS TENDER.
The Media Ministry on 6 July awarded the license to operate Channel Three to its current operator, TV-Tsentr. TV-Tsentr is considered close to Moscow Mayor Luzhkov, and some analysts feared that it would lose its license to operate the channel (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 and 25 May 2000). TV-Tsentr, along with ORT, had to compete for their operating licenses in open tenders because they had both received two official warnings from the Media Ministry for improper election coverage. Media Minister Lesin told reporters on 6 July that he cast the decisive vote in TV-Tsentr's favor. (RFE/RL Newsline, 7 July)NEW WEB SITE ON RUSSIAN ECONOMY.
Alvin Rabushka and Michael Bernstam of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University have launched a website on the Russian economy where one can also find the full text of their book, "Fixing Russia's Banks" as well as the first four chapters of their new book, "From Predation to Prosperity: Breaking Up Enterprise Network Socialism in Russia." The site is at http://www.russiaeconomy.org
. (Johnson's Russia List, 11 July)RUSSIAN WEB SITE PUBLISHES EXTENSIVE "RUSSIAGATE" DATABASE...
"The Internet site of a private journalists' organization published on 4 July almost 600 files containing transcripts of telephone conversations, pager messages, results of "surveillance", and "operations reports" on hundreds of Russian politicians, businessmen, journalists, actors, public figures and criminals. The files contain not only material "gathered" by private special services but also data from the regional administration for combating organized crime, the Federal Security Service directorate for Moscow and Moscow Region, and the Moscow city hall Moscow Regional analysis centre. "Nezavisimaya Gazeta" reported on 4 July: "The Internet site of the private journalists' organization Agentstvo Federalnykh Rassledovany [Federal Investigation Agency] at http://www.flb.ru
published on 4 July almost some 20,000 typewritten pages from these files."
"The site's chief editor Sergey Sokolov describes the imminent publication as nothing less than "Russiagate". His editorial office acquired this database six weeks ago for a rather sizable amount and since then has been preparing it for publication, ... deleting from the files home addresses, home and mobile telephone numbers, and passport details of more than 300 individuals who are well known across Russia. Furthermore,details of any sexual liaisons and "other dirty linen" were also deleted... [Surveilled journalists include] 'Kommersant''s former chief editor Raf Shakirov...TV-6 President Eduard Sagalayev; ATV head Anatoliy Malkin; [and] producer Nikolay Dostal.All the material refers to the period from the early 1990's through the end of 1998. Scandalous episodes from recent Russian history are most fully "represented": The so-called "writers case" involving the royalties for the book "History of Privatization in Russia" by Anatoliy Chubays, Alfred Kokh, Maksim Boyko, and Aleksandr Kazakov; the story involving the publication of the book "From Dawn to Sunset" [Ot Rassveta do Zakata] by Aleksandr Korzhakov ..."
"The flb.ru editorial office has acquired material of this kind running to a total of 90 megabytes. Less than one-half of the data is being published after the culling. The site will eventually publish material under the "Find Your Bug" rubric. This will comprise transcripts of telephone conversation by hitherto unidentified but obviously high-ranking individuals who, apart from all else, say that they are "on the way to the White House", have "just come out of a conference with Chernomyrdin", and so on. In Sergey Sokolov's words, this database appeared in Moscow towards the end of 1998 and was offered for sale for 50,000 dollars. "Nezavisimaya Gazeta" wrote about this on 2 October last year. Journalists codenamed it "MOST security service database," [b]ut Sergey Sokolov believes that this is a consolidated database...Its only link with MOST is the time of its appearance: Major staff cutbacks occurred at the MOST Group's security department just a month before the database was "offered for sale."...Over a two-year period the price of the information being published by flb.ru today fell almost tenfold and individual files could have been bought for 200 dollars each. Sergey Sokolov emphasized in an interview with 'Nezavisimaya Gazeta' that his publication is in no way a targeted "leak" of compromising material but simply an attempt to submit for the public's judgment a picture of massive illegal interference in citizens' private lives." ("Nezavisimaya Gazeta", 4 July 2000)... AS RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT PLANS INTERNET ADVISORY COUNCIL.
The Ministry of Communications is forming a coordinating council on the Russian-language Internet, Interfax reported on 10 July. Among the proposed members of this council are representatives of the Union of Internet Operators (SOI), the public-state Association of Documentary Electronic Communications (ADE), the institute for the registration of Russian Internet domaine names, and numerous service providers and lawyers. The coordinating council -- which will have an advisory function -- is to be headed by the Russian Federation Minister of Communications and will start its work at an unknown future date. It will consider such draft laws as "Electronic Coded Signatures," "Electronic Commerce," and "Russian Federation Policy on Internet Development and Deployment." (Interfax News Agency, 10 July)PUBLICATION ON NEWSPAPER TECHNIQUE MAKES RUSSIAN DEBUT.
The first issue of a Russian edition of Ifra's newspaper techniques magazine, "Gazetnie Tekhnologii," has been published and distributed to newspapers and supplier companies. It will be published on a bimonthly basis for the rest of 2000, then monthly thereafter. Ifra quoted a founder as saying that companies with key brands in different industrial sectors supported the concept of a newspaper techniques publication in Russian to reach the most important industries. The first issue of the magazine, published in late spring, contained 96 pages, including 23 pages of advertising from 26 foreign and Russian companies. For the remainder of this year, the magazine will be distributed free of charge. Ifra is an amalgam of two associations - the International Newspaper Colour Association (INCA) and the Federation Internationale des Editeurs de Journaux (FIEJ). For more information, contact Alexander Arzhakov at email@example.com
. (International Journalists' Network, 3-7 July)MOSCOW PRESS ENGAGES IN ETHNIC STEREOTYPING?
A recent study by Vera Malkova of the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, who spent several years studying the Moscow press, noted "a distinct tendency to emphasize all that was seen as worst in different ethnic groups." The author cited the frequent use of the phrase "a person of Caucasian nationality" in the Moscow press; negative stereotyping was also applied to specific Caucasus nationalities: Azerbaijanis and Chechens were often described as "bandits," while Georgians were seen as members of "criminal groups." Altogether, people from the Caucasus region tended to be viewed as "inconvenient guests" who represent a threat to "native Muscovites." While Malkova advocated greater adherence to a professional code of ethics, she also found that journalists were not always aware of the "power their words can have and the prejudices they can awaken." In late June, Malkova organized a seminar on ethnic tolerance in the media, funded by the U.S.-based Mott Foundation. ("The Russia Journal," 8-14 July)MOSCOW POLICE CHARGE AZERBAIJANI JOURNALIST WITH ASSAULT.
The Moscow police officially charged Dzhovdet Dzhafarov, a representative of the Azerbaijan information agency "Sharg," on June 30 with a criminal felony for the alleged assault of a repairman in Moscow, according to a letter from his brother to RFE/RL. Dzhafarov, who is in poor health, reportedly lacked any motive to initiate such an assault and the charges are attributed to the general anti-Caucasus mood in Moscow -- plus the fact that Dzhafarov is a politically active journalist. For more information contact Ekhtibar Dzhafarov at http://www.psych.purdue.edu/ehtibar/
(Letter to RFE/RL, 2 July)
KOUCHNER NAMES RIGHTS OMBUDSMAN...
Bernard Kouchner, who heads the UN's civilian administration in Kosova, said in Prishtina on 12 July that he has appointed Polish lawyer Marek Antoni Nowicki as human rights ombudsman for the province, dpa reported. The previous day, Kouchner appointed British journalist Richard Lucas to head Radio-Television Kosova. (RFE/RL Newsline, 12 July)SERBIAN MINISTER WARNS CROATIA ON FOREIGN MEDIA.
Serbian Information Minister Vucic warned the Croatian authorities not to assist Western efforts to broadcast to Serbia. He told a Belgrade press conference on 8 July that "the Western forces headed by the United States are preparing new media offensives on Serbia. They are using neighboring banana- republics, especially Croatia, as the most prominent exponent of their policies. The Serbian government is warning Croatia not to play with these things.... Our response will be adequate if they dare to violate international regulations," Reuters reported. He added that "if it becomes necessary, we will be ready to [use] ultimate [unspecified] financial resources for defending our country from the media aggression that Americans are intending to carry out from Montenegro and other neighboring countries." He did not elaborate. Vucic, who belongs to Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj's Radical Party, is known for his outspoken criticism of the opposition and of the private media. (RFE/RL Newsline, 10 July)NON-REGIME DAILIES FACE LOSS OF PAPER.
A state-run paper company has cut supplies to the private dailies "Blic," "Danas," amnd "Glas javnost," AP reported on 10 June. The editors of the three dailies said in a letter to the Serbian government that the basic rights of the newspapers' "numerous readers...will be violated" if the dailies have to stop publishing. Pro-Milosovic newspapers continue to recieve their full supplies. (RFE/RL Newsline, 11 July)FREQUENCY LICENCE APPLICATIONS RESUBMITTED.
Most members of the Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) have responded to the recent demand of the Federal Ministry of Telecommunications and resubmitted applications for frequency licences or applied for the extension of existing contracts, ANEM legal representative Branislav Zivkovic said on 4 July. The secretary-general of the Spektar Association for Development of Private Broadcasting, Slobodan Djoric, said that members of that association had been advised to submit applications for renewal of contracts with the ministry. He noted that the majority of the 72 members of Spektar had not received any response from the ministry in the past two years for applications filed for the public frequency competition in 1998, despite full documentation having been submitted. Zivkovic said that those ANEM members would now resubmit their applications with full documentation, including evidence of fees paid for the use of frequencies. (ANEM Weekly Report, 1-7 July)DEMAND FOR RETURN OF STUDIO B.
The board of management of Studio B demanded on 4 July that the Serbian courts rule as soon as possible on charges brought by Studio B and the Belgrade City Assembly against the Serbian Government for interference with property on May 17, the date the government seized control of the municipal broadcaster. The board also reiterated its demand to the Serbian government to "return the station to its owner, the Belgrade City Assembly." The management board agreed that "the current programming of the broadcaster falls below all professional and ethical standards and that, since the police occupation of the premises on May 17, the station had been turned into a production house for propaganda by the ruling parties, which are in a convincing minority in the Municipal Assembly".(ANEM Weekly Report, 1-7 July)JOURNALIST BARRED FROM LESKOVAC MUNICIPAL ASSEMBLY.
The Leskovac correspondent for the Belgrade daily "Blic" and the Beta news agency, Milica Ivanovic was barred on 3 July from entering the Leskovac Municipal Assembly. In response to a demand from the opposition League for Leskovac coalition that Ivanovic be permitted to attend the session, the secretary of the Assembly, Mile Stanisavljevic, said that correspondents from the independent media were banned from reporting the work of the Assembly. An Assembly security guard also said that local "Danas" correspondent Zoran Rakic was not permitted to attend the session. Rakic was also barred from the previous session of the Assembly. At the meeting the Assembly adopted amendments to its standing rules which restricted the rights of journalists to report on its sessions. Under the new regulations, the municipal president is permitted to eject journalists and the Assembly may decide to restrict journalists in the execution of their rights as guaranteed by the standing rules. The Assembly also resolved that minutes of meetings and other documentation would no longer be available to journalists and that the Municipal Assembly would no longer publish a bulletin. The Leskovac Municipal Assembly is dominated by government coalition parties the Socialist Party of Serbia and the Yugoslav United Left, with opposition parties holding only seven out of the 69 seats. (ANEM Weekly Report, 1-7 July)ALBANIAN-LANGUAGE DAILY DEFIES KOUCHNER MEDIA ORDER.
Pristina daily "Dita" on 30 June published the names and photographs of fifteen Serbs it alleged had committed war crimes against Albanians. The paper was suspended for ten days in June by the UN mission in Kosovo after publishing similar material about a Serb UNMIK employee who was later found murdered. The paper defied controversial new media regulations proclaimed by UNMIK head Bernard Kouchner and threats of new punishments from acting UNMIK media commissioner, Douglas Davidson. "Dita" published names, photographs, addresses and employment details of the fifteen Serbs on its front page, accusing them of committing crimes against Albanians during last year's war. (ANEM Weekly Report, 1-7 July)TWO JOURNALISTS INVESTIGATED FOR SETTING FIRE AT NOVI SAD OPEN UNIVERSITY.
At the demand of the Municipal Prosecution Office in Novi Sad, investigating judge Jadranka Buljevic launched an investigation on 5 July of TV Duga Director Dusan Moraca, and cameraman Ivica Kljucar and Novi Sad Open University night watchman Andras Fajin, on suspicion of committing the criminal act of causing general danger. Charges against the three resulted from investigations into the cause of a fire in the Open University building on April 6 which destroyed the top six floors of the thirteen-floor building in central Novi Sad. An employee of the TV Duga marketing department, Milica Prostran, died in the blaze. The Novi Sad office of Belgrade daily "Danas" was destroyed, along with Radio 021 and offices of TV Montenegro, TV Melos, Radio Signal and the premises of several private companies. (ANEM Weekly Report, 1-7 July)APPEAL AGAINST PANCEVO TRANSMITTER RULING.
Radio Television Pancevo lodged an appeal on 5 July against the decision of Belgrade's First Municipal Court dismissing a complaint against the Republic of Serbia for interference with property on Milica Hill, where the company's radio transmission facility was located. RTV Pancevo in its appeal argued that the appropriate ministry had presented no explanation for the ban on its transmissions either to the company or the court. The judge claimed that she was not competent to determine the legality of such a decision but, as stated in the RTV Pancevo complaint, the issue was not that but the legal regulation saying that such a decision must be forwarded to the owner, said the company. The broadcaster demanded that the appeal court overturn or modify they ruling of the First Municipal Court because of the incorrect determination of facts and violation of court procedural regulations, which imply the erroneous application of the law.(ANEM Weekly Report, 1-7 July)ABC PRODUKT THREATENED WITH BANKRPUTCY.
ABC Produkt alleged on 5 July that the Belgrade Commercial Court had scheduled hearings to discuss the company's bankruptcy based on the justification that its bank account had been frozen. The company statement claimed that the financial blockade had been fabricated by decisions of the court with the obvious intention of causing the company to become bankrupt. The court register did not record that the bankruptcy had been launched against a company banned by temporary orders from transferring money over a certain amount from the account. (ANEM Weekly Report, 1-7 July)JOURNALISTS PROTEST NEWSPAPER FINE.
The Independent Association of Serbian journalists reported on 6 July that Kikinda newspaper Kikindske novine had been fined 1,280,000 dinars to date under the Public Information Act. The statement described the Act as farcical, saying that this was best demonstrated by the fact that the already legendary Raja Popovic can bring an infinite number of charges for the same offence against the same media, which is tried by a politicised judiciary. This statistic shows that the unconstitutional act was devised not only to destroy freedom of information but also to plunder the property of independent media, which are not going to be free until the act is abolished, said the Association. (ANEM Weekly Report, 1-7 July)
NEWSPAPERS TAKE PAYMENT FOR ARTICLES.
Even media outlets do not deny they engage in this practice: a spokesperson for the Kyiv-based daily "Fakty" says that his paper will not consider a story based on a press release unless payment accompanies it, reports the 5 July "Kyiv Post." Mikhail Soroka, editor of the weekly "Uryadovy Kyrer," says his paper does not use press releases as the basis for their articles since it already has enough information. In violation of Ukrainian law, public relations material often is found in magazines and newspapers without any indication that the material is an advertisement -- a practice defended by Yury Honcharenko, vice president of the business weekly, "Halytsky Kontrakty." Furthermore, local business clients "tend to demand the right to review an article before its publication," according to Dmitry Kotelenets, public relation manager at the Leo Burnett ad agency. The only solution to this widespread problem, the "Kyiv Post" concludes is that "newspapers have to run themselves as money-making businesses, rather than subsidized mouthpieces."
UZBEKISTAN DENIES JAILED POET MISTREATED.
In a statement issued in Tashkent on 4 July, the Uzbek Interior Ministry rejected a Human Rights Watch report released last month claiming that Mamadali Makhmudov's health has deteriorated as a result of being tortured in jail, Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 June 2000). The ministry said that Makhmudov's health is satisfactory and that he has not requested medical treatment. (RFE/RL Newsline, 7 July)
RUSSIAN JOURNALISTS NOT UNITED TO DEFEND PRESS FREEDOM
by Floriana Fossato
According to opinion polls, public trust in the Russianmedia has plummeted over the past 10 years. A 1990 surveyconducted by the Commission for Freedom of Access toInformation--a Russian NGO--found that more than two-thirds(70 percent) of respondents believed what the media reported.Six years later, a poll by the same organization found thatonly 40 percent trusted journalists. Today, that figure is 13percent.
Iosif Dzyaloshinskii, the commission's founder and aMoscow University journalism professor, told RFE/RL thatseveral factors explain the Russian media's loss of publictrust and interest. In most Western countries, he notes, newsmedia developed parallel to a flourishing class of traderswilling to make decisions based on information. Historically,he says, this was not the case in Russia.
"The press in Russia developed, from the beginning,among thinkers. They were writers, they were oppositionactivists or, on the contrary, they were people close to thegovernment. These people started publishing newspapers,writing in newspapers, not because they wanted to disseminateinformation, but because they wanted to influence thesituation. [Since then] a journalist in Russia cannot simplyact as an informer. It is an accepted fact that a journalist[is somebody who] must teach how to live."
When Russia started its experiment with democracy afterthe breakup of the Soviet Union, journalists were eager tomeet the challenge, although they were poorly prepared forit. Many journalists regard the period from 1989 to 1992 as agolden age of the Russian press. They say that in the turmoilwhen the communist state apparatus was crumbling, reportershad unprecedented access to all kinds of sources. But,according to Dzyaloshinskii, this was also a period of greatconfusion and superficiality, when few journalists couldfigure out what kind of information was out there and whowould be interested in it.
Gradually, a new wave of promising young journalistsappeared. They were interested in presenting facts gatheredin a professional way. The sector of the public mostinterested in their product was the elite, the newbusinessmen, and economic reformers.
There followed the rise of large media companiescontrolled by business and political leaders who wereinterested in hiring professionals and were willing tosustain money-losing newspapers and broadcast stations inorder to acquire tools of influence. Journalists, in turn,were interested in finding financial backers. It seemed afair exchange, but some now say it turned to the journalists'disadvantage. Leading journalists started being associated--both in the eyes of the authorities and of the public--withtheir outlets' owners and backers. Many were regarded aslittle more than well-paid propagandists engaged in slanderand disinformation.
According to Dzyaloshinskii, until very recently mostRussian journalists took little notice of the public'snegative perception. But when the government last year beganmoves to control the press--banning certain coverage ofChechnya, using the granting of licenses to pressure themedia, raiding a prominent media company-- journalistsrealized that the public was not on their side. Yet fewexhibited solidarity toward their colleagues.
"At the moment, everyone believes that he or she ispersonally good. [In this view] there are some negativefigures, but it's up to them to justify their conduct. [But]what we are now witnessing is how [people's negative]reaction to the bad work or to the immoral conduct of somejournalists falls on all journalists," Dzyaloshinskiicomments.
Dzyaloshinskii also argues that to defend themselves,journalists should unite and act as a professional class--especially if the government starts to tar them all with thesame brush. But he says this has yet to happen. A huge gulfbetween Moscow-based journalists and their colleagues in theregions has not been overcome. Egregious cases ofintimidation by local authorities against regionaljournalists have received publicity in Moscow but have notled to solidarity among journalists. Moscow journalists oftenshow disdain for the skills of their regional colleagues. Inturn, journalists outside the capital resent what they callthe "rich Moscow caste."
Sergei Parkhomenko, the editor-in-chief of the Moscow-based weekly "Itogi," says Russian journalists are wary ofbanding together because of Russia's bad experience withsolidarity.
"In Soviet times," he says, "solidarity among workerswas compulsory and false. Everybody was aware of this. That created antibodies that will last for a long time." In recent times, Parkhomenko adds, Boris Yeltsin called on Russians to show solidarity for the new cause of creating capitalism and democracy. Many felt they had been misled.
After all those developments, Parkhomenko says, solidarity among people belonging to the same professional category or solidarity in society on humanitarian issues, democratic freedoms, and access to information is next to impossible.
The author is an RFE/RL correspondent based in London.