7 September 2000, Volume
IPI CONCERNED OVER PRESS VIOLATIONS.
The International Press Institute (IPI) presented its findings on press freedom at a Council of Europe (COE) Parliamentary Assembly Committee on Culture and Education hearing on 4 September. The IPI found that in 1998 and 1999, in COE countries "there were 190 attacks on journalists and media workers. Twenty-four journalists were killed, 59 imprisoned, 48 censored, and there were 71 cases of suppression of the media by law." Since 1996, according to the IPI, "67 journalists were murdered in COE member states. Only two of these cases led to trials which resulted in guilty verdicts for the perpetrators." More information: http://www.freemedia.at
(International Press Institute Press Release, 5 September)UN WORLD TELEVISION FORUM 2000.
This year's United Nations World Television Forum, titled "TV@globe // Adding Values in the Digital Era," seeks to engage leading universities specializing in technology and communications in its international online dialogue on technological and social transformations related to the convergence of television and the Internet. The forum, which takes place in New York in November, is expected to draw over 1,000 attendees. The online dialogue, which will begin in September, is an opportunity for people from across the globe to provide input on the forum's agenda and exchange views with leading figures in the field. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
or visit the website at http://www.un.org/tvforum
. (Civil Society International, 10 August)
NEWSPAPER EDITOR CHARGED WITH 'TERRORISM.'
Rauf Arifoglu, editor of the opposition newspaper "Yeni Musavat," has been charged with illegal possession of a firearm, participation in a plane hijack, and terrorism, Turan reported on 29 August, citing "unofficial information" from an undisclosed source. Arifoglu was arrested on 22 August after police searched his apartment and found a pistol that he claims they planted there. Amnesty International, the Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Press Institute have written to the Azerbaijani authorities expressing concern at Arifoglu's detention. Four members of the opposition Azerbaijan Popular Front (AHCP) detained on suspicion of involvement in the 18 August hijack were released on 26 August, Turan reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August)POPULAR FRONT PARTY LAWSUIT AGAINST CENTRAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION.
Popular Front Party First Deputy Chairman Ali Kerimov has brought legal action against the Central Electoral Commission in response to that body's refusal to register the party to participate in the 5 November parliamentary elections, Turan reported. Responding to an oral request from Kerimov's opponents within the AHCP, the commission ruled that it will register the party only if its two rival factions overcome their differences. Kerimov claims that the refusal violates the election law. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August)MUSAVAT LEADER QUESTIONED OVER PLANE HIJACKING.
Isa Gambar, chairman of the opposition Musavat Party, was summoned on 30 August to the Prosecutor-General's Office and questioned for 90 minutes about his connections with the Musavat Party member responsible for the abortive 18 August hijack of an Azerbaijani Airlines aircraft and with other suspects in that case, Turan reported. Meanwhile, Azerbaijani government print and electronic media carried extensive coverage on 30 August of the Musavat party's alleged responsibility for the hijack attempt and called for the party's registration to be revoked and for the party to be banned from contesting the 5 November parliamentary poll. The Central Electoral Commission has, however, registered the list of Musavat candidates to contest the poll in single-mandate constituencies, according to Turan on 30 August. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 August)ANOTHER EDITOR INTERROGATED IN PLANE HIJACK CASE.
Gunduz Tahirli, editor of the independent newspaper "Azadlyg," was questioned for almost three hours on 4 September about the abortive 18 August attempt by a member of the opposition Musavat party to hijack an Azerbaijani internal flight, Turan reported. On 5 September, National Security Minister Namik Abbasov denied that the health of arrested "Yeni Musavat" editor Rauf Arifoglu has deteriorated since his arrest on 22 August, "525 gazeti" reported. Arifoglu, who suffers from a duodenal ulcer, has declared an indefinite hunger strike. Meanwhile, a senior Azerbaijani airlines official on 4 September blamed the hijack on inadequate security screening at Nakhichevan airport, saying officials should have noticed the suspicious behavior of the lone hijacker, Mehti Huseynli. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September)ALLEGED ISLAMIC TERRORISTS ON TRIAL.
The trial has begun at Azerbaijan's Supreme Court of members of the Jeyshullah (soldiers of Allah) terrorist organization, Turan reported on 29 August. Identified as "radical Wahhabis," the organization's members are accused of a series of murders and of attacks on a Hare Krishna temple and the Baku office of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Jeyshullah is said to have been active in Azerbaijan since 1996. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August)
EVEN MORE PRESS RESTRICTIONS?
The reregistration required of all Belarusian media will lead to even further restrictions on freedom of speech in that country, according to Professor Mihail Pastukhov, director of the Belarusian Media Legal Defense Center. All print media outlets in Belarus received an official notice on reregistration requirements on 21 August from Mihail Podgainy, chairman of the State Press Committee. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 4 September)PRESIDENT 'GRATEFUL' FOR ELECTION OBSERVERS' DECISION.
Alyaksandr Lukashenka said on 1 September that he is "grateful to the Europeans" for deciding to send a limited technical assessment mission to the 15 October election polls in Belarus, Belarusian Television reported. Lukashenka added that "[the Europeans] resisted the frantic pressure from certain empires," apparently alluding to a U.S. appeal not to send any monitors to Belarus's "undemocratic" poll. Meanwhile, the opposition Coordinating Council of Democratic Forces said that last week the state media distorted the OSCE resolution on election observers by reporting that Europe is to send full-fledged election monitors to Belarus. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September)INTERNATIONAL NGO TO MONITOR BALLOT.
Aaron Rhodes, executive director of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHFHR), told journalists in Minsk on 29 August that his organization will monitor the 15 October elections to the Chamber of Representatives, Belapan reported. The IHFHR will conduct its monitoring, which is part of an EU-sponsored project in Belarus, in cooperation with the Belarusian Helsinki Committee. He noted that the Belarusian government has created conditions for possible election frauds, especially during the so-called early voting procedure. According to Rhodes, only 4 percent of the country's electoral commission members are not associated with the government. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August)STUDENT FINED OVER CALL TO BOYCOTT ELECTIONS.
A Minsk court has fined Alyaksandr Kadukou, a student at the Belarusian State University, for distributing leaflets calling for a boycott of the 15 October legislative polls, Belapan reported on 4 September. The Electoral Code currently in force, however, does not prohibit campaigning for an election boycott. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September)FIVE-DAY DETENTION FOR AUTOCEPHALOUS ORTHODOX PRIEST.
Father Ivan Spasyuk was recently led away from a church service in handcuffs and later sentenced to a five-day prison term apparently to prevent him from speaking at a national event. There are suggestions that such moves might be part of a plan by the Belarusian government to create an Orthodox Church independent of Moscow. (Keston News Service, 15 August)
SRPSKA WEEKLY PUBLISHES LIST OF INDICTED BOSNIANS.
The independent weekly "Reporter" has published a Republika Srpska Defense Ministry list of 74 Bosnians thought to have been indicted by the UN war crimes tribunal at The Hague, Reuters reported on 4 September. Of the 74 listed, 70 are Bosnian Serbs. The newspaper also names the towns where 64 of those on the list are reportedly living or hiding. Nine on the list have been publicly indicted by The Hague, but the others are believed to be on the sealed list of indictments. The newspaper did not specify why the list was drawn up but said it was based on information from Goran Neskovic, a lawyer for Momcilo Krajisnik, who is currently being detained at The Hague. Krajisnik is a former close associate of former Bosnian Serb leader and indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September)CROAT NATIONALISTS WANT 'PURE' UNIVERSITY.
The Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) wants to maintain a separate university "in the Croatian language," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The HDZ regards attempts to merge Mostar's Croatian university with the city's Muslim university as a move toward "ethnic homogenization" in the runup to the 11 November parliamentary elections. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 September)
PRESIDENT SAYS LEVAR'S KILLERS FEARED TESTIMONY.
Croatian President Stipe Mesic said in Gospic on 29 August that those who killed war crimes witness Milan Levar are those who feared his testimony, "Novi List" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 August 2000). Croatian police experts meanwhile confirmed that the explosion that killed Levar was cause by a bomb. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August)
PREMIER'S HANDLING OF 'OPERATION LEAD' AFFAIR CRITICIZED.
Senator Richard Falbr said on 31 August that Prime Minister Milos Zeman's handling of the "Operation Lead" affair is a "very stupid and lame attack on journalists," CTK reported. In an interview with the daily "Pravo," Falbr, who also heads the Bohemian and Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions, said the fact that no one from the Social Democratic (CSSD) leadership is able to calm Zeman down shows the "idiotization" of the party leadership. Zeman replied that the statements "are embarrassing" and that he no longer wishes to see Falbr. Falbr ran on the CSSD list of candidates and is a member of the Social Democrat group of senators. Zeman has been criticized by many for his government's decision to file charges against two journalists from the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes" who the cabinet says fabricated the "Operation Lead" document (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 August 2000). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 September)POLICE CHARGE INTERNET VENDOR OF 'MEIN KAMPF.'
The owner of a website selling Adolf Hitler's book "Mein Kampf" is to be charged with the "support and dissemination of a movement advocating the suppression of human rights and freedoms." Vit Varak faces a sentence of between three and eight years in prison if convicted. Police investigator Josef Stuchlik told CTK on 4 September that the sale of "Mein Kampf" via the Internet is no different from its sale in bookshops. In early June, the publisher of a Czech translation of "Mein Kampf," Michal Zitko, was charged with the same crime. Also on 4 September, the police opened an investigation to identify the author of a text sent via mobile phone networks that called for Roma to be killed. Earlier this year, the police launched an investigation against the anonymous person who had placed on the Internet a game on Romany extermination. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September)
DISPLACED PERSONS AIR GRIEVANCES.
Some 80,000 Georgians who fled Abkhazia during the 1992-1993 war and are currently living in the west Georgian town of Zugdidi have demanded that Georgian Minister of State Gia Arsenishvili travel to Zugdidi to meet with the Abkhaz government in exile, which is based there, Caucasus Press reported on 1 September. The displaced persons say that tensions in the town are rising and a riot to protest inadequate living conditions may be imminent. They had demanded a meeting with Arsenishvili in late June to protest not having received for the past six months the monthly allowance of 12 lari ($6) to which they are entitled. Georgian Minister for Refugee Affairs Valerii Vashakidze announced on 31 August that the authorities will allocate 200,000 lari for fuel for displaced persons in western Georgia this winter. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September)
INTELLECTUALS SUPPORT ZAMOLY ROMA.
Ten Hungarian intellectuals, including film director Miklos Jancso, philosopher Miklos Tamas Gaspar, and Roma Civil Rights Foundation President Aladar Horvath have addressed a letter to the French government requesting political asylum for the 43 Roma from Zamoly currently in Strasbourg. Citing the ideals of "equality, liberty, and fraternity," the signatories vowed to act as witnesses in supporting the group's claim that it is racially persecuted in Hungary, "Magyar Hirlap" reported on 30 August. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August)
STATE VERSUS PRIVATE PRESS IN NORTHERN REGIONS.
The state-sponsored regional media has been forced to cut its staff in half due to the ongoing financial crisis in northern Kazakhstan. The region's main official Russian-language newspaper, "Severnyi Kazakhstan," has had a twenty-fold circulation drop to some 5,500, while the only official Kazakh-language newspaper, "soltustik Kazakhstan," also reportedly is in the doldrums. State-supported media outlets now face tough competition--for both staff and readership--from local private publications. In Petropavlosk, eight non-state papers are now printed, but articles critical of local officials often result in libel suits against reporters, reports "The Analyst." (email@example.com
)NEWSPAPER NOT ISSUED IF MINISTER NOT PRAISED.
The three most recent issues of "Vremya po" have not appeared in newspaper kiosks. Aska Darimbet, the paper's editor, said that the director of the "Dauir" printing press in Almati refused to publish the newspaper if he did not get guarantees that Kazakhstan Prime Minister Tokaev would not be criticized. Although "Vremya po" was printed by the "Kyirat" typography, all copies of the paper disappeared after they were unloaded from the trucks for distribution to the kiosks. (Institute for War and Peace Reporting, Almaty, 5 September)POPULATION DOUBTS EXISTENCE OF INTERETHNIC HARMONY.
Few Kazakhstan residents are convinced by official denials that any tensions exist between the country's ethnic groups, according to the results of a poll summarized by "Kontinent" in its August issue. The number of people polled was not specified. Only 4.2 percent of those questioned believed that interethnic harmony exists in Kazakhstan, while 23.1 percent said it does not exist and a 30.7 percent could give no definite response but were inclined to doubt its existence. Asked to identify reasons for the deterioration in interethnic relations, 24.1 percent of those questioned attributed that trend to the official policy of "Kazakhization" of the upper echelons of the country's leadership. Sixty-eight percent of the Kazakhs polled said they consider it appropriate that Kazakh be designated the sole state language, whereas 73.9 percent of the non-Kazakhs polled said there should be two state languages. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September)
PARLIAMENT DEPUTY BRINGS LIBEL SUIT AGAINST INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER.
Hearings began in a Bishkek district court on 29 August in a civil libel suit brought against the newspaper "Asaba" by parliamentary deputy and former Kyrgyz Communist Party First Secretary Turdakun Usubaliev, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. UsubAliyev claims that over the past eight years "Asaba" has repeatedly published materials insulting him, and he is demanding 50 million soms (approximately $1.06 million) in compensation. He also wants publication of the newspaper suspended for the duration of the investigation period ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 August)KULOV CASE BEING RECONSIDERED.
The Military Court of Kyrgyzstan on 1 September began to consider an appeal by prosecutor Sharapidin Sheishenaliev, who protested the acquittal of former Vice President Feliks Kulov at a closed trial held in the Bishkek City military court from 27 June to 31 July. Prosecutor Sharapidin SheishenAliyev said that Judge Nurlan Ashymbekov, who acquitted Kulov, ignored evidence of Kulov's guilt proved by the investigators. (RFE/RL Kyrgyz Service, 1 September)OPPOSITION PARTY LEADER SENTENCED TO 16 YEARS IN PRISON.
A Bishkek court on 1 September passed sentence on eight men accused of having plotted last year to assassinate President Askar Akaev, RFE/RL's bureau in the Kyrgyz capital reported. Opposition Erkindik Party leader Topchubek Turgunaliev, leader of the Erkindik (Liberty) party, whom the prosecution branded as the mastermind behind that alleged plot, received a 16-year sentence. Three National Security Ministry officials said in court earlier this week that there is no concrete proof that the accused had formed a team capable of implementing the assassination. Representatives of several Kyrgyz political parties and NGOs have written to President Askar Akaev to protest Turgunaliev's sentence. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1, 4, 5 September)
OSCE SATISFIED WITH LANGUAGE REGULATIONS.
OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel on 31 August expressed his satisfaction with the regulations to Latvia's language law. In his statement, Van der Stoel said that those regulations are "essentially in conformity with both the law and Latvia's international obligations," BNS reported. He also noted that nearly all his recommendations were taken into account in the final version. However, Van der Stoel did ask the Latvian government to make some minor adjustments on issues such as simultaneous translations during public events. The law and regulations go into effect on 1 September. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 September)
HUNGER STRIKE CALLED OFF.
A hunger strike by employees of the insolvent footwear maker Inkaras was called off on 1 September after some wage arrears were paid. The hunger strike began on 1 August by 10 workers who had received no pay for more than a year; one month later, only four were carrying on with the strike, the others having stopped for health reasons, BNS reported. Some 430,000 litas ($107,500) were transferred to the company's accounts after the military and other state institutions put in special orders. It was reported earlier that the company owed some 3.8 million litas in wage arrears. President Valdas Adamkus urged hunger strikers from other insolvent companies around Lithuania to give up their action. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September)
MOLDOVA CELEBRATES ROMANIAN LANGUAGE...
Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi marked the Day of Romanian Language on 31 August by laying a wreath at a monument to Moldovan Prince Stefan in downtown Chisinau, BasaPress reported. Lucinschi said that "along with all good things that occurred over the last 10 years, we cannot be entirely satisfied with the place that the state language occupies in public life." He added that indifference has led to "an obvious stagnation of the Romanian language." Lucinschi added, however, that he "is proud that more and more families...send their children to Romanian-language schools." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 September)...WHILE BILL BANS COMBO OF FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC BROADCASTS.
Parliamentary deputy Ion Morei appealed to the constitutional court to overturn an amendment to the telecommunications law which bans the combination of domestic and foreign-produced TV programs. Advertisements are exempt. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 1 September)TVS-21 DEPRIVED OF LICENSE.
For violating Moldovan broadcast law stipulating that 65 percent of its air time must be in the state language--and for airing an interview with Russian separatist Igor Smirnov--the State Telecommunications Committee has revoked the broadcast license of "Cotidian-TV-Vedomosti." (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 1 September)
SOLIDARITY CELEBRATES 20TH BIRTHDAY...
"Nobody has the sole rights to what happened 20 years ago--it was a joint effort by many people," former Solidarity leader Lech Walesa said in Gdansk on 29 August, opening three days of festivities to mark Solidarity's birthday. The congress also adopted a resolution thanking Pope John Paul II for his guidance and support. "At the same time we would like to apologize to you, Holy Father, for our mistakes in managing the freedom we regained," the delegates wrote, mentioning unemployment and poverty as the evils they have not been able to prevent in Poland. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30, 31 August)
PUTIN BLAMES OLIGARCHS, MEDIA FOR COUNTRY'S RUIN.
A transcript of President Putin's 22 August remarks to the families of the sailors of the "Kursk," published by "Vlast" on 31 August, has him blaming Russia's military fortunes on the oligarchs and independent media. The oligarchs, Putin said, "have embezzled enough, bought up the media, and are now manipulating public opinion." He suggested that these people had ruined the country over the last 15 years and are now trying to "show the military and political leadership that we need" the media. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 September)IVANOV SAYS MOSCOW TO FOCUS ON INFORMATION SECURITY.
Speaking on 1 September to the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that it is important that "the information security of the state be ensured and [that] new information technologies be applied to create an objectively favorable impression of Russia in the world," ITAR-TASS reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September)RADIO LISTENERS GO LOCAL, BUT ARE WARY OF POLITICAL COVERAGE.
Only 1 percent of the Russian population listens to foreign radio stations, according to recent research conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation. Russian domestic media has cornered the market with 29 percent of those surveyed preferring national media outlets, and 12 percent favoring local radio news. Yet, only 33 percent of those surveyed believe they get an accurate picture of the political life in their country; 57 percent of those polled were convinced they could not rely on domestic political news, while 10 percent had difficulty responding. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 2 September)ONE YEAR NEEDED TO REPAIR OSTANKINO TOWER, SAYS OFFICIAL.
The head of the State Construction Committee, Anvar Shamuzafarov, predicted on 31 August that it will take one year to carry out all repairs to the Ostankino television tower, which was badly damaged in a fire earlier this week. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 September)THREE MAIN TV STATIONS RETURN TO MOSCOW SCREENS...
State-run Russian Television (RTR) and Russian Public Television (ORT), which is controlled by Boris Berezovskii, resumed limited broadcasting in the city of Moscow and Moscow Oblast on 30 August, following a three-day blackout caused by the Ostankino television tower blaze. The two stations are sharing a frequency normally used by RTR because a temporary transmitter affixed to the Ostankino tower permits broadcasts on one frequency only, "The Moscow Times" quoted an RTR spokesman as saying. Several hours later, NTV, which is part of Vladimir Gusinskii's Media-MOST holding, was also back on Moscow's screens, broadcasting on a frequency used by the state-controlled Kultura station via a transmitter in the north of the capital, according to the daily. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 August)MORE BROADCASTS RESUME IN CAPITAL.
Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS reported that a temporary transmitter will be placed on the tower at a height of 147 meters to allow state-run Russian Television broadcasts to resume in the capital city by the evening of 30 August. The previous day, NTV, which is part of Vladimir Gusinsky's Media-MOST holding, and another private channel, TV-6, in which Boris Berezovsky and LUKoil have stakes, began broadcasting in Moscow's southeast through a cable television network. And Interfax quoted NTV director Yevgenii Kiselov as saying that residents in the southeast of Moscow will soon be able to receive TV-Tsentr. Speaking on an ORT newscast on 30 August (which Reuters reported was broadcast under a joint RTR-ORT double logo), Media Minister Mikhail Lesin said the government is "planning to finish work and restart transmissions" by 4 September on frequencies assigned to TV6, in which Berezovsky and LUKoil have stakes, and NTV, Russian agencies reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30, 31 August)TV BLACKOUT HAS MUSCOVITES TURNING TO PAPERS, VIDEOS, SATELLITE.
Moscow residents have been buying more newspapers and videocassettes since television channels went off the air in the capital as a result of the Ostankino television tower fire, Interfax reported on 29 August. "Even such costly magazines as 'Cosmopolitan' have been bought up in the last few days, although demand for them has traditionally not been high," vendors said. Meanwhile, "The Moscow Times" reported on 30 August that sales of satellite dishes have skyrocketed in the capital: on 28 August, the day after the fire broke out, the NTV Plus calling center received 400 times the average number of inquiries from residents interested in buying such equipment. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August)BEREZOVSKY SAYS KREMLIN THREATENS HIM OVER ORT SHARES.
In an open letter to President Vladimir Putin published by Interfax on 4 September, Boris Berezovsky said that "last week a high-ranking Kremlin official gave me an ultimatum: either I hand over my block of ORT shares to the state within two weeks or I go the same way as Vladimir Gusinsky -- presumably meaning the Butyrka prison." Berezovsky said that "in presenting me with an ultimatum, you have actually put to society a very important question--whether or not non-state mass media have the right to exist in Russia." And he added that "if I comply with this ultimatum, then televised information in Russia will end and be replaced by television propaganda run by your advisers." Consequently, Berezovsky said, he has decided to transfer the 49 percent of ORT shares he owns to journalists [K. Ernst, Sergei Dorenko and I. Shabdurasulov, reports Russia Business Konsult] and other representatives of the creative intelligentsia. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September)KREMLIN, MEDIA-MOST WELCOME BEREZOVSKY'S PLAN...
A senior member of the presidential administration told Interfax on 4 September that the Kremlin welcomes Berezovsky's stated intention to transfer his ORT shares to "journalists and other representatives of the creative intelligentsia," Interfax reported. But the official said that "let us see, however, how firm Berezovsky's decision turns out to be." Meanwhile, a spokesman for Media-MOST also welcomed Berezovsky's move. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 5 September)...WHILE OTHERS ARE SKEPTICAL.
Press Minister Lesin said on state-run RTR TV on 4 September that this move represented a "serious political game." Longtime Berezovsky foe and Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov suggested that Berezovsky's pledge that he will transfer his stake in ORT is a political stunt. Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov was also skeptical, saying he is certain that Berezovsky will manage to ensure that ORT journalists continue to promote his editorial viewpoint, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 5 September. The same day, State Duma Chairman (Communist ) Gennady Seleznov said that the Duma should re-examine the circumstances under which Berezovsky gained control of shares in ORT in the mid-1990's. Seleznov declared that "ORT was a gift from [former Russian President Boris] Yeltsin to Berezovsky." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 September)GOVERNMENT PLANNING SECRET SUBSIDIES FOR MEDIA?
Special subsidies to the media have been included in the draft 2001 federal budget and classified as top secret, meaning they cannot be examined by all members of the State Duma, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 5 September. According to the daily, this is the first time that such an expenditure has received such a classification, which is usually reserved for expenditures on weapons. Previously, such addenda to the budget specified monies for the All-Russian State Television and Radio Company, regional state-owned television and radio companies, and the ITAR-TASS news agency. State Duma deputy (Communist) Leonid Maevsky claims that the Kremlin is trying to conceal subsidies for private TV and radio companies. The Media Ministry has refused to comment on Maevsky's charges, referring all inquiries to the Finance Ministry, which is responsible for preparing the budget. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 September)NEW INVESTIGATOR IN CASE OF MURDERED JOURNALIST...
A new investigator has been appointed in the case of the 1995 murder of popular journalist Vladislav Listev, the head of the Russian Public Television network. Aleksandr Gorbunov is to take over the investigation following the resignation of investigator Petr Triboi, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 2 September, citing unidentified sources in the Prosecutor-General's Office. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September)...WHILE CASE IS DROPPED AGAINST GUSINSKY AIDE.
The Prosecutor-General's office on 5 September closed its case against Mikhail Aleksandrov, aide to Media-MOST head Vladimir Gusinsky. A criminal charge for possession of illegal weapons was brought against Aleksandrov on 6 July. Media-MOST attorney Pavel Astakhov said that the case had been dropped because the "situation has changed." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 September)SARATOV OBLAST JOURNALIST BEATEN--EVEN BEFORE HIS ARTICLE APPEARS.
Beaten so badly he could hardly dial the ambulance on 23 August, Oleg Safonov is the deputy editor-in-chief of "Novaya gazeta" in Engels, Saratov Oblast. Well known for his articles which highlight chronic problems and local abuse of power, Safonov reports that on 23 August an unknown man rang his apartment doorbell and said he had some interesting documents to show him. When the journalist showed up at the appointed place, he was hit over the head with a heavy object. Although Safonov has filed a complaint with the police, he is not confident his attackers will be found or prosecuted. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August)YEKATERINBURG JOURNALIST BEATEN FOR INTERVIEWS ON LOCAL GANGSTER.
An open letter from people allegedly victimized by a local gangster--who goes unpunished--in the nearby town of Kachkanar was published in the Yekaterinburg paper "Uralsky rabochy," in early July. When Andrei Bars, a reporter from that paper, went to cover the story in late July, he was brutally beaten by two men who had been following him all day as he tried to interview Kachkanar residents. ("Yekaterinburgskaya nedelya," 3 August)DAGHESTAN FSB APOLOGIZES, CLAIMS NTV 'DISTORTED' COMMENTS.
Valery Smirnov, an FSB official in Daghestan, apologized to journalists on 29 August for NTV's alleged reporting of his superior's comments about the Daghestani role in the "Kursk" disaster. But he claimed that NTV had distorted these remarks and said the FSB would take NTV to court for the alleged distortions. ("Glasnost -- Severny Kavkaz," 30 August)ORT REPORTERS IN CHECHNYA DEPRIVED OF ACCREDITATION.
General Manilov, head of the unified Russian military command in Chechnya, reportedly announced on 31 August that he will "be personally responsible" for depriving two ORT journalists, Vadim Chelikov and Vladimir Agafonov, of accreditation to work in Chechnya. The official formulation for this action is "unauthorized filming on the territory of the Khankali military base," reports the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations on 31 August. According to http://polit.ru
, the two Russian reporters filmed burning train cars that had been doused with gasoline.HOW DOES THE RUSSIAN MEDIA COVER THE SECOND CHECHEN WAR?
Ilya Maksakov, a "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reporter, argues that since RFE/RL's Andrei Babitsky was forced by the Russian government to retire from reporting the war from inside Chechnya, the Russian media are now left with few choices: they can agree to Russian army restrictions or they can quote either Russian government spokesmen or Chechen websites. The dearth of reliable information means that Russian media reports of the war in Chechnya are brief and repetitious, concluding that the Chechen problem will dog Russia for many years to come. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 31 August)KRASNODAR, YEKATERINBURG MAYORS WIN LIBEL SUITS.
Valery Samoilenko, mayor of Krasnodar, won a libel suit against the paper "Burevestnik Kubani" for an article published in April of this year. The paper must pay a fine and within a month publish the court decision. Meanwhile, Arkady Chernetsky, Yekaterinburg mayor, won a libel suit against "Vecherni vedomosti iz Yekaterinburga" which requires each of the paper's publishers to pay 10,000 rubles in damages. The mayor will donate the money to rehabilitation centers for children and teenagers in two areas of the city, APN reports. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 1 September, 30 August)KARELIA COURT SUSPENDS LOCAL BRANCH OF RNE...
Responding to a request by the local Ministry of Justice, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Karelia has suspended the activities of the local branch of Russian National Unity (RNE) for three months, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 23 August. The ministry, which warned RNE twice before appealing to the court, cited three reasons for the suspension: the organization's lack of a correct postal address, its failure to include publishing details (circulation, price, publisher, and so forth) on its press releases and other published materials, and its attempts to create rifts between different national groups, in particular by referring in its leaflets to the superiority of one race over another. According to the Moscow daily, citing representatives of the Prosecutor-General's Office, the blatantly racist comments printed in RNE's leaflets are in themselves insufficient grounds to ban the organization in the republic. ("RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 30 August)...WHILE SARATOV RNE, COSSACKS UNITE.
The Saratov branch of Russian National Unity (RNE), local Cossacks, and the oblast union of war veterans have formed a regional bloc called Obereg (Protection), "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 25 August. The leaders of the new bloc put its membership at 10,000, of which three-quarters are estimated to be Cossacks. At a press conference held in what the Moscow daily described as the best hall at the oblast Chamber of Trade and Industry, local RNE leader Grigorii Trofimchuk announced that everyone is welcome to join the bloc, "including Jews who are born in Russia, grew up here, and consider themselves to be Russians." Many of the new formation's members are Tatars and Bashkirs, he said, noting they had not been required to convert to Orthodoxy. Trofimchuk was also quoted as saying that he enjoys "ideal" relations with the current local administration. ("RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 30 August)TATARSTAN PRESIDENT DEFENDS SOVEREIGNTY COURSE.
Tatarstan's president, Mintimer Shaimiev, at a 29 August State Council session opposed the recent ruling by the Russian Constitutional Court aimed at depriving Russian national republics their sovereignty during a speech on the 10th anniversary of Tatarstan's sovereignty declaration. Shaimiev said that "more and more often recently, they state--even at the highest level--that republics of the Russian Federation cannot have even limited sovereignty. This opinion, sanctified by an official ruling of the Russian Constitutional Court, evokes frank astonishment and regret. In the opinion of numerous independent experts, the court's ruling is a political rather than a juridical one. It ignored the will of the multinational republic which voted repeatedly for sovereignty through a referendum and elections. It looks as if the respected court has not considered one of the basic constitutional principles--democracy. (RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Service, 25, 31 August)TATARSTAN BEGINS DROPPING CYRILLIC ALPHABET.
Schools in Tatarstan will now use the Latin script, rather than the Cyrillic one, for written work in the national language, a local official told AP on 1 September. That step is part of a 10-year program to end the use of a Russian-related alphabet and replace it with one that more adequately reflects the sound patterns of Tatar. Moreover, the local official added, the new script will make European culture more accessible to the students. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September)RUSSIA TO WITHDRAW FROM CIS VISA-FREE REGIME.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko said on Ekho Moskvy on 30 August that Russia is preparing to withdraw from the Bishkek agreement on visa-free travel among most CIS countries. He said that Russian officials are preparing documents informing the other countries of Moscow's plans, which would go into effect 90 days after this notification. This declaration will not affect Moscow's arrangements with Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Ukraine, he said, as "these countries were not parties to the Bishkek Agreement." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 August)OFFICIAL CATEGORIZES ETHNIC GANGS IN MOSCOW.
A Moscow police official said on 30 August that currently there are 74 ethnic criminal groups operating in Moscow, ITAR-TASS reported. He noted that those groups have developed certain specializations: the Georgian group is engaged in robberies, the Azerbaijani group controls marketplaces and the flower business, and the Chechen-Ingush group engages in highway robberies. He noted that many of these groups have close ties with some customs offices. Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry reported that these groups obtain weapons, ammunition, and explosives from combat zones in the North Caucasus under the guise of rescue equipment. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 September)'ANTI-TERROR-BLIZZARD' SINGLES OUT ETHNIC MINORITIES.
"Novie Izvestiya," "Segodnya," and "Moskovskaya pravda" reported on 31 August that they had obtained a secret memo setting forth an alleged Ministry of Interior anti-terrorist operation for the latter part of 2000 known as "Anti-Terror-Blizzard." Headings to assist cops in finding terrorists include "Those Registered at Place of Residence" or "Those Without Fixed Residence Permits," and spells out "suspect" national minorities, such as Chechens, Georgians, and Azerbaijanis. Among many other items of note, of particular interest to journalists was a heading which allowed policemen to spend 1,000 rubles to support friendly media outlets. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 1 September)
ANTI-ROMANY FEELINGS ON THE RISE IN SERBIA?
A Serbian human rights group has registered 90 cases of discrimination against Roma between October 1999 and July 2000, Vienna's "Die Presse" reported on 1 September. Anti-Roma violence is often carried out by skinheads in Belgrade and other Serbian cities. Police frequently detain Roma as suspects for crimes simply because they are Roma. The daily suggested that the anti-Roma climate is linked to the widespread social and economic decline in Serbia over the past decade. One Rom said: "Things were different when [Josip Broz] Tito was alive." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 September)DIRECTOR OF SERBIAN NEWS AGENCY DIES.
Dusan Djordjevic, who was the director of Tanjug and a prominent official in Milosevic's Socialist Party, died on 30 August after what Tanjug described as a long battle with an incurable disease. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 August)CPJ CO-FOUNDS COMMITTEE TO SUPPORT IMPRISONED SERB JOURNALIST.
In an effort to focus global attention on the plight of jailed Serb journalist Miroslav Filipovic, the Committee to Protect Journalists has joined with several other international press-freedom groups to form the Friends of Filipovic Committee. The new group will pressure Serbian authorities to revoke the journalist's conviction on espionage charges and release him from prison. It will also raise money to support Filipovic and his family. Other founding members of the committee include the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, the Index on Censorship, the Freedom Forum's European Center, the National Union of Journalists (U.K.), and Reporters Sans Frontiers. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September)
HUNDREDS GATHER TO PROTEST RACIAL HATRED.
A demonstration was held on 30 August in the northern Slovak city of Zilina, where a Romany woman was recently beaten to death, to protest racism against Roma, AP reported. Some 300 people, including some Slovak parliamentary deputies, gathered in the downtown area. Police said the protest was peaceful, despite the presence of some skinheads. The husband of the woman who was killed said he will seek to leave the country with his eight children. The Slovak government said the same day that it "sharply condemns" the attack and will use all means to "catch the perpetrators of this brutal act as soon as possible." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 August)
PHOTOGRAPHER SHOT DEAD.
Aleksandr Alpatov, a photographer with the Khovar news agency, was found shot dead near his home in Dushanbe late on 1 September, ITAR-TASS reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 4 September)
UKRAINE ASKS MICROSOFT FOUNDER, WORLD BANK TO HELP COMPUTERIZE SCHOOLS.
Education Minister Ivan Kremen on 31 August said his ministry had appealed to Microsoft founder Bill Gates and the World Bank to help Ukraine computerize its schools, Interfax reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 1 September)UKRAINIAN AUTHORITIES ACCUSED OF SEEKING TO OBSTRUCT SINGLE ORTHODOX CHURCH.
Metropolitan Filaret, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kyiv Patriarchate), has criticized the authorities' approach toward the creation of a single Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Interfax reported on 30 August. "There are declarations but no desire; on the contrary, there is opposition [by the authorities]," Filaret noted. He said President Leonid Kuchma should have asked the Russian Orthodox Church to grant not autonomy but autocephaly to its branch in Ukraine. Autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), Filaret argued, could provide canonical grounds for the unification of the Moscow-subordinated Church with the two other Orthodox Churches in Ukraine. Filaret said the only way to create a single Church under current circumstances is to convene an All-Ukrainian Council of Bishops that would take a decision to that effect. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 31 August)JOURNALISTS PROTEST COSTLY LIBEL RULINGS.
Ukrainian journalists have launched a protest campaign against what they see as media harassment in the form of very high libel settlements, Interfax and AP reported on 5 September. Courts have been flooded by libel claims from officials, private citizens and organizations seeking huge settlements that journalists say are often used as political tools to silence criticism. Journalists are planning to travel in horse-drawn carts across Ukrainian regions and build a "Freedom Town" in front of the parliamentary building in Kyiv within the framework of their protest campaign. The parliamentary Committee on Freedom of Speech has proposed a bill that would limit libel settlements to 2,550 hryvni ($468). ("RFE/RL Newsline," 6 September)NEW PLAN FOR STATE SUPPORT TO PRINT MEDIA BEING DEVELOPED.
As of 1 January, the Ukrainian government plans to have in effect a new policy for state support to the print media, Vitaly Ablitsov, chairman of the State Committee for Information Policy, announced on 1 September. This plan will be based on a new system of competitive grants, according to Ablitsov. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 2 September)TIGHTENED CONTROL OVER MEDIA AHEAD.
A new registration drive will begin for all print media in Ukraine, the deputy chairman of the State Committee on Information Policy announced on 1 September. In addition, strict new requirements for use of the Ukrainian language will be required of print and broadcast media, Serhei Kvit, the head of the coordination board for media outlets of the State Ministry for Information Policy, announced the same day. Those media outlets found to have violated those stipulations will lose their broadcast licenses. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 4 September)TWO CRIMEAN RADIOS BROADCASTS CUT--LITERALLY.
After local "collectors" cut and stole their transmitters to sell for scrap metal, radio stations "Krym" and "Chernomorskaya" had to stop broadcasting from 26-29 August. (Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, 30 August)
SOLDIER DIES OF BEATING IN ARMY.
Dmitry Popov (born in 1982) was drafted into the army on 11 May and was sent to military unit N14401. He was violently beaten by other soldiers (who were drafted before him) on 7 June and died in a Tashkent military hospital six days later without regaining consciousness. Thirty-three Tashkent residents who knew Popov wrote a collective letter to Uzbek President Islam Karimov protesting the senseless and brutal death of the young conscript. (Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan Press Release, 2 August)