5 October 2000, Volume 1, Number 21
INTERNATIONALNEW LOOK FOR WAN WEBSITE. The World Association of Newspapers (WAN) has redesigned and relaunched its web site at http://www.wan-press.org to reflect the diverse and growing activities of the Paris-based organization. The new site is divided into six main areas: press freedom, conferences, training programs and events; young reader programs; the World Editors Forum for senior news executives: research and policy; and membership, including contact information for 66 national newspaper associations and other members of WAN. Much of the information is supplied in English, French, German, and Spanish. WAN also has a Russian-language website at http://www.wan-press.ru (World Association of Newspapers Press Release, 26 September)
FELLOWSHIP OPPORTUNITY FOR NIS PROFESSIONALS. IREX has announced an open competition for its Contemporary Issues Fellowship Program. Fellowships are for four months. All applications must contain proposals that should focus on one of the following five topics: Sustainable Growth and Economic Development of NIS Economies in Transition; Democratization, Human Rights, and the Rule of Law; Political, Military, Security, and Public Policy Issues; Strengthening Civil Society; The Communications Revolution, and Access to Information. The deadline for application is 24 November. Applications can be obtained by contacting IREX, IREX field offices, and Educational Information Centers located in the post-Soviet states; or they can be downloaded directly from http://www.irex.org or http://www.irex.ru. (International Research And Exchanges Board, 27 September)
JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY FELLOWS IN PHILANTHROPY PROGRAM. The Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies, Center for Civil Society Studies, has issued a call for applications for International Fellows in the Philanthropy Program for the 2000-2001 academic year. This program, based in Baltimore, U.S., affords an opportunity for advance study, research, and training for up to eight participants each year who are involved in studying or managing private nonprofit or philanthropic organizations outside of the U.S., or working as NGO liaisons in the public or commercial sectors. Fellowships, which can be an academic year or semester, are available at both the junior and senior level. For more information, or to download an application, visit: http://www.jhu.edu/~ips/fellows/index.html, or contact Program Manager Carol Wessner (firstname.lastname@example.org). (Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies, 20 September)
AZERBAIJANBAKU FACES MASSIVE REFUGEE PROBLEM. In a written statement for the OSCE Human Dimension Seminar on 25 September, Eldar Zeynalov, director of the Human Rights Center of Azerbaijan, has called attention to the situation of forced migration in Azerbaijan. There are about 200,000 refugees and over 600,000 internally displaced persons in that country. In addition, Azerbaijan provides asylum to 50-60,000 Meskhetians who have been unable to return to Georgia. (Human Rights Center of Azerbaijan, 27 September)
BELARUSOPPOSITION HOLDS ELECTION BOYCOTT RALLY. Up to 15,000 people took part in the "Freedom March-3" in Minsk on 1 October, Belapan reported. The march and a subsequent meeting protested the undemocratic nature of the 15 October legislative elections and called for a nationwide boycott of that ballot. Police did not intervene, and the rally ended without any reported violence or arrests, except for the seizure of several horses that the organizers intended to use for a show depicting Belarus' historical coat-of-arms "Pahonya" (Knight-in-Pursuit), which was replaced by a Soviet-like symbol following the May 1995 referendum. The opposition plans to stage similar protest actions in 23 Belarusian cities on 8 October. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October)
CZECH REPUBLICANTI-GLOBALIZATION PROTESTS. About 200 globalization opponents demonstrated near the Interior Ministry on 28 September, demanding the release of colleagues detained during the riots in Prague two days earlier, CTK reported. Police called on them to disperse; when they refused, about 30 of them were arrested. In the afternoon hours, the protesters marched through downtown Prague blowing bubbles, playing horns, and displaying a festive mood. Police said that a total of 859 activists have been detained, of whom 330 were foreigners. Charges of hooliganism, attacking public servants, and damaging property have been brought against 18 foreigners and two Czechs. Some 600 people were treated in hospitals, of whom 123 were policemen. Ten policemen and 10 activists remain hospitalized. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September)
KAZAKHSTANACCESS TO OPPOSITION WEBSITE PARTIALLY BLOCKED. Web users have not been able to access the opposition website "Eurasia" (http://www.eurasia.org.ru) since 15 September via lines owned by the joint-stock companies Kazakhtelecom and Nursat, which are under state control. But users can gain access to that site via proxy connections. (Internews Kazakhstan, 28 September)
JOURNALIST ATTACKED. In a letter to Kazakh Interior Minister Kayrbek Suleymenov, the international journalism watchdog organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) protested the 15 September attack against Lira Baiseitova, editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper "Respublika 2000." According to information collected by RSF, Baiseitova was attacked following the publication of an article implicating Nurla Kaparov, the director of a regional refinery. In her article, she suggested that a road accident in which a passenger in Kaparov's car died had resulted from Kaparov driving drunk. Baiseitova said that her attacker violently struck her in the face and threatened her with the following statement: "If you write about Kaparov again, we will kill you." (Reporters Without Borders, 19 September)
MOLDOVAPARLIAMENT 'RE-INTERPRETS' AUDIO-VISUAL LAW. By a vote of 52 to 26, the parliament on 29 September passed an amendment to the audio-visual law aimed at resolving the dispute triggered by a recent court ruling, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. According to the amendment, the law's provision stipulating that a minimum of 65 percent of broadcasts must be in the "state language" applies only to domestically produced programs and not to re-transmissions of programs produced abroad. The court's ruling would have obliged the Audio-Visual Council to withdraw licenses from several stations that re-broadcast Russian-language programs and has caused tensions in relations with Moscow. The amendment was supported only by the Democratic Party and the Party of Moldovan Communists. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October)
ROMANIASIMULATED NEWSROOM OFFERS HANDS-ON TRAINING OPPORTUNITIES. Journalism students wishing to sharpen their skills and learn how to produce a newspaper are invited to apply for the "Simulated Newsroom Program," sponsored by the Center for Independent Journalism (CIJ) in Bucharest. Program participants will work under the guidance of an experienced journalist and will assume all responsibilities of newspaper staff members. They will do all the reporting, editing, photography, and design for a non-profit publication designed for university students. Sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the program is free for its participants. Students can apply for positions as editors, photographers, cartoonists, and designers. Application packages should include a CV, a letter of motivation, as well as two writing samples. The deadline for applications is 9 October. For more information contact Malina Dragu at CIJ: Str. Matei Voievod, 75-77, et. 3, Bucharest, Romania. Tel./fax: (40-1) 252-24-83. E-mail: email@example.com (International Journalists' Network, 2 October)
RUSSIAARTICLE 19 CRITICIZES NEW INFORMATION SECURITY DOCTRINE. ARTICLE 19 said that the new Russian Information Security Doctrine promulgated on 8 September reflects a growing paranoia among Russian officials concerning the potential for independent domestic and foreign information to undermine its own propaganda. Andrew Puddephatt, executive director of ARTICLE 19, said: "Government transparency and accountability will go out of the window if these principles are enforced. Investors should beware -- these rules are likely to cancel out any moves Putin has made towards challenging corruption and opening up the economy." He added that "the doctrine clearly signals an intention to introduce strong and repressive legislation in this area, and indicates a worrying move away from democratic development. We have written to the president urging him to withdraw the document and publicly to refute the values it represents," he added. Ambiguous calls, such as for counteracting the "use of uncertified domestic and foreign technologies" and "defining more clearly the status of foreign information agencies, mass media, and journalists, as well as investors," should set alarm bells ringing for those with business interests in Russia, ARTICLE 19 said. (ARTICLE 19 Press Release, 27 September)
MORE THAN HALF OF RUSSIANS DON'T BELIEVE CENSORSHIP COULD BE IMPOSED NOW. Some 57 percent of Russians do not believe that censorship could be imposed on the mass media now, the National Public Opinion Center informed Interfax on 27 September on the basis of a poll of 1,600 Russian citizens. At the same time, nearly one-third of Russians fear that censorship could be reintroduced. (Interfax, 27 September)
JOURNALIST FACES NEW PROTEST BY PROSECUTOR. According to the Glasnost Defense Foundation, the Russian Federation Supreme Court's Military Board has once again received a prosecutor's protest concerning Grigory Pasko, who was accused of treason in 1997, convicted of abuse of authority and released in 1999 under an amnesty. The protest reportedly was signed by the Pacific Navy Fleet chief prosecutor and essentially repeats the positions which were previously brought forward. GDF expressed its concern over the new protest. (Glasnost Defence Foundation, 26 September)
NEO-FASCISTS RAID ON RYAZAN�S JEWISH SUNDAY SCHOOL. Ryazan's Jewish Sunday school was raided on 17 September by neo-fascists who broke windows and furniture and shouted "Heil, Hitler" before leaving the classroom of frightened children. The deputy head of the Ryazan regional administration, Viktor Trushin, attributed the attack to an act of hooliganism, but the head of the Ryazan Jewish community, Leonid Reznikov, does not think the attack happened spontaneously. (Keston News Service, 27 September)
ALMOST HALF OF MUSCOVITES APPROVE ORT'S DECISION TO PULL DORENKO PROGRAMS. Some 46 percent of Moscow residents approve of the decision by ORT television to pull the weekly Saturday analytical news program hosted by Sergei Dorenko off the air. But 34 percent oppose the management, according to a poll of 1,000 residents of the Russian capital conducted by the All-Russia Public Research Center. About 29 percent of those polled think that the program was pulled because of "the low morals of the program and its host." Another 23 percent think that Dorenko was bounced because of his criticism of the authorities. Fifteen percent of the respondents see the move as an effort "to clean ORT from the influence of media mogul Boris Berezovsky." Ten percent surveyed see the decision as reflecting internal problems at ORT, and 8 percent think that the program was pulled due to low ratings. (Interfax, 18 September)
GUSINSKII MAY FACE NEW CRIMINAL CHARGES. The Office of the Prosecutor-General has launched criminal proceedings on fraud charges against Media-MOST officials, including its head, Vladimir Gusinskii, Russian agencies reported on 28 September. Deputy Prosecutor-General Vasilii Kolmogorov told Interfax that Media-MOST stock, which had been put up as collateral for a loan, was moved to offshore accounts in a fraudulent manner. Media-MOST attorney Pavel Astakhov dismissed the charges as "absurd," declaring that none of the 40 percent of the company's stock put up as collateral has been transferred abroad. Despite having received a summons, Media-MOST head Vladimir Gusinskii failed to appear at the Prosecutor-General's Office on 29 September, Interfax reported. A Media-MOST official informed the prosecutor's office that Gusinskii is out of the country on a business trip until 31 October. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September, 2 October)
LESIN TO KEEP HIS JOB? Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov lambasted Media Minister Mikhail Lesin at a cabinet meeting on 28 September, telling him that his signing of a protocol to the sales agreement between Media-MOST and Gazprom-Media had given "a political color to the conflict." The prime minister added that "You've been a minister for more than a month. You should know by now that public service, and work as a federal minister, in particular, comes with restrictions." Some observers concluded that this verbal roasting may end the affair as far as Lesin is concerned and that he will be able to keep his post. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September)
NEW WEB SITE ON RUSSIA. A new information service on Russia has opened a website, http://www.strana.ru, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 September. The new service is a project of the Fund for Effective Politics, which aims to develop cooperation with federal authorities and the support of state media. The site is intended to combine the functions of a daily newspaper, an analytical journal, and an information agency. The site also has seven regional sites corresponding to the number of federal districts. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September)
PUTIN RULES OUT RETURN TO TOTALITARIANISM. In an interview with Russian Television and Indian journalists on 1 October, President Putin declared it "impossible" for Russia to return to a totalitarian regime, noting that a "whole generation of young people" who have experienced the past 10 years would "hardly be able to tolerate living under a totalitarian regime." He also remarked that there is "no social base on which forces wanting to return to the past could rely." Putin described Russia's basic values as "patriotism, love of one's motherland, one's home, and one's people, religious and cultural values -- everything that forms the foundation of our life." Putin also commented on the "Kursk" submarine tragedy that occurred last August: "It forced us to think about the state of the armed forces and of relations between the state and society.... It provided a good reason to make practical decisions and these decisions are being made." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October)
UES ACQUIRES TV STATION STAKE. Unified Energy Systems has purchased a large stake in the RenTV television channel from LUKoil, "Vedomosti" reported on 29 September, citing an unidentified LUKoil source. According to the daily, the source declined to specify the exact size of the stake or the purchase price. LUKoil had owned a 75 percent stake. RenTV's share of the national viewing public is 3.5-3.7 percent, according to Gallup Media. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October)
SERBIAIFJ BACKS CALLS FOR GENERAL STRIKE. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today backed calls for a general strike in Yugoslavia to oust Slobodan Milosevic from power. "Journalists and media workers have been in the forefront of the battle for freedom and democracy in Belgrade for 10 years and, at this defining moment, we urge full support for mass action," said Aidan White, general-secretary of the IFJ. The IFJ has called on all its member unions to send messages of support to its affiliates in Yugoslavia. White will visit Kosova next week to investigate the press freedom situation, but the authorities in Belgrade have refused the IFJ permission to visit Serbia. "The struggle for democracy is now at a crucial stage, and the pressure on Milosevic must be intensified," said White. "We are also calling on the official Association of Journalists to break their links with the discredited Milosevic regime and to open up the state media to all sections of society. "Yugoslavia is at a critical crossroads and everything must be done to ensure solidarity with journalists and others striving for democracy," said the IFJ. (International Federation of Journalists Press Release, 28 September)
GENERAL STRIKE BEGINS IN SERBIA. In response to a call by opposition leader Zoran Djindjic that "Serbia must stop in order to go forward," thousands of high school students walked out of classrooms in Nis, Gornji Milanovic, and several other cities and towns on 29 September, AP reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 September). In Cacak, people left shops and offices to take to the streets to demand that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic step down and yield power to Vojislav Kostunica. A major rally is planned for the afternoon in Belgrade. Djindjic has also appealed to the army and to transport workers to join the general strike, but it is not clear to what extent they have heeded his call. Police limited their actions to removing license plates from vehicles participating in road blocks, the broadcast added. Opposition Mayor-elect Milan Protic encouraged demonstrators to continue their protests until Milosevic leaves office and lets Kostunica replace him, Sky News Television reported. Reuters subsequently reported, however, that "most shops opened, major state institutions were unaffected [by the strike], and by late morning the city was almost back to normal." In Novi Sad on 1 October, Serbian President Milan Milutinovic said the opposition is trying to create "chaos, unrest, and conflicts," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September)
STATE-RUN SERBIAN MEDIA DISTANCE THEMSELVES FROM MILOSEVIC. The strike committee at Radio-Television Novi Sad called on all employees on 1 October not to obey orders from the pro-Milosevic management and not to broadcast "false information," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. The opposition's Press Center said in a statement that eight local radio stations in several parts of Serbia have stopped re-broadcasting the programs of Radio-Television Serbia. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October)
YUGOSLAV MINISTRY KICKS OUT BBC JOURNALIST. On 29 September, Yugoslav Information Minister Goran Matic announced the expulsion of BBC correspondent Jacky Rowland for "twisting the words" of Serbs she interviewed during her coverage of the recent elections. The BBC management said that it hopes that Belgrade will "reconsider its decision," the BBC reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October)
SLOVAKIAANTI-ROMA MESSAGES FLOOD SLOVAK MOBILE NETWORK. Slovak mobile telephone owners have recently received a message telling them about a new service offering "free 50 minutes for every Rom you kill," the Czech daily "Pravo" reported on 26 September. A spokeswoman for the Globetel network said mobile phone operators cannot "influence or censor the content" of SMS messages. She also said it is not possible to detect the sender if the message is sent via the Internet. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September)
UKRAINECPJ CONCERNED ABOUT JOURNALIST'S DISAPPEARANCE. In a 25 September letter to President Leonid Kuchma, the media watchdog group Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) expressed its deep concern about the recent disappearance of Heorhiy Gongadze, the 31-year-old editor of the news website "Ukrainska Pravda" (http://www.pravda.com.ua). CPJ noted that this event has alarmed the journalistic community in Ukraine and further eroded the Kuchma government's already limited credibility on press freedom issues. Gongadze, whose site has often featured critical articles about Ukrainian officials, disappeared in Kyiv on the evening of 16 September. Shortly after Gongadze disappeared, the deputy director of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Mykola Dzhyha, announced that authorities were looking into three possible scenarios: that Gongadze planned his own abduction; that he was involved in an accident; or that the abduction was related to Gongadze's journalism. On 19 September, however, Dzhyha announced that the police have ruled out any political motive. Meanwhile, 60 local journalists expressed their concern about the case in a letter to Kuchma and the Ukrainian parliament on 19 September. (Committee to Protect Journalists, 26 September)
BOMB THREAT PREVENTS TELECONFERENCE BETWEEN EUROPEAN PARLIAMENTARIANS AND UKRAINIAN JOURNALISTS. Following the cancellation of a teleconference on freedom of expression in Ukraine between members of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly in Strasbourg and Ukrainian journalists in Kyiv, the following statement was issued by Tytti Isohookana-Asunmaa (Finland), president of the assembly's sub-committee on the media: "The sub-committee on the Media of the Committee on Culture and Education tried to organize a teleconference with Ukrainian journalists. When it became clear the room where the journalists were to meet was empty, telephone contact was made with them. They explained that 30 minutes beforehand the building had been evacuated by the police on the pretext that a bomb had been placed there. Later, once the threat had passed, the police prevented journalists from re-entering the building. The journalists and the wife of missing journalist Heorhiy Gongadze confirmed that they were working in difficult conditions and gave examples of violations of the liberty of the press. They asked the Council of Europe to increase pressure on Ukraine. The parliamentarians present expressed their surprise that there were still people in Kyiv who were powerful, unscrupulous, and crude enough to use an alleged bomb threat to prevent journalists from making their voices heard. The Committee on Culture and Education may convene in the near future to discuss this matter. The Ukrainian parliamentarians present reaffirmed their commitment to upholding the principles of the Council of Europe. Borys Oliynyk, head of the Ukrainian delegation, regretted the situation and the poor image which it gave of Ukraine to Council of Europe parliamentarians." (Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, 28 September)
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT PROMISES TEACHERS MORE MONEY--NEXT YEAR... Leonid Kuchma said on 28 September that the government will raise salaries for all employees in the education sector in 2001 and wipe out all wage arrears to teachers by the end of that year, the "Eastern Economist Daily" reported, citing UNIAN. There are some 500,000 teachers in Ukraine who make an average of 137 hryvnia ($25) per month. Social Policy and Labor Minister Ivan Sakhan said that other state employees will receive 25 percent wage hikes next year. He said it is the first time in three years that wages for those employees will be increased. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September)
...AS PREMIER PREDICTS PENSION INCREASE. Viktor Yushchenko said that some 800 million hryvnia ($147 million) will be allocated to increase pensions in 2001, the "Eastern Economist Daily" reported on 28 September. Yushchenko said "the government plans to eliminate all current social debts to the population." He added that Ukraine will experience substantial economic growth next year and that the government's goal is to increase the percentage of the budget spent on social services from 41 percent to 46 percent. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 29 September)
REGIONALB2-92 EXPANDS REACH. ANEM and Radio B2-92 announced that the receivability of ANEM and Radio B2-92 programs, as well as other independent Yugoslav production programs would be further expanded within a solidarity project coordinated by the World Association of Local Radio Stations, which an increasing number of local radio and television stations from the region have joined. Romanian non-governmental organizations have recently joined the action, agreeing, as part of their experimental radio and television programming, to broadcast Radio B2-92 programs as well as television coverage and programs from the ANEM info-package, including programs produced by VIN and TV Mreza. This experimental programming is primarily intended to keep the Serbian minority in Romania objectively informed, but a large part of Serbia--including some parts of Belgrade--will also be able to receive it. Broadcast frequencies for the radio will be 89.2 FM and for television, channel 42 UHF. Urgent preparations for a Romanian-language news program are also underway. With the help of its members and partners from the region, ANEM and Radio B2-92 will resume their efforts on the further expansion of the Yugoslav independent electronic media's receivability in order to cover the whole Balkan region and all territories inhabited by nations or ethnic minorities from Yugoslavia. The public will be kept informed of the results. (Association of Independent Electronic Media, 27 September)
NEW PUBLICATIONS, WEBSITESWASHINGTON ONLINE PUBLICATION. Washington Online is a regular political and information publication in Russian of The International Center in Washington. An electronic version of this publication is distributed free to interested recipients. Website: http://www.internationalcenter.com/icrussia.htm (Internews Russia, 19 September)
END NOTETHE KREMLIN VERSUS THE REPORTER
By Julie A. Corwin
On 2 October, RFE/RL journalist Andrei Babitskii went on trial in Makhachkala, Daghestan. After being beaten with a truncheon, locked in the trunk of a car, and confined to a tiny cell in a detention camp in Chechnya last winter, Babitskii would seem a more likely plaintiff or witness in a criminal trial--than a defendant. Officially, his crime is using a forged passport--a passport, which he says was forced upon him by men who kept him against his will and transported him to the Russian border. But the real charge against him--now and then--is quite different: "unpatriotic journalism."
Russian President Vladimir Putin has already explained the concept himself in an interview included in a book called "In the First Person" released shortly before the Russian presidential elections in March of this year. Putin asserted that Babitskii is not a "Russian journalist," although he may be a Russian citizen. Babitskii dared to "write that [the Chechens] are cutting off the heads of our soldiers in order to portray the whole horror of the war." Putin accuses Babitskii of being sympathetic to the Chechens--"of justifying the decapitation of people"--a traitorous stance when Russia is at war.
According to Putin, "Russia's defeat during the first Chechen war was to a large extent owing to the state of society's morale. Russians did not understand what ideals our soldiers were fighting for." Noting that during the second "war," Russian media coverage has been much more favorable, Putin remarks "this time around, fortunately, it's different. [But] Babitskii and his ilk were essentially trying to reverse the situation."
The media coverage had changed, but Babitskii, who had covered both wars, remained the same. This time around, fewer journalists are operating in the region. And they are not supposed to travel unescorted or report from the Chechens' side or interview Chechen officials. Babitskii, however, continued going where other journalists did not: occasionally filing reports from the side of the Chechen fighters, whom he failed to demonize, as well as reporting from the federal troops' side of the conflict. He reported on Chechen commanders he believed were guilty of crimes. He reported on civilian suffering and instances of indiscriminate bombing. In short, he reported what he saw and heard.
Then one day--last January--Babitskii's "unpatriotic" activities caught up with him. Just days after implicitly contradicting a statement by Armed Forces Chief of the General Staff Anatolii Kvashnin about Russian troops' territorial gains in Chechnya in a report of both sides' troop movements and after being sharply criticized by the Russian military, Babitskii was detained by federal troops in Grozny. They claimed at the time that he did not have the proper accreditation. Unable to contact his family, his employers, or a lawyer, he was confined at the Chernokozovo detention center, where he shared a tiny cell with two other prisoners. They slept standing up. Although he was exempted from the torture inflicted on selected prisoners, he did get the usual treatment afforded every newcomer: several dozen hits on the torso with a nightstick. He and his cellmates were also treated to occasional canisters of teargas thrown in their direction.
Approximately two weeks later, after agreeing to be handed over to a known Chechen field commander Atgeriev in exchange for Russian POWs, Russian troops handed him over to people they said were Chechen rebels but that Babitskii insists were working for Moscow. He was then held in a closed room for two weeks until on 23 February, he was transported in the trunk of a car from Chechnya to Daghestan, somehow managing to evade all federal military checkpoints. There, both his Russian and international passports were taken from him and he was given an Azerbaijani passport and taken to the Azerbaijan border. He managed to convince his "escort" to take him back to Makhachkala, where he was arrested for carrying a false passport. After four days in a jail in Makhachkala, he was put on a plane late one night heading back to Moscow and released on his on recognizance pending trial.
Six months later, Babitskii is now back in the North Caucasus, but not as a reporter--not to continue the work that won him journalistic recognition from the OSCE and the International Center for Journalists and, more important, the respect of his fellow reporters in Chechnya--but as a defendant. At a press conference this week, Babitskii said that he expects a guilty verdict, if only because he "is well acquainted with the workings of the Russian justice system." Babitskii and his lawyer have appealed to the international journalist community to attend the trial so that the court process takes place in "in the glare of truth and openness."
But even if found guilty, Babitskii is unlikely to go to jail because his case would fall under an amnesty granted by the Russian State Duma this spring.
But he is equally unlikely to return to Chechnya to cover that conflict in the near future. And, after hearing of Babitskii's ordeal and witnessing his being handed over to masked gunmen on national television, how many other journalists are likely to follow in his footsteps? That there may not be that many would appear to be the whole point of this latest Kremlin campaign.