14 December 2000, Volume
STRONGER HUMAN RIGHTS INSTITUTIONS NEEDED.
The world lacks the institutional support to deal with deteriorating human rights conditions in many countries, this year's human rights report by the U.S.-based non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch concludes. The report surveyed human rights in 70 countries, including Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. The report notes progress, particularly in the former Yugoslavia, but it points out that in many Central Asian states, this year marked a step backward in human rights. Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, says the sheer scope of human rights problems outstrips countries' capacity and that international institutions are inadequate. ("RFE/RL Weekday Magazine," 8 December)DEMOCRACY NEWS ONLINE.
DemocracyNews is an electronic mailing list moderated by the National Endowment for Democracy. To subscribe to DemocracyNews, send an e-mail to email@example.com DemocracyNews Archives are at: http://www.ned.org. (Center for Civil Society International, 4 December)CITIZENSHIP EDUCATION INTERNSHIP.
The American Councils invites proposals from U.S. school systems, universities, secondary-school teachers, and international visitor boards to host a five-week citizenship education internship program for NIS educators in the fall of 2001. The Partners in Education Program (PiE) supports democracy-building efforts in the NIS by providing secondary school teachers and school administrators with the opportunity to collaborate with U.S. colleagues in citizenship education. PiE information is available at http://www.actr.org. (Center for Civil Society International, 6 December)
A BAD MONTH FOR JOURNALISTS.
The Azerbaijan government holds the Musavat party responsible for most of the recent opposition protests over the recent parliamentary elections, "Zerkalo" said on 5 December. Therefore, authorities have focused their repressive campaign on media outlets connected with it, especially those involved in reporting these mass protests. Naris Akhmedli, chief editor of the "Mukhalifat" newspaper, felt forced to resign as editor after "ultimatums" from the rector of the university where he teaches. "Mukhalifat" reporters have gone on protest hunger strikes, because the paper reportedly will be charged with calls for the overthrow of the government. "Yeni Musavat," the largest circulation newspaper aligned with the Musavat party, was founded by that party's leader, Isa Gambar, and has been fined at least 20 times. Its editor, Rauf Arifoglu, was imprisoned earlier this year on trumped-up criminal charges -- trying to hijack an airplane and owning a pistol. A member of the presidential administration recently told journalists that this case will soon be brought to trial, reported "Zerkalo." ("Zerkalo," 5 December)JOURNALISTS PROTEST.
A group of leading editors and journalists calling itself "Article 19" launched a series of protest actions on 28 November. Aimed at reforming the country's media laws and concerned at the recent increase in repression against journalists -- particularly the situation of the "Mukhalifat" newspaper -- the group plans roundtables, seminars, and conferences. Meanwhile, six "Mukhalifat" journalists began a hunger strike to protest official charges that they are engaged in "open calls against statehood." ("Zerkalo," 29 November)REFORMS NECESSARY TO MEET EUROPEAN STANDARDS.
After the conditional invitation to Azerbaijan to become a member of the Council of Europe, Article 19 has submitted a detailed set of recommendations on the reforms necessary to bring laws and practice in the media sphere into line with European standards. Key proposals include reforming defamation laws, removing content restrictions and establishing proper broadcasting license procedures. The full text is available at: http://www.article19.org/docimages/873.htm. (Article 19, 5 December)OPPOSITION PARTIES STAGE NEW DEMONSTRATION IN CAPITAL...
Several thousand people attended a rally convened by six leading opposition parties in Baku on 9 December, Turan and ITAR-TASS reported. Representatives of those parties adopted a resolution calling for the dissolution of the parliament elected on 5 November, the punishment of persons guilty of falsifying the outcome of that ballot, and new elections. They also demanded the release of all political prisoners and an investigation into the police action against participants in the 18 November protest demonstration in Sheki. For the first time, supporters of exiled former President Ayaz Mutalibov participated in a protest rally convened by the opposition. Some 200 police monitored the proceedings but did not intervene. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December)...AS PROTESTS CONTINUE IN NAKHICHEVAN.
Several hundred people gathered on 8 December in the village of Nehram in the Babek Raion of the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhichevan to demand the resumption of uninterrupted power supplies, Turan reported. When representatives of the local leadership explained that power shortages make it impossible to comply with their demand, the rally participants and thousands of supporters began a march on the exclave's capital but were prevented by police and Interior Ministry troops from proceeding. Police reportedly began throwing stones at the marchers, injuring 10 of them. They also arrested 10 protesters, six of whom were subsequently released. One man from Nehram was killed in an automobile accident during the standoff with police. Thousands of his fellow villagers staged another protest on 9 December to demand an investigation into his death. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December)
PACE OFFICIAL WARNS MINSK AGAINST REMOVING OSCE MISSION.
Wolfgang Berendt, who is the rapporteur for Belarus of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, told RFE/RL's Belarusian Service on 11 December that President Alyaksandr Lukashenka will exacerbate Belarus's already poor relations with European organizations if he decides to ban the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group from Minsk. Berendt was commenting on the recent propaganda campaign on Belarusian Television against the OSCE Minsk mission. On 7 December, Belarusian Television called the mission "an instrument of subversive anti-constitutional activity against the Belarusian state." The next day, the station broadcast a documentary in which OSCE Minsk mission head Hans Georg Wieck was called a "German spy." Last month Lukashenka suggested that he no longer needs the OSCE group in Minsk. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December)TEACHERS WANT PAY RISE.
Some 168,000 teachers have signed an appeal demanding that their wages be increased by the end of the first quarter of 2001 to equal the average pay in the industrial sector, Belapan and RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported on 7 December. Tamara Chobatava, head of the Trade Union of Education and Science Workers, did not rule out that teachers will go on strike if the government fails to meet their demand. She admitted, however, that the union is too poor to help striking teachers financially in the event of a long protest. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 December)
POLICE FREE MEDIA BOSS�
Police released media boss Ninoslav Pavic from detention on 6 December, saying that they do not have enough evidence to continue to hold him, dpa reported. Police detained Pavic and several other men earlier in the week on suspicion that they tried to form an illegal cartel to monopolize the private media. Referring to the new daily "Republika," which broke the story of the alleged cartel plot, Pavic said: "The dirty spy affair with third-grade newspapers has finished. I think we shall soon see who stood behind all this and that the rule of law will win out." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 December)�AND HE WILL SUE.
An attorney for Ninoslav Pavic said that Pavic is suing Interior Minister Sime Lucin in conjunction with the police's recent decision to detain Pavic and supervise a search of his home, dpa reported from Zagreb on 8 December. In a statement released by his office, Lucin said that "everything was done according to the law" in the Pavic case. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 December)
PUBLISHER OF 'MEIN KAMPF' RECEIVES SUSPENDED SENTENCE.
Michal Zitko, who earlier this year published a Czech translation of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf," has been sentenced by a Prague court to a three-year suspended sentence and 2 million crown ($50,500) fine for spreading racism, CTK and AP reported. Zitko is to appeal the sentence. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December)
OPPOSITION POLITICIAN ON TRIAL.
RFE/RL reports that Kazakh scholar and politician Nurbolat Masanov was put on trial in Almaty on December 12. The judge did not allow journalists to be present in the courtroom. Massanov has been sued by another politician, Khasen Qozhakhmet, for "insulting the dignity and honor of the Kazakh nation." Allegedly, Massanov made such statements during an interview with ITAR-TASS published by several websites last summer. Massanov and the ITAR-TASS correspondent deny that this interview took place. Qozhakhmet, the person who officially accused Nurbolat Massanov, refused RFE/RL's request for comments on the case. ("RFE/RL Kazakh Report," 12 December)NEWSPAPER EDITOR SUMMONED TO INTERIOR MINISTRY.
Ermurat Bapi, editor-in-chief of "SolDat" newspaper, was summoned on 7 December to the Interior Affairs Ministry's Military Department in Almaty. Bapi told RFE/RL that the Department showed him documents about his newspaper, saying that investigations were over. "It means," said Bapi, "the trial will start in the nearest future." Kazakhstan officials accuse SolDat newspaper and Bapi of printing "materials insulting the dignity and honor of the Kazakh president." SolDat published an article this summer which criticized Nursultan Nazarbaev for mistakes in his domestic and foreign policies, as well as an article about a new book on Nazarbaev's role in the persecution of young Kazakhs during the events in Almaty in December 1986. Since then, the newspaper has had to suspend its operations after the country's publishing houses refused to print the weekly. (RFE/RL Kazakh News, 7 December)
CRIMINAL CASE AGAINST HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST.
The Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights (KCHR) reports that Kyrgyzstan law enforcement bodies filed on 24 November a criminal case against Albert Korgoldoev, KCHR's Jalal-Abad representative. He is accused of hooliganism and is now in hiding. Along with Korgoldoev, journalist Beken NazarAliyev and Cholpon Ergeshova of the Coalition of Non-Governmental Organizations are also accused. Over a 100 people held a protest meeting in Jalal-Abad on 1 November demanding that the 29 October presidential poll be annulled. Observing the demonstration, NazarAliyev was detained on 1 November but released the same day. ("RFE/RL Kyrgyz Report," 12 December)OSCE OFFICIAL MEETS DETAINED HR ACTIVIST.
An OSCE representative in Osh, Katherine Samuel, has visited human rights activist Ravshan Gapirov in detention in the Kara-Suu district of Osh Province. According to her, the accusations against him are weak. Gapirov, director of the human rights center "For Justice," was detained in Kara-Suu on 21 November and is accused of hooliganism and disruption of social order. Gapirov was severely beaten by police in September. ("RFE/RL Kyrgyz Report," 6 December)
ILIESCU WINS LANDSLIDE VICTORY.
Official results from the second round of Romania's presidential election show a landslide victory for leftist leader Ion Iliescu. The central electoral bureau said Iliescu has won nearly 67 percent of the vote compared to 33 percent for ultranationalist Corneliu Vadim Tudor. ("RFE/RL Weekday Magazine," 12 December)MARCH AGAINST EXTREMISM.
Some 800 participants in the December 1989 uprising marched in Bucharest on 7 December to warn of the danger of extremism, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. The same day several hundred students staged a march of their own, and the Federation of Jewish Communities released a statement condemning Tudor's allegations in his electoral address on Romanian television the previous day. The PRM leader claimed that he has received letters of support from officials of the community. The federation said Tudor had been "a staunch enemy of the Jews" in Romania for many years and has repeatedly displayed anti-Semitism and xenophobia. It also condemned the PRM leader's "aggressive stance" against members of the Hungarian and Romany minorities. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 December)
DINE CRITICIZES COURT'S UPHOLDING OF BABITSKY CONVICTION.
Thomas A. Dine, the president of RFE/RL, criticized on 13 December the decision of an appeals court in Russia's republic of Daghestan today to uphold a guilty verdict against RFE/RL correspondent Andrei Babitsky. Dine said the finding of the appeals court, like the original verdict handed down in October, represents "a clear attack on media freedom and an obvious effort by Moscow to intimidate journalists from doing their jobs and reporting the truth. We at RFE/RL will not be intimidated by this action," Dine added. "We will support Andrei Babitsky's appeal to the Russian Supreme Court and to the court of world public opinion." The action by the Daghestani Supreme Court leaves in place Babitsky's October conviction on what Dine described as "trumped-up charges" of using a false passport early in 2000. At that trial, he was fined $300, a penalty that was dropped under amnesty conditions then in place. Babitsky has appealed to clear his name. Babitsky's legal travails began last January when Russian officials arrested him after complaining about his reporting on the war in Chechnya--reporting that had won him praise internationally as balanced and objective. The Russian authorities then claimed to have handed him over to Chechen rebels in exchange for several Russian prisoners of war, an exchange that Babitsky has said never took place and was only staged for the cameras. After keeping Babitsky in detention for 40 days, Russian officials released him in Daghestan after planting false documents on him. It is these documents which formed the basis of the charges against him, and that is the ostensible reason why he was tried in Daghestan. Following his detention, Babitsky was released on his own recognizance but restricted to Moscow until August. He now works out of RFE/RL's headquarters in Prague. (RFE/RL Press Release)KREMLIN MOVES AGAINST DUMA HUMAN RIGHTS LEADER.
The Russian government's "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 2 December published a letter from staffers in Duma human rights ombudsman Oleg Mironov's office accusing him of corruption and of taking money from "western funds supplied by the CIA." The authors of the letter also charged Mironov with seeking to encourage "the artificial transfer onto Russian soil of Western ideas and practices on supranational human rights." Meanwhile, pro-government "Edinstvo" faction member Vladimir Semenov said that Mironov has "usurped the role of the sole interpreter of situations with human rights implications in the country." "Kommersant" also reported on the same day that the Kremlin is so angry with Mironov's activities that it may soon seek his impeachment. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 11 December)NEW DRAFT CONSTITUTION FLOATED.
As Russia celebrates Constitution Day on 12 December, central media have been reporting the efforts of some groups to draft a new federal constitution. Some authors of the current Russian Constitution--INDEM foundation members Georgii Satarov, Mikhail Krasnov, and Mikhail Fedotov--have drafted a new version that was presented at "the first open congress on Russia's constitutional structure," "Segodnya" reported on 9 December. According to the daily, the new draft contains several innovations: the president rather than the Federation Council will be empowered to appoint and dismiss the prosecutor-general; the prime minister will be elected by the State Duma with the approval of the president; and the president's term in office will be extended from four to five years. According to "Izvestiya" on 8 December, the authors of the draft version want to separate the powers of the president and the cabinet by making the latter accountable to the parliament. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December)FAPSI DROPS MANY FROM VERTUSHKA PHONE SYSTEM.
The Federal Agency of Government Communications and Information, known more commonly by its initials FAPSI, has dropped from the specially dedicated government phone lines called the "vertushka" the chief editors of several mass media outlets, "Moskovskii Komsomolets" reported on 1 December. Among those who have lost this symbol of power are the editors of "Novoe Vremya," "Ekspert," "Sobesednik," "Literaturnaya Gazeta," "Moskovskii Komsomolets," and television companies "TV-Tsenter" and "Moskva." Union of Journalists Chairman Vsevlod Bogdanov was also dropped. But FAPSI will continue to provide this service to "Pravda," "Nezavismaya gazeta," and "Vek," as well as to many businessmen, few of whom have ever paid for it, the paper said. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 11 December)GUSINSKII ARRESTED IN SPAIN.
Western agencies on 12 December quoted Spanish police as saying they have arrested Russian media magnate Vladimir Gusinskii, who is wanted in Russia on fraud charges. Russian authorities issued an international arrest warrant for Gusinskii earlier this month after he failed to appear for questioning in Moscow in November. According to the Spanish police, the Russian businessman was arrested in the southern beach resort of Sotogrande, near the city of Cadiz. One of Gusinskii's lawyers, Pavel Astakhov, told Reuters that the arrest warrant is politically motivated and therefore the Spanish authorities should not send Gusinskii to Russia. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December)ORT OFFICES RAIDED.
Agents of the FSB, MVD, and Procuracy, supported by masked OMON officers, raided the offices of Russian Public Television (ORT) and confiscated financial and business documentation, Western wire services reported on 5 December. A senior investigator of the Moscow Air Transport Procuracy told journalists that the search had been conducted in connection with alleged contraband foreign video films and unspecified financial violations made by ORT in 1997-1999. ORT General-Director Konstantin Ernst denied the charges and expressed his surprise at this "massive demonstration of power" given the company's record of fully cooperating with the authorities. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 6 December that this act of intimidation against ORT resembled those taken against Gusinsky's mass media outlets and is almost certainly connected with Kremlin efforts to squeeze out Boris Berezovsky, who now controls 49 percent of ORT. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 11 December)PROSECUTOR ORDERS INQUIRY INTO RAID ON ORT.
Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov on 6 December ordered an internal inquiry into the raid conducted the previous day on the offices of Russian Public Television (ORT). Ustinov called the raid an illegal use of forceful methods in the investigation into whether the network has failed to pay customs duties, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December)INFORMATION MINISTRY PLANS TO RESTORE 'GOSTELERADIO.'
The Information Ministry, under the direction of Mikhail Lesin, has drafted a plan to re-establish a state broadcasting entity like the Soviet-era Gosteleradio to unite all national broadcasting and relay centers, "Segodnya" reported on 6 December. The plan reportedly calls for setting up a state holding company to be called "Russian Radio-Television Network," with affiliates in the seven super districts and regions and a nationwide television user fee to fund the project. The plan further envisages reprivatizing regional affiliates, including the option of selling subdivisions of the holding to the United Electrical System as payment for electrical power debts. "Segodnya" added that as a result of such machinations, Lesin increasingly is referred to in Moscow as "Misha Berlusconi." ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 11 December)PUTIN OKS PRIVATIZATION PLAN FOR TV, RADIO TRANSMISSION NETWORK.
"The Moscow Times" reported on 9 December that President Putin has approved a plan by the Media Ministry to overhaul the All-Russia State Television and Radio Company (VGTRK). After a meeting with Putin and Prime Minister Kasyanov, Media Minister Mikhail Lesin told the daily that it has been decided that with regard to the transmission network for VGTRK, a joint-stock company will be created and market players will compete in a competitive environment with equal conditions for all. Lesin said VGTRK will be split into two companies, one controlling the transmission facilities and the other the broadcasting studios. A 49 percent stake in the company overseeing the transmission network could later be sold to private investors who would fund desperately needed upgrades, according to Lesin. "Segodnya" reported last week that the new entity would be called Gostelradio, after the Soviet-era organization. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December)'TV CHANNEL TO PASS TO NEW OLIGARCH?'
Boris Berezovskii announced on 7 December that he is withdrawing his plan to establish the Teletrust Company to manage his 49 percent stake in Russian Public Television (ORT), Interfax reported. The oligarch said he is making this decision in light of a new arrest in the Aeroflot case. Former Aeroflot Deputy Director General Nikolai Glushkov was arrested earlier that day. Teletrust was to have been run by a group of journalists, artists, and intellectuals. Following a number of similar reports in other Russian news sources, Interfax reported, citing unnamed Moscow sources, that Berezovskii may sell his stake to former Sibneft head and State Duma deputy (independent) Roman Abramovich. According to the sources, Abramovich may buy the stake and resell it to the state. Asked about a possible sale to Abramovich, Berezovskii said "I do not rule out anything that does not endanger my friends." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 December)GOVERNMENT OPENS NEW INTERNET PORTAL.
As of 1 January, the Russian information agency "RIA-Novosti" will open a free information portal "Hot Line" at http://www.rian.ru, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 December. The portal will host television channel RTR as well as radio stations Radio Russia, Mayak, and Voice of Russia. In short, only state-run outlets are to be included in the new portal, something that is likely to limit access to other, independently-controlled channels. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 11 December)NEW MEDIA PROGRAM ON RFE/RL'S RUSSIAN SERVICE.
The director of the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, Oleg Panfilov, recently began a biweekly program on RFE/RL's Russian Service. Aired on the first and third Thursday of the month at 19:35, Panfilov's 23-minute show features media monitoring reports from throughout the former USSR, and presents interviews with experts who discuss major media issues. ("The Moscow Times," 8 December)MORE ATTACKS ON JOURNALISTS, PUBLISHER REPORTED IN PRIMORSKII KRAI...
An unidentified gunman seriously injured Dalpress director Maya Shchekina as she stepped out of the lift in her apartment building in Vladivostok on 6 December, Interfax reported. According to AP, the attack was the second apparent assassination attempt against Shchekina this week and the second violent incident connected with newspaper publishing in Vladivostok during the same period. Earlier in the week, reporters from "Narodnoe veche" were beaten by private security guards employed by a city government department. Shchekina's company, Dalpress, publishes 90 percent of all newspapers in Primorskii Krai, and the attacks on her are considered by some crime analysts to be part of a struggle for control over the company. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 December)ULYANOVSK GOVERNOR SUES LOCAL PAPERS, ELECTION RIVAL.
The Ulyanovsk regional court heard a suit by the Ulyanovsk oblast administration head, Yuri Goryachev, against oblast gubernatorial candidate Vladimir Shamanov and four local newspapers on charges they had insulted his honor and dignity, regional.ru reported on 4 December. According to a judge's decision, the hearing will be transferred to another district where most of the defendants have legal residence. ("RFE/RL Volga Region Weekly Review," 4 December)FIGHTING FOR GOOD ON THE INTERNET?
Russia's first school of computer hacking is trying to show its teenage students that there is a better way, reports the Toronto "Globe and Mail." Recently, Russian hackers have been held responsible for some stunning stunts, including "stealing the secret Microsoft source codes; ransacking the Pentagon's computers; hacking into NATO websites; posting thousands of credit-card numbers on the Internet; and stealing millions of dollars from Western banks." ("The Globe and Mail," 6 December)RUSSIA LACKS CLEAR DEFINITION OF 'STATE SECRETS.'
Russian intelligence services have used a list of state secrets falling under more than 700 rubrics prepared by the Defense Ministry even though the presidentially-approved list includes only 22 of them, "Novye izvestiya" reported on 29 November. Because of that confusion, there is a lack of clarity in Russian regulations about what is a secret and what is not. That is increasingly a problem for the courts. Over the last several years, the FSB has reported arresting 13 spies as well as preventing "35 attempts to transfer classified information abroad" -- including Aleksandr Nikitin and Grigori Pasko, who were charged with disclosing ecological information abroad; diplomat Valentin Moiseyev, sentenced for handing over to South Korea the draft of a treaty; and Aleksandr Sakov, who was accused of giving job-related information to an Israeli encyclopedia. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 11 December)MOSCOW VIEWS POPE AS BARGAINING CHIP.
Russian security agencies demanded the severe sentence of Pope in order to convert him into a bargaining chip to be used to get back one or another Russian spy, ORT television reported Moscow analysts as having concluded. They expect President Vladimir Putin to pardon Pope, as was recommended by an official commission, and then exchange him for a Russian agent in the United States or somewhere else. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 11 December)CLEMENCY COMMISSION MEMBER DECRIES 'SPY MANIA'�
One member of Putin's pardons commission, Maria Chudakova, was particularly critical of Pope's trial, which she said had shown that the Russian investigative authorities "still bear the marks of the Soviet system, more so than society in general." Noting that she had followed the proceedings carefully, Chudakova said that she became "more and more convinced that this all fits in to an attempt to restore in society the atmosphere of spy mania." Another commission member, theater director Mark Razovskii, was quoted by Reuters as saying that granting clemency to Pope would be a "step away from the Cold War. It's a policy of warm hearts." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December)...BUT FSB WELCOMES 'FAIR AND CORRECT DECISION.'
The press service of the Russian Federal Security Service told ITAR- TASS on 6 December that the court's ruling on the Pope case is "a fair and correct decision" that serves Russia's interests. "Russia has secrets and scientific developments that must be protected," the FSB press service stressed. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 7 December)STATE SYMBOL BILLS SAIL THROUGH DUMA.
The State Duma on 8 December voted overwhelmingly to approve in the second and third (final) readings a bill reinstating the Soviet-era anthem (with new words). The votes were 378 to 53 and 381 to 51, respectively, according to ITAR-TASS. Also on 8 December, Duma deputies voted to approve the bills on retaining the tricolor flag and the Tsarist coat of arms. The Communist faction, the largest in the lower house, had earlier expressed its willingness to support all three bills, while the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) and Yabloko had said they would vote against restoring the old Soviet anthem. SPS members in St. Petersburg held a meeting on 7 December to protest the possible reinstatement of the Soviet anthem, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported. Unity leader Boris Gryzlov said on 7 December that the subject of the new state symbols could not be a subject for haggling. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 8 December)PUTIN SLAMS TV...
Putin said that Russians often hear superfluous things on the air, "real rubbish," and "forget and do not think about thanking those people [responsible for the fact that] the situation in the country is improving," namely "the people, workers," Interfax reported. Putin called the mammoth steel plant at Magnitogorsk "a symbol of the future might of the state," ITAR-TASS reported. He continued, "Looking back to the past, we have no right to forget the heroic deeds of our fathers and grandfathers. This is the best way to treat our history." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December)...BUT PROMISES TO HELP WORKING POOR...
Attending a ceremony for the best workers in industry in Magnitogorsk on 9 December, President Putin lamented that in Russia "so far labor remains the cheapest stock." Putin continued, "Enterprises have their proprietors, but the state should not be a passive observer. The state cannot remain indifferent if people who have jobs live below the poverty line." Putin criticized some of Russia's new businessmen, charging that they "think only about themselves, about personal profits." Putin went on to say he had instructed Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov to prevent another rise in electricity and transportation rates. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December)ELITE BACKS CHECHEN WAR, SEE CORRUPTION AS THREAT.
According to a ROMIR-Gallup poll among urban elites, 62.7 percents of the country's elites continue to support the use of military force in Chechnya while only 29.7 percent are for peace negotiations with the leaders of Chechen fighters, RIA-Novosti reported on 5 December. The same group identified corruption rather than Islamic fundamentalism or NATO as the chief threat to Russia. The 650 respondents included representatives of business, government and state institutions. But neither members of the intelligentsia nor journalists were included. ("RFE/RL Security Watch," 11 December)RISING ANTI-AMERICANISM IN RUSSIA.
Anti-Americanism can been seen in pop culture, as in the huge success of the recent film "Brat-2." "You've got money and power, and where has it got you? You don't have truth," the film's hero, a dim-witted Russian hitman says to an American gangster. Anti-Americanism is not just about losing the Cold War. "It is rooted in an intense feeling of cultural alienation from the United States, feelings that distort the image of Americans until they seem more monster than human." Until recently, mainly instinctive "communist pensioners and rebellious marginal youth were prey" to these views, but "Brat-2" also is popular with "young Russian businessmen." Today, there is also "a new, refined and scientific anti-Americanism" among the Russian elite. One sign of this is the recent book, "Practice of Globalization" which argues that "Russia's survival is incompatible with U.S. leadership in the world," and presents "a wide-ranging theory for globalization, bringing together financial, economic, technological, and even cultural processes." ("The Russia Journal," 9-15 December)AMERICAN ACTIVIST FINALLY GIVEN RUSSIAN EXIT PERMIT.
Refused exit permission for five months, Albert Decie, 32, said Krasnoyarsk officials finally agreed to give back his entry-exit visa after he filed a lawsuit charging that his document had been illegally confiscated -- in return for dropping the case, reported the "Boston Globe." Citing a tax investigation, Krasnoyarsk taxmen took away Decie's visa. Decie, "who worked for a U.S.-funded project to promote grass-roots democracy in Siberia since 1996," said his legal tribulations started when some Russian officials "disapproved of his activities." He then moved to Moscow, "where his case became bogged down in a larger dispute over how U.S. aid workers should be taxed in Russia." ("Boston Globe," 9 December)PRECARIOUS FUTURE FOR HALF-FINISHED TAGANROG MOSQUE.
Muslims in the southern Russian city of Taganrog do not know if they will be allowed to complete their half-finished mosque. Since the former mosque was razed under Soviet rule, the city's 7,000 Muslims have had nowhere to meet. Cossacks, Communists, and the Orthodox clergy have written to President Vladimir Putin to complain of the Wahhabi threat. Construction of the mosque was agreed with all the relevant authorities, but on 30 September Cossacks held an unauthorized meeting demanding a halt to construction. Local TV broadcast a discussion -- Muslims were not invited -- at which Orthodox priests, communists, and local Cossack representatives spoke against the mosque. The city administration brought legal action for construction to be pulled down. The court refused, as a dispute between legal persons should be resolved by arbitration. A criminal case was then opened, alleging construction had been illegal -- something the mufti only learned of when he received a summons from the investigator. (Keston Institute, 8 December)THE LOST SHAPSUG HOMELAND.
A new Russian law on ethnic minorities has given the Shapsug people in the north Caucasus some hope for their historic homeland, which was liquidated in 1945. Other Shapsug leaders would be content if their status as an ethnic minority were officially recognized. The "Shapsugia" newspaper -- with a circulation of 750 -- is their last remaining public voice. Today, some 10,000 Islamic Shapsugs live along the Black Sea in isolation from their ethnic brothers, the Cherkess, the Adygei, and the Balkars. The Shapsug nationalist movement was born in the early 1990s in a bid to reinstate the Shapsug autonomous enclave in the Krasnodarsky Region. In May 1994, a Shapsug congress elected a "social parliament," which called for national autonomy and measures to protect their cultural identity and historical legacy. These demands were supported in 1998 by the Fourth Congress of the International Cherkess Association. Since then, the Shapsug cause has made scant progress. ("Institute for War and Peace Reporting Caucasus Report," 8 December)
YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT CALLS FOR FINANCIALLY INDEPENDENT MEDIA.
Vojislav Kostunica told a two-day conference in Belgrade on 10 December that Serbia's media must be financially independent in order to maintain their political independence, Reuters reported. He said at the gathering, which is sponsored by Serbia's Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) and the Council of Europe: "This means that media cannot be funded by the state or by foreign countries. It is the only way the media can continue to serve the truth and help democratization." Kostunica said that foreign assistance should center on providing programs and training journalists. He called the media "fellow combatants" in the struggle to overthrow the regime of former President Slobodan Milosevic. Council of Europe Secretary General Walter Schwimmer stressed the need for laws to ensure the independence of the media from state interference, especially state-run Radio Television Serbia. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December)
FOUR FEARED TORTURED FOR FAITH.
Four young Protestant believers -- Babamurat Bayebov, Umit Koshkarov, Batir Nurov, and Shikhrat Piriev -- have reportedly been detained and severely tortured because of their religious faith. The four men were reportedly told on 24 November that they would not have to serve prison terms and it is not known if formal charges have been filed. Instead they were forced to write that they "voluntarily donated" all they owned as a "gift to the President of Turkmenistan." Since then, ownership papers for their homes and cars, and all their IDs have been confiscated. After they were released, the men were reportedly threatened with even harsher treatment. Six days later, they were reportedly subjected to similar ill-treatment at the secret police offices. (Amnesty International, 5 December)SECRET POLICE PERSECUTE RELIGIOUS BELIEVERS.
Keston News Service has compiled a detailed list of 42 officers of Turkmenistan's political police (KNB) who have persecuted religious believers in recent years. (Keston Institute, 8 December)
LAWMAKER CLAIMS 'MOROZ'S TAPE' AUTHENTIC.
Lawmaker Serhiy Holovatyy said on 11 December that he is convinced that the audiotape released by Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz allegedly showing President Leonid Kuchma's complicity in the disappearance of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze is authentic, Interfax reported. Holovatyy said he came to this conclusion after interviewing the Security Service officer who eavesdropped on Kuchma's office. Holovatyy, along with two other lawmakers, visited the officer in an unspecified Western European country and brought back to Kyiv a videotape of a 24-minute interview with the officer, which they say they will make public this week. The officer was identified as 34-year-old Mykola Melnychenko. Holovatyy and the two other deputies have lodged a complaint with the Supreme Court about the search to which they were subjected at Kyiv airport on returning from abroad with the videotape. Kuchma ordered the prosecutor-general to investigate the incident. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December)DEFECTOR SAYS HE EAVESDROPPED ON KUCHMA 'TO STOP REGIME'S CRIMINAL ACTIVITY.'
The Internet newsletter "Ukrayinska pravda" (http://www.pravda.com.ua/) has published a transcription of an interview with Security Service officer Mykola Melnychenko, who said he secretly taped conversations that Ukrainian President Kuchma had in his office (see above). Melnychenko told the three Ukrainian lawmakers who visited him abroad that he began eavesdropping on Kuchma after the latter had given a "criminal order" regarding journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. Melnychenko noted that his goal in taping Kuchma's conversations and passing the tape to Moroz was "to stop this regime's criminal activity." Melnychenko said that he taped Kuchma and his interlocutors on a digital dictaphone hidden under a sofa in the president's office. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December)PRESIDENT QUIZZED ABOUT JOURNALIST'S DISAPPEARANCE...
Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko said on 8 December that he has questioned Leonid Kuchma in connection with the slander case against Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz, Interfax reported. Potebenko added that investigators have also questioned Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko and presidential administration chief Volodymyr Lytvyn, whom Moroz accused, along with Kuchma, of being behind the disappearance of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze. "They all think that [Moroz's accusation] is slander [based on] a fabricated material," Potebenko noted. Potebenko said Moroz has already been interrogated twice, adding that the Socialist Party leader "diplomatically avoids [answering] some questions." ("RFE/RL Newsline," 11 December)OTHERS DEMAND RELEASE OF VIDEO ON ALLEGED KILLING OF OPPOSITION LEADER.
Lawmakers Hryhoriy Omelchenko and Anatoliy Yermak have requested that Yevhen Marchuk, secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, hand over to the parliament a "videotape containing information about the liquidation of Ukrainian People's Deputy Vyacheslav Chornovil by a special unit of the Interior Ministry," Interfax reported on 11 December. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 12 December)PEOPLE'S VOICES PROGRAM.
The World Bank's "Ukraine People's Voices Program" (http://www.icps.kiev.ua/pvp/index.html) is allowing the people of Ternopil and Ivano-Frankivsk to talk about their communities and what local governments are doing to "meet their needs." The program also supplies technical assistance to municipal agencies to help them be more responsive. In response to citizens' demands, "Service Centers," a one-stop shop where people can pay for all municipal services, has been created in Ternopil. In Ivano-Frankivsk, citizens identified education as an urgent problem, so NGOs, parents, and education officials are developing a proposal to improve the local education system. Citizen working groups focusing on different sectors, such as transport, housing, and business development, are designing strategies that the Bank will support through training, other technical assistance, and outreach activities. (Center for Civil Society International, 6 December)
FREE PRESS BATTERED IN POST-SOVIET CENTRAL ASIA.
Repression of the media seems to be the watchword for the governments of Central Asia, "The New York Times" reported on 7 December. The head of the OSCE office in Kyrgyzstan told the paper that "the media have been emasculated completely [in] most places," while a spokesman for the Media Development Loan Fund, an American foundation assisting independent news organizations, said that "There is no real independent media in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, once the bright spots, and it's worse in the other countries." An Uzbekistan foreign ministry official stated that it is "illegal" and "subversive" for media outlets to call for war, violence, or dissension and Uzbekistan's Committee for the Protection of State Secrets reviews most newspaper articles before publication. In Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, the "government effectively controls and monitors [Internet] traffic by requiring service providers to use a government server." ("The New York Times," 7 December)HUMBOLDT UNIVERSITY LAUNCHES CENTRAL ASIAN/CAUCASUS PROGRAM.
Humboldt University has started a 2-year postgraduate MA program on "Central Asia/Caucasia" for which up to 20 applicants will be accepted. The program starts in April 2001 with three semesters of academic training and a three-month internship in the region. Intensive training in selected local languages is included. Applicants need a B.A. or higher academic degree and a basic knowledge of German. Applications by students from the region are welcome. For more information, visit http://www2.hu-berlin.de/zentralasien/ (CentralAsia-List, 7 December)
NEW ICT DEVELOPMENT REPORT.
A recent annual survey by @Digital Planet 2000@ shows that there are now three distinct ICT development groups among East European countries. The Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia are in the first, most advanced group. The second-ranking ICT regional group comprises Bulgaria, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, and, to a lesser degree, Yugoslavia. Russia and Ukraine make up the third, least-developed group. At present, neither Albania nor Belarus fit into any of the three groups. Other experts say the focus should be on the growth of total spending over time. Of the top 10 fastest growing ICT markets -- set by compounded annual growth rate from 1992 to 1999 -- Eastern Europe is the highest represented region. The top 10 include countries such as Poland, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia. ("RFE/RL Weekday Magazine," 8 December)DISTANCE LEARNING ON HUMAN RIGHTS?
Human Rights Education Associates (HREA), an international non-profit organization promoting education and training in the human rights field (http://www.hrea.org), is initiating a number of distance learning courses via e-mail/Internet. These short courses are for managers and specialists in the human rights/international development/civil society fields. A questionnaire can be filled out at http://www.hrea.org/de-survey.html or contact Frank Elbers, firstname.lastname@example.org (Human Rights Education Associates, 5 December)IREX LAUNCHES NEW IATP WEB SITE.
IREX announces the launch of the Internet Access and Training Program's (IATP) new website, http://www.iatp.net. IATP provides free access to the Internet and free computer training to alumni of ECA-sponsored exchange programs and other target audiences. IATP also helps to develop indigenous language resources on the web. The new site gives background on IATP and detailed news on its current work in the New Independent States, a page on each of the 11 countries where IATP is active, and program news for each country. (Center for Civil Society International, 4 December)NEW WESTMINSTER FOUNDATION WEBSITE.
The British Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) has a new website at http://www.wfd.org. The WFD was established in 1992 to provide assistance in building and strengthening pluralist democratic institutions in Central and Eastern Europe, the CIS, and Anglophone Africa. The site is available in English, French, and Russian. (Center for Civil Society International, 4 December)NEW PUBLICATION ON THE EU AND MINORITIES.
"A Rough Orientation Through a Delicate Relationship: The European Union's Endeavours for (its) Minorities," is available at http://eiop.or.at/eiop/texte/2000-016.htm. This recent work focuses on EU legal provisions for ethnic minorities, particularly relevant in light of upcoming EU enlargement. Contact Giovanni.Poggeschi@eurac.edu or send comments to http://eiop.or.at/eiop/allg/current.htm (MINELRES, 6 December)INTRODUCTION TO THE BALKANS NON-PROFIT SECTOR.
This report is the first publication to bring together information about the non-profit sector in the Balkans, with a focus upon conflict resolution. The report has chapters on Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, and Serbia, plus chapters on regional trends. This report presents key facts on the non-profit sector, including: the political and socio-economic environment; the history and development of the non-profit sector; the main areas of non-profit activity; funding sources; relations with local and national government; the legal and fiscal environment; as well as the potential role of foreign donors and a list of contacts. See http://www.CAFonline.org/alliance or contact CAF International Publishing at: email@example.com or visit http://www.ngobooks.org (Center for Civil Society International, 6 December)