With the kind permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, InfoUkes Inc. has been given rights to electronically re-print these articles on our web site. Visit the RFE/RL Ukrainian Service page for more information. Also visit the RFE/RL home page for news stories on other Eastern European and FSU countries.
Return to Main RFE News Page
InfoUkes Home Page
IFJ: POST-11 SEPTEMBER FREE-EXPRESSION FEARS CONFIRMED. Fears that the 11 September attacks on the United States and the subsequent "war on terrorism" would create a crisis for journalism and civil liberties have been confirmed, concludes a new report by the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). In October, an IFJ report based on a survey of its member organizations revealed fears of such an encroachment. Some eight months later, these fears have been confirmed, IFJ says in its report update. The "war on terrorism" has "created a dangerous situation in which journalists have become victims as well as key actors in reporting events," states IFJ. "Inevitably, it has created a pervasive atmosphere of paranoia in which the spirit of press freedom and pluralism is fragile and vulnerable." In addition to the deaths of nine journalists in Afghanistan, the report documents a range of negative effects on media around the world. In Ukraine, parliament has adopted an antiterrorism law with provisions that "amount to a severe restriction on freedom of expression." In May, the European Parliament agreed to allow European Union member states to pass laws giving authorities regular access to people's telephone and Internet communications, a change which IFJ says would have been "unthinkable" before 11 September. (Report available at http://www.ifj.org/ifjfrontpage.html)
MOSCOW CONCERNED ABOUT LANGUAGE RESTRICTIONS IN UKRAINIAN MEDIA. The Russian Foreign Ministry expressed concern on 9 July over a decision by Ukraine's National Council for Television and Radio Broadcasting to require that within the next year all domestically produced television and radio programs be in Ukrainian. Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko said at a briefing, "Basically this step limits the right of the millions of ethnic Russians who live in Ukraine and the many Ukrainians for whom Russian is their native language to receive information in their primary language," Interfax reported. Yakovenko added that such a measure contradicts the spirit of Russian-Ukrainian cooperation, as well as international standards for defending the rights of ethnic minorities, gazeta.ru reported. Yakovenko also expressed the hope that Ukrainian officials will take Russia's concerns over the issue into consideration. ("RFE/RL Newsline," 10 July)
A journalists' watchdog group says in a new report that 21 countries in the world lead all others as places where criminals and government agents can, with impunity, threaten, abduct, kill, or torture journalists. The Damocles Network said that these 21 places include Russia, Iraq, Iran, the UN-supervised Serbian province of Kosovo, Tajikistan, and Ukraine.
The Damocles Network is a new offshoot of the Paris-based Reporters without Borders. Spokesman Jean-Christophe Menet described the network as the press watchdog group's judicial extension. "It's our judicial arm, I would say.... We used to protest against countries that did not protect freedom of the press. But we decided that there has to be some judicial actions when journalists are murdered, and when the cases are not investigated seriously," Menet said. Menet said the Damocles Network is ambitious in scope. "The network it refers to is a network of lawyers, of magistrates, of investigators, of contacts in many countries that Damocles is going to use to [try to] ensure that the investigations are carried out successfully," Menet said.
In announcing its "Impunity Blacklist," Reporters without Borders and its Damocles Network say that five journalists were murdered in Russia in 2001 and that a sixth, Vladimir Kirsanov of the independent "Kurganskie vesti," disappeared. The organizations say their own investigation into the Kirsanov case demonstrated, among other shortcomings, that Russian authorities failed to devote sufficient resources to solving the crime. RFE/RL correspondents sought without success today to elicit comment from Russian authorities.
The impunity blacklist also cites the Heorhiy Gongadze case in Ukraine, in which the editor in chief of an investigative online website disappeared. His decapitated body was discovered in November 2000. Reporters without Borders says the Prosecutor-General's Office and the Ukrainian Interior Ministry have "blocked any serious investigation."
In Kosovo, the blacklist report says that the international peacekeeping force administering the province has yet to "adopt the basic measures that will bring an end to the impunity still enjoyed by enemies of freedom of the press." Susan Manuel, chief spokesperson for UNMIK -- the United Nations Mission in Kosovo -- does not entirely disagree. "First of all, the problem that they [Reporters without Borders and Damocles] point out about witness intimidation applies to every violent-crime case here and not specifically to journalists," Manuel said.
Manuel said that UNMIK has conferred with journalists and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) about how to better protect journalists, and is slowly bringing about improvements in the Kosovar judicial system. "But it's not a great place for journalism. Threats do inhibit the performance, particularly of Kosovo-Albanian journalists here. I don't know what kind of law could reverse that because this is a problem across the board of the society. Witnesses are threatened. Judges are threatened. This is not a specific problem for journalists, although I agree that journalists cannot do certain kinds of reporting. They cannot name certain people. They are afraid. They have received threats," Manuel said.
Menet of Reporters without Borders said, "That's right, but, you know, in a country like this, where violence is such a commonplace [occurrence] between the communities, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, is a condition for the future of democracy."
Including Tajikistan on its impunity blacklist, Reporters without Borders asks, "Whatever has become of the investigations into the murder of the 32 journalists killed since 1992, including 18 who, without a doubt, were murdered because of their political opinions or of their work?" Okil Sultonkulov, spokesman for the Tajik Prosecutor's Office, reached in Dushanbe, told RFE/RL that investigators have open files on 40 to 50 murders, most committed during Tajikistan's 1992-97 civil war. Earlier this week, Mamad Mirzoev, head of the Tajik Interior Ministry's organized-crime department, told RFE/RL's Dushanbe bureau that Tajik President Imomali Rakhmomov has ordered that efforts be redoubled to solve the open murder cases of prominent people. "In any case, we must find who killed these people, why, and who ordered the murders, and we must find clear evidence and the perpetrators should be punished," Mirzoev said.
Despite its conclusions about Kosovo, the impunity report says the situation in Serbia proper has markedly improved since the government began cooperating with the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. It lists Serbia along with eight other countries, including Georgia and Turkey, where it believes "impunity is a way of life" but which are showing signs that deliberate steps are being taken to improve press freedoms. "One encouraging sign is that a Belgrade court found the former general director of Radio-Television Serbia, Dragoljub Milanovic, guilty of the deaths of 16 station employees, who were killed when one of the office buildings was bombed by NATO on 23 April 1999," the report read. Milanovic was sentenced to a 10-year prison term for having failed to inform his employees of imminent strikes on the building by the NATO alliance during the Kosovo conflict.
It also lists Afghanistan as a country that has "decided to confront the problem head-on and find a solution." It notes that President Hamid Karzai's government approved last month the creation of a Human Rights Commission whose principal mission is to look into past violations. "This step," the report concludes, "induces us to hope that those who murdered 10 journalists between 1992 and 2002 will not go unpunished." (Reporters without Borders can be found on the Internet at http://www.rsf.org; the Damocles Network at http://www.damocles.org.)
...AND COMMENTS ON RELATIONS WITH CLOSEST NEIGHBORS. Speaking to journalists after his meeting with the ambassadors, Putin said that his goal is to extend the foreign-policy objectives outlined in his April State of the Nation address. In particular, Putin said Russia will respect the territorial integrity of Georgia, but will continue to insist on joint operations against "terrorists" in the Pankisi Gorge. He also praised cooperation with Ukraine in the energy sphere and especially the trilateral energy accord he signed with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma on 10 June (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 June 2002). That agreement gives Russia practical control over Ukrainian pipelines, strana.ru commented. Putin also had positive words for Lithuania, saying that country's government understands Russia's concerns about Kaliningrad. However, he repeated Russia's position that Russians should have visa-free transit rights through Lithuania after that country joins the European Union. VY
NEW UN ENVOY FOR ABKHAZIA MEETS WITH GEORGIAN, ABKHAZ LEADERS. Heidi Tagliavini, who is UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's special envoy for the Abkhaz conflict, traveled to Sukhum on 11 July for talks with First Deputy President Valerii Arshba, Caucasus Press reported. Tagliavini urged the Abkhaz leadership to accept the proposed document "Basic Principles on the Division of Competencies between Tbilisi and Sukhumi" drafted by her predecessor Dieter Boden, stressing that the UN is interested in "a peaceful and just settlement" of the conflict. But Arshba refused to accept the document, reiterating that the Abkhaz population voted in an October 1999 referendum to endorse the constitution adopted in November 1994 that defines Abkhazia as an independent sovereign state. On 10 July, Tagliavini met in Tbilisi with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, who called for more intensive efforts to resolve the Abkhaz conflict by the states that belong to the so-called "Friends of the UN Secretary-General" group (Britain, France, Germany, the United States, and Russia), Caucasus Press reported. Shevardnadze said he would welcome Ukraine's accession to that group. Abkhazia, however, opposes it. LF
UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT FORMS ARMS-SALES COMMISSION. The Ukrainian parliament formed an ad hoc commission on 11 July to investigate charges that Ukraine sold arms to countries that were subject to United Nations arms embargoes, the RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reported on 11 July. The ad hoc commission will be headed by Serhiy Sinchenko, a member of parliament from the Communist Party of Ukraine. In an interview with RFE/RL, Sinchenko said a similar commission existed in the previous parliament, but its jurisdiction was limited to 1991-98. Over that period, parliament recommended that the Prosecutor-General's Office initiate 10 criminal prosecutions for illegal arms sales, but the work of the commission was abruptly terminated and the cases were never brought to trial. Ukrainian officials, in response to an 8 July article in the "Financial Times" that dealt with Ukrainian-Iraqi relations, have claimed that Ukraine has never sold arms illegally. RK