|Wednesday, 21 February 2024
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 1, No. 138, 97-10-14
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 1, No. 138, 14 October 1997
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 NEW GOVERNMENT FORMED IN KAZAKHSTANFirst Deputy Prime Minister Akhmetzhan Yesimov, Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Pavlov, Foreign Minister Kasymjomart Tokaev, and Interior Minister Kairbek Suleimanov retain their posts in the new Kazakh government, Russian agencies reported on 13 October. President Nursultan Nazarbaev has appointed a new minister of justice and upgraded the national press and media agency to the status of ministry. Despite having told the parliament in his10 October address that the new government would have no more than15 ministers, Nazarbaev apparently did not abolish any ministries. Meanwhile, many of the protest marchers halted by police near the southern city of Turkestan have begun a hunger-strike (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 October 1997), ITAR-TASS reported on 13 October.
 IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN ASHGABATDuring his one-day visit to Turkmenistan on 13 October, Kamal Kharrazi met with President Saparmurad Niyazov to discuss cooperation in the oil and gas sector, Russian agencies reported. The talks focused on the export of Turkmenistan's oil and gas via Iran. Turkmen Oil and Gas Minister Batyr Sardzhaev told Interfax that when construction of the Korpedzhe-Kurd-Kui pipeline is completed in December, Turkmenistan will begin exporting to Iran 3 billion cubic meters of gas each year. Niyazov and Kharrazi also discussed the possibility of constructing a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Turkey via Iran and an oil pipeline from Turkmenistan through Iran to the Persian Gulf. Niyazov proposed creating a joint commission for exploiting Caspian mineral resources.
 KYRGYZ PREMIER SAYS RUSSIAN TV BROADCASTS TO CONTINUEApas Djumagulov on 13 October confirmed he will not allow the rebroadcasting of Russian Public Television (ORT), Russian Television (RTR), and Radio Mayak programs to be halted, ITAR-TASS reported. Kyrgyz TV and radio relay stations had decided to stop retransmission until the three broadcasters pay their outstanding debts to the Kyrgyz Ministry of Communications. Oruzbek Kaiykov, the head of the Kyrgyzstan Information Agency, told journalists in Bishkek on 13 October that ORT owes some 3 billion Russian rubles ($600,000) RTR 837.5 million rubles, and Radio Mayak 869 million rubles, according to an RFE/RL correspondent in the Kyrgyz capital. Kaiykov said Djumagulov asked the parliament to include in the 1998 draft budget some 6 million soms ($350,000) toward the cost of rebroadcasting Russian television and radio programs in Kyrgyzstan.
 ARMENIAN PRESIDENT RATIFIES HAIRUSGASARD AGREEMENTLevon Ter-Petrossyan has ratified the 30 August agreement creating the Hairusgasard joint venture, Interfax reported on 13 October . The agreement, concluded by the Armenian government, Russia's Gazprom, and the ITERA international gas transportation company, covers the construction of a pipeline network and the use of that network to export Russian gas via Armenia to Turkey and from there to other countries (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 September 1997). The Armenian government ratified the agreement on 23 September.
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 SOLANA ADDRESSES NORTH ATLANTIC ASSEMBLYAddressing the closing session of the North Atlantic Assembly in Bucharest on 13 October, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said the costs of expanding the alliance are minor compared with the advantages of admitting new members. Solana called for a continued NATO presence in Bosnia, saying it would be a "political, military, and moral mistake" for SFOR to withdraw from the region (the peacekeepers' mandate runs out in June 1998). Earlier, the assembly adopted a resolution calling for expansion to continue so as to include Romania, Slovenia, the Baltic States, "and other southeast European countries." RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. that the reference to "other southeast European countries" was added at the insistence of the German delegation.
 BOSNIAN SERBS AGREE ON PARLIAMENTARY VOTERepublika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic and Momcilo Krajisnik, the Serbian member of the Bosnian joint presidency, agreed in Belgrade on 13 October in talks with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to hold parliamentary elections on 23 November. Plavsic and Krajisnik had decided in Belgrade in September on a 15 November vote, but the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe asked for a later date so that it would have enough time to organize the elections. Krajisnik and the other hard- liners opposed the delay. In the summer, Plavsic dissolved the current parliament, which is dominated by her hard-line rivals. Krajisnik said in Belgrade on 13 October that elections for his job and for that of Plavsic will take place on 7 December, as he and Plavsic agreed in September. It is unclear, however, whether the presidential elections were included in the 13 October agreement.
 NATO TO KEEP CONTROL OF BOSNIAN SERB TRANSMITTERSA spokesman for Carlos Westendorp, the international community's chief representative in Bosnia, said in Sarajevo on 13 October that SFOR peacekeepers will not return four television relay stations to Krajisnik's hard-line Pale Television. Westendorp noted that the Serbs have refused NATO's demand that Pale sack the current television management before the transmitters are returned (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 October 1997).
 KEY BOSNIAN TOWN TO HAVE MULTI-ETHNIC POLICERobert Farrand, the international community's chief administrator of the strategic town of Brcko, ordered on 13 October that Muslims and Croats be included in the Serb-run police force. He said that international experts will soon arrive to train the force, which will be headed by a Serb with Muslim and Croatian deputies. Local Serbian officials, however, called Farrand's order "drastic" and difficult to implement. In the 13-14 September local elections, Serbian nationalists won the single largest bloc of votes in the new town council, but no ethnic faction secured a majority. Serbs were in a minority in pre-war Brcko but have held the town since the start of the war in 1992.
 REWARD POSTED FOR INFORMATION ON BOSNIAN TERRORISTSThe Sarajevo local authorities on 13 October announced a $30,000 reward for information leading to the uncovering of a presumed Muslim terrorist group that has recently attacked Roman Catholic institutions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 October 1997). The federal government ordered the city authorities to install police video cameras in some parts of downtown Sarajevo in the wake of the incidents. Meanwhile in Tripoli, Libya formally protested Bosnia's recent decision to recognize Israel. And in Dhaka, Bangladeshi President Shahabuddin Ahmed told visiting Bosnian Gen. Rasim Delic that Bangladesh will help rebuild Bosnia's economy and defense forces. Some 20 Bosnian officer cadets are currently training in Bangladesh.
 CROATIAN ARCHBISHOP DISTANCES CHURCH FROM STATEJosip Bozanic, Zagreb's new archbishop, said on 13 October that "the [Roman Catholic] Church does not wish to be close either to the government or to the governing party," the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Zagreb. Bozanic's statement suggests that the Church intends to continue the policy of former Cardinal Franjo Kuharic, who resisted the government's and the HDZ's attempts to co-opt the Church as a political ally. Kuharic strongly defended Church interests in such matters as control over religious instruction in the schools and in the military. But he also tended to steer clear of overtly political issues, except when he repeatedly criticized the war with the Muslims in 1993.
 ALBANIA'S LAST COMMUNIST PRIME MINISTER DIESAdil Carcani has died of heart disease in Tirana, state media reported on 14 October. Carcani was a protege of dictator Enver Hoxha and prime minister from 1982 until February 1991, when student-led protests ended communist rule. The postcommunist government imprisoned Carcani and some other former leaders for abuse of power, but Carcani was later freed because of poor health. During the anarchy earlier this year, Ramiz Alia, Hoxha's successor, fled Albania to join his son in France.
 ROMANIAN PREMIER ADDRESSES NORTH ATLANTIC ASSEMBLY...Victor Ciorbea told the North Atlantic Assembly on 13 October that his cabinet's aim is not to gain access to NATO but to turn Romania into a country that the Western alliance and the EU would like to have as one of their members. Ciorbea reviewed the economic and legislative reforms undertaken so far by the government as well as the administrative measures implemented to improve inter-ethnic relations. He said economic legislation aimed at attracting foreign investments and a revised penal code that meets international standards will be submitted to the parliament in the near future.
 ...MEETS HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS' DEMANDSFollowing his meeting with representatives of high school students on 13 October, Ciorbea announced that matriculation examinations in 1997 will be conducted, as previously, in four compulsory subjects and an additional optional one. Under a new curriculum, students would have taken examinations in seven subjects (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 October 1997). It was also agreed to set up a council composed of representatives of high school students and of the Education Ministry at county and central levels, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported.
 MOLDOVAN OFFICIALS DENY 'FEDERALIZATION' REPORTSPresidential counselor Anatol Taranu on 13 October denied media reports that Moldova's de facto federalization is provided for by the document on which experts from the two sides of the Transdniestrian conflict agreed in Moscow recently. Taranu said the document makes no mention of a Transdniestrian separate parliament, government, anthem, or state symbols. He said the document reflects the principle of "Transdniester [as] an integral part of the Moldovan republic," RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. He refused to reveal the contents of the agreement, saying that the two sides reached an understanding whereby details will be made public only after Moldovan and Transdniestrian leaders have approved the document. Constantin Lazar, a member of the Moldovan delegation to the 5-9 October negotiations in the Russian capital, said the agreement ensures Chisinau will have "sole competence [over] Moldovan citizenship, foreign policy, customs, and frontiers."
 BULGARIAN, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTERS AGREE ON MEETINGNadezhda Mihailova and her Russian counterpart, Yevgenii Primakov, have agreed to meet in Moscow on 1 December for what the Russian Foreign Ministry described as a "working meeting." Bilateral relations have been particularly strained recently over accusations in the Bulgarian media that Russia is trying to impose unfair conditions for its natural gas deliveries and that the Russian ambassador to Sofia is trying to undermine Bulgaria's efforts to integrate into Euro-Atlantic structures. ITAR-TASS on 13 October said Mihailova's visit will be in preparation for a summit of the two countries' presidents later in December.
[C] END NOTE
 SERBIAN ELECTION COVERAGE REVEALS INTOLERANCE ALSO AMONG OPPOSITIONYasha Lange
Serbian State Television's (RTS) coverage of the recent parliamentary and presidential election campaign was fundamentally flawed. The evening news featured endless rallies of the ruling party's candidate. Each day, several red ribbons were shown being cut (at the opening of highways, hospitals, construction sites, and so forth). Favorable economic figures were quoted by government ministers. And opposition candidates were heard criticizing one another but not the candidate from the ruling party. All in all, nothing very surprising.
What is more surprising, however, is that the attitude of some opposition members toward the media reveals similar intolerance. Despite the existence of various political parties, and despite diversity in the press, there is a marked lack of national debate in Serbia. Four problems contribute to this state of affairs.
First, RTS is the only nationwide television station in the country, and an estimated one-third of the population has no access to other electronic media. The failure by RTS to provide balanced coverage of the recent election campaign means that millions of Serbs may have gained a seriously distorted picture of the country's political landscape.
Second, Serbian viewers are strongly influenced by RTS newscasts--the "official version" of reality--in their perceptions of domestic politics, even when other sources of information are available to them. RTS conveys a message of completeness: it makes the viewer believe that he does not have to watch other newscasts Many ordinary Serbs remain reluctant to question that message, perhaps because during 40 years of communism, the gap between what people saw on television newscasts and their own experience of reality could easily be bridged. Unlike in some Soviet bloc countries, people did not automatically distrust what they saw on the evening news programs.
Third, the Serbian government is not alone in its desire to control the media. Some members of the opposition seem similarly reluctant to accept that television news can operate without the interference of political parties. The 30 September dismissal of the director and editor-in-chief of Studio B--the TV station controlled by the Belgrade municipal authorities-- is just one case in point. Lila Radonjic, the editor-in-chief of Studio B says that during the last six months of her tenure, the television station received "as many as 10 calls a day" from Vuk Draskovic, his wife Danica, and senior officials from his Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO). Milan Bozic, the vice president of the SPO, is reported to have said, "We're not going to pay for a television station that does not work for us." The eventual outcome was the dismissal of the two Studio B officials.
And in Nis, the second largest city in Serbia, the SPO-controlled municipal television station did not allow the local mayor to express his point of view in his ongoing dispute with Draskovic. Such an attitude on the part of the SPO mirrors the atmosphere of intolerance that the RTS helped create.
Fourth, the criteria for licenses and frequencies continue to obstruct the development of private electronic media. There are some 70 local television stations in Serbia. Most are controlled by the local authorities, and no fewer than 58 operate without a license. Moreover, there are only three private television stations with a license. Since 1994, when the last licenses were distributed, discrepancies between laws on the federal and republican levels and the insurmountable difficulties in registering have prevented private broadcasters from acquiring a legal status. The non- distribution of frequencies and/or licenses and the fact that transmitters remain in the control of the state have been instrumental in preventing independent broadcasters from reaching their potential audiences.
The Serbian government's influence over the state-owned media is by no means unique in the region. Less common are the legal barriers for private electronic broadcasters, although some countries, such as Bulgaria and Croatia, likewise lack a regulatory framework. In Serbia, it is particularly regrettable that some opposition forces also want to impose control over the electronic media.
The author is project manager for the East-West Cooperation Program of the European Institute for the Media, Dusseldorf, Germany.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty