|Thursday, 23 May 2019|
RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 5, No. 75, 01-04-18
From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>
Vol. 5, No. 75, 18 April 2001
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
[C] END NOTE
[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
 ALLEGED ASSASSINATION RINGLEADER SAYS HE WAS TORTURED TO IMPLICATE ARMENIAN PRESIDENTNairi Hunanian, who is being tried as a ringleader of the 1999 Armenian parliament assassinations, told a Yerevan court that he was tortured by authorities while in custody in an effort to get him to implicate current Armenian President Robert Kocharian, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported on 17 April. PG
 U.S. TO AID SAFETY AT ARMENIAN NUCLEAR PLANTThe U.S. Department of Energy will provide the Armenian nuclear power plant with assistance worth $5 million to upgrade safety there, the Snark news agency reported on 17 April. That assistance package comes on top of the $18 million Washington has already supplied to date and the 11 million euros ($9.5 million) the European Union has announced it will provide later this year. PG
 MOSCOW NAMES NEW BORDER SERVICE HEAD IN ARMENIAThe Russian government has appointed Major General Vladimir Pankov, 49, to be the commander of the Russian Federal Border Service contingent in Armenia, the Snark news agency reported on 17 March. PG
 CONTAMINATED FOOD HURTING ARMENIAN GENE POOLArmen Sagatelyan, the director of the ecological research center of the Armenian Academy of Sciences, told the Snark news agency on 17 March that the high concentration of heavy metals, such as lead, in the vegetables sold in Armenian markets is inflicting serious damage to the country's genetic pool. PG
 AZERBAIJANI, RUSSIAN PRESIDENTS DISCUSS KEY WESTRussian President Vladimir Putin spoke on the telephone with his Azerbaijani counterpart Heidar Aliev on 17 April concerning the recent Armenian-Azerbaijani summit in Key West, Azerbaijani TV reported the same day. Meanwhile, Russia and Azerbaijan signed an interparliamentary cooperation agreement on 17 April, ITAR-TASS reported. PG
 AZERBAIJANI FORCES END EXERCISEBaku's ANS television reported on 16 April that the Azerbaijani military has successfully completed its week-long military exercise. On 17 April, Baku's "Sarq" newspaper suggested that Azerbaijani forces had retaken two positions from the Armenians. And in another indication of Baku's increasing attention to areas occupied by Armenia, Azerbaijani officials said on 17 April that they were setting up a new transmitter to improve reception of radio and television in the western portions of the country, the Trend news agency reported. PG
 GEORGIA'S ZHVANIA MEETS IRANIAN PRESIDENTZurab Zhvania, the chairman of the Georgian parliament, met with Iranian President Mohammed Khatami in Tehran on 17 April, Prime-News and IRNA reported. The two discussed expanding bilateral ties and promoting regional stability, the two agencies said. Zhvania then met with ethnic Georgians residing in Iran. PG
 'WASHINGTON POST' STORY SPARKS CONTROVERSY IN GEORGIABoth OSCE mission head Jean-Michel Lacombe and the Georgian parliament's economic policy chairman, Vano Merabishvili, on 17 April denied that they had been quoted accurately by "The Washington Post" of 14 April in regard to Georgia's economic difficulties, Caucasus Press reported. The two have come under fire from others who say that the two slandered Georgia and Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze in the article. PG
 GEORGIAN-ABKHAZ HOSTAGE CRISIS DEEPENSNeither Georgia nor the breakaway Abkhaz republic showed any signs on 17 April of backing down from their ongoing hostage crisis, Georgian agencies reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April). Residents of Abkhazia staged protest rallies while Georgian officials demanded the release of five of their citizens being held captive in Abkhazia, something Abkhaz officials said will not happen, Prime-News reported. PG
 CORRECTIONThe 17 April "RFE/RL Newsline" item titled "Georgia, China Sign New Agreements" should have read: "Beijing will allocate Georgia a 30 million yuan ($4 million) long-term credit and a 5 million yuan grant."
 KAZAKH PARLIAMENT PASSES STRICT MEDIA LAWThe Kazakhstan Senate on 17 April approved a draft media law that imposes strict limits on the retransmission of foreign programs in the republic and will also make Internet web pages subject to the same controls as print media, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported on 17 April. PG
 KAZAKH MOTHERS PICKET PARLIAMENTMore than 40 mothers picketed the Kazakhstan parliament building in Astana to demand that they be paid their share of the roughly $5 million the government owes mothers with a large number of children, Interfax- Kazakhstan reported on 17 April. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Qasymzhomart Tokaev said that his government plans to increase expenditures on social welfare programs, Interfax-Central Asia reported the same day. PG
 KYRGYZ OPPOSITION PAPER WARNEDA Bishkek court has directed the opposition newspaper "Asaba" to pay the $30,000 judgment that was made against it for slandering a parliamentary deputy, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 17 April. The paper has not paid the fine because it was not formally notified of the judgment until two days ago. It now plans to appeal. The paper has not appeared since 6 March because of a court judgment against it in another case. Meanwhile, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported, the editor of the "Kyrgyz Rukhu" independent weekly, Beken Nazaraliev, said that he was beaten the day before. PG
 TURKMEN PRESIDENT SPEAKS OUT AGAINST CORRUPTIONTurkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov denounced central and regional officials for graft and demanded that they clean up their acts within five days, Turkmen TV reported on 16 April. PG
 UZBEK DEPUTY REJECTS HUMAN RIGHTS CRITICISMAkmal Saidov, a parliamentary deputy and the president of the National center of Uzbekistan for Human Rights, on 17 April called "tendentious" most criticism of the human rights situation in his country, Interfax- Central Asia reported. He said that people "calling themselves human rights activists" had slandered Uzbekistan and its people. PG
[B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE
 BOSNIAN PEACEKEEPERS AGAIN RAID HERZEGOVINIAN BANKFor the second time in about two weeks, international officials and SFOR troops entered the offices of Hercegovacka Banka in Mostar at 2 a.m. local time on 18 April, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 April 2001). Reuters added that the officials ended their work by 6 a.m. and that the raid on the bank took place without protest or incident. An SFOR spokesman said: "SFOR supported the OHR [Office of the High Representative] operation last night to seize remaining documentation necessary for the continuation of an investigation into the Hercegovacka bank's operations," Reuters reported. The moves are aimed at breaking the financial backbone of the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), which is boycotting the institutions of the Bosnian federation and attempting to set up a para-state. PM
 PETRITSCH TO BOSNIAN SERBS: STOP COMPLAINING AND START ARRESTINGHigh Representative Wolfgang Petritsch told Republika Srpska President Mirko Sarovic in Sarajevo on 17 April that he and other Bosnian Serb officials should stop complaining about NATO's arrest of Serbian war criminals (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 2001). Petritsch's spokesman told reporters: "Instead of complaining about sealed indictments and unexpected arrests, Mr. Sarovic should use his influence to ensure that the Republika Srpska authorities arrest the 15 publicly indicted war criminals and transfer them to The Hague. Unfortunately, not a single indicted war criminal has so far been arrested by the Republika Srpska authorities," Reuters reported. Sarovic is a member of Radovan Karadzic's Serbian Democratic Party. As president of the Republika Srpska, he is legally bound to cooperate with The Hague, "Oslobodjenje" stressed. PM
 BOSNIAN DIPLOMATS SUMMONED HOMEForeign Minister Zlatko Lagumdzija has written all Bosnian embassies to inform diplomats posted abroad for more than four years that they must return home by 30 June, "Dnevni avaz" reported on 18 April. The new nonnationalist government is seeking to expose what it calls corruption by diplomats close to the nationalist parties (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April 2001). Lagumdzija stressed that the ministry's main task will be to promote Bosnian economic interests abroad. PM
 KOSOVA SERBS CONTINUE ANTITAX PROTESTLocal Serbs continued on 18 April to protest the UN civilian administration's (UNMIK) setting up of tax-collection points on the border with Serbia, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 2001). UNMIK authorities told Reuters that their move is aimed at taxing alcohol, cigarettes, fuel, and luxury goods that are not taxed in Serbia. "Politika" quoted local Serb leader Oliver Ivanovic as saying that he recently learned that Belgrade and UNMIK previously agreed on setting up the tax-collection stations. The Serbian government said in a statement carried by Tanjug that UNMIK had not consulted it about the move. The BBC's Serbian Service reported that former President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia, the United Yugoslav Left of his wife Mira Markovic, and local cigarette smugglers organized the protests. PM
 SERBIA TO TAX MILOSEVIC-ERA KINGPINSSerbian Deputy Prime Minister Vuk Obradovic, who is in charge of investigating corruption during the Milosevic-era, announced in Belgrade on 17 April that legislation is ready to tax those who profited during the former president's rule. The measures call for a one-time tax payment of up to 90 percent of the value of an individual's assets, with a 35 percent deduction for voluntary cooperation with the authorities. Obradovic said: "Targeted here are those who held special positions in the former regime and who gained enormous riches practically overnight thanks to those positions. I think this law will affect a relatively small number of people in this country, perhaps 1 or 2 percent, and 98 percent of Serbia's citizens will not be touched," Reuters reported. Obradovic stressed that "these people are not criminals, not bandits. These are people who have gained their riches by using chances and possibilities [that most] citizens of this country did not have." PM
 SERBIAN COURT UPHOLDS MILOSEVIC-ERA SENTENCES OF WESTERN LEADERSOn 17 April, a Belgrade court upheld 20-year prison sentences handed down by a Milosevic-era court against 14 Western leaders for their roles in NATO's intervention against Serbia in the 1999 Kosova crisis. Among the 14 are former U.S. President Bill Clinton, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, and French President Jacques Chirac, "Vesti" reported. PM
 PROMINENT SERBIAN PROFESSORS SHUN KOSTUNICA COMMISSIONHistorian Latinka Perovic and international law expert Vojin Dimitrijevic said they will not serve on Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica's truth and reconciliation commission because they do not believe it will be impartial, Beta reported from Belgrade on 17 April. Perovic added that the mandate of the commission is not sufficiently clear, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Dimitrijevic argued that the commission's powers are too limited and that there are no Montenegrins taking part in it. PM
 MONTENEGRIN ELECTION CAMPAIGN IN FULL SWINGIn the run-up to the 22 April Montenegrin parliamentary elections, Yugoslav Prime Minister Zoran Zizic, who belongs to the pro-Belgrade Socialist People's Party, is on a visit to Moscow believed to be aimed at influencing traditionally Russophile Montenegrin voters, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 17 April. For its part, the pro-independence Montenegrin government began issuing privatization vouchers to all citizens for the republic's 225 firms slated for privatization. And in Ulcinj, Mehmet Bardhi called on ethnic Albanians to vote for the Democratic League's candidates "in order to make the Albanian voice heard" in the Montenegrin parliament, "Vijesti" reported. Bardhi added that President Milo Djukanovic should remember that only the politicians in ethnically based Albanian parties represent the Albanian voters and not Albanian politicians in mainly Montenegrin parties. PM
 DJUKANOVIC: NO MONTENEGRINS INDICTED FOR DUBROVNIK CAMPAIGNPresident Djukanovic told private Elmag Television in Podgorica on 17 April that he knows whom The Hague has indicted in connection with the Yugoslav army's 1991 shelling of Dubrovnik, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Djukanovic added that he does not want to reveal who is on the list, but noted that it includes nobody from the current Montenegrin government or its predecessors. PM
 UN FORENSIC EXPERTS INVESTIGATE MASS GRAVE IN CROATIAA team of forensic experts from The Hague-based war crimes tribunal began investigating a grave in the Knin region of Croatia believed to contain the remains of at least 200 Serbs killed during the Croatian army's 1995 Storm offensive, "Novi List" reported on 18 April. Prime Minister Ivica Racan's office said in a recent statement that he approved the investigation "in the hope that the probes will shed light on events during and after the military campaign, and help to identify war crimes perpetrators," AP reported. The exhumations are opposed by some Croatian veterans' groups, which argue that the UN and the government are trying to blacken the image of Croatia's 1991-1995 war for independence in order to discredit supporters of the late President Franjo Tudjman. PM
 ROMANIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES ATTACK LAW ON BUDGETDeputies belonging to the opposition National Liberal Party (PNL) and Democratic Party (PD) attacked the recently adopted law on the country's 2001 budget at the Constitutional Court on 17 April. The 53 deputies argued that procedural rules were breached during debates on the draft law and that several of its provisions are unconstitutional; in particular, the provision allowing the government to modify the structure of the budget without parliament's consent. PD deputy Alexandru Sassu said the law on the budget was approved almost entirely according to the government's proposal, which marks the first step to a "governmental dictatorship." The court will rule on the request in its 25 April meeting. ZsM
 GERMAN CHANCELLOR TO VISIT FATHER'S GRAVE IN ROMANIA?German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder might visit his father's grave, which is located in a village near the Transylvanian city of Cluj, Romanian media reported on 18 April. Schroeder's father was killed during World War II and was buried together with eight other German soldiers. The grave was found by German agencies at the request of Schroeder's sister, Gunhild Kamp Schroeder. As there have been no tests conducted on the body, it is not yet certain that the body is actually that of the chancellor's father. The chancellor stressed that his eventual visit will be a private one. ZsM
 MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT ENDS MOSCOW VISITDuring his two-day visit to Moscow, Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin signed a common declaration calling for a quick and peaceful solution to the conflict in the Moldovan breakaway region of Transdniester, Flux reported on 17 April. The two would like to end the conflict by preserving Moldova's territorial integrity and respecting human rights. Voronin added that the Russian troops stationed in the region should only withdraw after the withdrawal of Russian arms located there. The Moldovan leader announced that Moldova is a "neutral state" and thus it will not join "NATO or any other military organizations." Voronin also met Russian Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev and Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, who is to participate in the 22 April Congress of the Party of Moldovan Communists. Yevgenii Primakov, chairman of the Russian State Commission for the Transdniester conflict, was expected to arrive in Chisinau on 18 April. ZsM
 MEMBERS OF ILASCU GROUP REFUSE TO WRITE PARDON REQUESTSThe members of the Ilascu group being detained in the breakaway Transdniester region are refusing to address pardon requests to Tiraspol leader Igor Smirnov, Flux reported. After Moldovan President Voronin asked Smirnov to release the four detainees, Smirnov said he can only pardon them at their own requests. Ilie Ilascu, a Moldovan citizen and parliamentary deputy who was elected to the Romanian Senate last year, and the three other detainees refused, however, to write pardon requests, saying they do not admit to their guilt and do not recognize the Tiraspol authorities. In related news, the Romanian Senate, the upper chamber of parliament, launched an appeal on 17 April "to all the world's parliaments" for solidarity, asking for help in freeing the Ilascu group. ZsM
 BULGARIAN-BORN BUSINESSMAN TO RUN KING SIMEON'S CAMPAIGNKing Simeon II announced on 17 April in Sofia that Nikolai Marinov will be the campaign manager in the parliamentary elections for The Movement for King Simeon II, "Monitor" reported, citing "24 Chasa." Marinov, owner of a New York-based real estate agency, said the movement "is a wave that needs to be channeled." He said the king's campaign will be unusual: "We will channel the people's unprecedented enthusiasm as something new." Marinov was introduced as the movement opened its election headquarters in downtown Sofia. He said the campaign will open offices in Svishtov and in Veliko Turnovo in the next week. Marinov said he has no desire to be "prime minister, [a] member of parliament, or even to become a professional politician." PB
 POLL SHOWS KING'S PARTY AS THIRD MOST POPULARA poll released on 17 April showed that the ruling United Democratic Forces (UDF) coalition is the favored party among prospective voters, BTA reported. Some 23 percent of respondents in the Gallup International poll said they would vote for the UDF if elections were held today. The opposition Socialists garners 19.7 percent, and King Simeon II's movement has 12.6 percent support. The poll also showed that the approval rating of Prime Minister Ivan Kostov's government has gone up 3 percent as compared to one year ago, and now stands at 60 percent. PB
 NETHERLANDS GRANTS SOFIA MONEY FOR REFORMSDutch Premier Wim Kok said on 17 April that the Netherlands will give Bulgaria $8 million in grants to help it with economic, judicial, and social reforms, AFP reported. Kok said after talks with Bulgarian Premier Kostov that the aid will go toward the development of industry and trade, and expertise in improving border control and the combating of drug and illegal immigrant trafficking. Kok added that Sofia is "moving forward and is on the right track" toward gaining EU membership. The Bulgarian government has said it hopes to join the union by 2006. PB
[C] END NOTE
 DOING WITHOUT A FREE MEDIABy Paul Goble
Thomas Jefferson, the author of the American Declaration of Independence, observed two centuries ago that a free press would lead to a free parliament but that a free parliament might not lead to a free press.
Jefferson's point springs to mind as the world watches the Russian government and groups allied with it move against independent media outlets, such as NTV. Indeed, several Moscow observers pointed out this week that Russia now has only one independent domestic media outlet -- the Ekho Moskvy radio station -- capable of reaching the entire country.
Not surprisingly, many Russians and even more Western observers have begun to ask whether Russia can become a democracy if its government cannot tolerate the existence of an independent press. They are also questioning whether the suppression of a free press will in fact lead directly and immediately to the suppression of all other freedoms.
For supporters of democracy, it is an article of faith that without a completely free press, no country can have a genuinely free democracy and even further, no country that strives to become a democracy can do so without that kind of media. There are three obvious reasons for such a belief.
First, in the absence of a vigorous and free press, governments and others with power can do things out of the sight of the people. And they can even structure the opinions of the population about what they are doing through the management of the press. Thus, in Russia today, polls show that most people accept the government's line that the transfer of control over NTV was a question of business and debt rather than one of freedom and democracy.
Second, without such media outlets, political competition is reduced to little more than shadowboxing, with the government rather than the population deciding the issues and the candidates and then presenting the results as being "democratic" when in fact they are simply managed in ways intended to appear that way.
And third, without such a press, the population itself is disempowered, demobilized, and increasingly alienated. Citizens are reduced to consumers of goods and entertainment rather than elevated to the status of people who can make choices for themselves and their society.
Despite the obvious benefits a free press offers society as a whole and to the democratic prospect, both rulers and ruled in many countries have often decided that they can dispense with a free press and still maintain a free society. Leaders who resent any criticism have sought to rein in the media. Moreover, people without much experience with democracy may resent the press for what they see as its overly critical attitude about their own government and society.
And because of this, rulers sometimes can count on popular support for or at least popular indifference to their moves against the press. They can act knowing that some members of the elite will object but that such people will be few in number and easily overridden. Indeed, once the rulers control some of the media, they can portray these elite spokesmen as little more than the handmaidens of the enemies of the country.
Thus, in the short term, rulers may actually gain popular support by acting to do without a free press. They may be able to manipulate many of their citizens through the media they control. And they may conclude that they can dispense with a free press.
But both they and especially their own populations will discover what others already have: doing without a free press ultimately will force the rulers and ruled into a blind alley from which the rulers will try to escape by using force and the ruled by withdrawing from society and developing alternative means of communication.
That is what happened in communist and other authoritarian regimes in the past. But that lesson, articulated so well by Jefferson two centuries ago, is one that many people think they can ignore, but which they and their fellow citizens can ignore only at their peril.
Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty