The Best of RFE/RL Broadcast Service Reporting
Week of October 9-15, 2004
RADIO FREE AFGHANISTAN IN FRONT IN REPORTING ON
AFGHANISTAN'S FIRST DIRECT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
October 9 was a memorable day for the people of Afghanistan, who cast their votes for president in the first free elections that country has seen in four decades. The day was also memorable for what did not happen -- the Taliban and al-Qaida did not launch attacks that many feared would disrupt the elections.
Although the expected violence did not materialize, there were other voting irregularities that Radio Free Afghanistan, RFE/RL's Dari and Pashto broadcast service, reported on first. The first report of the problems with the supposedly indelible ink used to mark voters' fingers to ensure against the possibility of someone voting more than once was received (and then broadcast) by the service only 22 minutes after the polls opened. Sadia, a woman who was the first to complain about the problem, told Radio Free Afghanistan: "Another concern of ours is that they colored our fingers with ink, but the coloring of the ink was very poor (light) so the ink can be removed very quickly from fingers. We know that everyone has two or three ballots and we urge UNAMA's (United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan) office to make coloring stronger. This is our concern."
The service aired live reports throughout election day, featuring live interviews with governors, security officers and election officials at polling sites located across the country. The reports also included interviews with Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan and their views on the election, as well as interviews with prominent Afghan and foreign analysts such as Olivier Roy.
Radio Free Afghanistan coverage of the presidential election may be heard in Pashto at http://rfe.azadiradio.org/reports/domestic/pa/2004/10/D8573E8D-EB07-40FD-B5F0-67BB159CAAFB_784675.RAM and http://rfe.azadiradio.org/reports/domestic/pa/2004/10/394A80FB-5843-4CD7-A8B4-705635752A4B_784677.RAM, and in Dari http://rfe.azadiradio.org/reports/domestic/da/2004/10/C6E2C8B2-2C71-4790-9C3E-FCE800847F95_777862.RAM and http://rfe.azadiradio.org/reports/domestic/da/2004/10/AD46E7B4-90E7-4A5F-B7DA-0786692948FD_776756.RAM.
Comprehensive RFE/RL election coverage in English may be found at our special "Afghanistan Votes 2004-05" webpage, http://www.azadiradio.org/en/specials/elections/.
** The Acting Director of Radio Free Afghanistan, Alexander Lukashuk, may be reached by email at <email@example.com>.
RFE/RL ASKS WHY THE AFGHAN ELECTIONS WERE SO PEACEFUL.
RFE/RL News and Current Affairs correspondent Ron Synovitz, reports from Kabul that multinational cooperation helped ensure a peaceful election on October 9 in Afghanistan. Synovitz, in his article "Afghanistan: U.S., Afghan Officials Say Security Efforts Ensured Smooth Elections" (http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2004/10/2009b822-2110-4490-8941-2fadcde39606.html), writes that a number of minor attacks did occur -- but tight security across the country averted major attacks in the country's southern Kandahar and Oruzgun provinces.
In an interview with RFE/RL, Major Scott Nelson, a spokesman for U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan, credited preemptive raids and increased pressure on militants for keeping the election process peaceful. Maj. Nelson said that this was a multinational effort involving Spanish and Italian troops as well as the US Army's 82nd Airborne Division to ensure security in the south and southeast.
U.S. Army Colonel Sam Johnson, the director of strategic communications for the coalition in Afghanistan, praised the work of both the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police in comments to RFE/RL. Col. Johnson also thanked local residents for their support, saying that "We were just absolutely amazed at how many local citizens came to us with issues -- 'We know where some 107 millimeter rockets are. We know where some IEDs (improvised explosive devices) are. We know where some landmines are.'"
Col. Johnson added that the lack of violent protests, as well as the absence of major fighting among regional warlords, shows that Afghans are excited about the democratic process and are accept it as the way to choose their future leaders.
** The Director of RFE/RL's News and Current Affairs Service, Kestutis Girnius, may be reached by email at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
CANDIDATE SAYS ABKHAZIA BEING DRIVEN TO "CIVIL WAR"
IN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH RFE/RL
In the last 10 days, Sergei Bagapsh -- a former separatist prime minister who now heads Abkhazia's Chernomorenergo electric monopoly -- has emerged as the strongest challenger to the current leadership in Georgia's breakaway republic of Abkhazia. The Abkhaz Central Electoral Commission pronounced him the winner of the 3 October elections, with more than 50 percent of the votes. But outgoing President Vladislav Ardzinba said the ruling was made only as a result of pressure from Bagapsh's campaign staff and called the decision "absurd" and "illegal."
In an exclusive interview with RFE/RL correspondent Jean-Christophe Peuch ("Georgia: Candidate Says Abkhazia Being Driven To 'Civil War'," http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2004/10/2e415148-7374-4e0f-b38b-d9aefc66c956.html), Bagapsh -- often considered to be a moderate nationalist -- said that he would be a strong defender of Abkhazia's independence. He told RFE/RL that he would be willing to start a dialogue with the Georgian government: "If Georgia wishes to talk to us like partners who enjoy similar rights and sovereign status, then we will be ready to start dialogue." Bagapsh also said he would seek even stronger ties with Russia, the country that "has been on our side when we went through the darkest moments of our history and when we recovered our sovereignty."
Russia has backed efforts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia to win de facto independence from Georgia and maintains strong political and economic ties with both regions. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has vowed to restore his country's territorial integrity but only through peaceful means.
** The Director of RFE/RL's News and Current Affairs Service, Kestutis Girnius, may be reached by email at <email@example.com>.
RFE/RL LINKS TAJIKS WITH THE GLOBAL COMMUNITY
RFE/RL's Tajik Service is seeking to connect its audience with the broader world by launching a new regular weekly program titled "Hamnafas" (Global Link). The first, 30-minute long program moderated from RFE/RL's studios in Prague was aired on October 5.
According to the service director Massoumeh Torfeh, the program is called "Hamnafas" -- literally meaning one-breath -- because it is about finding the ties that bind Tajiks and global issues. The program chooses two topics of global importance per week and reflects on them, both from an international as well as a very Tajik point of view. For example, how do Tajiks feel about the proposed reforms to the United Nations as discussed in the recent General Assembly session, and is the UN necessary at all? Does it perform an effective function as an international organization in creating peace? Should Tajikistan have a more active role in the UN, and how did the UN help create peace in Tajikistan? These kinds of questions are raised not just with experts, but also with very ordinary people in the streets.
The new program features a new, more FM-friendly format and very conversational and informal moderation style designed to make the listener and the participants feel at ease. Two "Hamnafas" programs have been aired to date; the latest program, broadcast on October 12, can be heard at rtsp://realaudio.rferl.org/ch9/20041012-1530TA.rm.
** The Director of RFE/RL's Tajik Service, Massoumeh Torfeh, may be reached by email at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
MACEDONIAN BROADCASTERS LAUNCH NEW FORAY INTO PRINT MEDIA
The Macedonian subunit of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service (SSALS), in cooperation with the Skopje-based multimedia publishing agency Media Point, published the first issue this week of a new monthly journal, Slobodna Evropa (Free Europe), featuring transcripts of the best items aired by the Macedonian subunit during the previous month. The new publication is the region's first "radio newspaper" or "radio you can read." The Macedonian subunit has editorial control and is responsible for the printed content. The broadcasters prepare articles based on the radio programs -- interviews, features, foreign press reviews, while Media Point is in charge of design, print and distribution. The magazine sells for 60 Macedonian denars (equivalent of 1 U.S. dollar) and is available at newsstands across Macedonia, alongside other local and international newspapers.
"Slobodna Evropa" Magazine is richly illustrated and printed on the quality paper. The magazine is divided into five topic areas: Macedonia (focused on local issues), Balkan Metro (regional issues), Global, Culture and Day After (items on science, ecology and global phenomena). Each issue will feature a cover-story interview with a prominent personality, such as Swedish Ambassador to Belgrade Michael Salin. On the last page, the reader can find a schedule for RFE/RL Macedonian program, the names and of local rebroadcasting affiliates which rebroadcast it and web site address of the Macedonian program.
Sample pages of the first edition of "Slobodna Evropa" Magazine can be viewed on the Macedonian subunit's website, at http://www.makdenes.org/magazin/.
** The Director of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service, Omer Karabeg, may be reached by email at <email@example.com>.
RFE/RL UZBEK SERVICE THE ONLY LOCAL MEDIA TO REPORT ON GOVERNMENT'S INTENTION TO SELL COCA-COLA BOTTLER SHARES
Russia's Interfax News agency reported, on 25 September, about the Uzbek Government's decision to sell its 57 percent stake in Coca-Cola Bottlers Uzbekistan Ltd. (CCBU), the local representative of the US-based drinks manufacturer.
RFE/RL's Uzbek Service prepared a comprehensive package of reports on the basis of the Interfax information. In particular, the service spoke to Farkhod Inagambayev, a former financial advisor to Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of Uzbek President Islam Karimov who is now a research scholar at Columbia University. According to Inagambayev, the family of Karimova's former husband Mansur Maqsudi once owned 53 percent of CCBU, but this share was expropriated by the Uzbek Government after Maqsudi, a U.S. citizen, filed for divorce from Karimova.
One of Maqsudi's lawyers at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, former U.S. Congressman Richard Zimmer, told the Uzbek Service that Maqsudi's expropriated property is not a subject for sale. Zimmer said that his client would take legal actions against the Uzbek Government should it go ahead with sale, and against any potential buyer of shares rightfully belonging to Maqsudi.
Interfax reported that the 57 percent stake in CCBU offered by the Uzbek government had a value of $14 million. But, according to Farkhod Inagambayev, the true value of that share packet is about $60-70 million. Inagambayev told the service that it is his opinion that the value of the offered government stake in CCBU had been deliberately underestimated.
The Uzbek Service also contacted the official owner of the shares, the state-owned Food Industry Company. A representative of the company told RFERL that shares belonging to the Uzbek Government had already been sold in August.
Uzbek language audio of the programs, broadcast to Uzbekistan on October 10, 11 and 12, may be heard on RFE/RL's website at rtsp://realaudio.rferl.org/ch13/20041010-1630UZ.rm, rtsp://realaudio.rferl.org/ch13/20041011-1630UZ.rm and rtsp://realaudio.rferl.org/ch13/20041012-1630UZ.rm.
** The Director of RFE/RL's Uzbek Service, Adolat Najimova, may be reached by email at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
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