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RFE/RL Review June 25, 2004

The Best of RFE/RL Broadcast Service Reporting
Week of June 19-25, 2004

RFE/RL News and Current Affairs (NCA) correspondent Valentinas Mite is now in Baghdad, reporting on preparations for the handover of sovereignty to the interim Iraqi government. Among the other stories Mite covered for RFE/RL, he interviewed the relatives of six Shi'a truck drivers who were kidnapped in Fallujah, tortured and brutally murdered.
One of the relatives Mite interviewed, Al Khaj Khairi, traveled to Fallujah to seek the release of his nephews. Mr. Khairi said that Iraqi radicals were in control and armed fighters from all over the Arab world could be seen walking the streets. "Some of them are from outside Iraq -- from all Arab countries. I heard that Omar al-Hadidi, the head of [the radical Islamic movement] al-Jama'a al-Salafiya al-Mujahida had [the drivers], and he is an Iraqi. All the groups are under his command, and with them are Arab groups. I saw them with my own eyes -- Tunisians, Sudanese, Yemenis. I saw them with my own eyes."
Fallujah is the center of the Sunni insurgency. After heavy fighting between US troops and the insurgents, the US commanders reached an agreement with local clerics and elders that no U.S. troops would be deployed in the town.
Mite, who is on his third lengthy reporting assignment to Iraq, reports that there is a palpable deterioration of security in the country -- Westerners no longer dare to walk the streets of Baghdad for fear of attacks or kidnapping

** The Director of RFE/RL's News and Current Affairs Service, Kestutis Girnius, may be reached by email at <>.

The RFE/RL Ukrainian Service was the first media outlet in Ukraine to report on a story titled "Pressure piles on Ukrainian leader after leaks reveal attempts to cover up killing," that appeared in the June 19 edition of the British daily newspaper "The Independent." The article, authored by RFE/RL correspondent Askold Krushelnycky, contained new details concerning the brutal murder and beheading of Ukrainian Internet journalist Heorhiy Gongadze.
On Sunday, June 20, during its evening discussion program "Pro i Contra," the Ukrainian Service aired a full overview of the issues raised in the article, as well as an interview with Mr. Krushelnycky. During the rest of the week, the Service reported on reaction to the article by Ukrainian officials, as well as in Ukrainian and international media outlets.
Internet journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, whose "Ukrayinska Pravda" website tended post critical articles about the government of Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, was killed under mysterious circumstances in 2000. Ukrainian law enforcement agencies have yet to solve Gongadze's murder, and suspicions continue to swirl that the journalist's murder may have been carried out on orders of the highest level of the Ukrainian government.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, Alexander Narodetsky, may be reached by email at <>.

Bekim Bislimi, a Kosovo-based correspondent for the Albanian subunit of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service (SSALS) prepared an investigative report, broadcast this week that looked into the violent riots in Kosovo in mid-March that resulted in 19 deaths and hundreds of injuries. The story featured statements from Serbian Orthodox Church, Islamic Union, Catholic Church, sociologist and International Crisis Group, which Issues a report explaining why churches have been attacked after the war in Kosovo.
During the clashes between local Serbs and Albanians from March 17-20, hundreds of homes were destroyed and dozens of churches were ravaged. Claims were made at the time by Orthodox clerics in Kosovo that the riots, in some cases, could be considered attacks against Christianity.
Experts interviewed by Bislimi for the report said that Kosovo has never been a hotbed for inter-faith conflict and that the violence was ethnically and politically motivated. Ismail Hasani, a professor of sociology and religion at Prishtina University, said that the ravaging of churches during the March riots has more to do with interethnic revenge: "I absolutely think we can't talk about inter-religious conflict. I think the interethnic motive is above all the primary element that dominated. We must not forget that the Serb entity in Kosovo, with some exceptions, was involved in the recent past in tragic events in Kosovo during the war. All over the Balkans, there are curses, tendencies for revenge. The Balkans are like that, a disturbed region".
Bislimi's report was the first such investigation to be broadcast in Kosovo. Transcripts of the report were re-printed in several local newspapers.

** The Director of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service, Omer Karabeg, may be reached by email at <>.

The state of democracy and human rights in the country has deteriorated further, according to German Bundestag deputy Uta Zapf. Zapf, who heads up an OSCE Parliamentary Assembly working group on Belarus, spoke to reporters in Minsk, including RFE/RL correspondent Valer Kalinouski, on June 23 at the conclusion of her delegation's visit to the Belarusian capital.
Zapf decried the persecution of non-governmental organizations and the independent media in Belarus, particularly the recent expulsion of Ukrainian journalist Mikhail Padalyak, which she said "contributed to a climate of fear and self-censorship." The German deputy also condemned the forcible removal of RL Belarus Service journalist Yuri Svirko from Belarus' parliamentary building, an incident she personally witnessed. Svirko was dispatched to cover a hearing that day on amendments to Belarus' Code of Elections. Zapf said that the OSCE office in Minsk would monitor such incidents in the future. [see release " RFE/RL Correspondent Roughed Up While Covering Belarus Parliament Debate,"]
Zapf and her working group colleagues were allowed to observe the Code of Elections debate, and afterwards expressed dismay that the amendments had been rejected. The OSCE and other international bodies have for several years called for the democratization of Belarus' electoral legislation for several years.
Zapf condemned as "dirty propaganda" two anti-opposition films, "The Road to Nowhere" and "Political Pedophilia," shown recently on Belarusian television. She also expressed concern about the detention of opposition politician Mikhail Marynich, who she said was arrested "on what appear to be politically motivated grounds." She said that the Working Group urged the Belarusian authorities to release Marynich pending trial. Zapf also repeated calls by the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) urging Belarusian authorities to launch an independent investigation into the disappearances of four prominent Belarusians.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Belarusian Service, Alexander Lukashuk, may be reached by email at <>.

On June 25, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service produced a special program on a new micro-credit scheme, announced this past month by the Kazakh government, to support small business development in Kazakhstan. During the program, produced by Kazakh Service Almaty Bureau correspondent Dosan Baymola, owners of small businesses discussed their needs and how they feel the existing "Kazakhstan Small Business Program," funded for the last 6 years by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Kazakh government, US Agency for International Development and European Union, could be improved. The program also related the stories of several owners whose businesses were forced to close because of a lack of funds.
At a seminar that same day for business owners, organized by leading banks in Kazakhstan's commercial capital of Almaty, the head of the new State Fund for Small Business Support, Tolymbek Manaqbay, said that "We will give credit to small businesses from our own Kazakhstani budget, not from foreign investments, and the credits will be given to five years, not for 1 or 2 [years] as before". The Kazakh government plans to allocate 4.5 billion tenges ($33.3 million) to the State Fund, but officials hope that the fund will receive as much as 10 billion tenges. The Kazakh government plans to have the fund operational by the end of 2004.
Numerous small businesses in Kazakhstan need financial support. Even though the Kazakh government has announced the existence of the micro-credit program, the procedure for obtaining such credits remains a mystery to many of owners of these small businesses.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, Merkhat Sharipzhanov, may be reached by email at <>.

RFE/RL's Armenian Service broadcast exclusive coverage of the Nagorno-Karabakh peace talks involving the Armenian and Azerbaijani Foreign Ministers, which were held on June 21 in Prague. In a post-discussion interview with the Armenian Service, Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian described the closed-door talks as "useful." According to Oskanian, "The process is continuing. I cannot state at this point that we reached any concrete agreements, but find the overall course positive." Oskanian said that French, Russian and U.S. mediators from the OSCE's Minsk Group also attended the peace talks.
Oskanian would not be drawn during the interview on the specifics of the ongoing search for peace, and it remained unclear whether there is any possibility of breaking the impasse over the disputed territory in the coming months. Still, he effectively confirmed a statement made earlier by Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammedyarov that the two sides are now considering combining their different strategies of conflict resolution.
"The course and nature of the negotiations is such that one should really opt for a synthesis of the two different positions," Oskanian said. But he added that Karabakh's status, the key point of contention, must be somehow addressed under any compromise arrangement. Azerbaijan is said to want a "step-by-step" plan that would put off agreement on Karabakh's status indefinitely, while the Armenian sides insists on a single "package" accord.
Azerbaijan and Armenia went to war in the early 1990s over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. The two countries are still officially at war, despite a 1994 ceasefire agreement.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Armenian Service, Hrair Tamrazian, may be reached by email at <>.

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Copyright (c) 2004. RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. "RFE/RL Review" is a weekly compilation of the best programming produced by the 19 services of the RFE/RL broadcast network. RFE/RL broadcasts more than 1,000 hours of programming a week in 28 languages to 20 countries in Eastern Europe, Russia, the Caucasus, and Central and Southwestern Asia.

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