The Best of RFE/RL Broadcast Service Reporting
Week of September 25-October 1, 2004
RFE/RL REPORTS: UZBEK GOVERNMENT, INDEPENDENT OBSERVERS
WELCOME U.S. DECISION TO KEEP IMU ON TERROR LIST
RFE/RL's Uzbek Service interviewed senior Uzbek officials and prominent observers of Uzbekistan about the U.S. State Department's decision on September 24 to retain the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) on its list of terrorist organizations.
In a September 27 interview (transcript available in Uzbek on the Uzbek Service's website, at http://www.ozodlik.org/internationalreports/international/uz/2004/09/ADAEA642-077D-49D2-915E-BBB94DF8F3E0.asp), Uzbek Foreign Ministry spokesman Ilkhom Zakirov applauded the State Department move: "We support the (U.S.) State Department's re-designation of the IMU as a terrorist organization. This confirms once again that we have been right in our position regarding that organization. In this case it confirms once again that America and Uzbekistan have the same position with regards to the IMU."
That report also featured an interview with Ahmad Rashid, the Pakistan-based Central Asia expert, who said the State Department's decision shows that U.S. government continues to pay close attention to the IMU, because this organization still poses a terrorist threat: "The IMU clearly remains very important to the Americans, because there are a lot of the IMU fighters in Pakistan who are currently under attack by the Pakistani military. It looks like a lot of the IMU's men are still in Uzbekistan itself".
The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a terrorist group allied with Al Qaida, staged several armed incursions into Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan in 1999 and 2000 in an attempt to overthrow the Uzbek government. It was believed that the IMU had nearly been destroyed by U.S. forces during the campaign in Afghanistan in late 2001.
** The Director of RFE/RL's Uzbek Service, Adolat Najimova, may be reached by email at <email@example.com>.
NEWS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS ASKS
HOW INSTABILITY IMPEDES THE FLOW OF AID TO CHECHNYA
Increasing instability and fears for the safety of their workers are beginning to hinder the efforts of international aid agencies to supply humanitarian aid to the population of Chechnya.
The European Union is the single largest provider of humanitarian aid to the republic, disbursing 26.5 million euros this year through the UN and other aid agencies. In an interview with RFE/RL's Brussels correspondent Ahto Lobjakas, Philippe Royan, the head of the EU's humanitarian aid office in Moscow, spoke about the growing concerns and frustrations faced by aid organizations. Royan said that Russian branch of the EU's humanitarian aid arm, ECHO, is currently based in Moscow and would like to be closer to Chechnya. But finding a safe location for a forward base of operations is extremely difficult, Royan said, noting that the search is no longer for the best location, but for the one that is the "least dangerous." After the hostage drama in Beslan, even the North Ossetian capital of Vladikavkaz can not be considered a safe location.
The Russian government wants all aid offices to be based in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya. According to Royan, this reflects efforts by the Russian government to project the impression that the worst of Russia's military conflict in the republic is over. The European Commission will not, however, authorize a move of the Echo program to Grozny, even though this means that the aid effort must then be a "remote-controlled operation." Yet safety concerns cannot be ignored, Royan says, as Western aid workers increasingly fear being targeted by hostage-takers. A prime example is the experience of Dutch aid worker Arjan Erkel, Chechnya mission chief for Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF, Doctors Without Borders), who was kidnapped in Daghestan and held for 20 months.
Lobjakas' story "North Caucasus: Growing Instability Keeps Aid Out of Chechnya" can be found on the RFE/RL website at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2004/9/7D67DB25-135F-484B-924D-216F94F526A0.html
** The Director of RFE/RL's News and Current Affairs Service, Kestutis Girnius, may be reached by email at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
RFE/RL ARMENIAN SERVICE INTERVIEWS
NEW U.S. AMBASSADOR FOR LOCAL TELEVISION SHOW
RFE/RL Armenian Service director Hrair Tamrazian conducted an exclusive TV interview on September 29 with newly appointed US Ambassador to Armenia John M. Evans. The 20-minute long interview aired that day as an exclusive RFE/RL interview for TV station "Shant" in Yerevan, immediately after that evening's primetime news show. Ambassador Evans discussed at length regional security issues and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Tamrazian. The interview was repeated by "Shant" the next day.
Ambassador Evans is an experienced US diplomat who has served in Russia, the Czech Republic, Moldova and Iran. Before this appointment, Ambassador Evans headed up the State Department's Russia Desk. During the interview, he greeted the Armenian public and responded to Tamrazian's questions in fluent Armenian.
The interview with the US Ambassador was the second program produced by the RFE/RL Armenian Service for "Shant". The first show was aired one day before, on September 28. The Armenian Service has received many phone calls from its listeners, who praised the Service for its new TV initiative, and many viewers called the "Shant" studios to ask questions or offer comment on the interview.
** The Director of RFE/RL's Armenian Service, Hrair Tamrazian, may be reached by email at <email@example.com>.
RADIO FREE AFGHANISTAN AIRS EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW
WITH PRESIDENT HAMID KARZAI
Afghan President Hamid Karzai discussed the upcoming presidential elections in an exclusive interview with RFE/RL. The interview, recorded in Kabul by RFE/RL Afghan Service correspondents Hamida Osman and Ramin Anwary in both the Pashto and Dari languages, was broadcast on September 29.
In response to a question on whether present-day Afghan society is a democratic one, President Karzai replied that "Afghanistan has always been a country of 'shuras' (councils) and 'jirgas' (assemblies); it has a thousand-year old tradition of elders sitting together to solve their problems through such councils. That is pretty democratic. The now world-famous Loya Jirgas are also a form of democracy. The Afghan people are ready to accept democracy; this is in their traditions". Karzai added that, "What we want now is to establish institutions in this country: a national bicameral parliament, we have a constitution, soon we shall have elections, and many other institutions that will give a legal framework to these democratic institutions and will guarantee a modern, democratic society."
President Karzai, who is running against 17 other candidates in the election, is widely expected to win Afghanistan's October 9 presidential vote. Radio Free Afghanistan's interview with Hamid Karzai can be heard in Dari on the service's website, at http://www.azadiradio.org/programs/interview/da/2004/09/84D4A2A7-FEB9-4145-B373-A70FB3D38DAB_757157.RAM and in Pashto at http://www.azadiradio.org/programs/interview/pa/2004/09/688EF474-8FE2-468C-AB95-936EC69DDE17_757105.RAM
** The Director of Radio Free Afghanistan, Andres Ilves, may be reached by email at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
RADIO FREE IRAQ INVESTIGATES FOOD-RATIONING SYSTEM
Facing an announced major overhaul of the food rationing system currently in place in Iraq, Radio Free Iraq decided to take a close look at the system and its role in the country's social and political life, to include the elections scheduled for January 2005.
Because of time and security concerns, Iraqi election officials have decided to use the Hussein-era food rationing database as the foundation for a national voter roll. By doing so, the government hopes to not only save time and money, but also allow Iraqis to vote without exposing themselves to insurgents, who could have targeted voter registration sites for attacks.
In a first of a series of stories on the topic, broadcast September 29, Radio Free Iraq looked at the findings of a report by the UN World Food Program (WFP) on the social importance of food rationing in Iraq. The report shows that about one quarter of all Iraqis still depend on rations as a basic source of nutrition, while more than one third of these same people sell some of their rations in order to afford other basic needs, like medical care or clothing.
Broadcaster Maysoon Abo Al-Hab interviewed WFP representative Caroline Hurford, who described a new effort to provide food to the most vulnerable of these people, children: "We have launched an emergency operation to assist the most severely malnourished children in Iraq, and we hope that we will be able to make a significant difference in their health during the one-year span of the emergency operation. We are looking to help more than 1.7 million primary school children and are ready to do so. I think it's really a case of monitoring very carefully how the situation improves or not."
The story in Arabic can be found on service's website at http://www.iraqhurr.org/realaudio/specialreport/2004/09/20040929192003.ram
** The Acting Director of Radio Free Iraq, Sergey Danilochkin, may be reached by email at <email@example.com>.
FOREIGN MINISTER TELLS RFE/RL THAT GEORGIA HOPES FOR NEW, COOPERATIVE RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA
NCA correspondent Bob McMahon, reporting on the 59th annual session of the UN General Assembly in New York, had a lengthy interview on September 27 with Georgian Foreign Minister Salome Zurabishvili. During the interview, Zurabishvili expressed her government's wish to forge new cooperative ties with Russia that could help resolve the unsettled status of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. According to Zurabishvili, the leaders of both regions have resisted the efforts of the Georgian government to return the regions to central government control.
Zurabishvili said that Georgia wants to move from the old relationship with its northern neighbor, characterized by Russian dominance and talk of unilateral preventive strikes, to an era when both countries exchange information and jointly deal with common problems. Zurabishvili repeated Georgian assertions that the Pankisi Gorge has been cleared of all terrorists and said that Georgia is eager to enforce the same sort of controls on all its borders, while stressing that the lack of security undermines the reformist government's efforts at economic development.
Although Zurabishvili doubts that Russia is planning to withdraw its support separatists in South Ossetia and Abkhazia in the near term, she hopes Moscow will begin to realize that these unrecognized entities pose a security risk to Georgia and its neighbors. She also said Moscow must come to understand that any lasting solution to the problems in Abkhazia and South Ossetia will require international help. In the case of Abkhazia, Zurabishvili said any meaningful discussions with separatist leaders will only come after the self-proclaimed republic's presidential elections, which are set for October 3.
McMahon's article can be found on the RFE/RL website at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2004/9/2EF7D968-3C43-47AF-A81E-03B16BD5BF2D.html
** The Director of RFE/RL's News and Current Affairs Service, Kestutis Girnius, may be reached by email at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
RADIO FARDA HIGHLIGHTS ARREST OF IRANIAN JOURNALIST
Radio Farda aired a report on the arrest of Tehran-based journalist Roozbeh Mir-Ebrahimi on September 27. Mir-Ebrahimi is faced with a number of charges by Iran's law enforcement officials, including "giving interviews to foreign radios." Two days before the arrest, Mir-Ebrahimi had given an interview to Radio Farda.
Radio Farda interviewed Dr. M.A. Dadkhah, a member of the Society for Defense of Human Rights, who said that "contrary to what authorities say, no one can legally be prosecuted for giving interviews to foreign radios." Many observers believe that Iranian authorities often assert that talking to foreign broadcasters is a crime, in an effort to intimidate journalists and intellectuals and keep them from giving interviews to Radio Farda, Voice of America, the BBC or other international broadcasters. In this context, Dr. Dadkhah's interview helped clarify that there is no legal basis for this oft-made threat.
Radio Farda's interview with Dr. Dadkhah (in Persian) can be found on service's website, at http://www.radiofarda.com/iran_article/2004/9/27e489a7-6ba0-471b-ad42-703bf2249ba9.html.
** The Director of Radio Farda, Andres Ilves, may be reached by email at <email@example.com>; Radio Farda's News Director, Mardiros Soghom, may be reached by email at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
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