The Best of RFE/RL Broadcast Service Reporting
Week of October 2-8, 2004
RFE/RL REPORTS THAT SECURITY CASTING A SHADOW
OVER HISTORICAL AFGHAN ELECTIONS
On 9 October, Afghan voters will cast ballots for president in the first free elections in that country in four decades. The elections, widely considered to be a test of the progress of democracy in Afghanistan, will take place in circumstances that are hardly ideal. In recent months, concerns have grown about the government's ability to provide a secure environment for Afghan voters. Many regional warlords have yet to be disarmed, while the Taliban has escalated its attacks in an effort to disrupt the elections.
RFE/RL News and Current Affairs (NCA) correspondent Ron Synovitz, who is in Kabul to report on the election and its aftermath, noted that U.S.-led coalition forces have increased patrol flights throughout the country in recent days, as part of a show of force designed to discourage attacks by Taliban, Al-Qaeda or Afghan militia fighters. Coalition spokesman, Major Scott Nelson, told NCA that Afghan National Police officers and Afghan National Army soldiers, along with ISAF forces, have stepped up their patrols as well. Major Nelson also said that the military patrols are coordinating their efforts with the UN Joint Elections Management Board, the agency responsible for organizing the election.
UN election security chief John McComber told NCA that many groups might try to prevent Afghans from casting ballots on Saturday. McComber mentioned possible solo attacks by the Taliban, forces loyal to militia commander Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, groups linked to Al-Qaeda, as well as the private militias allied with several of the candidates. Nonetheless, McComber that the Afghan and ISAF security forces are up to the challenge.
Synovitz' report, "Afghanistan: Election Officials, Security Forces Prepare For Presidential Poll" maybe viewed at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2004/10/01535495-3089-4afa-8014-6b933268f297.html. Comprehensive RFE/RL election coverage can be found at our special "Afghanistan Votes 2004-05" webpage, http://www.azadiradio.org/en/specials/elections/
** The Director of RFE/RL's News and Current Affairs Service, Kestutis Girnius, may be reached by email at <email@example.com>.
GEORGIAN SERVICE COVERS
ABKHAZIA'S CONFUSED PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS
The presidential elections in Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia region on October 3 dominated the news in Georgia throughout the week, despite the fact that Georgia does not recognize the legitimacy of that vote. RFE/RL's Georgian Service secured interviews with non-governmental rganizations in Abkhazia as well as reaction from official Tbilisi and analysis from experts on the region to give their listeners a comprehensive understanding of the election and of the region.
Abkhazia's voters had been asked to elect a successor to ailing President Vladislav Ardzinba. The day after the election, Prime Minister and Ardzinba's heir apparent, Raul Khajimba, was erroneously and prematurely declared the winner. Subsequent preliminary results eventually showed that Khajimba's main rival, opposition candidate and former Prime Minister Sergei Bagapsh, was leading the vote. Khajimba then accused Bagapsh of election fraud and demanded a new vote be held throughout the separatist republic.
On October 6, Abkhazia's Central Election Commission ruled that the election must be re-run only in the southern Gali district that borders Georgia proper and is predominantly populated by Georgians. The CEC also validated results for the rest of Abkhazia, where Bagapsh holds the lead. Election officials claim the ruling is the result of a compromise between the two main candidates and will help defuse tensions in Abkhazia. Khajimba has protested the decision, however.
Political analysts in neighboring Georgia believe the pro-Russian Khajimba is becoming more and more isolated and is now being deserted by his supporters. Observers in Abkhazia itself, however, say it is too early to draw any conclusions.
Georgian Service reports (in Georgian) on the outcome of Abkhazia's confused presidential election are posted on the service's website at: http://www.tavisupleba.org/special/politics/2004/10/20041004210019.asp, http://www.tavisupleba.org/special/politics/2004/10/20041004210139.asp, http://www.tavisupleba.org/special/politics/2004/10/20041005182247.asp. A report in English by NCA correspondent Jean-Christophe Peuch, "Georgia: Abkhazia Strives For Stability As Vote Controversy Continues," can be found on the RFE/RL website at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2004/10/e13ea195-2587-4d6d-bd0b-6a1563190066.html.
** The Director of RFE/RL's Georgian Service, Robert Parsons, may be reached by email at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
ONE MONTH AFTER THE BESLAN TRAGEDY:
RUSSIAN SERVICE SURVEYS EXPERIENCES, EMOTIONS OF SURVIVORS
Russian Service correspondents Yelena Fanailova and Oleg Kusov recently spent a week in Beslan. On their return to Moscow, they produced a one-hour mosaic of the emotions and experiences of the survivors of the tragic attack on Beslan School Nr. 1. Entitled "A Town of Angels," the program, which aired on October 2, deals with the memories of various parties to the event -- former hostages and their relatives, doctors, psychiatrists, and government official who talk about what they experienced, who is to blame and how to go on with life.
The hostage crisis in Beslan, in Russia's southern republic of North Ossetia, came to an abrupt conclusion on September 3, when hundreds of children and adults died after Russian special forces stormed the school building.
A series of reports filed by Fanailova and Kusov during their trip to Beslan may be found on the Russian Service's website at http://www.svoboda.org/ll/terror/1004/ll.100104-2.asp, http://www.svoboda.org/ll/terror/1004/ll.100104-1.asp, http://www.svoboda.org/ll/terror/0904/ll.092804-4.asp, and http://www.svoboda.org/ll/terror/0904/ll.092904-1.asp
** The Director of RFE/RL's Russian Service, Maria Klein, may be reached by email at <email@example.com>.
UZBEK SERVICE LOOKS INTO DEATH PENALTY IN UZBEKISTAN, BELARUS
In response to the launch this week of an Amnesty International campaign urging Uzbekistan and Belarus to end state-sponsored executions, the RFE/RL Uzbek Service sought out an Amnesty researcher to describe the situation in the two countries -- where Amnesty said people are sentenced to death "in unfair trials often on the basis of 'confessions' extracted through torture and ill-treatment".
The service interviewed Anna Sunder-Plassman, a researcher for Amnesty, who told RFE/RL that Uzbekistan and Belarus are the only two countries of the former Soviet Union that still practice capital punishment. "We can see that the authorities of Belarus and Uzbekistan have been especially resistant, and they haven't so far wanted to abolish or move towards a moratorium. But we very much hope that now they can see that in other countries of the former Soviet Union, those steps actually work -- the moratoria and the abolition of the death penalty."
Sunder-Plassman said Europe and Central Asia could become a death penalty-free zone in the "very near future," if both countries choose to adopt a moratorium on capital punishment.
The Uzbek Service report, aired on October 4, can be found at http://rfe.ozodlik.org/internationalreports/international/uz/2004/10/27241D1C-2612-42DB-9359-B3EFF1FF6C74.asp
** The Director of RFE/RL's Uzbek Service, Adolat Najimova, may be reached by email at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
FATE OF MOLDOVAN WOMEN VICTIMIZED BY HUMAN TRAFFICKING
THE SUBJECT OF RFE/RL REPORT
Thousands of Moldovan women are believed to have fallen victim to human trafficking. During a recent reporting trip to Moldova that focused on social issues, RFE/RL NCA correspondent Eugene Tomiuc interviewed some of these victims.
Alina was lured to Turkey with promises of a job, but ended up as a prisoner forced to have sex with tourists in a hotel near Istanbul. She said that she and other women were locked in on the third floor of a house with iron bars on the doors and windows, beaten by her captors and sold for $2,000 to another group. Angela shared the same fate, except that she ended up in the United Arab Emirates.
Both Angela and Alina come from rural Moldova, the poorest parts of what is arguably the poorest country in Europe -- the average income is estimated to be less than 100 dollars. According to Ion Vizdoga, a lawyer who head's Moldova's Center for the Prevention of Human Trafficking, no firm information exists about how many of his country's women have been trafficked. Vizdoga did say that statistics from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) show that 70 percent of the 1,300 women repatriated over the past two years come from rural areas and 12 percent are minors.
Although NGOs play the central role in helping human trafficking victims, Moldovan authorities have taken some steps to monitor migration and trafficking. Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev told NCA that the government has created, for the first time, a department for migration as well as a National Anti-Trafficking Committee that includes government officials and representatives of both NGOs and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Observers, however, question how effective the new efforts will be.
Tomiuc's report, "Moldova: Young Women From Rural Areas Vulnerable To Human Trafficking," can be found on RFE/RL's website at http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2004/10/c28fad55-44c3-4fcc-b3dc-73e93e4d8119.html
** The Director of RFE/RL's News and Current Affairs Service, Kestutis Girnius, may be reached by email at <email@example.com>.
ILLITERACY RAMPANT IN BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA, SOUTH SLAVIC SERVICE REPORTS
RFE/RL South Slavic and Albanian Language Service broadcaster Zana Filipovic filed on October 1 a report on the rampant growth of illiteracy in Bosnia-Herzegovina over the last ten years. A staggering 23 percent of women in urban areas in Bosnia have not finished elementary school, while the situation in rural parts of the country is even worse. The correspondent explores the problem and it roots from the point of view of a village in central Bosnia.
Filipovic found that girls in the village who wish to attend elementary school have to travel 17 kilometers to a school in a nearby town. Even though Bosnian law makes eight years of primary education mandatory for all children, many parents do not let their children go to school because they think that it is "more useful" for them to do something at home or take care of cattle. Most girls only get four years of education in an elementary school. The most frequent explanations cited by parents are that they do not have enough money for their children's education, that they cannot buy clothes, school supplies, etc.
Bosnian officials admit, in the RFE/RL report, that the government is powerless to solve the problem, because it does not have the necessary financial resources to provide elementary education free of charge, above all by building schools in areas with significant population numbers. As a result, Bosnia trails other countries in the region in the rate of illiteracy, a situation that complicates Bosnia's efforts towards European integration.
Filipovic's report can be found on the service's website, at http://www.slobodnaevropa.org/article/2004/10/1/412629de-7bd2-4022-9b35-ccf3b3672682.html.
** The Director of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service, Omer Karabeg, may be reached by email at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
* * *
In "RFE/RL Review" for the week of September 18-24, the moderator of the online conference with Croatian President Stipe Mesic was misidentified -- The interactive online conference was actually moderated by SSALS broadcaster Mensur Camo.
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