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RFE/RL Review October 22, 2004

The Best of RFE/RL Broadcast Service Reporting
Week of October 16 - 22, 2004

Mullah Abdul Salam Raketti, a former Taliban commander, said in an interview broadcast on October 20 on Radio Free Afghanistan that the Taliban suffered a defeat in the October 9 presidential elections and that many Taliban fighters may now be ready to end their resistance to the Karzai government.
Raketti told his RFA interviewer that "the Taliban had declared they would destroy the election process and would not allow the elections to take place. They failed." Asked whether this was a defeat for the Taliban, Raketti said unequivocally, "In my opinion, yes."
Interviewed in Kandahar, Raketti told RFA that he believes many Taliban fighters are now eager for reconciliation and would surrender their weapons if they received assurances that they would not be persecuted or prosecuted.
Raketti suggested that Hamid Karzai, if he is elected president of Afghanistan, should send emissaries to Taliban-dominated regions to offer security guarantees in exchange for support in direct talks and this, according to Raketti, would be well received by many Taliban followers.
Mullah Raketti describes himself as a former Taliban military commander in Afghanistan's eastern Nangarhar province. Before that, he was a mujahadeen fighter against Soviet occupation forces and earned the nickname 'Raketti' because of his proficiency with the shoulder-fired "Stinger" rockets once used to great effect against Soviet aircraft. Mullah Raketti was detained for six months by American forces following the overthrow of the Taliban regime in 2001 and released last year. He says he now supports Hamid Karzai, the current head of the Afghan Transitional Authority and the leading candidate in the presidential vote.
The Raketti interview, in the original Pashto language, can be heard at

** The Acting Director of Radio Free Afghanistan, Alexander Lukashuk, may be reached by email at <>.

RFE/RL's Belarus Service was the only media outlet in Belarus to offer, both on-air and on the Internet, comprehensive live coverage of the October 17 parliamentary election and referendum

vote and its violent aftermath, in expanded special weekend programming.
As predicted, Belarusian president Alyaksandr Lukashenka won a sweeping victory in the national referendum, thereby clearing the way to removing a constitutional clause that would have prevented him from running for another term in office. In the parliamentary elections to the country�s largely powerless, rubber-stamp legislature, opposition members did not win a single seat. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said the vote failed to meet international standards and Belarusian opposition leaders declared the elections fraudulent.
Hundreds of protesters gathered on Monday, October 18, in the center of Minsk and continued to demonstrate the following night against what they said were rigged polling results. RFE/RL reporters were on the scene, reporting live when baton-wielding riot police waded into the crowd. Belarus Service correspondent Yuri Svirko was punched in the stomach by an officer of the president�s security forces but fortunately was not seriously hurt. Among those beaten and arrested were United Civic Party opposition leader Anatol Lyabedzka, who had to be hospitalized with head, rib and kidney injuries.
RFE/RL Belarusian Service coverage of the October 17 election and aftermath (in Belarusian) is available on the Service's website at

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

Former Czech President Vaclav Havel gave an exclusive interview to RFE/RL's Belarus Service in Prague on October 19. During the interview, Havel discussed a declaration adopted that day by the annual "Forum 2000" conference in the Czech capital, condemning the "manipulation of the referendum and elections" in Belarus. Havel called the statement "a moral entreaty to governments... not to bestow legitimacy on the Lukashenka regime."
Havel said "it is imperative to constantly make clear a critical attitude toward this type of leadership, to constantly support... all free-thinking people and the democratic opposition." He concluded with a message of hope to RFE/RL listeners in Belarus, that they might one day live in a more free society: "I wish them optimism and happy thoughts -- this is vital to achieving their goals as free-thinking citizens," Havel said.
A transcript of the Havel interview can be found on the Belarus Service's website at

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

Former Belarus parliament chairman Alyaksandr Vojtovich expressed concern about the October 17 election during an interview conducted at RFE/RL's Moscow Bureau on October 19. According to Vojtovich, "What we have in Belarus now is a dictatorship with all its characteristic features. A system of power is created which envelops the whole country and keeps its people in fear. People get hired to work with one year contracts, so that they can be thrown out if they do something that the authorities do not like... such as announce that they want to be candidates at the elections."
A transcript of the interview (in Russian) is available on the Russian Service's website at

** The Director of RFE/RL's Russian Service, Maria Klein, may be reached by email at <>.

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RFE/RL's Russian Service broadcast an exclusive interview on October 19 with Russian journalist Pavel Sheremet, who was in Minsk to cover the elections and talk about his new book on President Lukashenka ("The Occasional President," with Svetlana Kalinkina). Sheremet was badly beaten outside a building in Minsk on election day, then taken to a police station and charged with hooliganism. In the interview, Sheremet said "This was provocation by the Belarus authorities... this is the revenge of the President and bureaucrats for the book I have written and... given to Russian journalists so that they know the truth."
A transcript of Sheremet's interview (in Russian) is available on the Russian Service's website at

** The Director of RFE/RL's Russian Service, Maria Klein, may be reached by email at <>.

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Belarus' first independence era leader, Stanislau Shushkevich gave a telephone interview to RFE/RL�s Kyrgyz Service from Minsk. In the interview, broadcast on October 20, Shushkevich condemned the referendum results as completely false. Shushkevich said the Belarusian electoral commission is controlled by special representatives who had received the referendum vote results from above, i.e. the authorities, and announced the numbers they were given. He predicted that Russia and the CIS commonwealth countries would accept the election results and find no fault with the election process in Belarus.
A transcript of the Shushkevich interview (in Kyrgyz) is available on the Kyrgyz Service's website at

** The Director of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, Tyntchtykbek Tchoroev, may be reached by email at <>.

The October 18 resignation of Kazakhstan's parliamentary speaker Zharmakhan Tuyakbai has been praised by opposition leaders in a chorus of criticism of the policies of President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Tuyakbai announced, at a press conference in Almaty, that violations during the September 19 parliamentary elections forced him to give up his post as speaker of the Mazhilis (lower chamber of parliament) and leave the pro-presidential Otan party. Tuyakbai then told reporters that he "does not want to have anything to do" with the new parliament.
RFE/RL's Kazakh Service interviewed local analysts and politicians about the resignation, many of whom lauded Tuyukbai's outspokenness. Opposition Communist Party member Abdilddin Serikbolsin said in an interview that "he [Tuyakbai] did the right thing. I support the statement. A person who supports justice should behave like this. And the fact that this statement was made by the chairman of the Mazhilis and one of the leaders of the Otan party is very significant," according to Serikbolsin.
Former Minister of Information and opposition "Aq Zhol" party co-chairman Altynbek Sarsenbayev told the Kazakh Service, "If President Nazarbayev does not react to the allegations, then one should understand it as if this fraud was organized by the President himself."
A transcript of the Kazakh Service interviews can be found on the Service's website, at

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

According to a readers' poll by the independent newspaper "Agym," RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service is the leading media in Kyrgyzstan, ranking ahead of all local radio, television and print media. The thrice-weekly Agym, Kyrgyzstan's biggest independent newspaper, said in a report published on October 18 that, in a nationwide poll of more than 4,300 people, more than 61 percent named Radio Azattyk as their most favorite news media. The paper did not provide any details on the methodology of the poll.
According to the reported poll results, Russian language newspapers "Maya Stolitsa" and "Vecherniy Bishkek" were second and third most popular media after RFE/RL, with "Agym" itself coming in fourth. Other media mentioned (in descending order) were the Russian language television station "Piramida", the all-music Kyrgyz "Obondora" (Melody) radio station and Kyrgyz State Radio and TV, which was ranked a distant seventh most popular medium..
RFE/RL's Radio Azattyk broadcasts to Kyrgyzstan five hours daily on all frequencies, including FM. Both government and opposition figures say they listen to RFE/RL to get a balanced perspective on developments in their country. According to a survey conducted in December by the Washington-based InterMedia Survey Institute, more than 10.4 percent of the total population of Kyrgyzstan listens to RFE/RL on a weekly basis.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, Tyntchtykbek Tchoroev, may be reached by email at <>.

In "RFE/RL Review" for the week of October 9-15, 2004, Michael Sahlin was mistakenly identified as the Swedish Ambassador to Belgrade in the article "Macedonian Broadcasters Launch New Foray Into Print Media." Ambassador Salin, a former Swedish Ambassador to both Belgrade and Skopje, is now the European Union's Special Representative in Macedonia. We regret the error.

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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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