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RFE/RL Review January 7, 2005

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The Best of RFE/RL Broadcast Service Reporting
Week of January 1-7, 2005

RADIO FREE IRAQ FOCUS ON ELECTIONS, SECURITY Radio Free Iraq (RFI) correspondents in key Iraqi cities are filing daily reports in preparation for the January 30 parliamentary election, talking to election campaigns and candidates and addressing the organization of the voting process, platforms and positions of the politicians, and the security environment in various parts of the country.
By the time the election arrives, RFI will have covered the positions and platforms of all the major parties and politicians participating in this historic event, broadcasting interviews with players such as Iraqi National Movement Secretary General Dr. Hatim Jasim Mukhlis ( ) and Democracy Building Party Secretary General of Asad Hamid Al-Ibadi ( ). RFI is also interviewing a variety of Iraqi government and electoral officials about the rules, challenges and other issues they are facing in organizing the upcoming poll in Iraq and outside the country. RFI is also talking to foreign representatives about the help they are providing for the election -- on January 6, RFI aired an exclusive interview with French Ambassador to Iraq Bernard Bajolet, who spoke about a democracy training project France has organized for a group of Iraqi party leaders (audio at ; English translation in "RFE/RL Iraq Report,
On Iraq's other major issue -- security -- RFI broadcast an interview on January 6 (Iraqi Army Day) with prominent Iraqi general Najib Al-Salahi, who now heads the Union of Independent Officers and Civilians. He analyzed the changes and transformations that Iraq's armed forces have endured and discussed the role of the armed forces in improving security in the country ( ). This story was followed by a number of small interviews with rank-and-file Iraqi officers who shared their views on the issue ( ).
At the same time, RFI is following other major developments in Iraq, such as the assassination of Baghdad Province Governor Ali Al-Haidari. Several stories and a feature were broadcast the day Al-Haidari was killed, January 4 ( ).

** The Acting Director of Radio Free Iraq, Sergey Danilochkin, may be reached by email at <>.

NEW REGIONAL PROGRAM FOR SOUTH CAUCASUS The Armenian, Azerbaijani and Georgian services of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty have combined forces to launch a new program for the South Caucasus, aimed at bridging ethnic, political, religious and territorial divisions in the region. The program debuted on January 8, with a hopeful, positive broadcast on expectations for 2005. RFE/RL reporters conducted informal polls, interviewing people on the streets of Baku, Tbilisi and Yerevan to demonstrate to listeners that no matter what side of the border they live on, the things they want from life are quite similar. On alternate weeks, the program will include a live roundtable discussion on issues common to the region. Live debates will be moderated from Prague with participants in RFE/RL's studio in Tbilisi, Georgia and via phone with guests in the Armenian capital Yerevan and Azerbaijani capital Baku.
The regional 20-minute broadcast airs every Saturday at 6 PM (local time) on Georgian State Radio, at 5:15 PM and 11:15 PM (local time) on Azerbaijan's Teleradio network, and on Sunday evenings at 7 PM on Armenian State Radio. The broadcasts will also be available on RFE/RL's local private affiliates as well as on the Internet and via shortwave and direct-to-home satellite broadcast (see for more schedule information).
RFE/RL Associate Director of Broadcasting Nenad Pejic said topics of the day "concentrate on the future and on issues that citizens in the region share as common problems, adding that "our aim is to engage communities in a dialogue that will show how much they share rather than repeat how much divides them."
The new program was launched in cooperation with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and a German NGO (GTZ, German Technical Cooperation).
RFE/RL's Armenian, Azerbaijani and Georgian Services broadcast a combined 12 hours of programming a day to the South Caucasus, produced in Prague and in local bureaus in Yerevan, Baku and Tbilisi and transmitted to listeners via satellite, shortwave and AM, FM, UKV and cable signals provided by local affiliate stations. Programming aired by all three services is also available via the Internet, at and at the respective service websites: and

** The Director of RFE/RL's Armenian Service, Hrair Tamrazian, may be reached by email at <>. The Director of RFE/RL's Azeri Service, Abbas Djavadi, may be reached by email at <>. The Director of RFE/RL's Georgian Service, Robert Parsons, may be reached by email at <>.

BABITSKY RETURNS TO CHECHNYA FOR RFE/RL RUSSIAN SERVICE RFE/RL Russian Service Correspondent Andrei Babitsky returned to Chechnya recently, to see what life is like now for its long- suffering inhabitants.
Babitsky has been covering this region since the first war there more than ten years ago. He gained international recognition in 2000 when Russian security forces kidnapped and imprisoned him for five weeks. Babitsky was in the news again in 2004 when Russian authorities prevented him from travelling to Beslan to cover the hostage crisis. During this trip, however, Babitsky managed to interview a wide variety of people, including officials in Grozny and both pro- and anti-Russian Chechens, intellectuals and ordinary citizens.
The Russian Service all this week aired a series of special reports by Babitsky that look at efforts to rebuild Grozny, freedom of movement in the region, relations among pro-Kremlin Chechen leaders, and the situation of anti-Russian resistance groups. The broadcasts can be heard in Russian at:

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

RUSSIAN SERVICE EXAMINES WHY ESTONIA LEADS WHERE RUSSIA LAGS RFE/RL's Russian Service this week examined the Washington-based Heritage Foundation's most recent "Index of Economic Freedom," released on January 4, which places formerly Soviet-occupied Estonia 4th in the world and Russia at the bottom of the list, ranking 124th out of 155 countries rated. In its January 6 main evening program "Time of Liberty," the Service invited into the studio Nikolai Meiner, the editor-in-chief of the North European economic monthly "New Frontiers," to discuss the ratings with program moderator Andrei Chary of the Russian Service. Meiner said that, among other actions, Estonians were among the first post-Soviet nation to introduce their own currency and tie it to stable foreign currencies -- first to the German mark and then the Euro -- as well as to create a stable and friendly investment climate with the introduction of laws protecting the interests of entrepreneurs and reliable law enforcement. A transcript of the January 6 "Time of Liberty" program with Nikolai Meiner can be found on the Service's website, at

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

TAJIK SERVICE TURNS SPOTLIGHT ON HIZB UT-TAHRIR RFE/RL's Tajik Service has launched a series about Hizb ut- Tahrir, the radical Islamic group that is active in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan and especially in the Ferghana Valley border zone shared by the three republics. Tajik Service reporters from across Tajikistan have filed stories from all major provinces, discussing the reasons for the rise of the group, its network in Central Asian republics, its political aims and operations.
The series was launched in December, with eight overview broadcasts about the workings of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Tajikistan. It includes interviews taped with Hizb ut-Tahrir members in Tajikistan, a report from the northern province of Soghd -- the initial stronghold of the group, and a conversation with well- known expert Hizb ut-Tahrir Bobajon Ikramov about the philosophy behind their terrorist operations and the similarity of their network of operations to other terrorist organizations. In one segment, the mother of a convicted member explains why her son was attracted to Hizb ut-Tahrir.
In the series, top Islamic scholars such as Hajji Akbar Tourajonzoda talk about the motives of politics versus religion inspiring the movement, while Tajik officials express to RFE/RL growing concern about the Hizb ut-Tahrir threat to the security of Tajikistan and the region and its links to other terrorist groups in Central Asia. Social psychologists explain the reasons behind the unprecedented popularity of this party. In original reports from Kulob and Kurghon Tappeh, listeners hear how and why Hizb ut-Tahrir has expanded its support in the Khatlon region -- previously a stronghold of Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov. The series also gives voice to women activists, women Islamic teachers and ordinary women discussing why young people become terrorists, and to young people who condemn the Central Asian Governments' iron fist as one of the reasons why they support Hizb ut-Tahrir.
The series, produced by the Tajik Service's bureau in Dushanbe, will continue with regular broadcasts on the service's "In Depth" program (transcripts and audio available at ). Other RFE/RL Central Asian services are both broadcasting the Tajik material and contributing reports on Hizb ut-Tahrir in their countries.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Tajik Service, Massoumeh Torfeh, may be reached by email at <>.

BELARUS SERVICE FIRST WITH VERDICT ON BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION ACTIVIST RFE/RL was the first media in Belarus to tell its listeners that a Minsk District court had sentenced prominent Belarusian opposition politician Mikhail Marynich to five years imprisonment in a high-security institution. The Belarus Service broke the news of the verdict minutes after it was announced late in the afternoon of December 30. RFE/RL correspondents in Minsk immediately canvassed opposition activists and Minsk citizens for reaction and later that day broadcast condemnation of the verdict by the U.S. State Department. Spokesman Richard Boucher said "the United States condemns this abuse and earlier abuses of the judicial system by the Lukashenka regime to persecute Belarusian citizens for their political beliefs," adding that the United States would consider holding accountable "those Belarusian officials who participate in such abuses of democratic procedures and human rights."
Minsk residents expressed dismay at the verdict. They told RFE/RL that human rights are routinely violated in Belarus and they have little faith in the judicial system. Belarusian opponents of Lukashenka told RFE/RL that the verdict showed President Lukashenka was frightened of the political threat Marynich posed as a former member of the nomenklatura and a potential rival for the presidency in the 2006 election.
The 64-year-old Marynich, arrested in April, 2004, was found guilty of misappropriating office equipment loaned by the US Embassy for temporary use. But Boucher stressed that the U.S. is making no claim against Ambassador Marynich for the equipment.
Marynich, Belarus' minister of external economic relations in 1994-98, resigned as Belarus' Riga-based ambassador to Latvia, Estonia and Finland in the summer of 2001 to run against Alyaksandr Lukashenka in that fall's presidential race. At the time, Marynich said he planned to work against dictatorship and toward democratic changes. Lukashenka was reportedly outraged at this "betrayal" and, shortly thereafter, Belarus' Central Electoral Commission ruled that Marynich had failed to obtain the 100,000 necessary signatures to be registered.
On December 31, the Belarus Service broadcast more reactions to the verdict from government representatives in neighboring Poland, Lithuania, and Ukraine, as well as an exclusive interview with Latvian president Vaira Vike-Freiberga. She called the charges and the verdict against Marynich unfounded, fabricated and politically motivated.
Belarus Service coverage of the Marynich conviction can be viewed at

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

KAZAKH SERVICE GETS OFFICIAL REACTION TO SLAVERY REPORTS RFE/RL's Kazakh Service is pursuing shocking revelations about abuse and mistreatment of Central Asians used as slaves in the cotton fields of South Kazakhstan. The service broadcast January 6 and 7 exclusive interviews with Kazakh government officials and United Nations officials about the problem.
A Kazakh regional police officer dismissed reports of Uzbeks, Kyrgyz and Tajiks being held in chains and branded as slaves. He said thousands of Central Asians come to Kazakhstan as migrant workers, seeking jobs in construction and tobacco and cotton plantations and then go home again.
But a UN representative told RFE/RL's Astana correspondent that in 2004 alone, her organization helped 150 enslaved Uzbeks to escape their owners and return home. She said cross-border human trafficking was on the rise and has been increasing steadily in recent years.
The feature, broadcast on the Kazakh Service's regular "Central Asia in the Regions" program, was also used in RFE/RL broadcasts to Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
To listen to the program in Kazakh and Russian, please visit the service's website at

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

RFE/RL SCOOP ON DISSOLUTION OF KAZAKH OPPOSITION PARTY RFE/RL's Kazakh Service was the first to break the news to its Kazakh listeners that a major opposition party was to be disbanded by decision of a district court in Almaty. The court ruled January 6 that the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan party was to be dissolved because of a statement in its policy platform declaring incumbent authorities "illegitimate" and calling for "resolute public actions, including civil disobedience campaigns."
In its broadcast that evening, the service aired reactions of ordinary citizens, politicians, political observers and officials. Altynbek Sarsenbayev, Co-Chairman of the opposition Aq-Zhol (Bright Path) party said that if the decision is affirmed "Kazakhstan will move from its current position of semi- democratic country towards that of Turkmenistan. That is a very dangerous process for everyone in this country," he warned. Azat Peruashev, leader of the pro-presidential Civic Party said to RFE/RL that he supports the court decision: "that party [DCK] recently started calling for constitutional change in our country and began to advocate civil disobedience... I believe such means are against our Constitution and our laws on political parties." Yevgeniy Zhovtis, the chairman of Kazakhstan's Bureau on Human Rights, told RFE/RL that the court decision was politically motivated and could not have been made without a mandate from the authorities.
The Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan party was formed last year under the chairmanship of Galymzhan Zhakiyanov. In 2002, Zhakiyanov was sentenced to seven years in detention for alleged abuse of office while serving as head of the Pavlodar regional administration.
The report (in Kazakh) is available on the service's website at

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

RFE/RL EXCLUSIVE WITH JAILED KYRGYZ OPPOSITION LEADER RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service gained a wide-ranging, exclusive interview with imprisoned opposition leader Feliks Kulov that it broadcast to listeners as a special program in five installments, from January 2 to January 7.
Kulov is widely regarded as one of the most influential politicians in the country, in spite of the fact that he has spent most of the last five years in prison. A former government minister and mayor of the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek, Kulov was first imprisoned in March 2000 and retried on various charges several times. He is currently serving a ten-year sentence, allegedly for embezzlement. International human rights groups have called for his release, saying he was imprisoned because he planned to challenge Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev in the 2000 presidential elections. While in prison, Kulov was elected chairman of the leading opposition movement, the People's Congress of Kyrgyzstan, which serves as an umbrella for several parties.
In the RFE/RL interview, Kulov spoke mostly about efforts to unite opposition groups in Kyrgyzstan ahead of parliamentary elections set for February 27. He discussed negotiations with other opposition groups for a political merger, as the opposition hopes to gain a majority in parliament in the February election in order to influence the outcome of a presidential election planned for October.
A two-part transcript of the interview with Kulov (in Kyrgyz) may be found on the service's website, at and
An English-language feature based on the Kyrgyz Service interview is located at while a Kyrgyz Service feature (in Kyrgyz) about Kulov's imprisonment that aired December 29, 2004 is at

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

RFE/RL ROMANIA-MOLDOVA SERVICE FIRST VENUE FOR NEW SECURITY ADVISER Romania's new National Security Adviser, former foreign minister Andrei Plesu chose RFE/RL for the first press interview he gave in his new position. In the exclusive RFE/RL interview, broadcast January 7, Plesu spoke about the priorities of Romania's newly- elected President, Traian Basescu, and the need for Romania to be a "a factor of stability in the region" and increase cooperation with the Black Sea countries and the Caucasus. The interview in Romanian can be found at

** The Director of RFE/RL's Romania/Moldova Service, Oana Serafim, may be reached by email at <>.

RFE/RL in the News

RADIO FARDA NEWS SOURCE FOR YOUNG IRANIANS, SAYS INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE The International Herald Tribune, in an op-ed published on January 5 said that "Young people (in Iran) between the ages of 15 and 29 are increasingly turning to a U.S.-government-funded broadcast, Radio Farda, for their news." The article was by Roya Hakakian, an author and publicist who settled in the U.S. in the mid-1980s. Headlined "O Lord, Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood," she wrote about youth in modern-day Iran and American misperceptions of Iranians as a religious people when they are, she says, becoming increasingly secular.

** The News Director of Radio Farda, Mardiros Soghom, may be reached by email at <>.

RFE/RL ON FM NATIONWIDE IN AZERBAIJAN RFE/RL's Azeri Service began broadcasting nationwide on FM in Azerbaijan on New Year's Day, January 1, 2005 in partnership with the private radio network ANS. The network currently broadcasts a daily half hour of RFE/RL news from 7AM to 7:30AM local time. In a phased expansion, ANS later will begin broadcasting programs of the Azeri Service also on 102 FM in the afternoon and in prime time evening hours.
The FM broadcasts made big news in Azerbaijan, even before the launch. RFE/RL's Baku bureau chief and an RFE/RL reporter were interviewed December 30 by both ANS radio and television about RFE/RL and its Azerbaijani Service. During the 20-minute live TV appearance, the two journalists answered dozens of questions from listeners eager to hear and learn more about RFE/RL broadcasting.
On December 31, the Azerbaijani Russian language newspaper "Ekho" published a lengthy interview with RFE/RL Azeri Service Director Abbas Djavadi. Headlined "Azeri Radio Service Chief Outlines TV, Internet Plans to Gain Audience,", the article was a full transcript of an interview in which Djavadi spoke about implementing in Azerbaijan RFE/RL plans for multimedia convergence using television and the Internet, as well as radio to reach a wider audience, especially among Azerbaijan's youth.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Azeri Service, Abbas Djavadi, may be reached by email at <>.

RFE/RL GOES ON TV IN MOLDOVA RFE/RL has launched Moldova's first radio-TV partnership with a joint program on PRO TV, Moldova's only independent, nationwide television station. The two-hour news and current affairs show, called "In Depth", aired the first time on December 28 with a review of the three most important events of 2004 in Moldova. RFE/RL's bureau chief in Chisinau is the program's primary political analyst and will appear regularly on the show. He was joined on December 28 by the director of a leading Moldovan political research institute for a discussion of the education crisis in the Transdniester region, rapprochement between Moldova and the European Union, and Moldova's relations with Ukraine and other post-Soviet neighbors. "In-Depth" is shown bi-weekly in prime time at 8PM local time.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Romania/Moldova Service, Oana Serafim, may be reached by email at <>.

KAZAKH SERVICE REACHES REGIONS ON TV... RFE/RL's Kazakh Service is becoming a popular fixture on local TV broadcasts. The service produced its 6th show of the year, shown December 16 by a local TV station in Qaraghandy in Central Kazakhstan. The half-hour program, moderated by a Prague-based Kazakh Service broadcaster, addressed Kazakh culture in the villages of central Kazakhstan. It aired at 8PM local time on Independence Day, a national holiday. Five similar shows, using RFE/RL journalists and expertise and produced in Almaty, Kazakhstan's largest city, were shown last year nationwide by the Khabar and Channel 31 TV stations.

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

...AND IN NEWSPAPERS A local newspaper in central Kazakhstan, "Ortalyq Qazaqstan" has introduced a regular column called "World News Through Radio Azattyq (Radio Liberty)" with news from RFE/RL's Kazakh Service. The paper, published three times a week with a circulation of 38,000 copies, reprints items from the "International News" section of RFE/RL's Kazakh language website.

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

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Copyright (c) 2005. 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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