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RFE/RL Review March 23, 2005

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The Best of RFE/RL Broadcast Service Reporting
Week of March 19-23, 2005

RFE/RL FIRST SOURCE ON KYRGYZSTAN PROTESTS RFE/RL correspondents on the ground in Kyrgyzstan reported on protests that have spread to half a dozen cities across Kyrgyzstan, following the first shooting and use of force by the authorities on March 20. RFE/RL aired comprehensive coverage of the fast-developing events in Osh, Jalalabat, Talas, Bishkek and other cities, as well as a series of unique interviews with the main political actors in the unfolding drama.
Over the weekend, unarmed opposition supporters occupying administration buildings in Osh and Jalalabat were ousted by force in coordinated security force operations. RFE/RL correspondents on the scene said there was shooting and mass arrests of hundreds of people. Casualties could not be verified. Demonstrators on March 21 seized the airport, television station and other buildings in Osh, Kyrgyzstan's second largest city and southern capital. Kyrgyz authorities have refused to comment on and Kyrgyz state media have remained silent about the protests.
The leader of Kyrgyzstan's opposition Ata-Jurt (Fatherland) movement, Roza Otunbayeva, told RFE/RL in a phone interview from Osh that protesters had regained control of the regional administration building, and seized city police headquarters and other institutions. She added that "many police officers and other law enforcement personnel have joined our side, so, historic events are taking place here in the Osh region." Otunbayeva, a former foreign minister and Kyrgyzstan's first Ambassador to the United States, said: "We have already taken over almost half of the (Kyrgyz) republic, the south of the country, and we will continue to move forward." Her comments in the RFE/RL interview were quoted in the March 22 Washington Post. RFE/RL reported similar protests in Jalalabat in southwest Kyrgyzstan, in Talas in the north and Kochkor in the southeast.
Opposition protests in Kyrgyzstan have focused on its assertion that two rounds of parliamentary elections, in February and March, were rigged by the government. The opposition is also calling for the resignation of President Askar Akayev.
RFE/RL interrupted regular programming and was the first media to report live from the scene on the demonstrations. RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, locally known as Radio Azattyk, has two correspondents each in Osh and Jalalabat, 20 correspondents reporting from Bishkek and an additional network of reporters throughout Kyrgyzstan's seven regional provinces. It broadcasts 5 hours daily on short-wave and local FM frequencies in Batken, Bishkek, Naryn and Osh since late February, when Radio Azattyk was taken off of AM and UKW frequencies provided to it by the state-owned KRIU company. RFE/RL English-language coverage of the protests in Kyrgyzstan can be found at

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

U.S. SECRETARY RICE PLEDGES LONG-TERM COMMITMENT IN KABUL INTERVIEW WITH RFE/RL Radio Free Afghanistan got an exclusive interview with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during her brief visit to Kabul March 18, in which she assured Afghans that "the United States is a long-term partner and friend for the Afghan people."
Rice spoke to RFE/RL correspondent Neda Farhat in a wide-ranging interview that also included comments on women's rights. She noted this issue was on her agenda in talks earlier with President Hamid Karzai, saying they discussed "the progress women are making in this country and the need for further education."
Farhat, a young woman in her early 20s, is one of seven female journalists working for RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan in Kabul. Another two women correspondents report from the provinces. Altogether, nine out of RFE/RL's network of 27 correspondents throughout Afghanistan are women.
Asked about permanent military bases in Afghanistan, Rice said: "we have not yet determined what we would do in terms of our presence here but we are committed to a long-term relationship." She emphasized that the U.S. operation in Iraq is not being carried out at the expense of "finishing the job in Afghanistan," and that "U.S. attention will be very strong in Afghanistan."
The following day, March 19, RFA carried extensive reports on reaction to Rice's visit and press conference, including an interview with Wadir Safi, professor of Political Science at Kabul University, who said Afghanistan has gained international status by Rice's visit and that it will have political, economic, and military consequences. Safi said Rice's visit is an affirmation of continuing U.S. interest in Afghanistan and unchanged policy goals.
Radio Free Afghanistan broadcasts 12 hours daily in a 24-hour stream with VOA. The Rice interview, translated into Dari and Pashto, the two main languages spoken in Afghanistan, aired yesterday in the prime time evening newshour and was repeated twice in today's broadcasts.
The Radio Free Afghanistan interview with Secretary Rice, translated into Dari ( and Pashto (, Afghanistan's two main languages, aired yesterday in the prime time evening newshour and was repeated twice in today's broadcasts. A full transcript of the interview in English can be found on RFE/RL's website ( and on the State Department website (

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

RUSSIAN SERVICE FOCUS ON CONTRACT KILLING, PRESS FREEDOM The March 17 failed assassination attempt on electricity tsar Anatoly Chubais got top billing in the Russian media--and also dominated RFE/RL's Russian Service programming, which featured expert analyses and an examination of the wider problem of contract killings. (;;
Experts interviewed by the Russian Service said it is cheap and easy to hire assassins in Russia, that wealthy entrepreneurs are a frequent target and that, somewhere in the country, someone is being killed every day. Under Putin, although it has received less publicity, but there has been no decline in organized crime.
Chubais, chief architect of Russia's post-Soviet privatization program and a leading economic reformer in the early 1990s, remains a highly controversial public figure. He was attacked on his way to work from a suburb into central Moscow. He is the chief executive of Unified Energy Systems, Russia's electric power monopoly. Analysts interviewed by the Russian Service agreed a political motive was unlikely and speculated that the intention was not to kill Chubais but to send him a warning.
A separate topic on Radio Liberty roundtable discussions and call in shows was freedom of the press and the rights and obligations of journalists. The latest controversy in Russia's media environment was a tangle between staff and management of the weekly newspaper "Moskovskiye Novosti", in which a group of journalists fired by the editor-in-chief published their own independent version of the weekly. As a result, on March 18, two different copies of MN with the same date of issue were on sale at news stands. The unauthorized edition of 900 copies became an immediate collectors' item. (

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

RADIO FREE IRAQ AT FIRST SESSION OF PARLIAMENT RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq gave extensive coverage to the first session of Iraq's newly elected parliament March 16, interrupting regularly scheduled programs to report live from the convention center in central Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone.
Radio Free Iraq reported that Wednesday's session took place against the backdrop of numerous explosions outside. Smoke could be seen rising near the convention center, and air raid sirens sounded. The U.S. military said two mortar rounds landed inside the Green Zone but caused no injuries.
After the ceremony, Dr. Ibrahim al-Jaafari, nominee of the Iraqi Unified Alliance for the post of prime minister, in an exclusive interview with Radio Free Iraq's Baghdad correspondent said this about negotiations to form a new government: "dialogue is almost at an end when it comes to the positions of president, prime minister and the speaker of the assembly. But I don't want to rush until things get to their real end. That's why I'm saying the dialogue is still open but it has achieved enough by now to get to this result."

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

CHINESE UIGHUR DISSIDENT INTERVIEWED ON RFE/RL UZBEK BROADCAST RFE/RL's Uzbek Service aired a program March 18 about leading Chinese dissident Rebiya Kadeer, who was reunited with her husband and children in the United States after six years in prison in China. Kadeer, a member of China's Muslim Uighur minority from the western Xinjiang Province, arrived in Washington late Thursday, March 17. The 58-year old human rights activist is a former millionaire businesswoman who was arrested in 1999 and sentenced to eight years in prison on charges of passing secret information to foreigners. She was released before serving out her term, just days before the scheduled visit to China of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
In an RFE/RL interview by phone from Hong Kong, Nicolas Becquelin, research director of the NGO Human Rights In China, said China was playing what he termed "hostage politics": "They arrest many people, and they release just one before a high-profile visit to get the credit. It does nothing to address the systemic violation of human rights in China. This is something that the [Chinese] authorities are very skilled at doing." Becquelin said Kadeer was the highest-profile Uighur political prisoner in China and that she had been actively fighting for the rights of the Uighurs, especially women before her imprisonment: "She represented her organization at the 1995 UN conference on women in Beijing. She had a sort of NGO in Xinjiang called the 1,000 Women who advocated education and support for women. She was even a member of the Chinese Consultative Political Assembly, which is an institution that does not have much power but is quite prestigious."
Kadeer's husband Siddik Ruzi spoke with RFE/RL's Uzbek Service from Washington, saying she was imprisoned on trumped up charges and had merely been sending him articles from local newspapers: "All those accusations were false," he said. Chinese authorities reportedly began their crackdown against Kadeer after her husband, a critic of the government, fled China in 1996. Ruzi said in the RFE/RL broadcast that he and his wife would continue their campaign for the Uighur people, declaring that "of course, Rebiya Kadeer and I will continue to fight for the Uighur nation's independence and human rights."
Turkic-speaking Uighur separatists have been fighting to re- establish an independent state of East Turkestan in today's Xinjiang. They accuse the ruling Chinese of political, religious, and cultural repression. Sizeable Uighur minorities live in Uzbekistan, as well as across the border in Kazakhstan. RFE/RL's Uzbek and Kazakh Services broadcast regularly on Uighur issues to these countries.
The Uzbek Service, which broadcasts on short wave only, is being jammed both by the Chinese and the Uzbek governments--but is nevertheless attracting a growing number of listeners. Last year, its audience doubled to 4.6 percent of the population and according to research done this year, listenership has reached a level of nearly 7 percent of the population.
An English-language report on Kadeer's release can be found on the RFE/RL website, at

** The Director of RFE/RL's Uzbek Service, Adolat Najimova, may be reached by email at <>.

RFE/RL REPORTS KAZAKHSTAN TO BAN HIZB-UT-TAHRIR RFE/RL Kazakh Service correspondents in Astana report that Kazakh Prosecutor General Rashid Tusupbekov has officially asked the Kazakh Justice Ministry to add the Hizb-ut Tahrir party to its list of banned organizations. The move came on March 16, several days after the Kazakh Supreme Court banned seven Islamic groups because of alleged ties to terrorism.
In an interview with the Kazakh Service, the Kazakh Prosecutor General's spokesperson, Saulebek Jankenuly confirmed that Hizb-ut Tahrir is to be added to the list. Jankenuly said Hizb-ut Tahrir has been active in Kazakhstan since 1998, and in recent years its activities have spread throughout the country. According to Jankenuly, in the last year alone there have been 180 cases of registered HT members distributing illegal leaflets and more than 100 criminal cases have been filed against Hizb-ut Tahrir members.
Kazakh Islamic scholar Murtaza Bulytai urged caution during a Kazakh Service interview, saying Hizb-ut Tahrir's activities should be thoroughly researched before any move is made to ban the party. He noted that Hizb-ut Tahrir has operated openly and freely in Kazakhstan for seven years although it is banned in neighboring Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan where it is regarded as an extremist organization. Hizb-ut Tahrir or Party of Liberation came into being in the Middle East in the 1950s. It only became known in Central Asia over the last ten years. The aim of the group is to establish an Islamic state or caliphate, centered in the Ferghana valley -- a region that extends across Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Beibut Saparaly, a cleric at the Astana-based Kaganat religious center, said in an RFE/RL interview that Hizb-ut Tahrir has many supporters in Kazakhstan, particularly among young people. He said the HT leaflets being distributed in mosques denounce capitalism, criticize the US and call for the expulsion of Jews.
A report (in Kazakh) on the Kazakh government's decision to ban Hizb-ut Tahrir can be found on the Kazakh Service's website, at

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

KAZAKH SERVICE COVERS ASIAN COOPERATION MEETING Diplomats from 17 member-countries of the Council on Mutual Understanding and Trust in Asia (CMUTA) convened in Almaty on March 18, to discuss ways of improving their military, political and economic relations.
RFE/RL's Kazakh Service interviewed Kazakh Deputy Foreign Minister Asqar Shakirov, who hosted the session, to find out what progress the assembled representatives were making. Shakirov said participants talked about preparations for a joint CMUTA and OSCE Forum on Global Security in the 21st Century and organizational issues. He said Kazakhstan has also proposed establishing CMUTA's permanent secretariat in Almaty.
In addition to Kazakhstan, CMUTA members are Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, Egypt, India, Israel, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Pakistan, the Palestinian Autonomy, the Russian Federation, Thailand, Tajikistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan.
The Kazakh Service's report on the March 18 CMUTA meeting in Almaty can be found on its website, at

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

ARMENIAN SERVICE FOLLOWS ARMS SMUGGLING RING... RFE/RL's Armenian Service has been following an international arms smuggling scandal involving post-Soviet states and the U.S. A March 18 broadcast carried a statement by Armenian National Security Service deputy head Hrachya Harutiunian, who confirmed that a number of people were arrested in Armenia on suspicion of involvement in a scheme to smuggle arms to terrorist groups in the United States. The arrests followed news that two Armenians were among 18 people, most of them citizens of CIS states, taken into custody in the United States on March 15.

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

...OSCE FINDINGS IN AZERBAIJAN The March 17 finding of the OSCE Minsk Group, that Armenia has not followed a policy of resettlement in Azerbaijani provinces adjacent to the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh enclave, was covered extensively on RFE/RL programs to both Azerbaijan and Armenia.
The finding, announced during a session of the OSCE's Permanent Council in Vienna, was reached following an early-February tour of seven districts of Azerbaijan, made at the request of the Azerbaijani leadership. The Armenian Foreign Ministry welcomed the conclusion of the fact-finding mission that resettlement is "quite limited," less than 15,000 people, and is not the result of a deliberate Armenian government policy.
RFE/RL followed up with an inquiry about the next round of talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan to resolve their dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh province. Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamlet Gasparian told RFE/RL's Armenian Service March 17 that the talks will be held in Prague between Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov, but no date has been set yet.

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

GEORGIAN SERVICE COVERS PROGRESS ON RUSSIAN BASES... RFE/RL's Georgian Service carried a statement by Georgy Khaindrava, Georgia's Minister for Conflict Resolution, who said in Moscow on March 18 that Georgia is close to resolving its long-standing dispute with Moscow over Russian military bases on Georgian territory. Khaindrava was quoted as saying the "the issue is practically resolved," adding that the three-year time limit requested by Moscow to close its two Soviet-era bases is "reasonable."

** The Director of RFE/RL's Georgian Service, Robert Parsons, may be reached by email at <>.

...BRINGS EXCLUSIVE REPORT ON STUDENT-POLICE CLASH RFE/RL's Georgian Service was first on the scene of a clash between police and student demonstrators in the centre of Tbilisi on March 14.The service aired reports of the demonstration, in which more than 500 students from the Tbilisi Medical College began a hunger strike to protest the authorities' refusal to waive a new law on higher education and admit them to the state Medical University without taking an entrance examination. RFE/RL was first with the news that three female students were slightly injured when police forcibly dismantled tents erected by the hunger strikers outside the parliament building. On March 15, RFE/RL broadcasts effectively became a forum for a debate between the human rights ombudsman and various civil activists who criticized his "failure" to react adequately to the clash.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Georgian Service, Robert Parsons, may be reached by email at <>.

RFE/RL AIRS FIRST REACTIONS TO RUGOVA ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT... News and analysis about the March 15 assassination attempt on Kosovo President Ibrahim Rugova dominated programs on RFE/RL's South Slavic & Albanian Languages Service (SSALS). A roadside bomb hidden in a garbage bin was detonated as Rugova's convoy passed by, on his way to a meeting with visiting EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana. The explosion shattered windows in nearby buildings but narrowly missed his car and no one was hurt.
SSALS was the first media in Kosovo to go live with the news and reaction minutes after the failed assassination attempt. As part of its extensive live coverage from Prishtina, SSALS included a statement by Rugova who said he believes the attack was carried out by "elements who want to destabilize Kosova." Throughout the day, SSALS carried interviews and comments by local and international politicians and experts. Chief UN administrator Soren Jessen-Petersen strongly condemned the attack, saying he was "shocked and outraged" by the bombing, while Javier Solana said "Kosovo is a place which needs a future, not bombs."
An SSALS report on the Rugova assassination attempt (in Serbian) can be found on the service's website, at

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

...CROATIA'S DISAPPOINTMENT AT EU POSTPONEMENT RFE/RL's South Slavic & Albanian Languages Service (SSALS) aired comprehensive broadcasts from Brussels, Jerusalem, Zagreb and elsewhere in the Balkans on response to the March 16 EU decision to postpone accession talks with Croatia because of that country's failure to hand over indicted war criminal General Ante Gotovina.
RFE/RL's reporter in Zagreb said most politicians in first reactions were blaming Mesic's government for stalled negotiations with the EU. Right-wing party leader Anto Djapic said in an RFE/RL interview that he planned to hold a protest rally and would call for early elections. The leader of the influential Social Democrat opposition party, Ivica Racan, said the government had underestimated EU requirements and standards, a view that was shared by Vesna Pusic, leader of the centrist Croatian National Party. She said in an RFE/RL interview that Mesic's government has failed to produce an economic program other than wanting to join the European Union. One lone academic voice, Professor Ivo Banac of Zagreb University, said in an RFE/RL broadcast that EU postponement might be good for Croatia, giving it time to get under control its huge external debt of $30 billion before joining the EU.
The SSALS posted a story on reaction to the EU decision to postpone accession talks with Croatia to its website, at

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

RFE/RL CORRESPONDENT ESCAPES DEATH AT SCENE OF EXPLOSION IN BAGHDAD A correspondent of RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq narrowly escaped death on March 23 in a bomb explosion on the streets of Baghdad.
RFI reporter Jumana Al Ubaidi was looking into reports of a bomb found near a school in Ali Saleh district, a residential neighborhood in western Baghdad. She was talking to a police officer when the explosive was apparently detonated by remote control. The officer was blown apart and two civilians badly injured in the blast. Al Ubaidi was splattered with blood and body parts but unharmed. She went back to Radio Free Iraq offices and filed a report on the incident that was broadcast minutes later.

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

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Copyright � 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's central News and Current Affairs journalists and RFE/RL's Online Journalists. 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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