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RFE/RL Review April 12, 2005

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The Best of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Reporting
April 6-12, 2005


In the first days of April, all RFE/RL language services closely followed news concerning the passing of Pope John Paul II. The Central News and On-Line teams provided historical audio and timely material for all services, that could be translated into all 28 RFE/RL broadcast languages. RFE/RL Central Asian services relied heavily on articles by Central News correspondents and On-Line journalists, which included reports on the extraordinary response of young people to the pontiff and their pilgrimage to Rome from all parts of the world; a story on the Pope's unfulfilled dream of uniting Christianity and relations with the Russian Orthodox Church; and stories examining relations between the Catholic Church and Islam. Many of these stories are available in English on RFE/RL's website, at

Below is a sampling of RFE/RL approaches in different language broadcasts.

Radio Farda RFE/RL broadcasting in Persian about the Pope provided daily live reports from Rome and audio actualities filed by Radio Farda Rome correspondent Ahmad Rafat. He spent the night of April 7 sleeping on the street in Rome in order to maintain his vantage point for coverage of the funeral of Pope John Paul II on April 8. Rafat also filed reports all week from the scene, first of the Pope's death on April 2, then his lying in state and of the millions of pilgrims wanting to pay their respects, and finally of his funeral. His reporting gave up-to- date information not only to listeners in Iran but also to listeners of other RFE/RL language services. Rafat gave interviews to RFE/RL's Turkmen Service and other language broadcasts from Rome and supplied many audio cuts used by the 17 other services.

** The Acting Director of Radio Farda/Prague, Kaveh Basmenji, may be reached by email at <>. The Director of Radio Farda/Washington, Behruz Nikzat, may be reached by email at <>.

Russian Service Extensive coverage included frequent news updates and special programs devoted to the life, death and achievements of Pope John Paul II. The Russian Service's correspondent in Warsaw reported daily on reactions in the pontiff's homeland. In Moscow, RFE/RL correspondents went to Moscow's main Catholic church, reporting comments on the Pope by dignitaries and the faithful of the Russian Orthodox church ( In a later interview, a Russian expert spoke about tensions between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Churches.
The service aired a special program April 3 on RFE/RL's exclusive interview with former president Mikhail Gorbachev, the only Soviet leader to seek and receive, in 1989, an audience with Pope John Paul II. Gorbachev recalled that they spent the first ten minutes alone, speaking Russian, followed by a very substantive discussion about the divisions in Europe. According to Gorbachev, it was in this meeting that the Pope for the first time spoke of a future in which "Europe will be able to breathe with both lungs" (;

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

Tatar-Bashkir Service RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service focused on reaction from religious leaders, reporting April 3 the condolences of Tatarstan's Muslim Religious Board (MDN). Board Chairman Gosman Iskhaqov emphasized the pope's tolerance in relations with Muslims, saying: "the head of the Catholic church aspired to a peace between believers of different faiths. He strongly sympathized with Islam and was the first among Roman popes who visited Muslim countries and held a dialogue between Catholics and Muslims. [He] publicly apologized for the crusades conducted by the Catholics in the Middle Ages. Iskhaqov said the Pope even observed a Muslim fast during one day of the holy month of Ramadan as a sign of solidarity." He noted that the Pope's initiative in trying to return the Our Lady of Kazan icon to Russia was an example of his efforts to overcome tensions between the Catholic and Orthodox churches. The service also interviewed Rawil Gainetdin, Chairman of the Council of Muftis of Russia, who in a statement to RFE/RL from the ocean resort town Sochi, expressed hopes that the next pontiff will continue the policy of reconciliation and tolerance started by John Paul II.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service, Ferit Agi, may be reached by email at <>.

Belarusian Service The Belarusian Service aired more than 30 stories, features, interviews, and roundtables about the Pope and his special connection to Belarus -- John Paul II appointed the first Belarusian cardinal in history (all can be accessed on the service's website, at
RFE/RL covered the departure of Cardinal Kazimir Sviontek for the Vatican to attend the Pope's funeral April 8. The Service's correspondent in Poland sent daily reports on the mourning of the pontiff's compatriots and statements by president Kwasnievski. Belarusian students based in Rome supplied commentary on their impressions during the funeral for RFE/RL At the start of the ceremony, RFE/RL broadcast the sound of churchbells that pealed throughout Belarus for 30 minutes. RFE/RL correspondents in Minsk interviewed people on the streets to get their thoughts on what the Pope meant to them, and recorded the mourning of Catholics in Mahilu, Homel, Vitebsk and other regions of Belarus. They interviewed Belarusian civic and religious leaders; as well as government and opposition representatives talking about the Pope's role in history and his legacy. Human rights activists said they regretted that the Pope never came to Belarus but recalled that he spoke some Belarusian. In one program, the Belarusian Service broadcast archival audio of the Pope speaking in Belarusian. In another interview, RFE/RL correspondents spoke with Ryhor Baradulin bearing the title " People's Poet, who was granted a papal audience last year. Baradulin had translated into Belarusian the Pope's poem "Roman Tryptych". Moved by the pontiff's death, Baradulin wrote a poem dedicated to the Pope, which had its first reading on RFE/RL's broadcast Tuesday, April 5.

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

Georgian Service RFE/RL's Georgian Service covered the response to the death of the Pope of the Georgian Orthodox Church, which has a record of some hostility to the Roman Catholic Church. An RFE/RL corespondent also interviewed the Vatican's representative in Georgia, an Italian who speaks fluent Georgian, and covered the Russian angle from Moscow with reports from the service's correspondent there.

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

South Slav and Albanian Languages Service News of the Pope's death April 2 broke a few minutes before the start of SSALS regularly scheduled live regional program. RFE/RL moderator Srdjan Kusovac was already in the Prague studio waiting for the "On Air" red light to switch on. He reacted swiftly, changing the beginning of the program to announce the breaking news and launch into a discussion with studio guest Inoslav Besker, a university professor and Croat journalist who has lived in Rome for more then twenty years. In former Yugoslavia, Besker is regarded as a leading expert on the Holy See and Vatican politics. During a fifteen-minute conversation with the moderator of the program, he explained all the details of the upcoming papal funeral as well as the election of the new head of the Roman Catholic Church. SSALS' reporting about the death of the pope was among the first in the region (and can be read on the service's website, The service followed up with interviews with sociologists of religion from different states of the region of former Yugoslavia, and was a leading source of information for local media.

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

Romania-Moldova Service RFE/RL's Romania-Moldova Service gave extensive coverage to the last days of Pope John Paul II, his funeral and world reaction. Programs focused on the Pope's role in the fall of communism and his attempts to break down barriers with Orthodox Christians.
Romania was the first Orthodox country visited by the Pope in 1999 and RFE/RL aired several exclusive interviews with people who had participated in the mass he celebrated in Bucharest. RFE/RL correspondents also spoke to people who had met the Pope or knew him personally, interviewing historian Serban Papacostea (, well-known former dissident Doina Cornea, and Polish Ambassador to Moldova Piotr Marciniak.
Another issue in the Romania-Moldova Service's coverage was the ongoing debate about maintaining life by artificial means. A Romania- Moldova Service broadcast looked at the Pope's last days and at the Terry Schiavo case in the United States.
The service also ran a series of exclusive interviews with a range of religious experts and officials, including the director of the Romanian section of Radio Vatican; the head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Chisinau, Bishop Anton Cosa (; and Orthodox priests in Moldova. They commented on the Pope's role in bridging historical differences and forging closer ties among all believers. RFE/RL aired comments by several Orthodox priests who said many believers in their churches prayed for the Pope and asked for special religious services for his recovery and then that he may rest in peace.

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

Kyrgyz Service The Kyrgyz Service provided its listeners intense coverage during the first ten days of April of the passing of Pope John Paul II, what he did to improve relations between Islam and Christianity,and the potential challenges that await his successor as well as the Vatican. The service's Bishkek Bureau correspondent Meerim Sultangasy also prepared a special report on reaction from Kyrgyz citizens to the death of the Pope. When interviewed by the Kyrgyz Service, the highest Muslim authority of Kyrgyzstan, Murataly Ajy, expressed his condolences to the republic's Catholic community and said that Pope John Paul II had lived a worthwhile life. There are about 200 Catholics in Kyrgyzstan. A sampling of the Kyrgyz Service's reports can be read on the service's website, at

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


President Viktor Yushchenko's first official visit to the United States as Ukrainian president April 3 to April 8 was top news for RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service all week. RFE/RL broadcasts covered all major aspects of his agenda for their audience in Ukraine, providing updates during the service's 16 daily newscasts, live broadcasts of speeches when possible, exclusive interviews and roundtables analyzing events.

...Senator Reid Criticises Effort to Cut U.S. Aid A broadcast March 28, before the trip, highlighted the important issue of U.S. aid for Ukraine in an exclusive interview in Kyiv with visiting Senator Harry Reid (D-NV). Reid, who serves as Minority Leader of the Senate, criticized a move by the U.S. House of Representatives' Appropriations Committee to cut U.S. aid to Ukraine, saying "we're going to go back, fully armed, to do what we can to bring the number up to the administration's figure, if not more." Senator Reid said in the interview that he hoped Yushchenko's visit would improve bilateral ties: "We believe that Yushchenko is a hero not only in your country but around the world. We want (to use) the opportunity to meet him, discuss what we can do to help make this fledgling democracy a success." (

...Bush-Yushchenko Talks Ukrainian Service Washington correspondent Sergei Kudelia covered Yushchenko's talks with President Bush at the White House on April 4 as well as Yushchenko's address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress on April 6.
Kudelia, joined by U.S. Federal Judge Bohdan Futey and President of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America Michael Sawkiw in Washington and former Ukrainian Ambassador to Washington Yuri Shcherbak, who is currently International Affairs Advisor to the Speaker of the Ukrainian Parliament, took part in a live roundtable on the April 4 edition of "Evening Liberty, moderated by Ukrainian Service broadcaster Vasyl Zilhalov. The roundtable participants analyzed the significance of the Bush-Yushchenko meeting, with Amb. Shcherbak calling the summit a landmark that will "strengthen Ukrainian independence and bring Ukraine out of the gray area of security." (

...Balancing Between U.S. and Russia "Evening Liberty" brought listeners in Ukraine comments on April 6 by Ukrainian and American experts on relations between Washington and Kiev, as well as a live broadcast of President Yushchenko's comments to Ukrainian diaspora at the Taras Shevchenko monument in Washington. During the speech, Yushchenko stressed that Russia remains a key partner of Ukraine (report available at However, Sergei Strokan, a political commentator for Russia's "Kommersant" newspaper who was interviewed on the program, said some political forces in Russia regard improving ties between Kyiv and Washington as a challenge to Moscow. (

...High Economic Expectations On the economic front, Ukrainian officials had high expectations before the Yushchenko visit. However, experts interviewed by the Ukrainian Service stressed that ambitious trade expansion goals are not easy to reach. Ihor Burakovsky, the director of the Ukrainian Institute for Economic Studies and Political Consultations told the Ukrainian Service on April 4 that he did not expect big changes in the trade regime between Ukraine and the U.S., because trade was a matter of national interests. "Entrance to the WTO is used by many countries to defend their national interests and the U.S. is no exception", he said. On the other hand, Burakovsky said he thought the Yushchenko visit might trigger a process to repeal the Jackson-Vanik amendment, which limits trade with Ukraine. (

...Youthful Enthusiasm President Yushchenko visited Georgetown University during his trip to Washington and spoke with students about Ukraine's ambitions to join the European Union. Ukrainian Service Washington correspondent Sergei Kudelia interviewed the students afterwards to get their reaction and used the material in a program for young people. Several students said how inspired they were by the December protests that swept Yushchenko into office. One of the Georgetown students, Emily, of East European descent, told Kudelia that she wanted to be at the center of historic events and was in Kyiv in December: "and I saw Ukrainians at their best -- when in the huge crowd there were no conflicts. And people have never been as polite to me. They would tell me: "Oh, you are from America! Join us! Have some tea ... It was really great!" (

...High Emotion in Chicago A cheering crowd dressed in orange gave Yushchenko an emotional welcome on April 5 in Chicago, the hometown of his wife, Kateryna Chumachenko Yushchenko. Ukrainian residents of the city decorated their houses with Ukrainian flags and put pictures of the presidential couple in the windows of Ukrainian stores.
Ukrainian Service broadcaster Maryana Drach spoke about the event with Maria Klymczak, editor of the "Ukrainian Wave" radio broadcast in Chicago and with Marta Farion, head of the Kyiv Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International Program. (

** The Director of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, Alexander Narodetsky, may be reached by email at <>.

NEWLY-ELECTED IRAQI INTERIM PRESIDENT TALABANI TALKS TO RADIO FREE IRAQ This week saw the election of Iraq's new transitional leaders, among them longtime Iraqi Kurdish leader, President Jalal Talabani. RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported on comments made by Talabani to reporters at the Baghdad Conference Palace following his election on April 6.
Asked what it means to him to be president of Iraq, Talabani said: "It presents for me a national mandate from the Iraqis to carry out a national duty for a democratic, federal, independent, untied, and developed Iraq. And it's a big honor for the Arab and Kurdish liberal movements who struggled [against Saddam Hussein]."
Talabani also criticized terrorists active in Iraq, saying: "There is no resistance. There are criminal gangs killing women and children, and there are other gangs belonging to Al-Qaeda and [Abu Mus'ab] al- Zarqawi. This is not a resistance. This word 'resistance' distorts the real meaning of resistance. But the Iraqis who are bearing guns for a national motive to stand against the foreign forces [multinational forces] are our brothers and those people are the ones with whom we can negotiate and reach a solution. That means there is a line between the terrorists and criminals who are in a relation with foreigners and between the Iraqis who think or thought that this military campaign is good for Iraq."
Speaking about Arab Sunni participation in the transitional government, he said: "Yes, we have a program especially for the Arab Sunni brothers who should have their position in the government and all their rights. And even we the Kurds. But don't forget that we Kurds are also Sunni and we will defend our Arab Sunni brothers to have all their rights -- completely."
A full translation of the interview can be found on the RFERL website, at

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

UKRAINIAN JOURNALIST KILLED IN IRAQ REMEMBERED A sensitive point in bilateral U.S.-Ukrainian ties spotlighted by the Ukrainian Service was the two-year anniversary on April 8 of the death Ukrainian journalist Taras Prociuk, who was killed when US forces shelled the Baghdad hotel where he was staying. The U.S. said the military fired on the Hotel Palestine in self-defense. Prociuk's parents have written a letter to Yushchenko, requesting that he ask for compensation during his recent visit to the United States.
Ukrainian Service broadcaster Maryana Drach interviewed Prociuk's father, Stepan Prociuk (, who lamented that, with the death of his son, the family has no means of support other than a meager pension. The program, which aired on March 28, sparked inquiries by Ukrainian media into the workings of the Foundation "Ukraine-3000" established to support families of those killed in Iraq. The chairman of the foundation, Andriy Miroshnychenko, contacted by the Service said all payments to the families of journalists were stopped in October 2004 to avoid appearances of bribes being paid to influence voters ahead of the November parliamentary elections. Miroshnychenko pledged to restore the program in the "near future."

** The Director of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, Alexander Narodetsky, may be reached by email at <>.

RFE/RL LOOKS AT "POWER OF YOUTH" During the first week of April, RFE/RL launched a four-part special series titled "The Power of Youth," for broadcast use by all language services -- particularly those broadcasting to Central Asia and the Caucasus.
Youth movements played a critical role in the recent wave of revolutions in Serbia, Georgia, and Ukraine and -- to some extent -- in Kyrgyzstan. New youth groups are appearing in Russia and Central Asia, causing apprehension in ruling circles. "The Power of Youth" is an ongoing RFE/RL project that looks at how youth movements are born, mature, make the transition to a post-revolutionary setting or endure under repression. The pieces were written by Central News correspondents in close collaboration with language service broadcasters.
The first story, "Kyrgyzstan's Youth Group Says Fight Isn't Over" ( is about the role of the KelKel group in the March events in Kyrgyzstan. RFE/RL's correspondent Jean-Christophe Peuch was in Bishkek during the March protests and spoke to KelKel members who were trying to stop looting.
The second article in the series, "Governments Try to Keep Young on Their Side in Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan" by correspondent Antoine Blua ( focuses on government campaigns in both countries trying to turn young people away from political movements to support of the regime.
"Few Options in Uzbekistan, Even Fewer in Turkmenistan" by correspondent Gulnoza Saidazimova ( reports the interest of young people in Uzbekistan who watched closely as events unfolded in neighboring Kyrgyzstan but have few options for similar political expression. Young people in Turkmenistan have no possibility at all for political organization and can only look to the activity of Turkmen youth groups in exile.
RFE/RL correspondents found a special situation in Tajikistan, where memories of the country's civil war in the 1990s are still strong, leaving young Tajiks wary of street action that could lead to confrontation and bloodshed. Several young people interviewed by RFE/RL said they prefer to settle political disputes through legal means. With 40 percent of Tajikistan's population under the age of 30, the authorities might well have to start listening to the voice of youth. RFE/RL documented their views in the fourth part of the series, titled "Memories of Civil War Leave Tajik Youth Cautious about New Revolution" by correspondents Salimjon Aioubov and Golnaz Esfandiari (
The series is available on the Internet on a special website, "The Power of Youth." More features, analyses, profiles and an interactive map can be found on the site, located at

** The Director of RFE/RL's News and Current Affairs Service, Kestutis Girnius, may be reached by email at <>.

TATAR-BASHKIR SERVICE REPORTS ON PROTEST AGAINST PRESIDENT RAKHIMOV Awareness of "people power" seems to be spreading in Russia's autonomous republic of Bashkortostan, bringing together some strange political allies. Tatar-Bashkir Service Moscow correspondent Nazifa Karimova reported, in a program aired April 7 ( that about 200 activists of the Tatar rights movement, the Bashkortostan People's Front, the "Rus" political movement, Russia's Communist Party, the Pensioners Party and the Liberal Democratic Party from Bashkortostan picketed that day on Lubyanka Square in central Moscow.
Karimova also interviewed Bashkir opposition leader Airat Dilmukhammetov, who said "The events in Georgia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and Bashkortostan have one thing in common: in all these republics the constitution was trampled, the ruling clans used power as their own feeding-trough, the authorities trampled on citizens and failed to regard them as human beings." Dilmukhammetov said "a dictatorship has been established (in Bashkortostan). This is why people are disappointed and many of them are scared." The protesters held placards urging the retirement of president Murtaza Rakhimov and accusing him of human rights violations, repressing free elections and imposing private control over local oil refineries.
After the picket, the demonstrators presented to the office of Russian President Vladimir Putin a petition, reportedly signed by some 107,000 people, demanding Rakhimov's dismissal (

** The Director of RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service, Ferit Agi, may be reached by email at <>.

UZBEK SERVICE WEBSITE GETS PRAISE -- AND REQUESTS RFE/RL's Uzbek Language Service is getting a growing response from visitors to its Internet site. Here's a typical letter, received from an Uzbek in the Karshi region on April 8: "I visit your website every day to get information. And I really trust the information given there. I have a favor to ask you. Can you, Ozodlik Radiosi (Radio Liberty), please cover the situation in our kishlak (village)? Is it possible to write at your website or broadcast at your programs about our problems? Maybe that would make the government think about solving our problems."
RFE/RL's Uzbek language webpage (, established in 2003, has registered steady growth since its inception. The number of visitors in 2004 tripled compared to its first full year in operation. The current monthly average is 30,000 page views and 12,000 visitors to the site, most of them from inside Uzbekistan.

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

BELARUSIAN SERVICE MONITORS HUNGER STRIKE RFE/RL's Belarusian Service brought daily updates on a hunger strike by taxi drivers that is now in its 4th week in the small town of Vaukavysk in Hrodna Oblast. Mikalay Autukhovich, manager of a small taxi company there went on hunger strike March 14 to protest a demand by local authorities that his company pay a fine of some 2.1 billion Belarusian rubles (nearly $1 million) for allegedly not being licensed to run a taxi service. The Belarus Service reported that other cab drivers and employees joined the strike. Some 40 people are now participating. Local doctors interviewed by RFE/RL said Autukhovich's health has deteriorated to a dangerous point (

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

ROMANIA-MOLDOVA SERVICE COVERS VORONIN RE-ELECTION, PLEDGE OF "NEW ERA" FOR MOLDOVA RFE/RL's Romania-Moldova Service covered Vladimir Voronin's inauguration for a second term as president of Moldova and his attempt to create a new image as a politician.
Voronin, leader of the unreformed Communist party of Moldova who ruled in the classic dictatorial mode until last year, has pledged to become an ex-Communist in order, as he said "to represent all Moldovans." RFE/RL's correspondent reported that Voronin promised "a brand new era" for his country during the swearing-in ceremony in parliament on April 7. The Moldovan president set a western orientation, saying "the imperative of joining the European Union obliges us to put aside old grievances and revive a new Moldova together." Voronin also paid tribute to events in Ukraine and Georgia, saying: "the fresh breeze of European revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine has put new wind in the sails of Moldovan democracy." Voronin repeated earlier statements that closer ties with Moldova's "European friends" will help Chisinau resolve its 13-year conflict in the separatist Transdniester region."
RFE/RL sampled public opinion inside Moldova and among the diaspora for reactions and interviewed experts who offered mixed views of skepticism and hope that Voronin's second term may bring a better future for Moldova, the poorest country in Europe.
To provide a cross-section of views and opinions, RFE/RL correspondents in Moldova interviewed Transdniestrian oposition leader Andrei Safonov about a political solution for the separatist self- proclaimed Transdniestrian Republic and aired a round table discussion on the issue April 10. An April 9 program included reaction to Voronin's speech in the Gagauz-Yeri county, an autonomous region of Moldova populated by a majority of Christian Turks. Many people told RFE/RL they believe a pro-western Moldovan foreign policy and pressure from the West, could help make Moldova more democratic and more "European".
A sample of Romania-Moldova Service reporting on the re-election of Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin can be heard on the service's website, at

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

SSALS RADIO AND TV REPORT ON UNBEARABLE CONDITIONS IN ROMA CAMP RFE/RL's South Slavic & Albanian Languages Service (SSALS) aired a moving story April 5 from a refugee center in northern Bosnia, which has served as a temporary home for nearly six years to some 300 Roma from Kosovo who fled the province during an outbreak of violence in 1999. SSALS correspondent Lejla Saric went to the camp and interviewed several refugees and camp administrators. In the time the Roma have been in the camp, some 3,500 refugees from Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and India have been processed in the center and sent on to third countries, but the Kosovo Roma still remain. They survive on humanitarian aid provided by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and monthly allowances of 15 euros per person. Those interviewed told Saric that they tried to return to Kosovo, but could not reclaim their property and, in some instances, their lives were threatened. In dramatic testimonies, they related the difficulties of everyday life in the camp and the struggle to provide enough food and medicine for their often large families. Six years on, these Roma from Kosovo remain in a Bosnian limbo, half way between the place they fled and the place they long for -- mostly Western Europe. The RFE/RL report was also televised April 3 as part of the SSALS' weekly "TV Liberty" program.
The televised report can be viewed on the SSALS website at and a text report can be read at

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

RFE/RL INVESTIGATES ANTI-SEMITIC INCIDENTS IN SERBIA RFE/RL's South Slavic & Albanian Languages Service (SSALS) gave comprehensive coverage in March to an outbreak of xenophobia and anti- Semitism in Serbia. In downtown Belgrade, posters appeared calling for a boycott of independent B92 Radio/Television and anti-Semitic graffiti defaced the wall of the Jewish cemetery and headquarters of several nongovernment organizations. Similar scrawls with the Nazi swastika were reported also in other cities.
Aleksandar Singer, head of the Jewish community in Serbia, told RFE/RL these are not isolated incidents but manifestations of continuing ethnic and racial hatred. A list of prominent Serbian Jews was recently posted on the website of a neo-Nazi organization, alongside messages posted by site visitors calling for them to be killed. "We've several times asked Serbian authorities to act swiftly in order to nip such assaults in the bud. Instead, their reactions have so far mostly been lukewarm. The police have never traced the perpetrators of these and similar acts," Singer said.
Belgrade based analyst Zoran Dragisic in an interview with RFE/RL pointed out that the graffiti show xenophobia and anti-Semitism continue unabated in Serbia and quoted some examples: "Boycott B92 because of its anti-Serbian, dangerous influence on Serbian youth and spreading homosexuality and other Western sickness;" "Serbia to Serbs;" "Throw off the Jewish yoke"; "Jewish parasites out of Serbia!" Dragisic said the slogans are a chilling echo of the Holocaust and a palpable sign that ethnic prejudices show no sign of abating. "It recalls the time of Milosevic's reign with labeling and calls for lynching as a 'natural' way of dealing with political opponents," Dragisic said.
Young people of the Democratic Party of the late prime minister Zoran Djindjic were among the few protesting in the streets against the latest incidents. Konstantin Samofalov, head of the Democratic Youth told RFE/RL: "If in the 21st century the ghosts of the past still haunt Serbia, then it's not surprising that the country lags behind others in trying to join the European Union and makes prospects for the future rather gloomy."
The SSALS's report on this outbreak of anti-Semitism in Serbia 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 <>.

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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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