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RFE/RL Review March 31, 2006

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The Best of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Reporting
March 18-31, 2006

BELARUS SERVICE ATTRACTS RECORD AUDIENCE Extensive multiple-media coverage by RFE/RL's Belarus Service of the March 19 presidential elections in Belarus and the protests that followed all week attracted new audiences of four to five times their usual size.
Election-day coverage began at 8:00 AM Sunday on RFE/RL's Belarusian-language website, with the posting of correspondent reports and photographs, updated continuously every five to ten minutes. The service posted more than 125 election news reports and features on Sunday and had a record number of visitors -- at least four times higher than usual and double the total for the previous day.
RFE/RL radio broadcasting began at 5:00 PM (Belarusian time) and continued live for the next 14 hours, with staff rotations in the Prague broadcast center and RFE/RL's Minsk bureau. Hundreds of Belarusian voters called a dedicated listeners' phone line that was staffed for the election in the Minsk bureau; calls about their experience at the polls and views on the process were selected and aired every hour.
Later in the afternoon, RFE/RL Belarus Service Director Alexander Lukashuk reported live from the huge opposition rally in Minsk's October Square, vividly conveying the Election Day atmosphere: "There are an incredible number of people, an incredible number of young people. There are very young and beautiful faces here. And of course there are a lot of white-red-and-white flags, yellow-and-blue [Ukrainian] flags, European Union flags, and flags of the Zubr [youth opposition] movement... people chanting 'Belarus!', 'Long live Belarus!', 'Freedom!'" Foreign correspondents for the Belarusian Service in Warsaw, Washington, Kiev, Vilnius, and London also filed reports on diaspora voting, demonstrations, and official statements.
Monday, March 20, saw the continuation of expanded around-the- clock coverage on the Belarus Service's website, More than 90 reports were posted in a 24-hour period, starting at 10:00 AM (Belarusian time), and aired on short-wave and medium-wave frequencies later that day when radio broadcasting resumed at 5:00 PM. Coverage included reports from the regions on voting irregularities and violations of the electoral code; international reaction to the final election results; separate exclusive interviews in Minsk with the two main opposition candidates, Alyaksandr Milinkevich and Alyaksandr Kazulin; phone interviews with Belarusian president-in-exile Ivonka Survilla and Council of Europe Secretary General Terry Davis, who described the election as "unconscionable" and "a farce." A major focus of reporting was the continuing arrests, protests and the growing tent city on October Square. RFE/RL Belarus Service correspondents in shifts kept a 24-hour watch on the Square and at key locations in Minsk, talking to the families and relatives of those arrested, tent-city organizers, and rally participants.
An RFE/RL correspondent was with the demonstrators when security forces attacked the tent city at 3:00 AM on March 24, and continued to report and record as bulldozers smashed the tents around her. Polish diplomat Mariusz Maszkiewic, a former ambassador to Belarus, was among those arrested and called RFE/RL's Minsk bureau from his cell phone, asking that the bureau inform the Polish foreign ministry.
RFE/RL correspondents were also at a protest rally on March 25, celebrated by the Belarusian opposition as Freedom Day in memory of the country's brief period of independence in 1918. RFE/RL correspondents reported live from Kupala Park as Kazulin and Milinkevich addressed a crowd of thousands, and were on the scene when police halted and brutally attacked their peaceful march towards a prison five miles away. The audible sound of blows, screams of the victims, and explosions of tear gas were broadcast live as people were being beaten and arrested.
During that week, the service's Belarusian-language website was the number one website in Belarus, reaching an all time record number of visitors. Monthly website statistics registered 221,000 visitors in March, compared to 51,000 in February. In addition, nine sites in Belarus, including those of independent media and opposition political parties, republished RFE/RL web reports, roughly tripling the visitor total.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Belarus Service, Alexander Lukashuk, may be reached by email at <>. The Belarus Service's website is at; English-language news about events in Belarus can be found at

RUSSIAN SERVICE DISCUSSES BELARUS ELECTION... RFE/RL's Russian Service devoted its March 19 "Free Topic" talk show to the presidential election in neighboring Belarus. One of the guests, leader of the "Our Choice" political party Irina Khakamada, said that "If a dictator comes to power, he can save his life only if he stays in power until his death -- like Stalin" (
A special "Time of Liberty" program that aired at midnight, March 19, featured "Yabloko" party leader Grigoriy Yavlinsky, who noted the achievements of the Belarusian opposition. He congratulated Milinkevich and Kazulin and said it was important now to maintain momentum. In the same program, Russian Republican Party leader Vladimir Lysenko talked about his experience as an observer, who had to go "undercover" because Belarusian authorities were denying entry to some Russian politicians designated as election observers. Lysenko described what he called the new "mechanism of falsification" which he said was used at the polls in Belarus (

...INTERVIEWS RUSSIAN UN AMBASSADOR... RFE/RL's Russian Service aired an exclusive interview, recorded on March 16, with Russia's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Andrei Denisov, about nuclear negotiations and the standoff with Iran. Ambassador Denisov articulated Russia's position, saying his country opposes the mention of sanctions in a statement being prepared by the UN Security Council. "We are firmly against even the discussion of this subject. It is so sensitive that it cannot be a subject to some kind of abstract reasoning," Denisov told RFE/RL (transcript at

...DISCUSSES U.S. SECURITY WITH SENIOR OFFICIAL A Prague-based correspondent for the Russian Service traveled to Salzburg at the end of March to cover the Salzburg Seminar on Europe's response to the international war against terrorism. Experts, academics, and officials from many countries attended, including U.S. Assistant Secretary for Homeland Security Randy Beardsworth, who gave RFE/RL a wide-ranging interview that was broadcast by a number of services, in addition to the Russian Service. Beardsworth spoke about new programs to screen cargo at major U.S. ports and the current controversy over a company in Dubai taking over management of U.S. ports. He also discussed the problem of illegal immigrants and US programs with Central and South America and China for returning illegal immigrants (

** The Director of RFE/RL's Russian Service, Maria Klein, may be reached by email at <>. The Russian Service's website is at; English-language news about events in Russia can be found at

UKRAINE: U.S., RUSSIA FOCUSED ON THE RACE, NOT THE HORSES... RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service broadcast an interview March 24 with Robert Legvold, Marshall D. Shulman professor of political science at New York's Columbia University. Ahead of Ukraine's parliamentary vote on March 26, he discussed with RFE/RL what effect the ballot may have on the country's working relations with Russia and the United States (A transcript of interview can be found at
Legvold predicted that "uncertainties are going to continue, even when we know what the election results are," and stressed that "Russia, the United States, and Europe all want a stable political environment in Ukraine. Legvold said that, "despite what many Ukrainians would say about Russian desires... they want an environment where Ukraine can indeed begin to make some progress with its economic development, with its foreign policy... We care more about the results and the process than we do about the horses we want to bet on." Legvold added that the Russia-Ukraine relationship will continue to be an uneasy one, no matter how the elections turn out and that "its underpinning will be a recognition by all Ukrainian parties that they have to have a civilized, constructive, potentially productive relationship with Russia. They can't turn their backs on Russia."

...UKRAINIAN SERVICE ELECTION REPORTING ON RADIO, TV, INTERNET RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service provided a uniquely global perspective on Ukraine's fiercely contested parliamentary elections March 26, using multiple media platforms. Ukrainian Service radio programs featured live reports from across Ukraine and also from world capitals, including Brussels and Washington. Throughout Election Day, commercial TV viewers in Ukraine were able to watch RFE/RL reporters speaking from London, Brussels, Rome, Warsaw, and New York. The television appearances increased RFE/RL brand recognition and drew audiences to RFE/RL radio and Internet platforms.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, Olga Buriak, may be reached by email at <>. The Ukrainian Service's website is at; English-language news about events in Ukraine can be found at

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT ON TRANSDNIESTER, RUSSIAN GAS Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin gave an exclusive interview to RFE/RL's Central News correspondent, who met with Voronin in his office in Chisinau on March 24. The interview was broadcast by RFE/RL's Romania-Moldova and Ukraine Services, and reported in several other language broadcasts (
During the interview, Voronin commented on the situation in the separatist Transdniester region, on tightened customs controls on its border with Ukraine, and on Moldova's relations with Russia and the West. He said there was plenty of advance warning to all the interested parties that Moldova and Ukraine will introduce strict controls at the Ukrainian-Moldovan border along the part controlled by Transdniester. "It is clear that these measures are causing a lot of discomfort in Transdniester, and they are seeking, and getting, support from Russia," Voronin said.
Asked about Moldova's dependency on Russian gas, Voronin said, "For the time being, we are forced to work with Gazprom... I would like very much for the gas price to be dictated by the market and not by political interests or by the current scandal around Transdniester. For instance, we have a joint venture with Gazprom, called Moldova Gaz. We are offering them a profitable business opportunity: we are proposing that gas transit to Ukraine be done in cooperation with us, because the pipelines are crossing our territory, and we have a tax system much more favorable than Russia's. In Moldova, profit is taxed at 15 percent, while in Russia the tax is 32 percent. That's why Gazprom, through its Moldova Gaz joint venture, could make more money. We want to do business with them, but we do not want to be forced into paying more money".

** The Director of RFE/RL's Romania-Moldova Service, Oana Serafim, may be reached by email at <>. The Romania-Moldova Service's website is at; English-language news about events in Moldova can be found at and in Romania at

ALBANIAN PRIME MINISTER VISITS RFE/RL, REAFFIRMS POSITION ON KOSOVO Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha visited RFE/RL's Broadcast Center in Prague March 27, staying more than an hour to meet broadcasters and give an exclusive interview to Melazim Koci of the South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service. In the interview broadcast to the Balkans that night, Berisha spoke of his government's commitment to eventual EU and NATO membership for Albania, as well as his position on the final status of Kosovo, the predominantly ethnic Albanian enclave in Serbia under UN administration since 1999 (a report on Berisha's comments can be found on RFE/RL's website at
Berisha told RFE/RL that "Albania... supports the position of the international community, including the United Nations, against any change of borders or a return to the situation before 1999 and is against the idea of Kosovo joining any neighboring countries." Berisha added that "Albania supports the return of Serb minorities and other displaced persons to Kosovo and has given full support to the dialogue between Prishtina and Belgrade. Albania is convinced that the only solution that brings peace and stability to Kosovo is one that respects the will of the people of Kosovo for self-determination, the independence of Kosovo." On NATO membership, he said, Albania is optimistic it will be invited to join the western alliance at the next enlargement summit planned for Washington in 2008.

** The Director of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service (SSALS), Omer Karabeg, may be reached by email at <>. The SSALS website in Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian is located at, in Albanian at and in Macedonian at; English-language news about events in Kosovo can be found at

NORTH CAUCASUS SERVICE TRACES FORMER GUANTANAMO PRISONERS... The North Caucasus Service, broadcasting in Chechen, Avar, and Circassian, aired a program about the plight of former Guantanamo Bay detainees from Russia -- seven men who were released from detention without charge, but have not been able to resume normal lives in Russia.
Rasul Kudayev, a former Guantanamo Bay inmate from Kabardino- Balkaria, was arrested last year in the aftermath of the October 13 militant raid on Nalchik and has been in prison ever since. In December 2005, RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service reported, citing Kudayev's lawyer, that he had been tortured during interrogation ( Recently Kudayev was transferred back to Nalchik from White Swan, a notorious prison in the Russian town of Pyatigorsk. Kudayev's mother, Fatima Tekkayeva, told RFE/RL that her son urgently needs medical attention, which is denied to him by the prison authorities.
The Service also spoke to Nina Odizheva, mother of former Guantanamo Bay detainee Ruslan Odizhev. She said that police had searched her apartment recently. Her son has been in hiding for about a year now. Equally disturbing are the stories of other Russian inmates of the Guantanamo Bay. Their London-based lawyer, Aleksandra Zernova, told RFE/RL that she is planning to travel to Moscow to raise the issue with the human-rights community.

...FINDS MUSLIM CLOTHING FOR WOMEN SELLING WELL IN MOSCOW On March 24th the North Caucasus Service aired an interview with Asma Abubakirova, executive director of a store that sells Muslim clothing and accessories over the Internet. Abubakirova, an ethnic Russian, told RFE/RL that most of her customers are Muscovites. She said that Muslim women in Moscow are increasingly wearing not just the hijab which covers their hair but also the nikab which covers their faces, a trend certain to raise concern among non-Muslims in Moscow. "The fact that the whole stock of nikabs was sold out in two days came as a complete surprise to me," Ms. Abubakirova said in the interview.

** The Director of RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service, Aslan Doukaev, may be reached by email at <>. English-language news about events in the North Caucasus region can be found at

RADIO FREE AFGHANISTAN FOLLOWS APOSTASY TRIAL Radio Free Afghanistan was among the first broadcasters in Afghanistan to provide comprehensive coverage of the apostasy case of Abdul Rahman, from his arrest in mid-March to his release March 28 and request for asylum in Italy. Radio Free Afghanistan correspondents in Kabul interviewed Ministry of Justice and Afghan Supreme Court officials about the nature of the charges and specific laws on apostasy that include the death penalty. Rahman was arrested when relatives reported to the authorities that he had converted to Christianity 15 years ago while living as a refugee in Pakistan.
Radio Free Afghanistan aired statements from Afghan judicial officials, reactions from ordinary Afghans and from leaders around the world. In its features program, Radio Free Afghanistan also reported on the statements by US President George W. Bush and Pope Benedict XVI, demanding a fair resolution of Rahman's case.
A Supreme Court official spoke to Radio Free Afghanistan about the ambiguity in the Afghan constitution, which recognizes Islam as supreme and also recognizes the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Radio Free Afghanistan served as a platform for dialogue and understanding among religious leaders and scholars, broadcasting interviews with Abdullah Mohti Bujmi of the Al Azhar University in Egypt, who gave insight on Islamic legal approaches to apostasy. Radio Free Afghanistan's correspondent in Egypt also interviewed Abdur Rauf, editor of the weekly Akidaty (My Belief) magazine. Other broadcasts included interviews with Bishop Rolfe Koppe who spoke about the need for inter-religious dialogue, analysis by RFE/RL Afghanistan expert Amin Tarzi, and a conversation with Emaduddin Ahmad, director of the Minaret of Freedom Institute in the U.S.
When Rahman was released March 28, a Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent in Kabul was the first to interview deputy attorney- general Mohammed Eshak Aloko to ask about the release. Radio Free Afghanistan's weekly live call-in show March 30 was dedicated to the Rahman case, inviting listeners to exchange thoughts and views on religious tolerance.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan, Akbar Ayazi, may be reached by email at <>. Radio Free Afghanistan's website is located at; English-language news about events in Afghanistan can be found at

BROADCAST TO KYRGYZSTAN MARKS ONE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF AKAEV'S OUSTER As Kyrgyzstan celebrated the first anniversary of People's Revolution Day on March 24, former president Askar Akayev spoke to RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service about his political and personal mistakes and his decision to abandon the presidency a year ago. The Kyrgyz Service also broadcast current president Kurmanbek Bakiev's speech to the nation and interviewed people around the country about the revolution and its aftermath.
The so-called "Tulip Revolution," which forced Akayev to seek sanctuary in Moscow, was the last of the "color revolutions" in the countries of the former Soviet Union; looting afterwards made it the most violent. Akayev's fall marked the first time in more than a decade that a leader in Central Asia was replaced.
Akayev spoke candidly during the exclusive RFE/RL interview (transcript at Akaev said that, in retrospect, he wished he had not waited until after the 2005 parliamentary election to bring new people into the government to replace "tired and neglectful managers." "This was my big mistake," Akayev said. He also suggested that the political opposition in the country was allied with criminal elements, a fact he said he discovered after the revolution, which took him by surprise. "I did not ever think of that, that the opposition might rely on the drug mafia and organize a coup d'etat," Akayev said.
The former president, who has a doctorate in physics and once taught at the Polytechnic Institute in Bishkek (known during the Soviet era as Frunze), is now lecturing at Moscow State University and said in the interview he is happy having returned to academic life.
Akayev's elected successor, President Kurmanbek Bakiev addressed a celebrating crowd on Bishkek's Central (Alatoo) Square. RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service correspondents covered the event live, as part of a special morning program devoted to the first anniversary. Bakiev said that "within one year, we have managed to address several problems in the economic sector. Our national currency is strong and stable. It means that the overall economic situation was not weakened. There is progress in collecting taxes. The budget surplus has been increased and the conditions to address social issues have been created." The special Kyrgyz Service program continued with an interview with the Kyrgyz minister of culture, regional reports on how people feel about the anniversary in the three largest cities -- Osh, Bishkek and Jalalabad, and a panel discussion that included former foreign minister Rosa Otunbayeva, now in opposition (

** The Director of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, Tyntchtykbek Tchoroev, may be reached by email at <>. The Kyrgyz Service's website is at http://www.; English-language news about events in Kyrgyzstan can be found at

RADIO FREE IRAQ MARKS 3RD ANNIVERSARY OF OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM... RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq programs on March 19 and 20, to mark the third anniversary of the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, included a sampling of public views from across Iraq -- in Baghdad, Irbil, and the southern town of Al-Nasiriyah -- with many expressing disappointment with developments after the invasion. The service also aired an exclusive interview with Iraqi president Jalal Talibani, who said he always believed "the regime of Saddam Hussein would not change until exposed to a war led from abroad" and that "it really was a war of liberation... from dictatorship, a war of liberation from shackles of submission. Currently, Iraqis choose their representatives and government as freely as they wish."
The program included President Bush's statement urging Iraqi leaders to work together and "get this [new unity] government up and running," and interviews with senior representatives of various political parties. Iraqi Communist Party Central Committee member Ali al-Iqabi said, "Since the invasion, the experience has been hard and bitter. We never wished for this occupation." Head of the Turkoman Democratic Movement Karkhi Najm al-Din Altiparmak in Irbil told RFI, "We have real problems in Iraq... but these problems are open to solutions." Romeo Hakkari, leader of the Bet-Nahrain Democratic Party and a member of the Iraqi Kurdistan National Assembly, said, "Frankly, we Assyrians expected that Iraq would turn into a paradise of our dreams over night as soon as it was liberated from the claws of Saddam's fascist dictatorial chauvinist regime. But, unfortunately... the violent incidents of murder and looting started that we can see today."
A man in Al-Nasiriyah felt his country had not been liberated: "Foreign forces invaded Iraq and are still present in the country; they have limited a lot the powers of the Iraqi people and government." Another man in the same town said that "when the foreign forces entered Iraq, it was a liberation, but later it became an occupation because they have their own interests -- oil or receiving some privileges."
A man interviewed in Baghdad said the period of violence since Saddam was toppled is a necessary consequence of change. "The problems we are going through are something we must endure, maybe even more than other societies because the change was very sharp and irreversible," he said. Another man interviewed in Al-Nasiriyah said unequivocally, "On this day, we should only remember the acts of tyrants and the destiny they have met. The people, with all their ethnic and religious communities, have liberated the country from the tyranny and removed the darkness from the oppressed people. We wish to our people progress, development, reaching a place among advanced nations, God willing, and removing the traces that war has left on our beloved country."

...DISCUSSES POSSIBLE U.S.-IRAN TALKS IN BAGHDAD Radio Free Iraq correspondents got a mixed reaction when interviewing representatives of the major political factions in Iraq to assess their views on a Shi'ite proposal to hold U.S.-Iran talks in Baghdad.
During the program, aired March 20, Sunni Arab parliamentarian Husayn al-Falluji told RFI, "We need to stop the Iranian role by supporting and boosting Shi'ite patriots who do not accept Iranian influence in Iraq." He and other Sunnis said they are against the proposed talks for fear they would endorse official Iranian involvement in Iraqi affairs and reduce Sunni influence. Former Sunni parliamentarian Mish'an al-Juburi told RFE/RL that allowing any of Iraq's neighbors to become involved in Iraqi affairs opens the door to other neighboring countries, including Syria.
Public statements by Shi'ite leaders show a split with cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's bloc which is the leading opposition to the proposal. A major Kurdish party was neutral -- Fu'ad Husayn, spokesman for Kurdistan regional president Mas'ud Barzani, said in an exclusive RFI interview in Irbil that the Kurdistan Coalition has no official position on the proposed talks: "We must be realistic -- the borders of Iraq are open and every (neighboring) country has some influence in this country," he said, adding, "it may be in the Iraqi interest, that these countries arrive at concluding agreements among themselves."

** The Director of RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq, Sergey Danilochkin, may be reached by email at <>. Radio Free Iraq's website is at; English-language news about events in Iraq can be found at

RFE/RL SOUTH SLAVIC BROADCASTING PUTS MILOSEVIC IN PERSPECTIVE RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service (SSALS) kept a reserved tone in reporting the burial of former Yugoslav and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic March 18. His body was interred in his hometown Pozarevac following a memorial ceremony in Belgrade.
SSALS correspondents were at Belgrade airport when Milosevic's coffin arrived, following the story to the Belgrade memorial service and the Pozarevac funeral. They reported that crowds numbered in the tens of thousands. At the memorial service, Milorad Vucelic, a leading member of Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia, said, "The best among us is gone." But minutes later, SSALS reported a spontaneous rally of about 1,000 people against the former Serbian leader. They assembled using mobile-phone text messages. No speeches were made, but demonstrators chanted, "He's finished," waved balloons, and blew whistles.

** The Director of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service (SSALS), Omer Karabeg, may be reached by email at <>. The SSALS website in Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian is located at, in Albanian at and in Macedonian at; English-language news about events in Serbia and Montenegro can be found at

FOLLOWING THE UNCERTAIN FATE OF UZBEK REFUGEES With multiplying arrests and forced returns of Uzbek refugees in Central Asia, RFE/RL Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and Uzbek Services worked together closely, following the story from country to country.
RFE/RL reported March 29 that New York-based Human Rights Watch sent a letter to Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev asking him to investigate the forced return from Kazakhstan of nine Uzbek nationals, including four registered as asylum-seekers by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Similarly in Kyrgyzstan, RFE/RL reported March 30 that Uzbek security services working with local authorities in Osh arrested six Uzbeks, alleging they were members of the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service interviewed Osh Deputy Police Chief Suyun Omurzakov who said that police conducted early- morning searches at three addresses. Akylbek Boyonov, deputy head of the Osh region's security department, told RFE/RL that police had acted on information from Uzbekistan's National Security Service.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, Merhat Sharipzhan, may be reached by email at <>; the Director of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, Tyntchtykbek Tchoroev, may be reached by email at <>; the Acting Director of RFE/RL's Uzbek Service, Sojida Djakhfarova, may be reached by email at <>. English-language news about events in Uzbekistan can be found at

KAZAKH SERVICE AT RALLY FOR SLAIN OPPOSITION LEADERS Correspondents for RFE/RL's Kazakh Service covered a rally in Almaty March 18 of more than 5,000 people gathered to commemorate Kazakh opposition leader Altynbek Sarsenbayev, who was found shot to death with two associates in February. The mourners and protestors carried posters with photographs of Sarsenbayev, as well as former Almaty mayor and government minister Zamanbek Nurkadilov, who in early 2004 joined the Kazakh opposition and became one of the harshest critics of Nazarbayev's regime. Nurkadilov was shot to death last November.
A third portrait carried by the rally participants was of Kazakh journalist Askhat Sharipzhanov, brother of the director of RFE/RL's Kazakh Service. Sharipzhanov was fatally attacked on the day he individually interviewed both Sarsenbayev and Nurkadilov and died without recovering consciousness a few days later in July 2004. The interviews were never published, and Sharipzhanov's tape recorder and computer are still missing (;

** The Director of RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, Merhat Sharipzhan, may be reached by email at <>. The Kazakh Service's website is at; English-language news about events in Kazakhstan can be found at

RFE/RL in the News

RFE/RL REPORTS BELARUS POST-ELECTION EVENTS FOR INTERNATIONAL MEDIA RFE/RL Belarus Service Director Alexander Lukashuk appeared five times live on CNN International March 20, reporting from Minsk on the protest rally and aftermath of the March 19 presidential election. Lukashuk was also interviewed by other broadcasters, including Israeli Army Radio and a Hong Kong TV station. RFE/RL's Minsk bureau and Belarus Service broadcasters in Prague served as an information source also to Czech Radio and American media, including "The Wall Street Journal," "The New York Times," and National Public Radio.

INTERNATIONAL OUTCRY OVER PERSECUTION OF RFE/RL CORRESPONDENTS Two correspondents for RFE/RL's Turkmen Service continued to attract international media attention as details of their prison ordeal became known. Meret Khommadov issued a statement March 22 (, widely quoted in major publications, in which he described how he was arrested March 7, together with RFE/RL correspondent Jumadurdy Ovezov, sent to prison without trial, and released after being held incommunicado for nine days. RFE/RL phone contact with Khommadov and other correspondents inside Turkmenistan was sporadic all through the month of March, with phone lines to all or several journalists working for RFE/RL being blocked by Turkmen authorities every few days (

PEN AWARD FOR TURKMEN SERVICE CORRESPONDENT Turkmen writer, journalist, and longtime contributor to RFE/RL's Turkmen Service Rahim Esenov was named a recipient of this year's PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award, which honors international literary figures who have been persecuted or imprisoned for exercising or defending the right to freedom of expression ( Esenov, 79, was invited by the PEN American Center to come to the United States for the award ceremony in New York on April 18. Esenov was arrested in February 2004 for criticizing the regime in reports aired on RFE/RL and for smuggling copies of his book, "The Crowned Wanderer," into the country. Esenov spent two weeks in prison and still faces official charges of "inciting social, national, and religious hatred." All copies of his book in Turkmenistan were burned after Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov criticized the book publicly for historical errors" and demanded Esenov make corrections. Esenov refused.

RFE/RL REPORTS ALMATY RALLY FOR INTERNATIONAL MEDIA Numerous media in Kazakhstan cited RFE/RL's Kazakh service in reports on the March 18 rally in Almaty to mark the passing of 40 days since the murder of opposition leader Altynbek Sarsenbayev, including online periodicals. Navigator, KUB, Free Asia took all reports posted on RFE/RL's Kazakh and Russian language website and placed them on their sites with attribution to RFE/RL (;;

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