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RFE/RL Review December 31, 2006

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The Best of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Reporting
December 1-31, 2006

RADIO FREE IRAQ DELIVERS SPECIAL COVERAGE OF SADDAM EXECUTION... When former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was hanged on December 30, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq interrupted its scheduled programming to provide original coverage of the execution. Broadcasts included news of the event, interviews with witnesses of the hanging, a conversation with the judge who delivered Saddam's death sentence, and an interview with Maryam Al-Rayyes, advisor to the Prime Minister Al-Maliki. Radio Free Iraq editors spoke live with correspondents in Arbil, Najaf, Basra, Mosul, and Baghdad, who relayed local reactions to the execution. That evening, Radio Free Iraq ran a special edition of its "Iraq File" program devoted to the event; the program featured comments from correspondents around the world and from the head of Saddam's legal team. Three days earlier, Radio Free Iraq aired a program on the reaction of Iraqi politicians to the upholding of the death sentence for Saddam Hussein by Iraq's appeals court. Parliament member Mithal al-Alusi said, "This is a happy day for Iraqis... We, the Iraqi politicians, were waiting with great patience for the independent Iraqi judiciary to give its decisive word. This is a great day." Sadiq al- Rikabi, political advisor to the Iraqi prime minister noted that "the execution of the decision of the court is mandatory for the government. The government cannot renounce its responsibility and its duties under any kind of terrorist pressure."

...RELEASE OF IRAQ STUDY GROUP REPORT Throughout December, Radio Free Iraq devoted substantial air time to the report of the Iraq Study Group, broadcasting an average of three original stories daily on the issue between December 7 and December 19. Coverage focused on the report's content, analysis by experts, and local and international reactions to its findings. Radio Free Iraq presented the positions of Iraqi national and regional leaders, including Kurdish politicians who sharply rejected the report's findings. Broadcasts on international reactions included statements by leaders in the U.S., Britain, Israel, Jordan, Syria, and Egypt. For analysis of the study's conclusions and recommendations, Radio Free Iraq correspondents interviewed political analysts, commentators and advisers to politicians in Baghdad, Damascus, Tel Aviv, Washington, Arbil and Kut, airing a range of views and responses. Radio Free Iraq reporters also canvassed people on the streets and at mass gatherings, asking citizens for their views. In a Radio Free Iraq interview, Middle East expert Walid Phares appealed to Iraqi academics and intellectuals to address their colleagues in the United States and express their real aspirations for democracy and freedom. Phares, who teaches political science at Florida Atlantic University, said Iraqi academics should break their silence and reach out to the American public directly. "It is not enough, that your President and politicians make official speeches in Iraq or the US on fighting terrorism; you need to speak out and come to America and speak directly to the intellectuals and the public. The debate about the future of a liberated Iraq is taking place today in America, and the voice of the Iraqi people and intellectuals is unheard yet. Americans do not hear enough from you. The U.S. has spent billions of dollars and about 3,000 soldiers were killed in the war to remove Saddam and fight the terrorists. Yet your voice is not loud enough in the American debate... A real dialogue must be opened between you and your counterparts in America."

RADIO FREE IRAQ CORRESPONDENT DESCRIBES FEAR OF MILITIAS IN BAGHDAD Radio Free Iraq Baghdad correspondent Leith Ahmed gave an interview to RFE/RL's Central Newsroom December 12, describing for other language services the situation on the ground in Baghdad. He said it is increasingly difficult for journalists to report on events in the city, because only a couple of routes can be used for transport. According to Ahmed, "the streets are not safe most of the time. Sometimes there are attacks or assassinations, but you can try. And you must have good luck when you move around the roads or streets of Baghdad." He said "there is a cycle of revenge between the Sunni and Shi'ite militias... Inside the country, you can see a real civil war -- but between militias, not among civilians." Ahmed said it is no longer possible to move between Shi'ite and Sunni neighborhoods, because of local militia checkpoints: "Sometimes, we don't know who they are -- what side the militia is from. So we can't tell them all our information. They don't even ask about our organization. They only ask: 'Are you Shi'ite or Sunni?'" Ahmed said most people stay in their houses as much as possible. Or they leave Baghdad for other towns, or for places outside Iraq, because the situation is very dangerous and very difficult for almost all Iraqi families" (

** 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

TURKMEN SERVICE TAKES LEAD ON NIYAZOV DEATH When Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov died on December 21, the Turkmen Service immediately added two hours of daily surge broadcasting to the information-starved nation. On short notice, the IBB supported the surge broadcasting with additional short-wave transmissions. Despite the fact that telephone connections to Turkmen Service correspondents in Ashgabat were cut right after the televised announcement, the Service was able to contact reporters elsewhere in the country to get reaction in other towns and to provide information and analysis on possible successors. RFE/RL's Central Asia analyst, Daniel Kimmage, gave several in-depth interviews for broadcasting on the political and economic implications of Niyazov's death and the likely power struggle to ensue in energy-rich Turkmenistan. News of Niyazov's death was broadcast by many of RFE/RL's language services. The news was the top story in broadcasts to Central Asia and to countries once part of the Soviet Union that depend directly or indirectly on natural gas produced in Turkmenistan. Many of these services were able to get exclusive interviews on Niyazov's death with country leaders and prominent politicians -- December 21 broadcasts included reaction from former president of Georgia Edouard Shevardnadze; Afghan president Hamid Karzai's chief of staff Jawed Ludin; European Commission spokeswoman Emma Udwin; EU Special Representative for Central Asia Pierre Morel; and Moheddin Kabiri, leader of Tajikistan's Islamic Renaissance Party. News of Niyazov's death was closely followed in Ukraine because it came on the eve of important talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko about Russian and Turkmen gas deliveries to Ukraine. The Ukrainian Service succeeded in getting a correspondent into Ashgabat as part of Ukraine's official delegation attending the state funeral on December 24. The correspondent, Maksym Drabok reported that the streets of the Turkmen capital were deserted and that people were mourning "in an organized fashion... brought to the presidential palace in convoys" to pay their respects to the coffin. Drabok said the funeral was attended by "20 delegations at the level of heads of state and government, mostly from countries in the region: Iran, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan. Russia was represented by Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov. Western countries were represented by ambassadors. No officials spoke at the farewell ceremony," noting that "Niyazov was buried in a family mausoleum, at the Spirituality Mosque, in his native village of Kipchak 15 kilometers from Ashgabat. A live corridor made up of residents of the capital stood along the entire route of the cortege carrying the body." After the funeral, RFE/RL's Turkmen and other services focused on the unfolding political drama of the succession and the mystery of a missing Turkmen opposition politician. Leading member of Turkmenistan's United Democratic Opposition movement and former Turkmen Foreign Minister Avdy Kuliyev told correspondent Andrei Shary of RFE/RL's Russian Service on December 26, "Our organization, the United Democratic Opposition of Turkmenistan, is nominating Nurberdy Nurmammedov as its candidate [for Turkmen president]. He is a well- known person, a well-known democrat who has fought for democracy in Turkmenistan from the very beginning." Kuliyev added that "Nurmammedov has been arrested, he has disappeared. We cannot find out where he is. He was taken away on [December] 23 and none of his relatives has been told where Nurberdy Nurmammedov is now." Nurmammedov was reportedly arrested soon after providing an interview to RFE/RL's Turkmen Service. RFE/RL reported that the group issued an appeal December 27 for information about the fate and whereabouts of Nurberdy Nurmammedov (

** The Director of RFE/RL's Turkmen Service, Oguljamal Yazliyeva, may be reached by email at <>. English-language news about events in Turkmenistan can be found at

KYRGYZ SERVICE FIRST SOURCE ON GOVERNMENT RESIGNATION... On December 19, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service was the first media outlet to report that the cabinet of Prime Minister Feliks Kulov of Kyrgyzstan had resigned. The news was revealed in a live interview with Kyrgyz Justice Minister Marat Kaiypov, who made the announcement on the Service's "Evening Azattyk" program. The transcript was quickly posted on RFE/RL's Kyrgyz-language website and picked up by local Kyrgyz and international media ( The show continued with a live interview with opposition parliamentarian Temir Sariev and comments from other politicians and experts, noting that the resignation appears to be a tactical move to clear the way for early parliamentary elections. December 20, Radio Azattyk carried interviews with three members of parliament expressing differing views on the situation, and continued to gather comment on the political situation from across the political spectrum. The leader of the Kyrgyz non-governmental group "Interbilim", Asiya Sasykbaeva told Radio Azattyk in a December 22 interview of fears that tampering with the Constitution would set Kyrgyzstan back: "They shouldn't make changes... That would restore the authoritarian regime. If it does happen, why did we even adopt a new constitution, why did we carry out the March 24 [2005] revolution?"

...REPORTS MAJOR EARTHQUAKE RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service sent a correspondent to cover the aftermath of a major earthquake that struck an area some 140 kilometers southeast of the capital, Bishkek. Seismologists at the Kyrgyz National Academy of Sciences said the quake, which struck at 2AM local time on December 26 near the village of Kochkor in the Naryn region, measured around 7.0 on the Richter scale. The Kyrgyz Service correspondent, Jarkin Ibrayeva, visited Kochkor district hospital just hours after the earthquake struck and spoke to doctors who said they were treating several people with serious injuries, but did not disclose numbers or mention fatalities.

** 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 AFGHANISTAN DISCUSSES ROLE OF WOMEN... Radio Free Afghanistan gained an exclusive interview with U.S. Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky, who spoke about the progress made in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban five years ago, especially with respect to women's issues. Dobriansky said that the U.S. had assigned nearly 70 million dollars for assistance to women this year and hopes to increase that amount next year. She said that the U.S. wants to see further improvement for women in the areas of education, health care, political representation, and the economy. Dobriansky added that the U.S.-Afghan Women's Council is building a women's resource center in all 34 provinces of Afghanistan. The interview was broadcast in both Dari and Pashto on December 6; an English transcript may be read on RFE/RL's website, at

...SPEAKS WITH TARGETED AFGHAN LAWMAKER Afghan lawmaker Pacha Khan Zadran, who narrowly escaped an attack by a suicide bomber December 22, gave an exclusive interview to RFE/RL Radio Free Afghanistan Kabul-based correspondent Ajmal Aand shortly after the explosion. According to Zadran, "Whoever stands against [the terrorists] becomes their enemy, because they want to re-establish their bases in Afghanistan and take action again. They want to make the country, once again, a safe haven for Al-Qaeda and the terrorists." Zadran said he does not believe the government or anyone else but God can protect him against another terrorist strike.

** 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

NORTH CAUCASUS SERVICE BREAKS NEWS OF DEATH IN POLICE CUSTODY RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service, broadcasting in Chechen, Avar and Circassian broke a story on December 8 and 9 of a young man who died within hours of being taken into police custody in Makhachkala, Dagestan. After services in a mosque, 22-year-old Nadir Magomedov got into an argument over a religious issue with Imam Akhmed Kebekov, who called the police. Both were taken to the police station. Kebekov, also a young man in his 20's, was released by police; Magomedov died in police custody some time later, ostensibly of a heart attack. An autopsy the next day, however, disclosed the cause of death was suffocation caused by a plastic bag stuffed down his windpipe. Two RFE/RL North Caucasus Service correspondents were on the scene and spoke to police, members of Magomedov's family, protesters rallying in front of the police station and Imam Kebekov, who said he was only doing his duty when he summoned the police.

** 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

RUSSIAN SERVICE FOLLOWS BESLAN INVESTIGATION On December 22, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported the findings of a Russian parliamentary commission investigating the 2004 Beslan school tragedy. In an interview with the Russian Service, Susanna Dudiyev, the head of the Beslan Mothers' Committee, said: "I am outraged with the commission itself, which was given such authority but has proven only capable of solidarity with officials. There is no proof for their categorical claim that there were exactly 32 terrorists. The people who were held hostage at the school say there were many more of them."

** 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

BELARUS SERVICE KEEPS FOCUS ON KAZULIN HUNGER STRIKE... In early December, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported daily on former presidential candidate Aliaksandr Kazulin, who went on hunger strike in prison on October to protest what he called the "illegal" re-election of Aliaksandr Lukashenka for a third presidential term. RFE/RL correspondents in Minsk and Prague interviewed lawyers, prison officials and family members, and gathered reactions from foreign ambassadors, human rights activists and organizations, UN, EU and EP representatives -- all of whom demanded Kazulin's release and urged him to end the strike -- as well as from the Belarus Foreign Ministry. One of Kazulin's conditions for ending his hunger strike, during which he lost some 30 kilograms (65 pounds), was that the UN Security Council addresses the situation in Belarus. Kazulin ended the hunger strike December 11 and the next day, December 12, US envoy William Brencick raised the question of Belarus at a closed session of the UN Security Council (Belarus Service coverage of the UN Security Council debate can be read at

...BELARUS TRADE BENEFITS... A December 20 RFE/RL Belarusian Service broadcast informed listeners about a decision of the European Union to suspend trade benefits for Belarus under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), as a punitive measure brought on by the Belarusian government's violations of human rights. If implemented, the suspension of GSP benefits could cause a loss of several hundred million euros for Belarus. RFE/RL aired interviews with economists about the impact of the EU move and reaction from government officials, who minimized the economic impact, as well as opposition activists -- some of whom applauded the move, others criticized it because of the suffering they fear would result among the Belarusian people (

...UN RESOLUTION ON HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS Also on December 20, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on human rights violations in Belarus. RFE/RL's Belarusian Service aired details of the resolution, citing passages expressing deep concern about the harassment of opposition activists, non-governmental organizations and journalists, and continuing and expanding criminal prosecution of opposition leaders. The service gathered official and opposition reactions and conducted a round table analysis of the implications of such a move by the prestigious world body (

** 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

UN OFFICIAL TELLS RFE/RL OF KOSOVO PLAN Arbana Vidishiqi, a Prishtina-based correspondent for the Kosovo Subunit of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service gained an interview December 7 with the head of the UN Mission in Kosovo, Joachim Ruecker about a plan for the future status of Kosovo that is to be presented early next year to the UN Security Council. Ruecker said the contents of the plan "in rough terms are known with regards to decentralization, cultural heritage, with regards to minority protection mechanisms, and with regard to the economic chapter. But in detail, we will have to wait until the end of January." He said he expects all sides to accept the proposal and for the UN Security Council to take it up in the spring (an English transcript can be found on RFE/RL's website, at

** 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 Albanian is located at; English-language news about events in Kosovo at

UKRAINIAN SERVICE FOLLOWS YANUKOVICH IN U.S.... RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service assigned correspondents in Washington and New York to cover the first working visit to the U.S. of Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych on December 3-7. During his trip, Yanukovych met with Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Rice, and American business representatives in New York ( The Service also covered Yanukovych's remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, including his statement that talk of Ukraine joining NATO is premature ( To provide analysis of the Prime Minister's visit, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer gave RFE/RL an exclusive interview on December 4, in which he warned that actions taken recently by Yanukovych's government cast doubt on his declarations in Washington about fighting corruption and creating a positive investment climate in Ukraine (

...MARKS 15TH ANNIVERSARY OF END OF USSR... The Ukrainian Service aired several programs in early December marking the 15th anniversary of the collapse of the Soviet Union, including an exclusive interview with the first elected president of independent Ukraine, Leonid Kravchuk, who was also one of the architects of the post-Soviet order. Kravchuk, with Russia's Boris Yeltsin, and Stanislav Shushkevich of Belarus signed the so-called Belovezh Agreement, which annulled the treaty that established the Soviet Union and created the Commonwealth of Independent States. Kravchuk told RFE/RL of his feelings at that historic moment: "I had great hopes and a lot of happy thoughts. I was convinced Ukraine would become prosperous and democratic, as well as independent...The fact that people who came to power did not avail themselves of the opportunity given them by history is not the fault of independence and liberty, it is the fault of those people" (transcript at As part of its coverage, the service also spoke to Belarusian leader Shushkevich ( and gathered man-on-the-street reaction about the anniversary (

...REPORTS DEATH OF CRIMEAN TATAR JOURNALIST The murder of journalist and Crimean Tatar political activist Norik Shirin in Simferopol December 20 shocked Ukrainians and made headlines nationwide. A Simferopol correspondent for RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service spoke to the head of the Crimean district police, Oleksandr Dombrovskiy, who said "a stranger could not have committed a crime in that area. He would have been noticed immediately, an unknown car would have been spotted immediately, because it is a tightly-knit ethnic community and everybody knows everyone else." The victim, whose real name was Nuri Osmanov, was the leader of the Crimean Tatar "Unity" youth movement and editor of the "Voices of Youth" weekly. RFE/RL's correspondent also spoke to friends of the victim at university, who said he had recently returned from Kyiv with plans to start an FM radio station (

** 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

KAZAKH SERVICE COMMEMORATES 20-TH ANNIVERSARY OF ZHELTOQSAN RFE/RL's Kazakh Service in mid-December ran a series of programs on the 20th anniversary of Zheltoqsan (December), a massive, three-day protest in Almaty (then called Alma-Ata) during the early stages of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika reform efforts in 1986. Tens of thousands participated, thousands were arrested (mostly students) and an unknown number were killed. The role of Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev, then chairman of Soviet Kazakhstan's Council of Ministers has never been fully explained and the commission formed after independence to look into the causes and consequences of Zheltoqsan was dissolved before it could release any findings. RFE/RL interviewed several participants, former prisoners and victims of Zheltoqsan, airing their graphic descriptions of the demonstrations and brutal suppression and the lasting impact it left on their lives. Kalelkhan Adilkhan Uliy was visiting friends who were studying at the university in Almaty when the protest started. He remembered the first day of protests this way: "We used bed sheets to make banners," he said. "We had four large ones -- with slogans. The slogans on them were 'The Kazakh Nation Deserves A Kazakh Leader,' 'Return Our Leader To Us,' and 'Kazakhstan Belongs To Kazakhs.' We left the technical school and while we were moving toward the central square more and more Kazakhs joined us, like rivers flowing into the sea." Adilkhan Uliy, who was beaten in jail and had his nose and hands broken, said participation in Zheltoqsan ruined his life: "I tried to get admitted to the university but the [application] papers were returned," he said. "They only hire me to do menial labor... there are no prospects for the future...all my dreams were buried with Zheltoqsan." Ishenbay Tusupbekov, who was also visiting friends at the university when the protest started, told RFE/RL that "nobody forced me [to go to the demonstration], I went voluntarily and participated," he said. "I spent a month and a half in an Almaty jail. Then I was single, young. I was released [from jail] but sacked from my job." RFE/RL also spoke to historians, including Kazakh State University professor Sayin Burbasov and political analysts who gave differing accounts of the numbers of participants and jailed, many of whom spent several years in prison. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Kazakh government pardoned nearly everyone who took part in the protests and erected a monument to "the victims of Soviet repression." But a full investigation is yet to come. Burbasov told RFE/RL's Kazakh Service that many people feel it won't happen while officials responsible for Zheltoqsan remain in office (report in English at; report in Kazakh at

** 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

ARMENIAN SERVICE NUMBER ONE RADIO STATION IN ARMENIA RFE/RL's Armenian Service is the most popular radio network in Armenia, according to the findings of a year-long international survey released on December 26. The survey, entitled "Armenia National Voter Study," was conducted jointly by The Gallup Organization and Baltic Surveys Ltd with the International Republican Institute, and the Armenian Sociological Association, with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development. It found a rising listenership trend for RFE/RL's daily broadcasting with 13 percent, 17 percent and 18 percent of the population listening regularly to the Armenian Service in May, August, and November, respectively.

RFE/RL JOURNALISTS RECEIVE YEAR-END AWARDS As 2006 drew to a close, RFE/RL journalists from across the broadcast region were cited for their work:

* The International Fund of Journalists, a Georgian NGO, awarded its prestigious "Golden Feather" prize as Journalist of the Year prize to RFE/RL Georgian Service correspondent Tamar Chikovani. Chikovani also placed third in a survey of residents conducted by the Georgian Consulting Group for the GHN News Agency in the "Journalist of the Year" category, while RFE/RL's Georgian Service placed second in the "Radio Company of the Year" category. Another Georgian Service reporter, Jimsher Rekhviashvili, won the prize for "Best Radio Report of the Year" given by the Georgia's Human Rights Information and Documentation Center.

* Several members of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service were honored for excellence in reporting in 2006. The National Association of Journalists of Ukraine gave special recognition to RFE/RL's Crimea- based correspondent Volodymyr Prytula, Brussels correspondent Natalia Vikulina, and Natalia Churikova in Prague for a series of programs on NATO and prospects for Ukraine joining the alliance. And Lviv-based broadcaster Halyna Tereshchuk received the prestigious Vyacheslav Chornovil award, established by the Ukrainian government; a jury of distinguished writers, politicians, artists and scientists chose Tereshchuk for the top award for her "objective, lively, interesting and timely reports" broadcast on RFE/RL.

* Belgrade-based RFE/RL South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service (SSALS) broadcaster Milos Tedorovic won this year's top prize at Serbia's National Radio Festival sponsored by B-92 Radio, the number- one station in Serbia. He was cited for his series on the exploitation of children and human trafficking. The NRF award is the most important honor in Serbia for achievement in radio journalism.

* RFE/RL Kyrgyz Service correspondent Kubanych Joldoshev, who covers the Osh region in southern Kyrgyzstan, was declared the winner of the 2006 "Journalist of the Year" award, bestowed by the city of Osh for journalistic excellence. Osh Mayor Jumadyl Isakov signed the award, which is sponsored by Osh municipal authorities.

* At a special ceremony in Almaty on December 7, RFE/RL Kazakh Service correspondent Neliya Rushanova was awarded first prize in a UN- sponsored competition among Kazakh radio journalists for best coverage of the December 5 World Volunteers Day.

* RFE/RL Romania-Moldova Service correspondent Valeria Vitu received the "Best Young Journalist of 2006" award in Moldova from the Center for Independent Journalism.

* RFE/RL Armenian Service correspondent Hasmik Smbatyan won this year's Armenian national competition for the best TV, radio and print story on the issue of disabilities. The award is sponsored by the Armenian NGO "Bridge of Hope." Smbatyan's winning entry was a feature aired on the Armenian Service's "Max Liberty" youth program.

ROMANIAN PRESIDENT PAYS TRIBUTE TO RADIO FREE EUROPE International media gave broad coverage to Romanian President Traian Basescu's speech in parliament on December 18, in which he condemned 44 years of communism in Romania and paid official tribute to Radio Free Europe for keeping Romanians informed about developments in their country and in the world during those dark days. Basescu said, "Radio Free Europe... was the spoken newspaper of all Romanians. I pay homage to former Romanian Service directors Ghita Ionescu, Mihai Cismarescu, Noel Bernard and Vlad Georgescu -- men who fought selflessly and passionately for the truth, to uncover it, tell it and make it known." Basescu also named former broadcasters Monika Lovinescu and Virgil Ierunca, saying, "They awakened the Romanian people with their unforgettable programs and through Radio Free Europe became the moral conscience of all Romanians." The broadcast directors named by Basescu led the service from 1955 to 1988; Bernard, Cismarescu and Georgescu all died of brain cancer in succession. Allegations have surfaced that the three were targeted by Romanian communist agents.

KYRGYZ SERVICE GETS FAN LETTER FROM UZBEKISTAN RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service received a fan letter December 27 from a viewer living in Uzbekistan who watches Radio Azattyk's weekly Azattyk Plus television show for youth aired Mondays on Kyrgyz State TV. The e-mail from the Ferghana Valley in Uzbekistan's Namangan province was in Russian and praised Azattyk Plus for being a little bit about everything. It said: "the show stays in my memory... because it includes everything -- politics, social life, music, cooking tips, etc. I will try to watch your programs in the coming year." The letter ended with a request to "participate in your Azattyk Plus program... unfortunately, I barely speak Kyrgyz, but I understand it quite well."

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