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RFE/RL Review December 31, 2007

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The Best of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Reporting
December 1-31, 2007
Duma Elections Dominate Russian Service Coverage
The Russian Service provided listeners extensive coverage of the December 2 parliamentary elections, airing scores of reports gauging voter activity and opinion spanning the country from Kaliningrad to Chukotka. After polls closed, the Service did five hours of election analysis and commentary and reported on the Central Election Commission's initial results. Coverage also included a wide range of live interviews with party leaders and representatives; prominent politicians such as Vladimir Bukovsky, Garry Kasparov, Vladimir Ryzhkov, Ivan Rybkin and Andrei Illarionov; Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) General Secretary Spencer Oliver, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Vice President Kimmo Killunen and PACE deputy Hanne Severinsen; and Russia analysts, including Andrei Ryabov, Michael McFaul, Marshall Goldman, Richard Pipes and Andrei Piontkovsky.
** 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
Radio Free Afghanistan Covers Assassination of Benazir Bhutto...
Radio Free Afghanistan was one of the first Afghan media outlets to report on the December 27 assassination of Pakistani politician Benazir Bhutto, breaking the news to Afghan listeners as the events unfolded. Afghan President Hamid Karzai had met with Bhutto earlier that day after concluding an official state visit to Pakistan, where he met with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. In particular, Bhutto and Karzai discussed the issue of terrorism. Radio Free Afghanistan also interviewed U.S. Ambassador to the UN and former U.S. Afghanistan envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who called the assassination "an enormous tragedy for Pakistan and the whole region." Listeners called in to voice their reactions, with many commenting on Bhutto's unique position in the Islamic world and her long, patient fight for democracy in her country.
...Recapture By Afghan Government Forces, NATO Of Taliban Stronghold
Radio Free Afghanistan closely followed developments in the southern town of Musa Qala in Helmand Province, a Taliban stronghold for the last ten months that was recently recaptured by Afghan and NATO forces. On December 9, Afghan President Hamid Karzai ordered the town to be stormed after reports of brutality by the Taliban and the presence of Al-Qaeda fighters. In an interview with Radio Free Afghanistan, President Karzai stated that the operation was a success partially due to the fact that some of the tribal leaders in the area had switched alliances from the Taliban to the Afghan government. Although Radio Free Afghanistan correspondents were unable to report directly from Musa Qala while the Taliban were in control, the Service called people living in the district, gaining a keen perspective on how it was to live under Taliban rule. Many locals expressed skepticism and were cautiously optimistic at best, a tone echoed by Ali Ahmad Jalali, an Afghan security expert and former Interior Minister.
** 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
Radio Free Iraq Reports on Turkish Raid
Radio Free Iraq reported on the December 16 Turkish military raid on Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) targets in Northern Iraq, airing an interview the next day with Iraqi Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammed Haj Hamoud. Having just presented the Turkish Ambassador in Baghdad a note of protest, Hamoud commented, "[This military strike] harms civilians and is not related to the PKK. The Iraqi Government has rejected such action..." On December 17, RFI aired an interview with Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) spokesman Jamal Abdullah about the dispatching of a special relief committee to the affected area in Dohuk province.
** 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
Election Disputed in Kyrgyzstan
The Kyrgyz Service closely followed early parliamentary elections on December 16 and ensuing events, airing live commentary and analysis by several opposition leaders and senior government officials on the election and post-election efforts to form a new government. On December 28, newly appointed Prime Minister Igor Chudinov gave the Service his first media interview, breaking news on negotiations between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan regarding natural gas supplies. The Kyrgyz Service also had an exclusive interview on December 27 with U.S. Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Marie Yovanovich, who assessed achievements and shortcomings of the vote. The Service was the first local media outlet to report on the December 22 release of opposition activists detained in Bishkek after ongoing protests over the disputed election.
** The Director of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, Tyntchtykbek Tchoroev, may be reached by email at <>. The Kyrgyz Service's website is at; English-language news about events in Kyrgyzstan can be found at
Georgian Presidential Candidates Take to RFE/RL Airwaves
The Georgian Service aired reports and roundtables preparing listeners for the January 5 presidential election called by President Saakashvili in November in the wake of violent protests in opposition to his continued rule. In addition to regular election coverage of rallies, news briefings and candidate meetings with voters, the Service invited all seven declared candidates to its Tbilisi studio. Starting on December 24, each was given 30 minutes of airtime during the service's morning program; several came to the studio in person while those on the road had campaign chiefs participate by telephone.
** The Director of RFE/RL's Georgian Service, David Kakabadze, may be reached by email at <>. The Georgian Service's website is at; English-language news about events in Georgia can be found at
Second Time Around for Tymoshenko
The Ukrainian Service provided comprehensive coverage of Ukraine's ever challenging post-election landscape. Although parliamentary elections took place in September, Yulia Tymoshenko only gained parliamentary approval as Prime Minister on December 18 -- some two and a half months later. The Service provided listeners access to many hard-to-reach politicians and government officials in both the Pro-Presidential and opposition camps and aired numerous roundtables, reports, and profiles that were picked up by several popular domestic media outlets. Other issues covered included Russia's December 2 parliamentary election and negotiations between Ukraine and Russia over natural gas supplies.
** The Director of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, Irena Chalupa, may be reached by email at <>. The Ukrainian Service's website is at; English-language news about events in Ukraine can be found at
Azerbaijani Correspondent Imprisoned
On December 6, Azerbaijani Service correspondent Ilqar Nasibov in the remote region of Nakhchivan was summarily sentenced to 90 days in jail. Local police filed libel charges against him in November, after he complained about police brutality. A local court dismissed the charges earlier that week; however, when Nasibov went to the court to sign dismissal papers the judge reinstated the charges, denied him counsel, and sentenced him to prison. Nasibov was held incommunicado in a detention center for five days, while his apartment was searched and computer confiscated. Following intensive press coverage and support by international organizations and the U.S. State Department, including the direct involvement of the U.S. Ambassador in Baku, Nasibov was released. However, even as the original charges were dismissed and he was released, new charges of libel were filed against him, which resulted in a one-year suspended sentence.
** The Director of RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service, Kenan Aliyev, may be reached by email at <>. The Azerbaijani Service's website is at; English-language news about events in Azerbaijan can be found at
Belarus Opposition Activist Severely Beaten
The Belarus Service reported on the use of brutal force against critics of President Lukashenka in December. Zmitser Fedaruk, the nineteen year-old leader of Malady Front (Youth Front) youth group, was severely beaten by riot police while taking part in a peaceful demonstration in Minsk on December 12. Fedaruk had visited RFE/RL's Washington offices just one week earlier, on December 6, as a member of a high-level Belarus opposition delegation that participated in a studio interview with the service just prior to a meeting with President George W. Bush at the White House; Fedaruk was also profiled for the RFE/RL website. A week later, a court in Mahilyov sentenced opposition activist Artur Finkevich, who had already served a year and a half in jail, to an additional 18 months of confinement for allegedly violating the terms of an earlier prison sentence. The State Department and U.S. Helsinki Commission issued strong condemnations against the actions.
** 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
Copyright © 2007. 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.
Acting Editor: Anna Siskova <>
For more information about any of the stories mentioned in "RFE/RL Review," or to learn more about RFE/RL, please contact Martins Zvaners at <> or by calling +1-202-457-6948.