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RFE/RL Review for June 2008

In Exclusive Interview with Radio Free Iraq, Foreign Minister Denies Impasse with U.S.

In an exclusive interview on June 6, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told Radio Free Iraq that, contrary to rumor, negotiations between the United States and Iraq on the role of U.S. forces in Iraq had not come to a standstill. "Like all negotiations in the world, they do not continue every day. Very often, negotiators go back to their capitals, to their governments, for consultation. This does not mean negotiations have been suspended or interrupted." Zebari added that, in his view, a successful conclusion to the negotiations was within reach and that he hoped to see a signed agreement by the end of July.

** 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

Radio Free Afghanistan First to Report on Prison Break

On June 13, Radio Free Afghanistan was the first media outlet to report that hundreds of prisoners--including several experienced Taliban field commanders--had escaped from a jail in Afghanistan's Kandahar province. The prisoners escaped after Taliban fighters blasted open the prison gate in an overnight attack on the Sarposa prison. Kandahar Provincial Council head Ahmed Wali Karzai confirmed the events to Radio Free Afghanistan, saying "No one knows the number exactly, but there were around 390 Taliban prisoners in that prison and around 600 or 700 more [who] were criminal prisoners. Two hundred prisoners are still here in the prison -- the rest of them escaped." The escaped Taliban prisoners later amassed in the Arghandab district, north of Kandahar city, where they fought Afghan and NATO forces. The three-day battle was covered extensively by Radio Free Afghanistan field reporters.

** 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

Uzbek State TV Broadcasts Personal Information About RFE/RL Journalists, Families

On June 9 and 10, a state-run television network in Uzbekistan accused RFE/RL journalists of "anti-state activities" and broadcast personal information about them, including the names of their children and other family members, photographs, passport information, addresses, and places of work. The broadcasts, which were initially aired during primetime television to an audience of approximately 11 million people, were made at the same time that Uzbekistan was holding a "media freedom seminar" in Tashkent. International groups immediately denounced the Uzbek government for endangering the lives of RFE/RL's reporters and their families. The program was rebroadcast five more times on nation-wide television. Then, on June 30, yet another story aired when RFE/RL was the subject of a television roundtable in which RFE/RL was blasted for poisoning the minds of women and young people.

Uzbekistan Arrests Former RFE/RL Journalist

In early June, authorities in Uzbekistan arrested former RFE/RL journalist and human rights activist Solijon Abdurahmanov. Abdurahmanov was initially charged with illegal possession of narcotics after police claimed to discover drugs in his car, which was in a repair shop. Uzbek officials then raided Abdurahmanov's home and personal computer and are now claiming to have evidence of "anti-government" activity. Abdurahmanov was an RFE/RL correspondent until 2005, when the Tashkent bureau was closed in the wake of the Andijon massacre.

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

RFE/RL Contributor in Turkmenistan Seized

Turkmen Service journalist Sazak Durdymuradov was forcibly placed in a psychiatric hospital by secret police, where he was beaten and tortured with electroshock on June 24 for refusing to sign a letter in which he would agree to stop reporting for RFE/RL. Durdymuradov is a 59-year-old history teacher and frequent unpaid contributor whose commentary and analysis for the Turkmen Service often focuses on educational and constitutional reform. According to Durdymuradov's wife, when she retrieved him at the detention facility he told her that he "wanted to die." RFE/RL's journalists in Turkmenistan report that government intimidation and harassment are on the rise.

Follow-up note: Durdymuradov was released on July 4 on condition that he "spread the truth about Turkmenistan." In his first interview with the Turkmen Service following his release, Durdymuradov recalled that the officers of the Ministry of National Security wanted him to sign a written promise to stop contributing to RFE/RL, but he refused to sign and went on hunger strike. Durdymuradov remarked that he believed his release was a result of a wave of international pressure placed on the Turkmen government and that he "undoubtedly will continue to contribute to [RFE/RL's Turkmen Service]."

** 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

International Pressure Helps Restore Kazakh Service Website

Thanks to international pressure on the government of Kazakhstan, a seven-week blockage of the Kazakh Service website came to an end on June 6. The U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Congress, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and numerous nongovernmental human rights and press advocacy organizations had protested the Kazakh government's blocking of the site, which generated particular concern due to Kazakhstan's assumption of the OSCE presidency in 2010.

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

Russian Service Reports on Rare Activity by Opposition Parties

Because Russia has for all intents and purposes become a one-party state, it was big news in June when two opposition groups held conventions, and the Russian Service devoted extensive coverage to both on its news broadcasts, talk shows, and analytical programs. At its congress on June 21-22, the democratic Yabloko party elected a new leader after 15 years with Grigory Yavlinsky at the helm. A few days later, the All-Russian Civil Congress met near St. Petersburg to strategize about tactics and goals for the future. Garry Kasparov, human rights activists, and representatives of both left- and right-wing groups attended.

** 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

North Caucasus Service Interviews Family of Man Murdered by Neo-Nazis

Russia's Prosecutor-General's Office confirmed in June the authenticity of a video, first posted on the Internet in August 2007, showing neo-Nazis executing two men, one Daghestani and one Tajik. As controversy mounts over the rising tide of violent racism in Russia, the North Caucasus Service spoke to the family and neighbors of the Daghestani man about the case. In the video, one of the captors walks up to Shamil Umadanov and beheads him with a knife, a deeply disturbing scene that lasts a full 90 seconds. The second man drops forward into a makeshift grave after being shot in the head. The video ends with two masked men raising their arms in a Nazi salute. The Umadanov family, which lives in the village of Sultanyangyurt in Russia's southern republic of Daghestan, accuses authorities of doing too little to uncover the truth about Shamil's death. He had moved to Moscow last year in search of a job. Udamanov's father told RFE/RL that he suffers terrible grief from not being able to give his son a proper burial: "I turned to the regional Interior Ministry. They sent a request to Moscow, but I'm not sure what they're doing. I'm asking: please find his body or something that I can bury."

** 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

Kyrgyz Service Covers Death of Beloved Statesman, Writer

The Kyrgyz Service extensively covered the death and funeral of Chyngyz Aitmatov, a beloved Kyrgyz writer and statesman who died on 10 June in Nuremberg, Germany. The Service aired several exclusive interviews, roundtables, and a television program devoted to Aitmatov's life and his prominent place in the history of Kyrgyz culture. Among those interviewed were former President Askar Akayev and Russian poet Yevgeny Evtushenko. The Service also rebroadcast an interview it conducted with Aitmatov in December 2007.

Kyrgyz Service First to Report Raid on Independent Newspaper

On June 14, the Kyrgyz Service broke the story that police had raided the independent newspaper De Facto and seized its computers. The raid triggered a public outcry, and the Service devoted substantial air time to covering the story, including interviews with the newspaper's editor-in-chief. On July 25, the Service broadcast a special episode about the raid on its weekly television show, Inconvenient Questions.

** 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

Romanian Service Uncovers Cold War-Era Mole Formerly Spying on RFE/RL

While exploring his personal files at the National Council for Studying the Archives of the Securitate, former Romanian staff member and long-time contributor Neculai Constantin Munteanu uncovered the identity of a "mole" assigned by the Securitate (the Romanian equivalent of the KGB) to spy on RFE/RL employees. The Romanian Service aired an interview with Munteanu that resulted in major headlines across the Romanian press. The mole was identified as a former journalist, Emanoil Valeriu, who provided reports and information from Romania to RFE/RL on a freelance basis. Valeriu remains a prominent figure in the Romanian political and media landscape, having served as president of Romanian public television for two years. Until this year, Valeriu was a member of the National Council for Audiovisual, where he played a role in issuing and revoking broadcasting licenses of affiliates and regulating the media. Valeriu was employed simultaneously by RFE/RL and the Securitate from 1985 to 1989. Following Valeriu's visits to RFE/RL's headquarters in Munich, he provided the Securitate with reports on the personal lives and profiles of employees.

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