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RFE/RL Review for December 2008

Turkmen Service Battles Government Interference to Cover Parliamentary Elections

In the weeks leading up to the parliamentary elections in Turkmenistan on December 14, the Turkmen Service battled growing harassment from the government in its attempts to cover the story. Turkmen authorities cut off RFE/RL correspondents' telephones and monitored their whereabouts. The elections were a stage-managed affair, and the Parliament largely exists as a rubber stamp for the President.

** 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

Armenian Service Lands Year-End Interviews with Prime Minister, Parliament Speaker

The Armenian Service broadcast year-end interviews with Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian and Speaker of the Parliament Hovik Abramian that were widely quoted by, and discussed in, other media outlets in Armenia. The Service made the interviews available in audio, video, and text form. The fact that the Prime Minister and the Speaker of the Parliament were willing to come to RFE/RL's Yerevan studio for interviews reflects the rising popularity of the Service's programs.

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

Kazakh Service Discusses Economic Anxiety

With its audience increasingly anxious about the global financial crisis, the Kazakh Service broadcast several stories in December devoted to economic issues. The Service monitored the progress of the government's anti-crisis economic stabilization package and invited experts on the air to explain what effect the global crisis could have on Kazakhstan. The Service also reported that anxiety over the economy is affecting even children, with many kids writing Santa Claus (or the Kazakh equivalent thereof) to tell him that their foremost wish was to bail their parents out of debt.

** 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

U.S. Official Shares Bosnia Concerns with South Slavic Service

On December 5, South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service broadcast an exclusive interview with Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried, who expressed the U.S. government's deep concerns about Bosnia's future. Fried told listeners, "We urged Bosnia's leaders to look at their country's future in Europe and to avoid a paralysis that could constitute a grave danger for the people of Bosnia in the future." In the interview Fried also discussed the recently deployed EU mission (EULEX) in Kosovo, stressing that its mission is not neutral but rather to "greatly strengthen Kosovo's territorial integrity."

** The Director of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service (SSALS), Gordana Knezevic, 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 the Balkans can be found at

RFE/RL Commemorates 60th Anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights

In early December, RFE/RL featured several articles, commentaries, and broadcasts to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On RFE/RL's English-language website, Commentary Editor Robert Coalson argued that Russian critics consider the Declaration a manifestation of "aggressive colonialism and yet another attempt to impose ‘Western' values on other cultures." In a special commentary for RFE/RL, William Schulz, the former head of Amnesty International USA, noted that "dozens of states, from every religious and cultural tradition, have incorporated the principles of the UDHR into their national constitutions." He called the declaration "a revolutionary document exactly because it is universal and thereby takes precedence over every political ideology and every parochial claim." And the Russian Service interviewed former Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky about the importance of the Declaration, its role in the demise of the Soviet Union, and its ability to influence the situation in Russia.

** The Executive Editor of RFE/RL, John O'Sullivan, may be reached by email at <>; RFE/RL English-language news reports can be found at 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

RFE/RL Off The Air in Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan

Although RFE/RL-IBB delegations traveled to Baku and Bishkek in early December to meet government authorities in an effort to avoid the closure of local broadcasting in Azerbaijan and to facilitate the resumption of local rebroadcasting on TV and radio in Kyrgyzstan, both governments stuck to their new hard line that local rebroadcasting of foreign media is illegal. Following a decision by the National TV and Radio Council in Baku, the extremely popular joint RL/VOA 24/7 Baku 101.7 FM went off the air on December 31. Also on December 31, the contract between IBB and National Kyrgyz TV and Radio expired with the new contract left unsigned. Protests have been made by members of Congress, the State Department, OSCE, Freedom House, Reporters without Borders and local independent media and parliamentarians in both countries.

** 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 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