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RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 1, No. 171, Part II, 3 December 1997



A daily report of developments in Eastern and Southeastern Europe,
Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia prepared by the staff of Radio
Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

This is Part II, a compilation of news concerning Central, Eastern,
and Southeastern Europe.  Part I covers Russia,
Transcaucasia and Central Asia and is distributed simultaneously as
a second document.  Back issues of RFE/RL NewsLine and the OMRI
Daily Digest are online at RFE/RL's Web site:
http://www.rferl.org/newsline

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Headlines, Part II

* CZECH SOCIAL DEMOCRATS WANT NEW ELECTIONS

* MILUTINOVIC REMAINS FIRM ON "SERB JERUSALEM"

* ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT RESHUFFLED

End Note
MISUSE OF MEDIA LAWS IN POST SOVIET STATES

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EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

CZECH SOCIAL DEMOCRATS WANT NEW ELECTIONS. Stanislav
Gross, the parliamentary faction leader of the main opposition
Social Democratic Party (CSSD), announced on 2 December that his
group has worked out a draft providing for new elections no later
than 30 June, CTK reported. CSSD leader Milos Zeman told Czech
Radio that he will meet President Vaclav Havel on 5 December to
inform him about the bill. He said he believes Havel will agree to
new elections when he realizes that trying to form a new coalition
government is  "more difficult than trying to wake up Vladimir Ilich
Lenin." Outgoing Finance Minister Ivan Pilip said that the chances of
rebuilding the collapsed coalition are fading but that the possibility
cannot yet be ruled out. MS

HAVEL TO REPLACE KLAUS AT EU SUMMIT. A presidential
spokesman announced on 2 December that Havel  will head the Czech
delegation to the EU summit in Luxembourg on 13 December in place
of outgoing Premier Vaclav Klaus. The spokesman said Havel
consulted his doctors before taking that decision. On 13-14
December, Klaus will be attending an extraordinary congress of his
Civic Democratic Party, which is to decide on the future of the
party's leadership. MS

UKRAINE WON'T SIGN LAND-MINE CONVENTION--FOR NOW.
Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Viktor Nagaichuk said on 2
December that Kyiv will not sign the land-mine convention in
Ottawa, Interfax reported. But he added that Ukraine's decision was
motivated by a lack of money with which to comply rather than by
opposition to the  ban on land mines. Nagaichuk noted that Ukraine
might accede to the agreement sometime in the future. PG

BELARUS, RUSSIA AGREE TO INCREASE JOINT EXPENDITURES.
Following a one-day summit in Minsk on 2 December, Russian Prime
Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and his Belarusian counterpart, Sergey
Ling, announced they have agreed to spend $10.2 million in 1998 to
promote the integration of their countries, ITAR-TASS reported. But
they did not specify how those funds would be used.  PG

ESTONIAN OPPOSITION REJECTS GOVERNMENT OFFER. The
opposition has rejected the government's offer to allocate 109
million kroons ($7.3 million) from next year's budget to finance a
wage hike for teachers, ETA reported on 2 December. The two sides
are due to meet again on 3 December in a bid to hammer out a
compromise over the draft budget, which the opposition brought into
imbalance by voting in a 200 million kroon allocation for the
country's teachers. Under Estonian law, the budget must be balanced.
JC

RIGA AUTHORITIES QUERY REPORT ON STREET KIDS. Child
protection and education authorities are calling into question a
recent report claiming some 30,000 children live on the streets of
the Latvian capital and engage in "begging, stealing, and
prostitution," BNS reported on 2 December. Some officials suggest
that a more accurate number would be 200 and say that
nongovernmental institutions may have given inflated figures in a
bid to receive funding. The report, published in mid-November in the
Norwegian newspaper "Aftenpost," was drawn up  by a group of
parliamentary deputies from the Nordic states. JC

LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES 1998 BUDGET. Lawmakers in
Vilnius have approved next year's budget, which foresees revenues
totaling 6.89 billion litas ($1.72 billion) and expenditures 7.58
billion litas ($1.89 billion), BNS reported on 2 December. The budget
deficit is estimated at 1.6 percent of GDP. Finance Minister Algirdas
Semeta argued that the budget will be more socially oriented than in
previous years. He also promised that corporate and income taxes
will not be raised, although there will be increases in taxes on
alcohol, fuel, and tobacco. JC

WALESA PARTY REGISTERS IN POLAND.  Lech Walesa, former
Solidarity leader and ex-president, has officially registered his
Christian Democratic Party of the Third Republic, PAP reported on 2
December. Walesa has said his party will seek to generate support
among the nearly 50 percent of voters who did not participate in the
last elections rather than to challenge Solidarity Electoral Action
for the votes it received. The registration of his party suggests,
however, that Walesa may in fact run in the next presidential
elections. PG


HUNGARY, BOSNIA CONCLUDE TRADE AGREEMENT. Hungarian
Industry and Trade Minister Szabolcs Fazakas and Edham Bicakcic,
the premier of Bosnia's Muslim-Croat Federation, met in Budapest on
2 December and signed a trade agreement that could lead to
Hungarian investments in Bosnia totaling several hundred million
dollars, Hungarian media reported. Fazakas said the agreement would
increase Hungarian exports to Bosnia from the current $100 million
a year to $200 million or more in the future. The two leaders also
discussed building a "superhighway" to connect Budapest and the
Adriatic Sea via Sarajevo. MSZ

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

MILUTINOVIC REMAINS FIRM ON "SERB JERUSALEM." Serbian
presidential candidate and Yugoslav Foreign Minister Milan
Milutinovic said in Pec on 2 December that Serbia will never give up
Kosovo. "Kosovo is the Jerusalem of all Serbs, who will never be a
minority in their own country. The [Albanian] separatists had better
understand this. We will never allow anybody to interfere in the
Kosovo issue or in our internal affairs. Kosovo is our land and will
not be the subject of bargaining with anybody." Milutinovic is the
candidate of a coalition led by Yugoslav President Slobodan
Milosevic. France and Germany recently called upon Serbia to grant
autonomy to the mainly ethnic Albanian province (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," 1 and 2 December 1997). PM

SESELJ FEARS ELECTORAL FRAUD. Vojislav Seselj, the
presidential candidate of the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party,
said in Kosovska Mitrovica on 2 December that he expects to beat
Milutinovic "without any problem." Seselj added, however, that he
fears vote rigging in the 7 December vote, BETA news agency
reported. He charged that the absence of a central body to coordinate
voting lists has enabled some people to register in more than one
place and that there are consequently 500,000 more names on the
voting rolls than there should be. Seselj narrowly defeated
Milosevic's candidate Zoran Lilic in the 21 September presidential
vote, which was declared invalid because of insufficient turnout. PM

KOSOVO KIDNAPPING NOT POLITICAL? The recent kidnapping of
a high-ranking Serbian police official in Kosovo was the work of
Serbian criminals who wanted to hold their victim for a large
ransom, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 2
December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1 December 1997). The criminals
released their victim in Belgrade once they realized that he was not
the man they had wanted to kidnap. Many observers had assumed  the
kidnapping was the work of ethnic Albanian guerrillas, who have
claimed responsibility for an increasing number of acts of violence
against Serbian officials and pro-Serbian Albanians this year. PM

WEU WANTS NEW BOSNIA FORCE. The parliamentary assembly of
the West European Union on 2 December called on WEU officials to
set up a new peacekeeping force for Bosnia when SFOR's mandate
runs out in June 1998. The legislators argued that the new force
should have a mandate of at least three to five years and work
together with U.S. and Russian peacekeepers, the "Frankfurter
Allgemeine Zeitung" reported. The assembly also called on the WEU
to set up a police force for  Bosnia on the model of European police
units that have served in Mostar and Albania. The legislators
suggested that the WEU police unit could eventually replace the UN
police currently serving in Bosnia. PM

MUSLIMS, CROATS AGREE ON REFUGEE RETURN. Top officials of
the mainly Muslim and Croat federation agreed in Sarajevo on 2
December that some 120,000 Muslim and Croat refugees may return
to 156 villages in central Bosnia under the control of the other
nationality. The federal government will make $3 million available
for the project, an RFE/RL correspondent  reported from Sarajevo. In
Mostar, a UN police spokesman said that Croatian authorities the
previous week sacked three Croatian government officials who are
married to Muslims. One of the three has since returned to work
after proving that a close relative of his died fighting the Muslims
in the Croatian army during the 1993 Croatian-Muslim war, an
RFE/RL correspondent reported from Mostar. PM

CRACKDOWN ON MUSLIM EXTREMISTS IN BOSNIA. A UN police
spokesman said in Sarajevo on 2 December that federal police
arrested "a number" of people in central Bosnia the previous week.
He added, however, that the purpose and scope of the apparent
crackdown are unclear. Local media reported recently that the
arrests are part of a crackdown on foreign and Bosnian Islamic
militants allegedly responsible for several armed incidents against
local Croats in recent months. Western news agencies added that
police found two arms caches and are investigating possible links
between the extremists and senior Bosnian government officials. PM

SLOVENIA, EU LAUNCH $20 MILLION PROJECT. Representatives
of the EU and Slovenia announced in Brussels on 2 December a $20
million program to help integrate Slovenia into the EU. The EU feels
that Slovenia has made rapid progress in its transition to a market
economy and no longer needs assistance to promote privatization or
restructuring. The new project will focus on bringing Slovenian laws
into line with EU standards as well as on promoting investments in
small businesses and in environmental protection. Meanwhile in
Ljubljana, electoral officials confirmed that President Milan Kucan
was re-elected in the 23 November election with 55.5 percent of the
vote (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 November 1997). PM

ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT RESHUFFLED. Premier Victor Ciorbea on
2 December replaced one-third of the cabinet's members, RFE/RL's
Bucharest bureau reported. Daniel Daianu, chief economist of the
National Bank, took over the  Finance Ministry from Mircea Ciumara,
who is now minister of industry and commerce. Valentin Ionescu, a
former presidential counselor, is head of the newly established
Privatization Ministry, while Ilie Serbanescu, a well known
journalist specializing in economic affairs and a frequent
contributor to RFE/RL's programs, is minister of reform. Andrei
Marga, the dean of Cluj university, takes over the education
portfolio.  MS

ROMANIAN PRIME MINISTER WARNS NEW GOVERNMENT. Also on
2 December, Ciorbea told journalists in Bucharest that from now on,
cabinet members will have to stop "acting like stars." He said
differences of opinion must be solved within the government and not
in the press, with ministers criticizing one another publicly. He
added that those displaying "political infantilism" will either "find
themselves out of the government"  or he will submit his
resignation, bringing down the entire cabinet.  The failure to act as a
unified team was one of the main reasons for the difficulties
encountered by the government until now, Ciorbea commented. The
premier noted that although he is not required to do so by the law, he
will ask the parliament to approve the cabinet reshuffle on 4
December.

UKRAINIAN PEACEKEEPERS TO TRANSDNIESTER? A Ukrainian
peacekeeping unit will  soon be stationed in the Transdniester,
RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported on 2 December, citing  the
Russian-language pro-governmental daily "Nezavisimaya Moldova."
The daily said that Russia, which previously opposed the stationing
of the Ukrainian troops, has changed its position following the
recent visit to Chisinau and Tiraspol of Russian Minister for CIS
Affairs Anatolii Adamishin. The newspaper also commented that
separatist leader Igor Smirnov hopes that the presence of the
Ukrainian peace-keepers will result in a competition for influence in
the Transdniester between Moscow and Kyiv. Moldovan presidential
adviser Anatol Taranu, who heads the Chisinau team in the parleys
with Tiraspol, said Moldova is ready to accept the Ukrainian
contingent in order to "once more demonstrate its good will and
readiness to accept a compromise." MS

BULGARIAN PREMIER SEEKS CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGE. Ivan
Kostov on 2 December said the constitution should be amended to
make judges and prosecutors more accountable, Reuters reported.
Under the present system, they are immune from prosecution and
discipline even if they fail to fulfill their duties. Moreover, their
appointment cannot be revoked. Kostov suggested that constitution
be amended to make it possible for the Supreme Judicial Council to
discipline magistrates if necessary. MS

MISUSE OF MEDIA LAWS IN POST SOVIET STATES

by Yasha Lange

        The countries of the former Soviet Union have all adopted
constitutions that contain such pious phrases as "everyone is
guaranteed the right to free expression of one's own views and
ideas." In reality, media freedom remains a distant prospect in some
of those countries. Laws alone cannot change that state of affairs.
Worse, laws sometimes limit, rather than safeguard, freedom of
expression.
        Laws on defamation--or "harming the reputation of citizens"--
are such examples. In addition, there are the provisions of the press
law itself (on the obligations of journalists), of the civil code (on
the protection of the dignity and reputation of citizens), and/or of
the criminal code (on punishment for insulting officials or for
slander).
        Azerbaijan has a special law "on the honor and dignity of the
president," which provides for the punishment of those damaging the
reputation of the head of state. The Ukrainian law "on the protection
of the dignity and business reputation" of legal entities and
individuals allows those subjects to appeal to a court to demand the
retraction of, or compensation for, allegedly defamatory or
inaccurate information.
        While adequate libel laws are clearly necessary, no country
needs overly broad legislation protecting the reputation of officials
or the head of state. On the contrary, the European Court for Human
Rights has ruled  that public figures (meaning politicians, among
others) cannot expect the same protection as the public at large and
will inevitably come under greater scrutiny.
        In the former Soviet Union, however, legislation on defamation
has all too often been used by state bodies, officials, and individuals
to sue local media outlets. Those outlets have regularly had to pay
very high fines. Recent findings shows that the majority of legal
proceedings against the media in the former Soviet republics are for
defamation.
        Then there are legal provisions that place restrictions on the
media in order to ensure the country's security. Such provisions
typically state that the media are forbidden to disclose state
secrets, to call for the overthrow of the existing state, or to
propagate war or racial, national, or religious intolerance. True, the
European Convention on Human Rights (Article 10.2) also curtails the
activities of the media in the interests of national security.
However, those restrictions are not nearly as far-reaching as some
in the former Soviet Union.
        Belarus, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan, for example, have a special
law on classified materials. The Ukrainian law states that all
information pertaining to defense, the economy, foreign relations,
national security, and the safekeeping of law and order constitutes a
state secret. That law also lists various subjects that must remain
classified in order not to endanger Ukraine's vital interests. In
Azerbaijan, two decrees "on temporary military censorship" and a
parliamentary resolution provide a long list of materials deemed to
contain state and military secrets.
        In those four countries, as well as in Turkmenistan and
Uzbekistan, such provisions have been subject to opportunistic
interpretation and have resulted in hefty fines for some media
outlets. Control  has also been imposed over media output.
        At the same time, one law is conspicuously absent in the
countries of the former Soviet Union, except for Moldova, Ukraine,
and the Baltics: namely, one governing the electronic media, in
particular, licensing procedures and frequency distribution. For want
of such a law, some governments (including Russia's) have issued
decrees on the licensing of private broadcasting outlets and the
transmission of their programs. However, the lack of a sound
regulatory framework remains an obstacle to  the development of
independent broadcasting in many post Soviet states.
        Independent media oversight bodies could play an important
role, but as yet, they are markedly absent throughout the region. The
relevant authorities are directly subordinated either to the
president or the government, while the executive branch reserves
for itself major decision-making powers over media issues.  Regime
loyalists are appointed to positions of power in ministries, on
committees, and within the state-owned media. There are virtually
no non-political appointments.
        An independent judiciary could also play a valuable role.
However, most legal proceedings involving journalists or media
outlets are libel cases in which the press is the defendant. Rarely do
journalists or media outlets appeal administrative decisions (such
as not to grant a license), undue interference by the authorities, or
insufficient access to information. That state of affairs indicates a
lack of confidence in the effectiveness and independence of the
judiciary. It also suggests that most journalists in the former
Soviet Union  do not believe it is possible to successfully sue
government officials or challenge their decisions.

The author is project manager for the East-West Cooperation
Program of the European Institute for the Media in Dusseldorf,
Germany.

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