The Belarusian authorities hurry to impose censorship in the Internet as early as possible ahead of the forthcoming elections.
Belarusian Internet users, still uncontrolled by the Belarusian authorities, are rather anxious about a New Year present of the authorities. As local mass media report, a draft decree on cyber space regulation, which is to come into force
from day to day, was worked out by legislatives.
The text of the draft decree supposedly aimed at eliminating anarchy on the Internet , as said by Alyaksandr Lukashenka, appeared in the global network. The document provoked negative reaction of journalists, providers and Internet users.
The draft suggests that registration of Internet media and identification of users, including clients of Internet cafes, should be imposed. Moreover, the document provides for blocking extremist websites on requests. The document also suggests
that Internet providers should be responsible for content of information spread by users. The last details caused anxiety of mobile network operators: it can mean that extremist statements spread via mobile networks can lose a license.
Around 300 journalists have staged a protest against censorship in media, weakening of professionalism and increased political influence.
The protest under the name Stop to censorship had been organized by the Croatian Journalist Association.
The protests have been organized on occasion of the Human Rights Day, in order to send a message for the bad treatment of journalists in the country.
President of CJA, Zdenko Duka said that before amending the law on media, employers and journalists have to make a deal regarding their status. During the protest, the journalists had taped their mouths to express their dissatisfaction.
Activision is denying a report claiming the console versions of Modern Warfare 2 had been recalled in Russia to remove the controversial Russian airport scene found in the game.
The publisher says a console version was never released in Russia, and that the PC version was only censored due to the country's lack of a formal game ratings system.
Reports that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 has been banned in Russia are erroneous, an Activision spokesperson told IGN. Activision only released a PC version of the game in Russia which went on sale on Nov. 10.
Major outdoor advertising agencies in Moscow and St. Petersburg have refused to carry Russian Newsweek' s latest campaign, saying the satirical ads are too provocative or that they violate the country's law on advertising.
The Newsweek spots each feature a positive slogan — such as The officials have stated their incomes, or Trust in the courts is growing in Russia — with a pair of hands somehow mocking or discrediting the statement. Each ad ends with
the words: Everyone knows. We understand.
Mikhail Fishman, the publication's editor-in-chief, told The Moscow Times that advertising agencies considered the campaign too provocative and that the refusal was an act of self-censorship by managers afraid to lose their jobs: There's every indication that they refuse us for political reasons. It reminds me of the late Soviet Union
Outdoor advertising agency News Outdoor refused to place the Newsweek ads at bus stations in Moscow, telling the magazine that there was no space left. The Moscow and St. Petersburg metros also declined the campaign.
Olimp, which sells advertising space for the Moscow metro, turned down the advertisements because they violated a law banning obscene gestures in advertising, an industry source told The Moscow Times.
News Outdoor, a unit of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., gave no official rejection, but the source said it faulted the ads for being too creative.
Other slogans included, There are enough gold and currency reserves for now, with a hand indicating a very small amount, and Russia has good chances of winning the football world championships, beside hands clasped together as if in
The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns today's prison sentences given to two video bloggers detained in July on fabricated charges of hooliganism and inflicting minor bodily harm.
Judge Araz Huseynov with the Sabail District Court in Baku handed Emin Milli who runs an online video blog known as ANTV, a two and a half year jail term, and Adnan Hajizade, a video blogger and coordinator of the Azerbaijani youth movement Ol!,
a two-year prison sentence for allegedly harming two men in a restaurant, according to international press reports.
Milli and Hajizade had posted political and socially satirical video sketches that criticized government policies and social issues in the weeks prior to their initial arrest in July. They had interviewed local residents and posted their opinions
online, sharing them through networking sites such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. Among the issues discussed on their blogs were education, corruption, and the poor infrastructure in Azerbaijan.
Baku police detained Milli and Hajizade on July 8, after the bloggers reported that they had been physically attacked at a local restaurant. Milli and Hajizade were debating politics with friends when two unknown men interrupted their
conversation and started a brawl, they said. When the bloggers went to report the incident, they were arrested for hooliganism ; it turned out, the men who had attacked them had told the police that they had been the victims. The bloggers
had been in custody since their initial detention. A second charge, inflicting minor bodily harm, was added later on.
Both domestic and international rights groups have condemned the arrest of Milli and Hajizade as staged by authorities in retaliation for their blogs' critical content. In a number of entries, the two interviewed local residents and filmed street
gatherings in protest of official policies. According to multiple sources, a satirical video the bloggers produced and posted on YouTube in late June was the main reason for their incarceration. The video criticized Azerbaijan's alleged import of
donkeys from abroad at excessively high prices. The video sketch depicts a pseudo press conference, at which Hajizade, wearing a donkey suit, talks to a group of Azerbaijani journalists ; Milli reportedly filmed.
We call on Azerbaijani authorities to scrap these fictitious charges against Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade and release them, CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. Police entrapment such as provoking a
fight has become a tool for silencing critical journalists and writers in Azerbaijan.
Commenting on the guilty verdict today, Judge Araz Huseynov said it was based on police reports and the alleged injuries of the two plaintiffs, Emin Huseynov, the director of the Baku-based Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety, whose
representatives were monitoring the trial, told CPJ. Huseynov added that the judge had ignored witness testimony by restaurant patrons who said they saw the two men attack the bloggers and not vice versa.
ARTICLE 19 is deeply concerned by the Azerbaijani Supreme Court's decision to uphold rulings in the case of bloggers Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade. ARTICLE 19 believes that Milli and Hajizade, who are imprisoned on charges of hooliganism, were
targeted for expressing opinions critical of the Azerbaijani authorities.
On 19 August, the Azerbaijani Supreme Court considered the case of imprisoned bloggers and youth activists Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade. In its decision, the Court upheld the lower courts' rulings, which convicted Milli and Hajizade of
hooliganism and sentenced them to two and a half years and two years of imprisonment respectively.
Milli and Hajizade's lawyers plan to apply to the European Court of Human Rights now that the domestic appeals process has been exhausted. The OSCE Representative for Freedom of the Media and the Council of Europe High Commissioner for Human
Rights have both expressed concern regarding Milli and Hajizade's imprisonment, noting that the move seemed to be an attempt by the Azerbaijani authorities to silence critical voices.
Campaigners accused the Kremlin today of killing off the last vestiges of independent television in Russia, after it emerged that the two remaining private TV channels would come under state control next year.
REN TV and St Petersburg's Fifth Channel, which are sometimes critical of the authorities, have until now been Russia's last semi-independent private TV stations. Although neither can be described as radical, they are the only channels on which
opposition politicians can air their views, or where dissenting voices may be heard.
Next year both channels' news bulletins will be restructured, Russia's Kommersant newspaper reported today. The state-owned, pro-Kremlin English language television station Russia Today will take over responsibility for their news broadcasts from
2010, the paper added.
Journalists said they were appalled by the move. This means independent TV will be destroyed. It will disappear, said Oleg Ptashkin, a former correspondent with Russia's state-run Channel One TV. Ptashkin, who now runs an independent
journalists' union, added: Russians won't be able to find alternative views to state propaganda. We are returning to the Soviet regime and Soviet model.
Until now, the Kremlin has not interfered with REN TV or the Fifth Channel, which are watched by only 10-15% of Russia's population. But the economic crisis, and fear of a popular uprising, appears to have persuaded Russia's risk-averse
leadership to pull the plug on the last surviving television platforms for liberal views and discussion.
Mikhail Borzykin, lead singer of a Russian rock group Televizor , is no stranger to censorship because his band have been performing political songs for 25 years. When a jerk in a jeep hits your father / And he is the son of a
defence minister / Nobody will touch him / The OMON police truncheons will be the pay-off for the right to say all this, run Borzykin's lyrics to A Silly One , about an incident involving Sergei Ivanov, the then defence minister's son,
who killed a pedestrian crossing the street in Moscow in 2005. All charges were dropped.
Songs such as this have ensured a police presence at Televizor concerts. At last year's Rock for Freedom festival, there were 3,000 police watching our performance with only 1,500 spectators on hand, says Borzykin. The
performance went without issue, but Borzykin had to leave the venue immediately after the gig finished.
Today's censorship does not happen directly. Instead of making a list to include certain songs or artists from being played on the radio or at local clubs, the government scares the owners with sudden closures, higher rent fees or other
'violations', says Mikhail: No owner wants to risk their livelihood being taken away.
Perhaps the difference between western and Russian acts when it comes to criticising the government is subtlety. PTVP , another punk rock band from St Petersburg, hide nothing with their 2002 song, FSB Whore, about Vladimir Putin. Don't
listen to anything / He always lies to you / Putin, Putin, Putin! / A pig will find filth everywhere, are just some of the lyrics. The band has a strong following among Russia's hardcore punk groups, but fans aren't the only ones present at
PTVP's concerts. Their lyrics soon attracted attention from FSB watchmen, who attend the band's concerts, sometimes openly, sometimes in disguise. On several occasions, police have rushed the stage during the band's anti-government songs, even
This puts club owners in a difficult position of choosing between artistic freedom and survival. No owner, television or radio-programming director will openly admit to censorship pressure from Kremlin. Radio stations admit that they don't play
PTVP, even though the band's music is popular, claiming limited appeal . Most music managers are connected, through rent or other financial obligations, to government officials, says Mikhail Borzykin. They are able to censor an
artist without ever mentioning the word.
The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the seizure of the print run of one of the few remaining independent newspapers in Kazakhstan.
On Friday, court officers in the financial capital Almaty confiscated the entire print run of the independent weekly Respublika-Delovoye Obozreniye , the Associated Press reported. Authorities also froze the bank accounts of the weekly and
its publisher, news Web site Lenta reported.
BTA Bank filed a lawsuit last month against Respublika-Delovoye Obozreniye, claiming that an article in the March issue of the weekly led to 6.7 billion Kazakh tenge (about US$44 million) in withdrawals, regional news Web site Ferghana reported.
The newspaper said the confiscation of its print run was part of the government's campaign to shut down the publication.
It is outrageous that a country that is set to assume the chairmanship of an organization that promotes human rights, security, and press freedom should censor and harass one of its few independent news outlets, said CPJ Deputy Director
Robert Mahoney: We call on Kazakh authorities to return the confiscated print run and to overturn the verdict against the paper on appeal.
A Bulgarian religious official has claimed a Madonna gig was to blame for a boating accident which killed 15 people.
Nikolay, the metropolitan of Bulgarian city Plovdiv, says he is angered that the September 5 leg of the star's Sticky & Sweet tour took place.
Locals are expected to commemorative the anniversary of the beheading of John The Baptist on that day.
Demanding it should have been spent in contemplation rather than enjoyment, he cited the tragedy on Lake Ohrid, which saw a pleasure boat crash with many fatalities.
The catastrophe in Macedonia in which 15 Bulgarian citizens died was a sign from heaven, claimed Nikolay.
The Orthodox Church had called for people not to enjoy themselves on the day marking the execution of John. We should not allow the young to have fun on a day that should be dedicated to spiritual reflection, he insisted.
The Serbian parliament passed a controversial media law this week that has been criticised for jeopardising press freedom because of its provision for hefty fines against journalists.
The law, slammed by journalists' groups and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, was passed after pro-European President Boris Tadic's ruling coalition withdrew two of its most criticised sections.
Media outlets, editors and journalists now face fines of tens of thousands of euros, calculated according to a newspaper's circulation and daily advertising revenue, if they publish false or libellous information.
Electronic media will also have to pay a fine equivalent to their daily advertising revenue, prompting criticism that the new law will lead to self-censorship.
The head of the OSCE mission to Serbia Hans Ola Urstad warned in a statement last week that the law sets fines that are too high for a Serbian context which could lead to self-censorship and the closure of media outlets.
Following a public outcry, the government dropped sections calling for media outlets to be closed if they were in the red for more than three months and for all media to pay a deposit of 50,000 euros (71,000 dollars) to set up.
Madonna has been branded a crypto-Satanist for playing a night of her Sticky And Sweet tour on a Roman Catholic holiday in Poland.
The star had performed despite a flurry of protests from religious leaders and even pleas from the country's former president Lech Walesa.
Marian Baranski, deputy head of the Polish Faith and National Tradition Defense Committee, said: Madonna specialises in offending religious feelings. It is possible to suspect her of being a crypto-Satanist.
The performance on August 15 was the Feast Of The Assumption day that Christians mark the Virgin Mary's ascension to heaven.
Just last week, Walesa appealed to the concert's organisers: Please avoid any collision with my faith during this extraordinary day.
Catholic protesters arrived at the venue in Warsaw holding religious banners and flags.
US deputy assistant secretary of state Matthew Bryza has called for the resolution of the case of bloggers Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizada, who were jailed in July for hooliganism after they published a satirical video online.
Milli and Hajizada were sentenced to two months' pre-trial detention after the authorities accused them of hooliganism, a decision that was upheld in a closed hearing on 20 July. The trial is due to be held in September. Their lawyers are
planning to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
The government was said to be angered by the online video, which poked fun at a local news story about government authorities importing donkeys from Germany. In the video, Adnan Hajizada is wearing a donkey suit and addressing journalists in a
mock news conference. The video was produced and posted online by both Hajizada and Milli.
The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the slaying in Dagestan today of Abdulmalik Akhmedilov, an editor known for his critical commentary, and urges Russian authorities to thoroughly probe journalism as the motive.
Akhmedilov was shot in his car on the outskirts of Dagestan's capital, Makhachkala, the independent Caucasus news Web site Kavkazsky Uzel reported.
Akhmedilov, known as Malik, was deputy editor of the Makhachkala-based daily Hakikat (The Truth) and a chief editor of the political monthly Sogratl. Both newspapers are published in Avar, the language of the largest ethnic group in the
volatile, multiethnic southern republic of Dagestan.
In columns in Hakikat, Akhmedilov sharply criticized federal forces and local law enforcement for suppressing religious and political dissent under the guise of an anti-extremism campaign, Zulfiya Gadzhiyeva, a Hakikat journalist, told
CPJ. The campaign is ostensibly designed to curb the spread of the conservative form of Islam known as Wahhabism, which has gained popularity in Dagestan and other North Caucasus republics.
We express our deepest condolences to Malik Akhmedilov's family and colleagues. Russian authorities must thoroughly examine the possible connection between the journalist's work and his brutal murder, CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program
Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. Dagestan is one of the most dangerous places to report in one of the world's deadliest countries for journalists. Authorities must ensure the safety of these reporters.
Russian hackers have been accused of being behind an enormous cyber attack which temporarily shut down two of the world's most popular social networking sites in order to silence a Georgian blogger who is critical of Moscow's policies in the
Twitter went offline for several hours on Thursday whilst Facebook and Livejournal suffered major slowdowns following a large distributed denial-of-service (DDOS) attack which flooded their networks. The attacks are believed to have been aimed at
a Georgian economics lecturer who has written blogs critical of Russia's military presence in the area.
Hackers use DDOS attacks to flood a website's servers with communication requests from a network of thousands of compromised computers, forcing the website to temporarily shut down. The paralysing effect of the attack, which severely compromised
two websites that are regularly used by political dissidents, has raised fresh questions over the vulnerability of internet and the growing potential of cyber warfare as an effective weapon.
Speaking to reporters yesterday the blogger, who only gave his first name, Georgy, pointed the finger of blame at the Russian government. Maybe it was carried out by ordinary hackers but I'm certain the order came from the Russian government.
An attack on such a scale that affected three worldwide services with numerous servers could only be organised by someone with huge resources.
The Serbian parliament has postponed a vote on a controversial media censorship bill which has drawn criticism from the public and protests from media and professional associations. Parliament speaker Slavica Djukic Dejanovic delayed a vote on
the bill until 31 August, after the summer recess, purportedly to allow refurbishment of the parliament building.
The bill introduces draconian fines and possible closure of news organisations which publish slanderous allegations about politicians and other public figures before they have been convicted by a court of law.
Political analysts said the bill aimed to target Belgrade tabloid Kurir but the entire media would be muzzled as a result.
Serbian journalists' association president Ljiljana Smajlovic, of the planned law was a scandalous proposal that would be an atomic bomb dropped by the government on the media. The law would protect the government from the public,
instead of the other way around .
A prominent Belgrade analyst, Slobodan Antonic, agreed: This is not the law of a free, democratic society, it's a law of an authoritarian, oligarchic and repressive regime.
Natalia Estemirova, murdered this week, was Chechnya's foremost defender of human rights and an exceptionally brave woman, as I discovered on a recent visit to the capital Grozny, where I had come to investigate a string of abductions,
unexplained disappearances and murders of women.
Natalia was head of the Grozny branch of Memorial, the organisation that campaigns for human rights across Russia. She had brought me to this dreary suburb to see the place where three women's bodies were found one day last November. The morning
after that gruesome discovery, four more dead women were discovered around the Chechen capital. All seven had been shot in the head with an automatic weapon.
As we stood shivering in the dying light, I never dreamt that three weeks later Natalia, herself, would suffer a similar fate.
On Wednesday she was bundled into a van as she left her home. Her body was found later the same day in the neighbouring republic of Ingushetia, with multiple bullet wounds.
There is little doubt in Chechnya that her killing was connected to her investigative and campaigning work - including the case of the seven murdered women.
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev has signed into law new controls on the Internet that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has called repressive.
The OSCE had earlier urged Nazarbayev to veto the bill. The legislation will allow local courts to block websites, including foreign ones, and to class blogs and chatrooms as media.
But Kazakhstan pressed ahead with the new law, with local rights activists confirming the legislation had been endorsed by the powerful president.
Several websites, including the popular blogging service LiveJournal.com, are already inaccessible to most Kazakh Internet users. There are already were signs of increasing self-censorship by local websites where moderators were quickly removing
comments that could be deemed offensive.
A group of British academics including the historian Orlando Figes and the poet and translator Robert Chandler have spoken out after authorities in Russia closed down a website dealing with the country's controversial Soviet past.
On 19 June the home affairs ministry in St Petersburg shut down the site www.hrono.info. The website had been Russia's largest online history resource, widely used by scholars in Russia and elsewhere as a unique source of biographical and
Officials said they closed the site because it published extracts from Hitler's autobiography, Mein Kampf. Today, however, its founder, Vyacheslav Rumyantsev, said the closure had nothing to do with Hitler, adding that the text was widely
available elsewhere and was only summarised on the site.
Rumyantsev said the authorities may have pulled the plug after an article was posted on 16 June criticising St Petersburg's pro-Kremlin governor, Valentina Matviyenko. The article attacked Matviyenko's decision to cut an allowance given to
survivors of the Nazi siege of Leningrad.
The closure comes amid official attempts in Russia to rewrite some of the darkest aspects of its 20th-century history. School textbooks now portray Stalin not as a mass murderer but as a great, if flawed, national leader and an "efficient
manager" who defeated the Nazis and industrialised a backward Soviet Union.
Bruno is to become the most complained-about film of the year in Australia and is set to be sued by a terrorist leader featured in the movie who claims the interview was conducted under false pretences.
Bruno, which features swingers' parties, barely-pixelated oral sex and a "talking" male appendage, has clocked up 12 complaints with the Classification Board since it started screening in Australia with a MA15+ rating last Wednesday.
All say the film, based on Sasha Baron Cohen's flamboyantly gay fashionista character, should be rated R18+.
MA15+ bars under-15s without a parent or guardian while R18+ bars under-18s from viewing the film at all.
In New Zealand, Bruno has been rated R16, which restricts those aged under 16 from watching.
In the US, it is rated R, which means under-17s must be accompanied by a guardian.
Ayman Abu Aita, who is labelled in the movie as a terrorist group leader, said he was shocked when he learned five days ago the film depicts a homosexual character and contains scenes including full frontal male nudity and graphic
homosexual fetish sex.
Aita also slammed Baron Cohen as a big liar who made up stories when describing to David Letterman the way he met Aita at an undisclosed location. Aita said he is pursuing legal action against Baron Cohen.
It may have been the visit to the swingers' party that did it. Or perhaps it was the scene where Brüno drops in to see a medium and simulates oral and anal sex with a ghost. Either way, the antics of Sacha Baron Cohen's Brüno all appear
to be too much for Ukraine.
According to reports, Ukraine's culture and tourism ministry is set to ban the film Brüno , which was due for release in the post-Soviet country next week.
The ministry has so far not explained its decision. But it appears to have taken the view that several of the scenes – among them a mock gay parade, and one in which Brüno shows off his penis – were likely to offend conservative and
Ukraine's Catholic west and orthodox east take a dim view of gay rights, and hold highly traditional social views. And despite efforts by Ukraine's western-leaning political elite to integrate with Europe, there is little sign of a more liberal
view taking hold.
Yesterday, however, some sources in Ukraine's cinema industry suggested that the controversy may simply be an elaborate publicity stunt, dreamed up by distributors Sinergia to boost the film ahead of its release.
The Ukrainian website korrespondent.net, however, today reported the ban was genuine.
In an effort to spare their leader a shame, a Russian TV channel cuts a segment of South Park that mocks Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin. A spokesman for the channel, which is called "2x2", said that: the given scene in
this version was absent.
Originally airing in U.S. back in 2005, the episode called Free Willzyx portrays Putin as a leader who is desperate for money. When Kyle calls him about sending a killer whale to space, he demands 20 million dollars. But realizing that it
is just a non-serious call from America, Putin curses on the phone and says Kiss my a** George Bush, this isn't funny.
It is still unclear yet, whether the censorship comes from the network or the regulator. Nevertheless, the decision prompted criticism and discussion on Russian blogs.
A council on morality is being created in the country. It is to study the moral image of Belarusian book and cinema markets. Even Russian writer Vladimir Sorokin and Hilter Kaputt! films can be banned by this censorship.
The council on morality is created as a public organisation. It unites writers, artists, and workers of arts, experts of the Ministry of Culture, Education and Information, the representative of the Union of Belarusian Writers noted.
Practical activities haven't been started by experts yet, but Ryhor Marchuk gave examples of works they are to focus on: Blue Salo , a book by Vladimir Sorokin, and Marius Vaisberg's comedy Hitler Kaputt! which recently was screened
in Belarusian cinemas.
In no way we are comparing our activities with censorship, as in most cases we will analyze works of art which have already been released and entered the market. We will trace all the new works of art, observe reaction of people to the
so-called objectionable works, which evoke diametrically opposed opinions, and then acquaint ministries and agencies with the results of our research, Narodnaya gazeta quotes the secretary of the Union of Writers as saying.
The aim of the organisation, Marchuk said, is preserving high moral ideals the society has”. As said by him, the evaluation of the council is to be given to interested agencies in the form of recommendations to pay attention to “particular
extremity of this or that work of art.
It should be reminded that over the time of Alyaksandr Lukashenka's rule in Belarus almost every printed word undergoes censorship. There are no independent TV channels in the country, so films that contradict the views of the regime are not
shown. The same concerns books. Not only closing down of almost all independent newspapers has become a sign of destroyed freedom of speech in the country. Books of independent authors are not printed by state publishing houses. Even the People's
Writer of Belarus Vasil Bykau was banned, as he criticized Alyaksandr Lukahsneka's policies.
Possession of pornography is now a criminal offence in Ukraine, Lenta.ru reports, after Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko signed a law to that effect.
Human rights activists and members of the Ukrainian artistic community had asked the president to veto the law.
The draft of the law was prepared by the Ukrainian government. It was passed by the Ukrainian parliament, the Supreme Rada, on June 11.
Now pornography can be kept only for medical purposes, according to the Ukrainian Ministry of Injustice. The ministry also warns that possession of a large number of identical images will be considered evidence of trading in pornography,
which is also criminalized.
Punishment for possession of pornography will include fines and imprisonment for up to three years.
A Russian artist was arrested by the secret service after depicting prime minister Vladimir Putin as a woman.
Painter Alexander Shednov, also known as Shurik, portrayed the former president in a low-cut dress with long hair and large hoop earrings.
He said the image was a protest against Putin trying to return to the Kremlin for a third presidential term.
In the top left hand corner of the picture Shednov shows his subject saying: Oh I don't know - a third Presidential term? It is a bit too much....on the other hand, three is a charm.
The artist had attempted to beam the portrait onto the main administrative building in Voronezh, his home city, on Russian Independence Day last Friday.
But Shednov's endeavour did not go down well with the FSB, which replaced the KGB as Russia's intelligence agency. He was arrested by counter-intelligence officials, and claims he was questioned for seven hours and beaten.
Shednov now faces a charge of inappropriate behaviour and is due before a court.
Authorities in the southern Russian republic of Dagestan should immediately halt efforts to shut the Makhachkala-based independent weekly Chernovik and should drop extremism charges against editor Nadira Isayeva and four reporters, the
Committee to Protect Journalists has said.
The local branch of Russia's state media regulator Rossvyazkomnadzor filed a lawsuit against Chernovik in Dagestan's Supreme Court, demanding that the weekly be closed for allegedly carrying extremist statements. The Rossvyazkomnadzor's
lawsuit comes on top of an ongoing criminal case alleging Isayeva and four staffers engaged in extremism and incitement of hatred.
According to local press reports, Rossvyazkomnadzor said articles published in 2008 incited hatred of law enforcement agencies in the region. Chernovik is often critical of regional police and the Federal Security Service operating in the region.
Isayeva and her colleagues have contended that antiterrorist operations carried out by the two agencies had actually fueled the rise of militant Islam in the region.
The attempt to silence one of the few remaining independent voices in Russia's turbulent North Caucasus region is deeply disturbing, said Nina Ognianova, CPJ's Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. Using accusations of extremism
and incitement to hatred in politicized lawsuits has become a favored tactic of repression. The Dagestan authorities must drop all suits against Nadira Isayeva and her colleagues at Chernovik immediately.
According to the independent Moscow-based organization Sova, which monitors acts of nationalism and xenophobia in Russia, Chernovik's publications do not contain any traits of extremism or calls to violence.
Nurulla Zhamolov, the senior religious affairs official in Karakalpakstan Region in north-western Uzbekistan has banned the Bible, the Mel Gibson film The Passion of the Christ , and other religious literature, Forum 18 News Service
The bans state that the material – which also include a hymn book, a Bible Encyclopaedia, a Bible dictionary, and a children's Bible - is banned for import, distribution or use in teaching.
The material was confiscated during police and NSS secret police raids and it remains unclear what further activity the authorities may undertake following the bans, or how widely they will be used.
No officials in the region or the capital Tashkent were willing to discuss the raids and the country's harsh censorship of religious literature, which applies to religious literature of all faiths.
Banned from the Eurovision Song Contest for an anthem that mocked Russia’s Prime Minister, the Georgians have hit back by organising a song festival of their own.
The organisers of Alter/Vision have invited pop groups from all over Europe to participate in their rival event, which will take place at the same time as the Eurovision final in Moscow on May 16. It is an impertinent response to the ruling that
the original Eurovision entry, a disco song performed by Stephane and 3G entitled We Don’t Wanna Put In — a play on the name of Vladimir Putin — was too political.
Georgian Public Television, which held the national contest, was asked to revise the lyrics or submit an alternative. Instead, it withdrew from Eurovision, complaining that organisers had bowed to unacceptable pressure from Russia.
The Georgian Ministry of Culture is backing the alternative festival, to be held in the capital, Tbilisi, from May 15-17. Organisers said that it would feature 20 acts from nine countries, including Britain, France, Germany and Russia, but that
there would be no voting to choose a winner.
It’s our moral support to the people who were supposed to sing at Eurovision but won’t be there, a spokesman, Irakli Matkava, said: We want to express true European values of freedom and fun. Eurovision is about bureaucratic control and
censorship. It’s more about a country’s prestige than music.
Kazakhstan’s lower house of parliament, the Mazhilis, passed April 29 a controversial law changing the way Internet regulation is governed in the Kazakhstan domain.
With the expansion of the reach of Internet pages, the number of crimes committed using Internet sources is growing, Zhanna Kurmangaliyeva, executive secretary at the Culture and Information Ministry, told EurasiaNet, citing the
dissemination of pornography and libelous material as examples.
Critics say the law will unduly restrict freedom of expression, equating blogs, forums and chatrooms to media outlets, making site owners responsible for content, and allowing websites to be closed without a court ruling.
The For a Free Internet! campaign expressed disappointment at the vote. We’re asking all Kazakh Internet users not use the sources that the Information Technology and Communications Agency [which drafted the law] has been recently
promoting, and delete all their personal pages in social networks and blogs, Yevgeniya Plakhina, a campaign organizer, told EurasiaNet.
The bill has still to complete its passage through both houses of parliament and must be signed by President Nursultan Nazarbayev before it becomes law.
Two Russian men could face up to five years’ imprisonment for inciting hatred or enmity and denigration of human dignity after they organized a contemporary art exhibition in Moscow.
Yurii Samodurov and Andrei Yerofeev staged the Forbidden Art 2006 exhibition at the Sakharov Museum in March 2007.
A Moscow City court will consider both men's appeals against the charges. The defendants will be told whether the hearing into their case will go ahead or whether it will be sent back to the prosecutor's office for further investigation.
When the charges were brought in May 2008, Yuri Samodurov was director of the Sakharov Centre and Andrei Yerofeev was head of the Department for Contemporary Art at the State Tretiakov Gallery in Moscow and curator of the exhibition.
The exhibition gathered together a number of works of art that had been refused inclusion at various exhibitions in 2006. Several of the pieces had already been shown at other exhibitions of contemporary art in Russia and across the world. The
exhibition included Mickey Mouse, Lenin, pornography pictures, and obscene sexual slang painted on crucifix and other Christian symbols, which are to be observed through holes in a sheet.
When the Taganskii District Prosecutor brought charges against both men, he said that the exhibition was clearly directed towards expressing in a demonstrative and visible way a degrading and insulting attitude towards the Christian religion
in general and especially towards the Orthodox faith.
Amnesty International has called on the Russian authorities to respect the right to freedom of expression and to stop the criminal prosecution of Yurii Samodurov and Andrei Yerofeev.
Georgia's entry has been ruled unacceptable by organisers of the Eurovision Song Contest in Moscow, because of some of its lyrics.
The disco-funk song, We Don't Wanna Put In , appears to poke fun at Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
However, it is against the competition's rules to allow political content in entries.
A contest spokesman said: No lyrics, speeches, gestures of a political or similar nature shall be permitted.
The event, which is being held in the Russian capital in May, is taking place less than a year after Russia and Georgia went to war over the region of South Ossetia. Relations between the two countries have been tense for several years.
The song, which was chosen by a public vote and jury, was due to be performed by female trio 3G along with male vocalist Stephane.
The song, which has a distinct 1970s feel, contains the chorus: We don't wanna put in, the negative move, it's killin' the groove.
Even the title of the song appears to be play on the politician's name.
The Geneva-based European Broadcasting Union, which runs the contest, said Georgia can rewrite the lyrics of its entry or select another song.
A trial has been held in Brest, Belarus. It declared an issue of the independent ARCHE magazine as extremist.
The judge announced that the session of the court is to be held behind the closed doors, so only a KGB representative and the lawyer of the magazine are present at the hearings.
People who have gathered to support the magazine and its editors haven't been allowed to be present in the court room.
As a result, the issue number 7-8 of ARCHE has been recognized extremist.
The editor-in-chief of the magazine Valer Bulhakau has called charges absurd. As said by him, there is a practice of one hand washing the other in state agencies, and the KGB wants to assume functions of an ideological censor.
The issue of the magazine was dedicated to parliamentary elections last autumn.
The trial of three men charged in connection with the murder of Anna Politkovskaya is over. The defendants were all acquitted by the jury. Even if one or all of the accused had been found guilty, neither the hit man nor those behind the killing
were in the courtroom in the first place. Those on trial were charged with being accessories to the murder.
Anna Politkovskaya was the most prominent among the few Russian journalists who dared write the truth about the second Chechen war. She travelled to the region for so many years, wrote about such burning issues, took such tremendous risks, that
after a while many of us thought that she had managed to transcend danger. It seemed inconceivable that she could be simply, cynically, killed. After all, Russia could not possibly afford such an outrageous scandal.
Apparently, it could. Anna was shot dead at the entrance of her own apartment building.
The murder of Politkovskaya on 7 October 2006 made headlines in Russia and around the world. Russia's Prosecutor General took control over the investigation. Politkovskaya's family, friends and colleagues, and the public at large, were reassured
time and again that justice would be done. Today, however, those responsible for the killing are still at large, and the authorities have sent a very clear message to Russian civil society: those who dare criticise the government can be killed,
with their killers practically guaranteed impunity.
As a tribute to those who have been killed we must not stop trying to ensure that the message is wrong.
The man alleged to have been paid to assemble the murder squad that tracked and shot dead Russian journalist Anna Politovskaya has been detained by Moscow authorities. Anna Politkovskaya was murdered in October 2006.
The arrest of retired police officer Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov is the latest development in the investigation into the killing of Politkovskaya who reported for opposition paper Novaya Gazeta exposing human rights abuses and high level corruption that
angered the Kremlin.
Investigators also told Russian media they have information about the person who ordered the contract killing and hired Pavlyuchenkov, but that it was premature to make this public.
Pavlyuchenkov is alleged to have gathered four men, including three brothers from Chechnya, to trace the movements of the crusading journalist before devising a plan for the attack and obtaining the murder weapon. Politkovskaya was shot in the
head as she entered the elevator of her apartment building as she returned home.
Ahead of the second anniversary of the present government's term in Turkmenistan, Amnesty International has released a new report on the poor human rights situation in the country, including details of how journalists, activists and religious
believers are all targeted by the authorities.
The present government of President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov came to power on 14 February 2007. There were widespread hopes that after the repressive rule of the self-styled Turkmenbashi there would be an improvement in the country's
abysmal human rights record.
Amnesty International Europe and Central Asia Programme Director Nicola Duckworth said: While President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov reversed some policies of his predecessor, he has still to live up to his promises of human rights reform.
Journalists, civil society activists and religious believers are still subject to harassment and intimidation by the new government.
The list of human rights violations is long: clampdown on dissent, unfair trials, internal exile, enforced disappearances all continue two years after the government's pledges to improve the human rights situation. Unless it takes immediate
measures, there will be little to distinguish the present government from the previous one.
Amnesty is making 19 recommendations to the two-year-old government, including that it ensure that everyone in Turkmenistan is entitled to a fair trial, has the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas, the right to freedom of
religion and the right to be free to leave and return to the country.
Parliamentarians in Kyrgyzstan are proposing legislation to restrict Internet freedom, media watchdogs say.
The proposed Internet legislation would classify the web as a form of mass media, thus burdening producers of Internet content with the same regulations faced by broadcasters.
Kyrgyzstan has ranked highly in press freedom rankings relative to other Central Asian states, but its reputation has fallen during the last few years.
The law would make Internet providers and blog-hosting platforms responsible for content they host, thus increasing their vulnerability to libel charges. It would also allow law enforcement officials to eavesdrop on Internet traffic.
Parliamentary deputy Alisher Sabirov, the main sponsor of the bill, claimed that a new law is needed as a preventative measure. The Internet carries information that can ignite inter-ethnic and religious conflicts and … pornography. The
current draft, Sabirov added, will not attempt to censor bloggers. But Sabirov's comments have not thoroughly reassured bloggers in the region.
Media activists in Kazakhstan have expressed concern over a draft law on the Internet being considered by parliament.
Seitkazy Mataev, chairman of the Union of Kazakh Journalists, told RFE/RL's Kazakh Service that the law would introduce censorship to the Internet.
The law proposes stricter control over the Internet and allows the state to block websites.
Yuriy Mizinov, the chief editor of popular website zonakz.net, told RFE/RL that such legislation could be an attempt by the government to block the Live Journal website of Rakhat Aliev, the former son-in-law of President Nursultan Nazarbaev, who
routinely posts embarrassing or compromising documents and audio about the Kazakh government on the Internet.
Azerbaijan has decided to ban from 1 January foreign radio broadcasts on the country's national frequencies.
The decision taken by the Azeri National TV and Radio Council will affect the BBC, Voice of America, Radio Liberty and Europa Plus.
The move was criticised by the United States and the European security body, the OSCE, who both urged Baku to reconsider the ban.
These media organisations play a crucial role in supporting democratic debate and the free exchange of ideas and information, said US State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid: This decision, if carried out, will represent a serious
setback to freedom of speech, and retard democratic reform in Azerbaijan .
The OSCE's media freedom representative, Miklos Haraszti, said closing down FM news radio broadcasts that were among the few remaining sources of varied, public-service quality information is a serious step backwards for an OSCE democracy.
An official from President Ilham Aliyev's administration said Baku was not closing down foreign radio stations ...BUT... we want their activities to be regulated according to international practice.
Azeri officials said foreign stations could broadcast via satellite, internet or cable. But the OSCE argues that Azeris have less access to those options than to FM radio.
European human rights groups and the Azeri opposition have accused President Aliyev of stifling democracy and media freedom in the oil-rich former Soviet republic.