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Issue No. 206 - January 9, 2001
Contents :

1. The Czech Republic: BATTLE FOR TELEVISION
             By Petruska Sustrova

             By Farhad Mammadov

             By Slobodan Rackovic

4. Special addition : NEW AT TOL

      By Petruska Sustrova
      The majority of Czech television viewers received a strange
gift on Christmas Eve 2000: the main evening news on public
television. A totally unknown announcer took her seat in the
studio, and the only significant item of the programme was her
interview with Jiri Hodac, the new Director General of Czech
Television. The other two domestic news items concerned Christmas
tree thefts in the forests and folk Nativity cribs; the name of the
reporter who had prepared the items was not mentioned. The only
foreign news was a more or less verbatim repetition of agency
reports on the elections in Serbia. Senator Jan Ruml commented on
the news programme. "When my mother-in-law, who takes no interest
in politics or in journalism, saw it, she had tears in her eyes".
The older generation of Czech citizens knows only too well: the
main news programme on December 24, 2000, unmistakeably resembled
news programmes broadcast by Czechoslovak Television after the
purges in 1969. At that time, when all opponents of the occupation
of Czechoslovakia had been fired, new faces appeared on the screen
and the news broadcasts were stripped of any semblance of professional
      As the news was broadcast at 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve,
hundreds of people gathered outside the Czech Television studios
carrying candles. Television journalists refused to leave their
workplace, afraid they would not be allowed to return. The crowd
of demonstrators included dozens of actors, writers, film
directors and representatives of public life, chanting slogans
demanding freedom of speech and the resignation of the new
Director General of Czech Television. The demonstrations,
coinciding with airing of the news bulletin, continued throughout
the following days and became increasingly emphatic.
      The situation escalated. On the evening of December 26,
Director Jiri Hodac gave instructions to pull the plug on all
television broadcasts, leaving most viewers with a black screen on
both public TV channels until the following evening. All they saw
on their screens was an announcement that Czech Television was
awaiting a decision from the Radio and Television Broadcasting
Council as to which programme was legitimate - programmes put out
by Hodac's team or the original TV newscasts. During the next few
days it became obvious that the new team, headed by Hodac
appointee Jana Bobosikova, was totally incapable of preparing a
normal news programme. The main evening news now lasts roughly
eight minutes and contains only three or four news items, mostly
with gross errors and untruths. There is no weather forecast and
no sports news, and reports from abroad are at a bare minimum.
      A new law on strikes came into force on January 1, 2001, and
the television unions immediately declared a strike. The
journalists who had not abandoned their editorial offices since
Christmas were now in a different legal position. Demonstrations
outside Czech Television continued, and every day more people
assembled there. It all came to a head on January 3rd, when more
than 100,000 people gathered on Wenceslas Square in Prague and
demanded Jiri Hodac's resignation.  The Senate (the Upper
Chamber) of the Czech Parliament met that same day and also asked
Hodac to resign.  The two biggest unions in the country made the
same demand. The government passed a bill on Czech Television and
submitted it to the Chamber of Deputies, which will discuss it
between January 5 and 12. Hodac was admitted to hospital on
January 4, suffering from total exhaustion.
      Understanding this turbulent situation demands a certain
knowledge of history. Czech Television is a public institution
under the supervision of the Czech Television Council. The nine
members of the Council are elected by Parliament, as stipulated by
a law passed at the beginning of 1992 (this is the law that the
government now intends to replace). The first Television Council
was indeed elected as stipulated by law and was made up of
well-known personalities with no attachments to any political
party; it included university professors and renowned artists. The
Council elected a Director General, who headed Czech Television
for six years and, according to general opinion, did a good job.
      When the Director's term ended, a new Council elected his
replacement. This Council looked more or less like its
predecessor, but its election demonstrated that individual
political parties were doing their utmost to propose the kind of
candidates who, under certain circumstances, would defend their
interests. This new Council elected a new Director General in
February 1998 - a certain Jakub Puchalsky, still in his twenties -
who had been working for the BBC for a while but who had no
experience in running a large institution like Czech Television.
In mid-December 1999 Puchalsky resigned when the Council took a
vote on his dismissal, although five of the nine Council members
voted in his favour. At the end of January 2000 the Council
elected Dusan Chmelicek as the new Director General of Czech
      Shortly after this, the Chamber of Deputies hastily
expressed a vote of no confidence in the Council and dissolved it.
All this was rushed through: the Chamber of Deputies is authorised
to dissolve the Council if it passes a no-confidence vote twice
within a six-month period--but the Chamber gave the Council a vote
of no confidence twice in one hour, and promptly dissolved it. The
new members were elected entirely on the basis of party criteria,
resulting in a Council exactly representing the political spectrum
in Parliament. The professional skills and independence of the
members of the new Council gave way to their political beliefs.
      This new Council recalled Director General Chmelicek from
his post December 12, arousing indignation among almost everyone
concerned. A Czech Television civic initiative was formed - a
matter of public interest - and its representatives called on the
population to demonstrate outside the Czech Television news
offices to show their disagreement with the Council's procedure.
The fact of the matter was that the Council did not enable the new
Director to prove his worth: Czech Television would have begun to
broadcast under Chmelicek's new broadcasting scheme only as of the
New Year.
      The new Director General Jiri Hodac, a former BBC staff
member, was elected in a similarly rushed manner. Hodac had
already been working at Czech Television as the editorial editor
from  April 17 to August 11. He resigned from this post after
countless disputes with his subordinates, who had gone as far as
to complain about his methods to the Czech Television Council. Not
surprisingly, his election to the post of Director General of the
entire Czech Television network horrified the entire staff and
caused widespread anger.
      This seemingly internal dispute soon took on political
dimensions. There is an unbridgeable gap between public opinion
and the attitude adopted by politicians. The majority of
representatives of the Civic Democratic Party insist that Hodac
has been elected legally and that his subordinates must therefore
carry out his instructions. But the great majority of the public
and opposition politicians see the protests by the television
staff as a battle for the freedom of speech and against
censorship, which is banned by the Czech Constitution. The point
is that Hodac refuses not allow newscasts regularly prepared by
the striking journalists and equally regularly passed on to
transmitters by the technicians, also on strike, to be aired.
      However, commentators and politicians have frequently
pointed out that the problem of Czech Television is only the tip
of the iceberg, and that in fact this is a political crisis which
- if it were to escalate further - could lead to early elections.
     By Farhad Mammadov
    It is possible that the planned visit of Russian president Vladimir Putin to Azerbaijan on January 9, 2001 will be nothing more than a formality and will not lead to an agreement on any of the principal issues that interest Moscow.  This information was given to the media by a source close to the Azerbaijani government.  According to the source, preparation for the visit is well behind schedule and with only a few days left until Putin arrives, none of the main agreements that must be signed have even been drafted.  The visit is not expected to be postponed.  The reason for these problems is that Azerbaijani president Heydar Aliev has backed down from compromises he had previously promised to Russia.
    Putin first made the announcement that he would visit Azerbaijan in the summer of last year, during Armenian president Robert Kocharian's visit to Moscow.  Despite the close alliance between Russia and Armenia at the time, Kocharian was received very coldly in Moscow.  Putin's statement that he would make a separate visit to Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, immediately after such a meeting caused a storm of response in the Russian media.  The media considered this event to be either a change in Moscow's policies in the South Caucasus or a major diplomatic victory for Baku.  Moscow's address to Baku came at the time when Aliev was under a lot of pressure from the West and Europe over democratic practices in Azerbaijan.  The U.S. government, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the Council of Europe were demanding that Aliev allow free and fair elections in the country.  And Aliev had promised Russia concessions in some principal issues, including in military partnership and in the issue of the strategic Gabala RLS that is located in the territory of Azerbaijan for neutralizing the pressures of the West.  By agreeing to these compromises, Aliev convinced Putin to visit Baku.
    It is important to remember that the Gabala RLS, which has the capacity to track missiles over a 1000 kilometer radius is currently under control of Russian soldiers and its status has not been defined yet.  Moscow wants the site to be considered a military base, but Baku does not.  But the situation changed following Azerbaijan's Parliamentary elections on November 5th.  Although at first European countries harshly criticized these elections, they have agreed to accept Azerbaijan as a member of the Council of Europe.  Perhaps the geopolitical situation in the South Caucasus has influenced Europe's willingness to compromise with the Alive government that refused to hold democratic elections.  That is, it has been agreed that it is better to integrate Azerbaijan into Europe than to allow it to side with Russia.  And now that Aliev has normalized his relations with the West, he is backing out of the concessions he promised to Russia.  Azerbaijani government officials are already hinting that it will be possible to conclude a contract that will only allow Russia to rent the Gabala RLS.
    It is notable that a contract on Gabala RLS was to be one of the most important documents that would be signed during Putin's visit to Baku.  Though it has been stated that the document is being prepared at this time, it has also been stressed that there will be a new item added to which Russia will never agree.  It is likely that the new contract will require Russia to pay compensation for damage to the ecology of Azerbaijan and the health of the Azeri peple caused by the Gabala RLS in the nearly 12 years it has been operated by Russia.  Naturally, that figure will be set at hundreds of millions of dollars and Russia will not be willing to pay it.
    By Slobodan Rackovic
     It is certain that this year, Montenegro will achieve its 80-year dream of becoming an internationally recognized state.  The only question is what will happen first: a referendum on independence or early parliamentary elections.
     This uncertainty is not popular among the people of Montenegro because it gives the impression that the leaders just do not know what to do next, which looks like weakness in the face of historical events.  Since everything became clear only yesterday, it adds to the confusion of Montenegrins.  The idea of elections was rejected as a means by which the country's pro-Serbian forces would postpone a referendum and diminish the nationalist sentiments of the majority of Montenegrins.  Anti-independence forces openly use tactics of buying time in hopes that the new and allegedly democratic regime in Belgrade, to which the world is giving so much support, will strengthen enough that the issue of separation of Montenegro from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia will become obsolete and unnecessary in the eyes of ordinary Montenegrins.
     Following tactics carefully laid out by Vojislav Kostunica and Zoran Djindjic, the People's Party of Montenegro (traditionally pro-Serbian) left the three-party ruling coalition several days ago, thus causing a crisis and possibly toppling the government.  The two remaining parties in the coalition - the Democratic Party led by Socialist Milo Djukanovic and the Social Democratic Party led by Zarko Rakcevic - have lost the necessary support of seven MPs from the People's Party.  The only help can come from the opposition Liberal Alliance that could either enter the coalition or support it with its five representatives in Parliament.  However, this extremely nationalist party, which has been at odds with the government since its founding in 1990 because of its uncompromising stance on Montenegrin independence, cannot separate emotions from reason and give its support to president Milo Djukanovic at this important moment as he attempts to hold a referendum as soon as possible.
     The unnecessarily focus on the past, when Djukanovic and his party treated them badly, and selfishly cling to the idea that Montenegrin independence is their job.  Liberals are reluctant to give the decisive aid to the Montenegrin government and are steering the country towards always-uncertain elections.  But in fact, they are helping out the pro-Yugoslavia Socialist People's Party, which is led by Momir Bulatovic, the last prime minister in dictator Slobodan Milosevic's government.  And they are delaying the fulfillment of the dream of an independent Montenegro, which is the main reason for the existence of the Liberal Alliance!
     Thus, Montenegro brought itself to a draw position, and its leadership cannot find a way out at the moment.  Independent media even claim that Djukanovic's Democratic Socialist Party (DPS) has entered negotiations with the Socialist People's Party (SNP), trying to get a promise that the largest opposition party in Montenegro wil not boycott the referendum.  In exchange, DPS and president Djukanovic would have to pay a very high price - postponing the referendum and holding early elections, an element SNP and its Belgrade patrons have been insisting on for some time.  And that could cost the current regime dearly, especially in light of its promise to take Montenegro out of Yugoslavia as soon as possible.  Primarily, elections are a kind of lottery, a dance on the razor's edge.  Also, the now-evident popular enthusiasm for an independent Montenegro might decline over time, especially if the referendum would be postponed until autumn in the case of early elections.  DPS top party officials immediately issued a statement saying that the party was not changing its political strategy regarding the time of the referendum (the public assumes it will be in March or April).  But from statements that Djukanovic gave to Voice of America, one might easily conclude that the Montenegrin government hasn't yet mapped out the real road to the independence of Montenegro.  Djukanovic said that there were three moves the government could make on the road to independence: immediately proclaim referendum, hold it after striking the deal with the Liberal Alliance to support minority government or hold it still later, after early parliamentary elections.  Judging by the order, the president opts for an urgent call for referendum, but his closest associate in both government and party, Svetozar Markovic, president of the parliament, is known for his nostalgia towards Yugoslavia and is openly lobbying for early elections.
     At the same time, high-ranking federal and Serbian officials in Belgrade do not refrain from involvement in the internal affairs of Montenegro, patronizingly lecturing about how Montenegro should act, which serves only to annoy and alienate Montenegrins.  In his aforementioned VoA interview, president Djukanovic said that Montenegro is unconcerned about the Yugoslav constitution, which was many times changed to favor Serbia over Montenegro, which will now follow only its own constitution.  "Our platform is founded on independence and international subjectivism of Montenegro, which means its membership in all international organizations, starting from the United Nations and the Council of Europe to the OSCE, the IMF, the World Bank, the WTO and other relevant institutions," said Djukanovic.  In answer to frequent assertions from Belgrade that Montenegro's independence will cause similar tendencies in Kosovo, Montenegrin foreign minister Branko Lukovac in the pro-government daily newspaper "Pobjeda" said," There is no reason at all for Montenegro to be kept as some kind of reserve for a far-flung solution to the Kosovo problem, a solution that might take a decade, or two or three.  Serbia alone must solve its relations with Kosovo.  Here Montenegro can only act as an independent country that has a different, more positive experience, and to be a kind of middleman in the dialogue between Serbs and Albanians, and not a hostage to some illusion that by saving Yugoslavia, Serbia will also save Kosovo.  I believe that already this year Montenegro will be an internationally recognized and independent country."
     There is no doubt that Montenegro is well on the road to becoming an independent country, and that no one can stop its momentum, especially now that the international community which has opposed it for so long is now radically changing its views.  Only internal forces can postpone or complicate the achievement of independence and bring up new, unnecessary obstacles on the road to freedom.  Whether that situation will be overcome peacefully or whether once again in this century brotherly blood will be shed, as was openly announced in the past few days in some pro-Serbian circles, even in the Serbian Orthodox Church, depends on the Montenegrin authorities and their decisiveness in realizing what the people gave them the green light for.
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Stretching Societal Boundaries
    by Barbora Maroszova
    A group of children lie on the floor, each on a mat. The
children move from one position to another, from time to time
struggling to maintain their balance, as the exercise requires
standing on one leg. It could be a normal physical education
lesson--except the children are not jumping or running around, and
a yin-yang symbol graces the wall. The children are practicing
yoga. The Education Ministry's recent plan to introduce yoga
classes in state schools has caused quite an uproar in
conservative, Catholic-dominated Slovakia.
The Changing Face of Sarajevo
    by Daria Sito
    Sarajevo, once famous for crazy partying and spectacular New
Year's celebrations, has become a dark provincial town with few
decorations. Celebrations of Islamic holidays have shown that it's
not a question of money or post-war poverty but rather that the
priorities have changed. The Bosnian capital is still a
multi-ethnic town--just barely--but new cultural ideologists now
define multi-culturalism as people living next to each other
rather than living together.