A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists

International Journalism In-Brief

By Quill

Opposition TV stations stir up unrest in Iran

More and more Iranians have turned to opposition television channels beamed into the country by satellite since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States. In turn, these channels are stepping up efforts to reform or even topple the strict Islamic religious government.

At least three times in mid-October, thousands took to the streets, heeding the broadcasts’ call, according to The New York Times.

Conservative forces in Iran, blaming the satellite programs for the recent clashes, have embarked upon another round of confiscating satellite dishes at private homes.

Some fear that war, or at least huge waves of refugees, will spread into Iran from neighboring Afghanistan. And many believe that Pars TV and NITV, two television channels beamed from Los Angeles by secular opposition groups, can provide Iranians with more accurate information than the largely state-controlled media there.

Although satellites are banned in Iran, dishes are surfacing throughout large cities and even small villages.

Reporter is killed in Kosovo shooting

A journalist and another ethnic Albanian traveling with him were killed in a drive-by shooting Oct. 19, U.N. police told officials. The two were killed when shots were fired from a vehicle overtaking a second vehicle in the village of Lausa, 30 miles west of the capital, Pristina, Yugoslavia, said Romea Ponza, a spokeswoman for the U.N. police in Kosovo.

According to The Associated Press, the journalist has been identified as Bekim Kastrati. Kastrati worked for the local newspaper Bota Sot, one of the largest in the province and close to the LDK party of Ibrahim Rugova, one of the main ethnic Albanian leaders.

The second victim, who died several hours after the shooting, was identified as Besim Dajaku, a former member of Rugova’s security escort. A third passenger in the car was wounded.

In a statement, Rugova said the killing of Dajaku was an attack against the LDK, Kosovo’s international administration and the democratic institutions they jointly run. He described Kastrati’s death as an assault on the free media.

U.N. police refused to speculate whether local disputes, criminal or political motives played a role in the shooting.

Czechs fear Radio Free Europe is target

Some Czech-government officials fear that Radio Free Europe, based in the Prague since 1995, could become a target for terrorism following the U.S.-led air strikes against Afghanistan.

In October, top officials suggested in interviews in local news media that the radio service should move out of the city center, according to an Oct. 13 story in The New York Times.

Jiri Ruzicka, director of the country’s domestic security service, and one of those suggesting that the service move, said in a television interview that Radio Free Europe “is a building that creates a security risk for the capital.”

The prime minister, the defense minister and the head of the country’s foreign intelligence service have made similar warnings.

AOL signs TV deal with China

U.S. media giant AOL Time Warner said it has signed an agreement with Beijing to distribute an entertainment cable TV channel in southern China in exchange for carrying a Chinese-government channel in parts of the United States.

Reuters reported that, under the terms of the groundbreaking pact, AOL Time Warner would broadcast its CETV channel in Guangdong province beginning in January. The channel will feature both original Chinese programs and dubbed versions of American shows such as “Miami Vice” and “La Femme Nikita.”

In exchange, AOL Time Warner will carry CCTV-9, an English-language news and information channel of state network China Central Television, on its cable systems in New York, Houston and Los Angeles on a 24-hour basis. CCTV is shown in the United States only in programming blocks.

Although many overseas channels can be seen in luxury hotels and in homes with satellite dishes, this agreement is the first to allow a major foreign-owned broadcaster direct access to viewers in China.

In October, Hong Kong-listed Phoenix Satellite Television announced that it was given state approval to land its signal in Guangdong province. Phoenix, which is 38 percent-owned by a unit of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., has been “unofficially” broadcasting into China for five years.

China’s television advertising market is worth $2.4 billion and growing around 15 percent to 20 percent a year, according to one forecast.

However, analysts have cautioned that while China’s vast market is alluring, it could be years before foreign broadcasters see any significant return. Many observers see any development in China by western media firms as mostly symbolic for the near future.

“It’s both symbolic and significant,” said Steve Marcopoto, president of AOL’s Turner Broadcasting System Asia Pacific. “We’re taking a long-term view on it. We have it in our plans as a strategic move. It’s not something that we’d expect to be profitable in the short term.”

China again censors foreign Web sites

China has again begun blocking foreign Web sites following the end of the Asia-Pacific summit attended by President Bush in October.

China had quietly lifted blocks on the Web sites of CNN, the BBC and Reuters for meetings of the 21-member Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Shanghai, according to Reuters.

Within hours of Bush flying home after the close of the biggest international gathering in China’s Communist history, some of the Web sites were once again accessible only through third party proxy servers located abroad.

However, China has not imposed a blanket block on Web sites run by Western news organizations. Sites such as Yahoo.com and the Web site of the International Herald Tribune have not been blocked. Reuters’ news is widely available on both. The New York Times site was unblocked several weeks ago, again with no public explanation.

The Internet Security Department of the Beijing Public Security Bureau declined comment. China’s Ministry of State Security, widely thought to be partly responsible for blocking Web sites, was not available for comment.

Adviser apologizes for trying to bury news

A British government adviser who urged colleagues to release unfavorable news on Sept. 11 so that it would not get attention apologized for a second time Oct. 16, saying she was guilty of a “terrible error of judgment.’’

“I fully understand people’s disgust at what I wrote,’’ said Jo Moore, an adviser to Britain’s transport secretary. “It is something that I wish I had never done and indeed find it difficult to believe that I did. It is something I will have to live with for the rest of my life.’’

According to The Associated Press, Moore sent co-workers an e-mail shortly before the first of the two World Trade Center towers collapsed. The e-mail read: “It is now a very good day to get out anything we want to bury.’’

Moore released a written apology after the e-mail was leaked to the press. However, she still faced criticism and calls for her resignation.

Moore was reprimanded but not fired. She would not comment on her future with the department.

Transport Secretary Stephen Byers and Prime Minister Tony Blair’s office have supported Moore, saying she does not deserve to have her career ruined by one mistake.

Czech prime minister threatens weekly

The Czech prime minister’s threat of a lawsuit to drive a weekly publication out of business has attracted the condemnation of domestic newspapers and at least one international press-freedom group, according to the Freedom Forum.

The problem stems from a story in the weekly Respekt, in which editor in chief Petr Holub called the ruling Social Democrat government corrupt.

Prime Minister Milos Zeman told a group of journalists in October that his 17 cabinet members would file separate complaints against Holub demanding financial compensation “so that Respekt finally ceases to exist.” He indicated that his government would seek 170 million crowns ($4.5 million) in damages from the weekly.

Petr Kambersky wrote in Mlada fronta Dnes that the problem was “no longer about one respected magazine.” No matter how people may object to various newspapers, “freedom of the press is still a smaller evil than its lack of freedom,” Kambersky wrote.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has denounced Zeman for his threat, the Freedom Forum reported.

“Prime Minister Zeman must understand that criticism of government officials is at the very heart of democratic debate, and therefore the lawsuits are wholly inappropriate in the Czech Republic,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “We call on the prime minister to drop the suits immediately.”