Elections officials in Azerbaijan are complaining about some Western media outlets’ coverage of the country’s presidential campaign ahead of the 9 October vote.
At a meeting last week, the media arm of the Central Election Commission said “influential organizations” such as Radio Free Europe, the BBC, and Voice of America are disseminating campaign propaganda in violation of Azerbaijan’s election laws, the APA news agency reports.
In a statement, the regulators said the news outlets are “conducting [an] illegal and negative campaign under the pretext of highlighting [the] election process by disdaining requirements of the legislation and flagrantly violating them. Thus, they are becoming representatives of some political interests and violating the right of voters for fair information.”
In response, RFE said the complaint was an attempt to intimidate independent media. The organization has covered rallies by challengers to President Ilham Aliev and has profiled all 10 candidates in the race.
A 12 September report by election monitors for the OSCE said Azerbaijan’s election laws make “no provisions for balanced coverage of candidates and political parties in news and current affairs programs.”
Monitors also noted complaints about “the government’s control over all television stations with nationwide coverage,” a truncated campaign period of 22 days that favors the incumbent, and the president’s frequent trips to ceremonial events and public speeches that are dutifully broadcast.
Further, the OSCE observers noted that eight journalists sit in prison in Azerbaijan and that “unjustified or selective criminal prosecution and reported physical attacks against journalists” have increased.
Hundreds of marchers took to the streets of Belgrade 28 September to defy a government ban on this year’s gay pride parade,PinkNews reports. Participants called the march “peaceful” and derided warnings by the government that it would be met with violence from right-wing groups.
As they did the previous two years, security officials in Serbia banned the 2013 pride parade, saying they could not ensure “peace and public order,” B92 reports. Counter-demonstrations were banned as well.
B92 cites reports that the Belgrade police force had allotted 6,500 officers, which would have been the largest deployment in the city’s history, to keep peace during the event.
Police were called out the day of the parade to block entrance to the park where the event had been planned to start, RFE reports. Instead, activists took a route that included the prime minster’s house and parliament, chanting, “This is pride!” and “This is Serbia,” The Sofia Globe reports.
An EU candidate, Serbia got some disapproving words from Brussels over its handling of the pride parade. EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele said the ban was “a missed opportunity to show respect for fundamental rights.”
The last gay pride parade held in Belgrade, in 2010, was marred by violence.
Russia’s prime minister has issued the latest in a string of warnings that the country faces economic doom if it does not institute reforms, Britain’s Telegraph writes.
In an extensive commentary for Vedomosti magazine, Dmitri Medvedev outlines the successes his government has had in piloting the economy through the international downturn but notes that for the first time since 2009, Russia will see its gross domestic product grow more slowly this year than the global economy.
The prescription is one Medvedev has flogged for years: focusing on innovation and phasing out a system of guaranteed employment in outdated industries. Specifically, he calls for lowering the import duties on scientific equipment, retooling schools and universities to prepare graduates for a more technologically oriented labor market, and providing tax holidays and investment loans to new small businesses, among other moves.
Medvedev will have his work cut out for him. His pet project, the Skolkovo Innovation Center near Moscow, has been dogged by an embezzlement investigation, and the World Bank’s 2013 Doing Business index puts Russia in 112th place of 185 countries assessed for “ease of doing business” (although the country’s standing improved slightly from last year). Russia scores near the bottom in getting construction permits and electricity, and in trading across borders, but much better in enforcing contracts and registering property.
A recent analysis in The Ukrainian Week magazine said the combined effects of increased imports, overreliance on fuel export revenues, and large-scale funneling of those revenues into offshore accounts are driving the Russian economy into a recession.
In a first for the country, and perhaps the world, doctors in the Czech Republic have divided a donor’s liver between two adult recipients, according to the Czech News Agency. A team of doctors from Prague’s Institute of Clinical and Experimental Medicine (IKEM) performed the surgery last week on a young couple in critical condition due to mushroom poisoning.
IKEM spokeswoman Veronika Velcova said surgeons at the institute had performed the procedure five times before, but only in cases where the recipients were an adult and child. “Most probably, no other clinic in the world has made a similar operation, the division of a liver between two adults, who urgently needed a transplant after poisoning,” Velcova said. The separate procedures involved took more than a day, she said.
The surgery was more complex in the case of the woman, whose blood type did not match the liver donor’s, a fact that entailed the removal of her antibodies prior to the transplant to ensure that the body didn’t reject the new liver, said Jiri Fronek, head physician of IKEM's transplant surgery clinic.
The Czech News Agency writes that the couple would have died without the transplanted liver, which has been working and is expected to help the couple overcome the effects of the poisoning.
Mushroom picking, a popular pastime throughout Central and Eastern Europe, leads to some deaths each year, as inexperienced pickers collect dangerous types along with edible varieties.
Albanian political parties are being fined for failing to meet gender quotas in the June elections, Balkan Insight reports. The Albanian Central Electoral Commission imposed penalties totaling 22 million leks ($206,750) on parties that did not comply with a law requiring that 30 percent of the candidates in the top tier of their regional lists be female.
Instead, Balkan Insight writes, “most female candidates were relegated to the bottom of the candidate lists. As a result, only 19 women were elected to the 140-seat parliament.”
The ruling Socialist Party will have to pay 6 million leks, while its junior government partner, the Socialist Movement for Integration, and the opposition Democratic Party will have to pay 4 million leks each.
According to elections officials, the fines will be taken out of public funds the parties received for their campaigns.
In spite of such omissions, the new Albanian government has a record-high number of women in the cabinet. Six of the 19 cabinet members are women, including the country’s first female defense minister.