On September 15, Internews Armenia public organization published the letter to the RA National Assembly where it urged to remove from its agenda the draft law on amendments to the RA Law “On Television and Radio” and to the “Charter of the National Commission on Television and Radio”. In the letter, addressed on September 9 to the Chairwoman of the Standing Committee on Science, Education, Culture and Youth Issues, Hranush Hakobyan (the copies of which were sent to the heads of three parliamentary factions supporting the draft – Republican Party of Armenia, “Orinats Yerkir” and ARF “Dashnaktsutyun”), states that although the current broadcast law is in acute need of radical improvement, the proposed amendments not only fail to fill in serious gaps in the law but, moreover, they have a bad impact on a number of its main provisions.
In fact, three aspects raise most concern. According to the proposed amendments, the National Commission on Television and Radio will be entitled to make a decision on granting broadcast license not by the majority of votes of the Commission members (as stipulated by the current provision) but by the majority of votes of the members present at the session. Thus, three votes will be sufficient to decide on the fate of a private broadcaster (the membership of that regulating body makes up 9 people).
The second debated amendment concerns the evaluation by the National Commission, in the process of licensing, of the bidder’s financial resources on the principle “satisfactory, non-satisfactory”. In addition, no criteria, on which these resources will be evaluated, are brought forward.
And finally, the amendment foreseeing abolition of license in case of “rudely violating of the requirements of Article 24 of the Law” (dissemination of materials of libeling, pornographic nature, publication of state secret, etc). Internews states that the degree of responsibility for such violations is stipulated by civil and criminal legislation, and the proposed amendment is an instance of “initial restriction” not proceeding on the principles of freedom of speech.
On September 11, one more letter, signed by the Acting Head of OSCE Office in Yerevan, Michael Wygant, and leaders of eleven local and international organizations, Yerevan Press Club included, was directed to the Standing Committee on Science, Culture and Youth Issues. The letter expressed concern over the above-mentioned and a number of other suggested amendments to RA Law “On Television and Radio”, as well as over the Draft Law “On Mass Communication”. The signatories turned to the Committee with the request to organize in the near future discussions on these issues with the participation of RA National Assembly deputies, authors of draft laws, representatives of international organizations and journalist community.
It is essential to add that the draft amendments to the broadcast law and the Draft Law “On Mass Communication” have been included on the agenda of the National Assembly’s fall session.