YPC Weekly Newsletter

2003


GROUP AGO INSISTS ON GRANTING FREQUENCIES TO "A1+" AND "NOYAN TAPAN" AND ON THE NEED TO DECRIMINALIZE LIBEL AND INSULT

On September 8 the Progress Report of the Monitoring Group (Group Ago) on the honoring of commitments to the Council of Europe by Armenia and Azerbaijan was published. The Report was submitted to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The official visit of the representatives of the CE Committee of Ministers to Armenia had been made on July 6-8.

In its conclusion on Armenia and Azerbaijan Group Ago expresses concern over the lack of progress on a number of sensitive issues, which raises a serious problem with regard to honoring of commitments to the CE by the two countries. In the opinion of the representatives of the CE Committee of Ministers, "independence of the legislative, the judiciary and the media appears to be perceived as threat to power which lies mainly – in the both countries – in the hands of respective presidents". This is borne out by the fact that in these fundamental fields legislation has either not been adopted, or has been amended prior to being passed, with the result that the Council of Europe’s recommendations on sensitive points were not taken into account.

In the Armenia section of the Report the importance of finding some pragmatic solutions in respect of several commitments where progress was delayed pending the referendum on constitutional amendments is noted. These are in particular the adoption of law on mass communication and of amendments in the RA Law "On Television and Radio". The discontent of Group Ago is caused by the provisions for membership of the radio and television supervisory boards. Both the draft law on mass communication and the draft amendments to the broadcast law, as Monitoring Group believes, must be sent to the Council of Europe for an expert opinion and once again interim measures must be put in place.

Besides, as it is emphasized in the Report, a number of other old problems exist, which must now be resolved. In the media sphere these are the allocation of frequencies to independent TV companies, particularly "A1+" and "Noyan Tapan", and the decriminalization of libel and insult. The Report describes the situation with the broadcast licensing competition which was to be held before the elections, was constantly postponed and was finally held, however, by the decision of the National Commission on Television and Radio of July 18 the bids of "A1+" and "Noyan Tapan" were rejected again. As to the provisions of the RA Criminal Code, stipulating responsibility of libel and insult in the media, they were criticized by the OSCE and the Council of Europe and cause serious concern of journalists. "The Group did not receive a satisfactory answer on this point", the Report of the representatives of the CE Committee of Ministers notes.