YPC Weekly Newsletter

2004


COMMENTS ON THE DRAFT REPORT OF THE PACE MONITORING COMMITTEE

On October 4 in Yerevan the Partnership for Open Society Initiative, uniting
over 40 public organizations, held discussions of the draft report of the PACE
Monitoring Committee on implementation of Resolutions 1361 (2004) and 1374 (2004)
on the honoring of obligations and commitments by Armenia (corapporteurs Jerzy
Jaskiernia and Rene Andre), to be heard on October 7 at the PACE session. At
the discussion comments on the report developed by the Partnership for Open
Society Initiative were presented, too.

In the beginning of the comments the Initiative points out the preferability
of a more detailed examination of the situation in Armenia and their taking
into account the opinions not only the state representatives but also of the
NGO-community. “We work together with the government, international organizations
and civil society towards achieving the common goal of democratic reforms in
Armenia”, the comments read. “This will happen only if accurate information
and analysis is provided. Unfortunately, lack of accurate information and thorough
analysis of the situation is manifest in both the points that the rapporteurs
highlighted as positive and also in those that they present as negative.”

The omissions named are also present in the reference the corapporteurs make
to the media situation. Thus, in item 3 iii of the draft report of the Monitoring
Committee it is noted that “the investigations on incidents and human rights
abuses reported during the recent events, including assaults on journalists
and human rights activists, were led and information was provided to the Assembly
on their findings and of any legal action taken against persons responsible”.
Yet, as the comments of the Partnership note, the corapporteurs do not specify
that the investigation of many such cases was stopped, and it was not conducted
at all on the abuse of journalists by the police on the night of April 12-April
13, 2004. The events of April 12-April 13 were not reflected in the report at
all, even though in them several journalists were injured. Only the punishment
imposed on two attackers for violence against journalists on the rally of April
5, 2004 is mentioned (the punishment left the journalistic community and the
public discontent, the comments note).

In the opinion of the Monitoring Committee, the request to the National Commission
on Television and Radio to add arguments when awarding broadcast licenses, as
stipulated in the last amendments to the RA Law “On Television and Radio”, will
prevent “the adoption of arbitrary decisions” (item 9). The corapporteurs also
hope that the expected renewal of the composition of the NCTR, proceeding from
the same amendments to the broadcast law, will contribute to the creation of
“fair conditions for awarding broadcast licenses to televisions, in particular
‘A1+’” (item 11 iii). Firstly, the comments of the Partnership stress, the mere
giving additional arguments is not a guarantee for preventing arbitrary decisions.
This requires other methods of open and public discussion, too, also involvement
of NGO representatives and experts into the process of bid evaluation, as allowed
by Article 26 of the RA Law “Statutes of the National Commission on Television
and Radio”. Such a proposal was made by a number of NGOs to the NCTR Chairman
during the last broadcast licensing competition, however, it was rejected. Secondly,
the comments of the Initiative say, the amendments to the broadcast law do not
stipulate changes in the NCTR composition: they only refer to competitive appointment
to vacancies. And, finally, the comments note, the corapporteurs link the creation
of fair competition conditions with the changes in the NCTR composition, whereas
attention should be drawn to its formation procedure which “does not ensure
the independence of the body and makes it a tool in the hand of the executive”.

When quoting negative examples, the comments of the Partnership note, the report
of the Monitoring Committee has a number of mistakes. Thus, item 30 of the report
says: “The situation regarding media still gives cause for concern. Newspapers
are regularly found guilty in court and ordered to pay heavy fines for publishing
defamatory articles about prominent figures in or close to the government.”
Yerevan Press Club and the Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression monitor
the media situation, also the media-related litigations, and during the past
year, fortunately, nothing has been recorded, the Initiative writes in its comments.

Among the most vivid examples of information lack, in the opinion of the Partnership,
was the mentioning of the corapporteurs that “Kentron” TV company stopped broadcasting
and was replaced by “Aravot” TV company. In reality, the comments explain, “Kentron”
did not stop its activities, it only changed the air name. As the corapporteurs
note, “Yerkir Media” TV company that got a broadcast license is managed by Armenian
Diaspora. In the Partnership’s comments this statement is characterized as “irresponsible”.