On September 15 Yerevan Press Club disseminated a statement with a number of proposals on draft amendments to the Constitution of Armenia, adopted by the RA National Assembly in the second hearing on September 1.
The statement says: “Yerevan Press Club is induced to state that the public of Armenia has been insufficiently involved in the constitutional reform process. Attention was not duly paid to a number of alternative proposals made, as a result of which certain provisions of the draft continue to arise serious concerns. In particular, we cannot be satisfied with the definitions on freedom of expression and information. The primary subject of our concern is the mechanisms for the broadcast regulatory body formation, as stipulated by the draft constitutional amendments, since its independence is not guaranteed.
As after the adoption in the second hearing the project cannot be radically improved, we submit our proposals of editorial nature that will enable making the existing clauses more specific and will contribute to achieving greater clarity of definitions.”
Some of the YPC proposals aim solely at the improvement of the language in some articles. At the same time it is proposed to maximally clarify the status and the role of the body to be established for broadcast media. Thus, Article 83.2 ("To ensure freedom, independence and diversity of broadcast mass media, in accordance with the law, an independent body is established. Half of its members are elected by the National Assembly, and the other half is appointed by the President of the Republic – for 6 years’ term of service. The National Assembly elects the members of this body by a majority of the total number of deputies.”) should, in the opinion of YPC, be narrated as follows: “In accordance with the law, a body is established, regulating the activities of public and private broadcast mass media, contributing to their diversity. To ensure the greatest independence of this body, half of its members are elected by the National Assembly and half is appointed by the President of the Republic – for 6 years’ term of service. The National Assembly elects the members of this body by a majority of the total number of deputies”.
The essence of the change proposed is that firstly, the bodies formed by the state are established not to ensure freedom and independence but to regulate the activities of a sphere. It is another thing that the Constitution must stipulate certain guarantees for the independence of the body itself. Secondly, the regulating function of this body should be clearly defined by the Constitution, since the Main Law stipulates its establishment. Otherwise it remains uncertain what it should be responsible for – this is hardly the broadcasting, audiovisual production or interference with the inner policy of broadcasting companies. Thirdly, both private and public broadcasting should be subject to regulation. And if, contrary to YPC’s proposals, the Constitution will stipulate the formation of only one body, it should be regulating both, which must be clearly defined by the Main Law.
The proposals of Yerevan Press Club and other journalistic associations (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, August 25 – September 1, 2005 and July 8-14, 2005) on amendments to RA Constitution will be submitted to the RA National Assembly before the draft is discussed in the third hearing.