YPC Weekly Newsletter

2006


PACE DRAFT RESOLUTION STRESSES THE NEED TO ENSURE BROADCAST MEDIA PLURALITY FOR ELECTIONS

On December 13 in Paris at the session of the Monitoring Committee of the Parliamentary
Assembly of the Council of Europe the Draft Resolution on Armenia’s honoring
of its obligations and commitments to the CE was adopted. The Draft was approved
on the basis of the report, developed by PACE’s Armenia Co-rapporteurs George
Colombier and Mikko Elo, to be debated at PACE plenary session in January 2007.
At the meeting it was stressed that “simply passing legislation is not enough
to implement democratic reforms in the country. The laws must be applied”. A
proof of Armenia’s progress on the way to democracy and European integration,
in the opinion of Monitoring Committee, will be the upcoming elections that
“must comply with European standards for free and fair elections, and media
coverage of the election campaign and the elections must be pluralist and unbiased”.

The need to ensure the pluralism of broadcast media is also stressed in item
6.2 of the Draft Resolution of PACE. It notes, in particular, that “equitable
access to the electronic media by all political parties is an absolute prerequisite
for the holding of free and fair elections”. The adopted amendments to the RA
Constitution made it possible to ensure the greater independence of the bodies,
regulating the broadcast media; however, the Draft Resolution notes, subsequently
the draft law package on broadcasting was developed by the Government without
first consulting the representatives of media and CE and was strongly criticized,
not least concerning the formation of the National Commission on Television
and Radio and appointment of its members. The need to hold consultations with
CE experts and take their recommendations into account before the adoption of
the amendments to the broadcast law is stressed (item 6.2.1). Armenian authorities
are also urged to adopt an open, transparent process of appointment of members
of the Council of Public Television and Radio Company, as recommended by the
Venice Commission (item 6.2.2). “Apart from reforming the legislation, the Armenian
authorities must take steps to ensure the freedom and pluralism of public television
and radio on a day-to-day basis”, item 6.2.3 says. The next item, 6.2.4, expresses
full backing to the monitoring of TV and radio programs with a view to assessing
their independence and impartiality, as provided for in the action plan to support
the parliamentary elections in Armenia in 2007, approved by the CE Committee
of Ministers following a request by the Armenian authorities.

As to print media, “which are reputed to be free and pluralist but play only
a minor role in the provision of public information on account of their small
circulation”, item 6.3 of the PACE Draft Resolution notes with satisfaction
that “no criminal libel proceedings have been instituted against journalists
for some years now”. “Since the reform of the Criminal Code in 2004, libel has
been punishable by a prison sentence only in the event of a repeat offence”,
the Draft says. At the same time, the Armenian authorities are urged to decriminalise
libel and abolish Article 318 of the RA Criminal Code “Insult of the Representative
of Power”.