On October 9 at Congress Hotel in Yerevan a discussion “Perspectives of Media Freedom in Armenia” was organized by the Partnership for Open Society initiative (united about 50 NGOs of the country). The main subject for discussion of the representatives of media, journalistic associations, local and international organizations was the package of draft laws, regulating the broadcasting. As it has been reported, the draft amendments to the RA Laws “On Television and Radio”, “Regulations of the National Commission on Television and Radio", "On State Duty” were introduced for voting of the RA National Assembly on October 3 and were not adopted in the first hearing. Documents were criticized by both the MPs and the journalistic community, appealing, on its behalf, to hold public debates before the package of draft laws on broadcasting is considered by the Parliament (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, September 29 – October 5, 2006).
At the event, organized by the Partnership, its moderator, the President of Yerevan Press Club Boris Navasardian reinstated the readiness of journalistic associations to cooperate with the Government and the Parliament, saying that a number of proposals on the legislative improvements in broadcasting, developed by YPC and other professional NGOs, is already placed on the web site of the RA Ministry of Justice (www.justice.am). Boris Navasardian also recalled the report of July 26, 2006 by the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Miklos Haraszti on media situation in Armenia. The report recommended, as a first step to improve the situation in broadcasting, to hold public consultations with organizations concerned regarding the legislative changes, stipulated by the Constitutional amendments and prepared by the Government.
Speaking of the current situation and possible changes in the legislative regulation of broadcasting, the Chairwoman of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Science, Education and Culture Hranush Hakobian stressed that there is sufficient time to improve the draft laws and all the proposals by the civil society will be carefully considered.
The Deputy Chairman of the Council of Public TV and Radio Company of Armenia Vardan Kopian in his speech on the role and significance of the public service broadcasting in ensuring freedom of speech and pluralism dwelled on the duties of PTRC. At the same time, Vardan Kopian reaffirmed the stance of the Public TV and Radio Company management about the need to start contractual relations with the National Assembly on the issue of rebroadcast parliamentary programs on the Public Television.
The presentation of Executive Director of Internews Media Support NGO Nouneh Sarkissian was dealing with the guarantees and problems of free media development in Armenia. Referring to the amendments in broadcast legislation “Internews” head, in particular, expressed her alarm that if the advertising limit for Public TV and Radio Company is removed (as stipulated by the draft amendments), the company will be completely commercialized. Nouneh Sarkissian also stressed the need to thoroughly think through the mechanisms for forming the National Commission on Television and Radio – the broadcast regulatory body. As to print media, according to Nouneh Sarkissian, a serious blow on their freedom is the introduction of licensing for the organizations that deliver print press through subscription.
During the discussion held the RA Human Rights Defender Armen Harutiunian made a particular emphasis on the issue of how the constitutional right of citizens to free, independent and pluralistic broadcast media will be realized and guaranteed. RA NA deputy, the representative of Republican Party of Armenia faction Armen Ashotian noted the intensifying trend of media oligarchization, which will render even the most liberal legislation ineffective. Head of OSCE Office in Yerevan Ambassador Vladimir Pryakhin expressed his concern over the reduction of Armenia’s rating in democratic development index in general and the freedom of press in particular. Vladimir Pryakhin confirmed the readiness of OSCE to assist Armenia in improving media legislation.