On October 3, in the course of the ordinary four-day session of the Armenian Parliament, the voting on the package of draft laws, regulating broadcasting, was made. Most deputies did not take part in the voting, as a result of which the draft amendments to RA Laws “On Television and Radio”, “Regulations of the National Commission on Television and Radio", "On State Duty" were not adopted in the first hearing (instead of the necessary 66, 47 votes were cast – 46 for, 1 against). As it has been reported, the draft laws submitted by the Government were considered at the NA extraordinary session on September 26-27 and raised serious objections of a number of deputies. The drafts were strongly criticized by the journalistic community, too. On September 26 Yerevan Press Club, Journalists Union of Armenia, Internews Media Support NGO, Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression and “Asparez” Journalist’s Club of Gyumri made a joint statement, calling on the National Assembly to hold public debates before the package of draft laws on broadcasting was considered and passed (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, September 22-28, 2006).
At a press-conference on September 29 the representatives of the five journalistic associations noted above reinstated the unacceptability of the hasty adoption of the drafts – without discussions with the parties concerned and taking into account the recommendations of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers and the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Miklos Haraszti. Along with some positive changes, the professional organizations maintained, the draft laws presented by the Government contain a number of debatable, controversial provisions and do not refer to some important deficiencies of the existing broadcast legislation, criticized since adoption. In the opinion of journalistic organizations, the proposal to hold public discussion of the drafts after their adoption in the first hearing is also unacceptable: according to the NA Regulations, after the first hearing the introduction of new articles into the draft is not permitted. At the press-conference the NGOs confirmed their readiness to present the concept and specific proposals on the legislative reformation of the broadcasting within shortest time possible, cooperating on this with the Government, the Parliament, and all interested organizations.
The concern that the package of the draft laws was submitted to the Parliament with no discussion with the civil society and international organizations was voiced in the letter of the Head of OSCE Office in Yerevan Ambassador Vladimir Pryakhin, addressed to NA Speaker Tigran Torosian and RA Minister of Justice David Harutiunian on September 28.
At the press-conference on October 3 at the National Assembly Shavarsh Kocharian, MP representing “Ardarutiun” faction, noted that the drafts rejected by the Parliament run contrary to the RA Constitution. In the opinion of the deputy, the body, as stipulated in the Main Law, must regulate the entire broadcasting sphere, while the draft law provisions do not cover the public service broadcasting. Moreover, Shavarsh Kocharian thinks, the amendments proposed by the Government make the private broadcasters even more dependent on the regulatory body.
Notably, the package of draft laws on broadcasting was placed for public discussion at the web-site of the RA Ministry of Justice (www.justice.am) on September 28 only, that is, after the extraordinary Parliament session ended and the criticism of journalistic and international organizations was made.