YPC Weekly Newsletter

2007


OSCE/ODIHR MISSION ON MEDIA ACCESS

On February 15 the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights
released the Needs Assessment Mission Report. The report was produced after
the Mission’s visit to Armenia on January 30 – February 2, 2007. The purpose
of the Mission was to assess the conditions and level of preparation in Armenia
for the parliamentary elections upcoming on May 12, 2007, in line with OSCE
commitments and to advise on the establishment of the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation
Mission.

“While equal access to public and private media is guaranteed by law during
the official campaign period, including free airtime on public TV and radio,
the opposition claims very limited media access in the current period before
the official campaign is due to begin. This is reportedly the result of administrative
obstacles and self-censorship. Moreover, many NAM interlocutors expressed concerns
that media access will remain unequal during the official campaign period”,
the report of OSCE/ODIHR Mission sums up, in particular.

In the section of the report on media it is stressed that “television remains
the main source of information and can be described as predominantly pro-government,
despite the formal transformation of state TV into a public service broadcaster,
and the existence of numerous private channels, many of which are de facto linked
to political parties”. In the opinion of OSCE/ODIHR Mission, “the print media
is seen as more pluralistic and news coverage is diverse and critical, however
circulations are limited”. The report notes that despite the amendments to the
Constitution, all members of broadcast regulatory bodies are directly appointed
by the President of the country, and the situation may change after the National
Assembly passes appropriate legislative amendments. “Public TV First Channel
is the most influential media outlet in Armenia”, the report says. It also describes
the situation with “A1+” and “Noyan Tapan” TV companies, who remain without
a frequency to this day, “despite participation in numerous tenders and concerns
expressed by the international community”: “Interlocutors and media experts
described this denial of licenses as a clear message to other media outlets,
which fear losing their licenses, and effectively creating an atmospheres of
self-censorship. This has been compounded by a few cases of violence against
journalists over the past years.”

During the previous elections, the report states, the media, especially the
private ones, were criticized for not providing equal access to contestants
and demonstrating bias. Noting the high rates of public and private TV companies
for political advertising in 2003 elections, the Mission quotes many of its
interlocutors, who fear that this can also be the case during the upcoming elections.
“In addition, there were concerns expressed by many interlocutors about access
to the media before the official start of the election campaign. Several opposition
representatives alleged that obstacles exist for them to gain access to media
in the current pre-campaign period, even for paid advertisements. Representatives
of progovernmental parties, however, cited examples of opposition leaders’ appearance
in the media”, – the media section of the OSCE/ODIHR Mission report notes.