On January 31 the web site of the RA Ministry of Justice presented draft laws “On Introducing Amendments to the RA Law ‘On Television and Radio’ ” and “On Introducing Amendments and Addition to the RA Law ‘Regulations of the National Commission on Television and Radio’ ”.
As it has been reported, the first version of the drafts was submitted to the RA National Assembly on September 25, 2006, before the start of an extraordinary session. Hence, neither the deputies, nor the specialized commission had a chance to familiarize with the documents properly. The documents did not undergo international expert assessment, either. During the discussion of the drafts in the Parliament serious criticism of them was made by a number of deputies, and the drafts failed the first hearing. In the opinion of journalistic organizations, including YPC, the drafts contained a number of questionable, controversial provisions and did not address some essential shortcomings of the active broadcasting legislation, criticized since its adoption. Professional associations also noted the need to hold public hearings, involving all the stakeholders, and announced their readiness to present their proposals (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, September 29 – October 5, 2006).
Unlike the above mentioned, the new amendments to broadcasting legislation, developed by the Government, seek to solve a purely technical issue: to harmonize the provisions on the formation of the National Commission on Television and Radio with Article 83.2 of the Armenian Constitution. However, even in this case, the issues related to the NCTR status and to ensuring diversity of representation in it are not completely resolved.
Article 83.2 of the Constitution says: “To ensure the goals of freedom, independence and plurality of the broadcasting media, an independent regulatory body shall be established by the law, half of whose members shall be elected by the National Assembly for a six-year term while the other half shall be appointed by the President of the Republic for a six-year term. The National Assembly shall elect the members of this body by a majority of its votes.” It follows from this definition that the independent regulating body (NCTR) must regulate both private and public broadcasting. However, the amendments submitted by the Ministry of Justice do not define how NCTR is to regulate and supervise the activities of Public TV and Radio Company.
Besides, the appeals of international organizations were taken no notice of. In particular, this refers to the report of OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Miklos Haraszti on media in Armenia, released on July 26, 2006, where the following recommendation is made: “The composition of all boards should represent the political and social diversity of the country, and should include NGOs and professional associations.” Meanwhile, the drafts do not stipulate the procedure for nominating candidates for NCTR membership by the National Assembly; it is only noted that the appointments are made “by a resolution of the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia through a procedure, defined by the RA Law ‘Regulations of the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia’ ”.
Finally, if the drafts are adopted, the demand of the Constitution about the
50/50 proportion of NCTR members, elected by the Parliament and appointed by the RA President, can only be ensured in 4 years, in 2011, and in 2015 this proportion will be broken again.