YPC Weekly Newsletter

2007


PACE RESOLUTION ON ARMENIA: EQUITABLE ACCESS TO BROADCAST MEDIA BY PARTIES IS AN ABSOLUTE PREREQUISITE FOR FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS

On January 23, at the plenary session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the
Council of Europe of January 22-26 in Strasbourg, the Resolution 1532 (2007)
on Armenia’s honouring of obligations and commitments to CE was adopted. As
it has been reported, the draft Resolution was developed on the basis of the
report, developed by PACE’s Armenia Co-rapporteurs George Colombier and Mikko
Elo, and approved on December 13, 2006 by PACE Monitoring Committee (see YPC
Weekly Newsletter, December
8-14, 2006
).

The provisions of the Resolution on media have not changed from their drat
version. Hence, clause 6.2 of the Resolution notes that “a few months away from
forthcoming parliamentary elections, the Assembly attaches special importance
to pluralism of the electronic media”, since “equitable access by all political
parties” to them is “an absolute prerequisite for the holding of free and fair
elections”. While the amendments to the RA Constitution have paved the way for
greater independence of the bodies, which regulate broadcast media, the draft
law package subsequently drawn up by the government without first consulting
media or Council of Europe representatives have met with strong criticism, not
least concerning the membership of the National Commission of Television and
Radio and the method of appointment of its members. In this regard the Assembly
urged the Armenian authorities to consult the CE experts and take into account
their recommendations before adopting amendments to the Law “On Television and
Radio” (clause 6.2.1). The Assembly also called on authorities to adopt an open,
transparent process of appointing members of the Council of Public TV and Radio
Company in accordance with the recommendations of Venice Commission (clause
6.2.2), as well as take steps to ensure freedom and pluralism of public television
and radio on a day-to-day basis (clause 6.2.3). The Assembly gave its 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-2007, approved by the CE Committee of Ministers following a request
by the Armenian authorities (clause 6.2.4).

Clause 6.3 of the Resolution says that print media 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. The Assembly noted with satisfaction
that “no criminal libel proceedings have been instituted against journalists
for some years now”, and “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”.
At the same time the Assembly stressed the need to decriminalize libel and to
repeal Article 318 of the RA Criminal Code “Insulting a representative of public
authorities”.