YPC Weekly Newsletter

2008


PACE RESOLUTION URGES ARMENIAN AUTHORITIES TO RECONSIDER THE COMPOSITION OF THE REGULATORY BODIES AND TO STOP THE HARASSMENT OF OPPOSITION MEDIA

On April 14-18 in Strasbourg the session of Parliamentary Assembly of Council
of Europe was held. The session heard the report on the observation of the presidential
election in Armenia of the Ad Hoc Committee of the Bureau of the Assembly, headed
by John Prescott. On April 17, proceeding from the report, PACE adopted Resolution
1609 (2008), “The Functioning of Democratic Institutions in Armenia”.

The report section, dealing with media, notes that despite the large number
of broadcasters in Armenia, also national, the media pluralism and the structure
of control and ownership over media have been a point of concern. “Despite
significant improvements in the legislation, the Secretary General of the Council
of Europe pointed out in December 2007 that the current situation of the Armenian
media in general does not meet the standards of the Council of Europe”, the
report of the PACE Ad Hoc Committee says. As to print media, they are more diverse
and independent, but due to low circulation, only reach a limited number of
people. Television is therefore the most important source of information in
the country.

During the official campaign period, the public broadcasters adhered to the
legal provision for equal access to free airtime for presidential candidates.
However, in agreement with Central Elections Commission, the political advertising
on the Public Television of Armenia was aired starting at 17.15, that is ”far
outside prime time and at a time when most of the population is commuting home
from work”. Public and private broadcasters also adhered to the legal provisions
for equal conditions for paid political promotion, “although prices for political
advertising remained high”.

The public broadcaster, the report notes, provided overall equitable news coverage
of the different campaigns. However, the coverage of Levon Ter-Petrosian’s campaign
was selective, distorted and mostly negative in tone: “Monitoring by OSCE/ODIHR
EOM revealed, overall, strong imbalance of media coverage in favor of Serge
Sargsian in the private broadcast media. Similar to what happened on Public
TV, the news coverage of Mr. Levon Ter-Pertosian’s campaign by private media
was mostly negative in tone. Overall, the media did not live up to their legal
obligation to provide impartial information on the election campaign to the
Armenian public.”

Clause 8 of the adopted Resolution 1609 (2008) “The Functioning of Democratic
Institutions in Armenia”, PACE recalls the commitments of Armenia to the Council
of Europe and urges once more the Armenian authorities to undertake a number
of reforms without delay. In particular, item 8.3 of the Resolution stipulates:
“The independence from any political interest of both National Commission on
Television and Radio and the Council of Public Television and Radio must be
guaranteed. In addition, the composition of these bodies should be revised in
order to ensure that they are truly representative of Armenian society. The
recommendations made by the Venice Commission and Council of Europe experts
in this respect must finally be taken into account. The Assembly reiterates
that apart from reforming the legislation, the authorities must take steps to
ensure freedom and pluralism of the public television and radio on a day-to-day
basis. Also, the harassment by the tax authorities of opposition electronic
and printed media outlets must be stopped.”