YPC Weekly Newsletter

2008


CONSTITUTIONAL COURT BELIEVES THE NATIONAL COMMISSION ON TELEVISION AND RADIO WAS FORMALISTIC

On March 8 the RA Constitutional Court left in force the decision of the RA
Central Election Commission “On Electing the President of Armenia” of February
24, 2008. The court ruling notes that appeals to the Constitutional Court, challenging
the decision of the CEC, were made by the RA presidency candidates Tigran Karapetian
(February 27) and Levon Ter-Petrosian (February 29). The appeals of the candidates
were united in one case, on which, apart from CEC, responding parties were the
RA General Prosecutor’s Office, the RA Police and the National Commission on
Television and Radio; the presidential candidate Serge Sargsian was the third
party.

The ruling of the Constitutional Court, in particular, notes that Levon Ter-Petrosian
grounded his court appeal on a number of violations that he believed were made
during election, also by media. Thus, during the period of January 21-30, 2008
on eight TV channels “the positive coverage of Serge Sargsian prevailed significantly,
while the coverage of Levon Ter-Petrosian in all cases was negative; on some
TV channels in the coverage of the two candidates no balance was observed, the
airtime was distributed unequally”. Besides, as the ruling of the Constitutional
Court said, the applicant thought it extremely important that unequal conditions
were created for candidates throughout the election promotion; in particular,
“Haylur” newscast of the Public Television violated the principle of impartiality,
stipulated by the RA Electoral Code.

The applicant grounded the violation of the principle of legality, equality
and freedom by broadcast media by the report of the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation
Mission and the interim report of the Yerevan Press Club on monitoring the Armenian
broadcast media coverage of presidential elections-2008, released on February
14.

The ruling of the Constitutional Court notes that according to one of the respondents,
the Chairman of the National Commission on Television and Radio Grigor Amalian,
during the pre-election promotion for the Armenian presidential elections NCTR
monitored the programs of the TV channels, specified in Levon Ter-Petrosian
appeal, and “has revealed no violations of the established procedure for pre-election
promotion”. The NCTR Chairman also expressed an opinion that “the media activities
outside the period, defined by the RA legislation for pre-election promotion,
cannot be a subject for discussion”. As to the statements of the applicant regarding
the candidate coverage in positive or negative context, Grigor Amalian thinks
these data were obtained through “unclear methodology and are not argumented”.

According to the ruling of the Constitutional Court, in the course of presidential
elections of 2008 “the effective control over the pre-election promotion was
out of the RA CEC attention”. “The National Commission on Television and Radio
displayed formalistic approach to the compliance with the legal requirements.
As a result, the media coverage displayed not only partiality, but also, in
some cases, violations of legal and ethical norms”, the court ruling notes in
particular.

Nevertheless, as the Constitutional Court says in the ruling, “the candidates
were able to present their platforms to voters by various means of pre-election
promotion”: “At the same time, proceeding from international legal standards,
the principle, according to which the pre-election promotion must be fair and
must not be interpreted so widely as to exclude the realization of the right
to free expression and information or the possibility for an official to express
an opinion in response to accusations received.”