YPC Weekly Newsletter

2009


“NONSENSE” IS ADOPTED IN THE FIRST HEARING

On February 26 in a regular session of the RA National Assembly the package
of amendments to the RA laws “On Television and Radio”, “Statutes of the RA
National Assembly”, “Statutes of the RA National Commission on Television and
Radio”, “On State Duty” was adopted in the first hearing. As it has been reported,
the document was included in the agenda of the previous parliamentary session
and became a subject to criticism by a number of journalist organizations. In
the statement released on February 3 by Yerevan Press Club, Internews Media
Support NGO, Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression, and Media Diversity
Institute-Armenia, the amendments to the broadcast legislation were qualified
as “nonsense” to say the least: “The quality of that document has exceeded our
worst expectations: the number of lexical, logical and legal lapses has made
it useless to subject it to detailed analysis.” First of all, the statement
signatories pointed at the “crude substitution of concepts”: instead of the
legislative guarantees of social-political diversity at the Council of Public
Television and Radio Company, the drafters suggest professional diversity. Since
the very first days of the adoption of the Broadcast Law in 2000, it has been
talked about the need for such guarantees. “Secondly, the drafters have invented
an oath for the members of the Council, as well as the National Commission on
Television and Radio, without devising any real guarantees for the independence
of those bodies, the necessity of which is being constantly talked about. The
demand to take an oath of devotion to civil society, freedom of information,
and other lofty principles, in the absence of reliable mechanisms contributing
to independence, pluralism and accountability to the society, only increases
concentration of hypocrisy that is already a serious problem in our public life”,
the statement of four journalistic associations says. The associations have
noted that the two above-mentioned crucial shortcomings of the legislative package
are but a small part of unacceptable provisions and absurdities contained in
it. The statement signatories urged the deputies of the RA National Assembly
“to quickly forget the package proposed for discussion for the current four-day
session, return to one of its previous versions and work at the fundamental
revision of the document, taking into account the numerous remarks and suggestions”
of both local and international experts (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, January
30 – February 5, 2009
).

Meanwhile, the deputies unanimously voted for the package of amendments, successfully
passing it in the first hearing. In the course of the legislative package discussion,
the Head of the NA Standing Commission on Science, Education, Youth Issues and
Sport Armen Ashotian announced that after the document is adopted at the first
hearing it will be presented to the Venice Commission for experts’ assessment.
In that case why did the amendments have to be adopted to be sent for expert
assessment only afterwards?! The draft on the amendments to the RA Law “On Freedom
of Conscience and Religious Organizations” was also on the agenda, and it was
also criticized. It was decided to send it to the same Venice Commission before
presenting the draft for parliament debates. What prevented the deputies from
doing the same thing in the case of the broadcast legislation, which is no less
important?! Especially, since the journalistic associations have been insisting
on the need of fundamental reforms of the broadcast legislation for whole nine
years. Doesn’t this present yet another proof of full absence of interest in
the improvement of the broadcast sphere? In fact, here we are witnessing just
imitation of such reforms, and this time it is quite unprofessional, having
only one aim – to retain the control over broadcasting.