YPC Weekly Newsletter



On March 10 the Annual Report of the RA Human Rights Defender Armen Harutiunian
on the Activities of the Defender and the Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
Violations in Armenia in 2008 was presented at the Congress Hotel in Yerevan.

Talking about different aspects of his activities, particularly, in the sphere
of information and public relations, the ombudsman emphasized that the cooperation
with media in whole is succeeded. At the same time, in the opinion of Armen
Harutiunian, the media does not always reflect adequately the points of view
expressed by him. Touching upon the information sphere, the ombudsman noted
the one-sided news coverage by the Public Television of Armenia, as one of the
unsolved problems to this very day. For example he brought his extraordinary
public report “On Presidential Elections of February 19, 2008 and the Post-Election
Situation”, released on April 25, 2008, which “was not even mentioned” on the
air of the public broadcaster. However, a month later, when objections to the
report where raised by the RA General Prosecutor’s Office and the RA Ministry
of Justice, they were covered “several times” by the Public Television, “with
comments of different officials of the abovementioned bodies”.

One of the sub-sections of the annual report refers to the right of freedom
of information. In the opinion of Armen Harutiunian, there are serious problems
with realizing that right. “In fact, there is a lack of pluralism on TV, as
for the print media, it is often transformed to insult, giving raise to an improper
and inacceptable culture for our society”, the ombudsman stresses, in particular.
Like in the report of 2007, Armen Harutiunian once again pays attention to the
absence of appropriate sublegal acts, ensuring the procedure of the application
of the RA Law “On Freedom of Information”. Thus, point 1 of article 10 of the
Law sets forth that providing information or duplicates (copies) of documents
by state institutions and organizations, local self-administration bodies is
implemented according to the procedure defined by the RA Government. Nevertheless,
to present day this procedure has not been defined. Besides, according to point
4 of article 11 of the Law, the rejection to provide information can be appealed
to authorized state body or to the court. However, so far there is not a proper
body, the report notes.

The amendments to the RA Law “On Television and Radio”, adopted on September
10, 2008 and suspending the broadcast licensing competitions until July 2010,
were considered by the ombudsman as “regressive and explicitly contradictory”
to the European Court of Human Rights ruling of June 17, 2008 on the case of
“A1+” TV company.

Talking about the situation after the 2008 presidential elections, the ombudsman
thinks that the activities of a number of media have contributed to the escalation
of the tension in the society: “A most vivid example of such unacceptable coverage
was demonstrated by the First Channel of the Public Television of Armenia, which
not only neglected the President’s Decree on State of Emergency, but also made
an infringement of the requirement of Article 28 of the RA Law “On Television
and Radio”, prohibiting the prevalence of a political stance in the programs
broadcast on public television.” The National Commission on Television and Radio,
which, in accordance to the Law, is the independent regulator and is to implement
the control over the activities of the broadcasters, Armen Harutiunian’s report
stresses, failed to perform one of its main functions and did not prevent the
violations of the Decree provisions not only by the PTA First Channel, but also
most of the private broadcasters. At the same time, the ombudsman says, in the
second half of 2008 “some positive changes and elements of pluralistic news
coverage were observed in the activities of the PTA First Channel”.

The annual report of the Human Rights Defender touches upon the situation on
the “GALA” TV company of Gyumri. In particular, in the opinion of the ombudsman,
“it raises doubts the circumstance”, that the tax violations made by the founder
of the TV company and other problems were revealed “only after “GALA” manifested
a critical stance towards the authorities”.

The ombudsman notes that in 2008, like in the previous years, cases of impeding
professional activities of journalists have been fixed. Nevertheless, a great
number of such incidents remained unpunished. The Human Rights Defender statements,
listed in the report appendix, concern the attacks on journalists, in particular:
on correspondent of “Haykakan Zhamanak” daily, Lusine Barseghian, on August
11; on acting head of the Armenian Service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Hrach Melkumian, on August 18; on Chairman of “Investigative Journalists” NGO
Edik Baghdasarian on November 17.

At the presentation of ombudsman report for 2008 Armen Harutiunian awarded
diplomas for contribution to development of tolerance and freedom of speech
to Anna Israelian, the observer of “Aravot” daily, and Larisa Alaverdian, the
First RA Human Rights Defender, now RA National Assembly deputy of “Heritage”