On March 27 the RA Ministry of Justice introduced the new revised edition of the draft law “On Mass Communication”. The previous version of this document, developed by the Ministry of Justice and approved by the Government, caused a wave of protests of the media and professional associations, received a negative assessment from the experts, also from the Council of Europe (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter in late January, February and March, 2002).
In the new version of the draft law the provisions, causing the greatest concern, are eliminated. Thus, the articles “Licensing the Communication Activity” and “The License for Communication Activity” are replaced with one – “The Notification of Disseminating a Medium” (Article 7), which stipulated a simplified procedure for starting a medium dissemination. The Article “The State Control over Communication Activity”, qualified as an open attempt to introduce censorship, is completely left out. The article on protecting the information sources has been modified: according to the new version of the draft, their disclosure can only be demanded by a court decision. Only 16 of the previous 29 articles are retained in the new edition. Yet, apart from reductions and insignificant corrections the draft has not undergone any essential changes. The definitions of the articles retained are still insufficiently precise and allow various interpretations. The draft law does not take into account the suggestion of a number of journalists to include provision about a free-lance journalist; moreover, the definition of “journalist” itself has disappeared. In general, as some experts think, an impression is formed that the new edition of the draft is nothing but a mechanical reduction of the old variant.
On March 27 in the Parliament Standing Committee on State and Legal Issues a discussion of the new version of the draft law “On Mass Communication” was held. The Deputy Minister of Justice Ashot Abovian expressed his willingness to work on the draft together with the media representatives until all controversies are eliminated.
The day before, on March 26, the National Press Club initiated another protest action against the draft law “On Mass Communication”. The participants passed a statement re-affirming the unacceptability of the draft and their demand to remove the document from circulation.