On January 27 in Vienna at the session of the OSCE Permanent Council the US Ambassador to OSCE Ian Kelly delivered the statement of the United States Mission to the OSCE on media freedom in Armenia. The statement notes that the December 16, 2010 decision by National Commission on Television and Radio awarding 18 ten-year digital broadcast licenses “will shape Armenia’s media environment for the next decade, a period encompassing the next two cycles of national elections for the Armenian parliament and president”. By noting that the number of licenses awarded is less than the current number of broadcasters, the statement authors expressed a concern about the implications of the competition process on media pluralism.
The US Mission to the OSCE welcomes the formation of the working group on reforming the broadcast legislation and tasked to review the June 2010 amendments to RA Law “On Television and Radio” (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, October 8-14, 2010); at the same time, it has concerns about the pace of the review. The US Mission also remains concerned that “an audit of Armenia’s TV and radio frequencies, which provides the technical basis for limiting the number of digital broadcasting licenses, has not been released”.
Commending RA President Serzh Sargsian’s statements on December 18, 2010 committing the authorities to "display utmost tolerance toward dissent" and remarking that "European democracy and rule of law are demands" of Armenian society, the US Mission mentioned that “independent, pluralistic media in which diverse opinions can be
freely discussed is a critical component for a prosperous democracy”.
All OSCE participating States, as well as Armenia, have undertaken commitments to respect and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of expression and media freedom, the statement emphasizes.
“We urge the government of Armenia to amend the Law “On Television and Radio” and to conduct the digital switchover process in a manner that promotes media pluralism in Armenia and expands the Armenian public’s access to information from diverse sources. In order to ensure Armenian legislation conforms to international standards and OSCE commitments, we urge the government of Armenia to release the frequency audit and further amend the Law “On Television and Radio” by taking into account the recommendations of the OSCE, including its Representative on Freedom of the Media, and the Council of Europe. We further urge Armenian authorities to liberalize the licensing regime for other telecommunications media, including for providers of Internet, satellite and mobile phone networks so that media can easily deliver content to Armenian citizens. We also urge the government to consider allowing all existing broadcast license holders and applicants for new broadcast licenses to utilize unallocated analog frequencies until the cessation of analog broadcasting in Armenia,” the statement of US Mission to OSCE underlines.