THE FINAL MEETING UNDER TRILATERAL PROJECT HELD
On September 20-24 in the vicinity of Turkish Kusadasi town the final third meeting of the Armenian, Azerbaijan and Turkish journalists under “Azerbaijan-Armenia-Turkey: Journalist Initiative-2002” project was held (see details on the two previous meetings in YPC Weekly Newsletter, June 15-21, 2002 and March 9-15, 2002). The project is implemented by Yerevan Press Club, “Yeni Nesil” Journalists’ Union of Azerbaijan and the Association of Diplomatic Correspondents of Turkey with the support of the OSI Network Media Program. The organization of the meeting was assisted by the Turkish Democracy Foundation.
The round table held on September 21-23 at “Pine Bay” hotel was devoted to the discussion of three reports. The Chief Editor of Baku “Zerkalo” daily Elchin Shikhli presented “The Monitoring Results for the Coverage of Relations between Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey by the Media of Azerbaijan and Turkey”. The presentation on “The Issue of Turkey’s Accession to the European Union as Viewed by the Armenian Press” was made by the head of “Region” Center of the Association of Investigative Journalists of Armenia Laura Baghdasarian. The Secretary-General of the Association of Diplomatic Correspondents of Turkey Kivanc Galip Over told about “The Karabagh Conflict in Turkish Media”.
The presentations themselves and the subsequent discussion demonstrated the increased interest of the journalists to the prospects of the rapprochement of the three countries on the key issues that lie at the heart of the complicated relations between them. The analysis of the publications on its part shows that the journalists can significantly contribute the establishment of a constructive dialogue between the parties.
Having given credit to the work made under the project, the journalists participating in the round table as well as the representatives of the OSI Network Media Program discussed the possibilities of increasing the effectiveness of the partnership and its further expansion.
PACE BELIEVES THAT ARMENIAN MEDIA LACK PROFESSIONALISM AND ETHICS
On September 26 at the session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe the Committee on the Honoring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe presented its reports on Armenia and Azerbaijan. The document on Armenia in its section on freedom of expression notes in particular that that while Armenia has adopted a broadcast law, it is imperfect and is not satisfactory by Council of Europe standards. Besides, the law is hotly contested by the media themselves, primarily because the members of the Council of the Public TV and Radio Company and the National Commission on Television and Radio (the bodies that regulate the public and private broadcasting, respectively) are appointed by the President of the country. Secondly, “the technical standards laid down are so high that private television companies might find them impossible to comply with, and consequently lose their license”. Further report present the situation with “A1+” and “Noyan Tapan” TV companies that were not awarded broadcast licenses.
In general, as the document says, “Armenia has clearly made progress with regard to freedom of speech, pluralism and free functioning of media”. “In the opinion of the international observers, the media are generally free to write what they please, and do so without restraint, regularly overstepping the boundaries of defamation”, the report stresses.
The CE representatives note that there can be no truly independent media unless their sources of funding are independent of public subsidies, the business world and foreign states, which is not the case in Armenia. The rapporteurs believe that “the question of freedom of the media in Armenia is not so much one of any material and administrative obstacles or political pressure (…), as one of (absence) of professionalism or journalistic ethics, which both fall very far short of European standards”. ” Many journalists behave like mercenaries, ready to offer their columns to the highest bidder”, the rapporteurs think. Stressing the importance of the appropriate journalistic training, the CE representatives find at the same time the Armenian media appear to be much more tolerant and conscientious than those in the other Caucasian countries.
“The Council of Europe should undoubtedly strengthen its program of co-operation with Armenia in respect of freedom of expression, the media and the ethics of journalism”, the document says.
On the same day PACE adopted a resolution on honoring of obligations and commitments by Armenia. The resolution says that since its accession on January 25, 2001 Armenia has made substantial progress towards honoring the obligations and commitments it accepted. As to the media legislation, the draft law “On Mass Communication” has not as yet been submitted to the RA National Assembly, in spite of the commitment entered into. Considering that the allocation of the radio and television broadcasting licenses gave rise to strong protests in April 2002, PACE called on the Armenian authorities “to amend the law on broadcasting without delay, taking into account the recommendations made by the Council of Europe” and remind the authorities of the country about their “firm commitment to organize a new call for tenders for new frequencies on October 25, 2002″.
Not disputing the PACE assessment of the Armenian media, we cannot but ask how ethical the definitions used to characterize Armenian journalists are. Also, the rapporteurs, apparently, did not take into account the obvious fact that the professional standards in the Armenian media world were shaped on their own; they are a direct consequence of the state policy in the area that has been in place for the past 12 years. It is the Armenian political and business elite (it is homogenous, being represented by the same individuals), including all the branches of power, was the one persistently shaping the vices of journalism mentioned in the report.
The professionalism and the journalistic ethics that ” fall very short of European standards” cannot pre-determine the media situation to a greater extent than the “material and administrative obstacles or political pressure”, as they are a derivative of the latter. Doesn’t this look like the tail wagging the dog?
THE DECISION ON THE PRIVATIZATION OF “HAYMAMOUL” AGENCY PASSED
On September 19 the Government of Armenia passed a decision on the privatization of the Press Dissemination Agency (“Haymamoul” SCJSC). The privatization will be made through a direct sale of the shares to the staff of the enterprise. The total cost of the shares comes to 30 million drams (about 53,000 USD). According to the management of the Agency, after the privatization, the company will focus on the revenues generated by subscription for periodicals.
As it has been reported, on November 15 last year the Armenian Government took the decision of privatizing the newspaper stalls owned by “Haymamoul”, with an advantage given to the vendors themselves. The latter ones, having become the proprietors, are to use the stalls also by their direct function, i.e., sell newspapers and magazines at least for 5 years (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, November 10-16, 2001).