THE SEMINAR FOR TWO ESTATES COMPLETED
On May 19-20 in Yerevan the seminar “Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Media Disputes in Judicial Practice of Armenia” was completed. The Seminar was organized by Yerevan Press Club, the Council of Europe, Friedrich Ebert Foundation, the RA Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with partner contribution from “Femida” NGO. In his opening speech the RA Minister of Justice David Haroutiunian emphasized the necessity for such meetings between the representatives of judicial branch and media.
The European standards on relations between media and the justice were introduced to the participants by Pall Thorhallsson, the Administrative Officer of the Media Division of General Directorate II of the Council of Europe. The presentation of Henrik Danielian, the Chairman of the RA Court of Cassation was devoted to the necessity for legislative changes in Armenia after its membership in the CE. The speaker mostly lingered on the need for amendments in the RA Constitution. Thus, as the Chairman of the Court of Cassation mentioned, the Constitution declares the fundamental rights and freedoms for the citizens of Armenia only. Meanwhile, to ensure conformity with international norms, including Article 10 of the European Convention, these principles must be fixed for any individual, irrespectively from his/her citizenship. As to the media, Mr. Danielian finds that the journalists must have increased responsibility, since the power and the influence of the word on the society are great. The YPC Expert Mesrop Harutyunyan introduced the situation of the freedom of speech and media in Armenia. The presentation of the Member of the RA Justice Council Robert Avagian referred to the coverage of judicial issues by Armenian media and was built on the quotes from the newspaper publications on the case of the terrorist attack in the Armenian Parliament on October 27, 1999.
The participants were particularly interested in the presentation of the Seminar expert Erno Melssen, the Vice President of the Regional Court of Zwolle, the Netherlands. His narration on how the Europe and, in particular, Holland balance the freedom of media and the right to a fair trial, how the access to information and public hearings is granted, how the legislation has stipulated the right for journalists to protect their sources caused wistful admiration among the journalistic community.
Two court cases have also been studied at the Seminar: from the practice of the European Court on Human Rights and the Court of Cassation of Armenia.
“A GIFT” FOR TSVETANA PASKALEVA?
In the early morning of May 17 the car of the well-known Bulgarian TV journalist, the author of a series of documentaries on the Karabagh War Tsvetana Paskaleva was damaged. The unknown criminals broke the glass, tore out the walkie-talkie set and threw it on the floor of the car. Yet, neither the personal belongings of Paskaleva were touched, not the documents and videotapes. The incident took place near the building of the House of Cinema, where, during the nights, in the studio of “Sharm” company Paskaleva is editing the new documentary “The Faith and the Spirit”. The film is devoted to the reminiscences of the participants of Shushi-Lachin operation and their concern over the future of Azerbaijan territories, currently controlled by the troops of Mountainous Karabagh.
As Tsvetana Paskaleva told Yerevan Press Club, what happened to her is a direct forewarning, an action of threat. Paskaleva links an attempt to exercise pressure not only with the film ”The Faith and the Spirit”, but also to her activities in protection of Samvel Babayan (the former Minister of Defense of Mountainous Karabagh, sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment for plotting the attempted assassination of MK President Arkady Ghukasian in March 2000).
Tsvetana Paskaleva was shooting the war in Mountainous Karabagh since its early days. Paskaleva’s documentaries received the awards of most reputable international festivals. The name of Paskaleva (author, director, camerawoman and producer all in one) was among the first in the rating of the American International Documentary Association – as a camerawoman, working at a hot spot. “I went through the whole war and one cannot intimidate me by what has happened. Those who think I will yield my positions are mistaken”, said Paskaleva. “At the end of May it will be exactly 10 years since I came to work in Armenia and Karabagh. This is the “gift” I have been presented with”, she added.
The investigation of the attack on the car of Tsvetana Paskaleva is conducted at the Central Division of Interior Affairs of Yerevan.
“CHORRORD ISHKHANUTYUN” WEEKLY TARGETED BY AUTHORITIES
Recently, the authorities of Armenia have become extremely attentive towards the radically opposition weekly “Chorrord Ishkhanutyun”.
Yerevan Press Club has already reported that in late March the newspaper was deprived of its property (see the details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, April 7-13, 2001). In particular, on 28 March 2001, officers of the Interior Ministry of Armenia seized the equipment of “Chorrord Ishkhanutyun” weekly, founded and published by “Ogostos” independent press-distribution agency. The officials claimed that the equipment used by “Chorrord Ishkhanutyun” since 1996 was a property of the Ministry.
On 10 May the Editor-in-Chief of “Chorrord Ishkhanutyun”, President of women’s “Shamiram” party Shogher Matevosian was summoned to the office of the Military Prosecutor. She was interrogated over several recent publications containing criticism of authorities’ handling of terrorist attack on the Parliament on 27 October, 1999, which had killed the prime minister, the speaker of the Parliament and 6 other high officials. The prosecutors have demanded to reveal the authors of the publications.
On 16 May at 5 p.m. the tax inspection began a check-up of “Chorrord Ishkhanutyun’s” founder and publisher “Ogostos” agency’s activities without a written order of the Minister of State Revenues, required by the RA Law “On the Procedure and Conductance of Auditing at the Organizations Operating in the Republic of Armenia” (Articles 2 and 3). During the check-up, the representatives of the tax inspection seized a large amount of documents of the agency. They also forced the Executive Director of the agency to sign a declaration about agency’s activities, taken down from their dictation. None of the seized documents has been returned yet.
The official order for the check-up, signed by the Minister of the State Revenues as required by Law, was issued only on May 18. Accordingly, the tax inspection had the right to start a check-up only on May 23. The check-ups, conducted before May 23, have been presented by the tax inspection as “visit”.
The Law does not provide for any “visits” or check-ups under that name. To justify their actions the Ministry of State Revenues issued a statement (published in the “Aravot” daily on May 19) saying “what concerns the fact that the Law does not provide for such visits, then what is not prohibited by law is allowed”. Meanwhile, Article 5 of the Armenian Constitution stipulates that state bodies and officials are competent to perform only those activities for which they are authorized by legislation.
All the facts above are cited by the statement made by “Chorrord Ishkhanutyun” weekly on May 21. The statement also mentions: “Chorrord Ishkhanutyun” weekly is highly critical of the President Kocharian and the government and corrupted officials.”
JOURNALIST’S PHOTO CAMERA BROKEN AT THE CONGRESS OF THE WRITERS
The disreputable XIII Congress of the Writers Union of Armenia that took place on May 17-19 was accompanied not only by scandals, shameful statements, indecent squabbles among the opposing groups (a fact which has been covered by Armenian media), but also by an unexpected for this part of the Armenian society pressure on journalists.
As Yerevan Press Club was informed by Melania Bekarian, a journalist of “Aravot” daily, who had been covering the activities of the Congress, on May 19 when the Chairman of the Writers Union was to be elected, at the suggestion of that time Secretary of the Board Abgar Apinian a demand was made that media leave the session room. The journalists inquired as to the grounds for such measures. Having not heard any weighty arguments to substantiate the demand, the journalists refused to go.
Later, as the election time drew closer, the situation became especially hot, and the journalists were flooded with accusations: you are throwing dirt on us, we would have overcome our conflicts long ago if the media did not add wood into the fire, etc. These accusations were pronounced mostly by not so eminent but extremely aggressive part of the “people of letters”, who started a scuffle in the session room. The more notable writers, on the contrary, took the side of media: the response of the media is adequate to the Congress itself.
However, another episode became the most revolting one. When Lusineh Barseghian, a correspondent of “Haikakan Zhamanak” daily, was taking pictures of the ballot box, Abgar Apinian snatched the camera of the journalist and threw it aside. The camera was wrecked, and this was done by a person who himself used to be a journalist and now claimed the Chair of the Writers Union.
As Melania Bekarian admits, this sad story has two circumstances that inspire optimism. First, the justice won and a worthy person was elected to take over the Chair of the Writers Union of Armenia: the Chief Editor of “Garoun” magazine, writer Levon Ananian. Second, the journalists of differently oriented media showed solidarity and supported each other both during the Congress itself and when covering it.
PUBLICATION OF “HAIKAKAN ZHAMANAK” RESTARTED
On May 19, after a two-day pause the publication of “Haikakan Zhamanak” daily restarted. The stoppage was caused by a conflict with “Gind” private publishing house (see the details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, May 12-18, 2001).
As Nikol Pashinian, the Chief Editor of the daily informed Yerevan Press Club, this does not mean, however, that the problems with “Gind” are settled. The newspaper has merely signed a contract with another publishing house, “Noy”, where “Haikakan Zhamanak” is currently published.
“VARKANISH” MAGAZINE PUBLISHED
On May 21 at “Tekeyan” Center the presentation of a monthly information and analytical magazine “Varkanish” (“Rating”) took place. The magazine is founded and published by “Media Model” Ltd. The first issue of the edition in particular presents the ratings of the state and political figures of Armenia, local TV companies as well as the TV channels rebroadcast in Armenia. The circulation of the magazine is 1000 copies. The Chief Editor is Margarit Grigorian.