On February 15 another program from “E-Club” weekly cycle went on the online broadcast of “A1+” TV company (www.a1plus.am). The “E-Club” is produced by Yerevan Press Club in cooperation with “A1+” TV company under “Alternative Resources in Media” project, supported by USAID.
The information and education blocs, particularly, dealt with the online hot topics for last week: situation in Egypt, the ongoing protest actions of automobile owners in Gyumri, the US diplomats’ dispatches on Armenia, released by Wikileaks. One of the blocs told about how to make friends, including dogs, via Facebook social network. The main issue was the role of the Internet in the lives of disabled people. The story of blinded Artak Beglarian was presented. He has studied at Yerevan State University, and will soon graduate from a Greek university. Artak Beglarian wished to continue his studies at the School of Diplomacy of the RA Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but was refused to due to his physical disability. He posted his story on Facebook, consecutively, it became widely debated online, was voiced out by traditional media and gave rise to a student protest at the MFA building. The guests of the discussion part of “E-Club”, Zara Botoyan, representative of “Huysi Kamurj” NGO (“Bridge of Hope”), and Ruzan Harutiunian, Artak Beglarian’s former course mate at YSU, considered this case from the perspective of granting equal opportunities to all Armenian citizens, willing to obtain a higher education in their country.
The next “E-Club” will be aired on “A1+” on February 22.Tweet
On February 17 at “Congress” hotel in Yerevan the press conference of “A1+” TV company Head Mesrop Movsesian and “A1+” attorneys Tigran Ter-Yesayan and Alexander Sahakyan was held. At the meeting it was announced that on February 21 “Meltex” LLC, founder of “A1+”, will file a lawsuit against National Commission on Television and Radio, contesting the results of competition No.11 on digital broadcast licensing. “Meltex” demands to restore its violated rights and nullify the December 16, 2010 NCTR decision on competition No.11. As it has been reported, the founders of “A1+” and “ArmNews” TV channels were opponents in this competition, and on December 16 “ArmNews” became the winner: its application was assessed by NCTR members by 44 points, while the one of “A1+” - by only 2 points (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, December 17-23, 2010). On December 20 “A1+” founder addressed to the RA Administrative Court claiming to bind NCTR to grant the application copies of “ArmNews” CJSC and “Armenia TV” CJSC (participant of competition No.1). On January 20, 2011 the requested documents were provided (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, January 10-20, 2011).
As “A1+” representatives mentioned at the press conference, they have revealed a number of discrepancies in the “ArmNews” application, which were either not paid attention to or deliberately neglected by NCTR. In particular, the single supporting document on the financial assistance to the business program of “ArmNews” is the letter of guarantee of “Ameriabank”. The letter stressed the readiness of “Ameriabank” to provide a loan to “ArmNews” LLC, while the founder of the TV channel is “ArmNews” CJSC. Besides, “A1+” representatives presented some questionable information about the TV company’s employees, mentioned in “ArmNews” application. According to “A1+”, NCTR has considered and assessed the applications in a subjective and selective manner: it has detected the shortcomings of “Meltex” application, not noticing the faults in the application of “Meltex” rival.
Thus, NCTR will have to defend from two suits of “A1+” founder. On February 3 “Meltex” filed the RA Administrative Court demanding to oblige the NCTR seven members to reply to its’ inquiries of January 17 (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, February 4-10, 2011). The suit is submitted to consideration.
Meanwhile, “Aravot” daily informed about the upcoming articles series, which will examine the applications of the digital broadcast competition winners. The applications copies were provided by NCTR on the request of Anna Israelian, the series’ author and “Aravot” observer. The first piece was published in “Aravot” on February 17, 2011 and dealt with competition No.1, the winner of which became “Armenia TV” CJSC, founder of “Armenia” TV channel. The article “These Are the Suggestions of Winners No.1” listed the contradictions in the application of “Armenia TV”. Specifically, Anna Israelian highlighted that the applications of “Armenia” and “ArmNews” include resumes of the same people, claimed as employees of each TV channel. “(...) This demonstrates the well-known fact, as it is, the companies have the same assets”, “Aravot” concluded.Tweet
On February 17 court of general jurisdiction of Shirak region released the judgment on the litigation between Gyumri Municipality and founder of “GALA” TV company, “CHAP” LLC, regarding the right of the “GALA” to use the city TV tower. As it has been reported, the litigation on the case started on January 14, 2009 in line with the October 31, 2008 ruling of the RA Court of Cassation, which abolished the decision of the court of primary jurisdiction of February 29, 2008. According to that decision, “GALA” founder was to stop using the city TV tower and to dissemble the equipment installed on it. The Court of Cassation resolved that the case should be redirected for reconsideration by the court of general jurisdiction of Shirak region, which had secured the motion of the defendant on technical court assessment of the tower at the very first session (see details in “On Freedom of Speech in Armenia” Yerevan Press Club reports for 2008 and 2009 on www.ypc.am in “Media Reports” section). On May 18, 2010, only a year and four months after the assignment of the court assessment, the representatives of RA Expertise Center visited “GALA” for examining the TV tower; the court hearings resumed on June 25, 2010 (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, June 25 - July 1, 2010).
At the session of February 17 the court obliged the “GALA” founder to stop using the city TV tower and to dissemble the equipment installed on it within a month.
In the statement, released on the same day, February 17, “GALA” considered this decision as “obviously biased”, as another proof of “the increasing campaign of the authorities versus independent media”. “GALA” affirmed its readiness to strive for freedom of expression and for its right to provide the public with objective information.Tweet
On February 15 the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) publicized its annual report on attacks on press in more than 100 countries of the world in 2010. The report section on Europe and Central Asia deals with the censored Internet in Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus. CPJ notes that event-specific blocking of selected Internet sources has become a common tool for many countries of the region. Over the past four years such blockings were documented in Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, Armenia, Russia, Belarus, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan.
The report section on Armenia, particularly stresses that “self-censorship remained widespread in the media, as lawlessness curbed the activities of journalists, human rights defenders, and opposition leaders”.
The most drastic example became the June 2010 amendments to the RA Law “On Television and Radio” that tightened control over broadcast media: “The government tried to deflect attention from the restrictive amendments by embedding them into a package of measures meant to move radio and television stations from analog to digital signals.” According to CPJ, “the RA President Serzh Sargsian ignored domestic and international protests over the restrictions, which are seen as benefiting his Republican Party as it approaches parliamentary elections set for 2012”. Besides, the report mentions that the amendments provided the government legal cover to keep the popular “A1+” TV company off the air. The authorities have essentially ignored the June 2008 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights on the case of “A1+”, recognizing the refusals to grant a broadcast license to the TV company a violation of Article 10 of the European Convention, i.e., of the right of the applicant to freely impart information and ideas. The report also reminds about “GALA” TV company, subjected to governmental harassments since 2007.
As the sole positive legislative change CPJ notes the May 2010 amendments package, decriminalizing libel and defamation.
The report lists the incidents occurred with media representatives in 2010: with free-lance journalist Gagik Shamshian at the RA Procuracy building on February 24; detention of “Haykakan Zhamanak” correspondents Ani Gevorgian, Syuzanna Poghosian, and correspondent of “Hayk” newspaper Lilit Tadevosian during the opposition rally on May 31 in Yerevan.Tweet
On February 14 at “Artik” penitentiary RA Criminal Court of Appeal continued the consideration of the complaint of Nikol Pashinian, Chief Editor of “Haykakan Zhamanak” daily. The latter had appealed the decision rendered by court of general jurisdiction on November 19, 2010 on the suit against Tigran Navasardian, Head of “Nubarashen” penitentiary. As it has been reported, in January 2010 Nikol Pashinian was found guilty in mass riots of March 1, 2008 in Yerevan, and sentenced to seven years of imprisonment. In March 2010 the unexpired term of imprisonment of the journalist was cut down by half, as a result of an amnesty applied. The duration of his imprisonment was to be determined by “Nubarashen” penitentiary, where the Chief Editor of “Haykakan Zhamanak” was to serve his sentence. The term, defined by Tigran Navasardian, Head of “Nubarashen”, made 3 years 10 months and 29 days. Considering that this term is overrated by more than 5 months, Nikol Pashinian contested it at the court of general jurisdiction of Aragatsotn region, which revoked the suit on November 19, 2010. The hearings at the Criminal Court of Appeal started on January 21, 2011 (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, January 21-27, 2011).
Before the February 14 court session Nikol Pashinian claimed that his constitutional rights are being violated at “Artik” penitentiary. Particularly, Chief Editor of “Haykakan Zhamanak” stressed that since he has been transferred to “Artik” the prison administration prohibits him from being in correspondence and handling any papers to his attorneys. At the session Nikol Pashinian mentioned that he cannot discuss the litigation process with the attorneys, as he is not allowed to take out his notes of the cell. The court secured the petition of the attorneys to have a confidential meeting with their client, and assigned the next session on February 18.
On February 10 RA National Assembly heard and took into consideration the account on the activities of Public Television and Radio Company of Armenia for 2009. The document was presented by the Chairman of PTRC Council Alexan Harutiunian. In further discussions a number of MPs criticized the news coverage and the content of several programs of the Public Television.Tweet
On February 16 “Azg” daily marked its 20th anniversary.
Yerevan Press Club congratulates colleagues on this occasion, wishes success and prosperity!Tweet
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Editor of YPC Newsletter - Elina POGHOSBEKIAN