June 29, 2007

STATEMENT

Regarding the legislative changes in the sphere of broadcasting

The draft laws on “Introducing Amendment to the RA Law ‘On Television and Radio’” and “On Introducing an Addition to the RA Law ‘On State Duty’”, presented at the extraordinary session of the National Assembly upon the initiative of the RA Government, signify that the Armenian authorities are consistent in adhering to the vicious policy of the recent years, aimed at restricting and suppressing the freedom of expression and media.

For many times already has the Government hastily submitted draft media-related laws to the National Assembly – in secrecy, without consulting the civil society, media representatives, experts, even without the opinion of the appropriate committee of the National Assembly. What issues, vital for the country and the society, are these two draft laws to solve that they had to be necessarily considered at an extraordinary session, instead of being included into the agenda of the ordinary session, following all the procedures that the law provides for? The draft authors have not presented any convincing arguments as to the urgency of their adoption at this very moment.

This way of acting, when hasty amendments are proposed in broadcasting legislation, with no heed for the domain specifics and the legislation rationale, is becoming a tradition: it suffices to remember that in September 2006, too, the Government presented to the National Assembly the draft law “On Introducing Amendments and Additions to the RA Law ‘On Television and Radio’” with the same haste. The draft caused the dissatisfaction of the journalistic community and was ultimately rejected by the NA. However, in February 2007, the Government had another unacceptable draft law passed, ignoring all the proposals made.

The analysis of the draft laws, presented to the NA today, shows that they are primarily directed against the only broadcast medium out of the control of the RA authorities – the Armenian Service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, because their adoption in essence will stop the broadcasting of the programs of the Service on Armenian radio waves. The adoption of these draft laws will also damage the reputation of the newly-elected National Assembly that will have displayed itself as the adversary of democracy, of freedom of expression by the very first laws passed.

We have always insisted that legislative changes in this sphere be made systemically, according to a unified concept, and hence we call on the RA NA deputies not to vote on the drafts presented by the Government and to hold public hearing of the legislative package that seeks to reform the sphere.

The statement was developed by a group of organizations, membering in the Partnership for Open Society initiative and is open to be joined by other organizations and individuals at the following address: members@partnership.am