FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND PRIVACY
On June 23-24 in Tsaghkadzor “Freedom of Expression and the Right to Respect for Private Life” seminar was held. The event was organized by Yerevan Press Club, the Media Division of the Directorate of Human Rights of the Council of Europe and “Femida” NGO. The seminar brought together representatives of public, also journalistic organizations, media, executive and judicial powers of Armenia, the Council of Europe, international structures. At the opening of the seminar the RA Deputy Minister of Justice Ashot Abovian, the Spokesman of the RA Ministry of Foreign Affairs Hamlet Gasparian and the Administrative Officer of the Media Division of the CE General Directorate of Human Rights Charlotte de Broutelle.
A presentation on the Council of Europe standards regarding freedom of information and the respect for private life was made by a barrister of Matrix Chambers of London Hugh Tomlinson. The Chairman of the Civil Cases Chamber of the RA Court of Cassation Arman Mkrtumian told how the Armenian legislation protects privacy, whereas the head of “Femida” NGO Julietta Amirkhanian described the Armenian court precedents related to interference with privacy.
The second part of the seminar was devoted to media self-regulation issues. The limits to freedom of expression in the context of privacy protection were defined by the Legal Expert of Internews Armenia public organization Olga Safarian. YPC Expert Mesrop Harutiunian spoke about the link of the between the legal and ethical norms of privacy protection. The experience of media self-regulation in other CE member countries, by the example of the United Kingdom and Bosnia and Herzegovina was presented by a member of UK Press Complaint Commission, the Chairman of the Media Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina Robert Pinker.
THE SUIT OF “INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISTS” VERSUS THE YEREVAN MUNICIPALITY REFUSED
On June 21 the court of primary jurisdiction of Center and Nork-Marash communities of Yerevan refused the suit of “Investigative Journalists” public organization and its chairman Edik Baghdasarian versus Yerevan Municipality. As it has been reported, Edik Baghdasarian demanded to be given access to the resolutions of the city administration, passed in 1997-2003, on the constructions made in the green zone around the building of the National Opera and Ballet Theater. At the previous session of June 9 the respondent admitted that the municipality “was late” with the answer and asked the plaintiff to specify what information exactly was needed. Having received a written inquiry from the latter, the respondent petitioned the court to provide time to prepare the information requested (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, June 4-10, 2004).
However, at the session of June 21 the representative of the municipality submitted to the court a letter, signed on June 16 by a head of an appropriate division of the city administration. The letter informed that “Investigative Journalists” must be even more specific as to which “subjects” are of interest to them. On her behalf, the judge noted that the organization should have gathered information from other institution, such as the State Real Estate Cadastre Committee and only afterwards, having exhausted all the possibilities, address the municipality. Eventually the suit was refused.
“Investigative Journalists” intend to challenge this decision with the RA Court of Appeals.
NA DEPUTY DEMANDS THAT THE HEAD OF “ALM” MEDIA HOLDING BE CRIMINALLY PROSECUTED
On June 21 deputy of the RA National Assembly, the Head of the Association of Political Scientists of Armenia Hmayak Hovhannisian addressed the RA General Prosecutor Aghvan Hovsepian with a petition to institute criminal proceedings against the owner and the head of “ALM” media holding Tigran Karapetian for incitement of national hatred, libel and insult. The reason for this was the authorship program of Tigran Karapetian “Price of Question”, aired by “ALM” TV company on June 15. In particular, as the NA deputy wrote, the “ALM” head said that Hmayak Hovhannisian “behaves as a Jew or made a Jewish step”, as well as called him a “pickpocket and a liar”. As a proof, the videotape of the program was enclosed to the application.
Tigran Karapetian himself publicly denied having made anti-Semite nature of his utterance and noted that he can bring facts to substantiate the remaining wording by facts.
INTERNEWS ARMENIA PROPERTY RELEASED
On June 18 at the session of the court of primary jurisdiction of Aragatsotn region in Ashtarak city the suit of “Ashtarak TV” about removing arrest of the property used by the TV company was partially secured. As it has been reported, previously the same court secured the suit of Aragatsotn Prosecutor’s Office on obliging the TV company to pay the outstanding tax liabilities. To execute the court ruling the property of “Ashtarak” TV was arrested – so that to be later sold at an auction. This punishment was thus actually imposed also on the private persons and organizations – the owners of the part of “Ashtarak TV” property arrested. In particular, on June 9 Internews Armenia public organization submitted to the court the documents that confirmed its ownership of a part of equipment arrested (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, June 4-10, 2004).
At the session of June 18 the court resolved to release the property owned by Internews Armenia.
“Ashtarak TV” company stopped its broadcasts on May 21.
“IMPULSE” CONTINUED TO BE AIRED ON FM 106.5
On June 21 the National Commission on Television and Radio announced the results of the broadcast licensing competition for FM 106.5 MHz, announced on February 12. As it has been reported, this frequency was claimed by two radio companies – “Impulse” and “Ultra” (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, May 21-27, 2004). By the voting of the national Commission, “Impulse” radio station that partly re-broadcasts Russian “Mayak” radio will continue to go on air on FM 106.5.
STAFF CHANGES IN THE TV COMPANIES OF HRANT VARDANIAN
The founder and the former chairman of “AR” TV company Meruzhan Ter-Ghulanian that became a creative director after the restructuring of the TV company in May last year (see YPC Weekly Newsletter May 9-15, 2003) was appointed to the position of Vice President of a charitable fund “The Vardanian Family”. The creative director of “AR” is now Zhirayr Dadasian, previously on the same position at “Hairenik” TV. It should be noted that a well-known Armenian entrepreneur, the President of “Grand Holding” company Hrant Vardanian is the owner of both TV companies.
ARMENIAN MEDIA LEGISLATION SCORED FIVE
Russian Media Law Institute published a report “On the Media-Related Legislation in the Countries of CIS and Baltic States”. The purpose of the study is to determine the development level of the national legislative frameworks in the context of legal guarantees of mass communication freedom. The report covers the period of June 12, 1990 (when the USSR Law “On Press and Other Media Outlets” was adopted and, in the opinion of the researchers, set the grounds for the freedom of expression and press in the post-Soviet countries) up to now.
The comparative analysis the CIS countries and Baltic states was made along 21 sections, starting from constitutional provisions up to norms that regulate the issues of professional activity (protection of information sources, media production export and import, restrictions on advertising, etc).
The level of the media in a specific country was assessed by a 11-unit scale and along the following criteria: constitutional provision for media freedom and the prohibition of censorship; the presence of laws on media, TV and radio broadcasting, public service broadcasting; protection of professional rights of journalists; the nature of procedure for media registration; restrictions on foreign ownership of media; linguistic requirements; absence of criminal libel and/or insult and separately – officials.
None of the 15 countries of the former USSR received maximal number of points (11). The rating list is headed by Estonia (9 points), followed by Lithuania, Moldova and Ukraine (7 units each) – where, according to the research, the level of media regulation is high.
Armenia, along with Latvia and Tajikistan was among countries with medium level of media legislation (5 units each). The same group also includes our neighbors in South Caucasus – Azerbaijan and Georgia that scored 4 units each, similarly to Belarus, Russia and Uzbekistan.
A lower lever of legal regulation media is taken by Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan (3 units each). The last place of the rating is taken by Turkmenistan (2 units).
“SHANT” TV COMPANY IS 10 YEARS OLD
On June 21 “Shant” TV company (Gyumri, Shirak region) celebrated the 10th anniversary of its first air. Since 2000 “Shant” started to broadcast in Yerevan too.
Yerevan Press Club congratulates colleagues and wishes prosperity and further success.