WELL-KNOWN ARMENIAN PHOTOJOURNALIST PASSED AWAY
On March 21 at the age of 49, Ruben Mangasarian unexpectedly passed away. He was not only one of the best photojournalists, he was also in great demand. Prominent world print media and news agencies, with whom Ruben cooperated, are numerous. Endless travels across the post-Soviet area and exclusive photo-reports from hot spots. Prestigious awards and personal exhibitions in not less prestigious galleries. One would think that’s all a real professional needs. However, Ruben never gave up the idea that the approach to photojournalism in his own country has to be changed: “The photo is not just a simple blotch to fill up newspaper pages. The best Armenian photojournalists should not prefer working for the foreign market.” In 1995 Ruben Mangasarian became one of the founders of Yerevan Press Club, the first professional journalistic association of post-communist Armenia. In 1996 he established the first independent photo agency, “Patker”. Then it went on like a snow-ball: many projects, including regional ones, education of the new generation of journalists. His last brainchild was the Armenian version of “National Geographic Traveler” magazine and “National Geographic Traveler-Armenia” Club. No time was left for hobbies: fishing and camping across Armenia. A person who had endless energy and was chronically tired. The heart couldn’t bear it all…
Yerevan Press Club expresses sincere condolences to the relatives, friends, associates, and to the whole journalistic community with the untimely death of Ruben Mangasarian.
YPC ANNUAL REPORT FOR 2008
In compliance with Article 12 “Transparency of financial sources” of the RA Law “On Mass Communication”, we present the 2008 financial report of Yerevan Press Club Weekly Newsletter and the website http://www.ypc.am
In 2008, a total of 5,232,600 AMD was spent for the publication of YPC Weekly Newsletter and the support of the website http://www.ypc.am in the English and Russian languages.
The whole sum was covered by a grant provided by Open Society Institute.
“PRESS CLUB” CYCLE: THE GOALS AND THE PERSPECTIVES OF THE PUBLIC COUNCIL
On March 21, another “Press Club” show went on the air of “Yerkir Media” TV company. The cycle is produced under Yerevan Press Club project, supported by the Open Society Institute Human Rights and Governance Grants Program. The guests of the host, YPC President Boris Navasardian were Jemma Hasratian, President of “Women with University Education” NGO, Khosrov Harutiunian, Chairman of the Christian Democratic Union, and Artur Papian, Director of the Media Diversity Institute-Armenia. The discussion centered on the goals and the perspectives of the Public Council being formed by the RA President decree.
The next “Press Club” show will be aired on “Yerkir Media” on Saturday, March 28 at 17.40.
ISSUE-BASED REPORTING BY THE ARMENIAN MEDIA DURING THE ELECTIONS OF LOCAL SELF-GOVERNMENT
On March 21-22 a seminar on “Issue-based Reporting by the Armenian Media during the Elections of Local Self-Government” was held in Aghveran. The event was organized by Yerevan Press Club under the project on “Improving the Media Coverage of Local Self-Government Elections in Armenia” supported by the British Embassy Yerevan. The seminar was opened by British Embassy Communication Manager Maria Sadoyan and YPC President Boris Navasardian.
Vice-Chairman of “Democracy” NGO Hrair Tovmasian introduced to the seminar participants the legislation on the elections of local self-government in the framework of the amended status of Yerevan city and the upcoming elections of the Yerevan Council of Elderly on May 31.
The Editor of YPC Weekly Newsletter Elina Poghosbekian presented the results of the monitoring the issue-based reporting by 11 Armenian TV channels during the elections of self-government in the context of studying the information demand by the audience. Soon, this research (in Armenian, English and Russian) will be placed on YPC web site www.ypc.am in the “Studies” section. It will also be published as a brochure.
The report of YPC President Boris Navasardian was dealing with the trends of the media coverage of the local elections. The Expert of the Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression Mesrop Harutiunian centered on the role of the media self-regulation during the local election campaigns.
Aram Abrahamian, Chief Editor of “Aravot” daily, and Gegham Manoukian, Director of News and Current Affairs Programs of “Yerkir Media” TV company, reflected on particularities of media coverage of the local elections drawing from the experience of the media which they head.
“The Issue-Based Reporting during Presidential and Local Self-Government Elections in Armenia in 2008” brochure was presented at the seminar. The book was published by YPC under a project, supported by Friedrich Ebert Foundation. The edition tells about the monitoring results of seven Armenian print media, administered by YPC in the period of presidential and local self-government elections (respectively, on January-February and September, 2008). The research (in Armenian, English and Russian) can be found on YPC web site www.ypc.am in the “Studies” section.
“MEDIA SELF-REGULATION” BROCHURE ISSUED
“Media Self-Regulation” brochure was published by Yerevan Press Club with the support of Open Society Institute. The book presents the activities of the Media Ethics Observatory for 2008, including the considered complaints and judgments made by MEO. It also introduces the similar self-regulation institutions of 21 European countries.
Media Ethics Observatory was established on March 10, 2007 by the heads of Armenian media who supported the self-regulation initiative of Yerevan Press Club (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, March 9-15, 2007). The mission of the MEO is to consider the complaints about violations of the Code of Conduct of Media Representatives and make judgments on them. As of today, the Code of Conduct and the supplement to it, the Declaration of Election and Referenda Coverage Principles, have been signed by 35 media. The initiative is supported also by 8 journalistic associations.
“Media Self-Regulation” brochure (in Armenian) is presented on YPC web site www.ypc.am in “Publications” section.
FREEDOM OF SPEECH DAY CELEBRATED IN GYUMRI
On March 25, the Day of Freedom of Speech was celebrated in “Asparez” Journalists’ Club of Gyumri. A year ago, on March 25, the founder of “GALA” TV Company, “CHAP” LLC, recovered the tax liability, which almost put the TV company on the edge of closing down. The funds for paying off the debt were donated by individuals and organizations, both Armenian and international. The tax inspections at “CHAP” LLC (and the following lawsuits) started, as soon as, on October 22, 2007, the “CHAP” owner Vahan Khachatrian issued a statement regarding the attempts of various power agencies to exert pressure on the TV channel.
The event’s initiator, “Asparez” Journalists’ Club, noted that on March 25 “we honor everyone who supported the protection of “GALA” TV company and the Freedom of Speech”.
HEARINGS OF GAGIK SHAMSHIAN’S CASE, ACCUSED FOR DISRESPECT TO COURT, STARTED
On March 24, court of general jurisdiction of Kentron and Nork-Marash communities of Yerevan started the hearings on the suit of free-lance journalist Gagik Shamshian, accused on part 1 of Article 343 of RA Criminal Code (“Disrespect to Court”). As it has been reported, on August 5, 2008 during a session of the court of general jurisdiction of Kentron and Nork-Marash communities of Yerevan Gagik Shamshian was dismissed from the courtroom upon the order of Judge Gagik Avetisian. At first the journalist was locked in the basement of the court and was later taken to the Kentron Police Department, where he stayed for over two hours. The criminal proceedings were instituted in September, and the charge was brought against journalist on December 24, 2008 (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, December 19-25, 2008).
On the court session of March 24, the defendant objections presented to the judge and the public prosecutor were declined. The next session will be called on March 30.
THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION CENTER SUIT VERSUS NOR-NORK COMMUNITY PARTIALLY SECURED
On March 23, the RA Administrative Court released its ruling on the suit of Freedom of Information Center versus the administration of Nor-Nork community of Yerevan. The NGO suit demanded to recognize the actions of the community administration in answering to the inquiry unlawful, to commit it to providing with necessary information, to impose a fine on the Nor-Nork community Head David Petrosian in the amount of 50,000 AMD (around $ 130), as well as to compensate the amount of 4,000 AMD, paid by the NGO as a state duty for addressing the court.
On August 1, 2008 Freedom of Information Center made an inquiry to the administration of Nor-Nork community, asking for the number and the addresses of apartments, owned by the community, as well as for the court statistics regarding the eviction of residents from unprivatized apartments. The community did not answer to the inquiry and the NGO claimed the court. The hearings on the case started on January 26, 2009. In February the community of Nor-Nork provided with the requested information, and FOI Center recalled its demand to recognize the community actions in answering to the inquiry unlawful. On the session of March 6, the court considered the other two demands – on fine imposing on Nor-Nork Head and on expense compensation.
On March 23, the court secured the suit partially, committing the Nor-Nork community of Yerevan to compensating 4,000 AMD paid by FOI Center as a state duty for addressing the court.
As the plaintiff lawyer, Karen Mejlumian, says, in the end of July and in the beginning of August, 2008 similar inquiries were made to the 12 communities of Yerevan by the Freedom of Information Center. The three of the communities – Arabkir, Davitashen and Nor-Nork either provided incomplete information, or did not answer to it. And Freedom of Information Center brought an action against them. On December 30, 2008 the Administrative Court secured all the demands of the NGO suit versus Arabkir community (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, January 8-15, 2009). As for the action against Davitashen community, it was withdrawn, because the requested information was provided before the court hearings.
“ZHAMANAK” CHIEF EDITOR REFUSED EARLY RELEASE AGAIN
On March 20 the Commission on Early Release refused the petition of “Erebuni” criminal executive institution on the early release of “Zhamanak” daily Chief Editor, Arman Babajanian, sentenced to 3.5 years of imprisonment for document fraud to avoid compulsory military service.
On March 23 the heads of “Aravot”, “Hayk’, “Hraparak’, “Taregir”, “Chorrord Ishkhanutiun”, “168 Zham”, “ Haykakan Zhamanak”, “Zhamanak” newspapers, “A1+” TV company, “Lragir.am” online publication released a statement, which questions the lawfulness of the decision of the Commission on Early Release. “According to some of the members of the Commission, who were present at the session”, the statement notes, following the ballot results the petition was secured, and, subsequently, Arman Babajanian had to be released. “Nevertheless, after the end of the session, for some unknown reasons, the minutes of the session were forged and changed, as a result, Arman Babajanian’s name did not appear in the list of the early released”, the statement stresses. Defining the incident as “manifestation of lawlessness” and “political order, made from a single center”, the heads of 10 media called “the competent bodies to eliminate the violation of law without delay and bring the offenders to account”.
Regarding the refuse of Arman Babajanian’s release on parole, on March 25 the heads of five human rights organizations made a statement in which they criticized the activities of the Commission on Early Release. In particular, the human rights defenders are concerned that “exact standards are not defined in the legislation regulating the decision making process of the commission”, “the decisions of the commissions cannot be appealed” and “most of the commission members, including all the commission chairmen represent security structures”.
In fact, the petition on Arman Babajanian’s early release is turned down for the fourth time (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, July 11-18, 2008).
FAST RESPONSE GROUP FORMED
The Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression formed a fast response group in Yerevan. There is a hotline (tel.: +374 93 10 70 85; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org), on which you can inform about the cases of exerting pressure on media and journalists, as well as impeding of their professional activities. The fast response group has also representatives in the regions of Armenia.