YPC Weekly Newsletter

2007


“Media Self-Regulation: First Steps and Objectives. Pre-Election Processes in Armenian Media”

“PRESS CLUB” CYCLE: “REPUBLIC” PARTY AND PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS

On November 14 another “Press Club” show went on the evening air of “Yerkir Media” TV company. The guest of the program host, the President of Yerevan Press Club Boris Navasardian, was the leader of “Republic” party Aram Z. Sargsian. The discussion subject was the upcoming elections of the RA President, in particular, the stance of “Republic” at the elections and the current political situation in the country.

The next program of “Press Club” cycle will be aired by “Yerkir Media” on Wednesday, November 21 at 21.40.

The “Press Club” cycle is produced under a project of Media Diversity Institute, supported by Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation-Armenia.

FIRST STEPS AND OBJECTIVES OF SELF-REGULATION

On November 9-11 in Tsaghkadzor a seminar “Media Self-Regulation: First Steps and Objectives. Pre-Election Processes in Armenian Media” was held. The event was organized by Yerevan Press Club with the support of Open Society Institute. The seminar brought together heads, representatives of media and journalistic associations of the country, including those who supported the YPC initiative of joint development of professional ethics norms and their further adoption in day-to-day work. As it has been reported, on March 10, 2007 at the meeting of heads of media and journalistic associations the Media Ethics Observatory was elected. The mission of the Media Ethics Observatory consists in considering the complaints-appeals regarding the violation of the Code of Conduct and presenting its opinion on them. As of today, 31 media have signed the Code of Conduct of Media Representatives and its Appendix, the Declaration on Election and Referendum Coverage Principles. The initiative is also supported by 8 journalistic associations (see the texts of the documents in YPC Weekly Newsletter, March 9-15, 2007).

The main issues discussed at the Tsaghkadzor seminar were the media self-regulation process and the first judgments of the Media Ethics Observatory, made on September 12, 2007 (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, September 14-20, 2007). The interactive discussion evolved around the precedent of complaint consideration by relevant self-regulation structures in a number of foreign countries. The seminar participants were also presented the situation in Armenian media ahead of presidential elections and the preliminary results (October 2007) of the monitoring of 8 Armenian broadcasters, administered by YPC before the election campaign.

On the last day of the seminar its participants adopted an address to Armenian media (see below).

SELF-REGULATION SEMINAR PARTICIPANTS CALLED ON “FOURTH ESTATE” TO SERVE THE INTERESTS OF SOCIETY

On November 11 representatives of 25 media and journalistic associations who took part in “Media Self-Regulation: First Steps and Objectives. Pre-Election Processes in Armenian Media” seminar, adopted the following statement:

“We, the participants of “Media Self-Regulation” seminar (Tsaghkadzor, November 9-11, 2007), concerned with the negative trends, observed in the information domain ahead of presidential elections and noting these trends hold the danger of even greater polarization in press, urge:

– Not to transform the political debate into collision between media, that would, in its turn, result in a climate of intolerance in the society.

– To respect the civil stance of every medium, to strictly follow professional standards, not to violate the principles of propriety and decency in the news coverage and comment.

– To remember that mutually discrediting publications would in the long run lead to public distrust to media themselves.

– To remember that elections and the authorities always come and go, and the “fourth estate” should go on serving the society.”

The statement was signed: Hagop Avedikian (Chief Editor of “Azg” daily); Margarita Minasian (Director of “Tsayg” TV company); Aram Abrahamian (Chief Editor of “Aravot” daily); Edward Naghdalian (Chief Editor of “Delovoy Express” newspaper); Karineh Harutiunian (Director of “GALA” TV company); Haikazn Ghahrian (Chief Editor of Lragir.am online publication); Naira Bulghadarian (correspondent of “Civil Initiative” newspaper); Mesrop Movsеsian (“Meltex” LLC President); Satik Seyranian (Chief Editor of “168 Zham” newspaper); Marat Yavrumian (Executive Editor of “Capital” newspaper); Suren Barseghian (Director of “STV1” TV company); Pap Hayrapetian (Chief Editor of “Sevan” newspaper); Manvel Mikoyan (Chief Editor of “Loru Marz” newspaper); Azniv Chzmechian (Director of “Abovian” TV company); Sos Siradeghian (Director of “Ankyun+3” TV company); Susanna Shakhnazarian (President of Goris Press Club); Khachik Danielian (Director of “ALT” TV company); Boris Navasardian (President of Yerevan Press Club); Astghik Gevorgian (Chairwoman of Journalists Union of Armenia); Levon Barseghian (Board Chairman of “Asparez” Journalist’s Club); Ashot Melikian (Chairman of the Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression); Lilit Simonian (Head of Center of Right and Information); Elina Poghosbekian (Editor of YPC Weekly Electronic Newsletter); Mesrop Harutiunian (YPC Expert); Naira Hayrumian (Chief Editor of KarabakhOpen.com online publication).

In the end of the appeal it was noted that the statement is open to join. On November 15 the statement was joined by a free-lance journalist, the Chief Editor of “Nairi” publishing house Hovhannes Ayvazian.

TAX AUDIT OVER AT “GALA” TV COMPANY

On November 12 the Public Relations Department of the RA State Tax Service informed that as a result of an audit of the activities of “CHAP” LLC, the founder of “GALA” TV company of Gyumri, a number of serious violations were revealed. In particular, when comparing the documentation of “CHAP” LLC, submitted to the National Commission on Television and Radio, with the accounts of the company itself and the tax reports for September 2005 – September 2007, the auditors revealed concealed amounts of TV advertising, as a result of which the company has to pay about 26 million AMD to the state budget (including the penalties). Besides, as the audit showed, the TV tower that “GALA” founder uses is owned by Gyumri municipality, is not rented by the company and is operated by it illegally.

The owner of “CHAP” LLC Vahan Khachatrian, on his behalf, announced that “GALA” TV could not have had the advertising volumes that the tax service based its calculations on. As to the TV tower, as Vahan Khachatrian noted, the certificate of ownership of the tower was received by Gyumri municipality only on November 5, 2007. Till that time, in 2004-2005, he addressed various agencies but was unable to find the tower owner. According to Vahan Khachatrian, he operated the TV tower that had no one take care of since 2005, with a preliminary renovation and enforcement of the transmitter.

On November 14 Vahan Khachatrian made a statement noting he was going to challenge the tax audit results and currently the auditors he invited are studying the materials. Having reminded about the common practice of using tax audits as a tool for exerting pressure on media, “GALA” owner stressed that the situation with the TV company has political underpinning. “What prevented the State Tax Service from auditing the activities of “GALA” TV company a year ago or 10 days after the elections?”, Vahan Khachatrian concluded.

As it has been reported, the tax audit at “CHAP” LLC started on October 29. Earlier, on October 22, Vahan Khachatrian released a statement regarding the attempts of various power agencies to exert pressure on “GALA”, stressing the firmness of the TV channel’s stand and his readiness to stop any attempt of intervention with its editorial policy. “GALA” made a detailed coverage of the tax audit, during which, on November 6, an incident occurred between the cameraman of the company Grigor Shaghoyan and a tax inspector. Currently the journalist’s appeal about his legitimate professional activities being impeded is being considered by the Gyumri police department (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, November 2-8, 2007).

“INTERNEWS” CONFERENCE: MEDIA RESPONSIBILITY AT ELECTION TIME

On November 14 at the Congress Hotel in Yerevan a conference “Democratic Responsibility of Media During Elections” was held by the “Internews” Media Support NGO and the Council of Europe with the participation of the OSCE Office in Yerevan. Representatives of media, journalistic associations, political parties of Armenia, international experts from Czech Republic and France discussed such issues as press and politics during the pre-election promotion, the responsibilities of media to the society ahead of and during election campaigns. Under the program, supported by the Council of Europe, “Internews” will soon host a series of two-day trainings on elections reporting for Armenian TV managers and journalists.

POLITICAL ADVERTISING TARIFFS OF PUBLIC TV AND RADIO COMPANY REMAIN THE SAME

On November 9 the RA Central Elections Commission announced the presidential elections day, February 19, 2008, and approved the schedule for the election preparation and administration. In accordance with Article 20 of the RA Electoral Code, the TV and radio companies of Armenia, regardless of the ownership form, must publicize their tariffs for political advertising during the official election campaign not later than 10 days after the appointment of the national elections day, that is, till November 19. At the same time, the law provides, the announced price is not subject to change throughout the whole campaign period.

The Public TV and Radio Company has already announced its tariffs. On the First Channel of Public TV Company of Armenia one minute of paid airtime, allocated to the pre-election promotion of presidency candidates, costs 80,000 AMD, on Public Radio of Armenia – 20,000 ($ 1 is equal to 317 AMD). The promotional materials aired by the First Channel will also be broadcast by “Shirak” (a part of Public TV and Radio Company structure) and by the PTA satellite connection. As to another public TV channel, “Nor Alik”, there will be no political advertising on it. Notably, the tariffs and the political advertising terms of the public broadcaster have remained the same as during the campaign for elections to the RA National Assembly, held in May 2007.

In accordance with the Electoral Code, each registered presidency candidate is entitled to 60 minutes of free and 120 minutes of paid air on the Public TV of Armenia. On Public Radio of Armenia the quote of free airtime makes 120 minutes, that of paid – 180 minutes.

COMPETITION FOR PARTICIPATION IN ARMENIAN-TURKISH TEAM REPORTING PROJECT ANNOUNCED

Yerevan Press Club (Armenia) in cooperation with ARI Movement (Turkey), with the support of the Eurasia Foundation, are announcing a competition for journalists willing to engage in an Armenian-Turkish investigative team-reporting project, which aims to produce high quality stories about issues of mutual concern. The project will ultimately help to raise public awareness on Armenian-Turkish cross-boarder initiatives.

The selected journalists will take part in a two day preparatory workshop in Istanbul in January 2008, after which they will be given one month to collect material and work on their stories. Administrative, logistical, informative and financial support will be provided to them by the Yerevan Press Club and ARI Movement as necessary.

To apply the journalists must submit letters of interest and recommendations from their employers supporting their participation and ensuring publication of stories/articles produced as a result of the team-reporting project.

Applications from Armenian journalists may be made electronically – by emailing: anna@ypc.am, or handdelivered at YPC office: 9b, Ghazar Parpetsi str., 0002, Yerevan, Armenia, tel.: + 374 10 53 00 67, from 12:00-17:00.

The deadline for applications is November 30, 2007.