YPC Weekly Newsletter
2003
July 18
YEREVAN PRESS CLUB AWARDS ON THE EIGHTH ANNIVERSARY OF YPC

On July 18, on the eighth anniversary of Yerevan Press Club at Astafian restaurant the YPC Annual Award ceremony was held. Established in 1998 for the best journalists and media organizations of Armenia, the Award was this time to honor the coverage of presidential and parliamentary elections in 2003.

The jury that determined the awardees was comprised of: Aram Abrahamian (Chief Editor of "Aravot" daily), Levon Barseghian (Chairman of "Asparez" Journalist's Club), Avetik Ishkhanian (Chairman of Helsinki Committee of Armenia), Karineh Khodikian (Chief Editor of "Grakan Tert" newspaper), Elina Poghosbekian (Editor of YPC Weekly Newsletter and leader of monitoring group).

The YPC Annual Award winners are:

Armen Sargsyan, author and presenter of "Ditak" TV program series of Internews Armenia public organization - for innovative coverage of elections;

Petros Ghazaryan, author and presenter of "Aytsekart" program series of "Kentron" TV company - for ensuring diversity of opinion on air;

"Tsayg" TV company (Gyumri) - for impartial coverage of election campaigns and enabling the public dialogue;

"Noyan Tapan" Information and Analysis Center - for the best use of the Internet during the elections;

Ruzan Khachatrian, Karine Kalantarian and Hrach Melkumian, correspondents of Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty Armenian Service - for display of professional responsibility and effective team work.

A YPC diploma of honor was awarded to Head of OSCE Office in Yerevan Ambassador Roy Reeve in acknowledgement of his effort to abet the freedom of speech in Armenia and contribution in facilitating the dialogue between the journalists of South Caucasus personally and officially. Upon the offer of the YPC Board, Roy Reeve became an Honorary Member of Yerevan Press Club.

As the tradition goes, the diplomatic missions accredited in Armenia and the offices of the reputable international organizations conferred their prizes.

Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of Germany Hans-Wulf Bartels awarded "Tsayg" TV company.

On behalf of the USA Embassy the Public Affairs Officer Kimberly Hargan awarded Petros Ghazaryan.

The representative of UN Department of Public Information Valeri Tkachouk granted memorable gifts to all the awardees. Correspondent of Russian service of “Deutsche Welle” radio station Arshavir Gazazyan honored Armen Sargsyan.

Financial assistance to the YPC Award ceremony was provided by the Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation Armenia.

"A1+" TV COMPANY REFUSED A BROADCAST LICENSE

On July 18 the results of the broadcast licensing competition for 5 UHFs in Yerevan were announced. The competition opened as far back as on October 15 last year and constantly postponed due to lengthy court hearings (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, June 20-27, 2003), called for bids for the 27th, 31st, 39th, 51st and 58th frequencies.

The bids submitted to the competition were considered by the National Commission on Television and Radio on July 14. The three of the frequencies above (31st, 39th, 51st), apart from their current holders - "ARMENAKOB", "TV 5" (rebroadcaster of MTV Russia), "Yerevan", respectively - was claimed by "A1+" TV company. The 27th frequency had no bidders but for "Dar 21" that occupies the frequency now and rebroadcasts Russian "MuzTV" . Among the bidders for 58th frequency are "EV" TV company (currently rebroadcasting CNN on it) and "Noyan Tapan" TV company.

According to the votes of the National Commission members on July 18, "ARMENAKOB" TV scored 31 points, "TV 5" - 25, "Yerevan" - 27 points. "A1+" TV company, competing with these broadcasters, scored 21 points for each of the three claimed frequencies.

The bid of "Noyan Tapan" TV company was also rated at 21 units, while its rival, "EV" TV channel got 29 points.

The right to broadcast on 27th frequency was retained by "Dar 21" TV channel that had no rivals.

YPC Comment: National Commission on Television and Radio once again ignored both the serious professional experience and the creative advantages of "A1+", as well as the public opinion and the appeals of international organizations. Apparently, the National Commission is still guided by the political interests, considerations of the moment and other, unknown to us, principles, when determining the winners of the broadcast licensing competitions, where "A1+" participated with no success - being one of the first private broadcasters in the country (founded in 1991), the only TV channel of general nature that was on air 24 hours a day.

OFFENDERS WARNED

On July 11 at the session of the National Commission on Television and Radio a written warning for advertising of cigarettes on the air was issued to "AR" and "Paradise" TV companies (the latter rebroadcasts Russian NTV). According to the amendment to the RA Law "On Advertising", passed on June 26, 2002, since January 1 this year in Armenia the advertising of strong alcoholic drinks (except cognac) and tobacco products was prohibited in the electronic media. Certain restrictions were also stipulated for print media (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, June 22-28, 2002). The TV companies made a written obligation not to violate the law in future.

TASK FORCE ON IMPROVING THE DRAFT LAW "ON MASS COMMUNICATION" TO BE CREATED

On July 8 the Department of Public Relations of the RA National Assembly informed that a task force to work on the improvement of the draft "On Mass Communication" is to be created. The proposal was made by the RA National Assembly Speaker Arthur Baghdasarian, considering the need for Armenia to comply with its commitments to the Council of Europe and the public significance of the issue. The task force will be operating adjacently to the parliamentary Committee on Science, Education, Culture and Youth Issues and will comprise the heads of the Armenian media. All the interested parties will be welcome to participate in the debates.

As it has been reported, the draft law "On Mass Communication", causing numerous protest of the journalistic community since the very first day of its introduction into circulation, was submitted to the consideration of the extraordinary parliamentary session on March 26. Yet, at the voting of April 11 the document did not gain the sufficient number of votes and was not passed in the first hearing (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, April 5-11, 2003).

FIFTH ANNIVERSARY OF STEPANAKERT PRESS CLUB

On July 4 Stepanakert Press Club celebrated its 5th anniversary.

Yerevan Press Club congratulates the colleagues with the jubilee and wishes them further success and prosperity!

THE CASE OF TIGRAN NAGHDALIAN'S MURDER SUBMITTED TO COURT

On July 3 the RA General Prosecutor's Office announces that the case of assassination of Tigran Naghdalian, the Chairman of the Council of RA Public TV and Radio Company, committed on December 28, 2002, is submitted to the court of primary jurisdiction of Center and Nork-Marash communities of Yerevan. According to General Prosecutor's Office, charges on the case are introduced to 13 people, 10 of them being charged with premeditated murder with aggravating circumstances for lucrative motives and because of the professional and public duties of the deceased as well as with illegal storage of arms. Among the defendants is businessman Armen Sargsian, the brother of Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsian, killed during the terrorist attack on the Parliament on October 27, 1999, and Aram Sargsian, the member of the Political Council of opposition "Republic" party (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, March 1-7, 8-14 and 15-21, 2003).

NATIONAL ASSEMBLY RESPONDS. OSCE REPRESENTATIVE ON FREEDOM OF MEDIA INSISTS

On July 1 the answer of the Department of Public Relations of the RA National Assembly to the open letter to NA Speaker Arthur Baghdasarian of June 17 was publicized. As it has been reported, the address signed by the heads of six diplomatic missions accredited in the country, eleven international organizations and local journalistic associations, including Yerevan Press Club, contained an appeal to amend the RA Criminal Code and abolish the provisions of criminal prosecution for libel and insult (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, June 13-19, 2003). The Chairman of the NA and Vice Speaker Tigran Torosian this letter caused controversial response. Unlike the latter, who qualify the address as an intervention into the inner affairs of Armenia, Arthur Baghdasarian was more reticent, saying the experience of different countries in the sphere will be studied (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, June 20-27, 2003).

As the further events showed the experience was studied in the shortest time possible. According to the response of the RA National Assembly, the expert study of the legislation, conducted by the commission of the Speaker, showed that in some countries (such as Spain, Germany, Serbia, Slovenia, Denmark, Poland, etc.) the libel and the insult are regulated by the Criminal Code, stipulating imprisonment. The research also quoted the duration of imprisonment. The response also listed the countries where the regulation was implemented by both civil and criminal legislation (Russian Federation, Lithuania, Latvia, Hungary and others) or with civil legislation only (Norway, the United Kingdom, Bosnia and Herzegovina).

"Of course, no law can be considered perfect and final and is to be reformed; in this regard the interested and concerned attitude of us all to the law is gratifying. In this specific case the open address became a pretext for studying the international experience in the sphere", the RA NA response concluded.

On July 2 the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Freimut Duve addressed a letter to the RA Minister of Foreign Affairs Vardan Oskanian. The letter, a copy of which was addressed to the Speaker of the parliament, noted that the OSCE Representative has been closely following the debate regarding the libel in Armenia and the events, related to the open letter addressed to the Speaker of Armenian parliament. He is also aware of the survey implemented by the RA NA and of the findings among them the fact that the criminal libel is still in existence in several OSCE participating countries. "On several occasions I have stated my position on this matter, I have spoken at length on criminal libel at the OSCE and in other forums. Let me reiterate: the position of the OSCE institution is that libel should be decriminalized and dealt with under the civil code of the country concerned", Freimut Duve's letter noted. The existence of these provisions in the legislation, the letter said, has over the years hampered the work of the media, putting undue pressure on journalists who investigate such issues as corruption, especially involving government officials. They are also often used to protect high-ranking civil servants and politicians from criticism.

The letter stressed that although the criminal libel and insult legislation are still a part of criminal code in several Western European countries, it is rarely if ever used. However, its mere existence is often referred to by those OSCE participating states among the developing democracies that impose incarceration for libel. "That is why I insist on complete decriminalization of libel in all the OSCE participating states, be it to the East or West of Vienna. Armenia is not an exception", Freimut Duve announced.

When reprinting or using the information above, reference to the Yerevan Press Club is required.

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Editor of YPC Newsletter - Elina POGHOSBEKIAN

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