YPC Weekly Newsletter
2006
July 14-20
YEREVAN PRESS CLUB ANNUAL AWARD

On July 18 at Yerevan State Puppet Theater Yerevan Press Club Annual Award Ceremony was held in celebration of YPC 11th anniversary. The Award was established and is being conferred since 1998 to the best journalists and media organizations of Armenia. On April 4, 2006 the YPC governing body, the Board, adopted the Statutes of the Yerevan Press Club Annual Award, according to which the awardees are now determined not by a special jury, but by the Board members . The right of the nomination of possible awardees lies with YPC members, journalists, public and other organizations. The Statutes also provide that the Award Ceremony will be held on July 18 each year, the YPC foundation date, unless the Board decides otherwise.

YPC Annual Award winners in 2005-2006 are:

Senik Kara-Poghosian, author and presenter of “Proffootball” program cycle of “Shoghakat” TV company - for the professional coverage of football events.

Hovhannes Yeranian, culture and arts observer of “Yerkir” weekly and the author of “Gzrotsner” (“Drawers”) program at Public Television of Armenia - for loyalty to the subject.

“Yerevan” magazine - for the best presentation of Armenia abroad.

Nver Mnatsakanian, author and presenter of “Herankar” (“Prospect”) of “Shant” TV company - for assisting the presentation of diverse opinions on the hottest issues of the day on TV air.

A special award (memorable gift) was granted to the Correspondent of “Deutsche Welle” radio station (Russian service) in Armenia Ashot Gazazian - for the book “In the Shadow of the Sun” as a successful attempt to transform journalism into literature and literature into journalism.

“PRESS CLUB” SUMMING UP

On July 18 the seventh talk show of “Press Club” cycle went on the evening air of “Yerkir-Media” TV company - the last for the season. The program was a certain sum-up. Its participants - journalists - addressed the most urgent issues, discussed by the political parties in “Press Club+” talk show: the foreign policy priorities of Armenia; Mountainous Karabagh conflict resolution; Armenian-Turkish relations; issues of corruption and power accountability; upcoming parliamentary elections.

The broadcasts of “Press Club” on “Yerkir-Media” will be resumed in September.

FIRE AT THE EDITORIAL OFFICE OF “CHORRORD ISHKHANUTIUN”

As YPC was told by the editorial staff of “Chorrord Ishkhanutiun” newspaper, in the morning of July 20, on coming to work, an employee of the newspaper noticed that a window of the editorial office is ablaze. Owing to the timely intervention of the fire brigade, the flame was extinguished. The reason of the ignition is so far unknown.

12 HEADS OF MEDIA AND NGOs CALLED ON AUTHORITIES TO RESPECT DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTES

On July 17 the heads of 8 newspapers, two journalistic and two human rights organizations made a joint statement, expressing their concern over the strengthened pressure on media representatives and called on authorities to have respect to democratic institutes, including the press. The statement was signed by the newspaper Chief Editors - Aram Abrahamian of “Aravot”, Hagop Avedikian of “Azg”, Nikol Pashinian of “Haikakan Zhamanak", Satik Seyranian of “168 Zham”, Shogher Matevosian of “Chorrord Ishkhanutiun”, Vasak Darbinian of “Taregir”, Editor of “Iravunk” newspaper Hovhannes Galajian, the Executive Editor of “Zhamanak-Yerevan” daily Liza Tchagharian, President of Yerevan Press Club Boris Navasardian, Chairman of Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression Ashot Melikian, Chairman of Helsinki Committee of Armenia Avetik Ishkhanian, Chairman of the Center of Right and Freedom Vardan Harutiunian.

“Journalistic community is greatly concerned that as the parliamentary elections draw nearer in Armenia, there is intensification of pressure and threats to media representatives from the forces and individuals that have a reason to fear criticism and disclosure of some of their activity aspects.

During the past week only two extraordinary developments occurred: the Chairman of “Investigative Journalists” public organization Edik Baghdasarian received a warning about possible harassment, while performing the professional duties the photo correspondent of “Chorrord Ishkhanutiun” newspaper Gagik Shamshian was attacked, physically abused and robbed. In their appeals to the RA National Security Service and prosecutorial structures both our colleagues respectively noted the possible source of “discontent” with their journalistic activities. Gagik Shamshian even named specific names of people who threatened and harassed him, however, by our information, no measures were taken against the assaulters, moreover, even after the appeal was filed, the “punitive actions” against the journalist continued.

The latter circumstance shows that not only the pre-elective wave of law infringements grows but also that the law enforcement bodies are unable to ensure the safety of media representatives and to neutralize the criminals. We think it appropriate to remind the provisions of the RA Law “On Mass Communication”, according to which "the journalist during his legitimate professional activities, as a person performing a public duty, is protected by the legislation of Republic of Armenia” and “it is prohibited (...) to impede the legitimate professional activities of the journalist". However, the legislation runs contrary to the sad reality: the vast majority of crimes against journalists, including the numerous cases of impeding their professional activities, remain undisclosed.

In this context the absence of any kind of reaction from the RA General Prosecutor's Office to the number of appeals to change the preventive punishment against “Zhamanak-Yerevan” daily Chief Editor Arman Babajanian remains unacceptable for us. Neither in this, nor in other examples quoted do we intend to go into the legal essence of the cases or to forestall the results of the investigation. Our concern is caused by the problems of normal functioning of media and its representatives, intensification of politically motivated tension and absence of adequate, legitimate response of the authorities to the situation in place and our appeals.

We reinstate our appeal to consider the possibility of changing the preventive punishment of Arman Babajanian, make a speedy investigation and punish those guilty of the incident with Gagik Shamshian, thoroughly study the circumstances, related to the anonymous threats to Edik Baghdasarian. The climate in which the parliamentary elections will take place in a few months is fully dependent on the readiness of the state to protect its citizens from hooligans, striving for power at any price, and to respect the democratic institute, in particular, the press”, - the statement of 12 media and NGO leaders says.

PRESSURE ON GAGIK SHAMSHIAN CONTINUES

On July 18 several dozens of Yerevan Nubarashen community residents held a “protest action” in front of the local administration against the freelance correspondent of “Chorrord Ishkhanutiun” and “Aravot” newspapers Gagik Shamshian. The rally participants held banners with insults to the address of the journalist and appeals to move out of the community and “not to cast shade” on it.

As it has been reported, on July 12 Gagik Shamshian, dwelling in Nubarashen, was harassed by the relatives and subordinates of the community head Mher Hovhannisian because of an article published on July 11 in “Chorrord Ishkhanutiun” (the piece told, in particular, about two relatives of the Nubarashen head, charged with a robbery of one of Yerevan banks). The journalist was threatened, abused, his recorder, mobile and wallet were taken away. The next day the harassment continued: the power supply at his flat was interrupted and his telephone line was cut off (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, July 7-13, 2006). On the basis of the Gagik Shamshian's appeal the Prosecutor's Office of Erebuni and Nubarashen of Yerevan instituted criminal proceedings on Article 164 (“Impeding the Legitimate Professional Activities of Journalist”), part 1 of Article 176 (“Robbery”) and part 3 of Article 258 (“Public Disorder”) of the RA Criminal Code.

As YPC was told by Gagik Shamshian, during the “protest action” he was at work. Upon his return home, he found his door with curses written all over, the banners noted above were placed next to it and shreds of “Chorrord Ishkhanutiun”, “Aravot”, “Haikakan Zhamanak” and other newspapers were scattered around.

According to the information that Gagik Shamshian has, prior to the action, for a few days the employees of the communal administration were going to the local households, convincing people to sign the address to the head of Nubarashen, expressing their reluctance to live in the same community with Gagik Shamshian.

Gagik Shamshian also informed that the power supply of his flat resumed on July 14, and the phone connection was restored by the technician that he invited. According to the journalist, some of the people involved in the incidents of July 12 were summoned to the Prosecutor's Office for an interrogation; however, no charges have been introduced as yet.

CHARGES ON YET ANOTHER ARTICLE OF CRIMINAL CODE INTRODUCED TO “ZHAMANAK-YEREVAN” EDITOR

On July 17 the RA General Prosecutor's Office informed about a change in the charge volume, introduced to the Chief Editor of “Zhamanak-Yerevan” daily Arman Babajanian. As it has been reported, Arman Babajanian was arrested on June 27 on the charge of document fraud to avoid military service. Criminal proceedings versus the Chief Editor of “Zhamanak-Yerevan” were instituted on Clause 2, Part 2, Article 327 of the RA Criminal Code ("Avoidance of military service, summons and exercise”). According to the information, placed on the web-site of the General Prosecutor's Office, due to the new circumstances revealed in the course of investigation, the charges against Arman Babajanian were extended to include another article of the RA Criminal Code - 324, p. 2 (“Theft or spoilage of documents, stamps, seals”). Besides, the General Prosecutor’s Office announced Arman Babajanian’s mother wanted - for assistance in avoiding military service.

Meanwhile, the journalistic community continues to call on the prosecuting agencies to change the preventive punishment of Arman Babajanian, who turned 30 years old on July 15.

RADIO “VAN” VICTORIOUS IN THREE “INTERNEWS” COMPETITIONS

On July 14 “Internews” Armenia summed up three more Internet-competitions, held among the Armenian radio companies under a project, supported by the Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation-Armenia. The winners of these monthly competitions are determined by online vote. As it has been reported, the first competition - for the best jingle - was won by “City FM” radio company (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, April 28 - May 4, 2006).

Out of 7 radio companies participating in the competition “Best Newscast on FM Diapason” the winner was “200 Seconds” newscast of Radio “Van”.

Maria Gevorgian of the same Radio “Van” was ahead of her 9 colleagues of 8 radio companies in the competition “Best News Presenter on FM Diapason”.

The results of the competition “Best Public Service Announcement” were deemed invalid, as in the online ballot the number of votes was fewer than the required (at least 100) and so were the participants (at least 5 radio companies). Under the circumstances, according to the rules, the winner is defined through a secret ballot of the radio company representatives present at the competition sum-up. Thus, out of 11 advertising pieces of 4 radio companies that of Radio “Van” became the winner.

The competition winners received monetary prizes and gifts.

The next “Internews” radio competition is to be held in September. The works presented at the competition can be heard and voted for on “Internews” web-site www.media.am

N.B. Dear readers, please note that YPC Weekly Newsletter will next be issued in early September, 2006.

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

You are welcome to send any comment and feedback about the Newsletter to: pressclub@ypc.am

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Editor of YPC Newsletter - Elina POGHOSBEKIAN

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