YPC Weekly Newsletter
2009
September 3-10
REGIONAL TV COMPANIES EXPRESS CONCERN REGARDING BROADCASTING DIGITALIZATION

On September 2 Internews Media Support public organization and Center for Information Law and Policy addressed a letter to Nerses Yeritsian, Chairman of the Interdepartmental Commission on TV and Radio Digitalization in Armenia, RA Minister of Economics. The amendment to the RA Law “On Television and Radio” of September 10, 2008, introducing a moratorium on holding broadcast licensing competitions till July 20, 2010, has created “an atmosphere of ambiguity” for regional TV companies, the letter stressed. First of all it refers to the expected transition from analog to digital broadcasting in Armenia. The issue was covered by heads of regional TV companies during several round tables administered by Internews and the Center for Information Law and Policy.

The letter to Nerses Yeritsian was attended by the call of 13 regional TV companies, asking to envisage a different approach in the program of digitalization for regional and Yerevan broadcasters. The concern of regional TV companies is firstly conditioned by the fact whether they will be able to ensure all the requirements of broadcast digitalization while having insufficient technical equipment and financial means. Besides, the call emphasized the necessity of publicity, transparency of the process of broadcast digitalization program elaboration, which will allow the regional TV companies to be better informed and overcome beforehand the related issues. The TV companies noted about the Recommendation Rec (2003)9 of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe “On Measures to Promote the Democratic and Social Contribution of Digital Broadcasting”. The Recommendation stresses the necessity of public discussion, as well as the participation of interested parties in the development of national strategy of digitalization, aiming to minimize probable negative consequences. In conclusion, the regional TV companies expressed their readiness to attend to the drafting of the program on turning to digital broadcasting.

FOI CENTER CONTESTS THE CONSTITUTIONALITY OF TWO ARTICLES OF ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEDURE CODE

On September 9 Center of Freedom of Information addressed to the RA Constitutional Court contesting the compliance of some provisions of the RA Administrative Procedure Code with the Main Law. Namely, it concerns Articles 151 (“The Order of Examination of Cases on Bringing to Justice”) and 152 (“Requirements to Applications for Bringing to Justice”) of the Code. According to FOI Center, the reason for filing the Constitutional Court became the inconsistent application of Articles by the judges while examining cases on violations of information right.

RA NATIONAL ASSEMBLY DEFINED THE NEW ORDER OF JOURNALISTS ACCREDITATION

On August 21 a new Order of Journalists’ Accreditation in RA National Assembly was defined by the Decree of Parliament Speaker Hovik Abrahamian. A number of provisions of the Order cannot but raise concern. Likewise, Points 10 and 11 of the Order set forth the conditions of media accreditation, including the print media circulation, level of attendance of online publications and the frequency of their update, existence of regional and foreign TV companies reporting missions in Yerevan, etc. Even though such requirements do not contradict the Law “On Mass Communication”, at the same time they considerably hinder the coverage of the parliament activities and are groundless from the aspect of efficient journalistic work. Point 21 of the Order, stipulating the access of journalists by accreditation identities only during sessions of the National Assembly and the Standing Commissions, briefings, press conferences, parliament hearings, as well as other events announced by the NA press service, does not contradict the letter of law either. Nevertheless, the parliament is a permanent legislative body, functioning at the expense of state budget, hence, such a provision basically converges the possibility to cover the activities of deputies.

Some conditions of anticipatory suspension of the accreditation also raise concern. In particular, the deprivation of accreditation if the journalist “has diffused untrue information about the National Assembly or the activities of the staff, affirmed by a court decision” (Subpoint “c” of Point 18) seems to be an excessive and groundless punishment. Notably this concerns the deprivation of the right of accrediting the media outlet whose representative has violated the aforesaid Subpoint. Point 23 of the Order on the responsibilities of journalists is also inappropriate. Specifically, this refers to provisions, binding the journalists “to respect the legal interests, the honor and dignity of the deputies and the National Assembly staff members” during the accomplishment of their professional activities (Subpoint “a”), and not to impede the realization of official duties of the deputies, staff members and other persons present at the sessions (Subpoint “b”). The rights and the interests of the abovementioned persons, listed in Point 23, are already protected by the national legislation. Thus, the content of accreditation order has to be limited, in general, by the description of technical procedures and specific work conditions.

“A1+” FOUNDER ADDRESSED TO THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT

On August 19 the founder of “A1+” TV company, “Meltex” LLC, addressed to RA Constitutional Court contravening the compliance of Point 1 of Article 204’28 of the RA Civil Procedure Code (“The Competences of the Court in Case of Revision”) with the Main Law. The abovementioned Point enables the court to confirm the previous judgment on a case without securing the filed suit on reconsideration in case of new circumstances. As it has been reported, namely this provision made ground for the RA Court of Cassation who declined on February 19, 2009 the application of “Meltex” LLC, regarding the reconsideration of the two rulings of the Court of Cassation of February 27 and April 23, 2004 on suits of "A1+” founder versus National Commission on Television and Radio (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, February 13-19, 2009). A new circumstance in the case became the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights of June 17, 2008, recognizing the refusals to grant ”A1+” founder a broadcast license to be a violation of the Article 10 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, i.e., of the right of the applicant to freely impart information and ideas.

According to the information placed on the RA Constitutional Court web site, the hearings on the application of “A1+” founder are appointed on December 15, 2009.

It should be also noted that on September 15-16 at the session of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe it is envisaged to discuss the issue of fulfilling the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights on the suit of “A1+” by Armenia.

CHIEF EDITOR OF “ZHAMANAK” RELEASED ON PAROLE

On August 4, according to the decision of the Committee on Early Release, Arman Babajanian, Chief Editor of “Zhamanak” daily, was released on parole. As it has been reported, Arman Babajanian was sentenced to 3.5 years of imprisonment for document fraud to avoid compulsory military service. Head of “Zhamanak” was released due to his health condition deterioration (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, July 17-23, 2009). Arman Babajanian had a neurosurgical surgery in one of the hospitals abroad. He continues treatment in present.

CHRONICLE OF AUGUST

On August 6 in Gyumri the police impeded the activities of picture crew of “Shant” TV channel of Gyumri who had arrived to cover the civilian protest action at municipality building. The policemen led by the Head of Police Department of Gyumri Shirak Shahnazarian took away the camera and moved it to a place from where it was impossible to shoot. On the same day “Shant” TV channel of Yerevan reported about the Gyumri incident on the evening edition of its newscast “Horizon”. On August 11 Levon Barseghian, Board Chairman of “Asparez” Journalist's Club of Gyumri, addressed to the RA Prosecutor's Office with a communication about a crime. As Levon Barseghian told YPC, the Prosecutor's Office has informed that the communication was directed to the RA Special Investigative Service.

On August 16 free lance journalist Gagik Shamshian received a notice from the RA Prosecutor's Office that the he has been pardoned illegally. As it has been reported, the amnesty was applied on Gagik Shamshian, sentenced to a fine in the amount of 350,000 AMD (about $ 950) for disrespect to court, by the decision of RA Court of Appeal on July 15, 2009 (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, July 10-16, 2009). It is noteworthy that the issue on the unlawful pardon was raised by Gagik Shamshian himself, who addressed to the RA Prosecutor's Office on July 30. Shamshian considered that he should not have been pardoned on the abovementioned case, as an amnesty had already been applied on him by another case. Gagik Shamshian informed YPC that his claim about the unlawfulness of the ruling of RA Court of Appeal of July 15 was submitted to consideration by the RA Court of Cassation.

On August 21 at a press conference in Yerevan the Head of RA Police Alik Sargsian notified that two young men from Etchmiadzin were arrested on the case of attack on Nver Mnatsakanian, the author and the host of “Perspective” program cycle of “Shant” TV company, made on May 6, 2009 (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, May 9-14, 2009 and May 1-8, 2009). According to the Head of RA Police, the detainees have confound Nver Mnatsakanian with the father of their girl friend with whom they wanted to have it out. Thus, there are no ties between the incident and “Grand Candy” company. (The version about the implication of the company was moved out by the press.) On the next day, on August 22 the comments of Nver Mnatsakanian were released on web portal Report.am: “I deplore the state of our law enforcement bodies. Maybe not publicly but at each opportunity I told more than once that it was them and that I was chased by a “Niva” car owned by ‘Grand Candy’.”

On August 21 “Haykakan Zhamanak” daily informed that its previous issue of August 20, 2009 was bought up by unknown persons from the newsstands located in Kentron and Erebuni communities of Yerevan. Some of the subscribers did not get the issue. According to the daily, the action was conditioned by a piece about high-ranking employees of RA Prosecutor’s Office, published in "Haykakan Zhamanak” on August 20.

On August 27 in Vanadzor the representatives of Lori Regional Department of RA Service of Compulsory Execution of Court Acts impeded the activities of Larisa Paremuzian, correspondent of “Aravot” daily and “Hetq” online publication. The journalist arrived to Vanadzor on the alarm of residents who informed that representatives of the Compulsory Execution Service resort to violent methods while evicting them from their temporal habitations. Noticing that Larisa Paremuzian is taking photos and interviewing the residents, the compulsory executors took away her recorder and photocamera, and started to push her. As soon as Larisa Paremuzian presented her journalistic identity, they returned the recorder and the camera, though with deleted pictures. On August 31 RA Human Rights Defender Armen Harutiunian addressed a letter to Gevorg Danielian, RA Minister of Justice, suggesting to assign an internal investigation on the incident.
According to the information of RA Ministry of Justice of September 2, on the ground of the ombudsman’s letter it is resolved to charge the RA General Compulsory Executor Mihran Poghosian with an internal investigation on the incident of Vanadzor.

On August 28 the court of general jurisdiction of Center and Nork-Marash communities of Yerevan extended the term of preliminary detention of Nikol Pashinian, Chief Editor of “Haykakan Zhamanak” daily, for two months - till November 1, 2009. As it has been reported, Nikol Pashinian was announced wanted within the criminal proceedings, instituted on the events of March 1, 2008 in Yerevan. On July 1, 2009 he voluntarily surrendered to RA Prosecutor’s Office. “Haykakan Zhamanak” Chief Editor received a preventive punishment of arrest (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, June 26 - July 2, 2009). On August 5 RA Special Investigative Service notified about the end of the preliminary investigation on part of the case regarding Nikol Pashinian.

SUITS AGAINST PARTIES FOR NON-GRANTING INFORMATION

Center of Freedom of Information addressed to court of general jurisdiction of Center and Nork-Marash communities of Yerevan with suits on non-granting of information versus three parties - “Orinats Yerkir”, Armenian National Congress and Labor Socialist Party of Armenia.

In April 2009 FOI Center made inquiries to seven parties (registered at the RA Central Electoral Commission for running in the elections of Yerevan Council of Elderly of May 31, 2009) requesting the copies of their financial reports for 2008 and information about sources of charitable contributions exceeding the hundred-fold of the minimum wage. The Republican Party of Armenia, ARF “Dashnaktsutiun”, “Prosperous Armenia” and the Popular Party gave an exhaustive reply and in terms defined by the law. “Orinats Yerkir” granted incomplete information with a delay, while, the Armenian National Congress and the Labor Socialist Party of Armenia did not respond to the inquiry at all.

Court hearings on the suit of FOI Center versus “Orinats Yerkir” started on July 29. The party made a petition to accord some time for preparing an answer to the suit demands. The petition was secured. At the next session, on September 4 it turned out that “Orinats Yerkir” requested the copy of its financial report from the RA State Register of Legal Entities and was refused. Thereby, the court resolved to require for the document on its behalf. The hearings were interrupted until the financial report is received.

The court hearings on the suit versus Armenian National Congress started on September 10. The party has presented its answer which was given to the plaintiff for review.

The suit versus Labor Socialist Party of Armenia is submitted to consideration, although the session date is not appointed yet.

RA GOVERNMENT DID NOT APPROVE THE AMENDMENTS TO THE LAW ON “MASS COMMUNICATION”

On July 30 RA Government opposed the draft law “On Introducing Amendment and Supplements to the RA Law ‘On Mass Communication’”. As it has been reported, the draft law was suggested by RA NA deputy Victor Dallakian and submitted to the National Assembly on July 6, 2009. The author of the draft proposes, in particular, to supplement the Law with provisions determining the rights and obligations of journalists. The draft was criticized by a number of journalistic organizations and RA Human Rights Defender Armen Harutiunian. Particularly, in the letter of July 22 to RA National Assembly Chairman Hovik Abrahamian, Armen Harutiunian emphasized that the main provisions of the draft contravene the Article 10 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, assuring the freedom of expression, as well as the case law of the European Court of Human Rights. Overall, the ombudsman considered the draft to be “unacceptable and indigent to improvement” (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, July 17-23, 2009).

NEW CO-OWNER OF “HAY TV”

The co-owner of “Hay TV” (founder of TV company is “Shark” LLC) became “Sovrano” LLC, belonging to businessman Arman Sahakian. According to the Armenian business directory “Spyur”, Arman Sahakian also owns the press distribution network, “Press Stand” LLC.

ANNIVERSARIES OF “ARAVOT” AND “SEVAN” NEWSPAPERS

On August 1 “Aravot” daily celebrated its 15th anniversary. On September 4 “Sevan” newspaper marked its 70th anniversary since its foundation.

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

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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