SEMINAR FOR PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICERS
On 12-14 September in Yerevan, a seminar “Rights and Duties of Public Information Officers” took place. It was organized by Yerevan Press Club and the European Journalism Centre (Maastricht, Netherlands) with the support of the Council of Europe. The seminar was conducted by the Consultant for public information, journalism and media affairs, David Van der Houwen, and the participants were journalists and staff of press services of state structures and private enterprises. Theoretical training was combined with interactive discussions and practical exercises. The reports on the situation of public information in Armenia were presented by Correspondent of ITAR-TASS news agency in Armenia, Tigran Liloyan, and External Relations Officer of the World Bank Mission in Armenia, Vigen Sargsian.
CASE OF TIGRAN NAGHDALIAN’S ASSASSINATION: THE LAWYER OF THE CHIEF DEFENDANT IS DISMISSED FROM PARTICIPATION IN THE TRIAL
The hot news at the 11 September session of the court of primary jurisdiction of Center and Nork-Marash communities of Yerevan on the murder of Tigran Naghdalian, the Chairman of the Council of RA Public TV and Radio Company, committed on December 28, 2002 (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, September 5-11, 2003) appeared to be the decision on temporary dismissal of Hovhannes Arsenyan. The latter is one of the two attorneys of Armen Sargsian who is considered to be the main orderer of the crime by the prosecution. The court has accepted the corresponding appeal of the prosecution which in its turn referred to the publication in “Hayots Ashkhar” daily (September 11, 2003),”The Attorney Also Used to Take Gold Once”. According to the article, in 1997 Hovhannes Arsenyan, as a Senior Investigator of the Interior Affairs Department of the Tumanyan district of Armenia, was sentenced to 4 years of imprisonment for abuse of his plenary powers. In 1999, a year after his probation, Arsenyan got lawyer’s license issued on the basis of personal form where his previous convictions were not mentioned. In this respect, on September 12, 2003 criminal proceedings were initiated against Hovhannes Arsenyan for falsification of documents (Article 325 of RA Criminal Code).
At the court session of September 16, Hovhannes Arsenyan attempted to dispute the decision on his dismissal from the trial but he was forced out of the hall.
INTERNEWS ARMENIA URGES TO REMOVE THE DRAFT AMENDMENTS TO THE BROADCAST LAW FROM PARLIAMENT CONSIDERATION
On September 15, Internews Armenia public organization published the letter to the RA National Assembly where it urged to remove from its agenda the draft law on amendments to the RA Law “On Television and Radio” and to the “Charter of the National Commission on Television and Radio”. In the letter, addressed on September 9 to the Chairwoman of the Standing Committee on Science, Education, Culture and Youth Issues, Hranush Hakobyan (the copies of which were sent to the heads of three parliamentary factions supporting the draft – Republican Party of Armenia, “Orinats Yerkir” and ARF “Dashnaktsutyun”), states that although the current broadcast law is in acute need of radical improvement, the proposed amendments not only fail to fill in serious gaps in the law but, moreover, they have a bad impact on a number of its main provisions.
In fact, three aspects raise most concern. According to the proposed amendments, the National Commission on Television and Radio will be entitled to make a decision on granting broadcast license not by the majority of votes of the Commission members (as stipulated by the current provision) but by the majority of votes of the members present at the session. Thus, three votes will be sufficient to decide on the fate of a private broadcaster (the membership of that regulating body makes up 9 people).
The second debated amendment concerns the evaluation by the National Commission, in the process of licensing, of the bidder’s financial resources on the principle “satisfactory, non-satisfactory”. In addition, no criteria, on which these resources will be evaluated, are brought forward.
And finally, the amendment foreseeing abolition of license in case of “rudely violating of the requirements of Article 24 of the Law” (dissemination of materials of libeling, pornographic nature, publication of state secret, etc). Internews states that the degree of responsibility for such violations is stipulated by civil and criminal legislation, and the proposed amendment is an instance of “initial restriction” not proceeding on the principles of freedom of speech.
On September 11, one more letter, signed by the Acting Head of OSCE Office in Yerevan, Michael Wygant, and leaders of eleven local and international organizations, Yerevan Press Club included, was directed to the Standing Committee on Science, Culture and Youth Issues. The letter expressed concern over the above-mentioned and a number of other suggested amendments to RA Law “On Television and Radio”, as well as over the Draft Law “On Mass Communication”. The signatories turned to the Committee with the request to organize in the near future discussions on these issues with the participation of RA National Assembly deputies, authors of draft laws, representatives of international organizations and journalist community.
It is essential to add that the draft amendments to the broadcast law and the Draft Law “On Mass Communication” have been included on the agenda of the National Assembly’s fall session.
FOUR MORE VACANT FREQUENCES ARE PRESENTED AT THE COMPETITIONS
On September 18, the National Commission on Television and Radio announced four more broadcast licensing competitions on vacant frequencies in a number of Armenian cities: two UHFs – 28th of Gyumri (Shirak region), 29th of Stepanavan (Lori region) and two VHFs – 2nd of Gyumri (where currently “Shant” TV broadcasts), 12th of Ijevan (Tavush region). The deadline for the applications in the competitions is October 12, 2003. The bids will be considered by the National Commission on October 23.
“RADIO-ALPHA” HAS PRESERVED ITS AIR
On September 12, the National Commission on Television and Radio considered the only bid submitted to the competition on July 31 for 104.9 MHz frequency of the capital (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, September 1-4, 2003).
On September 16, according to the results of voting by the National Commission, license granting decision was made in favor of its current owner “Radio-Alpha” LLC re-broadcasting programs of “Russkoye Radio”.
NEW PRESS SECRETARY OF ARMENIAN FOREIGN OFFICE APPOINTED
On September 16, RA Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vartan Oskanian introduced his new Press Secretary and Head of the Press and Information Department, Hamlet Gasparian to the journalistic community. Dziunik Aghajanian, holding this office since February 2001, has been appointed Minister-Councilor of Armenia’s Permanent Mission in UN.
A graduate of Yerevan State University, Hamlet Gasparian has a many years’ experience in publishing and press. Since the beginning of 1991, he was part of the founding editorial group of “Azg” daily and its Managing Editor. In the spring of 1995, he joined the RA Ministry of Foreign Affairs. From 1995 to 1996, he served in Armenian Embassy in France as First Secretary. From 1996 to 1997 he worked within MFA European Department. From 1997 to 1998 he was Executive Director of the National Television of Armenia. In 1998, he returned to MFA and from 1999 to 2002 worked in the Armenian Embassy in France as Advisor. Since August 2002 to the current appointment he served as Advisor within MFA Political Planning Department. He is married and has three children.