ROUND TABLE “SELF-REGULATION AS A POSSIBILITY OF ESTABLISHMENT OF FREE, EFFICIENT AND PROFESSIONAL MEDIA”
On October 17-19 in Tsaghkadzor a round table “Self-Regulation as a Possibility of Establishment of Free, Efficient and Professional Media” was held under program “Strengthening Democracy through Free Expression in the South Caucasus”, implemented by Global Campaign for Free Expression “Article 19” and Yerevan Press Club with the assistance of the Open Society Institute and the UK Foreign Office.
The meeting participants – the representatives of Armenian media and journalistic associations, international organizations and diplomatic missions accredited in Armenia – discussed various aspects of self-regulation of Armenian media, in particular, the issues of privacy, honest and dishonest ways of getting information, how appropriate media publications about colleagues are, the use of press for personal purposes. The expert of the round table, the President of Independent Union of Journalists of Bosnia and Herzegovina Boro Contic presented the legal regulation and self-regulation of media in his country.
AMENDMENTS TO THE BROADCAST LAW ARISE CRITICISM
On October 21 and 22 at the session of the National Assembly of Armenia a discussion of the draft law on introducing amendments to the RA Law “On Television and Radio” was held. The draft is the initiative of six NA deputies, and was presented to the Assembly by the member of the faction of the Republican Party of Armenia Vazgen Khachikian.
A number of provisions of the document caused the negative assessment of the journalistic community, in particular: the simplified procedure for the decision making of the National Commission on Television and Radio; retaining the compositions of the National Commission and the Council of Public TV and Radio Company in case the provisions of the broadcast law on the formation of these bodies are changed; additional terms for the broadcast license deprivation.
NA Vice Speaker Tigran Torosian answering the opponents of the draft cited that the majority of the amendments are made in accordance with the recommendations of the Council of Europe experts. Yet, as the proposals on amending the Law “On Television and Radio”, submitted on October 14 to the Parliament by the working group on media legislation (formed on the initiative of the OSCE Office in Yerevan) note, when making amendments all the recommendations of the CE experts must be taken into account. Meanwhile, the draft in question covered only some, mostly secondary points of the CE evaluation. Being taken out of the context, these points will aggravate the Law instead of improving. However, the proposals of the working group were ignored by the authors of the amendments.
In the opinion of the member of the parliament faction of the opposition “Justice” bloc Shavarsh Kocharian, the draft submitted for the NA consideration actually legalizes the violations of the National Commission on Television and Radio.
As the local and foreign experts think, the amendments should first of all be introduced to the provisions of the Law “On Television and Radio”, which define the procedure of forming the broadcast regulating bodies. In particular, the guarantees of their independence should be strengthened. Yet the amendment draft does not in anyway touch upon this issue.
The voting on the draft is to take place at the next three-day session of the Parliament.
TWO OUT OF FIVE REGIONAL FREQUENCIES REMAINED UNWANTED
On October 20 the National Commission on Television and Radio announced the results of broadcast licensing competitions of September 8 (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, September 5-11, 2003). On October 16 the National Commission considered the applications for the competitions; however, there appeared no bidders for two out of five frequencies – the 31st UHF in Hrazdan (Kotayk region) and 21st UHF in Yeghegnadzor (Vayots Dzor region).
For each of two other frequencies one bid was submitted, and by the voting results the right to broadcast on the 21st UHF in Sevan (Gegharkunik region) was granted to “G.A.L. ev Ynkerner”, while “Qamut” TV company will continue to broadcast on the 12th VHF of Noyemberian (Tavush region). The 2nd VHF in Vanadzor (Lori region), contested by “Media-Soft” LLC and “Lori” TV company, was gained by the latter.
RANKING OF “REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS”: THERE IS LESS FREEDOM OF PRESS IN ARMENIA THAN IN GEORGIA BUT MORE THAN IN AZERBAIJAN
On October 20 the international organization “Reporters Without Borders” (RSF) published the second world press freedom ranking. Unlike the first similar study (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, March 15-21, 2003), covering 139 states, this time the geography was expanded: in the 166-line list indices of 164 counties are listed, included all the post-Soviet ones. Besides, two states – the USA and Israel – were given a special approach. They appear in the ranking list twice: on the one hand, the situation directly in the USA and Israel was considered, on the other – that beyond the borders of these countries. While USA and Israel are ranked in 31st and 44th positions, respectively, as regards respect for freedom of expression on their own territory, they fall to the 135th and 146th positions as regards behavior of the USA in Iraq and of Israel in occupied Arab territories. “The Israeli army’s repeated abuses against journalists in the occupied territories and the US army’s responsibility in the death of several reporters during the war in Iraq constitute unacceptable behavior by two nations that never stop stressing their commitment to freedom of expression”, the “Reporters Without Borders” stress.
The example of media freedom can be set by Finland, taking the first line in the RSF ranking. Its antipode is the North Corea, ranked 166. Second from the last is Cuba, called by the “RSF” “the world’s biggest prison for journalists”.
At the same time, wealth and press freedom do not always go together. As in 2002, the ranking shows that a country’s respect for press freedom is not solely linked to its economic development. The top 50 include countries that are among the poorest in the world, such as Benin (29th position), Timor-Leste (30th) and Madagascar (46th). Conversely, the 50 countries that respect press freedom least include such rich nations as Bahrain (117th) and Singapore (144th).
Of the former Soviet Union countries the press freedom situation is most favorable in Latvia (ranked 11), Estonia (12) and Lithuania (18). The Baltic States are followed, at a huge distance, by Georgia (73), Armenia (90) and Moldova (94). Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan and Tajikistan are ranked 104, 113 and 114, respectively. Thus, among the three countries of South Caucasus Armenia is almost in the middle: the freedom of Armenian media is 17 points less than that of Georgian media and 23 points greater than that of Azerbaijani ones.
The 133 place in the ranking is taken by Ukraine, the 138 rank belongs to Kazakhstan, while the list of CIS counties is concluded by Russia (148), Belarus (151), Uzbekistan (154) and Turkmenistan (158). While the ranking authors make a reservation that “a truly independent press exists in Russia”, this low assessment of the country is explained by “the censorship of anything to do with the war in Chechnya, several murders and the recent abduction of the Agence France-Presse correspondent in Ingushetia”: “Russia continues to be one of the world’s deadliest countries for journalists.”
The RSF ranking takes account of press freedom events between September 1, 2002 and September 1, 2003. Similarly to the last year, the ranking was compiled by surveying people, “who have a deep knowledge of the state of press freedom in a country or a number of countries: local journalists or foreign reporters based in a country, researchers, jurists, regional specialists and the researchers working for Reporters Without Borders’ International Secretariat”. The press freedom in each country was assessed by the respondents with a questionnaire with 53 criteria: ranging from various forms of repression of journalists and media up to legal restrictions, as well as the attitude of the authorities to state-owned media and international press. It also took account of the main obstacles to the free flow of information on the Internet.