“YERKRAGUND” ON FOREIGN POLICY OF TURKEY AND ARMENIAN-TURKISH TIES
On September 13 “Yerkragund” (“Globe”) cycle was resumed on the air of “Yerkir Media” TV company. Launched in late April 2011, “Yerkragund” alternately deals with Armenian-Turkish relations (this part of the cycle is prepared under a joint Yerevan Press Club and Internews Network project, “Dialogue Building between Armenia and Turkey”, supported by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor of US Department of State) and other international developments (this part is administered by YPC with support of Open Society Foundations-Armenia).
The guests of the host of the fourteenth program of “Yerkragund”, YPC President Boris Navasardian, were orientalist David Hovhannisian, Gegham Manukian, Director of News and Current Affairs Programs of “Yerkir Media” TV company, Gohar Iskandarian, Research Assistant of the Oriental Studies Institute of RA National Academy of Sciences, YPC Expert Mikayel Zolian. The discussion focused on the foreign policy of Turkey and the current stage of the Armenian-Turkish relations.
The next “Yerkragund” show will be aired on “Yerkir Media” on Tuesday, September 20 at 19.15 (rerun – on Friday, September 23 at 13.20).
Watch “Yerkragund” of September 13, 2011 here
CIVIL SOCIETY, VISA FACILITATION AND MEDIA
On September 8-10 in Aghveran (Kotayk region) the seminar, “The Role of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum in the Fields of Visa Facilitation and Media Reforms”, was held. The event was organized by Yerevan Press Club with the assistance of Friedrich Ebert Foundation, and was attended by representatives of Armenian NGOs and media, experts from Belarus, Moldova, Poland and Ukraine.
The theme of the report of Joanna Fomina, representative of Stefan Batory Foundation of Poland, was the implementation process of EaP CSF recommendations in the field of visa facilitation. Stepan Grigorian, Head of Analytical Center for Globalization and Regional Cooperation, referred to this issue from the Armenian civil society’s perspective. In his speech, YPC President Boris Navasardian talked about the prospects of strengthening ties between EaP CSF and NGOs in the field of visa facilitation.
Nadine Gogu, Head of Independent Journalism Center of Moldova, introduced to the CSF recommendations’ implementation process in the field of media reforms. The same issue from the aspect of Armenian civil society was presented by Nouneh Sarkissian, Executive Director of Internews Media Support public organization. Andriy Kulakov, Program Director of Internews-Ukraine, told about the opportunities of fostering the CSF and NGOs cooperation in the media field. Yuras Karmanau, representative of the Belarusian Association of Journalists, discussed with the seminar participants the media situation in Belarus.
The Editor of YPC Weekly Newsletter Elina Poghosbekian presented the study on “Media Landscapes of Eastern Partnership Countries”, which will soon be published. The overview describes the media situation in six EaP countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, ranging from media legislation to journalistic education, from print media and broadcast market to the development of new media, etc. The joint study was prepared by Yerevan Press Club and partner organizations from Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, and was supported by Friedrich Ebert Foundation. The presentation of the “Media Landscapes” will be held in Warsaw on September 28, 2011 ahead of the Eastern Partnership Summit.
SUIT OF COMMITTEE TO PROTECT FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AGAINST NATIONAL COMMISSION ON TELEVISION AND RADIO
On September 13 the hearings on the suit of Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression (CPFE) versus the National Commission on Television and Radio (NCTR) were held at the RA Administrative Court. On February 21, the CPFE had inquired the NCTR to provide the application packages of the TV companies taking part in the broadcast licensing competitions, which were summed up on December 16 and 23, 2010. The NCTR had answered that the information requested could be provided, with the exception of those documents that contained commercial secret, specifically contracts on rebroadcasting of programs of foreign TV stations, as well as resumes of the TV companies’ staff. On April 11 CPFE filed a suit before the RA Administrative Court demanding to bind NCTR with fully providing the inquired information. On April 18 the suit was taken into consideration.
The judgment on the case will be released on September 27.
HEAD OF “MINAS AVETISIAN” FOUNDATION SUES BOARD CHAIRMAN OF “ASPAREZ” JOURNALISTS CLUB
On September 9 court of general jurisdiction of Shirak region started hearing the suit on the protection of the honor and dignity of Arman Avetisian, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of “Minas Avetisian” Charitable Foundation, versus Levon Barseghian, Board Chairman of “Asparez” Journalists Club of Gyumri.
The reason for the suit became the pieces “Struck the Family Capital”, “Arman Avetisian Is Lying for Unknown Reasons”, “Some Things Cannot Be Forgiven”, placed on “Asparez” website (www.asparez.am) on June 11-16, 2011. The articles dealt with the developments regarding the transfer from Gyumri to Yerevan of two frescoes by the famous Armenian painter Minas Avetisian (Arman Avetisian is one of his sons). The respective governmental decision was passed on April 28, 2011 and resulted in a wide protest, numerous actions in Gyumri. On June 27 the Head of “Asparez” received a letter from Arman Avetisian with a demand to publish a refutation or a reply. The letter was stored on the “Asparez” website on June 30. Besides, Levon Barseghian expressed his readiness to publish the refutation, whenever it is presented by Arman Avetisian. Meanwhile, on August 4 the Head of “Minas Avetisian” Foundation addressed the court.
The suit was taken into consideration on August 12. Arman Avetisian demands to oblige Levon Barseghian to present apologies, publish a refutation and the court ruling, compensate the damage for libel and insult in the amount of 2 million AMD (about $ 5,500), as well as the court expenses of 200,000 AMD.
At the session of September 9 the demands of the suit were defined. The next session will take place on September 22.
PACE MONITORING COMMITTEE CALLS ARMENIAN AUTHORITIES TO HOLD A NEW BROADCAST LICENSING TENDER
On September 8 the Monitoring Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe (co-rapporteurs John Prescott and Axel Fischer) adopted the Provisional Version of the Resolution “The Functioning of Democratic Institutions in Armenia”.
Point 10 of the Draft Resolution deals with broadcast domain. PACE considers that a genuinely pluralist media environment is an essential condition for the democratic development of Armenia. By welcoming the amended RA Law “On Television and Radio”, which is an improvement over previous legislation, PACE reiterates its call to the Armenian authorities to ensure a pluralist media environment also in practice.
In December 2010 the broadcast licensing competitions were held in Armenia, which were followed by the CoE Committee of Ministers Resolution on closing the examination of the case of “A1+” founder, “Meltex” LLC, against Republic of Armenia on the grounds that the competitions were transparent (Sub-point 10.1 of the Draft Resolution). In this regard PACE believes that the outcome of the licensing tender has not resulted in a more pluralist media environment and therefore considers that the outcome of this tender is not in line with the demands of the Assembly (Sub-point 10.2).
PACE reminds that amendments should be made to the Broadcast Law in order to ensure that the composition of the National Commission on Television and Radio, as well as the Council of the Public Television and Radio, truly reflect and are representative of Armenian society (Sub-point 10.3). The Resolution Draft also contains a call to Armenian authorities to introduce the legal obligation that licensing decisions of the NCTR should be guided by and reflect the need to increase the pluralism and diversity of the media environment in Armenia (Sub-point 10.4). A substantially lower barrier for interested groups to enter the media market is an important mechanism for this. Given the potential of digital broadcasting to increase the number of broadcasting licenses available, the Assembly considers that the authorities should hold, when feasible, a new broadcasting license tender with the explicit aim of increasing the pluralism and diversity of the media environment in Armenia (Sub-point 10.5).
The Monitoring Committee’s Draft Resolution, “The Functioning of Democratic Institutions in Armenia”, will be considered at the plenary session of PACE on October 3-7, 2011.
BANNED AND PUT UNDER ARREST FOR UNKNOWN REASONS
On September 7 the representatives of the RA Service of Compulsory Execution of Judicial Acts came to the editorial office of “Hraparak” and presented a court decision on the arrest of the property of the daily’s founder, “Hraparak Oratert” LLC, in the amount of 3 million AMD (about $ 8,200), as a measure to secure the suit. Another measure applied was the restraint imposed on “Hraparak” on publishing any information on the case – until the court renders a judgment. The ground for the compulsory execution was the August 31, 2011 decision of the court of general jurisdiction of Kentron and Nork-Marash administrative districts of Yerevan.
On September 8 the copy of the decision on the compulsory execution was published by “Hraparak” and accompanied with an editorial “Which Judge is Higher than the RA Constitution?” The article expressed bewilderment and informed that “Hraparak” has received neither the suit, nor the decision that became ground for imposing sanctions versus the daily. According to “Hraparak” allegations, the suit may have been submitted by Misak Martirosian, Head of the RA Judicial Department.
Meanwhile, on September 9 the RA Human Rights Defender Karen Andreasian made a statement in which he expressed deep concerns regarding any kind of threats versus the freedom of expression and media, as well as the improper application of legislation in this sphere. Stressing that he does not have any competence to interfere with the cases that are pending at court, the ombudsman urged the government to refrain from any actions that curtail the freedom of expression and information, “which in fact result in establishing a culture of censorship”. The message lists the case law principles of the European Court on Human Rights on a prior ban on the publication (the case of “Observer” and “The Guardian” versus UK): even a short-term delay of the publication, specifically, where the press is concerned, deprives a journalist’s article of a large part of its interest.
JUDGMENT OF THE COUNCIL ON INFORMATION DISPUTES ON THE SUIT OF TIGRAN ARZAKANTSIAN VERSUS “IRAVUNK” FOUNDER. On July 22 the Council on Information Disputes released the third expert judgment on a defamation case. It regards the suit of RA National Assembly Deputy, member of the Republican Party of Armenia Tigran Arzakantsian versus the founder of “Iravunk” newspaper, “Iravunk Media” LLC. The matter of the suit became the piece “Lost a Pretty Penny?” published in “Iravunk” on February 22, 2011. The plaintiff demanded to refute the information discrediting his honor and dignity, oblige the newspaper founder to compensate 3 million AMD (about $ 8,100), as well as pay off the court expenses of 568,000 AMD. On June 24 court of general jurisdiction of Kentron and Nork-Marash administrative districts of Yerevan acknowledged all the demands as ungrounded and resolved to exact from Tigran Arzakantsian the state duty of 10,000 AMD for addressing the court (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, June 24-30, 2011). The Council on Information Disputes concluded that the court decision was rendered in compliance with all the principles of national and international law.
FOUNDER OF “HRAPARAK” STRIVES FOR INSTITUTING CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS VERSUS HEAD OF “ZINVOR”. On July 25 court of general jurisdiction of Kentron and Nork-Marash administrative districts of Yerevan secured the suit of founder of “Hraparak” daily, “Hraparak Oratert” LLC, versus the RA Investigative Service and the supervising prosecutor, who have denied instituting criminal proceedings on the incident of April 21, 2011 at the daily’s editorial office. On that day Margarita Khachatrian, Chairwoman of “Zinvor” (“Soldier”) Association of NGOs, accompanied by three people, came to the editorial office to express her indignation regarding the “Hraparak” editorial informing about her visit to one of the military units. While talking with the staff the Head of “Zinvor” was free-spoken, threw at them everything that came to hand, trying to strike, as a result they had to call the police. On May 23 “Hraparak” received a notification that the court of general jurisdiction of Kentron and Nork-Marash administrative districts of Yerevan submitted to consideration the suit of Margarita Khachatrian versus the newspaper founder. The Head of “Zinvor” demanded to refute the information published in the editorial, recompense the damage, made by libel and defamation, of 2 million AMD (about $ 5,400) and cover the state duty for filing the court. On May 26 the law enforcement bodies notified the newspaper that criminal proceedings on the incident were not instituted as a result of absence of corpus delicti (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, May 20-26, 2011). The July 25 court decision in favor of “Hraparak” was, in its turn, appealed at the RA Criminal Court of Appeal by the supervising prosecutor. However, on September 1, the court revoked the appeal, upholding the decision of the court of general jurisdiction.
INTERIM REPORT OF “ASPAREZ” ON MONITORING THE ADVERTISING ON THE AIR OF PTA FIRST CHANNEL. On July 28 “Asparez” Journalists Club of Gyumri released the interim report for March-April 2011 on the monitoring of advertising volume and its distribution on the air of First Channel of Public Television of Armenia. The study covers the period of March 1, 2011 – March 31, 2012 and is conducted under a project of “Asparez” supported by Open Society Foundations-Armenia and Counterpart International Armenia. “Asparez” has administered similar studies of advertising by the public broadcaster on December 31, 2010, January 1, 14 and 15, 2011 (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, February 4-10, 2011, and January 10-20, 2011). On all these days, like in March-April, 2011, violations of legislative requirements by the PTA First Channel, specifically, on the excess of advertising volume, were detected. The interim report of “Asparez” for March-April, 2011 is available at www.asparez.am.
INCIDENT BETWEEN “HAYKAKAN ZHAMANAK” CORRESPONDENT AND POLICEMEN. On July 28 at about 23.30 at the Republic Square of Yerevan Ani Gevorgian, correspondent of “Haykakan Zhamanak” daily, witnessed how the police were detaining a woman that had disturbed the public order. When the police officers noticed that the journalist is taking pictures, one of them came up to her shouting “Why are you shooting, mind your own business?!”, and tried to pull out the camera. On July 30 “Haykakan Zhamanak” published an information about the incident, attended with photos, including the ones of the policeman who had assaulted the journalist. In P.S. the daily noted that the published information might be considered as a communication about a crime. According to “Haykakan Zhamanak”, criminal proceedings on the incident with Ani Gevorgian haven not been instituted.
FOUNDER OF “HAYKAKAN ZHAMANAK” INTENDS TO ADDRESS THE ECHR. On August 3 RA Court of Cassation revoked the application of the founder of “Haykakan Zhamanak” daily, “Dareskizb” LLC, on recognizing invalid the ruling of the court of second jurisdiction on the suit of RA National Assembly MPs Samvel Aleksanian (unaffiliated), Levon Sargsian and Ruben Hayrapetian (members of Republican Party of Armenia faction). The reason for the suit became the piece “Seven of the Eight Are in the List”, published in “Haykakan Zhamanak” on October 14, 2010. The article told that some of the Armenian officials and businessmen, including the abovementioned RA NA Deputies (who are at the same time major entrepreneurs), appear in a number of criminal cases, instituted by the Russian law enforcement bodies. On February 7, 2011 the court of general jurisdiction of Kentron and Nork-Marash administrative districts of Yerevan secured the demands of the MPs on refuting the information that discredits their honor, dignity and business reputation, obliging the “Haykakan Zhamanak” founder to pay off a moral compensation and the state duty for filling the court, with an overall amount of 6 million 132 thousand AMD (about $ 16,800). On June 9 RA Civil Court of Appeal resolved to uphold the ruling of the court of general jurisdiction finding no grounds for reconsideration (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, June 3-9, 2011). The Court of Cassation, in its turn, revoked the complaint of “Haykakan Zhamanak”. Thus, “Dareskizb” LLC has announced about its intention to address the European Court of Human Rights.
“A1+” VERSUS NATIONAL COMMISSION ON TELEVISION AND RADIO. On August 11 RA Administrative Court ended the preliminary hearings on the suit of “A1+” founder, “Meltex” LLC, versus National Commission on Television and Radio. On February 21, 2011 “Meltex” contested the results of digital broadcast licensing competition No.11. The founders of “A1+” and “ArmNews” TV companies were opponents in this competition (the latter became the winner). “Meltex” addressed the court demanding to nullify the December 16, 2010 NCTR decision on competition No.11. At the preliminary hearings, started on May 11, 2011, the arguments of the parties were clarified. The plaintiff presented a supplement to the suit, which listed the contradictions as contained in the bid of “ArmNews”, and which was ignored by the NCTR while determining the competition winner (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, July 8-14, 2011). The trial on the merits of the case will be held on September 16.
TIGRAN ARZAKANTSIAN VERSUS “YERKIR” FOUNDER: COMPLAINTS OF BOTH PARTIES ARE REVOKED. On August 24 RA Civil Court of Appeal upheld the ruling of the court of general jurisdiction on the suit of Tigran Arzakantsian, RA National Assembly MP, member of Republican Party of Armenia faction, versus founder of “Yerkir” daily, “’Yerkir Editorial Office” LLC. The reason of the suit became the piece about Tigran Arzakantsian, appeared in “Yerkir” on January 13, 2011 within the column “131 Faces and the Masks”. The plaintiff demanded to refute the information discrediting his honor and dignity, oblige the daily to publish the court ruling on the case, exact 3 million AMD (about $ 8,200) from the respondent as a compensation for libel and defamation, as well as compensate the court expenses of 568,000 AMD. On June 8 court of general jurisdiction of Kentron and Nork-Marash administrative districts of Yerevan secured the suit of Tigran Arzakantsian partially, obliging the newspaper to publish the operative part of the judgment, to pay 200,000 AMD as a compensation for insult, as well as pay off the court expenses of 88,000 AMD (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, June 3-9, 2011). Both parties appealed this ruling: the plaintiff demanded to abolish it fully, the respondent – to call off the part regarding the insult.