On February 7, at the session of Armenian Government with President Robert Kocharian at chair, the Draft Law “On Mass Communication”, developed by the Ministry of Justice, was approved.
The haste with which the document was included in the agenda of the Government is at least surprising. The Draft Law was directed to media, journalistic associations for a discussion quite recently, and not everyone had time to study it, analyze and develop suggestions for it. Those, who have made their point, also by means of media, gave quite critical assessment to the Draft. In particular, the Yerevan Press Club introduced both its brief comment (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, January 26 – February 1, 2002), and a detailed analysis of the Draft Law “On Mass Communication” (published in “Hayots Ashkhar” daily, February 2, 2002). Not all the international organizations to which the document was sent for an expert evaluation had time to send their assessment. The recommendations that were received are far from being fully implemented by the Ministry of Justice.
The Draft Law of the Ministry has a lot of major contradictions with the Draft Law “On Media” developed and improved by YPC in 1996-2001 with the participation of journalistic community and lawyers, a Draft which has been introduced to public at large and was evaluated by a number of international organizations.
The negligence of alternative approaches, opinions of journalists by the Government may lead to another confrontation on the lawmaking arena. Now a major part in the reconciliation of these attitudes is to be played by the National Assembly of Armenia. A lot will depend on the readiness of the journalistic community to defend its right to independence and freedom of speech, the right to exercise the profession without censorship or supervision on behalf of the authorities, who keep forgetting that our country is not situated on an isolated island; moreover, it is a member of the Council of Europe.