On May 9 the report, prepared by Thomas Hammarberg, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, following his January 18-21, 2011 visit to Armenia, was released. In the report Thomas Hammarberg also addressed the situation around the freedom of expression in Armenia.
Particularly, the Commissioner for Human Rights welcomes the decriminalization of libel and insult through amendments to the RA Criminal Code in May 2010. However, Thomas Hammarberg expresses concerns about the provisions of RA Civil Code which introduce high monetary fines for insult and defamation, and about the increase of cases brought against media on this basis. The CoE Commissioner for Human Rights is aware of the discussions on the amended RA “Law on Television and Radio”, and invites the Armenian authorities to take into consideration the comments from international experts and proposals submitted by the working group on reforming the legislation regulating the digitalization process in Armenia, the report notes. As for attacks and threats on journalists, they should be firmly condemned by the country’s leadership, investigation into these cases should be prompt and effective, and those responsible should be held to account, Thomas Hammarberg mentions.
“Pluralism within the audiovisual media spectrum is the hallmark of a healthy democracy which attaches importance to the principle of freedom of expression”, the report stresses. In this context, the Commissioner for Human Rights regrets to note that the digital broadcast licensing competitions did not contribute to the promotion of this principle. Thomas Hammarberg highlights the reasoning provided by the National Commission on Television and Radio on the competition between “A1+” and “ArmNews” TV companies’ founders (this regards competition No.11, the winner of which became “ArmNews”, Ed. Note). “The methodology used to assess the bids was problematic and it affected the credibility of the tender”, the report of Thomas Hammarberg CoE Commissioner for Human Rights emphasizes.