JOURNALISTS OF ARMENIA, AZERBAIJAN AND TURKEY DEVELOPED A COOPERATION PROTOCOL
On September 7-11 the third round table, the last one in “The Role of Media in Overcoming Regional Conflicts and Eliminating the Enemy Image” series, was held. The meeting was organized by Yerevan Press Club with the participation of “Yeni Nesil” Journalists Union of Azerbaijan and Association of Diplomacy Correspondents of Turkey under a homonymous project implemented by YPC and “Yeni Nesil” and supported by the Open Society Institute Network Media Program. As it has already been reported, the first two meetings of representatives of media, journalistic associations of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey took place in late June in Baku, Istanbul and Ankara (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, June 23-29, 2001).
In order to give a most comprehensive picture of the social and political attitudes on such urgent issues as bi- and trilateral relations of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey to the participants of the round table, the presentations from Armenian party were made by people who are involved in the process of normalization of relations with the neighboring countries and who introduced it from different standpoints. These were Souren Zolyan (Secretary of Parliamentary Commission on Artsakh in years 1990-1995, currently the Rector of Yerevan State Linguistic University); David Hovhannissian (member of Commission of Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation); Ashot Galoyan (Deputy to the RA National Assembly, member of Armenian Delegation in PACE). The regional issues that are of major public significance were also viewed from the angle of European and global integration, commonalties and controversies between the public attitudes, the aims of political elites and the requirements introduced by the globalization process. The representatives of the “fourth estate” of the three countries spoke about how media covered cooperation concepts and public attitudes towards them.
The main peculiarity of Yerevan round table was the attempt to start on a new level of relations, moving from the natural stage of cautious acquaintance to that of establishing specific forms of cooperation among the journalists of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey and beginning of a dialogue among different professional sectors and the politicians of the three countries. It was with this objective in mind that the participants developed a draft cooperation protocol, the signing and publicizing of which is scheduled to take place in a month. At the end of the meeting at the Journalists Union of Armenia a press-conference was held, where the representatives of the three partner organizations – YPC, “Yeni Nesil” and Association of Diplomacy Correspondents – confirmed their willingness to jointly assist the solution of problems and the relief of the tension in the societies of the three countries.
AMENDMENTS AND CHANGES INTRODUCED TO THE RA LAW “ON TELEVISION AND RADIO”
On September 12, the National Assembly of Armenia passed in the first hearing the Draft Law “On amendments to the RA Law ‘On Television and Radio’” that had been considered previously. The Draft Law was introduced by the NA Standing Committee on Science, Education, Culture and Youth Issues on the basis of the suggestions made by independent TV and radio companies of the country (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, August 24-31, 2001). The document has 23 articles with amendments to the acting broadcast law – a fact that proves the imperfection of this law, adopted on October 9 last year. The most significant changes include the abolition of the requirement to license the TV and radio production; assigning privileges to the acting TV and radio companies in the competition for the use of the same frequencies, etc. Yet, two important suggestions of the independent broadcasters were not included into the Draft Law – that on the procedure of formation and membership of the National Commission on Television and Radio (the one that regulates the private broadcasting) as well as the suggestion to introduce a gradual and a more lenient (with a ten-year schedule) mode for increasing the share of programming in Armenian language. Meanwhile, as the heads of the private TV and radio companies think, the stipulation of the Law “On Television and Radio”, according to which, till year 2005, 55% of broadcast volume (including films and cartoons) must be in the national language is a convenient tool to exercise pressure on the unwanted companies.
On September 12, the National Assembly adopted two more draft laws on amendments to the RA Law “On Television and Radio” in the second hearing.
One of the draft laws envisages amendments to some of the statutes of the law that were recognized by the RA Constitutional Court on January 11, 2001 to be contradictory to the Constitution. They, in particular, refer to the relations of the Council of Public Television and Radio (a body that regulates the public broadcasting) and the National Commission on TV and Radio with the RA Government and Parliament (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, March 3-9, 2001).
The other document introduces changes to the statutes of the law that relate to the activities of the Public Radio and Public Television. In particular, the draft law specifies the procedure of preparation and broadcasting of official announcements, gives the definition of the “official announcement” concept, stipulates a regular coverage of the activities of the RA NA in “Parliamentary Hour” TV program as well as annuls the sentence of Article 28 saying that the public television and radio must be mostly funded by the state budget.
BROADCASTING OF ASHTARAK TV STOPPED
On September 12 Ashtarak TV cable company, in operation since June, 1987, Aragatsotn region, Armenia, stopped broadcasting. As Yerevan Press Club was informed by the head of the company Vahram Botsinian, this day the TV station was visited by representatives of Republican Telecommunication Center and the RA Ministry of National Security, who sealed the equipment. The reason of the incident is the fact that Ashtarak TV has no license for broadcasting.
The background of the situation is the following. On the evening of September 10, representatives of tax inspection paid an unexpected visit to the editorial office. Having discovered the absence of license, inspectors announced that it is necessary to stop the activities of the company (notably, the mandate of tax inspectors does not include a check of this kind). According to Botsinian, this unexpected visit was linked to the TV appearance of Ashot Manucharian, a leader of “Socialist Armenia” Union and National Consensus Front, which are opposed to the authorities. The appearance was scheduled for that very evening. On the 22nd minute of program, when Manucharian was answering the questions of TV viewers live on air, the program was stopped, as the power supply was interrupted. The representatives of law-and-order bodies asked the employees to leave the office and surrounded the building. The next day, on September 11, Ashtarak TV did go on air, but for a short time.
When asked why the company had not received a license up till now, Vahram Botsinian said that he had repeatedly, starting from early 1990s, addressed appropriate bodies to get such permission and was always refused for different reasons. “By giving our airtime to Manucharian, we simply pulled the trigger”, said Botsinian. The true reason for the shutdown of the station, according to Botsinian, is the situation that exists in Ashtarak with regard to the coming in late October Elections for a vacant seat in the National Assembly.
THE COURT PROCEEDINGS AGAINST “ARARAT” NEWSPAPER SUSPENDED
On September 12, at the Echmiadzin office of the court of primary jurisdiction of Armavir region, during a session on the suit of Marineh Gabrielian against “Ararat” regional newspaper to protect honor and dignity (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, September 1-7, 2001), the defendant, the Chief Editor of “Ararat” Karineh Ashughian, submitted a written appeal to the Chairman. The document represented a request to stop the procrastinating proceedings and direct the case to the RA General Prosecutor’s Office to investigate the main subject of the dispute, namely – whether Marineh Gabrielian has indeed kept an Azerbaijani prisoner of war at her house and sold him to his relatives after a while. In the defendant’s opinion only after the circumstances are clear one can argue whether this information as cited in the letter of 115 residents of Khachpar Village, which was published by the newspaper, is valid. Subsequently, it will become possible to determine how justified the suit to publish a refutation is.
Shortly, having returned from the consultation room, judge Vardan Grigorian voiced his decision: to satisfy the request of the defendant about the suspension of the proceedings and direct this part of the case to be investigated by the RA General Prosecutor’s Office.
“CHORRORD ISHKHANUTYUN” WEEKLY PUBLISHING TWICE A WEEK
Starting on September 11, “Chorrord Ishkhanutyun” weekly will be published twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays. As the Chief Editor of the newspaper Shogher Matevosian told Yerevan Press Club, this has become possible owing to the financial support of the newspaper founder, “Ogostos” press dissemination agency. The question of what the outcome of the check-up undertaken by the tax inspection is (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, May 19-25, 2001), was answered by Ms. Matevosian in the following way: the edition protested the conclusion of the inspectors and it is expected that the prosecutor’s office will sort the situation out. “The authorities wanted to force the newspaper they did not favor to shut down, and we responded to this by issuing twice a week”, said the Chief Editor.