YEREVAN PRESS CLUB WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

MAY 14-20, 2010

HIGHLIGHTS:

AMENDMENTS TO BROADCAST LAW DO NOT SOLVE KEY ISSUES OF TV MARKET

DRAFT LAW PACKAGE, PRESCRIBING DECRIMINALIZATION FOR LIBEL AND INSULT,
PASSED

"A+1" TV COMPANY STARTS ONLINE BROADCASTING


AMENDMENTS TO BROADCAST LAW DO NOT SOLVE KEY ISSUES OF TV MARKET

On May 14 at AUA Business Center a conference "Media Legislation and
Self-Regulation Initiatives" was held. The conference was organized by
Partnership for Open Society initiative. At the event the issues of media
self-regulation were discussed. Specifically, the Charter of Ethical
Principles of TV and Radio Broadcasters of the Republic of Armenia, proposed
by the Public Council at the RA President (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, April
16-22, 2010), as well as the draft law "On Introducing Amendments and
Supplements to RA Law 'On Television and Radio'", endorsed by RA Government
on May 13 (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, May 7-13, 2010), were considered. The
assessments of professional associations, made at the conference, were
summarized in the statement of Yerevan Press Club, Internews Media Support
NGO and Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression, released on May 17.

In the statement three journalistic organizations, particularly, expressed a
concern as to the haste with which the draft was developed by RA Ministry of
Economy. The document does not show distinctly which provisions of the
acting Law "On Television and Radio" are amended, removed or expanded - with
regard to switching from analog to digital broadcasting. This impedes the
conductance of effective discussion by the public, and further by RA
National Assembly deputies.

By noting that in September, 2008 a two year moratorium on holding broadcast
licensing competitions was introduced on the plea of digitalization, the
signatories emphasized that the study of draft law only reaffirms that this
delay was unjustified. The moratorium damaged greatly the diversity and
freedom of competition at the Armenian TV market. This draft law, which does
not show any crucial and new approaches, could have been adopted two years
ago. Meanwhile, the suspension of broadcast licensing competitions became an
obstacle for the implementation of the judgment of the European Court of
Human Rights of June 17, 2008 on the case of "A1+" TV company, as well as a
number of PACE resolutions, the statement stresses.

The statement mentions that draft law does offer several new notions, it
still does not provide mechanisms for regulating the relations between the
entities involved in digital broadcasting and the process of digitalization.
Besides, both the draft law and the Concept Paper on Digitalization of
Television Broadcasting, adopted in November 12, 2009, do not include the
principles for the envisaged social package, the types of licenses to be
provided to TV companies as determined by these principles and grounds for
their provision. The draft law does not dwell on the structure of
investments required from the broadcasters, as well as on a number of other
important issues.

The concern of journalistic organizations is raised by the specific number
of TV broadcasters (18), prescribed by the draft law. Meanwhile, an
objective and transparent audit of the TV frequencies has not been
administered in Armenia, which was recommended by international experts. The
limited number of licenses means in essence that some of the TV companies
operating now would lose their licenses, and increased barriers to entry for
new TV companies, even those that are ready for digitalization. The
signatories also emphasized that the assignment of necessary profiles for TV
companies to be licensed, as it is done in the draft, is impossible without
a serious study of public demand.

The statement of YPC, Internews and Committee to Protect Freedom of
Expression also criticizes the inclusion of provisions in the draft that are
not in any way related to digitalization. At the same time, the draft does
not solve crucial issues, such as: satellite broadcasting, the fate of
acting regional TV companies, including the public "Shirak" channel, and
their participation in licensing competitions, no distinction is made with
regard to terms and procedures of broadcast licensing competitions.

It should be noted that on May 18 the OSCE Office in Yerevan presented the
expert analysis of the aforesaid Concept Paper on Digitalization of
Television Broadcasting. The analysis was made by Andrei Richter, Professor
at Moscow State University, and Dr. Katrin Nyman-Metcalf, Professor at
Tallinn University of Technology, on behalf of Office of OSCE Representative
on Freedom of Media. The Concept Paper was assessed in frames of the
commitments of Armenia towards OSCE, international standards and
digitalization practices. The experts stated a number of observations and
recommendations, which were not reflected in the draft law on the amendments
to Broadcast Law.

At the presentation of May 18 Dunja Mijatovic, the newly appointed OSCE
Representative on Freedom of Media, who was in Armenia for the first time,
spoke rather critical about the amendments to the RA Law "On Television and
Radio". During the visits of OSCE Representative on Freedom of Media (which
took place on the same day) with RA President Serzh Sargsian, heads of RA
Foreign Affairs Ministry, RA Ministry of Economy and Chairman of National
Commission on Television and Radio, Grigor Amalian, the issues dealing with
digitalization were discussed. Dunja Mijatovic expressed willingness to
provide an expert assistance in the process of amending the broadcast
legislation.

On May 20 at the session of RA National Assembly the draft "On Introducing
Amendments and Supplements to RA Law 'On Television and Radio'" was passed
in first hearing. Since the draft has many shortcomings, the deputies
decided to postpone the second hearing, and to hold parliamentary
discussions on the issue on May 26.

DRAFT LAW PACKAGE, PRESCRIBING DECRIMINALIZATION FOR LIBEL AND INSULT,
PASSED

On May 18 RA National Assembly adopted in second hearing and finally the
draft law package "On Introducing Amendments and Supplements to RA Civil
Code", "On Introducing Amendments to RA Criminal Code", "On Introducing an
Amendment to RA Criminal Procedure Code". As it has been reported, draft
laws, decriminalizing libel and insult, as well as introducing the institute
of moral loss compensation, were adopted in first hearing on March 18, 2010.
On April 9 parliamentary hearings, on which the representatives of
journalistic community voiced a number of key observations, were held. For
implementing the recommendations a working group, staffed by representatives
of journalistic associations, including YPC, was formed under the NA
Standing Committee on State and Legal Affairs (see YPC Weekly Newsletter,
April 9-15, 2010).

Eventhough within the first and second hearings some changes, proposed by
the working group, were introduced to the draft regarding RA Civil Code, it
still has a number of important shortcomings. In particular, the size of
moral compensation is considered unjustified. The draft prescribes that
while defining the size of the compensation the courts have to take into
account the form of libel and insult, their extension, as well as the
material status of the person, disseminating libel and insult. Nevertheless,
in the absence of judicial precedents, such a vague formulation is fraught
with arbitrary court decisions regarding the compensation size. Besides, as
before the definitions of "libel" and "false denunciation" in Civil and
Criminal Codes are not clearly distinguished. This can become ground for
confusion in future, as it has been many times in the judicial and
investigative practice of Armenia. In its turn, this fact does not permit to
talk about the full decriminalization of libel.

"A+1" TV COMPANY STARTS ONLINE BROADCASTING

Since May 15 "A1+" TV company started online broadcasting (www.a1plus.am).
So far he broadcast is in test mode.


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Editor of YPC Newsletter - Elina POGHOSBEKIAN
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Yerevan Press Club
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