On June 6 Yerevan Press Club, Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression, Internews Media Support NGO, “Asparez” Journalist’s Club of Gyumri, Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation-Armenia released a statement, expressing their concern on the amendments to the RA Law “On Television and Radio”, submitted for second hearing. As it has been reported, the draft law “On Introducing Amendments and Supplements to the RA Law ‘On Television and Radio’” was adopted on May 20 in first hearing. The document was elaborated by the RA Ministry of Economy and was justified by the need of switching from analog to digital broadcasting. The draft was criticized by journalistic and international organizations. “If adopted in its present form, the law would not guarantee pluralism in the broadcasting sector. The draft also fails to offer a solid basis for the upcoming process of digitalization”, the statement, June 1, of Dunja Mijatovic, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, emphasized. Dunja Mijatovic called upon the Armenian authorities to bring the amendments to the RA Law “On Television and Radio” in line with international standards (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, May 28 – June 3, 2010).
The statement of five NGOs noted that after the parliamentary hearings regarding the draft law, held on May 26, 2010, the interdepartmental commission on the digitalization of TV and radio broadcasts in Armenia initiated a discussion of the proposals made. Taking into account that the time left till the adoption of the draft in the second hearing and till July 20, the day the broadcasting licensing competitions are to be announced, is not sufficient for developing a complete and comprehensive draft law, as well as proceeding from the wish not to exert time pressure on the organizers and possible bidders of licensing competitions, the signatories have proposed the following:
– before the second hearing only those provisions should be left in the draft law that are directly related to the digitalization of broadcasting and enable announcing and administering the licensing competitions. All other amendments and additions that are not directly related to digitalization and competitions should be withdrawn from the draft;
– the findings of the audit of broadcasting frequencies should be published, since that would give justification to the decision to license only 18 TV companies to broadcast in the state multiplex network;
– a provision should be stipulated on satellite broadcasting such that this kind of broadcasting is not contingent on possessing an on-air broadcasting license in Armenia;
– to develop additions to the Concept Paper on Digitalization of Television Broadcasting that would address all the issues and concerns raised at the parliamentary hearings held on May 26. These additions should be adopted by the Government before July 20.
During the working meeting on June 3, the representatives of Ministry of Economy and the interdepartmental commission assured that the action plan proposed by the NGOs would be adopted. However, only a few, but not the crucial, proposals were adopted, thus violating the agreements reached. The statement authors questioned the willingness and the ability of the Ministry of Economy and the interdepartmental commission to keep their promise and engage in constructive cooperation.
In conclusion, the five NGOs called the RA National Assembly not to discuss the amendments to the RA Law “On Television and Radio” until it is presented in the format and with the content as agreed.
The statement also urged international organizations not to assist the RA Government in the digitalization process until it presents an amended draft and proves that it can use the assistance effectively.
The statement was attended by the NGOs’ Comments on the draft law (of 20 points).
On June 10 the European Union Delegation to Armenia released a statement, which welcomed the willingness of the Armenian authorities to hold public consultations on the amendments to the Broadcast Law, and the fact that some positive changes have been introduced to the text in line with recommendations by the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, the Council of Europe and civil society. The EU Delegation encouraged the government and RA NA deputies to continue working closely with civil society, the CoE and the OSCE experts with a view to bring the law in compliance with international standards to enhance plurality in the Armenian media and to promote media freedom.
Meanwhile, the draft law “On Introducing Amendments and Supplements to RA Law ‘On Television and Radio’” was on the agenda of the ordinary parliamentary session of June 7-10, 2010. However, the deputies did not have time for considering it. In the evening of June 10 an extraordinary session is to be convened, during which the amendments to the Broadcast Law will be discussed.