On April 21 RA Human Rights Defender Karen Andreasian released a statement on freedom of expression situation in Armenia. The statement was stipulated by the 50th day since the appointment of Karen Andreasian as ombudsman. The Human Rights Defender is concerned about the lack of pluralism in the broadcast field, the possibility to limit journalists’ right to free expression because of judicial mistakes, as well as violation of law and elementary rules of journalistic ethics by media representatives, which can “humiliate one’s dignity”.
The ombudsman, particularly, notes that the numerous changes made in 2010 in the RA Law “On Television and Radio” did not solve several key issues: ensuring the legal basis for the activities of digital broadcasting non-state operators, liberalization of satellite broadcasting, etc. The amendments resulted in reduction of acting TV companies, which raised the concern of both local and international communities. While the Government stipulated the amendments by technical issues regarding digitalization, an independent audit of frequencies was not carried out, the statement stresses. Besides, the broadcast licensing competitions “did not meet the expectations of the part of the society, willing to see "A1+" on air again”. According to the ombudsman, investing new technologies in Armenia under due legal regulation may result in a considerable increase of TV channels and in the broadcast of the ones deprived of a license.
Reminding about the establishment in October 2010 of the working group on reforming the legislation, regulating the digital switchover in Armenia, Karen Andreasian informed that the amendments package developed by the group will be debated in the end of April – beginning of May with OSCE and CoE experts, as well as at the Media Freedom Forum, organized by RA Human Rights Defender.
As regards the decriminalization of libel and insult, the ombudsman highlights that today the protection of freedom of expression and human dignity depends on proper application of legislation by judges pursuant to international standards. The law prohibits the Human Rights Defender to intervene into judicial proceedings, therefore all the pending judicial cases cannot be considered by him. However, Karen Andreasian declares that during the abovementioned Forum he intends to present a concrete mechanism for preventing judicial mistakes regarding freedom of expression cases.