At the November 16, 2017 session the RA Government approved the new draft Law “On Television and Radio” and the package of amendments to the related legislation, deciding to submit them to the RA National Assembly. This is another glaring fact, when the Government secretly develops a draft law of paramount importance and sends it to the parliament without any discussions with civil society.
Meanwhile, since 2000 and in particular in 2010, when with regards to the process of digitalization the Law “On Television and Radio” was revised, we, the undersigned journalistic organizations, presented to different state entities and the public our position, expert opinions and legislative proposals. However, up till now the draft amendments and supplements to the Law developed by us based on the proposals by international experts and envisaging fundamental reforms in the broadcasting sector have been left on the desks of relevant officials. We have been assured by the highest authorities that when revising the broadcast legislation our approaches will also be taken into consideration, and in case of development of a new law our experts will definitely be involved in the process. Thus, we had grounds to believe that we would be given the opportunity to make a constructive contribution.
Unfortunately, once again the authorities did not keep their promise and did not engage specialized NGOs in an important process. Such work style is even more unacceptable given that official Yerevan is about to sign the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement with the European Union, which views the direct involvement of civil society in the development and implementation of policies as a necessary prerequisite. The Government in fact ignored this approach just as it did with the provisions of the Guidelines for Civil Participation in Political Decision Making adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on September 27, 2017.
We will soon get back to the content of the new draft Law, analyzing and making public our opinions on it. However, already now we find it necessary to note that that it is merely a compilation of amendments adopted in the last seven years, which has been aligned with the new Constitution. The new draft Law fails to address the numerous problems of the sector, which have been accumulated and deepened in these years without getting any solution either at legislative or political level.
In particular the issue of independence of the regulatory body – National Commission on Television and Radio, as well as Council of Public TV and Radio Company remains undecided. The creation of a private network of digital broadcasting (multiplex) is not envisaged. The problem of more than 10 regional TV companies, which were left out of the process of digitalization as a result of politically motivated unfair competitions in 2010 and have to continue analogue broadcasting losing their audience and advertisers, has not been solved yet. And the list goes on…
Based on the above-mentioned, we demand:
– RA National Assembly to return the draft law to the Government to revise and align it with the suggestions and approaches of the public, specialized NGOs, as well as international experts;
– RA Government to create a working group composed of specialists from state bodies and independent experts with a scope to develop a draft law that meets the contemporary requirements.
We also call on the international organizations and first of all the European Union to actively contribute to the process of reformation and modernization of the broadcast sector of Armenia.
COMMITTEE TO PROTECT FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
YEREVAN PRESS CLUB
MEDIA INITIATIVES CENTER