On November 23, 2017, the RA Ministry of Justice issued a response to November 20, 2017 statement by Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression, Yerevan Press Club and Media Initiatives Center regarding the adoption of the RA new draft Law “On Television and Radio” by the Government of Armenia. The response attempts to put into doubt the statement of journalistic organizations. The phrase “unfounded accusations and misinformation” contained in the MoJ response does not contribute to the establishment of dialogue. In doing so the MoJ states that the draft law was placed on E-draft.am for public discussion and did not receive any response from us.
We, the undersigned organizations, have to recall that real democracy implies engagement of civil society in a decision-making process at much earlier stages -situation review, identification of problems, development of a concept, work on a project, and not after the publication of draft laws in the official sources. This is especially important, when it concerns the broadcast sector, in whose legislative regulation civil society organizations have been engaged over the past 20 years – since its beginning up till now. However, the MoJ preferred to ignore that fact.
The publication of the draft law on E-draft.am for public discussion is a legislative requirement, but it is not enough. And being limited to the compliance with this prerequisite means to consider the issue of civic engagement as an imitation and formality. When the Ministry of Justice is seriously interested in the engagement of civil society, it organizes special discussions, sends invitations through all possible channels and asks to confirm the participation on the phone several days prior to the event. For example, the recent discussion of the draft Government decrees on the Institute of Whistleblowers was organized in that way. If so much attention could be paid to by-laws, why wasn’t the same approach applied with regard to the discussion of such an important law?
By the way, the discussion of the document placed on E-draft.am was intended for two weeks, from March 23 to April 7, 2017, that is at the height of the parliamentary elections. Naturally, journalists and NGOs busy with that key political process could have lost sight of the draft law. To ensure the formal nature of the discussions and receive opinions the authors of the document had event sent it to the ministries and agencies not directly related to the broadcast sector, while ignoring the specialized NGOs, even though they had enough time to do that from April to November.
Based on the above-mentioned and also on the fact that the new draft Law “On Television and Radio” does not envisage solutions to the numerous problems accumulated in the broadcast sector, we restate the demands raised in the previous statement:
– 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.
COMMITTEE TO PROTECT FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
YEREVAN PRESS CLUB
MEDIA INITIATIVES CENTER