On August 7, the TVRC spread a message with which it tried to respond to the article under heading “No reform, just maintaining the status quo” published on July 31 by the Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression. In fact, we tackled upon two topics in our publication: the problem of private broadcasting network, i.e. tender for licensing the operation of the multiplex, and related to it legislative change, which the previous authorities (quite possibly together with the TVRC) made secretly from the media organizations, without engaging them or at least without public discussions.
on August 9, on the successive day of the government session, the journalists were forbidden to enter the conference hall. They were surprised. Moreover, the representatives of the media outlets, one after another, started live streaming over Facebook and leaving comments: “Arman Yeghoyan, the Prime Minister’s press secretary forbids the journalists to move around the government building”, “artificial impediment by the new government: welcome to new Armenia”, “there are new customs, new impediments in the Government; the Prime Minister’s press secretary does not allow to go up to the conference hall: why? By which law?” Some even went further up to “…what about the revolution…?”
The Prime Minister’s Press secretary Arman Yeghoyan explained the decision on the ban as follows: “The security regime is being violated. It is hard to control who is going where in the building.”
Another change made in the “Law on TV and Radio” turned up, which was passed under strict secrecy.
The unknown to us legislative change was found out quite unexpectedly. When recently we were getting familiar with the terms and conditions of the tender for licensing the digital broadcasting private network (multiplex) announced by the TV and Radio Commission, we noticed that unlike the previous cases, this time the applications will be received not within three, but six months. We tried to find out what it is conditioned by. Armen Mkrtchyan, member of the TVRC said, “It is a requirement of the law.”
New Armenia, new situation, also in the field of freedom of expression. The new government has adopted “digital democracy” modus operandi. The high rank officials, starting with the head of the Government, in on-line regime tell about their activities and decisions made, thus reporting to the society; they refer to issues, which are the focal point of the public discussions. Attaching importance to this tendency as a new precondition for the development of the freedom of expression, however, we will state several worrying facts.
Committee to Protect the Freedom of Expression Chair Ashot Melikyan response to the Facebook posting by RPA Vice-Chair Armen Ashotyan
Today RPA Vice-Chair Armen Ashotyan wrote on his Facebook page that he is expecting the assessment by media organizations, institutions dealing with the freedom expression and press and certain human rights defenders of the Facebook posting by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. We should remind that in relation to certain TV Companies, the Prime Minister said they are conducting anti-state campaign, “taking the opportunity of the unlimited freedom of expression.” “Do not do that, simply don’t”, said the Prime Minister in the end.
Truly interesting transformations are taking place. When Armen Ashotyan, being the Vice-Chair of the ruling RPA party, was running the “Yerankyuni” (triangle) public-political program over the Public TV Company, and both the experts from media organizations and me personally were saying that it is unacceptable, our opinion was of no value to him. When we were saying that the Armenian broadcasting field and the “Law on TV and Radio” needs radical reforms, they were ignoring us. When we were demanding to discover and punish those who used violence against and persecuted the journalists during “Electric Yerevan” and Sari Tagh events, the authorities only imitated pre-investigation. And now, our opinion became important to Armen Ashotyan. Frankly speaking, here two intentions are noticed. First, try to use independent media organizations for some political objectives; second, to deviate the public attention as much as possible from much more important events that are taking place currently. I guess both will fail.
Domestic instances have been exhausted: the person who insulted and exerted pressure on the journalist, remained unpunished
On May 25, the Court of Cassation refused to take over a proceeding the complaint by Hripsime Jebejyan, reporter from “Aravot.am”, against the decisions of the court of first instance and the Appellate court, which relate to the impeding of the journalist’s professional activity.
The TV and Radio commission is violating the law: this year no tender has been announced for the private multiplexor, i.e. for the licensing of the operation of digital broadcasting network.
Since 2015, the RA Law on TV and Radio obliges to announce the first tender for the licensing of the operation of the private multiplexor by May 1, 2016: Afterwards, if the tender fails or if there is no winner, one year after its announcement, it is required that a new tender is announced.
The administrative court made a decision to start a new trial of the case “CHAP” LLC, founder of “GALA” TV company vs. Gyumri tax inspection. This case has a history of 11 years. The decision to try the case at the RA administrative court was made after the decision by the ECHR on May 4, 2017 and the quashing the decision at the RA court of Cassation on April 7, 2018.
With a counter-claim, “CHAP” LLC representative Karen Toumanyan claims to invalidate the decision about the fine of AMD 25212700 made by the tax bodies in 2007 (in fact AMD 25.116.700 was levied from the founder of the TV company). The court should find out whether the administrative fine is founded or not. Moreover, the dispute should be tried in the criminal domain, as the matter is about abuse of a huge amount of money, which was not taken into consideration when the case went through three RA judicial instances, starting 2007, something that the European Court of Human Rights drew attention to.
We, the undersigned news organizations, congratulate Nikol Pashinyan on the occasion of being elected as the RA Prime Minister and taking the office, and we express our hope that the new government will make radical reforms in Armenia.
We are sure, that such reforms are needed in the fields of mass media and information freedom. A number of legislative changes passed during the recent period groundlessly restrict transparency and accountability of the government activity, and violate the right to receive and disseminate information.
Reconfirming our assessments and demands mentioned in the April 19 Statement, below we present the cases of violence against the journalists and impeding their professional activities during April 20-22.
On April 22, at night, Anatoli Yeghiazaryan, program director of Radio “Liberty”, was beaten by police officers in the Garegin Nzhdeh square. According to the radio “Liberty”, the incident occurred, when Yeghiazaryan, who was coming back home from work, tried to film with his mobile phone how approximately fifty police officers were attempting to disperse the peaceful protesters via using force. Noticing that their actions were being filmed, 6-7 policemen attacked Yeghiazaryan, although he showed them his badge and repeatedly told them he represented Radio “Liberty”.