CPFE Quarterly Report (April-June 2011)

Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression

Quarterly Report

On the Situation with Freedom of Speech and Violations of Rights of Journalists and Media in Armenia

(AprilJune 2011)

Media Activities Environment

Since 2010, the Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression (CPFE) has been providing interim quarterly reports on the situation of the freedom of expression in Armenia, violations of rights of journalists, including legislative changes, recommendations and procedures regulating the media and the influence of economic and political factors on the Armenian media.

The second quarter of 2011 was marked by changes made to the Armenian Law “On Television and Radio,” as well as to the Law “On Advertising.” On May 26, 2011, the Armenian National Assembly (parliament) in its second reading adopted all of the suggested changes and amendments to the above mentioned laws. As a result of these changes, the ban on hidden advertising was annulled, and the minimally acceptable length of commercial advertising was extended to 14 minutes per hour, instead of the previous 10 minutes per hour. Actually these changes merely legalized the factual excesses of the minimally acceptable length of commercial advertising, which was systematically cited by organizations conducting appropriate monitoring. The legislative changes also introduced prohibitions on rebroadcasting television channels preventing them from airing advertising. This prohibition also applies to the spiritual-cultural TV Channel “Shoghakat”.

Such a rush in adopting changes and amendments embarrassed journalistic organizations since the task group created by the Armenian president and headed by the Armenian Human Rights Defender had not completed its works on the draft amendments and changes to the Law “On Television and Radio”. On May 30, the Human Right Defender wrote a letter to the head of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science, Education, Culture, Youth and Sport  concerning the introduction of the incomplete version of draft amendments and changes to the Law “On Television and Radio” together with the special opinions of the task group members on separate issues. On June 15, the heads of the “Internews” non-governmental organization (NGO), the Yerevan Press Club and the Association of Audio-Visual Journalists, declared that they, as members of the task group and the co-authors of the initial version of the draft law, still kept on working and requested that the respective committee of the National Assembly postpone the possible discussion of the draft law. They also declared that there were a number of important questions concerning the draft law, which had not been analyzed properly, and pointed out that the suggestions of the specialists had not been entirely taken into account, including the remarks of the experts of the European Council and the OSCE.

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