On April 7, Armenian National Platform of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum came up with a statement regarding the broadcasting of Russian TV channels Russia 1 and the First Channel in Armenia.
Below is the text of the statement:
“Armenian National Platform of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum (EaP CSF) is deeply concerned with the programmes and reports overtly propagating xenophobia and spawning hatred between nations, broadcasted by Russian TV channels Russia 1 and the First Channel which are rebroadcasted in the Republic of Armenia on the basis of intergovernmental agreements. This phenomenon has become more evidential in the context of recent political developments around Ukraine.
In this regard, there has been the noteworthy decision of the Russian Public Collegium for Press Complaints in response to the complaint filed by the Ukrainian Commission for Journalistic Ethics against the “Weakly News” (“Vesti Nedeli”) programme of Russia 1 TV channel (aired on December 8, 2013) and its anchorman Dmitry Kiselyov. The Public Collegium has characterized the disputed story of the programme as “propagandistic in style”, “with fake video footage” and “low quality, at times offensive” TV material which “does not contribute to trust between nations”. It is no coincidence that the name of Dmitry Kiselyov has been included in the list of “undesirable persons” for the EU. Calls for suspension of broadcasting of the Russian TV channels, particularly news and political programmes, which carry out an aggressive campaign to ‘manipulate’ the public opinion, were made in a number of countries of EU and Eastern Partnership.
EaP CSF Armenian National Platform finds dissemination of Russian propaganda of this kind in the territory of Republic of Armenia to be illegal as it contradicts the RA Constitution (Article 14.1), the national legislation (particularly the RA Law “On Television and Radio”, Article 24, Points b, d, e, g), as well as a number of international conventions that Armenia has joined, requiring prohibition of dissemination of xenophobia and hatred between nations. Such content is detrimental to information security of our country and its relations with other nations, as well as destabilizes the public life. As a matter of fact, Russia 1 and the First Channel, occupying radio frequencies which constitute a limited public resource, act against the national interests of Armenia.
Similar effects are observed in some other Russian TV channels, such as Russia 24, NTV, TVC, etc., rebroadcasting in Armenia via cable network or on other basis, which further aggravate the informational and moral damage caused to the Armenian citizens.
EaP CSF Armenian National Platform demands the RA authorities to:
• Consider the issue of legality of the operation of Russia 1 and the First Channel based on the intergovernmental agreements;
• Revise the above mentioned agreements and suspend the broadcasting of the two named TV channels via national broadcasting network, if the propaganda of xenophobia and hatred between nations would not stop, as well as announce licensing competitions for the frequencies released.”
On March 31, the Armenian National Assembly held hearings on the amendments to the RA Civil Code, providing for responsibility for dissemination of defamatory articles and comments taken from fake accounts. The draft law, criticized by the Armenian media community, was discussed at the hearings both by MPs and by representatives of journalists’ associations.
The amendments to Article 1087.1 of the RA Civil Code, “Procedure and Conditions of Compensation of Damage to Honor, Dignity or Business Reputation”, were put in circulation of the parliament on March 4, 2013 (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, March 4-10, 2014).
As representatives of media NGOs noted at the parliamentary hearings, the draft law should either be significantly revised or completely withdrawn.
As Nouneh Sarkissian, the Managing Director of the Media Initiatives Center, believes, this draft law is an attempt to introduce into the legal field an issue that should be solved through self-regulatory mechanisms. Meanwhile, there are more important problems in the media field requiring immediate response on the part of legislators: the parliament has been failing for almost two years to consider proposals of journalistic organizations on the amendments to the Broadcast Law, with regard to the onset of the digitalization process at the country. Nouneh Sarkissian addressed the authors of the draft law with the request to mention the journalists who favored the bill: “You say that these were the media leadership and journalists who demanded the adoption of the amendments - then tell us their names, just for me to understand their position”. The request is still unanswered.
Levon Barseghian, the Board Chairman of the “Asparez” Journalists’ Club of Gyumri, thinks the authors of the draft want to regulate the spreading of gossip, forgetting that the Internet is just a tool. “Such bill is like destroying the corners of buildings and turning them into round or oval ones - buildings become more beautiful from the outside, and people would not gather in corners. Or it is like pulling down alcoves where people can meet and communicate. Such measures will not solve the problem: the responsible media outlets will not distribute information without checking accuracy and source, as they do now, and the irresponsible ones do not care”, Levon Barseghian emphasized at the hearings, presenting graphic illustrations of the above said.
In the March 14 joint statement, nine journalistic associations urged to withdraw the draft law, which “will cause new problems, rather than solve existing ones” and “is fraught with serious risks for freedom of speech, the right of citizens to receive and disseminate information, and the protection of personal data”.
The authors of the draft assured that the disputes on the bill would continue.