On December 8, the Administrative Court of Armenia fully secured the lawsuit filed by “Investigative Journalists” NGO against the RA Ministry of Environmental Protection.
As we have reported, “Investigative Journalists” requested the Ministry of Environment to provide information for journalistic investigation conducted by the NGO on trafficking of the animals, listed in the International Red Book, in Armenia. Particularly, the request dealt with the copies of permits for import and export of animals, issued by the Ministry in 2010-2013, in accordance with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Ministry of Environment responded merely with the list of the animals, imported and exported from Armenia. At the same time, the agency refused to issue the copies of permits, referring to a commercial secret, as the documents contained the names of importers and exporters. In the following request “Investigative Journalists” suggested the agency to provide the demanded information while blurring the details containing commercial secret. The Ministry refused again.
The NGO appealed to the court, demanding to oblige the Ministry of Environmental Protection to provide the requested information in full, and to compensate the court fees of the plaintiff. The court hearings started on May 7 and ended on November 24, 2014.
In course of the proceedings the Ministry’s representative admitted that the Ministry had provided foreign journalists, visiting Armenia for filming a documentary on animal trafficking, with several copies of CITES (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, November 24-30, 2014).
According to the December 8 ruling, the Administrative Court obliged the Ministry to provide the requested information in full and to compensate the court fees of the plaintiff, including state duty, in the amount of 49,000 AMD (approximately 90 euros).
MP Edmon Marukian turned to the Armenian Government with a written request in which he expressed his concern about regional TV companies that have licenses for broadcast in analogue, but face a danger of being closed down in connection with Armenia’s transition to digital broadcasting.
Panorama.am, referring to the press service of the MP’s office, reported that simultaneous closing down of 14 regional TV companies, which have been building their audience for many years, will render at least several hundreds of people unemployed. Having remarked that professionals with such a narrow specialization will hardly be able to find new jobs in this sphere, the MP expressed his concern that they would be forced to leave their native places.
Such situation may become a reality already in 8 months (Ed. Note: legislation foresees complete termination of analogue broadcasting in Armenia from July 1, 2015), Edmon Marukian stressed. Moreover, financial situation of residents of those regions seriously restricts their access to alternative source of information, that is, Internet.
The MP’s inquiry suggests the Government to prolong the validity of licenses for analogue broadcasting, for as long as a complex solution to this problem would be found.
It should be noted that the amendments to the broadcasting legislation, adopted in June 2013, had already prolonged validity of regional TV companies’ licenses for six months (shifting termination of analogue broadcasting from January 1 to July 1, 2015). However, this has been just a temporary solution of the problem.
Media experts believe that if no substantial changes are introduced in the present day process of digitalization, we will witness dramatic decrease of TV channels, especially regional ones. This will further exacerbate the lack of diversity and pluralism in Armenian TV, and may lead to monopolization of broadcasting sphere.
Yerevan Press Club, Media Initiatives Center (former Internews Armenia) and Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression developed and submitted to the RA National Assembly a package of amendments to the broadcasting legislation. If adopted, they will allow to better organize the process of digitalization.
Thus, the solution could be the establishment of private multiplexes that will allow the regional TV companies, which do not have license to broadcast through public digital network, to continue their operation after analogue broadcasting is ended. Some broadcasters have already expressed readiness to establish a private multiplex if respective procedure would be prescribed by the law.
Media experts also draw attention to the social aspect of the digitalization, which stands in direct relation to ensuring the right of vulnerable groups of the population to receive information. Particularly, they stressed the necessity to properly organize the process of providing decoders that would enable low income families to receive digital signal by old television sets.
Among other important issues, the experts also singled out difficulties with technical reequipment of TV companies that switch to digital broadcasting.