YPC Weekly Newsletter
2007
January 12-18
MEDIA AND JOURNALISTIC NGOS SUPPORT THE YPC INITIATIVE

As reported earlier, on January 9 Yerevan Press Club made an appeal to Armenian media community, initiating a joint development of professional ethics norms, to be followed afterwards in the day-to-day media work. Last week the suggestion was supported by 10 media, 2 professional associations and 3 journalists (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, January 8-11, 2007).

During this week and until the publication of YPC Newsletter, the initiative was joined by a few more media: “Tsayg”, “Gala”, “MIG” TV companies, “Kumayri” newspaper, “Media Style” LLC (the publisher of “90 minutes” newspaper), “Arminfo” news agency. Willingness to contribute to it was stated by the Journalists Union of Armenia, the Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression, Media Diversity Institute, Vanadzor and Goris Press Clubs, “TEAM” Research Center.

YPC initiative can be joined till January 20, 2007, by calling +374 10 53 00 67, 53 35 41 or e-mailing to pressclub@ypc.am

THE COURT OF APPEALS REDUCED THE IMPRISONMENT SENTENCE OF “ZHAMANAK-YEREVAN” EDITOR BY SIX MONTHS

On January 12 the RA Court of Appeals completed the hearing on the case of the Chief Editor of “Zhamanak-Yerevan” daily Arman Babajanian, who was sentenced on September 8, 2006 by the court of primary jurisdiction of Center and Nork-Marash communities of Yerevan to four years’ imprisonment. The Chief Editor was convicted for document fraud to evade military service. The hearings on the case started with the court of secondary jurisdiction on October 24. Besides, on October 16 Arman Babajanian addressed the military commissariat of Shengavit community of Yerevan asking for a military service exemption, basing on the RA Law “On Citizens Who Have Not Taken Mandatory Military Service with Procedural Violations”, i.e., after a certain amount is paid (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, November 10-16, 2006).

At the session of January 12 the Court of Appeals somewhat mitigated the sentence of Arman Babajanian, reducing it to 3.5 years' imprisonment. The ruling was made in the absence of the defendant’s attorneys. Besides, the court declined the motion of Arman Babajanian to give him time to prepare the last word. Refusal was also made on the previous motion of the journalist’s attorneys to reschedule the session, as the response of the special interdepartmental commission, headed by the RA Minister of Defense and considering the appeals of citizens who have not taken mandatory military service with procedural violations, had not been received yet.

As the attorney of Arman Babajanian Zaruhi Postanjian told YPC, the attorneys of the “Zhamanak-Yerevan” head intend to challenge the sentence with the RA Court of Cassation. At the same time, according to Zaruhi Postanjian, a suit is being prepared against the actions of the interdepartmental commission mentioned above. The lawyers noted that during the December 27, 2006 session of the commission it was resolved to address the RA General Prosecutor’s Office for a clarification whether the respective law can be applied in the case of Arman Babajanian. However, the attorneys were not notified of either the response of the General Prosecutor’s Office to the inquiry, or of the final resolution of the commission itself. Actually, Zaruhi Postanjian added, during the years of its existence the commission had made positive verdicts on over 2,000 appeals, and a possible denial to Arman Babajanian may be qualified as discrimination.

“HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH”: THREATS TO MEDIA FREEDOM IN ARMENIA CONTINUE

On January 11 “Human Rights Watch” international organization released its annual report on human rights developments in more than 75 countries of the world in 2006.

The report section on Armenia tells also about the media situation in the country. In the opinion of “Human Rights Watch”, “the Armenian government has done little to address serious human rights violations” and “threats to the media freedom continued in 2006 as more journalists faced harassment and attacks and broadcast media lack pluralism and remain largely pro-governmental”.

The RA President, the report notes, appoints all members of bodies that regulate and manage broadcast media, including the Council of Public TV and Radio Company, responsible for policies and programming of the First Channel of the Public Television of Armenia. Being under government control, the PTA First Channel “does not sufficient independence to provide objective and diverse news coverage”.

The report also tells the example of “A1+” TV company being evicted from the premises owned by the National Science Academy. Having been deprived of air in 2002, “A1+” has lost 12 broadcast licensing competitions, including a radio competition in March 2006, “Human Rights Watch” recalls. Having lost in 2005 a litigation versus the National Science Academy, in 2006 the company moved to a location provided by the government that at the time of the move lacked electricity and telephone connections, forcing “A1+”, its “Ayb-Feh” weekly and the web-site to suspend all work for several weeks.

Among the examples of harassment against journalists, “Human Rights Watch” notes the incidents that occurred on February 23 and in the morning of May 16 with the Executive Director of “Lori” TV company Narine Avetisian. In the first case she was threatened by the owner of the local minibus route, in the second - her car was stoned by unknown people who have never been found. “Human Rights Watch” notes also the July 12 incident that happened to freelance journalist Gagik Shamshian, harassed by relatives and associates of the head of Nubarashen community of Yerevan Mher Hovhannisian, and the criminal proceedings instituted against the journalist on August 3, basing on several appeals of citizens and with the charges of insult, cheating and extortion. The report also quotes the attack on the Chief Editor of “Iravunk” newspaper Hovhannes Galajian of September 6. In the opinion of Galajian, the attack was retaliation for his articles, criticizing the government.

The sentence of the Chief Editor of “Zhamanak-Yerevan” daily Arman Babajanian, made by the court on September 8 (4 years' imprisonment for document fraud to evade military service), is assessed in the report of “Human Rights Watch” as harsh, “suspected to be retribution for the journalist's persistent criticism of government policies”.

When reprinting or using the information above, reference to the Yerevan Press Club is required.

You are welcome to send any comment and feedback about the Newsletter to: pressclub@ypc.am

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Editor of YPC Newsletter - Elina POGHOSBEKIAN

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