YPC Weekly Newsletter
2011
April 29 - May 5
“E-CLUB” CYCLE: INTERNET AND SOCIAL AID

On May 3 another program from “E-Club” weekly cycle went on the online broadcast of “A1+” TV company (www.a1plus.am). The “E-Club” is produced by Yerevan Press Club in cooperation with “A1+” TV company under “Alternative Resources in Media” project, supported by USAID.

The information and education blocs, particularly, presented different online forums, told about the Facebook cause to protect from architectural discretion the Katoghike Church of XIII century located in Yerevan center. One of the plots regarded groups of mutual social assistance. The social meaning of Internet was also debated by the guests of the discussion part of “E-Club” - Lusineh Vayachian, writer, founder of “MaMaSyu” Charitable Foundation, and Nshan Abasian, correspondent of Public Radio of Armenia.

The next “E-Club” will be aired on “A1+” on May 10.

“YERKRAGUND” ON REVOLUTION IN THE ARABIC WORLD

On May 3 the second show of “Yerkragund” (“Globe”) cycle went on the evening air of “Yerkir Media” TV company. The current show was produced by Yerevan Press Club with support of Open Society Foundations-Armenia.

The guests of the program host, YPC President Boris Navasardian, were Hayk Kocharian, orientalist, representative of Civilization and Cultural Research Center of Yerevan State University, sociologist Isabella Sargsian, Gegham Manukian, Director of  News and Current Affairs Programs of “Yerkir Media” TV company, and political scientist Mikayel Zolian. The participants discussed the revolutionary developments in the Arabic world.

The next “Yerkragund” show will be aired on “Yerkir Media” on Tuesday, May 10 at 19.15 (rerun - on Thursday, May 12 at 14.15).

EDIK BAGHDASARIAN IS THE WINNER OF “THE TIME FOR FREEDOM OF PRESS” AWARD

On May 2 at the Journalists Union of Armenia the award ceremony of “The Time for Freedom of Press” prize was held on the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day. The award was established in 2006 by Yerevan Press Club, Internews Media Support public organization, Journalists Union of Armenia and the Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression.

Upon the decision of four journalistic associations, in 2011 the winner of “The Time for Freedom of Press” award became Edik Baghdasarian, the Head of “Investigative Journalists” NGO, Chief Editor of “Hetq” newspaper, for development of investigative journalism, independent stance and professional courage. Edik Baghdasarian received a certificate and the traditional gift - a watch.

WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY 2011 ADDRESSED THE 21ST CENTURY MEDIA FRONTIERS

On May 3 the World Press Freedom Day was celebrated worldwide. 2011 marks the 20th anniversary since the adoption of the Declaration of Windhoek in 1991, which became the basis for proclaiming the international journalists day by the UN General Assembly in 1993. In Armenia this event is being marked since 1997.

“21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers" is the theme of World Press Freedom Day 2011. The theme “highlights this dramatically changed global media landscape”: “new media and tools such as cell phones continue to empower individuals, enrich news-gathering and illuminate once-largely-hidden workings of government, business and industry”, the message of Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General stated. Alongside these benefits, UN Secretary-General reminded about the old challenges “such as the use of media to disseminate hatred and incite violence”. “There are also undeniable new barriers being imposed by States, including cyber-surveillance, digital harassment and censorship on the Internet”, the message noted.

The joint message for 2011 from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General, stressed that United Nations is dedicated to ensuring that the Internet becomes a truly global public resource, to which all have access and where all voices are heard: “This underlines the importance of quality content. This calls for action to defend the integrity and safety of online reporters. All principles of freedom of expression must be brought to the on-line world.”

“Journalists must be protected. Over the last decade, more than 500 journalists lost their lives in the pursuit of their profession. (...) Every week brings more reports of journalists and bloggers suffering from intimidation and violence. Violations of fundamental human rights cannot go unanswered. State authorities must do everything to counter impunity and to protect the safety of journalists. (...)The media revolution is triggering new debates about freedom of expression, about the nature of regulation, about the balance between expression and responsibility. We must not shy away from exploring all angles of these questions. We must all rise to the occasion and accept the responsibility of change,” called the UN representatives.

On May 3 in Istanbul at Freedom for Journalists Congress Dunja Mijatovic, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, urged all OSCE participating States to do more to curb violence against journalists and ensure a safe work environment for the media. “Today, as the world honors the free press that on a daily basis helps us to improve our democracies and pursue our development goals, I call on all OSCE states to take broad measures to ensure the most favorable and safe environment for their media. Murders, violent attacks, intimidation of journalists and their family members, various forms of harassment and criminalization of speech thwart the work of free media serving their audiences”, emphasized Dunja Mijatovic.

THE DECISION ON THE SUIT OF ROBERT KOCHARIAN’S FAMILY VERSUS “ZHAMANAK” FOUNDER WAS NOT RELEASED. THE COURT TAKES A TIME-OUT

On May 5 the court of general jurisdiction of Kentron and Nork-Marash administrative districts of Yerevan was to release the decision on the suit of the spouse and the son of the Second President of Armenia Robert Kocharian, Bella and Sedrak Kocharians, versus “Skizb Media Kentron” LLC, founder and publisher of “Zhamanak” daily. As it has been reported, the reason of the suit became the pieces published in “Zhamanak” on September 25, September 29 and October 7, 2010. The articles dealt with a number of companies, which were reportedly owned by the Kocharians’ family or managed through the third parties. The representative of Kocharians’ family had sent a letter to the daily’s founder, demanding to come up with a refutation. On October 28, 2010 “Zhamanak” published a piece, “Kocharian’s Heart Desires a Refutation”. Considering that the piece cannot be a refutation, as it still contained discrediting information, the plaintiffs filed the court, demanding to bind “Zhamanak” to refute the information damaging the honor, dignity and business reputation of Bella and Sedrak Kocharians, exact 3 million AMD (about $ 8,200) from the defendant as compensation for libel and defamation, as well as pay off the court expenses of 3 million AMD. The court hearing started on February 25, 2011, where the founder of “Zhamanak” suggested that the plaintiffs develop the text of the refutation. The refutation appeared in “Zhamanak” on March 10, 2011 but was attended by an editorial comment. This form of presentation did not satisfy the plaintiffs, and the parties did not come to an agreement. At the session of March 23 the plaintiffs submitted documents as a ground for their demands on compensating the moral damage and the court expenses (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, March 18-24, 2011).

The hearings on the case finished on April 20. It was announced that the court decision would be released on May 5. Meanwhile, this did not happen on the appointed date. The parties were informed that the court will start a new consideration of the case due to the necessity of additional examination of facts. Even though such an outcome is authorized by law, it remains unclear, why the court required an additional time after about three months of litigation?

The next session is appointed on May 20.

COUNCIL ON INFORMATION DISPUTES ESTABLISHED

On April 30 - May 1 in Tsaghkadzor the Media Freedom Forum was held. The event was organized by RA Human Rights Defender’s Office with support of European Union. The Forum was attended by representatives of international organizations, embassies, accredited in Armenia, media, NGO, journalistic associations and international experts.

The main themes of the Forum were the amendments’ draft to the RA Law “On Television and Radio”, developed by the working group on reforming the legislation regulating the digitalization process in Armenia; journalistic ethics and legislation on defamation.

At the event it was announced about the establishment of the Council on Information Disputes. The Council seeks to protect freedom of expression, access to information, human dignity and right to private life. The missions of the newly-established structure list preparation and release of advisory expert conclusions on court litigations regarding libel and defamation, protection of private life and freedom of information, as well as providing consultations to the Armenian legislative and executive authorities, local self-government bodies and citizens. The members of the Council are: Secretary - Shushan Doydoyan, Head of Freedom of Information Center; Boris Navasardian, President of Yerevan Press Club; Aram Abrahamian, Chief Editor of “Aravot” daily; Ara Ghazarian, Deputy Director of “Arni Consult” law firm; Manana Aslamazian, Director of “Alternative Resources in Media” project.

ARMENIAN MEDIA IS STILL NOT FREE

On May 2 the international human rights organization “Freedom House” released its annual report on freedom of press in the world in 2010. “Freedom House” assessed the media situation by assigning a numerical score from 1 to 100 on the following categories: free (1-30 points), partly free (31-60 points), not free (61-100) - the lower the score, the higher the freedom. The latter was defined by three dimensions: legal, political and economic environments in which media operate. The sum of all three dimensions yielded the cumulative rating of the media situation in each country.

Out of 196 countries and territories surveyed in 2010 in 68 (or 35%) media were recognized free, in 65 (or 33%) - partly free and in 63 (or 32%) were rated not free. Thus, only 15% of world inhabitants (lowest index for the last decade) live in countries that enjoy free press, 42% have a partly free press, and 43% - not free press. The most benign is the situation in Finland (10 points), Norway and Sweden (11 points each), Belgium, Iceland and Luxembourg (12 points each).

Of the post-Soviet countries only the press of the three Baltic States is recognized by “Freedom House” to be free (Estonia -18, Lithuania - 22, Latvia - 26). Only Georgia, Moldova (55 points each) and Ukraine (56 points) are classed as partly free. At the same time, the situation in Georgia has somewhat improved, while it has deteriorated in Ukraine, comparing with 2009 (59 and 53 points, respectively). The positive trends of the Georgian media landscape are due to an improved political environment that led to a reduction in legal and physical harassment of journalists, fewer instances of official censorship, and more balanced coverage by the public broadcaster. The broadcast frequencies withdrawal from critical media, increase of extralegal harassment of journalists, leading to greater self-censorship, negatively influenced the media freedom in Ukraine. A 10-point leap of the Moldavian media (65 points in 2009) from not free to partly free is due to new ruling coalition’s steps to increase legal protections for journalists’ rights and reform the regulatory framework, to the professionalization of the management at the state broadcaster, emergence of new private broadcasters and a substantial decline of officially sanctioned legal harassment of journalists.

Other former USSR countries’ media continue to stay not free. Turkmenistan (96) remains the second from the end (North Korea still closes the list - 97). As compared to 2009, the rankings of Tajikistan (78), Azerbaijan (79) and Russia (81) have not changed. The situation has somewhat deteriorated in Kazakhstan - 80 (versus 78 in 2009), Belarus - 93 (versus 92) and Uzbekistan - 94 (versus 92). A progress is marked in Kyrgyzstan - 70 (versus 73).

The ranking of Armenian media, which got 65 points (versus 66 in 2009), increased by 1 point. In other words, the Armenian media are considered by “Freedom House” as not free for already nine years (since 2002).

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

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Editor of YPC Newsletter - Elina POGHOSBEKIAN

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