YPC Weekly Newsletter
2011
July 15-21
YEREVAN PRESS CLUB MARKED ITS 16TH ANNIVERSARY

On July 18 Yerevan Press Club marked the 16th anniversary since its foundation. On the same day the YPC Annual Award Ceremony was held in Yerevan. The Award was established in 1998 and is conferred to best journalists and media organizations of Armenia (see http://www.ypc.am in “Awards” section).

The 2010-2011 YPC annual awardees are:

Anna ISRAELIAN, observer of "Aravot" daily - for the article cycle “These Are the Proposals of the Winners (...)”, regarding the 2010 broadcast licensing competitions (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, February 11-17, 2011). The prize was handed by Elina Poghosbekian, Editor of YPC Weekly Newsletter. Anna Israelian was also granted a memorial gift from Ashot Gazazian, Armenian Correspondent of “Deutsche Welle” radio station

Margarit YESAYAN, observer of "Aravot" daily - for the journalistic investigation that returned to the readers the literary works of Rafael Bazikian (writer, poet and dissident, who has been missing since the 60s of the 20th century). The prize was conferred to Margarit Yesayan by Astghik Gevorgian, Chairwoman of Journalists Union of Armenia.

"THIRD CENTURY" program cycle of "Shoghakat" TV company - for fostering the discussion culture. The prize to cycle author and host Anna Sargsian and Director Ara Shirinian was awarded by Nouneh Sarkissian, Executive Director of Internews Media Support NGO.

Artur PAPIAN, blogger and Editor of Radio “Free Europe”/Radio “Liberty” Armenian Service - for enhancing alternative media. The award was given by Avet Demurian, Armenian Correspondent of "Associated Press" news agency, YPC Vice President.

“E-CLUB” CYCLE: INTERNET AND CHURCH

On July 19 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, told about the website of Yerevan Mayor, with the Internet resources enabling to follow the World Team Chess Championship in China, and with the Wi-Fi map of Yerevan. One of the plots dealt with the YouTube video that generated vivid discussion on the Web last week: the talk between the Catholicos of All Armenians Garegin II and Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II that took place during the 2011 June visit of the Armenian Catholicos to Georgia. The theme of complex inter-church relations was further considered by the guests of the discussion part of “E-Club” - Vahagn Tevosian, Deputy Chief Editor of “Hraparak” daily, founder of Topnews.am, and David Alaverdian, Chief Editor of “Mediamax” news agency.

The last “E-Club” of the season will be aired on “A1+” on July 26. The cycle will be resumed in September.

“YERKRAGUND” ON CIVIL INITIATIVES FOR ARMENIAN-TURKISH RAPPROCHEMENT

On July 19 the thirteenth and the season’s final show of “Yerkragund” (“Globe”) cycle went on the evening air of “Yerkir Media” TV company. The current show was produced by Yerevan Press Club under a joint YPC and Internews Network project, “Dialogue Building Between Armenia and Turkey”, supported by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor of US Department of State.

The guests of the program host, YPC President Boris Navasardian, were Gevorg Ter-Gabrielian, Country Director of Eurasia Partnership Foundation, Gegham Manukian, Director of the News and Current Affairs Programs of “Yerkir Media” TV company, Vahram Ter-Matevosian, turcologist, Senior Research Assistant at the Oriental Studies Institute of RA National Academy of Sciences, Gayaneh Abrahamian, correspondent of ArmeniaNow online publication. The discussion focused on the civil initiatives in the Armenian-Turkish rapprochement process.

“Yerkragund” will be on air again in September.

THE BROADCAST LICENSING PROCESS WAS NOT OBJECTIVE, BELIEVE THE EXPERTS

On July 20 in “Congress” hotel of Yerevan the book, “Expert Analysis of the Broadcast Licensing Competition Results of December 2010”, was presented. The study was carried out by Yerevan Press Club under the homonymous project, supported by Friedrich Ebert Foundation. In March-June, 2011 the expert group, established by YPC, has analyzed the organization, holding and summing up of the 25 digital broadcast licensing competitions, the competition bids and the results. The YPC working group included experts from different fields: Media Expert Mesrop Harutiunian, Anna Israelian, Observer of “Aravot” daily, Suren Saghatelian, procurement specialist and Board Member of Transparency International Anti-Corruption Center, Isabella Sargsian, specialist in finances and Project Coordinator of Eurasia Partnership Foundation, Konstantin Geodakian, Technical Director of Internews Media Support NGO, Mikayel Hovhannisian, Project Coordinator of Eurasia Partnership Foundation, and Edik Baghdasarian, Head of “Investigative Journalists” NGO. The experts sought to identify how the broadcast legislation and licensing competitions held in 2010 did enhance the TV market, pluralism and diversity of the Armenian TV air, as well as to determine the level of impartiality and objectivity of the regulatory body, National Commission on Television and Radio, while determining the winners.

The experts, in particular, came to the following conclusions:

- Amendments made to the RA Law “On Television and Radio” on June 10, 2010 did not ensure the development of the TV market, the holding of open, fair and transparent competitions, the pluralism and diversity of TV air.

- The Law articles related to licensing and the competitions held by the NCTR based on those articles, did not rule out the possibility of subjective decision-making. This was particularly clear during the summarization of competition No.11, when the bid of the founder of “A1+” TV company was given a score of only 2.

- While summarizing the results of the competitions, NCTR has not shown a uniform approach in forming justifications. For the four competitions which had two participants, NCTR has provided justifications regarding the decisions on determining the winner. Whereas, in cases when the competition had one participant, all 21 NCTR decisions on determining the winners have the same standard formulation: “(...) after reviewing the submitted bid and attached documents it has become clear that they meet the requirements established by RA legislation.” According to the expert group, this does not meet the justification standards required by Part 3 of Article 49 of the RA Law “On Television and Radio”.

- To 27 out of the 29 competition bids, members of NCTR gave similar scores. Thus, similar scores were given to television companies with long-term experience that have much less technical, human resource, or financial issues, and newly established companies that have nothing but good intentions.

- NCTR had not specified the mandatory and optional lists of financial documentation to be presented in the bids. As a result, the applications were composed in “freestyle”; financial documents, agreements, etc. were not subject to any standardization. This made them almost impossible to compare. In addition, financial documents were often developed carelessly, and contained arithmetical and factual errors.

- The Procedure for Conducting Licensing Competitions, approved by NCTR, only provides that the bid should contain information on the technical means and equipment to be used. This document does not contain clear criteria for technical assessment of the bid. As a result, NCTR members have assessed the bids’ sections on technical means as they wish.

Pursuant to the abovementioned, the expert group made the following recommendations:

- Amending the RA Law “On Television and Radio” so that the ratings-based voting is guided by separate criteria provided by legislation, instead of giving one score to the entire bid.

- Providing in the Law that “professional background of the staff” criterion is assessed taking into consideration the professionalism of the management staff and clarity of organizational structure. This is necessary to avoid repetition of facts recorded during the last competition process, when Russian show business stars, actors of different theatres, and people living abroad were presented in the bids as employees of Armenian television companies.

- Removing “capacity to promote pluralism” from the assessment criteria provided by the Law, and replacing it with “conformity of program policy with orientation of the competition”.

- Adding a new criterion in the Law, according to which, while assessing the bid of a currently active television company, NCTR will be obligated to take into consideration the extent to which the bidder has kept promises made in past license terms and has implemented license requirements.

- Establishing one format for presenting in the bids the volume of domestic and own programming.

- Setting forth a provision in the Law that will oblige NCTR to post competition bids with all attached documents on its website immediately after opening the documents for the conduction of public discussions.

- Establishing a list of mandatory and optional financial documents that bidders are to provide within the NCTR Procedure for Conducting Licensing Competitions, as well as clear criteria for assessment of the technical component of the bid.

The expert analysis is attended by the Comment of “Article 19” international organization.

The full text of the “Expert Analysis of the Broadcast Licensing Competition Results of December 2010” (in Armenian and English) will soon be placed on www.ypc.am, in “Studies” section.

MONITORING OF DEMOCRATIC REFORMS IN ARMENIA 2009-2010

In the end of July in “Congress” hotel of Yerevan the presentation of the report “Monitoring of Democratic Reforms in Armenia 2009-2010” will be held. The study was administered by Yerevan Press Club in cooperation with an expert group, in the frames of YPC project “Monitoring Democracy Indicators to Gauge Armenia’s Reform Progress”, supported by the Human Rights and Good Governance Program of the Open Society Institute. The research presents the democratic reform process in Armenia in 2009-2010 in the context of EU Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum’s recommendations.

The report “Monitoring of Democratic Reforms in Armenia 2009-2010” (in Armenian and English) is stored on www.ypc.am in “Studies” section.

“GALA” IS FORCED TO DISSEMBLE THE EQUIPMENT FROM THE CITY TV TOWER

On July 15 the Municipality of Gyumri addressed the RA Service of Compulsory Execution of Judicial Acts demanding to oblige the founder of “GALA” TV company, “CHAP” LLC, to dissemble the equipment from the city TV tower. The ground for this became the July 1, 2011 decision of RA Court of Cassation, which had revoked the complaint of “CHAP” LLC and upheld the decision of the second jurisdiction on the dispute between Gyumri Municipality and “GALA” founder, regarding the right to use the city tower. As it has been reported, in its turn, on April 26, 2011 RA Civil Court of Appeal upheld the February 17, 2011 decision of the court of primary jurisdiction, according to which “GALA” founder was to stop using the city TV tower and to dissemble the equipment installed on it within a month (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, April 22-28, 2011). The court litigation has been lasting since November 2007. The tax inspection of the “GALA” founder started right after a week, when on October 22, 2007 the owner of “CHAP” LLC Vahan Khachatrian made a statement with regard to the attempts of various power agencies to exert pressure on the TV company (see details in 2007-2009 Yerevan Press Club reports “On Freedom of Speech in Armenia”  on www.ypc.am in “Media Reports” section).

On July 18 Yerevan Press Club, Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression, Internews Media Support NGO, Media Diversity Institute-Armenia released a statement in which the ruling of the Court of Cassation is considered as a logical continuation of the campaign versus “GALA”, initiated by various power agencies in 2007 and, in fact, directed against freedom of speech. It takes note that this ruling was rendered after the Resolution of the CoE Committee of Ministers of June 8, 2011 on execution of the June 17, 2008 judgment of the European Court of Human Rights on the case of “Meltex” LLC, “A1+” TV founder, versus Republic of Armenia. The decision of the international institution on closure of the examination of the “A1+” case, “actually, freed the hands of the Armenian authorities in order to shut the mouths of the other unwanted media, like ‘GALA’”, the statement stressed. The journalistic organizations announced that they will continue to support the Gyumri TV company and called the authorities “to refrain from infringements upon freedom of speech and pluralism, specifically in the eve of the upcoming national elections when establishing a favorable environment in the media field is of extreme importance”.

“A1+” TV COMPANY GOT A NEW OPPORTUNITY TO CONTEST THE 2004 RULINGS OF THE COURT OF CASSATION

On July 15 RA Court of Cassation rendered a decision on the complaint of “Meltex” LLC, founder of “A1+” TV company, regarding the constitutionality of Article 204.38 of the RA Civil Procedure Code (“The terms of reconsidering judicial acts under reopened or new circumstances”). The application was submitted to consideration on March 2, 2011 and was further consolidated in one case - with other suits contesting this and other similar legislative provisions.

The application of “Meltex” LLC, in particular, noted that during the reconsideration of cases under new circumstances the law enables the court to uphold the previous judgments. In other words, the implementation of the rulings of RA Constitutional Court or European Court of Human Rights is rendered impossible.

At the session of July 15 RA Constitutional Court recognized the respective provision of Article 204.38 of the Civil Procedure Code unconstitutional. This will enable “A1+” founder to address the Court of Cassation once again, demanding to reconsider the rulings of 2004 on the suits of “Meltex” LLC versus National Commission on Television and Radio - under a new circumstance, i.e., the June 17, 2008 ECHR judgment, recognizing the refusals to grant ”A1+” founder a broadcast license to be a violation of the Article 10 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, i.e., of the right of the applicant to freely impart information and ideas.

As it has been reported, on February 23, 2010, on the complaint of “Meltex”, RA Constitutional Court had already recognized unconstitutional and invalid the then in-effect Point 1 of Article 204’28 of the RA Civil Procedure Code (“The competences of the court in case of revision”). Namely this provision made a basis for the RA Court of Cassation to decline on February 19, 2009 the demand of “A1+” founder to reconsider the two rulings of the Court of Cassation (February 27 and April 23, 2004) on suits of “Meltex” LLC versus NCTR - under new circumstances in the case (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, February 19-25, 2010). In May 2010 the civil procedure legislation was amended, consequently the “A1+” founder once again addressed the Court of Cassation for reconsideration of the 2004 rulings. However, in August 2010 Court of Cassation revoked the application of “Meltex” again, grounding its denial with the abovementioned May 2010 amendments. In fact, on July 15 RA Constitutional Court acknowledged the May 2010 amendments to RA Civil Procedure Code non-compliant to the Main Law.

N.B. Dear readers, please note that YPC Weekly Newsletter will next be issued in early September, 2011.

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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