On May 16 Media Fairplay, the new Russian language online resource was launched. The website is designed for boosting a more balanced coverage of Armenian-Azerbaijani relations and runs under the regional journalistic project, "Accurate and Unbiased Information Exchange between Armenia, Azerbaijan and Mountainous Karabagh", supported by the USA State Department. This initiative kicked off at the January 30-31, 2012 seminar in Tbilisi attended by representatives of media, journalistic organizations from Baku, Yerevan and Stepanakert. At the Tbilisi meeting the opportunities of creating joint information products, including an Internet source were discussed (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, January 27 - February 2, 2012).
Media Fairplay became the first embodiment of these ideas: an original tool-kit , which can be used by journalists, who are willing to comply with the rules of professional ethics, including the principles of accuracy, balance and impartiality - irrespective of how acute the theme and how complicated the context are.
On the Homepage journalistic investigations about the current aspects of the Karabagh conflict and Armenian-Azerbaijani relations, conducted under the abovementioned project, will be stored. The first such product is the piece “Passions around Eurovision: Why Isn’t Armenia Taking Part in Eurovision 2012?” that provides for three perspectives on a theme of large public resonance. The “Honors Board” section will present journalistic products, prepared under other initiatives and complying with requirements of accurate and impartial journalism. The “Bank of Ideas” section targets the creativity of website users and invites them to share ideas and recommendations. The “Studies” section contains a number of joint monitorings on the media coverage of the Armenian-Azerbaijani thematic, conducted by Yerevan Press Club and “Yeni Nesil” Journalists Union of Azerbaijan. The “LitLab” section presents literature works by contemporary Armenian and Azerbaijani writers.
On May 15 another program of “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 under “Alternative Resources in Media” project, supported by USAID.
The program was devoted to the mobile Internet. Particularly, “E-Club” presented the functions of smart phones, planchettes, distinctive features of mobile service in Armenia, Android and other mobile applications of “A1+”. The news bloc of “E-Club” told about the orangutans using iPads to communicate, about the plans of Google+ to launch the “On Air” hangouts. The ratings of online sources and headlines of last week were presented by Ashot Bleyan, Director of “Mkhitar Sebastatsi” educational center. The web sources’ top list was headed by http://mskh.am, while the most popular topic were the results of the recent May 6, 2012 elections to RA National Assembly.
The next “E-Club” will be aired on “A1+” on Tuesday, May 22 at 15.50 (rerun - on Thursday, May 24 at 18.20).
On May 10 RA Procuracy reported about the institution of criminal proceedings on incidents that happened on the ballot day of elections to RA National Assembly, May 6, 2012. Three of them are dealing with cases of impeding the work of journalists at the electoral precincts of Gyumri.
According to the information stored on the RA Procuracy’s website (www.genproc.am), on May 6 at about 8.30, the agency received a hot line report, informing that at the 34/25 precinct of Gyumri Spartak Ghukasian, son of the city Mayor Vardan Ghukasian, took away the camera from Varazdat Papikian, cameraman of “Kentron” TV channel, and then made him leave the precinct.
A similar alert was registered from the electoral precinct 34/21 of Gyumri. At about 8.30 a group of men entered the precinct and took away the camera of Vladimir Khachatrian, correspondent and cameraman of “Kentron” TV channel, installed at the precinct.
At 18.30 Karen Alekian, correspondent of “Maks-Info” news agency addressed to the Gyumri Police Department. The journalist reported that at about 9.30 at the electoral precinct 34/26 of Gyumri four young men tore off the journalistic ID from his clothes and took away the video camera, provided to him by “Prosperous Armenia” party. Two hours later the camera was returned broken.
On May 8 criminal proceedings were instituted upon all these incidents on charges of Article 149 of RA Criminal Code (“Obstruction of the realization of the right to vote, the work of electoral commissions or the competence of people taking part in elections”). The cases are submitted to the RA Special Investigative Service.
As it has been reported, on May 8 criminal proceedings were instituted upon another incident, but on charges of Article 164 of RA Criminal Code (“Impeding the legitimate professional activities of a journalist”). The incident happened in the morning of May 6 at 12/33 electoral precinct of Yerevan: a man tried to take the video camera of Elina Chilingarian, correspondent of Armenian Service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, May 4-10, 2012).
On May 14 on www.genproc.am RA Procuracy informed about two other cases in Gyumri dealing with media representatives, who were covering the voting day.
According to RA Procuracy, on May 11 A.Hovhannisian, Chairman of electoral commission of 34/20 precinct in Gyumri, informed that on May 6 at 8.00 Roman Sargsian, representative of “Kentron” TV channel, attempted to install a video camera at a polling booth and thus violate the ballot secrecy.
On the same day, May 11, Naira Nalbandian, correspondent of “GALA” TV company of Gyumri, informed that on May 5 at about 19.00 Grigor Hovhannisian, Chairman of 33 district electoral commission of Gyumri, refused to provide information, disputed with her and impeded her professional activities.
Gyumri Police Department has started the preparing materials on both of the cases.
On May 11 National Commission on Television and Radio (NCTR) released the data on monitoring the ensuring by Armenian TV and radio companies of equal conditions for parties/bloc and candidates running in the election to RA National Assembly by proportional or majoritarian systems. As it has been reported, the NCTR administered the monitoring in compliance with RA Electoral Code; interim data of the study were published on April 17 and 27 (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, April 13-19, 2012 and April 27 - May 3, 2012).
The NCTR report presents the quantitative data for the April 8 - May 6, 2012: the overall volume of airtime, allocated to parties/bloc and majoritarian candidates in the programs of TV and radio companies, as well as the paid and free airtime, provided by broadcasters for pre-election promotion of parties/bloc and candidates.
The report of the regulatory body also lists the complaints addressed to NCTR dealing with the coverage of pre-election campaign by some TV companies and the measures taken in this regard.
Besides, the report noted that on May 7 NCTR instituted administrative proceedings versus “Kentron” TV channel.
At its May 11 session NCTR imposed a fine on “Kentron” of 1 mln AMD (more than $ 2,500) - for broadcasting a promotional program on a day during which pre-election promotion is prohibited by the RA Electoral Code. This regards the piece aired by “Kentron” on the voting day, May 6, which contained a promotional call by a representative of Armenian National Congress electoral bloc.
The NCTR report is available in Armenian at http://www.tvradio.am/uploads/0814.pdf.
On May 11 Council on Information Disputes released another conclusion on a defamation case. The missions of the Council, established on May 1, 2011, list preparation and release of advisory expert conclusions on court litigations regarding libel and insult, 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 (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, April 29 - May 5, 2011).
The Council noted that the attorney of the Armenian Word of Life Religious Community of Christian Evangelic Church has applied to it, requesting to provide an expert opinion on the lawsuit filed by the religious organization and its Head, Senior Pastor Artur Simonian versus “Iravunk Media” LLC, founder of “Iravunk-Investigation” and “Argumenti Nedeli v Armenii” weeklies. As it has been reported, the matter of the suit became the articles and collages, published in October 2011 in the weeklies. The pieces spoke negatively about the Word of Life and the Senior Pastor. The plaintiffs demanded to bind the respondent to publish a refutation and to bring apologies in both newspapers. The hearings on the case started on March 13, 2012 at the court of general jurisdiction of Kentron and Nork-Marash administrative districts of Yerevan, and as of today are in the preliminary stage (see YPC Weekly Newsletter March 9-15, 2012).
According to the Council, a number of the disputed judgments do not have factual data. In this regard, they cannot be assessed as a fair comment. Moreover, the general context of the articles and the continuous and persistent use of the word “sect” therein gives features of religious intolerance to the pieces.
The Council finds that the facts of the case utterly provide with an opportunity to resolve the case through extra-judiciary means and calls on the parties to use this opportunity.
The full conclusion of the Information Disputes Council is available in Armenian at http://www.ypc.am/expert/ln/eng.
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Editor of YPC Newsletter - Elina POGHOSBEKIAN