Yerevan Press Club Weekly Newsletter – 07/02/2009

YEREVAN PRESS CLUB WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

JUNE 26 – JULY 2, 2009

HIGHLIGHTS:

A STIR WITH THE FREE FREQUENCY

CHIEF EDITOR OF "HAYKAKAN ZHAMANAK" NIKOL PASHINIAN VOLUNTARILY SURRENDERED
TO THE LAW ENFORCEMENT BODIES

HEARINGS ON THE CASE OF VANADZOR OFFICE OF HELSINKI CITIZENS ASSEMBLY VERSUS
RA MINISTRY OF DEFENSE STARTED

FIDH/OMCT REPORT: IN 2008 FREEDOM OF THE MEDIA WITNESSED A CONSIDERABLE
REGRESSION IN ARMENIA

COMPETITION IN COMMEMORATION OF RUBEN MANGASARIAN

A STIR WITH THE FREE FREQUENCY

On June 30 on "A1+" website an interview of RA National Assembly deputy of
opposition party "Heritage" Anahit Bakhshian was published. In the interview
the deputy, particularly, announced that to her question about an available
free TV frequency in Armenia the Chairman of the RA Control Chamber Ishkhan
Zakarian has answered affirmatively. Therefore, Anahit Bakhshian concludes
that the previous statements of the Armenian authorities on the absence of
free frequencies, which could be claimed on by "A1+" TV company (deprived of
broadcasting since 2002), come to be a lie.

The conversation between Anahit Bakhshian and Ishkhan Zakarian took place on
June 30 at the session of the Control Chamber Council, on which the interim
report of the Chamber was released. The event participants, including RA NA
deputy Viktor Dallakian, confirmed the dialogue mentioned by Anahit
Bakhshian. However, on the demand of Yerevan Press Club to affirm or refute
this sensational information, the Head of the Eight Department of Control
Chamber Artur Grigorian said that there has been an obvious
misunderstanding.

On July 1 an official explanation was placed on the website of the Control
Chamber. It noted that the Control Chamber was carrying out an audit of the
Public Services Regulatory Commission (PSRC), while the broadcasting
frequencies are allocated by the National Commission on Television and Radio
(NCTR). "At the session of the Control Chamber Council the issue was on the
radio relay, which is used by TV companies, already holding TV frequencies,
to provide the inner relay", the Control Chamber explanation stressed.
According to the representatives of the Control Chamber, Anahit Bakhshian
"was misled by the technical terms".

On July 1 Anahit Bakhshian commented on that explanation on the "A1+"
website. The deputy emphasized, in particular, that when asking Ishkhan
Zakarian the question, she specified whether the audit was carried out in
the NCTR and whether the National Commission possessed free frequencies.
"They gave me a clear affirmative answer", Anahit Bakhshian said.

Maybe in this case Ishkhan Zakarian "was misled", twisting up the names of
different commissions – NCTR and PSRC. Anyway, the information on the
aforesaid Control Chamber Council session, placed on the Chamber website,
contains a list of the organizations subjected to audit by the Control
Chamber, where the National Commission on Television and Radio is not
mentioned.

Regardless of the fact who was the one misled in this knotty story, the
absence of free frequency, which could be found and processed to announce an
additional broadcast licensing competition, gives rise to doubt. To solve
this issue the sincere will of the Armenian authorities is needed only. The
will to bend before the numerous calls of the Armenian community and
international organizations on holding a transparent and fair competition in
which "A1+" TV company could take part.

On July 2 RA NA deputies of "Heritage" party Styopa Safarian and Anahit
Bakhshian presented a legislative initiative to create a commission on the
issues to renew broadcast of "A1+" TV company. Read the details on the
initiative in the next YPC Weekly Newsletter.

CHIEF EDITOR OF "HAYKAKAN ZHAMANAK" NIKOL PASHINIAN VOLUNTARILY SURRENDERED
TO THE LAW ENFORCEMENT BODIES

On July 1 Chief Editor of "Haykakan Zhamanak" daily Nikol Pashinian
voluntarily surrendered to RA General Prosecutor’s Office. As it has been
reported, during the presidential elections of 2008 Nikol Pashinian was a
member of the election headquarters of presidential candidate, RA First
President Levon Ter-Petrosian. In the beginning of March 2008 Nikol
Pashinian was announced wanted within the criminal proceedings, instituted
on the events of March 1, 2008 in Yerevan. On April 17, 2008 several heads
of Armenian media and NGOs addressed an open letter to the RA General
Prosecutor Aghvan Hovsepian. By noting that the criminal proceedings against
the Chief Editor of "Haykakan Zhamanak" "have an obvious political slant"
and are "an undisclosed pressure on free expression", the signatories
demanded to stop the unjustified persecution of Nikol Pashinian and allow
him to return to his family, professional and political activities (see YPC
Weekly Newsletter, March 7-13, 2008 and April 18-24, 2008).

However, while in hiding, Nikol Pashinian published articles on the pages of
"Haykakan Zhamanak" and had his own blog. In the opinion of Nikol Pashinian,
the decision "to come out of hiding" and to give himself up to the law
enforcement bodies, "will give a new burst" to his political struggle. Today
many people are interested whether the amnesty of June 2009, releasing a
number of oppositionists convicted on the case of March 1, 2008, will expand
on Nikol Pashinian. It depends on the verdict of the court: will it exceed
the 5 years term of imprisonment?

After his surrender to the General Prosecutor’s Office Nikol Pashinian was
sent to the Yerevan Kentron Police Department, and from there – to the
"Yerevan-Kentron" penitentiary institution. According to the information
published in "Haykakan Zhamanak" on July 2, Nikol Pashinian was charged with
Articles 225 ("Mass riots"), 316 ("Violence against a representative of
power") and 225 prime ("Organizing and holding of a pubic event with breach
of order stipulated by law") of RA Criminal Code. Nikol Pashinian received a
preventive punishment of arrest.

HEARINGS ON THE CASE OF VANADZOR OFFICE OF HELSINKI CITIZENS ASSEMBLY VERSUS
RA MINISTRY OF DEFENSE STARTED

On June 26 RA Administrative court started the hearings on the case of
Vanadzor Office of Helsinki Citizens Assembly versus RA Ministry of Defense.
The public organization demands to oblige the Ministry to provide
information on spring conscription of 2008 in Tumanian, Stepanavan, Tashir,
Spitak and Vanadzor districts of Lori region. In particular, the plaintiff
inquires about the following information: 1. how many people should have
been called up for mandatory military service in the aforesaid districts; 2.
how many people received call-up papers; 3. how many people were deferred
and for what terms; 4. how many people received deferment for health or
family reasons, or to continue education; 5. how many people submitted a
petition for doing alternative military service; 6. how many cases on
avoiding military service by the draftees were submitted to court.

As it is mentioned in the claim of the plaintiff, on July 10, 2008 Vanadzor
Office of Helsinki Citizens Assembly addressed an inquiry to the RA Military
Commissioner to provide some of the abovementioned information. The request
was based on the relevant provisions of RA Constitution and the RA Law "On
Freedom of Information", securing the right to freedom of expression and to
receive information. On July 18, 2008 the Military Commissioner informed
that the required information can be granted only upon the authorization of
RA Minister of Defense. On July 23, 2008 HCA Vanadzor Office turned to the
Head of the Defense Ministry with a request to give information on the
aforesaid six points. In the letter of August 19, 2008 the Ministry of
Defense presented information only about the number of applicants for
alternative military service, noting that the information on the first four
questions cannot be granted so far as it is an official secret, yet the
facts on the last point are for internal official use only. On November 2,
2008 HCA Vanadzor Office in a letter to RA Minister of Defense inquired for
the list of documents dealing with conscription and not subject to
publishing. The response of the Defense Ministry on November 19, 2008 with
relevant reference to the RA Law "On Freedom of Information" emphasized that
the statistic data on conscription is a state secret and are not to be made
public. Dissenting with the arguments of the Ministry, on December 5, 2008
HCA Vanadzor Office filed a suit to RA Administrative court.

On the court session of June 26 the defendant provided the plaintiff with
information on four of the six points. At the same time, the representative
of RA Ministry of Defense noted that the facts about the number of men
liable to mandatory military service, as well as the number of those who
have received call-up papers cannot be published, according to the RA Law
"On State and Official Secret".

The judgment on this suit will be released on July 10.

FIDH/OMCT REPORT: IN 2008 FREEDOM OF THE MEDIA WITNESSED A CONSIDERABLE
REGRESSION IN ARMENIA

On June 26 the annual report of International Federation of Human Rights
(FIDH) and World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) on the situation of
human rights and human rights defenders for 2008 in different countries of
the world was presented in Yerevan.

In the report section dealing with Armenia it is mentioned that after
presidential elections in February 2008 the country "experienced the most
violent repression of recent years". In particular, the state of emergency
of March 1, 2008 "resulted in a temporary ban on the independent media". The
pursuit of independent journalists continued even after it was lifted. In
2008 the freedom of media witnessed a considerable regression, the report
notes and brings as an argument the amendments to the RA Law "On Television
and Radio" passed by the Armenian parliament on September 10, 2008. The
legislative amendments suspended the holding of competitions on broadcast
licensing until 2010. According to the report authors, "these amendments
make it impossible to create new – and difficult to develop the existing –
independent radio and television channels", contradict the judgment of the
European Court of Human Rights of June 17, 2008 on the case of "A1+" TV
company, as well as the PACE Resolution 1620 (2008) passed on June 25, 2008,
calling the authorities of Armenia to "ensure an open, fair and transparent
licensing procedure".

In the chapter of the report on Armenia "Impunity for Attacks and Threats
against Journalists Defending Human Rights" it is stressed that "in 2008 the
intensification of media muzzling in Armenia resulted in the development of
Internet-based activities of independent journalists, newspapers and
information platforms". The lack of monitoring of investigations on cases of
attack and the pressure exerted on journalists "put those who, amongst
others, denounced corruption, in a particularly delicate position", find the
report authors. This assertion is illustrated by the assault of November 17,
2008 on Edik Baghdasarian, Head of "Investigative Journalists" NGO, Chief
Editor of online publication "Hetq". Edik Baghdasarian "seeks to defend the
independence of the investigative press and condemns corruption in
Government circles", the report notes.

COMPETITION IN COMMEMORATION OF RUBEN MANGASARIAN

The Foundation for Assistance to Independent Media, "3 Million" magazine and
"168 Zham" newspaper have announced the photo competition "Wondrous
Armenia". The competition is announced in commemoration of one of the
Armenian best photojournalists Ruben Mangasarian, who unexpectedly passed
away on March 21, 2009 at the age of 49. On July 2 in a piece about the
competition "168 Zham" newspaper cited Ruben Mangasarian who used to say:
"One life is not enough to capture the whole beauty of Armenia."

All the interested persons, both professional and amateur photographers, can
participate in the competition "Wondrous Armenia". There are no thematic
restrictions, either. The only condition: the photos should be taken in
Armenia and not until 2008.

For the qualifying round the photos can be sent in a small-resolution (150
dpi) and 800-1000 px (height) to the following e-mail: [email protected]

The photos are accepted from July 1 till August 20, 2009.

The winners will be known in September 2009.

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
_____________________________________ _______
Yerevan Press Club
9B, Ghazar Parpetsi str.
0002, Yerevan, Armenia
Tel.: (+ 374 10) 53 00 67; 53 35 41; 53 76 62
Fax: (+374 10) 53 56 61
E-mail: [email protected]
Web Site:

www.ypc.am

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