OSCE media freedom representative calls for amendments to Armenia’s draft broadcast law to promote media pluralism

VIENNA, 1 June 2010 – Dunja Mijatovic, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, today urged the Armenian authorities to bring the country’s draft broadcast law in line with OSCE and international standards before it is adopted.

“If adopted in its present form, the law would not guarantee pluralism in the broadcasting sector. The draft also fails to offer a solid basis for the upcoming process of digitalization,” Mijatovic said. “A good draft can safeguard independence of the broadcasters, thus promoting media freedom and at the same time stimulate a competitive and economically vibrant broadcasting sector in Armenia.”

Mijatovic said that Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan had reassured her during a recent visit that the recommendations of her Office and those from civil society would be taken into account when finalizing the law. She welcomed the fact that the draft law was publicly discussed in the Parliament.

On 20 May, the draft law was adopted by the Armenian Parliament in a first reading, shortly after it was made public. Four days later, before the public parliamentary hearing of the draft, Mijatovic’s office provided a legal review of the latest amendments to the law, detailing several areas of concern. The review, submitted to the Armenian authorities, also includes recommendations for amendments.

According to the review, shortcomings in the draft include:

  • A failure to oblige the National Commission for TV and Radio (NCTR) to explain any rejections of applications for broadcasting licenses;
  • An indefinite delay to set up private digital channels while terminating analogue broadcasting by 20 July 2013. This can violate competition rules;
  • It does not oblige the NCTR to make its frequency plans public at least once a year. This can make the procedure of licensing and tenders, the exact capacity and number of frequencies subject to different interpretations;
  • A lack of clear rules for satellite, mobile telephone and online broadcasting, and an attempt to place all forms of broadcasting under a strict regime of licensing or permission by the NCTR;
  • It does not follow international standards in the selection and appointment of members of the Council for Public Television and Radio, and
  • A limit to the number of broadcast channels without any explanation

Here is the text of the review in English and Armenian from http://www.osce.org.