Society 14:39 30/07/2020 Armenia

Media Advocate: Under new law TV and Radio Commission becomes a censor and a judge

Aghasi Yenokyan, the head of the Media Advocate initiative, touched opon the recently adopted laws “On Audiovisual Media” and “On Licensing” in a statement issued on Thursday. Below is the full text of his statement.

"Yesterday’s issue of Azatutyun TV’s Facebook press conference program was dedicated to the current problems of television. During the program Television and Radio Commission (TRC) Head Tigran Hakobyan answered the questions of Facebook users for about 50 minutes.

Naturally, reference was made to the recently adopted laws “On Audiovisual Media” and “On Licensing”, which the government managed to pass through the National Assembly during the state of emergency. Speaking about whether it is possible that some of the channels currently being broadcast will be closed, Mr. Hakobyan mentioned that a new competition on using the public multiplex is expected to be held, but then added: “I think that the TV companies, the purpose of which is not to serve the public interest or to satisfy the information needs, but to serve the interests of this or that politician or certain financial and economic interests, should think longer and then participate in the competition,” which in simpler terms, probably meant that such channels would be denied and will not get frequency.

Let us inform Mr. Hakobyan that the vast majority of TV companies broadcasting in Armenia are registered as businesses, that is, according to their definition, they must serve financial and economic interests. As far as the fact of serving the interests of this or that politician or group of politicians is concerned, let us also inform that in the modern world there is no News TV channel, starting from Fox News, CNN to Euronews, Azatutyun (RFE/RL) and Public TV that does not serve this or that political force. This is the peculiarity of modern media. By the way, the last-mentioned media outlet, Public TV, is one of the few in Armenia that has public funding, but with the tacit consent of TRC, the structure headed by Mr. Hakobyan, became an advertiser pursuing financial interests. Moreover, Media Advocate has repeatedly stated that Public TV pursues the interests of one single politician, Nikol Pashinyan, and this is also done with the tacit consent of the TRC headed by Tigran Hakobyan.

Speaking about freedom of speech, Tigran Hakobyan mentioned that there is freedom of speech in Armenia, and not freedom of misinformation, fake news or hatred. It should be stated that hate speech and fake information are selectively discussed in Armenia, for example, if someone speaks about political opponents or the judiciary on all TV channels as “dissolute outcasts”, sanctions will most likely be imposed on those TV channels, and that person will be prosecuted but if that person is Nikol Pashinyan, then such an approach will be widely circulated. Besides, Mr. Hakobyan mentioned that if a person is insulted and the commission is not aware of that fact, then the victim should complain to the commission or the court, which will consider the issue of punishment. In other words, according to the new law, the commission headed by him will not only be a censor which follows what politicians’ interests the given media pursues, and an investigator which examines what financial and economic interests it pursues, but also a court which decides whether there is an insult or not, as well as the perpetrator, which impose sanctions accordingly.

In addition to all this, the call to inform about the insults addressed to everyone, the whole society, the state sector, non-governmental organizations is nothing but a call for “delation” which is being spread in Armenia, that is, the implementation of ordinary state policy.

P.s. The issue of suspending the operation of Russian channels was also raised. Tigran Hakobyan using many terms such as “sovereign frequencies, public multiplex, consumer basket, information package”, etc., tried not to explain that these channels are actually being closed."

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