Archive for the ‘media’ Category

Proposed legal amendments target RFE / RL

June 28, 2007

Today the Armenian parliament discussed two controversial bills about making changes to existing laws on “Government Duties” and “Television and Radio Broadcasters”. The proposed amendments are widely seen as primarily targeting Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty. If made law, these bills will ban Public Television and Radio from airing programs of foreign broadcasters and will impose weighty duties on private broadcasters willing to air those programs.

RFE / RL relies on heavily on Armenian Public Radio for broadcasting it’s programs. Few other radio stations have anything close to the Public Radio’s coverage. Besides that, migrating to a private broadcaster and paying the high duties might prove impossible for RFE / RL, at a time when the US government is considering cutting funding to the service.

RFE / RL regularly airs it’s news, analytical and youth programs on Public Radio and less, on some private frequencies. With the exception of newspapers and internet news sites, it is by far the only substantially independent media in Armenia. Rumors about the authorities’ desire to close down RFE / RL have been circulating for several months, however this is the first real step in that direction.

Parliament is expected to vote tomorrow on the issue. With the the coalition and the ARF having publicly declared support for the proposals, it is almost certain that the bills will become law. Nevertheless, in the course of today’s parliamentary discussions Tigran Torosyan, the National Assembly Speaker, as well as a number of other legislators denied any suggestions that the proposals target freedom of speech in the country and RFE / RL in particular. The bills were harshly criticized both by opposition representatives in parliament and Armenia’s civil society in general. Supporters of the amendments state concerns, that foreign broadcasters have an advantage over local TV and Radio companies, however, it has been noted, that retranslators of foreign TV channels (a number of Russian TV channels as well as CNN and Euronews are available in Armenia) , who do not fall under the proposed duties, are the ones with the real advantage.