Members of the ruling Civil Contract faction in National Assembly, Artur Hovhannisyan and Lilit Minasyan, have put forward a bill propsoing amendments to the law “On Mass Media”. The measure, if adopted, will enable government institutions to suspend the accreditation of a journalist or journalists.
In particular, the bill proposes steps to amend Section 5, Article 6 of the law “On Mass Media” by adding the words ‘or by the government agency which accredited him/her’ after the phrase ‘applied for’“. That practically means that the government agencies which accredited journalists may, at their own discretion, suspend the accreditation of a journalist.
In their justification, the lawmakers have pointed out to the following:
“Section 1, Article 6 of the law ‘On Mass Media’ prescribes that the government agencies are entitled to establish other grounds for rejecting or suspending the accreditation of a journalist subject to the procedures of accrediting journalists. However, under Section 5 of the same article, the accreditation of a journalist may be suspended at the request of the implementer of media activities that had applied for the accreditation of that particular journalist. It turns out that the government agency, on the one hand, establishes the grounds for suspending the activities of a journalist, while on the other hand, it is unable to suspend such an accreditation process in any way (despite having the grounds) given that a request by the implementer of media activities (that had applied for accreditation) is necessary. To bridge the gap in the law and above all, to make the collaboration between the implementer of media activities and government agencies more effective, and to have a specific set of tools in case of breaches of internal rules by the government agencies, it is proposed that the government institution which accredited journalists have the capacity to suspend that accreditation process upon observing breaches of disciplinary rules applicable in a specific work zone,” reads the text of the justification of the draft law.
This lengthy “justification” will, as a matter of fact, enable the government agencies to arbitrarily suspend the accreditation of the jouralists who are not “pleasing” to them, citing the strictly construable clauses on “breaches of the internal rules of the government agencies” or “the need to make the collaboration between the implementer of media activities and the government agencies more effective”
Given the consistent and coordinated steps by the ruling authorities against freedom of the press and speech, and the range of problematic initiatives (in terms of the fundamental and democratic rights and liberties) for restricting the activity of the media in the previous period, we have grounds to assume that this particular bill, initiated by lawmakers of the ruling faction in National Assembly, is not a spontaneous campaign but rather – the expression of a political decision which falls within the logic of the government policies against independent media outlets.
This change may serve as a club for the government agencies, allowing them to deprive non-desirable journalists of accreditation. In this way, the authorities and government institutions will further detach themselves from their obligation of public oversight and accountability, which they are trying to avoid in every possible way by initiatives of the kind.
The Union of Journalists of Armenia condemns the latest in this series of acts by the authorities (which is against freedom of speech and the press), urging the government to give a negative conclusion to the draft law in question. Otherwise, the presumptions that the initiative is the result of a political decision and was brought to the public eye as a result of a political order will be affirmed.
At the same time, we draw the attention of the NGOs, international organizations and insitutions dealing with freedom of speech and the press to prevent the latest in the series of initiatives directed against freedom of the press. If brought to life, it will further deteriorate the level of democracy in Armenia (which isn’t favorable as it is).
The Union of Journalists of Armenia urges the authorities, yet another time, to end the campaign against freedom of speech and the press, and the practice of restricting, through most different initiatives, the activity of the media, which is step by step detaching Armenia from democracy.
UNION OF JOURNALISTS OF ARMENIA