The duty of the state body, i.e. CTR,  is to prevent encroachment against the public interest, not to protect the honor and dignity of a high-ranking official, Nikol Pashinyan. UJA

21:13 27-12-2023


 On December 20, the Commission on Television and Radio (CTR) decided to suspend the activities of “Tospa” company, which rebroadcasts “Sputnik Armenia” audio program, for 30 days. The company was also fined 500,000 drams. As a basis for the suspension the thoughts expressed during the programs “Abovyan Time” by Arman Abovyan and “Friday with Tigran Keosayan” by Tigran Keosayan are mentioned.

As far as it can be judged from the official documents published by the Commission on Television and Radio, the legal basis of the initiated administrative proceedings and the decisions made as a result of them was the 1st part of Article 9 of the Law “On Audiovisual Media”, according to which it is prohibited to call spreading for actions not permitted by law. At the same time, official documents refer to Article 7, Part 1, Clauses 2 and 3 of the same law, which define the responsibility of the broadcaster to correct any incorrect or unreliable data during the program in the next or the same program, as well as inform about information received from unreliable or anonymous sources.

In the context of the above mentioned, the Union of Journalists of Armenia considers it important to also mention the approach of the European Court of Human Rights regarding media organizations, according to which the latter are endowed with the widest freedom of speech, as they carry out activities aimed at receiving, processing and informing the society of the received information. Naturally, the media are not obliged to publish only official information, the latter have the right to collect and disseminate such information that is published by other sources. Undoubtedly, every person engaged in media activity (journalist, commentator, presenter) has the right to conduct his own analysis and based on it, to voice evaluative judgments, which in no way can lead to negative consequences for the latter.

The information regarding the two administrative proceedings published by the CTR and, in particular, the two decisions made within them, are built on the basis of the same legal norms, with somewhat different justifications.

Thus, for example, the following was considered as a problematic phrase within the framework of  “Abovyan Time” program: “… if then the concept was: let’s hand over Karabakh and live in peace, now let’s hand over Tavush and live in peace, let’s hand over Syunik and live in peace”.

The mentioned phrase was assessed by the Commission on Television and Radio as information lacking a sufficient degree of reliability, regarding which the broadcaster allegedly had the duty to provide appropriate information. First of all, the mentioned phrase is such that is disconnected from the context and does not even imply a complete sentence, which, in our opinion, is included in the field of the journalist’s evaluative judgment. And if the Commission, within the framework of its complete, comprehensive and objective examination, had carried out an examination of the entire thought, rather than one part of the sentence, perhaps the latter would have come to a completely different conclusion, because the voiced position is nothing more than an evaluative judgment based on well-known observed and on certain information widely spread among our society.

Meanwhile, the Commission considered it as an argument, the source of which was not properly disclosed by the broadcaster. The Union of Journalists of Armenia condemns the initiation of administrative proceedings by the Armenian Broadcasting Corporation and the blatant display of double standards by that structure regarding the given edition of “Abovyan Time” program. Many pro-government media and even the Public TV station, which are under the monitoring range of the CTR, have many broadcasts that are more problematic than the issue in question, but on which no suspension decision was made within the framework of administrative proceedings, and calls for violence are often made in them, false, unverified and unconfirmed information about opposition figures and other persons. Is this differentiated approach and the violation of the principle of equality enshrined in the constitution permissible to be considered by a state body that has a direct duty to ensure the principle of equality and impartiality exclusively for all audiovisual media representatives?

As for the second administrative proceeding, within the program “Friday with Tigran Keosayan”, first of all, the Union of Journalists of Armenia strongly condemns the statements made by Tigran Keosayan in any context regarding the Republic of Armenia, as well as the Armenian world and Armenianness in general. We urge to refrain from using speech and vocabulary questioning the sovereignty and statehood of the Republic of Armenia in any Armenian news format and broadcast, even if it is done for the purposes of propaganda

However, it should be noted that, according to the law, the Commission on Television and Radio, being a non-political structure whose functions include the control over television and radio, subjected the statements made by Tigran Keosayan, which were addressed to Nikol Pashinyan, to a wide range of interpretation. In fact, the Commission on Television and Radio considered Pashinyan’s remarks as an insult to the Armenian people. We believe that this approach is at least unclear and does not derive from the powers of the Commission to the extent that the protection of the honor and dignity of any public official is not included in the functions of the Commission.

In addition, let’s note that the analyzes made against Nikol Pashinyan, which, in general, can be included in the field of insult or defamation and should have been the subject of discussion in the court, and not in the Commission on Television and Radio, were put as justification at the base for the decision to temporarily suspend the radio broadcasting license.

We consider it necessary to point out once again that the legal norms cited by the CTR are not applicable, there was no call for an unauthorized act or publication of incorrect, unreliable data in both issues. In this case, we are dealing with evaluative expressions, which are widely protected from the point of view of journalistic freedoms.

We repeat, even if there is a violation of rights, then it should be discussed in the context of protection of honor and dignity, for which civil legal mechanisms are implemented, and the use of the state’s resource, the CTR, to solve problems of private relations is inadmissible. With this decision made by CTR, the administrative resource was openly misused in order to protect the honor and dignity of Nikol Pashinyan, which contradicts the state’s position on the matter. The state body should not and cannot protect the honor and dignity of any person, including a high-ranking official. The task of the state body, in this case the CRT, is to prevent encroachment against the public interest, not to protect the honor and dignity of a high-ranking official, in this case, Nikol Pashinyan. In the case of both administrative proceedings, there are no facts of spreading either inflammatory speech or obviously wrong information.

We claim that the penalty applied by the CTR was apparently disproportionate.

Speaking about the differentiated and biased approach, we should mention that a reasonable doubt may arise regarding it also for the simple reason that the Chairman of the Commission, Tigran Hakobyan, who is the head of a depoliticized structure, who has a constitutionally and legislatively fixed duty to show political restraint, co-hosts a program with Petros Ghazaryan on Public Television, where issues with a political context are often discussed, within the framework of which one can make assumptions about the political views of Tigran Hakobyan himself, which very often mislead the public, serving the spread of government propaganda. Taking into account the above mentioned, a reasonable doubt arises as to whether the political views of Tigran Hakobyan, the chairman of the apolitical independent body, the Commission on Television and Radio, do not in any case affect the implementation of his and the commission’s powers?

Union of Journalists of Armenia