INTERNET
May 30, 2014
No one is For: Editors against the Bill Related to Online Media
By Grisha Balasanyan
No one is For: Editors against the Bill Related to Online Media
Taguhi Tovmasyan, editor-in-chief of the “Zhoghovurd” daily

On March 31, during the parliamentary hearings on the bill related to “Amendments to the Civil Code”, at the discussion phase of the issue, co-author of the bill, MP Naira Zohrabyan declared that journalists have made a request of such an amendment to the law though mentioning no certain names.

“As an ex-journalist, I was turned to by very respectful journalists (I think if they are here they will tell about it, I will not mention their names) who requested us, MPs, on the necessity to regulate this field,” MP Zohrabyan said.  

But neither at the hearings nor after anyone of the journalists or media representatives expressed positively about the bill. And MP Zohrabyan keeps on mentioning no names.

Anyway, MPs of the current session of the National Assembly had a positive experience of cooperation with the media last year. Heads of a number of print and online media outlets have applied to MPs, among them Arpi Hovhannisyan, author of this bill, to legally regulate copyright protection in the Internet. The MPs developed the bill taking into account proposals from the media outlets and made additions to the law “On copyright and related rights” in an expedited procedure by a vote of 110 to 0, with 0 abstention.

JNews tried to find out whether anyone of the editors who once have turned to MPs for copyright issues, have reapplied this time for regulation of anonymous sources  and what is their opinion on this bill.

Taguhi Tovmasyan, editor-in-chief of the “Zhoghovurd” (People) daily mentioned that she did not apply to MPs and had no information that anyone of the editors did it. However she reminded that several months ago she personally initiated discussions addressed to the struggle against plagiarism with the participation of the heads of the media outlets. And they came to a conclusion that besides the self regulation mechanism it is necessary to make legislative changes as well in order to regulate the issue.

“The issue was regulated easily, as far as the initiative for changes was taken by people in journalism and there were no additional threats for us. Now the situation is quite different: the MPs decided to independently regulate a field with no relation to it,” Taguhi Tovmasyan says.  

She insists that this bill does not at all pursue the purpose expounded in the corroboration. "That version of the changes will become an easily applicable blackjack for the media outlets rather than means of a struggle against the insult and slander,” considers the editor stating that the concepts used in the bill are not clearly formulated. According to the editor current formulations will violate the principle of information privacy.   

“Another absurd is the media definition. According to that law, even a Facebook user can be considered as a media and must bear responsibility equally. It is ineffective also the requirement stated in the law according to which if any comment including insult or slander appears in the media, it must be removed within 12 hours,” the editor-in-chief mentions.

According to her, 12 hours are enough “to be completely discredited” and with this regard the legislative amendment cannot have any role. 

“Now, when they met resistance from the media, they formed a “backdated” group and want to achieve a result. They will not succeed, as no one among the heads of the media outlets can welcome such an unfruitful project,” Tovmasyan says and adds, “Legislation related to the media field must be amended exclusively with the participation of representatives from the professional media outlets. This time Arpine Hovhannisyan acted quite independently which is unacceptable.”

Anna Hakobyan, editor-in-chief of the “Haykakan Zhamanak” (Armenian Time) daily, too, had a negative opinion about the bill and rejected that she could have applied to MPs for such a proposal.

202“Experience has shown that the laws and legislative amendments for the interest of the media finally turn against the independent media. Let's remember the case with “A1+”, decriminalization of slander, etc.,” Hakobyan says. According to her, this bill has nothing to do with the draft law on amendments to the “Law on Copyright and Related Rights” suggested by editors and cannot be its continuation.

The bill “Against plagiarism” concerns to copyright protection and fair competition in the media field, and generally, we consider that the laws “regulating”, “managing”, “controlling”, “promoting”, “supporting” the media activities must be as few as possible, and the possibilities for the authorities to intervene in this field must be minimized,” HZh editor says.

“It is impossible to provide legislative regulations for all the situations of the life. Regulation of the media activities must be based on professionalism, mutual respect, fair competition, unwritten rules providing transparency rather than on the laws adopted by the state,” Anna Hakobyan is sure.

In her opinion in terms of protection of the media interests it is more important the existence of independent and fair judicial system, where the media outlets can find protection from the violations of authorities. However, as far as independent and fair court is an unreachable dream for Armenia, each “good” and “kind” law will be used to violate free speech.

According to Armine Ohanyan, editor-in-chief of the “Hraparak” (Square) daily there is no need to regulate the media field at all, “especially by the incumbent Parliament and by these MPs.”  

203“No, I have not applied to anyone. Moreover, when someone asked my opinion, I was against. Though I am among the “affected” by the activities of the “fakes”: regularly, anonymous “authors” spread slander addressed to me and “Hraparak” on the Internet,” Armine Ohanyan, editor-in-chief of “Hraparak” says.

“There are lots of things to be regulated in our life, and the media is the last one on that list. There is lack of freedom rather than overplus to encounter the issue of its limitation or regulation,” she thinks.

As to the issues existing in the media field, Ohanyan mentions that they are completely of another nature and their solutions must be searched in quite a different place. 

“A state wishing to foster the existence of a free media, should think over the creation of a favorable field for the activity of that media, the improvement of the financial-economic situation of the media outlets, the dissemination of respect towards the media among the society and the establishment of traditions for the support of journalists' work by the state officials,” Armine Ohanyan adds. 

P.S. The Jnews editorial did not succeed to find a media representative to positively voice on the mentioned bill. However taking into consideration the large number of people in the field implementing media activities we do not exclude existence of such kind of people. Thus, to provide pluralism on the issue, we apply to the media representatives who are for this bill and can ground their opinion. Please, apply to JNews by sending an e-mail to info@jnews.am.

Source: JNews.am

Image Sources: Aravot.am, Nikolpashinyan.com, Slaq.am

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