Armenian parliament is considering amendments to current broadcast and tax regulations laws which may effectively close down Radio Liberty and apparently proposed for that only reason.
Formally, the proposed legislative changes presented as amendments to the Laws "On Television and Radio" and "On State Duties”. They include very ‘technical’ changes, well, ‘technical’ at first sight, and for people who do not know Armenian reality. Surely, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) knows what is going on.
Miklos Haraszti, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media was quick today to critisize proposed amendments “that would ban Armenian-language foreign media programmes on public-service broadcast channels, and introduce heavy fees for those programmes on private channels.”
"As Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is currently the only foreign media outlet using the Armenian Public Radio frequency, the adoption of the amendments would amount to a ban on their programmes in Armenia," wrote Haraszti in his letter to the Chairman of the National Assembly Tigran Torosyan. The Representative pointed out that Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is an alternative source of information in Armenia, providing a diversity of opinion that is especially needed during election periods. Haraszti called upon the National Assembly not to adopt the restrictive amendments.
"The proposed changes to the Laws "On Television and Radio" and "On State Duties" are incompatible with OSCE commitments to safeguard pluralism and the free flow of information in the media," Haraszti concluded.
Good statements, sure, but so what? We’ve heard these sorts of statements before, when independent A1+ TV station was effectively shut down through another ‘lawful’ process. And nothing happened, those who shut down A1+, successfully digested it and now are hungry again, they need another délicatesse.
Apparently, Armenian government does not feel enough pressure from European institutions to comply with its commitments to democracy and human rights on the way to European integration. Instead, Armenian authorities use more ‘sophisticated’ approaches in dealing with media and free speech – financial pressure (remember very high TV prices for parliamentary candidates during recent elections?).
For me, Radio Liberty is one of the most credible sources of information from Armenia and my favourite one. They are independent (even though US-financed), comprehensive, current and never boring (compared to osseous, impossibly boring Radio America, which is unbearable to listen). I started listening to Radio Liberty during Soviet period. Along with the BBC and Radio America, it was the source of dissident views on what is going on in Soviet Union and the world (and in my opinion, the best source). I continued listening to Radio Liberty after Armenia regained its independence. Back then, there were speculations that Radio Liberty may become obsolete due to emerging democracy in newly independent states. Unfortunately, democracy is still ‘emerging’ and the role of Radio Liberty is as valued as ever in development of democracy in our country.