Discussions about the transparency and disclosure of media ownership in Armenia have become particularly active since the Velvet Revolution last year.
“If we want the media to work fairly according to the rules of the game, then that transparency is just one of the most important conditions. It is very important that the audience is aware of where they are getting their information,” said Ashot Melikyan, Chairman of the Committee to Protect Freedom of Speech, during a discussion at the Media Center.
“The public has a right to know where it receives important information from, in order to be able to determine whether or not they should trust the information, verify it, or find the same information from different sources, etc. They need to know who is standing behind the news outlet. But that does not mean that punitive measures will be applied against them,” said Boris Navasardyan, President of the Yerevan Press Club.
The media field is not the only sphere in Armenia where transparency is needed. According to Shushan Doydoyan, President of the Freedom of Information Center, the government is working with civil society in this direction. The 4th Action Plan approved within the framework of the Open Government Partnership Program will be elaborated and adopted in the next two years and an electronic program including the entire legal framework for the business register of real business owners will be launched.
The Public Register should include information about the real owners of all branches of businesses, including the media. However, according to Shushan Doydoyan, the pilot project will apply to mining companies at first, followed by the inclusion of other sectors. “Business will become transparent and controlled by civil society.”
According to Sona Ayvazyan, Director of Transparency International Anti-Corruption Center, if the media is the fourth power, then, as we demand transparency and accountability from all authorities, society can demand the same requirements from the media. And the media should be the first to become transparent.
Legislative changes are required to ensure the transparency of media owners and funding. A working group, created by the Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression, the Yerevan Press Club and the Media Initiatives Center, is now working out a new bill on Television and Radio where a separate chapter will focus on transparency. In parallel, they will also be drafting a bill on mass media.
In the words of Boris Navasardyan, unlike the previous authorities, after changing, the media was going through a phase of redistribution and media outlets would move from the control of one political force to another, there is no such process taking place in the time of the new government.
“Moreover, the news outlet that seems to be a pro-governmental ally, I am talking about Public Television and Radio Company, did not become as such, and we can see today the wide representation of the opposition. This means that the regulation of our sphere must be more civilized,” said Boris Navasardyan.