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Armenian Official Rules Out Changes To Controversial Broadcasting Bill

The National Assembly debating amendments to the Law on Television and Radio earlier this month.
The National Assembly debating amendments to the Law on Television and Radio earlier this month.
YEREVAN -- An Armenian government official says there will be no further changes to a controversial bill on broadcasting that has been criticized as giving the government too much control over the country's airwaves, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Avetis Berberian, a member of the task force that drafted the legislation, said on June 16 that the authorities have done their best to address recommendations made by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and Armenia's leading media associations.

The bill -- which has been passed by parliament and awaits President Serzh Sarkisian's signature to become law -- has been criticized by foreign governments, domestic media watchdogs, and human rights advocates.

"Several proposals were not accepted for technical, financial, political, military, [and] political considerations," Berberian told RFE/RL. "Right now our financial and technical capacities do not allow us to fully accept their recommendations."

Raul de Luzenberger, the head of the European Union Delegation in Armenia, expressed optimism to RFE/RL earlier on June 16 that the government might still amend the legislation despite it being approved by the National Assembly last week.

"We welcome the fact that the government has launched a public consultation on this and the improvements made to the existing legislation," he said. "At the same time we welcome the willingness of the authorities of the Republic of Armenia to continue the discussion with the civil society, the OSCE, and the Council of Europe to further amend the law and bring it further in line with international standards."

But Berberian made it clear there will be no more changes to the legislation in the near future.

"What was deemed necessary has already been incorporated into the package and the parliament has already adopted it in the final reading," he said.

Government officials have said the amendments are necessary for expediting Armenia's transition to mandatory digital broadcasting.

But local media groups and other critics say that their real aim is to maintain a de facto government control over the news coverage of virtually all TV and radio stations and to limit the number of those stations.