The RA Law on the Mass Media, which had been adopted in 2003, has not so far obstructed the work of any media outlet. Mesrop Haroutyunyan, a media expert believes that this is an assessment indicator for any legislation. Yet, a question arises whether the consumer’s right to know what interests this or that media outlet serves is protected by law. The Law on the Mass Media has several gaps used especially by the online media. First, Article 11 of the Law foresees publishing of the baseline data (address, telephone number, name of the legal person, the person responsible for the issue, etc.), a requirement, which also applies to ‘the media outlets issued on a physical carrier’ and the broadcasters. At the beginning the phrase ‘physical carrier’ applied to the traditional media. In 2003 the online media were not as advanced as today. Even today these provisions are not applied by them. Meanwhile, according to experts, it does not matter what a physical carrier looks like.
The Law on the Protection of Personal Data foresaw exceptions: collection and processing of personal data was not subject to restrictions if done exclusively for journalistic, literary and artistic purposes. This was prescribed by paragraph 3 of Article 1 of the Law, which, however, lost effect by the amendments enacted by the parliament on 16 December 2016. Moreover, this process was accompanied by utter secrecy.
“Rapidly changing and evolving political context of Armenia contributed to the rise of the instances of hate speech”: expert of ECHR
” Politicians and activist public figures should be aware that by bringing themselves into the spotlight they open themselves to harsh criticism and that they are expected to tolerate it,” said Vasily Lukashevich, a Senior Lawyer at the European Court of Human Rights, in his recommendations on combatting hate speech in Armenia, sent to the Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression.
No Addressee, No Responsibility: the law has created difficulties not only in public authorities, but also in the work of the media
In searching ways to get information from pubic authorities a journalist often faces a problem: who turn to – the press secretary or to the public relations office. How to get operative information!
“When you send an inquiry to the Information department or to the relevant unit, the answer to which you should receive at minimum five or maximum 30 days, you receive it 2-3 months later, or there happen cases that those inquiries are lost in the Staff of the Government”, Narek Kirakosyan, journalist from “Haikakan zhamanak” newspaper expresses his concerns.
During the post-revolution period only the lazy do not talk about false, or as they call it “fake” news. They spread like a virus, with attractive titles. Today, there are already the so-called “factories of fakes”, which organize targeted attack over the social networks on this or that official or political power, later their notes/posts happen to be in on this or that site, or the vice versa: from an unknown (or not that much) sites this news spreads over the social networks through the same “factory of fakes”.
When on February 13, samples of openly flowing sewage waters from Noubarashen residential area happened in the municipality by the members of the “Yerkir tsirani” faction in Yerevan City Council, and later with the efforts of the same faction, the journalists witnessed the permissiveness dominating in this body, former Mayor of Yerevan Taron Margaryan decided to “settle up” all these. Changes and amendments were made in the RA Law on “Local self-government in Yerevan city”. Minister of Justice Davit Haroutyunyan’s disposition about sessions of the municipality to be pubic and transparent did not impede the parliament to approve Margaryan and his supporter’s initiative to ban journalist’s free entry to the municipality.
The previous government, when preparing for the premiership of Serzh Sargsyan, on February 1 approved the RA draft law on “The structure and activity of the Government”. The initiative of restraining the media outlets through legal changes, ungrounded limitation of their freedom was successful, and on March 23, it was adopted by the NA. So, according to the law, the government sessions should be behind the doors; without the permission by the Prime Minister, the ministers are not allowed to public any information about any issue tackled upon at the sessions.
Since 2017, information about the procurement related to the top three leaders of the state, is confidential. This was enshrined in December of 2016, with the changes made in the RA “Law on procurement”.
The very controversial changes made in the “Law on procurement” made the information about almost half a billion Drams allocated annually from the state budget inaccessible to the journalists and to the public. Whereas it is impossible to combat corruption and demand accountability of the authorities while leaving out the top three officials of the state.
On August 7, the TVRC spread a message with which it tried to respond to the article under heading “No reform, just maintaining the status quo” published on July 31 by the Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression. In fact, we tackled upon two topics in our publication: the problem of private broadcasting network, i.e. tender for licensing the operation of the multiplex, and related to it legislative change, which the previous authorities (quite possibly together with the TVRC) made secretly from the media organizations, without engaging them or at least without public discussions.
on August 9, on the successive day of the government session, the journalists were forbidden to enter the conference hall. They were surprised. Moreover, the representatives of the media outlets, one after another, started live streaming over Facebook and leaving comments: “Arman Yeghoyan, the Prime Minister’s press secretary forbids the journalists to move around the government building”, “artificial impediment by the new government: welcome to new Armenia”, “there are new customs, new impediments in the Government; the Prime Minister’s press secretary does not allow to go up to the conference hall: why? By which law?” Some even went further up to “…what about the revolution…?”
The Prime Minister’s Press secretary Arman Yeghoyan explained the decision on the ban as follows: “The security regime is being violated. It is hard to control who is going where in the building.”