We, the undersigned media organizations, state that the snap parliamentary elections held in Armenia on December 9, 2018, qualitatively differed from all the previous ones in terms of favorable conditions for journalists and the media outlets and for their operation without restraint. On the actual election day, no serious case of physical violence or impeding the professional activity of a journalist was recorded; the few slight incidents were settled immediately. This is an unprecedented thing, which should be made a tradition.
On September 23, on the day of extraordinary elections to Yerevan City Council, at the polling station 8/05, Norik Yeranyan, chairperson of the district commission, hit Ani Davtyan’s hand, journalist from “1in.am” news site telling her “take your microphone aside”. In an interview with the CPFE the journalist informed that besides that one of the persons escorting Arthur Manoukyan, parliamentarian from PAP, pulled the cameraman by the shoulder and disturbed the videotaping. We express hope and demand that the law-enforcement bodies will investigate the incident in detail and charge those to blame.
Three days have passed after the search conducted on September 17 at the editorial of the “Yerevan.today” news website, however the law enforcement bodies have not introduced any substantiations about the need for those rough actions.
Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression Chair Ashot Melikyan response to the Facebook posting by RPA Vice-Chair Armen Ashotyan
Today RPA Vice-Chair Armen Ashotyan wrote on his Facebook page that he is expecting the assessment by media organizations, institutions dealing with the freedom expression and press and certain human rights defenders of the Facebook posting by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. We should remind that in relation to certain TV Companies, the Prime Minister said they are conducting anti-state campaign, “taking the opportunity of the unlimited freedom of expression.” “Do not do that, simply don’t”, said the Prime Minister in the end.
Truly interesting transformations are taking place. When Armen Ashotyan, being the Vice-Chair of the ruling RPA party, was running the “Yerankyuni” (triangle) public-political program over the Public TV Company, and both the experts from media organizations and me personally were saying that it is unacceptable, our opinion was of no value to him. When we were saying that the Armenian broadcasting field and the “Law on TV and Radio” needs radical reforms, they were ignoring us. When we were demanding to discover and punish those who used violence against and persecuted the journalists during “Electric Yerevan” and Sari Tagh events, the authorities only imitated pre-investigation. And now, our opinion became important to Armen Ashotyan. Frankly speaking, here two intentions are noticed. First, try to use independent media organizations for some political objectives; second, to deviate the public attention as much as possible from much more important events that are taking place currently. I guess both will fail.
We, the undersigned news organizations, congratulate Nikol Pashinyan on the occasion of being elected as the RA Prime Minister and taking the office, and we express our hope that the new government will make radical reforms in Armenia.
We are sure, that such reforms are needed in the fields of mass media and information freedom. A number of legislative changes passed during the recent period groundlessly restrict transparency and accountability of the government activity, and violate the right to receive and disseminate information.
Reconfirming our assessments and demands mentioned in the April 19 Statement, below we present the cases of violence against the journalists and impeding their professional activities during April 20-22.
On April 22, at night, Anatoli Yeghiazaryan, program director of Radio “Liberty”, was beaten by police officers in the Garegin Nzhdeh square. According to the radio “Liberty”, the incident occurred, when Yeghiazaryan, who was coming back home from work, tried to film with his mobile phone how approximately fifty police officers were attempting to disperse the peaceful protesters via using force. Noticing that their actions were being filmed, 6-7 policemen attacked Yeghiazaryan, although he showed them his badge and repeatedly told them he represented Radio “Liberty”.
During a week of protests in Yerevan, and as part of the authorities’ actions to counter them, journalists and media outlets have also been targeted for attacks.
On April 19, near the RA Government 3rd Branch Building, people wearing civilian clothing physically attacked Tirayr Muradyan, a journalist from the Union of Informed Citizens NGO. In his testimony, the attackers were police officers, who upon noticing that they were being featured by the reporter, subjected him to violence.
On April 18, for having photographed the armored equipment on the capital’s Baghramyan street, by order of the Deputy Chief of Police Hunan Poghosyan, Narek Kirakosyan, journalist from Armtimes daily was prosecuted.
On March 30 the acting RA President signed into law two pieces of new legislation adopted by the National Assembly at its last extraordinary session, which pose serious threats to freedom of information and limit journalists’ work. These are the law “On Government Structure and Activity” and law “On Local Self-Government in The City of Yerevan”. The first one of those laws stipulates that the sessions of the country’s top executive body should be held behind closed doors, the second one creates obstacles for the media representatives covering the sessions of Yerevan’s Elder’s council.
Yerevan municipality put forward for discussion in journalistic circles the proposals for regulating the activities of media representatives in the city administration building. It is obvious that this initiative of the municipal authorities is not driven by day-to-day necessity, but rather by the scandalous incident that occurred in the municipality on February 19, 2018. On that day the “А1+” TV company and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Armenian Service correspondents, which were filming in the city administration building accompanied by Zaruhi Postanjyan, Head of “Yerkir Tsirani” opposition faction at Yerevan Council of Elders, faced harsh obstruction to their professional activities. Artur Gevorgyan, Head of Information and Public Relations Department of Yerevan municipality, did not allow Zaruhi Postanjyan to continue speaking with the journalists in the municipality building, and afterwards with the help of the police blocked the entrance to her office, making the journalists leave the building.
By decision of the RA National Assembly Speaker the draft law “On the Structure and Activities of the Government”, which has not undergone thorough public discussion and has been harshly criticized by the media and non-governmental organizations, was placed on the agenda of the extraordinary session to be convened following the end of the February 27, 2018 regular sessions.