Annual report of CPFE on the Situation with Freedom of Expression and Violations of Rights of Journalists and Media in Armenia

In 2016, numerous violations, cases of pressure and impediments against journalists registered by the Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression speak of the fact that Armenian media and their staff members have acted under extreme unfavorable conditions. The vivid examples of that are the events that took place in Yerevan Khorenatsi Street and in Sari Tagh from July 17-30. The protests following the armed attack by the “Sasna Tsrer” grouping on the patrol service regiment (PSR) of the RA Police and the actions by the law enforcement were associated with large-scale violence and impediments against the lawful professional activities of the journalists and cameramen. Moreover, those actions were unprecedented in terms of applying special means against the media representatives.

During the July events, according to the CPFE data, 27 journalists and cameramen suffered from the actions by the police, of which 19 were subjected to physical violence, while getting bodily injuries, 8 faced various types of pressure and pursuits. Although indictment was issued against eight persons in relation to these criminal cases, of which seven were taken to court, accordant to CPFE assessment, it is not equivalent to the scale of violence and pressures.

Violations against the journalists and impediments of professional activity were also registered during the coverage of Local self-governing bodies elections, which took place September-October, as well as during the relatively calm periods. In total, the CPFE has registered 10 cases of physical violence during which 26 journalists and cameramen suffered, 52 cases of other types of pressure against the mass media and their staff members, as well as 33 cases of violating the right to receive and disseminate information.

In 2016, 17 new court cases with involvement of mass media and journalists were admitted in various courts, of which 14 refer to insult and defamation, two refer to extortion and one refers to the violation of the presumption of innocence.

In 2016, the authorities introduced several legislative initiatives related to mass media, which, according to CPFE and partner journalist organizations (Yerevan Press club, Media Initiatives Center) were of regressive nature. In this respect, the most noteworthy was Article 65 of the RA new Electoral Code, which contains ungrounded restrictions, and in terms of ensuring activity of the freedom of media, it became much worse, than the relevant provisions in the previous code. In contrast to this, from the changes envisaged in the “Law on TV and radio” (related to elections), with the recommendation by the CPFE and partner journalist organizations, they removed or reworded several dangerous articles, which would constrain the work of the media outlets.

One of the important events in the year was the full transition from analogue to digital broadcasting, which officially ended on October 26. However, the process that lasted almost seven years became a serious challenge for more than 10 TV companies operating in the marzes, which, because of improvident policy run in this field, are on the verge of closing down. To solve the problem of these broadcasters, as of the end of the year, negotiations by the CPFE and partner organizations with responsible people in this field were ongoing.

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