Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression
On the Situation with Freedom of Speech and Violations of Rights of Journalists and Media in Armenia
Media Activities Environment
Starting from 2010, the Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression has been providing interim quarterly reports on the situation of the freedom of expression in Armenia, violations of rights of media and journalists, including legislative changes, recommendations and procedures regulating the field, the influence of the economic environment and political factors on the media.
The first quarter was marked with the presentation of the draft law on making changes and amendments to the RA Law “On Television and Radio” elaborated by Yerevan Press Club and Internews NGO and placed into circulation on March 14. These two organizations were involved in the task group created in September 2010 and headed by the RA Human Rights Defender. On December 21, 2010, the CPFE publicized the recommendations of its task group regarding the changes and amendments to the Law. Both documents have similar approaches and are directed to the liberation of the field and finding solutions to the existing problems. Thus, it becomes possible to work over a combined draft law and upon completion to introduce it to competent authorities.
The first quarter of 2011 was unprecedented with the number of claims against media outlets. The CPFE recorded 10 new court cases that directly dealt with the law on decriminalization of libel and slander adopted on May 2010. Moreover, three proceedings of the same nature were initiated last year and had new developments during the first quarter of the current year.
However, the tendency to solve the problems with media through judicial proceedings is accounted for not only by the imperfection of the new provisions of the law, but also the intolerance of political and other authorities towards the criticism of media publications.
It gives food for thought that the authors of these legislative changes (decriminalization of libel and slander) are representatives of the three parties of the ruling coalition. Plaintiffs of these claims also belong to ruling parties. Armenia’s second president Robert Kocharyan and the members of his family demonstrated significant activity in this procedure.
Besides, the independent judicial system is not yet formed in our country, and practically unbiased and righteous decisions of claims against media are rare.
Thus, Article 1087.1 of the RA Civil Code, regarding the compensation for public defamation and slandering of business reputation, has recently become a tool for legal, political and economic pressure, especially against unwanted media.