28 February 2020, Yerevan
The new draft of the amendments to the Criminal Code posted on the official website e-draft.am by the Ministry of Justice raised serious concerns among the journalistic circles. In particular, Article 443 relating to filing a false police report prescribes liability, including imprisonment for publishing false information on a criminal case or commission of a crime by someone in the media.
We, the undersigned organisations, note the clarifications provided by the Ministry to the effect that the purpose of the said amendments was not targeting the media or journalists. Nevertheless, we state that transposing the crime of filing a false police report to the field of the media is an innovation unused in the past (it does not exist in the current Criminal Code) and not necessary at present, which can threaten seriously freedom of expression and impede media activity. Moreover, this will have a “chilling effect” on the media sources to impart confidential information on cases of public importance. Finally, even if a media outlet publishes false information on a criminal case or the commission of a crime by someone, this issue can be resolved by means of civil law regulations through liability for defamation rather than criminal prosecution.
Considering the aforesaid, we demand that the authors of the draft refrain from transposing the problem of filing a false police report to the field of the media and remove from Article 443 the wording “… or publication of similar information in the mass media.”
COMMITTEE TO PROTECT FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
YEREVAN PRESS CLUB
MEDIA INITIATIVES CENTER
JOURNALISTS’ CLUB “ASPAREZ”
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION CENTER
MEDIA DIVERSITY INSTITUTE – ARMENIA
PUBLIC JOURNALISM CLUB
JOURNALISTS FOR THE FUTURE
JOURNALISTS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
GORIS PRESS CLUB
SUPREMACY OF LAW