Annual Report of CPFE on Situation with Freedom of Expression and Violations of Rights of Journalists and Media in Armenia-2023

Mass protest demonstrations, escalation of the socio-political situation, depopulation of Artsakh, resettlement of more than 100,000 forcibly displaced people in Armenia, elections of Yerevan Council of Elders with tense pre-election struggle and post-election developments. This was the environment in which the media operated and carried out coverage of events in 2023.

In this situation, both physical violence against media representatives and various other pressures in the form of threats, expression of hatred, and impolite treatment were exercised. During the year, the CPFE outlined an alarming picture in terms of restrictions on the freedom of information: the facts of unjustified rejection of the inquiries of media representatives addressed to the state bodies or of providing them with incomplete, blurred answers, a number of regressive legislative initiatives of the authorities, with which an attempt was made to create legal bases for limited provision official data. A certain increase in the number of new lawsuits against mass media and journalists was recorded compared to 2022.

If we present the results of these observations in figures, there will be the following picture:

            The number of cases of physical violence against mass media representatives is 6, various other pressures amount to 60, while violations of the right to receive and disseminate information amount to 134. In the last two cases, there was an increase compared to the previous year. The number of new lawsuits filed against the media outlets and journalists is 36, out of which 34 are for defamation and insult, and 2 are based on copyright infringement. By the way, the majority of them – 23, are represented by state bodies, officials or the  power in office.

The CPFE reports that, as a rule, opportunities to resolve information disputes through out-of-court mechanisms are disregarded. Moreover, politicians and officials often aim to put additional pressure on the media, to “get back at them”, demanding extremely high monetary compensations and also filing a motion to apply an injunction and put a freezing order on the property and bank accounts of the defendants in the amount of the claim. During the period under review, the courts upheld these motions in 2 cases: one on the case of Yerevan Deputy Mayor (currently Mayor) Tigran Avinyan v. 168 Hours LLC ( website) and journalist Davit Sargsyan, the other  on the case of Civil Contract Party v. Union of Informed Citizen NGO, founder of the website. In both cases, after the statements of the journalistic organizations, those decisions of the court were reviewed, and the freezing order on the bank accounts was lifted on the case of journalist Davit Sargasyan and UIC, but it remained in the case of

During 2023, the issues of legislation related to media activities were also in the focus of attention of the Armenian journalistic community and international organizations. Thus, at the beginning of the year, the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Armenia discussed a draft law on making amendments and addenda to the Law of the Republic of Armenia “On the Legal Regime of Martial Law”, which, under the conditions of that regime, implied unjustified strict restrictions on Internet access and mass media activities. After criticism from the expert community, this initiative was frozen. The draft of the RA Law “On Environmental Information” presented to the National Assembly on January 16 and the related package of bills “On Making Amendments to the RA Law on Freedom of Information” and “On Making Addenda to the RA Criminal Code” received the same, highly critical attitude and was eventually withdrawn.

In contrast to these cases, on March 1, the National Assembly adopted an extensive package of bills proposed by the RA Government, based on the new Law “On State Secrets”. Among many other controversial amendments, the package also included an amendment to the Law “On Freedom of Information”. According to it, inquiries for the provision of official data are subject to rejection if they contain “service information of limited distribution”. With this wording, wide opportunities are created for arbitrariness, because any document available in state bodies can fall under this.

Journalistic organizations issued statements regarding these processes, demanding public and expert discussions on problematic legislative amendments, because such regressive initiatives can negatively affect the freedom of information, accountability of the authorities to the public, and contribute to the increase of corruption risks.

At the end of the year, from November 29, the Ministry of Justice published and discussed on the official website the draft law on amendments and addenda to the law “On Mass Media” and related laws, which was developed by journalistic organizations, in particular, with the participation of the Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression, Yerevan Press Club, and Media Initiatives Center. The draft law encourages the development of quality journalism through the use of media self-regulation mechanisms based on the norms of professional ethics. On this occasion, on December 21, the Ministry of Justice also initiated a discussion of the bill with the participation of media and civil society representatives.

During the year, the international organizations Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, as well as the US Department of State  published their annual reports, also addressing the freedom of speech and media activities in Armenia. In general, an improvement of the situation was recorded in this area, but a number of problems related to the legislation regulating the media sphere and impunity for violations of journalists’ rights were also pointed out.


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