The third quarter of 2022 was a tense period for the Armenian media, conditioned by a number of emergencies, namely the large-scale explosion in August in Surmalu Trade Center in Yerevan that took the lives of over 15 people, followed by the new aggression unleashed by Azerbaijan, continued clashes in the territory of the RA, as well as escalations of the domestic political struggle.
The military activity of Azerbaijan has become a serious threat to the representatives of media, covering those actions. In particular, in the border settlement of Sotk in Armenia the adversary targeted the journalists’ group and fired in that direction. Russian peacekeepers also created unnecessary impediments for the staff of Armenian media outlets and banned the entry of some journalists to Artsakh without any decent substantiation.
In the reporting period, conflict indicents happened among top officials and the representatives of the media when the latter were fulfilling their professional duties.
Generally speaking, the cases of various kinds of pressure against media outlets and jouralists, including those with the use of legal mechanisms, increased by 7. As for violations, related to physical violence as well as those of the right to receive and disseminate information, these decreased by 9 and 4 respectively. However, the situation continues to cause concerns, and since cases of unjustified use of force by law enforcement officers continue to be repeated in crisis situations, public agencies often do not properly respond to the requests of the media to provide information, and the relations between officials and journalists remain problematic.
Thus, in the course of the past three months CPFE recorded 18 cases of various types of pressure against journalists and media outlets, 20 violations of the right to receive and disseminate information and 2 facts of physical violence with 3 victims that are media represenatives. The number of new lawsuits against media outlets is 9.
11 media organizations made condemning statements on the relatively more egregious violations of the rights of journalists and media outlets. The events in the media field were in the focus of international organizations, too. In particular, Freedom House Human Rights organization welcomed the decriminalization of “grave insults” in Armenia, in this context highlighting the role of the Memorandum, signed between the government and civil society organizations back in April. That document was aimed at the development of a joint concept paper on reforming media-related legislation and the adoption of a new law that would be in compliance with modern requirements due to adherence to principles enshrined therein.
Nevertheless, the attempts of the authorities to promote legislative initiatives without proper consultations and discussions with specialized non-governmental organizations cause some concern. During this quarter the package of amendments to the Law of the Republic of Armenia on Audio-Visual Media, proposed by the Ministry of High Technology Industry on July 21, came as a surprise, which as a result of the sharp criticism by experts was withdrawn for improvement. Later, on September 30th, a draft law by Sisak Gabrielyan – an MP from the Civil Contract faction – was officially circulated, however has not been yet included in the agenda of NA sessions. This, too, was circulated in contradiction with the agreement achieved in the Memorandum, namely without any discussions with journalistic organizations.
The draft law on the amendments to the RA Code on Administrative Offenses, adopted by the National Assembly on September 14 in the second reading and its entirety, was a positive development, according to which the amount of the existing fine for illegal failure to provide information as envisaged by law was increased.
During this quarter the litigation between the Armenian Second TV Channel LLC and the Commission on Television and Radio on the decisions of the Commission passed as a result of the licensing competitions continued. This is an unprecedented situation when after losing the lawsuit in court instances, the Commission on Television and Radio had to open the call for a new competition for licensing the use of slots in the Public Multiplex for republican and capital broadcast.
According to Article 19 international organization’s report, published on July 12, Armenia has been classified as a country with “less restricted” freedom of expression, coming 46th among 161 countries. By the way, Azerbaijan comes the 136th, Turkey is the 141st, Iran is the 143rd, all three were classified as countries “in crisis.”