“The third quarter of 2021 brought serious challenges for the media which had to operate in extremely difficult conditions, especially due to number of restrictions adopted by the legislative body,” Ashot Melikyan, the Chairman of the Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression (CPFE), told at a press conference, presenting the findings of the Quarterly report of CPFE on “Situation with Freedom of Expression and Violations of Rights of Journalists and Media in Armenia.”
In Melikyan’s words, most of the restrictions were adopted through legislative initiatives and adoption of various normative acts which obstructed the free operation of the media.
“We consider those restrictions and legislative initiatives regressive and concerning, which further worsen the situations,” stressed Melikyan. The CPFE Chairman specifically referred to the decision of the National Assembly leadership on the freedom of movement of accredited journalists inside the parliament building.
“That was an unprecedented decision in the history of that representative body. We record that the decision significantly limits the opportunity of reporters to take interviews and comments from NA deputies and cover the work of the NA Standing Committees. Another concerning issue was the reporters and cameramen accredited to the pArliament were not notified about expected changes and they were informed about it on the same they when the decision was published,” said Melikyan.
Another notorious incident, per Melikyan, was the arbitrary decision of the Speaker of the Parliament to cease the live broadcast of the parliament session when a brawl started among lawmakers during the sitting in August. Following the Speaker’s instruction to stop the broadcast, the security officers ordered reporters to leave their designated area, obstructing their activity.
Melikyan also condemned the physical violence and other pressures against reporters by security officers during the incident.
Melikyan commented on the legislative changes tripling the maximum penalties for online insult and defamation to 3 and 6 million Armenian drams (approximately $5,700 and $11,400), respectively. In his words, the bill was adopted without taking into account the views the civil society and media organizations that expressed serious concerns about it.
“In the past 9 months, 13 cases of physical violence against reporters, 83 cases of various pressures against media outlets or individual reporters and 67 violations of the right to receive and disseminate information have been recorded in Armenia. Meanwhile, 48 lawsuits have been filed against media outlets and reporters since the beginning of year most of which submitted former and acting officials which is a high and concerning figure,” Melikyan summed up.