Society 16:21 13/04/2018 Armenia

CPFE chairman: No cases of physical violence against journalists recorded in Armenia in first quarter of 2018

The first quarter of 2018 was an intense period for Armenian media in terms of freedom of speech and information, as well as the legislative initiatives restricting reporters’ activities, Chairman of the Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression (CPFE) Ashot Melikyan told a news conference on Friday, presenting the updated CPFE report for the first three months of 2018.

On the other hand, according to Melikyan, the period was relatively calm in terms of the lack of cases of physical violence against reporters and the decline in obstruction of professional activities of media outlets and their representatives.

According to the CPFE report, the first quarter of 2018 saw 14 violations of the right to obtain and disseminate information against the 5 cases registered in the same period of 2017. Some 12 cases of various types of pressure against the mass media and their representatives were recorded from January to March of this year, while 32 such cases were registered in the same period last year. 

The official stressed that no cases of physical abuse against journalists were observed in the first quarter, with three such cases recorded in January-March 2017.

In Melikyan’s words, one of the most obvious examples of restricting the freedom of media was the government’s decision to hold its sessions behind closed doors, after which Yerevan Mayor Taron Margaryan raised the issue of “regulating” (in fact limiting) journalists’ work inside the administrative buildings of Yerevan Municipality on 19 February.

The move came six days after a violent clash witnessed by a large number of reporters between the members of the opposition Yerkir Tsirani party and their colleagues from the Republican Party of Armenia at a Yerevan Council session.

Melikyan added that as a result of those “regulations” from now on reporters have to follow the sessions of Yerevan City Council through monitors in a separate press room.

According to the speaker, the next controversial issue referred to the adoption of the bill on making amendments and supplements to the law “On Television and Radio” by the parliament on 23 March, adding the document approved the government was essentially different from the one adopted by the parliament.

He added two other legislative measures regarding media were initiated in the reporting period, which, unlike the previous ones, received positive reactions. They particularly referred to new provisions in the Administrative Procedure Code over audio and video recording during court sittings and the draft law proposing amendments to Armenia’s Criminal Code.

Asked to assess the obstruction of journalists’ work during the inauguration of Armenia’s fourth President Armen Sarkissian, Ashot Melikyan said the incident will be covered in the CPFE’s next report.
“All this is a result of the policies and approaches that have been adopted. The ruling elite has made a decision to work with a closer regime than before,” he said.

The CPFE’s head stressed this process will continue so long as the society makes a strong demand for an access to official information.

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