Society 19:12 12/10/2020 Armenia

Yerevan.Today: Our work has become impossible due to fines

Yerevan.Today has announced that on October 10, three police officers visited the editorial office of their news website to conduct administrative proceedings against the website, News.am reports.

The respective statement of Yerevan.Today reads:

"On Saturday, October 10, three police officers visited the editorial office of Yerevan.Today news website in order to conduct administrative proceedings (fine) against the website. The reason was the article republished from 7or.am website. They said that the article is considered a threat to the security of the state. The police were not told which line or word of the article is a threat or what threat. It is a threat and that is it, without further explanation. In order to fine, they had brought with them the draft amendments to the ‘RA Code on Administrative Offenses’ adopted by the parliament on October 9, which was submitted for adoption in the first reading. We informed them that it was not a law, but a draft, and one that would adopted only in the first reading. We entered arlis.am on the spot, and it turned out that the law has not come into force yet, as it was signed by the president on the afternoon of October 10, and it is not yet available even in arlis.

One of the policemen left the room, consulted with a person on the phone, we assume he was a superior, returned and said that it didn't matter, regardless of everything, they shall fine, that was the order. To our question, should the article published on the website be deleted without drawing up a record, is a record being drawn up, if it is not being removed, they answered that it should be removed and a record should be drawn up on holding accountable. After another telephone consultation, they said that regardless of whether the law was published or not, regardless of the fact that they used the bill as a basis for its adoption in the first reading, regardless of the fact that they do not even know which specific state security threat or panic idea in the article is ordered to be fined.

We offered to refrain from such a step in these conditions of martial law, as we will have to enter a court dispute because we will definitely appeal due to the illogicality of the fine or the large amount of the fine (AMD 700,000). We explained that we do not want to appeal against the state during these war days. We offered to be satisfied with deleting the article. The police consulted again by phone and said that it was an order that they would make a record. The record was made not about the director, but about the editor, without any proper hearings, in an absurd wording: the posted article poses a threat to the security of the state.

Let us stress that the police, together or separately, often went out to consult on the phone.

There is no criterion in which case the article is considered panicky, in which case it is a threat to the security of the state. The thing is that the first publication is fined 700 thousand drams, the second - 1.4 million, in the third case, criminal liability is appointed. And if there is no set standard, then any material can be considered a threat by ‘someone.’

Since the declaration of martial law, almost all registered and audience media outlets have put aside their political views, the desire to comment, the temptation to post information from Artsakh from other sources, thinking that these publications may provoke other types of emotions among the people, we refused—understanding, realizing ourselves, as always. Moreover, Hovhannes Movsisyan, the head of the Public Relations and Information Center SNCO of the RA Prime Minister's Office, has repeatedly addressed the heads of the media, offering not to write about various topics, and the media responded to the government's request. We did not even publish the materials and in the case when, for example, pro-government media outlets or foreign correspondents working in Artsakh posted them. And we think that if the same SNCO finds an article that, according to them, threatens the security of the state on any website, it could have applied to the editor in the same way not to post or remove it.

Most of the media have a version of videos, they invite various guests, experts whose words are considered important for the state during this period. Now, we do not know whether the proper words of our guests will lead to a fine, as there are no criteria that can be considered threatening or causing panic. At the same time, in order to keep the operativeness, many events are published live, but now we have to refrain from that as well because we also do not know at what moment what idea will be heard on the air.

We think our partners will also share the view that this decision to restrict the media also contains other risks; there is a danger that fake websites and social media users will appear (and are already appearing) who do not have a registration address, may have been opened by the enemy, but are in Armenian and give unverified or, worse, directed false information which really can be panic-causing and a threat to the security of the state, and which will become a more ‘reliable’ source of information. The society, one way or another, will not be hungry for information, will find what to read or watch, only that instead of quality, reliable, leading media, it will be fed with fake news which will lead to panic and other threats.

The Union of Journalists of Armenia is quite active in raising issues in the field and finding solutions. Yerevan.Today is now appealing to the Union of Journalists, journalists' organizations, and media executives to take steps with joint efforts to be able to finally lift these unacceptable restrictions. These problems threaten all of our work and the information security of the state.

Attached to the announcement we also present the photo of the record and the submitted draft law.”



Source Panorama.am
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