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The sessions hall of the Armenian National Assembly Parliament

Media watchdogs criticize plans to sharply increase monetary compensation for insult and defamation

The Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of the RA Alen Simonyan tabled a legislative initiative which proposes to increase the maximum amount of monetary compensation for insult and defamation five times to 5 million and 10 million AMD, respectively, which has caused concern and indignation among the Armenian and international journalistic community. This approach, put forward for purely political reasons, can in no way contribute to the realization of the stated goals, namely the exclusion of irresponsible journalism, and the protection of citizens’ rights to information.

This initiative is even more dangerous against the background of the fact that the number of lawsuits filed by government officials against the media on the grounds of insult and / or slander is increasing every month, by the way, claiming the maximal amount of compensation, namely 1 million AMD for insult and 2 million AMD for slander. It is true that these claims are seldom satisfied met, but in the current situation, the fivefold increase in the amount of the compensation will be a clear message for the judiciary to push for tougher decisions against the media.

This would upset the balance between the right to freedom of expression enshrined in Article 10 of the European Convention and the dignity of a person as a component of one’s private life, protected by Article 8 of the same Convention. In addition, the most important provision of the RA Constitutional Court Decision No. 997 of November 15, 2011, will be ignored, according to which the financial situation of the media must be taken into account when assigning compensation for insult and slander in the publications, so that this responsibility does not lead to their collapse.

The economic crisis caused by the coronavirus has already had a severe impact on the activities of the media. It is obvious that the sharp increase in the amount of compensation for insult and defamation under Article 1087.1 of the RA Civil Code will become a serious threat to the sector as a whole, leading to punishment not only to some indecent platforms, but also hurting journalists who comply with the law and professional ethics. There are many cases when justified criticism is perceived as insult or slander, and attempts are made to “deal with” the media through the court.

The tabled draft in question causes concerns because in recent months there have been frequent legislative initiatives related to the media, which are not based on in-depth studies of the situation or expert advice.

Taking the above mentioned into account, we as journalistic organizations, demand from the National Assembly:

– to reject the inclusion of the above-mentioned bill in the agenda of the Parliament and withdraw the document from circulation,
– to initiate open discussions on the insult and slander disseminated by media outlets and the options of responding to them, with the participation of representatives from political forces, state bodies, media, non-governmental organizations and international organizations,
– to promote legislatively the development of quality journalism and extrajudicial settlement of information disputes.

COMMITTEE TO PROTECT FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
YEREVAN PRESS CLUB
MEDIA INITIATIVES CENTER
JOURNALISTS’ CLUB “ASPAREZ”
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION CENTER
MEDIA DIVERSITY INSTITUTE – ARMENIA
PUBLIC JOURNALISM CLUB
“JOURNALISTS FOR THE FUTURE” NGO
“JOURNALISTS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS” NGO
GORIS PRESS CLUB

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Statement on Ex-Police Chief’s Attack on RFE/RL Reporters

On August 8 the former Chief of Police of Armenia Vladimir Gasparyan demonstrated a lawless conduct towards the journalists of Radio Liberty, obstructing their professional activity. The latter were preparing a report at the shoreline of Lake Sevan about buildings and structures illegally constructed along the shore. Noticing that the journalists were taking footage of his mansion, too, the former Chief of Police, according to Radio Liberty, drove his car in their direction, threatening to run them over and exterminate physically – “shoot them dead,” “beat them to death” – and then used obscene curses, demanding not to publish the footage.

During his years in office, Vladimir Gasparyan was notorious for his insolent, and in some cases even cruel attitude towards media representatives. We should recall that during the events of Electric Yerevan in 2015 and those of Sari Tagh in  2016 over 40 journalists and cameramen were subject to physical violence and unlawful persecution. Or we can recall his gross insult to the correspondent of 1.am news website Siranuysh Papyan which caused unconcealed indignation among the journalistic community.

All this remained unpunished, and obviously, that is the very reason why today the former Chief of Police continues to act indecently towards journalists.

Taking the above-stated into consideration, we as journalistic organizations demand from law enforcement bodies to investigate the incident and bring Vladimir Galstyan to responsibility in the manner established by the law.

 

COMMITTEE TO PROTECT FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

YEREVAN PRESS CLUB

MEDIA INITIATIVES CENTER

JOURNALISTS’ CLUB “ASPAREZ”

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION CENTER

MEDIA DIVERSITY INSTITUTE – ARMENIA

PUBLIC JOURNALISM CLUB

“JOURNALISTS FOR THE FUTURE” NGO

“JOURNALISTS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS” NGO

GORIS PRESS CLUB

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TV Tower of Yerevan

Media Watchdogs Raise Concerns Regarding The Draft Law “On Audiovisual Media”

The draft law “On Audiovisual Media” adopted by the National Assembly in the first reading gives cause for deep concern. Not only is it not aimed at implementing reforms in the broadcasting sector, but it is also seriously flawed in terms of the presented principles and approaches, as well as the formulations thereof. The bill envisages an inefficiently competitive licensing procedure for terrestrial broadcasting via public multiplex. It fails to either provide any realistic mechanisms for forming private multiplexes, or solve the problems of about 10 local TV stations operating in the regions that were left out of the digitalization process. No opportunity for reforms over the public broadcaster is created and so on.

Although some of the journalistic organizations who signed this statement had submitted a few dozen proposals to the authors of the document, with most of them accepted, it is obvious that the draft does not meet any modern requirements, does not solve the key issues in the field. The main reason is that the bill is built on problematic conceptual bases, hence, it needs to be revised.

The reason for concern is that the authors of the document did not want to follow our urges to send the draft to the Council of Europe and/or the OSCE for international expert evaluation,  a process which we have expressed our readiness to support. We understand that the urgency in relation to the adoption of the bill is conditioned by the fact that according to the current law “On Television and Radio”, the terms of TV licenses shall expire this year, and regular competitions must be organized. However, due to the need to adopt a quality new law, they may be delayed as well.

In view of the above stated, we call to:

– take the bill on audiovisual media out of circulation and send it for international expert examination,

– make appropriate amendments to the present Law on Television and Radio in order to postpone the regular licensing tenders,

–  initiate discussions in order to draft a concept paper for the development of the field and a new law for the regulation of the sector and create a working group with the participation of NA deputies, journalists’ organizations, representatives of TV and radio companies, and independent experts.

 

COMMITTEE TO PROTECT FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

YEREVAN PRESS CLUB

MEDIA INITIATIVES CENTER

JOURNALISTS’ CLUB “ASPAREZ”

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION CENTER

MEDIA DIVERSITY INSTITUTE – ARMENIA

PUBLIC JOURNALISM CLUB

“JOURNALISTS FOR THE FUTURE” NGO

“JOURNALISTS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS” NGO

GORIS PRESS CLUB

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Armenia -- Police fine Armnews TV, because the TV anchor wasn't wearing a mask, Yerevan, 03Jul2020

Statement on Police Actions at The Newsrooms of ArmNews and Channel 5 TV

Yesterday, on July 3, policemen visited ArmNews and Channel 5 TV stations, with the aim of initiating administrative proceedings for not wearing a mask on TV.

Even taking into account the requirements under the state of emergency related to the coronavirus epidemic, we consider the action applied by the law enforcement to be an abuse of power. In the conditions of political and psychological tension in the society, the authorities should be more careful and avoid taking unnecessarily strict steps. We are convinced that the issue of wearing a mask or not wearing it on air could be solved differently, through discussions, clarifications, and mutual agreements.

We, the undersigned organizations, demand from the Government and the Commandant’s Office as follows:

  • not to use law enforcement agencies in actions beyond their typical scope of functions and exclude their interference in the activities of the media;
  • to revise and clarify the limitations on working conditions related to the media because of the epidemic, taking into account the peculiarities of the media, especially TV․

We urge the media to refrain from any possible violations of the decisions passed by the Commandant’s Office, realizing their own share of responsibility for the health of both fellow citizens and their employees.

COMMITTEE TO PROTECT FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

YEREVAN PRESS CLUB

MEDIA INITIATIVES CENTER

JOURNALISTS’ CLUB “ASPAREZ”

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION CENTER

MEDIA DIVERSITY INSTITUTE – ARMENIA

PUBLIC JOURNALISM CLUB

“JOURNALISTS FOR THE FUTURE” NGO

“JOURNALISTS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS” NGO

GORIS PRESS CLUB

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Armenia -- Journalists pushed around while covering tycoon Gagik Tsarukian's departure from NSS, Yerevan, 16Jun2020

“The Security Forces Not Only Failed To Protect The Journalists, But Also Hindered Their Work”

Yesterday, on June 16, 2020 when “Prosperous Armenia” party leader Gagik Tsarukyan following his interrogation at the RA National Security Service went out to his supporters gathered in the area, as a result of scuffle as well as police actions, at least 5 journalists covering the process suffered. In particular, “News.am” correspondent Liana Sargsyan, “Tert.am” reporter Ani Gevorgyan, “Yerkir.am” correspondent Tatevik Kostandyan, “Kentron” TV journalist Artur Hakobyan and “MegaNews.am” editor Margarita Davtyan were injured.

According to the injured journalists, the media representatives found themselves surrounded by the police in the confusion, after which they were hit. Regardless of whether these actions were targeted or were conditioned by negligence or insufficient professional training, we note that the security forces not only failed to protect the journalists, but also hindered their work.

We, the undersigned journalistic organizations, condemn any violence against media representatives who perform their professional duties, and demand from the RA Police to carry out an objective internal investigation to study the incident and bring those responsible to justice.

At the same time, given that these events take place in the state of emergency conditioned by coronavirus, we urge media executives to keep away their employees from appearing in the center of gatherings of people while covering rallies, and in case it is impossible, to give clear instructions on complying with security measures.

 

COMMITTEE TO PROTECT FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

YEREVAN PRESS CLUB

MEDIA INITIATIVES CENTER

“ASPAREZ” JOURNALISTS’ CLUB

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION CENTER

MEDIA DIVERSITY INSTITUTE-ARMENIA

PUBLIC JOURNALISM CLUB

“JOURNALISTS FOR THE FUTURE”

“JOURNALISTS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS”

GORIS PRESS CLUB

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big ata

Statement of the media organizations on restrictions of citizens

On March 31, 2020 the RA National Assembly adopted a bill, which will give the government additional tools to fight the pandemic under the State of Emergency at the same time limiting the citizens’ rights to the protection of personal data, privacy, freedom of communication.

We acknowledge that in the face of natural disasters and other emergencies fundamental human rights and freedoms may be restricted for the sake of public safety. However, we want to emphasize that such restrictions are acceptable only at the minimum scale, necessary for achieving the set goals. Hence, the government must adhere to the principle of proportionality, as well as make sure that the restrictions are exercised with maximum transparency.

We hereby state that the government is accountable to the public even under the State of Emergency and is not exempt from responsibility for its actions. Sadly, the parliamentary debates of the aforementioned bill did not provide definitive answers to a range of key matters of public concern.

Based on the above, we call on the RA government and the Commandant’s Office, to duly inform the citizens which institutions (be them public or private) are analyzing the personal data of the citizens, what is being done to ensure the adequate level of protection and security of the data, as well as provide clear information on the results achieved by the implementation of these measures. We also find it expedient to provide for public oversight of data collection and processing.

YEREVAN PRESS CLUB

MEDIA DIVERSITY INSTITUTE – ARMENIA

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION CENTER

MEDIA INITIATIVES CENTER

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION CENTER

PUBLIC JOURNALISTS’ CLUB

SUPREMACY OF LAW NGO

JOURNALISTS FOR THE FUTURE

GORIS PRESS CLUB

JOURNALISTS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

“FEMIDA” PUBLIC ORGANIZATION

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April 2, 2020

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Image by Photo Mix from Pixabay

Statement on Ensuring Media Coverage under The State of Emergency

We, the undersigned organizations, have noted with satisfaction that on March 25 the RA Government reviewed its March 16 decision and ended the disproportionate limitations of covering issues related to the coronavirus.

Nevertheless, we note that the revised provisions do not clearly define the body, which is authorized to provide official information and comment on behalf of the State of Emergency Coordinating Body. This raises problems when trying to effectively utilize relevant arrangements for the state of emergency.

Given the need under the current situation for the public to be informed and receive accurate, reliable, and comprehensive information, we call on the RA government to immediately define a clear procedure for providing the requested information and appoint a responsible authority.

As in our previous statement, we reconfirm our readiness to support any undertaking aimed at ensuring that the public is properly informed.

COMMITTEE TO PROTECT FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
YEREVAN PRESS CLUB
MEDIA INITIATIVES CENTER
JOURNALISTS’ CLUB “ASPAREZ”
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION CENTER
MEDIA DIVERSITY INSTITUTE – ARMENIA
PUBLIC JOURNALISM CLUB
JOURNALISTS FOR THE FUTURE
JOURNALISTS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
GORIS PRESS CLUB

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Armenian Media Microphones

Statement on Provisions Limiting Freedom of Speech in Government’s Decision to Institute a State of Emergency

March 20, 2020, Yerevan

We, the undersigned, have in various formats expressed our negative opinion about the provisions of the Government’s decision to institute a State of Emergency in the Republic of Armenia, which regulate the dissemination of information.

After those provisions went into force, we have registered that their implementation is ineffective, non-proportional, unreasonable and contradicts public interest under the conditions of the pandemic.

We are calling on the RA Government and State of Emergency Coordinating Body:

  • To immediately call back provisions 23, 24, 25 and 26 of the Government decision # 298-N, about instituting a state of emergency in the Republic of Armenia as of March 16;
  • Develop a new provision regulating the dissemination of information, which will clarify possible limitations for this complicated situation, will aid in the adherence to norms of professionalism and effective interactions between the government bodies and media for the public good.

We express readiness to help in developing such a document.

Yerevan Press Club

Media Initiatives Center

Freedom of Information Center

Public Journalism Club

Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression

Journalists’ Club “Asparez”

Media Diversity Institute – Armenia

Journalists for the Future

Journalists for Human Rights

Goris Press Club

Supremacy of Law

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Statement on the Draft Amendments to the Criminal Code

The new draft of the amendments to the Criminal Code posted on the official website e-draft.am by the Ministry of Justice raised serious concerns among the journalistic circles. In particular, Article 443 relating to filing a false police report prescribes liability, including imprisonment for publishing false information on a criminal case or commission of a crime by someone in the media.

We, the undersigned organisations, note the clarifications provided by the Ministry to the effect that the purpose of the said amendments was not targeting the media or journalists. Nevertheless, we state that transposing the crime of filing a false police report to the field of the media is an innovation unused in the past (it does not exist in the current Criminal Code) and not necessary at present, which can threaten seriously freedom of expression and impede media activity. Moreover, this will have a “chilling effect” on the media sources to impart confidential information on cases of public importance. Finally, even if a media outlet publishes false information on a criminal case or the commission of a crime by someone, this issue can be resolved by means of civil law regulations through liability for defamation rather than criminal prosecution.

Considering the aforesaid, we demand that the authors of the draft refrain from transposing the problem of filing a false police report to the field of the media and remove from Article 443 the wording “… or publication of similar information in the mass media.”

COMMITTEE TO PROTECT FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

YEREVAN PRESS CLUB

MEDIA INITIATIVES CENTER

JOURNALISTS’ CLUB “ASPAREZ”

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION CENTER

MEDIA DIVERSITY INSTITUTE – ARMENIA

PUBLIC JOURNALISM CLUB

JOURNALISTS FOR THE FUTURE

JOURNALISTS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

GORIS PRESS CLUB

SUPREMACY OF LAW

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Attack on Kentron TV

Statement on the attack against “Epikentron” filming-crew

On December 24, 2019, in Hovtashen community of Ararat province, several dozens of residents attacked “Kentron” TV journalist Artur Hakobyan and cameraman Simik Mayilyan, hitting them and damaging the camera. The camera crew managed to save a part of the footage of the incident, which clearly shows the fact of violence.

According to “Epikentron” news agency director Varduhi Meltonyan, “Kentron” TV reporters, along with other media representatives, had arrived in Hovtashen to cover the issues related to the fish farm owned by Sedrak Arustamyan, Director of Multi Group Concern. The saved footage shows that the attack by the residents was targeted and aimed at hindering the work of the very TV company crew.

We, the undersigned journalistic organizations, express our resentment with regard to the obstruction of professional journalistic activities and the violence unleashed. We urge the law enforcement agencies to take measures to identify and bring all those responsible to justice.

 

COMMITTEE TO PROTECT FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

YEREVAN PRESS CLUB

MEDIA INITIATIVES CENTER

“ASPAREZ” JOURNALISTS’ CLUB

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION CENTER

MEDIA DIVERSITY INSTITUTE-ARMENIA

PUBLIC JOURNALISM CLUB

“JOURNALISTS FOR THE FUTURE”

“JOURNALISTS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS”

GORIS PRESS CLUB

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