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.
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
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.
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.”
As part of its CyberHUB-AM project MDI Armenia organized a digital security training for journalism students at the Journalism Faculty of Yerevan State University.
The Digital Security specialists of CyberHUB-AM Samvel Martirosyan, Vartan Arzumanian and Artur Papyan discussed IT security threats, digital security tools with future journalists, responded to the questions.
As part of its CyberHUB-AM project the MDI Armenia held a free digital security training for journalists.
The founders of CyberHUB-AM team Samvel Martirosyan and Artur Papyan discussed IT security threats, digital security tools with journalists, helped them reconfigure their messengers, social media and email accounts for enhanced security, responded to the questions.
The training covered issues around risk identification and risk management, protecting organizational websites and social media accounts from possible attacks, as well as internal communication and sensitive data.
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.
On the night of December 19, 2019 unknown persons broke into the editorial office of “Zhoghovurd” daily and, according to the reporters of the newspaper, ransacked the property, opened the drawers, entered the editor’s office, scattered newspapers and papers, most likely trying to find something. According to preliminary information, no computer equipment or other things have been stolen, but the intrusion itself is evidence of an attempt to exert brutal pressure on the media.
We, the undersigned journalistic organizations, strongly condemn the attack against the editorial office, express our support to our colleagues, and demand that law enforcement agencies take all necessary measures to identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice.
On 11 December the RA Ministry of Justice officially posted on the website www.e-draft.am the draft Law on the Amendments to the RA Law on Television and Radio, which envisages inter alia a right for the Public Television to broadcast advertisements for up to 5 minutes within one broadcast hour.
We, the undersigned organisations, hereby state that this is an entirely unjustified step. The issue of whether the Public Television and Radio Company sponsored from the state budget must have access to the adviertising market had always been resolved by the former authorities arbitrarily depending on the political expediency and very concrete business group interests rather than credible calculations and serious arguments. There is no ground to assume that the current initiative is driven by the public demand while the draft itself raises a number of issues with the relevant expert structures.
We note that this is not the first case that the revolutionary government neglects the need to consult the expert community before adopting important decisions and developing draft legislation.
Considering the justifications attached to the draft law as unacceptable and biased, we demand that:
The Ministry of Justice removes the document in question from circulation and holds an open discussion on the issue of advertising by the Public Television;
The Television and Radio Commission expresses a public position on whether in addition to budgetary allocations the public broadcaster needs to have access to the advertising market;
The Board of the Public Television and Radio Company puts forward additional and more convincing explanations on insufficient budgetary allocations and urgency of broadcasting advertisements, as well as provides clarifications as to why these issues and legislative amendments are being agreed exclusively with the authorities in blatant neglect of the opinions of other stakeholders.
COMMITTEE TO PROTECT FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION YEREVAN PRESS CLUB
MEDIA INITIATIVES CENTER JOURNALISTS’ CLUB“ASPAREZ” MEDIA DIVERSITY INSTITUTE – ARMENIA FREEDOM OF INFORMATION CENTER PUBLIC JOURNALISM CLUB “JOURNALISTS FOR FUTURE” NGO “JOURNALISTS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS” NGO GORIS PRESS CLUB