YPC Weekly Newsletter

2006


12 HEADS OF MEDIA AND NGOs CALLED ON AUTHORITIES TO RESPECT DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTES

On July 17 the heads of 8 newspapers, two journalistic and two human rights
organizations made a joint statement, expressing their concern over the strengthened
pressure on media representatives and called on authorities to have respect
to democratic institutes, including the press. The statement was signed by the
newspaper Chief Editors – Aram Abrahamian of “Aravot”, Hagop Avedikian of “Azg”,
Nikol Pashinian of “Haikakan Zhamanak”, Satik Seyranian of “168 Zham”,
Shogher Matevosian of “Chorrord Ishkhanutiun”, Vasak Darbinian of “Taregir”,
Editor of “Iravunk” newspaper Hovhannes Galajian, the Executive Editor of “Zhamanak-Yerevan”
daily Liza Tchagharian, President of Yerevan Press Club Boris Navasardian, Chairman
of Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression Ashot Melikian, Chairman of Helsinki
Committee of Armenia Avetik Ishkhanian, Chairman of the Center of Right and
Freedom Vardan Harutiunian.

“Journalistic community is greatly concerned that as the parliamentary elections
draw nearer in Armenia, there is intensification of pressure and threats to
media representatives from the forces and individuals that have a reason to
fear criticism and disclosure of some of their activity aspects.

During the past week only two extraordinary developments occurred: the Chairman
of “Investigative Journalists” public organization Edik Baghdasarian received
a warning about possible harassment, while performing the professional duties
the photo correspondent of “Chorrord Ishkhanutiun” newspaper Gagik Shamshian
was attacked, physically abused and robbed. In their appeals to the RA National
Security Service and prosecutorial structures both our colleagues respectively
noted the possible source of “discontent” with their journalistic activities.
Gagik Shamshian even named specific names of people who threatened and harassed
him, however, by our information, no measures were taken against the assaulters,
moreover, even after the appeal was filed, the “punitive actions” against the
journalist continued.

The latter circumstance shows that not only the pre-elective wave of law infringements
grows but also that the law enforcement bodies are unable to ensure the safety
of media representatives and to neutralize the criminals. We think it appropriate
to remind the provisions of the RA Law “On Mass Communication”, according to
which “the journalist during his legitimate professional activities, as
a person performing a public duty, is protected by the legislation of Republic
of Armenia” and “it is prohibited (…) to impede the legitimate professional
activities of the journalist”. However, the legislation runs contrary to
the sad reality: the vast majority of crimes against journalists, including
the numerous cases of impeding their professional activities, remain undisclosed.

In this context the absence of any kind of reaction from the RA General Prosecutor’s
Office to the number of appeals to change the preventive punishment against
“Zhamanak-Yerevan” daily Chief Editor Arman Babajanian remains unacceptable
for us. Neither in this, nor in other examples quoted do we intend to go into
the legal essence of the cases or to forestall the results of the investigation.
Our concern is caused by the problems of normal functioning of media and its
representatives, intensification of politically motivated tension and absence
of adequate, legitimate response of the authorities to the situation in place
and our appeals.

We reinstate our appeal to consider the possibility of changing the preventive
punishment of Arman Babajanian, make a speedy investigation and punish those
guilty of the incident with Gagik Shamshian, thoroughly study the circumstances,
related to the anonymous threats to Edik Baghdasarian. The climate in which
the parliamentary elections will take place in a few months is fully dependent
on the readiness of the state to protect its citizens from hooligans, striving
for power at any price, and to respect the democratic institute, in particular,
the press”, – the statement of 12 media and NGO leaders says.