YPC Weekly Newsletter

2006


2005 REPORT OF US DEPARTMENT OF STATE

On March 8 US Department of State released its report on human rights practices
in 2005 in different countries of the world, prepared by the Bureau of Democracy,
Human Rights, and Labor.

Referring to the situation of freedom of speech and press in Armenia, US Department
of State notes in particular “while the law provides for freedom of speech and
of the press, the government partially limited freedom of speech” and “there
were incidents of violence, intimidation, and self-censorship in the press”.

According to the authors of the report, private print media actively expressed
various views, “but no newspaper was completely independent of the patronage
from economic or political interest groups or individuals”.

Because of low newspaper circulation, most people in Armenia relied on broadcast
media for information, which, similarly to print media, are mainly private.
“In the capital and regional cities, private television stations offered generally
independent news coverage of good technical quality.” Alongside this, the report
emphasizes, that the substantive quality of TV and radio news reporting varied
due to self-censorship by journalists and the stations’ dependence on patronage.
The major broadcast media “generally kept to progovernment lines”. “Economic
pressure on broadcast media was more common than outright political pressure,
including authorities requesting bribes, and advertising revenues used to influence
programming.”

The report runs that senior officials of RA President’s office “continued to
provide policy guidance” to First Channel of Public Television of Armenia. While
its coverage was mainly factual, First Channel avoided editorial commentary
or criticism of the government.

Not giving broadcast license to “A1+”, “one of the country’s last independent
television stations”, was, as observers think, politically motivated for criticizing
President Kocharian’s administration. The attempts of the TV Company to resume
air are still unsuccessful, the report notes.

According to US Department of State, foreign media overall freely operate on
the territory of the country. At the same time, for three days beginning on
the day of the constitutional referendum (November 27, 2005), Radio “Free Europe”/Radio
“Liberty” broadcasts were periodically inaudible. The Public Radio of Armenia
(the First Program of which is aired on the same frequency as the Armenian Service
of RFE/RL) explained these disruptions by technical problems. However, “some
observers alleged the disruptions were politically motivated”, the report says.

Harassment of the journalists is still a problem, the State Department emphasizes,
noting that “there were unconfirmed reports of incidents of harassment and intimidation
of journalists outside the capital”.

In contrast to the previous years, in 2005 “there were no reports of police
beating journalists”. One of the official documents of the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs mentioned one case “involving possible violence against a reporter”
still under investigation, “at year’s end the circumstances surrounding the
case were unclear”. The report also refers to a very mild punishment on the
case of assaulting a photo reporter in August 2004 in Tsaghkadzor.

“There was no official censorship; however, there were continued reports of
intimidation of journalists, and some print journalists continued to practice
self-censorship to avoid problems with the government and because of pressure
from official sources”, the report stresses. US Department of State concluded
that “during the year there were no charges brought against journalists for
libel of a public official”.