On April 25 the Vienna-based International Press Institute released its annual
World Press Freedom Review for 2006. Having studied the situation in 180 countries,
IPI concluded that with 100 journalists killed, 2006 “was the most savage and
brutal year in the history of modern media”. Only in Iraq were 46 journalists
killed, IPI noted; however, murders of journalists occurred in other countries,
too, in particular, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Philippines, Mexico, Venezuela,
Sri Lanca and Russia.
In the section on Armenia the review notes that while the human rights records
show certain improvement, the media freedom remains limited. In the opinion
of the review authors, “the independent media has been under pressure,
and the broadcast media remain pro-government”. Despite the diversity of print
media, many newspapers have financial and economic problems. Besides, in some
regions, such as Nagorno-Karabakh, the problems are even worse, IP notes: salaries
are low, information is hard to come by, and many independent papers depend
on sponsorship to survive because advertising is scare and the population often
cannot afford to buy newspapers. The IPI review quoted the opinion of the OSCE
Representative on Freedom of the Media Miklos Haraszti, as stated on June 21,
2006 in Yerevan – despite “significant progress” in improving media legislation,
“real pluralism” remains limited, especially in the broadcast media.
In 2006 “A1+” independent TV company, deprived of air since 2002, was once
again refused a license, and its founder, “Meltex” LLC, had to vacate the premises
in one of the buildings, owned by the National Science Academy, and to move
to smaller premises, allocated to the TV company in another building.
The IPI review tells at length the arrest on June 26, 2006 and the subsequent
conviction of the Chief Editor of “Zhamanak-Yerevan” daily Arman Babajanian,
charged with document fraud to evade military service. IPI quoted the colleagues
of Arman Babajanian and the statement of the Chief Editor of “Zhamanak-Yerevan”
himself dated June 30, qualifying the incident as political motivated – due
to the criticism of Armenian authorities published in the daily. Despite the
actions of the journalistic community to support Arman Babajanian, the Chief
Editor of “Zhamanak-Yerevan” was found guilty and sentenced by the court of
primary jurisdiction to 4 years – a harsher punishment that those usually applied
in similar cases, IPI notes.
Among the incidents with journalists IPI lists the attacks on the sports observer
of “Haikakan Zhamanak” daily David Jalalian on January 30, 2006, and on the
Editor of “Iravunk” newspaper Hovhannes Galajian on September 6.
The IPI review also says that on October 2 the parliament of Armenia rejected
the package of draft laws on broadcasting, proposed by the Government and criticized
by media associations.