YPC Weekly Newsletter

2008


CENSORSHIP IN ACTION

The publication of newspapers – “Aravot”, “Haykakan Zhamanak”, “Taregir”, “Pakagits”,
“Hraparak”, “Zhamanak-Yerevan”, “Chorrord Ishkhanutyun” stopped after the RA
President’s Decree of March 1, announcing a state of emergency in Yerevan. Access
to the websites of the mentioned newspapers was also blocked. According to journalists,
the ban on printing was carried out by representatives of the RA National Security
Service. Web portals Lragir.am, Armenia Today were blocked, the domain name
of “A1+” was put on hold. Rebroadcasts of the Armenian Service of Radio Free
Europe/Radio Liberty were halted on the frequencies of “ArRadioIntercontinental”.
The access to the websites of the radio station were also blocked. The editorial
offices of “Hayk” and “168 Zham” newspapers found it pointless to publish under
the conditions of the Decree on emergency situation, which envisaged coverage
of the internal political situation solely within the scope of official information.

On March 12 a statement was issued by heads of twelve media and two media associations,
where the situation was qualified as ban on media undesirable for the authorities.
“Under the current situation, our constitutional right to disseminate and receive
information has been violated; the universally acknowledged principles of freedom
of speech and press have been infringed; the media bear financial losses; censorship
is being implemented in Armenia, and our country has turned up in a complete
informational blockade”, the statement notes in particular. On the same date
the Editors-in-Chief of “Demo” newspaper, published in Mountainous Karabagh,
and the online-publication “KarabakhOpen” expressed their concern with the developments
and solidarity with their colleagues, calling the Armenian authorities to lift
the restrictions on media activity, especially as limitations “are in fact applied
only towards the independent and opposition media”.

On March 14, 2008 an amendment to the Decree related to media activities came
into force (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, 7-13
March, 2008
); the situation, however, did not improve in any significant
way. The newspapers “Aravot”, “Haykakan Zhamanak”, “Hayk”, “Taregir”, “Chorrord
Ishkhanutyun”, “Zhamanak-Yerevan”, “Hraparak” are still not allowed to print;
the abovementioned Internet-sites are still blocked. The publication of “Pakagits”
and “168 Zham” newspapers resumed from March 15th, as did the rebroadcasts of
the Armenian Service of Radio “Liberty”.

On March 14 heads of 10 Armenian media issued another statement. “Robert Kocharian’s
Decree was published on March 13th, which was supposed to, according to his
comments, ease the restrictions on the activities of media under the state of
emergency. On the same day newspapers, which were effectively blocked by the
well known Decree of March 1, were sent to print houses. The National Security
Service representatives, conducting censorship at the publishing houses, familiarized
themselves with the content of the newspapers at length and, as they said, reported
to corresponding officials, after which, without any basis, announced that the
publication of the presented newspapers is forbidden. Explanations were given
only to the representative of the “Aravot” daily: the NSS officials offered
to edit the report on Levon Ter-Petrossian’s press-conference. They also found
it unacceptable to publish the interview with those, who suffered during the
events of March 1. The editorial office of the daily refused to comply”, the
statement notes in particular. The signatories also stressed that “the materials
of the newspapers presented for print give no basis to oppress our constitutional
right to disseminate information, halt our professional activity”.