YPC Weekly Newsletter

2008


RA HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER AND INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS URGED ARMENIAN AUTHORITIES TO LIFT THE MEDIA RESTRICTIONS

On March 12 at press conference in Yerevan the RA Human Rights Defender Armen
Harutiunian urged the authorities of the country to lift the restrictions on
media activities, stipulated by the Decree of the RA President on emergency
rule (see above). “Ensuring freedom, independence
and diversity of media is of great importance for the realization of the constitutional
right of citizens to information”, the RA Human Rights Defender Armen Harutiunian
noted, in particular (quoted by a communication placed on the web site of the
RA Human Rights Defender, www.ombuds.am).

On March 4 a similar appeal was made by the OSCE Representative on Freedom
of the Media Miklos Haraszti. “The state of emergency should not be used
by the government to take away the public’s right to news from diverse sources.
Pluralistic reporting helps ensure transparency of governmental action even
in dire times”, Miklos Haraszti said. According to the OSCE press release, Miklos
Haraszti also noted that after the introduction of the state of emergency the
public is presented with one view of events only, the non-state broadcast media
have been limited to re-airing official news, several independent and opposition
websites have been blocked and foreign radio and TV coverage on Armenia has
been restricted. “In protest against the restrictions, some major Armenian newspapers
did not publish editions today.” “Notwithstanding the wave of unsanctioned
demonstrations and even violence, independent reporting on the events is the
legitimate right of the media, to which Armenia has committed itself in the
OSCE. The existing legal provisions against incitement to violence should be
sufficient to tackle any potential misuse of speech rights and should not be
replaced by pre-emptive censorship”, Miklos Haraszti concluded.

The declaration of the European Union, released on March 5, also referred to
the need to lift the state of emergency, which imposes restrictions on a number
of civil liberties, including the freedom of the media.

Concern with the situation of Armenian media was also voiced by other international
organizations, in particular, “Article 19”, “Reporters Without Borders” (RSF),
Committee to Protect Journalists, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, as well
as the US Co-Chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group Matthew Bryza, the representative
of US Department of State Public Affairs Section Tom Casey. The Chief Executive
Officer of Millennium Challenge Corporation John Danilovich in his letter of
March 11 to the RA President Robert Kocharian noted that democratic environment
is an important pre-condition for the Millennium Challenge Compact operation
and stressed that the recent events in Armenia could have negative effects on
the country’s eligibility for MCC funding: “MCC is reviewing operational aspects
of its ongoing work in Armenia in light of these events, including the suspension
of media freedoms and the imposition of a state of emergency, and is closely
monitoring the situation with US Government and donor colleagues.”