On June 29 international human rights organization “Freedom House” released the annual study, “Nations in Transit”. The report provides an assessment of the state of democratic governance in 29 countries of former Soviet Union, Central and Eastern Europe within the period of January 1 till December 31, 2009. The democracy level was assessed by “Freedom House” by assigning a numerical score from 1 to 7 – the lower the score, the higher the democratic progress. The latter was determined by six parameters: national democratic governance; electoral process; civil society; independent media; local democratic governance; judicial framework and independence; corruption.
The section dealing with Armenia also describes the situation with media independence. By noting that the Armenian legislation provides a sound framework for freedom of expression, “Freedom House” emphasized that the media environment improved in 2009, as compared to 2008 when “direct censorship was exercised by the government for 20 days following post-election unrest”. The transition from analogue to digital broadcasting, approved by the government in 2009, raised two main concerns: the lack of independence of media regulatory bodies and suspension of licensing competitions on TV and radio broadcasting. The amendment to RA Law “On Television and Radio”, enacted by the parliament in September 2008, suspended the broadcast licensing competitions until July 2010. “Six media organizations, including the Yerevan Press Club, announced that the amendment was aimed at ‘preserving and strengthening the currently practiced total control over broadcasters’”, the study of “Freedom House” says. It also stresses the insufficient degree of media self-regulation in Armenia, including in the areas of professional ethics and standards. The study highlights cases of attacks against journalists, different forms of intimidation on media and their representatives. “Owing to the limited reach of print media and few genuinely independent outlets, which exist for the most part only online, Armenia’s independent media rating (like in the previous study – Ed. Note) remains at 6”, “Freedom House” concludes.