Freedom House, an international non-profit organization, has recently published it annual survey on the condition of media in 187 countries of the world in 2000. The survey evaluated the freedom of media in the countries by assigning numerical scores from 1 to 100 as free (1-30 points), partly free (31-60 points), not free (61-100) – the lower the score, the freer the media. The freedom of media is evaluated along 4 dimensions – legislative basis, political pressure and control over media, economic influence, repressive actions (killing journalists, physical violence, censorship, self-censorship, etc.) – for both broadcast and print media.
According to the “Freedom House” survey, the electronic and print media of Armenia scored 8 points each (out of 15) along “legislation that influence media content” dimension. Along the “political pressure and control over media” variable the electronic media are given 8 and print media are given 13 points (out of 15). The economic influence on electronic media is estimated to be 6 points, whereas that on the print media is 13 (out of 15). As to the repressive actions against Armenian media, the electronic media were graded 0 and the print media 2 (out of 5).
On the aggregate scale Armenia scored 59 and is qualified as having partly free media. At the same time the survey mentions that Armenia, along with 8 other countries, including Azerbaijan and Georgia, experienced a decline in press freedom in 2000.
The survey specifies that the newly introduced RA Civil Code has replaced the formerly existing punishments for libel as a retraction or compensation for damages by harsher sentences of up to three years in prison. It is also mentioned that the freedom of speech in Armenia can be restricted in the interests of state and public security, order, health, morality and the rights and reputation of others. Journalists often exercise self-censorship when covering security agencies. Freedom House experts note that though direct threats and intimidation by governmental officials are uncommon, the authorities have other, mostly economic means, to restrict the freedom of speech.
The survey stresses that Armenia broadcast media are freer than the print media. This is explained by the fact that print media in Armenia are, for most part, unprofitable and financially dependent on sponsors, who are often intent on promoting their own political or economic interests. Meanwhile, broadcast media are economically more viable due to larger audiences. Out of 900 media outlets registered with the RA Ministry of Justice as of 1998 only about 200 are regularly active. Freedom House mentions a case of beatings of a journalist by the RA Interior Ministry officials, allegedly for his report on the investigation into 1999 parliament attack.
The policy on the freedom on the Internet in Armenia is regarded by Freedom House to be least restrictive.