On February 15 the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) publicized its annual report on attacks on press in more than 100 countries of the world in 2010. The report section on Europe and Central Asia deals with the censored Internet in Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus. CPJ notes that event-specific blocking of selected Internet sources has become a common tool for many countries of the region. Over the past four years such blockings were documented in Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, Armenia, Russia, Belarus, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan.
The report section on Armenia, particularly stresses that “self-censorship remained widespread in the media, as lawlessness curbed the activities of journalists, human rights defenders, and opposition leaders”.
The most drastic example became the June 2010 amendments to the RA Law “On Television and Radio” that tightened control over broadcast media: “The government tried to deflect attention from the restrictive amendments by embedding them into a package of measures meant to move radio and television stations from analog to digital signals.” According to CPJ, “the RA President Serzh Sargsian ignored domestic and international protests over the restrictions, which are seen as benefiting his Republican Party as it approaches parliamentary elections set for 2012”. Besides, the report mentions that the amendments provided the government legal cover to keep the popular “A1+” TV company off the air. The authorities have essentially ignored the June 2008 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights on the case of “A1+”, recognizing the refusals to grant a broadcast license to the TV company a violation of Article 10 of the European Convention, i.e., of the right of the applicant to freely impart information and ideas. The report also reminds about “GALA” TV company, subjected to governmental harassments since 2007.
As the sole positive legislative change CPJ notes the May 2010 amendments package, decriminalizing libel and defamation.
The report lists the incidents occurred with media representatives in 2010: with free-lance journalist Gagik Shamshian at the RA Procuracy building on February 24; detention of “Haykakan Zhamanak” correspondents Ani Gevorgian, Syuzanna Poghosian, and correspondent of “Hayk” newspaper Lilit Tadevosian during the opposition rally on May 31 in Yerevan.