On April 8 the US Department of State released the report on human rights practices in different countries of the world in 2010, prepared by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.
Addressing the freedom of speech and press situation in Armenia, the US Department of State notes in particular that “the Constitution provides for freedom of speech and freedom of the press; however, the government did not always respect these rights in practice”, and “there continued to be incidents of violence and intimidation of the press and press self-censorship throughout the year”. The report also emphasizes that media, especially television, lack of diversity of opinion and objective reporting.
During 2010 journalists were subject to physical attacks in connection with their professional activity. Many of the perpetrators remained unidentified, while representatives of law enforcement agencies also occasionally harassed journalists, the report notes. There were no new developments in the investigation of attacks against journalists recorded in previous years, there were no reports authorities took any special measures to protect journalists or to punish those who sought to intimidate them.
The report lists the 2010 incidents, court litigations, linked to media representatives, as well as the attacks on journalists, made in 2009 and unresolved as of today.
The US Department of State does not pass over the broadcast licensing competitions, particularly the thirteenth denial by the National Commission on Television and Radio (NCTR) to grant a license to “A1+” TV company, deprived of air since 2002. The report mentions that “A1+” had appealed the NCTR decision on the December 16, 2010 competition results. The State Department also reminds about the ruling of European Court of Human Rights of June 17, 2008 on the case of “A1+” founder, “Meltex” LLC, recognizing the refusals to grant a broadcast license to be a violation of Article 10 of the European Convention on Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, i.e., of the right of the applicant to freely impart information and ideas.
As regards the media legislation, the report tells about the decriminalization of libel and insult of May 18, 2010 and criticizes the June 10, 2010 amendments to the RA Law “On Television and Radio”. According to the State Department, “the amendments failed to address key issues related to digitalization, such as the regulation of mobile and Internet broadcasting, digital transmitters, and network operators”. At the same time, the amendments contained provisions not technically necessary for digitalization, and, as domestic observers indicated, would significantly limiting media freedom and pluralism. Particularly, the adoption of the amendments leads to the reduction of the number of Yerevan and regional TV channels. The report also stresses that in spite of significant pressure from domestic media associations and international organizations, the government did not publicize the results of the technical audit of available frequencies on which the reduction was based.
In 2010 there were no government restrictions on access to the Internet, as it was done during the 2008 state of emergency, when the government deliberately blocked the independent or pro-opposition Web sites, the report underlines.
In the section dealing with political prisoners and detainees, Nikol Pashinian, the Chief Editor of “Haykakan Zhamanak” daily, is mentioned. The latter was found guilty in mass riots of March 1, 2008 in Yerevan, and sentenced to seven years of imprisonment. In March 2010 as a result of an amnesty applied the unexpired term of imprisonment of the journalist was cut down by half, the US Department of State annual report on human rights practices in different countries of the world stresses.