On January 22 the international Human Rights Watch organization released its annual report on human rights practices in over 90 countries of the world in 2011.
In report section, dealing with Armenia, the situation with media freedom is presented. In May 2010 Armenia decriminalized libel and insult. However, amendments to the RA Civil Code introduced high monetary fines for defamation and led to an increase in lawsuits against newspapers, particularly by public officials, the Human Rights Watch noted. “In some cases the courts’ disproportionately large damage awards threaten the survival of newspapers”, the report stresses. As an example, Human Rights Watch cites some of the sensational defamation cases: three RA National Assembly MPs Samvel Aleksanian, Levon Sargsian and Ruben Hayrapetian versus “Haykakan Zhamanak” daily; family of Second President of Armenia Robert Kocharian versus “Zhamanak” daily; the very Robert Kocharian versus “Hraparak” daily; RA NA deputy Tigran Arzakantsian versus “Yerkir” daily.
Lack of media pluralism remains a problem, Human Rights Watch says. In December 2010 National Commission on Television and Radio denied “A1+” TV company a broadcast license for the 13th time, despite the June 17, 2008 European Court of Human Rights ruling, recognizing the license denials as violation of Article 10 of European Convention on Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. “ALM” TV and “GALA” TV of Gyumri were also refused of a digital broadcast license. According to Human Rights Watch, “since 2007 ‘GALA’ has been subject to apparently politically motivated court cases and harassment by state agencies, seemingly in retaliation for the station’s coverage of opposition party activities”.