SOUTH CAUCASUS CONFERENCE IN GUDAURI
On October 21-24 in Gudauri (Georgia) a conference “Human Rights and Establishment of Civil Society in the Countries of South Caucasus” was held. The event was organized by Yerevan Press Club, “Yeni Nesil” Journalists Union of Azerbaijan and “Black Sea Press” Association of Georgia under a joint project “Societies and Media of South Caucasus Countries: Search for Mutually Acceptable Solutions to Regional Problems”, supported by Cooperation Program in South Caucasus of Eurasia Foundation
The conference brought together representatives of media and NGOs of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. The participants discussed short documentaries on human rights practices in the three countries of South Caucasus. The results of quarterly reviews of Armenian, Azerbaijani and Georgian newspapers were presented. The purpose of this nine-month cross country study was to reveal the degree and the nature of media coverage in each of the countries of events in the two neighboring ones. The conference and the findings of the project will be reflected in a documentary to be shown on TV air in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.
SUIT OF HCA VANADZOR BRANCH SECURED
On October 21 the court of primary jurisdiction of Lori region completed hearings on the suit of Vanadzor Branch of Helsinki Citizen’s Assembly versus the Lori Regional Department of RA Service of Compulsory Execution of Judicial Acts. As it has been reported, the Vanadzor Branch of HCA appealed to the court since the compulsory executors were in fact unable to get from Vanadzor municipality and provide the human rights organization with the copies of resolutions, passed by the city authorities and the community Council of Elderly in 2002-2003 (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, September 16-22, 2005). The litigation between HCA Vanadzor Branch and municipality started in 2004 and went through all three court jurisdictions. The courts every time obliged the Vanadzor administration to secure the right of the organization for access to requested documents (but for those constituting a secret), yet the municipality persisted (see details in Annual Report on Freedom of Speech in RA in 2004 on YPC web-site: www.ypc.am).
At the session of October 21 the court took into account the repeated attempts of the compulsory executors to get the court ruling implemented, noting at the same time that the Service was inconsistent in fulfilling its mission. Thus, it did not demand the complete list of the resolutions above, to determine which constitute a secret and are not to be disclosed.
The court obliged the Lori Regional Department of RA Service of Compulsory Execution of Judicial Acts to take all the necessary means for the human rights organization to receive the documents.
RSF INDEX: FROM “BLACK HOLES” IN THE EAST TO DEMOCRACY RETREAT IN THE WEST
On October 20 “Reporters without Borders” (RSF) international organization released its fourth annual World Press Freedom Index. The study was conducted in 167 countries of the world and based on events between September 1, 2004 to September 1, 2005. RSF Index was compiled by surveying 14 partner organizations and 130 correspondents of RSF, as well as journalists, researchers, lawyers and human rights activists. The respondents were assessing the press freedom in each country with a questionnaire compiled by RSF and including 50 criteria: ranging from various forms of pressure on journalists and media to legislative restrictions, the behavior of authorities towards the state-owned media and foreign press. Obstacles to the free flow of information on the Internet were also taken into account.
The ranking of RSF, similarly to the previous research (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, October 22-28, 2004), has North Korea (167th rank) at the bottom. It is closely followed by Eritrea (166th) and Turkmenistan (165th). These three countries, in the opinion of RSF, are “‘black holes’ for news, where the privately owned media is not allowed and freedom of expression does not exist”.
In the countries of Middle East, Eastern and Central Asia (besides Turkmenistan, of the former USSR countries this includes Uzbekistan – 155-156 ranks, and Kazakhstan – 119th rank), “journalists have the toughest time and government repression or armed groups prevent the media operating freely”. Thus, during the year the situation in Iraq (157th rank) deteriorated further in terms of safety of journalists. This year at least 24 journalists and media assistant were killed and since the fighting began in March 2003 their number made 72, making the Iraqi conflict “the most deadly for the media since the World War II”.
More and more African and Latin American countries, RSF believes, get very good rankings (thus, Benin and Namibia shared 25-26th ranks, El Salvador and Cape Verde – 28th and 29th ranks respectively).
The freest countries are still Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland, taking the top lines in the RSF Index, similarly to the last year research. Slovakia (8), previously a part of the leading group, has gone somewhat down. At the same time RSF marks a retreat among western democracies. Thus, the fall of the USA (44) by over 20 places occurred “mainly because of the imprisonment of New York Times reporter Judith Miller and legal moves undermining the privacy of journalistic sources”. While the first ten rankings in the Index were taken by EU member countries, some of the states of European Community went down due to infringements of freedom of expression. The situation in France (30) deteriorated, in particular, due to searches of media offices and interrogations of journalists. In countries getting ready to join EU, such as Bulgaria (48), Croatia (56) and Romania (70), the freedom of press still experiences certain problems.
Turkey, on the contrary, improved its position significantly, rising from 113th rank in the previous study to 98th this year. The progress, in the opinion of RSF, is related to the smaller number of violating the rights of journalists, although in June 2005 Turkey passed a new Penal Code, severely criticized by media representatives.
Among other post-Soviet countries the situation of press freedom is still most favorable in Estonia (11), Latvia (16-17) and Lithuania (21-22). The Baltic countries, with a big gap, are followed by Moldova (74-75), Georgia (99), Armenia (102-105), Kyrgyzstan (111), Ukraine (112), Tajikistan (113-114), Russia (138), Azerbaijan (141), Belarus (152).
Similarly to the previous researches of RSF, this one either did not explain what factors affected the jumps in Armenia’s ranking in positive or negative direction: from 90th rank in 2003 our country went up to 83rd in 2004 and went back to 102nd in 2005. Out of South Caucasus countries attention was paid only to the continuing worsening of the situation in Azerbaijan. “The murder of independent journalist Elmar Husseynov in March illustrated the violence and harassment journalists are exposed to there. Attacks on press freedom are increasing in the run-up to parliamentary elections on November 6 “, the study of “Reporters without Borders” says.
“IN THE SHADOW OF THE SUN” BOOK BY ASHOT GAZAZIAN TO BE PRESENTED
On October 27 at the Chamber Theater in Yerevan the book by well-known journalist, the correspondent of “Deutsche Welle” radio in Armenia and a member of Yerevan Press Club Council Ashot Gazazian, titled “In the Shadow of the Sun”, will be presented. The book features the memories that “jumped to mind”, referred to by the author himself as a “bioreport”: ”As you remember, ‘bio-’ stands for life. The rest is my work and, in my opinion, the most attractive genre of journalism.”
WORLD PRESS PHOTO-2005 IN YEREVAN
On October 21 at “Moscow” cinema house in Yerevan the exhibition of World Press Photo in 2005 opened. This year’s event was dedicated to the 50th anniversary of World Press Photo. The exposition shows 200 works. Overall, in the competition 69,190 works, published in 2004 and submitted by 4,266 photo journalists, were assessed. The winners of the World Press Photo-2005 in ten categories were 64 photo journalists from 24 countries. The Grand-Prix was awarded to a shot by an Indian photo journalist Arko Datta (Reuter’s news agency). It depicts a woman in an Indian region, lamenting a relative, who died in the disastrous tsunami in South-East Asia.
The Yerevan exposition was organized with the participation of Caucasus Media Institute and will be on till November 12.