On October 17 in Yerevan, Yerevan Press Club presented the results of the Media Freedom Index (for the period of January-March and April-June 2014) in the six Eastern Partnership countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.
The research is carried out in the framework of the “ENP East Media Freedom Watch” project, which is supported by the European Union and implemented by YPC in cooperation with Internews Ukraine and other partner NGOs from EaP countries. To inform about the situation with media in the six countries, a special website has been launched. The website also posts the results of the Media Freedom Index, as well as the quarterly reports that are based on the study, and describe the situation with media, providing recommendations for improvement.
The level of media freedom in each of the EaP countries is determined by a joint methodology through expert interviews. Ten experts (journalists, human rights advocates, lawyers, sociologists, public figures) from each country answer a set of 55 questions-criteria. For each question each expert rates the situation in the country by giving scores from 0 to 3 points (0 – the lowest level of media freedom, 3 – the highest). The criteria for assessment are the same for each country. They reflect the experts’ perception about the level of media freedom at the moment of the survey, and describe only the state of freedom of expression and media, regardless of the quality of journalism. The questions are broken into 4 blocks: Policy, pursued in the media field (legislation, regulatory mechanisms, etc.); Practice (cases of harassment, persecution, access to information, etc.); Broadcasting (level of independence of TV and radio companies, access to air, etc.); Internet and New Media (advance, level of freedom, access, etc.). The expert assessments are summed up and thus the cumulative Media Freedom Index is calculated by a 1-7 numerical score (the higher the score is the better is the media situation).
At the meeting with journalists YPC introduced the results of the study for the period of January 1 – March 31 and April 1 – June 30, 2014.
The cumulative rating list is headed by Georgia in the both periods with Index of 7 (1,362 points in January-March and 1,409 in April-June).
Moldova came in the second with Index of 6 (1,271 and 1,284).
Armenia for both periods had Index of 5, but as for the total cumulative score, the country was the third in January-March (963) and the fourth in April-June (955).
Ukraine, with Index of 4, was on the fourth position in January-March (752) but improved its rating in April-June, receiving Index of 5, and came in the third, outstripping Armenia by the number of points (1,071).
Azerbaijan and Belarus are closing the rating list: Index 3 (547 and 560) for Azerbaijan, and Index 2 (461) in January-March for Belarus, which was improved to Index 3 (502) in April-June.
Deterioration of Armenia’s position in the first half of 2014 was caused by several factors. The experts particularly noted the following negative events: introduction of the draft law, providing for responsibility for dissemination of defamatory articles and comments taken from fake accounts; incidents of obstructing journalists’ work which have become frequent in 2014 and still remain unpunished, including the cases accompanied with violence, often involving police officers; precedent-setting court ruling obliging “Hraparak” daily and iLur.am to disclose their source of information.