Armenian Mass Media Is Controlled and Not Free
Regardless of the widespread availability of the online media, press in Armenia remains mostly dependent. Controlled by the authorities or various political powers, mass media often adopt this or that political direction. Control over media is crucial for authorities since it is one of the cornerstones for the political administration.

Apart from television and radio, the authorities have begun to actively use online media to spread their viewpoint and manage discussions on social networks. “The trends on the Internet are like a conquest to silence the topics of primary importance. It concerns the media which are ready to do everything to catch the public attention and get as many followers as possible,” said Suren Deheryan, Head of the Journalists for the Future, NGO.

The Media Center held a discussion on the World Press Freedom Day. The discussion featured Armenia’s ranking in the Freedom House Report, as well as violence acts towards journalists. The speakers included: Shushan Doydoyan, President of the Freedom of Information Center of Armenia; Suren Deheryan, Head of the Journalists for the Future, NGO; Annie Gevorgyan, photojournalist; and Levon Barseghyan, Chairman of “Asparez” Journalists’ Club.

Armenia has slightly improved its positions in Freedom House’s latest press freedom index, but still maintains its status of a ‘Not Free’ country. With 61 points, the South Caucasus nation ranks 135th in the 2015 Press Freedom Index, an inch higher compared to 2014, more independent as compared with Turkey and Mexico and Azerbaijan and Russia.

Little progress is observed in the investigation of violence cases against journalists, with nine cases in 2014 and no one being charged. Thirteen out of the fifteen recommendations Armenia got at the 2014 UN UPR referred to the investigation of violence acts against journalists and subsequent punishment.

The press in Armenia actually has isolated itself from the public demand and is controlled by the governing power, Levon Barseghyan believes. “Following the deprivation of broadcast license of A1Plus and Noyan Tapan Armenia got lowest places in international press freedom rankings,” said Barseghyan. The speaker believes before discussing the Freedom House ranking it is necessary to ask a question whether Armenian mass media – except a few ones – fix the ideas and tendencies within the local society. “The media outlets nowadays are not free. They are controlled by the authorities as they are a tool of impacting the society on a large scale,” Barseghyan said.

There is little progress regarding violence acts and persecution of journalists. “Last 15 years saw 200 violence acts against media representatives. And only four cases have been investigated rather effectively,” recalled Barseghyan.

Shushan Doydoyan believes with regard to media in Armenia, there is stability in all respects. “The number of violence acts have neither increased nor decreased.”

Last year another negative tendency was observed. In 2014 the Armenian court imposed several media reveal their information sources. The experts believe the court decision violated Article 5 of the Law on Mass Media.

Annie Gevorgyan, who suffered police brutality, believes the right to free press is violated at every step in Armenia and becomes a toy to conduct investigations that are actually inefficient. No one was charged and punished,” said Gevorgyan. Gevorgyan has filed a motion to the Appeal Court of Armenia but it is still unclear if the motion will be accepted.

Shushan Doydoyan urged journalists to protect their rights more actively and lodge motions if their rights are violated. “The court must hold trials for every case and journalists must not surrender. The appeal takes much time and effort but the final result is worth it,” Doydoyan is convinced.

Now NGOs must have talks with the authorities who are to undertake within the UN UPR that they will tackle the issue and conduct fair and accurate investigations of the violence acts against journalists, Levon Barseghyan said.

Arshaluys Mghdesyan, Editor-Coordinator

Please contact the author at [email protected]

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