Censorship in Armenia

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Censorship in Armenia has a long history with variously stringent and lax laws in place at different times.

History[edit]

1990s and before[edit]

The process of democratization of the Soviet Union started with the policy of Glasnost, meaning openness or freedom of speech.[1]

1995 Constitution

In 1995 a constitutional referendum approved changes to the old Soviet-era Constitution.

In the 1995 Constitution Art. 24 was dedicated to freedom of expression:

Everyone is entitled to freedom of speech, including the freedom to seek, receive, and disseminate information and ideas through any medium of information, regardless of state borders

— Art. 24, Constitution of Armenia 1995[2]

Still, articles 44 and 45 ruled the possibility of temporary suspensions of media freedom to protect "state and public security, public order, public health and morality, and the rights, freedoms, honour, and reputation of others." There was no explicit ban of censorship.[2]

2000s[edit]

Freedom of information legislation was passed in 2003, but it was implemented only in 2015.[3]

2005 Constitution

In 2005 a constitutional referendum approved a series of change to the Constitution. Chapter 2 of the new Constitution of Armenia is dedicated to "Fundamental Human and Civil Rights and Freedoms". Art. 27 is dedicated to freedom of expression and of the press:[3]

Everyone shall have the right to freely express his/her opinion. No one shall be forced to recede or change his/her opinion.

Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression including freedom to search for, receive and impart information and ideas by any means of information regardless of the state frontiers.
Freedom of mass media and other means of mass information shall be guaranteed.

The state shall guarantee the existence and activities of an independent and public radio and television service offering a variety of informational, cultural and entertaining programs.

— Art. 27, Constitution of Armenia 2005[4]

Since 2010 there are no criminal penalties for defamation, but it is still a civil wrong. Politicians, businessman, etc. often ask for huge monetary damage. Treatment of journalists in courts is not always fair, even if the Constitutional Court in 2011 ruled that media outlets cannot be held liable for “critical assessment of facts” and “evaluation judgements”.[3]

Self-censorship[edit]

In 2002 A1+ television channel was shut down by the government. After that 17 media outlets declared that freedom of expression was not in danger in the country. This was a start of an editorial policy of self-censorship,[5] particularly in television and radio.[3] This means that direct censorship is less common because it is not needed.[6]

Violence against journalists[edit]

While there was a reduction of violence against journalists there was a serious episode in June 2015. During the Electric Yerevan mass protests police used a water cannon against demonstrators and journalists. At least 14 media operators were injured, and equipment was damaged.[7][3]

Freedom House[edit]

Map showing Freedom House free press ratings (2010)

Freedom House has reported multiple issues related to freedom of the press in Armenia. According to their 2013 Freedom of the Press report, Armenia's press freedom status is "not free" and Armenia ranks 57th out of 179 countries world-wide and ranked 4th in the former USSR [8]

In 2016 the status was still "not free.[3]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Alexeyeva, Lyumila and Paul Goldberg The Thaw Generation: Coming of Age in the Post-Stalin Era Pennsylvania: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1990.
  2. ^ a b Daniloff, Nicholas (February 1998). "Mixed Signals: Press freedom in Armenia and Azerbaijan". Refworld. Committee to Protect Journalists. Retrieved 15 April 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Armenia - Country report - Freedom of the Press - 2016". Freedom House. Retrieved 15 April 2017.
  4. ^ "The Constitution of RA". the official site of the President of the Republic of Armenia. Archived from the original on 2010-11-27. Retrieved 15 April 2017.
  5. ^ Vardanian, Gegham (8 December 2006). "Armenia: Climate of Self-Censorship". IWPR. Retrieved 15 April 2017.
  6. ^ d'Urso, Joseph (29 September 2016). "The Armenian media: less free than it seems?". commonspace.eu by. Retrieved 15 April 2017.
  7. ^ Media Sustainability Index - Armenia (PDF) (Report). IREX. 2016. Retrieved 2017-04-15.
  8. ^ Freedom of the Press 2013", Freedom House, 1 May 2013.