On April 26 at the press-conference of the RA Human Rights Defender Larisa
Alaverdian the report on the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms
in 2004 in Armenia was presented.
One of the sections of this annual report was devoted to the right to free
expression and the right to seek, receive and impart information. It states,
in particular, that the RA Law “On Mass Communication” guarantees the right
to free speech, free expression of opinion and dissemination of ideas, and Article
164 of the RA Criminal Code stipulates liability for impeding the legal professional
activities of a journalist. “However, the failure to disclose and punish those,
who committed violence and caused physical, moral and material damage to media
representatives in April 20004 and later, shows that the guarantees, envisaged
by the law, are insufficient and do not enable the media representatives fully,
freely and safely exercise their profession”, the report of the Human Rights
Defender notes. This statement was illustrated by a number of incidents that
occurred in different cities of the country – Yerevan, Ashtarak, Tsaghkadzor,
Goris, Aragats – and that were at the focus of public attention.
“There are serious objections against criminal insult. The corresponding Article
of the Criminal Code endangers the freedom of expression; it particularly restricts
the freedom of criticism, since the person criticized can view any expression
to be humiliation of his honor and dignity. It is also unacceptable to stipulate
different punishments for the insult of an official and a simple human being”,
the report says.
The existence of over 40 operational TV channels, about 20 radio stations,
10 news agencies and over 35 periodical newspapers and magazines is, in the
opinion of the Human Rights Defender, a source of hope with the regard to realization
of free expression. However, as the report notes, “the involvement of the President
of the Republic in the formation of the National Commission on Television and
Radio disrupts trust in the independence of the Commission”.
As to the RA Law “On Freedom of Information”, it prescribes the main principles,
the procedure and the terms for providing data, ensuring access to and the publicity
of information. At the same time, the report notes, “there is problem in implementing
the legally stipulated procedure for the information provision by state bodies
and local self-government of all levels”. “The groundless refusal to provide
information to citizens or NGOs has become very common”, the annual repot specifies.
The quoted examples are the non-provision of information requested by “Investigative
Journalists” NGO by the Yerevan municipality, despite the court ruling, and
the similar case of Vanadzor Branch of the Helsinki Citizens Assembly, which
got access to necessary information only after the lengthy court process. Besides,
the notions of “commercial secret” and “personal data” are given loose interpretation.
The unreserved implementation of the requirements of the Law “On Freedom
of Information” by the authorities and administrative structures of all
levels is one of the most important guarantees of human rights protection, the
annual report of the Armenian Ombudsman reminds.