On March 14 the Committee to Protect Journalists released its annual worldwide
report “Attacks on the Press in 2004”.
The last year, CPJ stresses, is characterized by several alarming trends. In
particular, in 2004 the greatest number of journalists killed was recorded –
56, of which 36 were murdered. Only in 9 cases were the criminals punished.
Iraq was the most dangerous place for the representatives of the “fourth estate”,
with 23 journalists killed in the line of duty. Of the 122 imprisoned journalists
in 2004 74 were charged with “antistate activities”: everywhere, from China
to Cuba, they were accused of sedition, subversion, divulging state secrets
and working against the interests of the state. Attention was also drawn to
a case from the USA, where for the first time in three years a media representative
was punished for the refusal to identify the source. The reporter of WJAR-TV
(Providence, RI) Jim Taricani was sentenced to six months of home confinement.
As a positive precedent for the decriminalization of libel and insult and therefore,
for the strengthening of guarantees of the freedom of expression, the decision
of Inter-American Court of Human Rights to overturn the criminal defamation
conviction of a Costa Rican reporter was mentioned.
As to the post-Soviet countries, in the opinion of CPJ, press conditions are
deteriorating badly throughout Russia and most of the other former Soviet Republics,
except Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, where strong press freedom traditions
have been established. “Developments in Ukraine offer hope, but elsewhere the
press operates with less freedom than it did in the closing years of Soviet
communism”, the report stresses.
In the section of the report on Armenia it is noted that the government failed
to protect journalists during the demonstrations in April, and “in some cases,
authorities were directly involved in attacks on the press”. Among the specific
examples of attacks on press the report lists the events of April 5 and April
13, 2004. “The impunity surrounding these attacks made journalists more vulnerable”,
CPJ thinks, illustrating this point by another case of violence against the
photojournalist on August 24, 2004 in Tsaghkadzor.
Speaking of the broadcast media, the CPJ experts noted that “television coverage
of the spring opposition rallies and other politically sensitive issues favored”
RA President Robert Kocharian, “who ensured that TV stations remained in the
hands of government supporters or those who would not criticize his policies”.
The report also tells about the situation and developments with regard to deprivation
of “A1+” of air – “an independent and influential TV station that has sharply
criticized government policies”.
“Unlike television, the print media enjoy greater autonomy from government
control, but most publications are controlled by political parties and wealthy
businessmen, compromising their editorial independence and professional standards”,
the report says.
CPJ also pays attention to the continuing negligence of Armenian authorities
towards the appeals of journalistic associations, Council of Europe and OSCE
on decriminalization of libel and insult.