On January 11 “Human Rights Watch” international organization released its
annual report on human rights developments in more than 75 countries of the
world in 2006.
The report section on Armenia tells also about the media situation in the country.
In the opinion of “Human Rights Watch”, “the Armenian government has done little
to address serious human rights violations” and “threats to the media freedom
continued in 2006 as more journalists faced harassment and attacks and broadcast
media lack pluralism and remain largely pro-governmental”.
The RA President, the report notes, appoints all members of bodies that regulate
and manage broadcast media, including the Council of Public TV and Radio Company,
responsible for policies and programming of the First Channel of the Public
Television of Armenia. Being under government control, the PTA First Channel
“does not sufficient independence to provide objective and diverse news coverage”.
The report also tells the example of “A1+” TV company being evicted from the
premises owned by the National Science Academy. Having been deprived of air
in 2002, “A1+” has lost 12 broadcast licensing competitions, including a radio
competition in March 2006, “Human Rights Watch” recalls. Having lost in 2005
a litigation versus the National Science Academy, in 2006 the company moved
to a location provided by the government that at the time of the move lacked
electricity and telephone connections, forcing “A1+”, its “Ayb-Feh” weekly and
the web-site to suspend all work for several weeks.
Among the examples of harassment against journalists, “Human Rights Watch”
notes the incidents that occurred on February 23 and in the morning of May 16
with the Executive Director of “Lori” TV company Narine Avetisian. In the first
case she was threatened by the owner of the local minibus route, in the second
– her car was stoned by unknown people who have never been found. “Human Rights
Watch” notes also the July 12 incident that happened to freelance journalist
Gagik Shamshian, harassed by relatives and associates of the head of Nubarashen
community of Yerevan Mher Hovhannisian, and the criminal proceedings instituted
against the journalist on August 3, basing on several appeals of citizens and
with the charges of insult, cheating and extortion. The report also quotes the
attack on the Chief Editor of “Iravunk” newspaper Hovhannes Galajian of September
6. In the opinion of Galajian, the attack was retaliation for his articles,
criticizing the government.
The sentence of the Chief Editor of “Zhamanak-Yerevan” daily Arman Babajanian,
made by the court on September 8 (4 years’ imprisonment for document fraud to
evade military service), is assessed in the report of “Human Rights Watch” as
harsh, “suspected to be retribution for the journalist’s persistent criticism
of government policies”.