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Armenia Politics

Presidential decree to ease media restrictions

As promised yesterday, President Kocharyan has issued a decree today easing restrictions on media imposed under the presidential decree about the State of Emergency on March 1st, following the opposition riots rendering 8 dead and more then hundred wounded. Subpoints 4 and 5 of Point 4 of the original decree were formulated this way: 4) Publications of mass media concerning state and internal political issues can be implemented solely within the limits of the official information of state bodies. 5) Ban on leaflets and implementation of political propaganda by other means without permission of corresponding state bodies.
According to the new decree, subpoint 5) Ban on leaflets and implementation of political propaganda by other means without permission of corresponding state bodies will be eliminated, as to subpoint 4, which is the one really restricting the media, it will now be reformulated the following way:

“The media are prohibited from publishing or disseminating information on state and inner political issues, which is deliberately untrue or destabilizing, or appeals to take part in events held with no prior notice (illegally), as well as publication or dissemination of such information or appeals in any other way or form.” The amendments introduced to the Decree will come into force on March 14, 2008.

This is not freedom yet, but this is already some releif. However, knowing how selectively laws are applied in Armenia and looking at the formulations in the Presidential decree, I’m sure, that it will be used to effectivly block any publication on the opposition media, while allowing the pro-government media do all they like. On the other hand, I strongly disapprove of publication of “obvious lies” – be it under state of emergency or anywhere else, be it in a democracy or the worst dictatorship of the world.

By Artur Papyan

Journalist, blogger, digital security and media consultant

8 replies on “Presidential decree to ease media restrictions”

This Orwellian “easing” of the restrictions placed on the media actually strengthens the arbitrary nature of the entire sordid affair. All it takes is for Kocharyan and his censorship seekers to label something seditious or destabilizing and its thrown out the window.
I was glad to seek the Protest Letter signed by the heads of various print and electronic media in Armenia finally getting their act together and making their voices heard.
By the way I read that a Petition was handed to the U.S. State Dept signed by 10,000 individuals urging that country to keep the pressure on Kocharyan et al. Believe me I’m no fan of U.S. “imposed democracy”, but perhaps given the situation here in Armenia it couldn’y hurt. We’ll see.
For those interested the website re: the Petition is: http://www.infoarmenia.org

Pokr – I wouldn’t be so sure that it couldn’t hurt. Yet another of the recent actions that probably causes little positive change but causes damage and is later used against the nation by our enemies. Naive lashing out is no substitute for hard work.

Open Letter to the Armenian Government and Armenia TV
To whom it may concern,
The members of the Armenian community in Sweden have with great regret
followed the development of the latest presidential elections in Armenia.
For a long time the election campaigns seemed to be at least the most
active during the entire post independence period and were, despite the
still existing shortcomings, regarded as a highly positive step in right
direction for democratization of the country where the people for the
first time displayed their interest for the topical news and their active
participation in the election. However, that soon showed to be a
short-lived euphoria.
First and foremost, let it be known that we do not either advocate the
opposition or any other particular parties in the election and do not
intend this letter as a political statement. This letter is solely aimed
at the office of the government and the media reporting, their duties and
obligations to safeguard democracy and freedom of speech in Armenia. In
the current situation the issue seems to have deviated from the real
problem, disregarding the institutions in question and instead focusing on
individuals. Living in Sweden, considered one of the foremost developed
and transparent democracies on the globe, one soon learns that all
parties, government or opposition, right or left, 1) work towards the same
goal of a prosperous Sweden, 2) everyone has the right to speak up their
minds, regardless of this taking 1 day or 1 year 3) even the farthest
distance between government and opposition never results in gagging the
opposition 4) media is obliged to present a neutral and objective picture
of the situation. As citizens of a country which many other nations look
up to and praise as a role model for a free and democratic nation, the
unfolding events of the past weeks in Armenia are nothing but utterly
unacceptable behavior, unbecoming of an Armenia in the 21st century. The
declaration of a state of emergency, shooting unarmed demonstrators, and
imposing an almost dictatorship-like state-censorship is unbecoming of a
republic which Armenia claims to be. That Armenia is depicted as yet
another post-Soviet oligarchic-ruled state is not a flattering image that
the Armenian Government should strive for.
As far as it concerns the Armenian Public Service TV and in particular the
news coverage of Haylour, both during the election campaign and that of
the unrest on March 1st and the following days, one can not help but
strongly criticize the heavily one-sided, biased reporting that the
Haylour has allowed itself to deliver. Once more, we do neither endorse
nor defend the actions of the obvious vandals and opportunists who
committed the lootings and destruction which followed the unrest, and
strongly condemn their actions. However, we feel that it is highly odd
that not once, the media allowed the opposition to come forward and
condemn (or not if they so wish) the happening, thus setting the record
straight whether they defended those actions or dissociate from and
condemned them. As a description text of the Public Service TV of Sweden,
it is stated that “One of the most important points is ‘to scrutinize
authorities, organizations and private firms which exert influence over
policy affecting the public, and cover the activities of these and other
bodies.'” Sorry to say, but the Armenian TV is parsecs from living up to
that standard. Armenia 1 TV and Haylour in particular have done nothing
to further agitate and contribute to the current situation in Armenia,
smearing all and everyone that has not endorsed government policy. Thus,
the public TV and news agency bear an equal responsibility in
destabilizing the country. If anything, now that the H1 broadcasting is
targeting people living abroad, mostly in developed democratic countries,
any sensible, clear-minded person soon starts to question the one-sided
reporting and how it comes that no one from the opposition (or for the
sake of the argument “the accused”) is given the opportunity to explain
and defend themselves?
And finally, that almost all media, radio, and internet sites, such as
Armenialiebrty.org and even Youtube are blocked are signs of great
concern. We ridiculed and condemned less developed democracies, such as
the decision of Turkish Government for doing the same over the Armenian
Genocide when the Turkish Government blocked Youtube for “protecting their
citizens from untruthful lies.” Do Armenia and the Armenian Government now
resorting to the same action? And do does the Armenian Government
genuinely believe that the internet sites and the information and the
documented news, images, and videos therein will disappear just because
the Armenian public in Armenia are prohibited from accessing them? And how
long will the prohibition last and then what? The information, the images
and the videos will still be there and the general public will eventually
learn about all the facts, presented from all perspectives, pro and con.
We welcomed the initiative taken by the Armenian Government to invite all
parties to join a coalition which would work for the common goal of taking
Armenia forward towards a better future. That the Government resorted to
violence and now is implementing actions unbecoming a “republic,” does not
fit the image which the Armenian Government, Armenia 1 TV or Haylour are
advocating or we as Armenians strive and hope for. Thus, we urge that the
Government of Armenia considers completely lifting the state of emergency,
allow freedom of speech even for those who do not share the governmental
view, and to engage in resolving the situation by peaceful dialogues. What
transpired in Yerevan is still by many regarded as unbelievable. The
Armenian authorities, regardless of who and what party that holds the post
of president or government, must come to realize that they serve one
entity and one entity alone: the people of Armenia. It is the people of
Armenia who have the right to pass judgment on any political party in the
country, empower or dismiss any president or government, since, after all,
these offices are elected by the general public. The soon this fact is
realized the sooner we can start combating corruption, poverty and anarchy
which prevails in Armenia and work for a democratic, prosperous and stable
and strong nation worthy of rich cultural and historic heritage that we
have inherited.
Yours truly,
The Board of the Union of Armenian Associations in Sweden,
Stockholm, Sweden

this is another lie by kocharyan to do some image-polishing ..but it won’t work..there is no freedom of press/media in Armenia

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