Media professionals in Armenia are celebrating the World Press Freedom Day on May 3. Meanwhile, the U.S. based watchdog “Freedom House” has released its annual “Freedom of the Press 2010” report, a global survey of media independence, which again places Armenia in the “not free” category.
“Ukraine, Armenia, and Moldova registered slight improvements,” the organization says in the press release on the report’s launch, marking an overall decline of press freedom in the post-Soviet area, with Russia “remaining among the world’s more repressive and most dangerous media environments.”
The organization has also published some historical maps of its press freedom survey, from which we can see, that Armenia was classed as “partly free” back in 2000, however, following the closure of “A1+” in 2003 the country’s freedom rating fell back to “not free” again.
A quick look into the methodology of the research suggests, that its probably quite subjective: “the findings are reached after a multilayered process of analysis and evaluation by a team of regional experts and scholars.” The feeling on the ground, however, is that Armenia is far from having a free media environment.
Sure, the internet and newspapers in Armenia are absolutely free to write anything they like, but their circulation is small and the influence is low, so that’s probably one of the main reasons why they’re allowed to exercise freedom of speech to some extent. Meanwhile, the broadcast media, the large TV companies in particular practice heavy self-censorship in the newsroom, and when they don’t, they are shut down, like ‘A1+” or pressurized, like “Gala” TV.
Worse, yet, is the realization, that the situation is bound to degrade further. Armenia’s big friends and trade partners, Russia, China, Iran, are the most restrictive regimes in the world. And I’m dismayed at reading ‘small improvements’ in the research. Where did they see it? Just because the country had no major election and related attacks on journalists, doesn’t mean there is an improvement. But I’m subjective of course, and so is the research.