Statement of journalists covering the "7 trial"

On January 9 correspondents of “Chorrord Ishkhanutiun”, “Aravot”, “Haikakan Zhamanak”, “Taregir”, “Zhamanak” newspapers, “A1+” TV company released a statement regarding the obstacles that they face in covering the trial on “The Case of Seven” (the separate trial of the case of seven supporters of the RA First President Levon Ter-Petrosian, charged with the organization of mass disorders and attempts for violent seizure of power). At the hearing of the case that started on December 19, 2008 in the court building of Shengavit community of Yerevan, the statement of the journalists stresses, the judge at chair, “with the consent of all parties ruled to make no restrictions on the activities of media – reporting on the court session, being present in the court room, making video, audio and photo records”. However, the statement goes on saying, at the subsequent three sessions the court bailiffs either did not allow the reporters in the courtroom, offering them to follow the process by monitors in a designated room, or let in selectively, prohibiting the journalists from having recording equipment on them.
Qualifying the occurrence as obstruction of journalistic activities, violation of the RA Constitution and RA Law “On Mass Communication”, the signatories called on the relevant bodies to ensure the necessary conditions for their work, not to restrict the right of journalists and society to complete and comprehensive information on the trial.
The statement of the journalists was joined by the editorial staff of “Hraparak” daily.

Freedom House: Freedom Retreats for Third Year

Freedom retreated in much of the world in 2008, the third year of global decline as measured by Freedom House’s annual survey of political rights and civil liberties which released today.
Freedom in the World 2009 survey examines the state of freedom in all 193 countries and 16 strategic territories. The survey analyzes developments that occurred in 2008 and assigns each country a freedom status — either Free, Partly Free or Not Free based on a scoring of performance in key freedoms.
Non-Baltic countries of the former Soviet Union continued their decade-long decline, now ranking below Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East on several survey indicators. Russia and Georgia, which went to war over South Ossetia, were among the region’s notable declines, as well as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan and Moldova.
Free: The number of countries judged by Freedom in the World as Free in 2008 stands at 89, representing 46 percent of the world’s countries and 46 percent of the global population. The number of Free countries declined by one from 2007.
Partly Free: The number of Partly Free countries is 62, or 32 percent of all countries assessed by the survey and 20 percent of the world’s total population. The number of Partly Free countries increased by two.
Not Free: The report designates 42 countries as Not Free, representing 22 percent of the total number of countries and 34 percent of the world population. Nearly 60 percent of this number lives in China. The number of Not Free countries declined by one.
Electoral Democracies: The number of electoral democracies dropped by two and stands at 119. Developments in Mauritania, Georgia, Venezuela and Central African Republic disqualified them from the electoral democracy list, while Bosnia-Herzegovina and Bangladesh became electoral democracies.

Online journalists now jailed more than those in any other medium

Reflecting the rising influence of online reporting and commentary, more Internet journalists are jailed worldwide today than journalists working in any other medium. In its annual census of imprisoned journalists, released today, the Committee to Protect Journalists found that 45 percent of all media workers jailed worldwide are bloggers, Web-based reporters, or online editors. Online journalists represent the largest professional category for the first time in CPJ’s prison census. Continue reading “Online journalists now jailed more than those in any other medium”

Documentary film by Tigran Khzmalyan censored in Armenia

The screening of Tigran Khzmalyan’s documentary film “Sardarapat”, produced with state funding, has been banned. The presentation of the film was scheduled on September 26th and 27th in Yerevan’s “Moscow” cinema theater.
Hetq has published the full script of the documentary, which contains some revealing details on the behavior of the Armenian government of the First Armenian Republic, portreying the ARF-Dashnaktsutyun led authorities as incompetent cowards and traitors, ready to surrender brightest heros of the nation, like Andranik to the mercy of Turkish army. I could not stop thinking, that the film has been banned by the efforts of ARF – the party is one of the most influencial political forces in Armenia today and is member to the ruling coalition, along with Republican and “Prosperous Armenia” parties. To complicate matters even further, Tigran Khzmalyan, one of the leading film directors in Armenia today, has openly voiced his support for the Levon Ter-Petrossian led opposition on several occasions. Knowing Ter-Petrossian’s dislike of ARF (on December 28, 1994, President Levon Ter-Petrossian in a famous television speech banned the ARF, which was the nation’s leading opposition party, along with Yerkir, the country’s largest daily newspaper.), it is easy to establish a link between supporting Ter-Petrossian and wishing to blackmail ARF – the party in rulling coalition.
And while it is hard to established, whether the biased film director has produced a POSSIBLY biased documentary or not, it is clear, that banning the film by the state is censorship – in it most brutal form. An act absolutely forbidden by the Armenian Constitution. Will anyone answer for this crime?

Unprecedented levels of violence against journalists in August

August 2008 was unprecedented with the amount of violence against media representatives. Gagik Hovakimyan of “Haykakan Zhamanak” (August 1), freelancer Gagik Shamshyan (August 5), Gohar Veziryan of “Chorrord Ishkhanutyun” (August 6), Lusine Barseghyan of “Haykakan Zhamanak” (August 11) and Hrach Melkumyan of the Armenian service of Radio Liberty (August 18 ) were all subjected to attacks and illegal actions of police, court officials and unidentified males for their affiliation with media outlets known for their criticism of the authorities and oligarchs.
This new wave of attacks against the freedom of speech and expression comes at a time, when the Republic of Armenia is claiming its willingness to implement the provisions of the PACE resolutions 1609 and 1620 issued in the aftermath of the March 1, 2008 violence in the country, which includes a clause on improving the situation with the freedom of speech in the country.
A group of 7 non-governmental organizations have issued a statement expressing their concern with the developments and pointing to the unwillingness of the authorities to undertake effective measures to stop violence and interference with the professional activities of journalists and media representatives.
In a poll marked by widespread irregularities, vote buying and bullying, power was handed down by incumbent president Robert Kocharian to his protege Serge Sargsian. Administrative resources were used extensively to control the media coverage of the election campaign and ensure the victory of government preferred candidate, which resulted in severe degradation of the media and freedom of speech situation in the country as well as provoked a bloody clash between the opposition supporters and police forces in the center of capital Yerevan on March 1, 2008.

Two Polish journalists denied entry to Armenia?

Polish PassportReporters Without Borders has circulated a press release, calling on Armenia to lift bans on two Polish journalists who, according to the media watchdog, have been denied entry into the country in the past six days. The press release reported the case of Wojciech Jagielski, a well-known foreign correspondent working for the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza, on 14 August. The journalist was turned back at the land border between Armenia and Georgia, where he had been covering the war. He had planned to drive from Tbilisi to the Armenian capital of Yerevan in order to get a flight to Warsaw from there. He was forced to return by road to Tbilisi. Jagielski was told by the immigration official, that he was on a list of journalists banned throughout the Commonwealth of Independent States.

A similar problem happened with Reporter Marcin Manon of TVP, the Polish public TV station, who was turned back on arriving in Yerevan on 12 August on a flight from Warsaw which the Polish government had chartered to evacuate its citizens from Georgia. He had hoped to continue to Georgia but immigration officials told him he was persona non grata in Armenia and had to return to Warsaw. Gazeta Wyborcza told Reporters Without Borders it believes there is a list of undesirable journalists that is used by all the countries that are members of the Commonwealth of Independent States – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Meanwhile the Armenian authorities were quick to deny such charges. According to RFE/RL the immigration authorities in Yerevan denied reports that two Polish journalists covering the war in neighboring Georgia have been barred from entering Armenia because of being allegedly blacklisted by Russia.

Looks like we have the word of the Reporters Without Borders,Gazeta Wyborcza and two Polish journalists against the word of the Armenian authorities. I’ve decided who to trust. Have you?

A1plus wins in European Court. Meltex Ltd and Mesrop Movsesyan v. Armenia

imageI just heard the best news for the Freedom of Speech in Armenia in the course of the past 7 years! A1plus has won the case against the RA Government in the European Court of Human Rights. Check out the text of the official judgment. Congratulations – A1plus.
The Armenian authorities will have to pay EUR 30,000 to A1plus – which is of course very little, but what is more important, is the precedent. Admittedly, the Armenian government has been loosing case after case in the European Court of Human Rights in the recent months. Here’s more from A1plus:

GALA TV paid the penalties and fines of the tax inspection

The telethon/fundraising conducted for Gala TV Company in Gyumri was a success. The necessary sum was collected and completely transferred to tax inspection.
During these days of telethon, 26 million 458 thousand 500 drams have been transferred to the television company. The whole amount has been given to Judicial Act Enforcement Body. The rest of the amount, consisting of about 441 thousand dram will be exacted from the TV company account number where there is 540 thousand drams.

Via E-channel.

Incidents with journalists in post-election period

On the evening of February 27 a group of men in civilian cloths interfered with the work of the correspondent of the Armenian Service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Erik Ghazarian in Yerevan. The Armenian Service of Radio Liberty informed YPC, that the journalist was accompanying RA National Assembly deputies from the “Heritage” party Zarouhi Postanjian and Stepan Safaryan, along with representatives of the non-governmental organizations, who came to the Police Department of Kentron community of Yerevan, to find out reasons, for detention of two young men during the protest action of Armenian presidential candidate Levon Ter-Petrossian’s supporters on the same day. In the course of conversation with the police officials the deputies also tried to find out why are the above mentioned men stationed in
the police building for already a lengthy period of time. The latter didn’t like this, and they used force to push the deputies and the people accompanying them out of the building, taking away the microphone from Erik Ghazarian and throwing it out of window. After this they set in the cars and drove away. Continue reading “Incidents with journalists in post-election period”

Free speech costs 25.665.100 drams in Armenia

The administrative war launched from October 14, 2007 by RA State bodies against the Gyumri GALA (Independent Information Channel of Gyumri) TV company is coming to a close, and this last free TV channel in Armenia will soon be forced to pay 25 million Armenian drams for making use of its Constitutional right of freedom of speech.
Having led a disparate campaign of protecting GALA’s rights via a series of court proceedings, petitions, demonstrations and having lost all confidence in the Judicial system of Armenia, the Headquarters of Freedom of Speech and GALA TV Protection has issued the following call, directed at all those, who care about the Freedom of Speech in this country:

Dear Friends, bank accounts have been opened in the name of GALA TV founder, where contributions are requested from various regions of Armenia as well as from our compatriots and sympathetic people from around the world. By contributing to these accounts you will help pay the price of Free Speech in Armenia – which is 25.665.100 drams (around $ 84,200 US). This amount, which exceeds 3 year earnings of this small regional TV company, is indeed a small price to pay for the noble cause of protecting our most basic human rights. We call on you to contribute or loan money to us (which GALA TV will be obliged to pay back within 3 years period), to the following bank accounts:
For transfers in AMD:
“YUNIBANK” CJSC, “Gyumri” Branch,
Account number: 2410 3101 2610 Vahan Khachatryan
For transfers in USD
Intermediary Bank: Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas, New York
Beneficiary’s bank: UNIBANK, Armenia, SWIFT: UNIJ AM 22
Beneficiary: Khachatryan Vahan Account: 2410 3111 2618
Despite the fact, that this call for assistance was issued starting from March 17, the Headquarters of Freedom of Speech and GALA TV Protection as well as the management of the GALA TV company have already received several hundred phone calls, stating their support for our cause and expressing readiness to assist. Feel free to contact us at: +374 312 31819, +374 312 31889 or call directly the founder of GALA TV Vahan Khachatryan at: + 374 91 43 55 63.

Background: The RA Authorities started a incredible administrative pressures (Via the RA Presidential Office, RA State Security Service: Shirak and Gyumri branches, RA State Tax Service operatives and Gyumri Tax Service, RA National Committee of Television and Radio officials), after the TV company dared to broadcast on October 14, 2007, the 22 minute public speech made by the RA first president L. Ter-Petrossian, after his 10 year-long silence, at Marcotte-Armenia hotel on September 21, 2007.

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