FREEDOM OF SPEECH: CASES OF PHYSICAL VIOLENCE AGAINST ARMENIAN JOURNALISTS DECREASE, LAWSUITS INCREASE
By Gohar Abrahamyan

ArmeniaNow
31.01.12 | 16:12

The number of cases of physical violence and violations of the
rights to receive and release information has essentially decreased
in Armenia in 2011 as compared to 2010, whereas cases of violation of
mass media's and journalists' rights, especially pressure of different
nature applied against them, have increased.

Head of the Committee to Protect Freedom of Speech (CPFS) Ashot
Melikyan said this on Tuesday summing up the CPFS annual report on
the state of the freedom of speech and media rights violations in
Armenia in 2011.

"In 2011, there were only five cases of physical violence against
journalists, whereas there were nine such cases during the previous
year. Seven cases of rights violations on receiving and disseminating
information were registered as compared to 18 cases in 2010.

Meanwhile, 2011 was unprecedented due to the abundance of pressure
upon mass media and their employees - 49 cases (19 cases in 2010), 34
out of them were court cases," says Melikyan, referring to the claim
of three Republican lawmakers, namely businessmen Ruben Hayrapetyan,
Samvel Alexanyan and Levon Sargsyan against the Haykakan Zhamanak
(Armenian Time) daily, and second President of Armenia Robert
Kocharyan's and his family's claims against the Hraparak (Square)
and Zhamanak (Time) dailies, and other such cases.

According to Melikyan, such growth in the number of court cases
is connected with the decriminalization of defamation (in 2010),
the application of which has become a means of legal, at the same
time political and economic pressure especially against opposition
mass media.

"Generally, 2011 was a very difficult year for the Armenian mass
media, because the unprecedented large number of court cases has
created an unhealthy atmosphere; they [the cases] contained bases of
self-censorship and elements of hidden censorship," Melikyan says,
adding that the court procedures against mass media have aimed to
put financial pressure especially on 'undesirable' media outlets as
a means to silence them.