Thursday, 13 December 2007
Goodbye to Freedom?
Bomb explosion (photo above by Regnum) at the office of opposition newspaper Chorrord Ishkhanutyun ('The Fourth Estate') and continuing saga of attempts to shut down the rare dissenting voice of the small regional TV company Gala once more put the question of press freedom in Armenia in the spotlight. In fact, these attemtps are so continuous and regular that the issue never left the spotlight.
It seems to me very relevant to post today about the recent - its first ever - survey of Media Freedom across Europe by the Association of European Journalists (published in November). The survey covered 20 European countries: Armenia, Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey and the UK.
Entitled Goodbye to Freedom?, this survey "challenges the myth that western European societies are ‘much more free’ than those in eastern Europe. Across the continent, it says, media freedom is under attack from new political and economic pressures." However, as stated in the survey, "Violence and intimidation directed against journalists is unfortunately common in the two states of the former Soviet Union covered, Russia and Armenia." Previous arson attack against Chorrord Ishkhanutyun newspaper is among 13 specific cases of violence and threats against media in Armenia indicated in the survey.
Below are some extracts from Armenia related pages. The full report is available here.
“Thirteen specific cases [of violence and threats of various kinds directed at journalists] were recorded between 2006 and 2007, including the following:-
In September 2007 Hovhannes Galajyan, the Editor-in-chief of Iravunk newspaper, suffered significant injuries and was hospitalised after being attacked by unknown assailants who broke into the newspaper’s offices and beat him using metal bars. Mr Galajyan had already been violently assaulted one year earlier, in front of his own house. He stated after the first attack that he believed it was related to coverage in his newspaper which impugned the reputation of the then Defence Minister (and now Prime Minister), Serge Sarkissyan.
Threatening e-mails were sent to Edik Baghdasaryan, the Editor-in-chief of the online newspaper Hetq, demanding the suppression of articles containing allegations concerning the country’s leading oligarch, Gagik Tsarukyan, who is also a member of parliament.
The editorial offices of The Fourth Estate newspaper were set on fire by unknown arsonists.
The power supply to the printing presses of the regional Syuniats Yerkir newspaper was cut following publication of criticisms of a power supply company.
The car of Souren Baghdasaryan, Editor-in-chief of the newspaper Football+ was twice set on fire.
David Jalavyan, a sports writer on the Haykakan zhamanak newspaper, was injured in a knife attack.
None of these cases of violence towards reporters has been clarified or led to convictions in court. The judicial authorities have shown reluctance in many cases to conduct active investigations, and in the few cases in which individuals have been found guilty of obstructing the work of journalists, only fines or other mild punishments have been meted out. “
"Armenia’s TV channels, all of them in reality controlled from the office of the President, provide the society with systematically biased information, which exclude all expressions of dissent. The written press is also hampered in what it can write by its heavy dependence on major business or political sponsors who exercise tight control over many newspapers by controlling the flow of funds from advertising."