Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Ban on independent news coverage in Armenia is contrary to OSCE commitments, says OSCE media freedom representative

VIENNA, 4 March 2008 - The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Miklos Haraszti, called on Armenian authorities today to lift restrictions on independent news reporting that have been in place since the state of emergency was declared on 1 March.

"The state of emergency should not be used by the government to take away the public's right to news from diverse sources. Pluralistic reporting helps ensure transparency of governmental action even in dire times," said Haraszti.

He was referring to Armenian President Robert Kocharian's state of emergency decree of 1 March, under which the media may cite only official sources when reporting on national politics. As a result, the public is presented with one view of events only.

The non-state broadcast media has been limited to re-airing official news and programmes. Several independent and opposition websites have been blocked, and foreign radio and television coverage on Armenia has been restricted.

In protest against the restrictions, some major Armenian newspapers did not publish editions today.

"Notwithstanding the wave of unsanctioned demonstrations and even violence, independent reporting on the events is the legitimate right of the media, to which Armenia has commited itself in the OSCE," said Haraszti.

"The existing legal provisions against incitement to violence should be sufficient to tackle any potential misuse of speech rights, and should not be replaced by pre-emptive censorship."


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