Media professional sees dangers of restrictions on press freedom in Armenia

Head of the Yerevan Press Club Boris Navasardyan fears that restrictions on freedom of speech will become a “more and more serious challenge” in Armenia in the time to come.


Navasardyan, who is also the national coordinator of the Eastern Partnership Civil Platform, links these concerns to the “lowered interest” of Armenia in deepening relations with the West, in particular with the European Union.

Now we have found ourselves in a little bit different situation [he refers to the choice of the Russian-led Customs Union over European integration] and it can be predicted that maybe not that fast, not in a very active and cruel manner, but restrictions on freedom of expression will grow to become a more and more serious challenge in Armenia and in that case the unwillingness of individual journalists to work in that situation, under such conditions will be understandable to me,” said Navasardyan.

The Yerevan Press Club’s president says the information field went through great disappointment after the elections.

“In fact, our well-known concern that the fairly high quality of election coverage was not so much a reflection of the freedom of speech as a matter of clear instructions from the government has been justified. Though, it is not bad either, but the instruction to be free should be for as long a period as possible, so that it becomes a customary thing for the media. Unfortunately, this period was too short for the tradition of being free to stay with some of our media representatives,” says Navasardyan.

International observers who monitored the most recent elections in Armenia positively evaluated the election campaign coverage, stressing that all the candidates and political parties had an equal chance of being covered.

Navasardyan emphasizes that only in the election period when Armenia was in the center of attention of the international community and, in fact, only due to the influence of external factors, the country managed to have a more or less positive period in terms of press freedom.

Editor-in-chief of Hetq.am Edik Baghdasaryan, known for his journalistic investigations, recently raised the issue of the distortion of the media environment and authorities’ taking media under their immediate control. He expressed the opinion that “Armenia’s authorities have managed to destroy the media field where journalists no longer are able to find their place and find themselves in an extremely hopeless condition, as the entire media field, and the journalistic profession, are distorted.”

“The media have become the most controlled field in Armenia. Control over materials, subjects, organization of their publication have become precise. The problem is that traditional sources of information no longer work. There is no longer a need to conduct journalistic investigations (and it often takes months), to find your own sources of information to present one issue or another comprehensively. Now sources of information have their own media and are able to spread the information at once framing it the way that suits them most. Now every official and department have their media,” Baghdasaryan said to Media.am.

Meanwhile, government representatives in Armenia have stressed on various occasions that freedom of the press and expression has not been subjected to pressure during Serzh Sargsyan’s presidency. And Sargsyan himself several times in his public speeches described it as one of the greatest achievements of his leadership.