YEREVAN—An Armenian media expert has warned against comparing the country’s press freedom level with other states, calling instead for stronger and more active efforts toward more progress.
“We should never think everything is good just because our neighbors lag behind us. That’s no comfort to us, we must try to be much more ahead,” Shushan Doydoyan, the president of the Freedom of Information Center, told Tert.am.
In the annual report, published by Reporters Without Borders, Armenia ranked 78th in the world in terms of press freedom, leaving behind its regional neighbors Georgia and Azerbaijan, which were respectively in the 84th and 160th positions; although it should be noted that Armenia lost points since last year’s report while Georgia gained significantly.
Armenia slipped down four points in comparison with last year’s ranking. Doydoyan attributed the regress to pressures against two media outlets — Hraparak newspaper and the news website iLur.am — which were forced to reveal the sources of their information.
“That’s a key right of a journalist, so no one can impose any coercion on that unless extremely necessary. The circumstances of the case did not absolutely necessitate it, as there was no evidence of the public interest which would cause the court to satisfy the claim. The groundlessness of such a demand affects the country’s press freedom, shaking the mutual trust between the journalist and the source,” Doydoyan explained.
She noted that the case set the first ever judicial precedent in Armenia, forcing a journalist to disclose his source.
“Very often it is just the individual’s will [to remain unidentified]. So if a journalist is subjected to violence and not allowed to cover an event, then that’s the result of their [authorities’] aims. They do not protect a major interest in that way. It is necessary to undertake steps to develop more professional approaches in courts and raise the level of consciousness,” she said, stressing the importance of preventing similar court rulings in future.
Doydoyan said she thinks that the retreat is more serious than just the four points.
Commenting on the report, President of the Yerevan Press Club Boris Navasardyan attributed the findings to methodological difficulties which he said very often lead up to inaccurately drawn statistics.
“If we take the latest report, all the findings there revealed a considerably positive process in Georgia in the recent years, mainly in terms of the authorities and political elite’s lesser control over broadcast media. And secondly, there have been positive developments in Georgia’s legislation,” he said.
As for the laws in Armenia, Navasardyan said he doesn’t think that the country initiated any reform to improve the situation of the media. “If we speak about the oversight of broadcast media, both the diversity and political plurality here considerably lag behind Georgia’s. But in terms of other criteria, the situation is almost the same,” he added.
Navasardyan said he is confident that more accurate estimates would have placed the country in a higher position compared to Armenia.