Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Although Armenia has a significant independent and opposition print media and the constitution protects freedom of speech and of the press, the government continues to restrict full media freedom in the country. No significant changes to the existing legal framework for media were made during 2004, but there were some important court cases where the limits of journalists' rights have been tested. For the first time, there was a conviction in a case where journalists were attacked and prevented from carrying out their professional work. Photojournalist Mkhitar Khachatrian of the news agency PhotoLur and reporter Anna Israelyan of the opposition newspaper Aravot Daily were working on a story about illegal forest cutting and house constructions for people linked to the government when they were attacked by several men. A provincial court sentenced one of the attackers to six months in prison for assaulting the journalists. However, the people who allegedly ordered the assault never appeared in court.
In the meantime, security forces and unknown assailants carried out a series of brutal attacks on journalists who were reporting on opposition rallies in the spring. A cameraman from the Armenian office of the Russian Channel One was beaten and his camera smashed. In another incident, civilian attackers confiscated and smashed journalists' equipment, significantly preventing television coverage of the rallies and their violent dispersal. Although there was evidence of the attackers' identity, the authorities charged only two men, each of whom received a fine of less than US$200, in stark contrast with the custodial penalties imposed on opposition activists for lesser offenses.
There are over 20 radio stations and more than 40 television stations, most of which are privately run. The president's office continues to provide policy guidance to Armenia's Public TV. Most newspapers are privately owned, but few have full independence from government or business interests, and major news sources are pro-government. There are also signs of decreasing access to alternative sources of information. In April, the Russian television channel NTV had its broadcasts suspended throughout Armenia after broadcasting footage of opposition protests. The official explanation given for the suspension was "technical problems." When NTV had not resumed broadcasting by the end of September, the government gave NTV's frequency to another Russian channel, Kultura, which does not have political or social news programming. The private Armenian television station Kentron started a news and analysis program produced by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, but the show was canceled only three days after it began broadcasts. Local nongovernmental organizations continue an unsuccessful campaign to renew the broadcasting rights for A1+ and Noyan Tapan, independent television channels that were shut down in 2002. In 2004, Yerkir Media, the first television station affiliated with a political party, began operating. Despite its political orientation, Yerkir Media is a new and alternative source of information that often criticizes government policy in its news reports.