US media body laments increasing pressure on Armenian journalists

US media body laments increasing pressure on Armenian journalists

Arminfo
2 Mar 07

Yerevan, 2 March: Sixteen cases of preventing journalists from
exercising their professional duties were registered in Armenia in
2006, a study by Internews, a non-governmental organization, has
revealed. Only one of those cases has been referred to court.

David Sandukhchyan, the head of the Internews legal department, has
said the number of attacks on Armenian journalists has significantly
grown compared with previous years. Moreover, in most cases, the law
enforcers have played the role of the "pressure mechanism" on the mass
media. He described as unacceptable the situation when no individual
or entity had been prosecuted for physical violence against
journalists. Sandukhchyan said that only in few cases, some
individuals had been subjected to "minor" fines.

According to the study, only one criminal case has been launched under
Article 164 of the Armenian Criminal Code (preventing journalists from
exercising their professional duties, or pressuring them to
disseminate or not to disseminate information) since 1 August 2003; a
case was launched after a claim was filed by Aravot reporter Anna
Israyelyan. The case ended by the [assailant] paying 100,000 drams
[about 280 dollars] to the victim [Israyelyan]. So, Sandukhchyan
said, Article 164 exists only on paper. In reality, mass media
representatives are not protected by the law at all. "The country’s
government has not worked out effective mechanisms of protecting the
professional activities of journalists," Sandukhchyan said. He said
that in some cases, after journalists had turned to law-enforcement
agencies, criminal cases were launched against them (as it was the
case with photo journalist Gagik Shemshyan).

He said the situation in the country is such that representatives of
courts and law-enforcement agencies, applying brutal and illegal
methods, also cover up illegal activities of individuals and
entities. "I don’t rule out that there might be more cases of
unpunished pressure on journalists in connection with the forthcoming
parliamentary election," he said.

According to Sandukhchyan, only a stricter punishment for preventing
journalists from exercising their professional duties could change the
situation more or less. Internews has proposed amending Article 164 of
the Armenian Criminal Code as follows: actions against journalists or
their proxies when exercising their professional duties, which involve
violence and which result in harm inflicted to health or life, shall
be punished by a fine equalling 250 to 450 minimal salaries or
corrective labour for up to two years or imprisonment for up to five
years.

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