Wednesday, March 25 2020 11:25
Marianna Mkrtchyan

OSCE Concerned about Restricting Media Freedom in Armenia

OSCE Concerned about Restricting Media Freedom in Armenia

ArmInfo.OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Arlem Desir made a statement in which he expressed concern about the restriction of media freedom in Armenia.

Thus, the OSCE statement in ArmInfo notes that Desira expressed  concern about the package of amendments to the criminal and  administrative codes that were introduced in Armenia on March 23 in  the context of combating disinformation related to the COVID-19  pandemic.

The organization's statement states that in connection with the  emergency situation in the Republic of Armenia, any "organization  carrying out journalistic activities" (the term includes electronic  publications that are not considered part of the media's activities)  will be allowed to publish only official information related to the  situation in the country related to coronavirus. The organization  points out that the Armenian government explains this by the need to  avoid panic in the country, as well as aggression towards patients  with coronavirus.

The OSCE also emphasized that journalists and editors criticized this  decision, noting that there is no precise definition of which  messages may or may not cause panic.

"I fully understand the purpose of the new law - to avoid panic,  aggression and fight misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic. At  the same time, the media play a key role in providing important  information to the public and in countering fake news about the  pandemic. The law should not interfere with the work of journalists  and the ability to report a pandemic. Publication of only information  provided by the authorities is a serious restrictive measure that  will restrict media freedom and disproportionate access to  information, "Desir said.

The OSCE also noted that the maximum fine for publications that would  qualify as a violation during a state of emergency was set at 300,000  drams ($ 600), and failure to delete prohibited information within 24  hours would result in a fine of 500-1000 times above the minimum wage  ($ 1,000- 2,000).

Desir also recalled a joint statement issued last week with the UN  Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to  freedom of opinion and expression, which, in particular, emphasized  that: "Human health depends not only on easily accessible medical  services. It also depends on access to accurate information about the  nature of the threats and the means to protect oneself, one's family,  and one's community.Moreover, the right to access information means  that governments must make an exception "efforts to protect the work  of journalists. Journalism has a critical function during a public  health emergency, especially when it is aimed at informing the public  about critical information and monitoring government actions."

Recall that the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media monitors  developments in all 57 OSCE participating States. It provides early  warning of violations of freedom of expression and freedom of the  media and promotes full compliance with OSCE commitments in the field  of media freedom.  It should be noted that an emergency was  introduced in Armenia on March 16.

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