ArmInfo.The media environment is diverse in Armenia and includes a large number of outlets, but the political affiliation of various broadcasters poses the risk of biased election coverage, this is stated in the interim report of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, Election Observation Mission (May 18-31), published on June 8.
The report notes that ODIHR EOM long-term observers and interlocutors have reported that in person campaign activities are taking place around the country, largely without required measures against the COVID-19 pandemic. The national security situation has been dominating the political discourse in the pre-campaign period, with the fight against corruption and the socio-economic situation as important secondary issues. Interlocutors have reported particularly high levels of intolerant, inflammatory or discriminatory rhetoric in the time leading up to the campaign period.
The media landscape includes 26 television channels (including six with nationwide outreach), 24 radio stations, over 35 periodical print publications, and more than 200 online news portals. Television remains the most important source of political information, especially outside the capital. The role of online sources, in particular social networks, is growing rapidly. Facebook and YouTube have become significant platforms for the exchange of political information.
In recent years, international organizations dealing with freedom of expression have noted improvements in the overall freedom of the media in Armenia. Freedom of expression is guaranteed by the Constitution. Defamation was decriminalized in 2010. However, a Civil Code amendment from April 2021 has significantly increased the maximum pecuniary damages that can be claimed in insult and libel cases. This change has been criticized by numerous media-related organizations and was sent to the Constitutional Court for review by the president.
Public television, which is financed from the state budget, continues to be perceived as having a progovernment editorial policy. At the same time, many ODIHR EOM interlocutors raised concerns that the political affiliation of private broadcasters poses the risk of biased election coverage. Some ODIHR EOM interlocutors also noted a growing distrust towards the media as a consequence of the coverage of the recent war in and around Nagorno-Karabakh. In addition, some stakeholders have noted that the absence of regulation of online media outlets and social media platforms with regards to the conduct of electoral campaigns risks contributing to misinformation and intolerant and inflammatory rhetoric.
The media regulator, the Commission for Television and Radio (CTR), is tasked with overseeing media compliance with legal provisions during the campaign, including through its own media monitoring. In case of violations, the CTR can issue warnings or apply fines.