By Anna Saghabalian
The Armenian media has been rated “not free” by a renowned U.S. human rights organization for the second consecutive year.
The New York-based watchdog Freedom House put Armenia in a lowly 135th place in its latest global press freedom rankings of 193 nations released on Wednesday. They were all assessed on a 100-point negative scale gauging economic and political pressures on media as well as the legal environment in which they operate.
Armenia was assigned a score of 64 along with four other nations, including Singapore and the Central African Republic.
Freedom House did not immediately release separate reports on Armenia and most of the other countries surveyed to elaborate on its findings, promising to make them public soon. The watchdog cited “the government’s repeated use of security or criminal libel laws to stifle criticism” and the closure of the independent A1+ television when it downgraded the status of the Armenian media from “partly free” to “not free” last year.
Georgia thus remains the only South Caucasus state where the press is “partly free,” according to Freedom House. Azerbaijan again fared even more poorly than Armenia, sharing 156th place with Guinea and Kyrgyzstan.
The study claims a “substantial worldwide decline” in press freedom in 2003. “Fewer and fewer people throughout the world have uncensored and unfettered access to information about their own countries,” the executive director of Freedom House, Jennifer Windsor, said in a statement.
The situation with press freedom in Armenia also prompted concern from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). “Freedom of expression continues to be seriously curtailed and several acts of violence against journalists, which took place during the recent events, were carried out or were allowed to happen by the police and security forces,” it said in a resolution on Wednesday.
The PACE urged the Armenian authorities to “create fair conditions for the normal functioning of the media” and in particular reopen A1+.