By Anna Saghabalian
Press freedom in Armenia remains restricted as evidenced by local broadcasters’ continuing dependence on the government and biased news coverage, a senior official from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said on Wednesday.
“Although I believe Armenia has made significant progress in improving its media legislation, real pluralism in this country leaves much to be desired and is somewhat restricted,” Miklos Haraszti, the OSCE representative on the freedom of the media, said at the end of a fact-finding visit to Yerevan.
Haraszti, who met with President Robert Kocharian, other government officials and heads of media outlets during the three-day trip, said this will be the main thrust of his extensive report on press freedom in Armenia which he plans to present to the OSCE’s Vienna-based Permanent Council next month.
Speaking at a news conference, Haraszti welcomed the diversity of the local print media and the fact that there have been no reported arrests of and attacks on Armenian journalists in the past year. But he said all of this is more than offset by a serious lack of pluralism in Armenia’s much more accessible and influential electronic media. The latter’s coverage of major political developments is deeply flawed, he said.
Armenian state television and all major private networks are loyal to the administration of President Robert Kocharian, rarely airing criticism of his policies. The only TV channel that was not controlled by the ruling regime, A1+, was controversially forced off the air four years ago. A1+ is still unable to resume broadcasts despite pressure exerted on the Armenian authorities by the OSCE, the Council of Europe and other international organizations.
Haraszti said government officials assured him that they will make important changes in an Armenian law regulating the supposedly competitive distribution of broadcasting frequencies. The process is currently administered by a commission single-handedly formed by the president of the republic.
(Photolur photo: Miklos Haraszti.)