By Ruzanna KhachatrianThe editors of Armenia’s eight leading newspapers and leaders of several civic organizations expressed on Tuesday serious concern at what they see as growing pressure on journalists critical of the government.
In a joint statement, they pointed to the recent arrest and prosecution on charges of draft evasion of the editor of the “Zhamanak Yerevan” newspaper, the reported beating of a correspondent for another independent publication and threatening e-mails allegedly received by a prominent investigative journalist. They linked these cases with unfolding preparations by Armenia’s main governing factions for next year’s parliamentary elections.
“All of this is being done by those individuals and forces that have reason to beware criticism and revelation of some aspects of their activities,” the statement said without naming anyone. It warned that failure by the Armenian government to protect press freedom would have negative implications for the freedom and fairness of the 2007 polls.
One of the statement’s signatories, Boris Navasardian of the Yerevan Press Club, said the government has so far failed to respond adequately to instances of violence against local reporters. “This problem must have prompted a reaction from all government structures,” Navasardian told RFE/RL. “Unfortunately, we haven’t seen such reaction.”
Another signatory, Avetik Ishkhanian of the Armenian Helsinki Committee, complained that ordinary Armenians have also been indifferent to attacks on the independent press. “After each incident there is hope that the public will react and become more active in defending its rights and freedom of speech in particular,” he said. “But public reaction has been rather weak until now.”