Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic has expressed concern about a court ruling in Armenia that forces media outlets to disclose their sources of information.
On June 26, the Administrative Court of the Kentron and Nork-Marash districts in Yerevan ruled that two media outlets, the Hraparak newspaper and Ilur.am news portal, should disclose their sources as part of the criminal investigation involving a high-level police official of the Shirak region.
“I am concerned that this ruling might have a chilling effect on media as it could thwart reporting on issues of public interest,” Mijatovic said on Tuesday, according to an OSCE press release. “The need for journalists’ professional confidentiality with public and private sources of information must be acknowledged.”
She noted that the right of journalists to protect the identity of sources is a key principle of investigative journalism and has repeatedly been declared as a basic requirement for freedom of expression by the OSCE.
Earlier this month Hraparak and Ilur.am refused to comply with the court ruling ordering them to disclose the sources of their recent reports accusing Vartan Nadarian, the chief of police of Armenia’s northwestern Shirak province, of attacking two young men in a dispute outside the regional capital Gyumri. One of them turned out to be Artur Aleksanian, a prominent Armenian wrestler and three-time European champion.
Citing those reports, the Special Investigative Service (SIS) launched a criminal investigation into the alleged violence. The law-enforcement agency subordinate to state prosecutors told the two media outlets to disclose the sources of the information, saying that it was necessary for solving the case. Both publications refused to do that, leading the SIS to take them to court.
Both media outlets said they will appeal against the ruling and will not name their sources in any case. They accused the authorities of using the case to bully news organizations critical of the Armenian government.
Under Armenian law, courts can order media to disclose their sources if they deem that necessary for solving grave crimes. Editors and journalists defying such orders risk up to two months in prison. This legal provision has never been enforced before.