Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian denied trying to restrict press freedom in Armenia on Tuesday after warning unnamed broadcasters against disseminating “anti-state propaganda.”
“Taking advantage of unlimited freedom of speech, some TV companies have decided to engage in anti-state propaganda,” Pashinian wrote on Facebook late on Monday. “This is probably another case where some people once again mistake the government’s civility for weakness or naivety.”
“Don’t do that. Just don’t do,” he warned without naming any TV channel or specifying the reason for his discontent.
Pashinian, who himself is a former journalist, declined to name names when he spoke to reporters the following day. “If I name someone it will mean that I want to target them, so to speak,” he said. “I am only voicing alarm and asking them to stop doing that.”
“There is no need to go into details,” insisted Pashinian. “I think that attentive readers must have seen that [the Facebook status] said that there is unlimited freedom of speech in Armenia right now. I think you all can see that in your work.”
Later in the day, four key journalists of the Armenian Public Television, the country’s leading broadcaster also known as H1, resigned from their jobs. According to the Armenpress news agency, they included the head and the chief producer of H1’s news service as well as two news presenters. There was no word on reasons for their resignation.
The news coverage of Armenian TV and radio stations has long been strongly influenced by the country’s governments. In particular, former President Serzh Sarkisian was accused by critics of tightly controlling the political content of their news programs throughout his decade-long rule.
Immediately after forcing Sarkisian into resignation and coming to power in a wave of mass protests last month, Pashinian promised that the public and private broadcasters will no longer be receiving government orders.