Armenia fell from 61st to 63rd place in RSF’s 2021 World Press Freedom Index covering 180 countries and territories. It was 80th in the rankings when the current Armenian government took office in the 2018 “velvet revolution.”
“Media diversity has blossomed but the government that emerged from Armenia’s ‘velvet revolution’ in the spring of 2018 has failed to reduce the media’s polarization,” reads the latest report released by the Paris-based watchdog.
“Transparent media ownership and journalistic independence are still far from being achieved,” it says. “The latter was even more restricted during the state of emergency declared on 27 September 2020, at the start of the war in Nagorno-Karabakh.”
“There is concern about the volume of judicial proceedings against journalists and about excesses in the fight against fake news. The involvement of the security services in combatting disinformation and attempts to legislate without prior discussion with civil society and journalists are alarming,” adds the report.
Commenting on the report on Monday, Ashot Melikian of the Yerevan-based Committee to Protect Freedom of Speech said it should send a clear “signal” to Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s administration.
Melikian said that over the past year the authorities have drafted or enacted a number of “regressive” bills strongly criticized by Armenian press freedom groups. He singled out two such bills which would make it harder for journalists to use anonymous news sources and triple maximum fines for defamation.
Boris Navasardian, the chairman of the Yerevan Press Club, likewise asserted that the authorities are seeking stronger influence on the media and its coverage of their activities.
“Their main goal is to have the kind of presence in the media landscape that the former authorities had, giving the latter a great advantage over their political rivals,” Navasardian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.
Pashinian and his political allies maintain that the Armenian media is now more diverse and free than it was under the country’s previous governments.