07 May 2020 Lvl. 2
State repliedProgress
Alert created on: 25 Mar 2020 n° 32/2020 Armenia

Emergency Restrictions Force Media to Suppress Independent Information on COVID-19

Source of threatState
CategoryOther acts having chilling effects on media freedom
Partner AEJ EFJ/IFJ
Partner AEJ EFJ/IFJ
Since 16 March 2020, when the Armenian government declared a state of emergency, police there have confirmed that more than 20 media outlets have had to amend or delete information deemed by officials to spread public “panic”. The strict rules prohibit publication of information about the virus outbreak in Armenia and abroad, including rates of infection and death, which is not fully consistent with “official information” defined as press releases and information issued by the Armenian Unified Information Centre. A State of Emergency Command alone decides when any published information is in violation of these restrictions. Media found in violation face possible fines of over €1,000. Aravot newspaper was obliged to amend an article on the concealment of coronavirus cases in Russia; another paper, Hraparak, was forced to retract a story about complaints by prisoners in Armenian jails that they were no longer permitted to receive parcels from family members. The president of the Yerevan Press Club, Boris Navasardyan, questioned whether the restrictions were proportionate to the requirements of the situation. He argued that in view of the government’s limited provision of detailed information, the absence of alternative sources of information may itself cause panic among members of the public. A group of news media editors has written to the minister who heads the State of Emergency Commission, asking for clarifications about the rationale and extent of the reporting restrictions. The editor in chief of FactInfo, Sona Truzyan, disclosed that editors have also asked parliament to establish a working group of experts including socio-psychologists to make scientifically-based assessments on whether particular media reports are likely to cause the public to panic.
Progress
26 Mar 2020: On 25 March 2020, the obligations imposed on the media were changed and eased.   Article published on the news portal media.am
Updates
07 May 2020
Following the removal of the initial blanket restrictions on media coverage, some Emergency Law's requirements still seriously impedes media from reporting on COVID-19.
State replies
06 May 2020
State comment regarding the statement on data protection attached to the alert
Follow-ups
25 Mar 2020
Сoronavirus response should not impede the work of the media in Armenia, says OSCE Media Freedom Representative
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