07 May 2020 Lvl. 2
Alert created on: 25 Mar 2020 n° 32/2020 Armenia
Emergency Restrictions Force Media to Suppress Independent Information on COVID-19
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.
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
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.
- Statement by media and human rights organisations calling for minimal restrictions on free speech, proportionality and transparency; and for full information and necessary public oversight of personal data collection and processing
- Article from news portal Hetq: "Armenia: State of emergency press restrictions continue; 22 media outlets told to remove/edit coronavirus content"
- Government Decision 298-N of 16 March 2020 on declaring the state of emergency (as notified to the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe on 19 March 2020)
- Article from news portal Hetq: "Media in Armenia voice concerns over state of emergency restrictions: two papers forced to edit coronavirus articles deemed ‘panic-mongering’"
06 May 2020
State comment regarding the statement on data protection attached to the alert
06 May 2020
Reply from the Armenian authorities
25 Mar 2020
Сoronavirus response should not impede the work of the media in Armenia, says OSCE Media Freedom Representative