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Armenia22 May 2003

Call for press freedom to be respected in Sunday’s legislative elections and referendum

Reporters Without Borders today urged the authorities to make respect for press freedom a priority in the 25 May legislative elections and referendum, as there were many violations of press freedom in the two rounds of the presidential elections in February and March. The organisation also voiced concern about the closure of local TV station Ankyun+3, which appears to have been politically motivated.

"Given the many cases of harassment, intimidation, confiscation and violence against journalists covering the presidential election a few months ago, we have a right to be concerned about the conditions in which the media will be able to work in the coming election," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said in a letter to the chairman of the central electoral commission, Artak Sahradyan.

"We therefore ask you to do everything possible to ensure that the members of the local commissions respect the electoral code and do not obstruct the work of journalists during the 25 May elections," Ménard said. "We also ask you to intervene so that the TV station Ankyun+3 can resume broadcasting immediately."

On 20 May, the local office of Armenia’s telecommunication centre suspended broadcasting by the local TV station Ankyun+3 in the city of Alarverdi (in the Lori region), claiming that it had failed to respect technical regulations and had not broadcast state programmes.

The station’s editor in chief, Hrachya Papinyan, said this forced closure five days before the election was politically motivated, as the station had not supported Hovhannes Qochinyan, a candidate who is the brother of the head of the regional government. A week ago tax inspectors also began examining the station’s accounts.

There were many cases of obstruction of news coverage during the two rounds of the presidential election on 19 February and 5 March. Representatives of independent media, including journalists with the independent TV station A1+, were subjected to intimidation and physically attacked while trying to cover voting in polling stations. In most cases, members of local electoral commissions were to blame. Reporters Without Borders points out that no accreditation is needed to cover local polling stations and article 30 of the electoral code bans any limitation on the rights of the news media.




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