Status: Not Free
Legal Environment: 21 (of 30)
Political Environment: 25 (of 40)
Economic Environment: 20 (of 30)
Total Score: 66 (of 100)
(Lower scores = freer)

Despite constitutional and legal protection for freedom of the press, in practice these rights were threatened. Incidents of violence, legal intimidation and financial pressure all damaged media freedom and led to self-censorship. Libel remains a criminal offense. Despite legislation that provides access to public information, in practice journalists were frequently denied access. In February, the government adopted amendments to the Law on the Rules of Procedure of National Commission on Television and Radio, which defined the commission as an independent body. This independence is jeopardized with half the members appointed by the government and the other half by the president. Two government-sponsored draft laws threatened to effective ban foreign broadcast on Armenian public television and radio by imposing heavy taxes on private companies that aired foreign broadcasts. After strong international pressure, the amendments were not adopted. However, in July, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) was informed it would no longer be broadcast on Armenian public radio.A1 Plus, which has engaged in a legal battle with the government since it was shut down in 2003, remained without a license during 2007. Broadcasting is by far the most important source of information in Armenia. As a result, most government efforts to control the flow of information are aimed at the broadcast media.

There is a wide variety of views expressed in broadcast and print media, but the environment was highly politicized and government pressure at a high ahead of the May parliamentary elections and again at the end of the year ahead of the February 2008 presidential election. During the campaign period, media watch groups reported that broadcast media outlets were generally more pro-government inclined in their coverage, although more coverage was allocated to opposition politicians than during previous election cycles. Monitoring report of broadcast media indicate that there was a strong bias in coverage for the two top presidential candidates, Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian, the government-backed candidate, and the former President Lev Ter-Petrossian. Sarkisian, backed by President Robert Kocharian, received mostly positive coverage, while coverage of Ter-Petrossian was highly critical. The media were under pressure not to broadcast opposition candidates after the independent Gala TV, based in the second-largest city, came under intense pressure after it aired a speech by Ter-Petrossian. In what appeared to be a government-backed effort to shut down the station, tax authorities launched an audit investigation into the company and eventually charges were filed against the station's parent company and its assets were frozen. Authorities also charged that the station was illegally using a state-owned television tower. As a result of its troubles, Gala lost a significant amount of its advertising revenues. The office of the opposition newspaper Chorrord Ishkanutyun was damaged due to an explosion in December, which observers linked the that papers' critical coverage of the government. Journalists reported facing verbal and physical attacks throughout the year. Most physical attacks took place at election-related rallies or during government functions that the media was trying to cover. In October, police filed criminal charges against two opposition editors, Nikol Pashinyan of Hayakakan Zhamanak and Shogher Matevosyan of Chorrord Ishkhanutyun. Both were charged with inciting violence for their attending an opposition rally. In June, the journalist Gagik Shamshia, a victim of an attack in 2006, was convicted of fraud and embezzlement. Observers believe that the trial and 30-month jail sentence were politically motivated. Journalist Arman Babajanian, who was convicted in 2006 of document forgery and evasion of military service, remained in jail at the end of the year. Photojournalists typically face a more hostile reporting environment than journalists. In September, the editor in chief of the opposition Iskakan Iravuk was attacked by unidentified assailants and hospitalized as a result. No perpetrators were identified or arrested.

Most newspapers were privately owned, with the exception of government-sponsored Hayastani Hanrepatutyun and the Russian-language version, Respublika Armenia. Few of these private newspapers are self-sustainable and most are dependent on business groups with government ties. Public media receive funding from the state budget. Distribution networks are private-owned, but not effective in distributing newspapers across the country. Ahead of the elections, opposition newspapers were frequently confiscated. Most TV stations were owned either by pro-government politicians or businessmen with ties to the ruling party. There are no formal restrictions for Internet access, though regular usage is limited to an estimated 6% of the population.

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