AEJ Statement: Armenian Emergency Law still seriously impedes media from reporting on COVID-19
When the State of emergency was announced in Armenia on 16 March to fight Covid-19 a blanket restriction was imposed on the media limiting published reports about Covid-19 to those based on official information only. Media were not allowed to report even about the situation in other countries without explicit approval from the government. On March 25, following multiple protests, those restrictions were partly removed.
The current requirements state that journalists must still include an official government citation to verify the accuracy of the data in every published item, but often the government takes as much as 30 days to respond, so delaying publication until the information in it is no longer relevant to the public as news. This procedure seriously and unreasonably impedes the media from fulfilling its role of delivering timely and relevant information and analysis to audiences and readers.
A second major concern is that the Government refuses to provide detailed relevant information about the gender, age and geographical location of those who have contracted the virus and those who have died from it. No explanation or justification has been given for this lack of important information.
Journalists’ and human rights organisations also have concerns regarding the law which allows state authorities to track and keep records of the movement of Covid-19 sufferers by collecting and analysing telephone data. In a statement issued on April 2, 2020, 11 NGOs (YEREVAN PRESS CLUB, MEDIA DIVERSITY INSTITUTE – ARMENIA, FREEDOM OF INFORMATION CENTER,MEDIA INITIATIVES CENTER, COMMITTEE TO PROTECT FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION, PUBLIC JOURNALISM CLUB, RULE OF LAW NGO, JOURNALISTS FOR THE FUTURE, GORIS PRESS CLUB, JOURNALISTS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS, “FEMIDA” PUBLIC ORGANIZATION) said: “We call on the Armenian government and the State of Emergency Commandant’s Office to show transparency by clarifying to the public which institutions (public or private) are authorised to analyse the personal data of the population, what measures are in place to ensure adequate protection and security of the data, and to make public the details of information obtained through these surveillance measures. We also urge the authorities to establish and announce details of an independent mechanism of public oversight of the data collection and processing, in accordance with international standards”.
LINK TO 2 April 2020 Statement by 11 NGOs:-