Recently, the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia adopted amendments to the RA “Law on Mass Communication,” which now gives the state bodies the right to deprive a journalist of accreditation. The first violation will result in a warning to the media company while in the case of second, the journalist’s accreditation is revoked.
The law passed unanimously as the opposition forces are boycotting the Parliamentary sessions calling for the resignation of the ruling party.
Late last year on October 5, a new law went into effect in Armenia raising the maximum threshold for “insults” and “defamation” fines by three times their previous amount. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) joined their affiliate the Union of Journalists of Armenia (UJA) at the time denouncing the law and its impact on the right of freedom of expression.
In March 2021, the defamation law as it came to be known, was adopted by the Armenian government. It originally stipulated that the maximum fine for “insults” will be €5,400 and almost €11,000 for “defamation.” This law was adopted after a Facebook user posted a comment regarded as offensive on a picture of the PM Pashinyan. It was also initiated by Alen Simonyan, the deputy speaker of parliament and a close ally of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. The law was later referred to the Court following President Armen Sarkissian’s refusal to sign it after expressing his concerns regarding the constitutionality of the law.
According to Eurasianet, since Pashinyan came into power in 2018, the country has seen a significant increase in lawsuits involving journalists. In 2020 alone, according to a report from the Committee to Protect the Freedom of Expression, there were 74 lawsuits involving journalists; of those 61 were charged with “insult or defamation.”
Ironically, back when he was just a tabloid-journalist, PM Nikol Pashinyan described similar legislation against the media as a “declaration of a legal war on mass media.”