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Armenian Ombudsman Concerned By Lack Of Media Freedom

Armen Harutiunian, the state human rights ombudsman, at a news conference in Yerevan on July 7.
YEREVAN -- Armenia's human rights ombudsman has described the situation regarding media freedom in the country as "worrisome" in a special report released today, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Ombudsman Armen Harutiunian's report deplores physical attacks on local journalists, "restrictions" on news reporting, and strong government influence on Armenia's broadcast media.

"There are numerous problems in the republic of Armenia and the course of reforms must be accelerated," Harutiunian said in presenting the report at a news conference. "In particular, journalists are subjected to violence for performing their professional duties and, as a rule, the guilty are not brought to justice."

Harutiunian said the "people's rights to receive information are also restricted in many other ways." He noted that such incidents usually occur in the run-up to elections and on polling days.

"This means that a culture of sensible political struggle has still not taken hold in the country," Harutiunian said.

Harutiunian said his office has looked into the country's media legislation and found serious "contradictions and flaws." His report points to, among other things, the recently enacted amendments to a law on broadcasting criticized by domestic media watchdogs, the United States, and the European Union.

Harutiunian also spoke of "many problems" with Armenia's electronic media, and he deplored a lack of pluralism in news coverage on local television and radio.