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Reporters Without Borders Concerned with Press Situation in Armenia

Reporters Without Borders is concerned about all the libel actions being brought against Armenian newspapers and the disproportionate damages being demanded, which threaten their survival and create a climate that encourages self-censorship. This tendency to use lawsuits to throttle news media must be reined in.

The repeal of jail sentences for libel and slander in April 2010 was hailed as a democratic advance but judicial harassment of the media continues. There were 12 defamation actions during the first quarter of 2011 alone. Independent newspapers are the leading targets. The daily Jamanak is currently the subject of three different lawsuits. Haykakan Jamanak and Hraparak are also being sued.

In most cases the plaintiffs are politicians. On 18 April, Armenia’s highest appeal court ordered the news website Hetq, founded by the NGO Investigative Journalists, to pay Ijevan mayor Tavush Marz 450,000 drams (820 euros) in damages and publish a retraction. The suit was brought over a series of articles about embezzlement by local officials. Having exhausted all possibilities of appeal in Armenia, the NGO says it will take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

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Iran ‘predator’ of press freedom, says Reporters Without Borders

The Paris-based media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders has included Iran in its annual list of countries it considers as “predators” of press freedom, including political leaders, criminal organisations and militias from across the world.

According to the group, as Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei “is responsible for the continuing crackdown on journalists and others” since the rigged presidential election of 2009 which won Ahmadinejad a second term in office. “His virulent and inflammatory criticism of media with international links has fuelled the rage of government bodies carrying out the repression. He explicitly agreed to the judicial system staging show trials of journalists in August 2009 and January 2010 and giving journalists and bloggers heavy prison terms and sometimes death sentences. The Revolutionary Guards, commanded by Khamenei, control Teheran’s Evin prison so he is directly responsible for the torture and other abuses of journalists and bloggers jailed there.”

The media watchdog “accuses Khamenei of crimes against humanity,” adding that Ahmadinejad is “directly responsible for this crackdown, which he organises with the ministries of intelligence, culture and Islamic guidance and the Revolutionary Guards.”

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