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The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Désir, welcomed today the swift reaction of the Armenian Government in addressing his concerns about the Decree on the State of Emergency, adopted on 23 March, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I welcome the ‘Explanatory Memorandum on measures taken by the Government of Armenia in response to the Press Release of 24 March of the Representative on Freedom of the Media’ that I received today from the authorities of Armenia,” Désir said. “I note, in particular, that the Government has decided to amend the Decree on the State of Emergency concerning the regulations of media activity in order to address my concerns, those of media advocacy NGOs and editors in Armenia, as well as the common position of the international mandates on freedom of expression expressed in our joint statement of 19 March.”

The Representative added: “I want to underline that the Memorandum stated that ‘the Decree of the Government regulates only the publication of information of a medical and epidemiological nature, thus ensuring safeguards for the genuine freedom of media outside this narrow topical framework.’”

In his press statement of 24 March, the Representative raised his concerns on the State of emergency legislation and insisted that the Сoronavirus response should not impede the work of the media in Armenia. The decree would have forbidden the media from publishing news on COVID-19 in Armenia from sources other than those released by official government sources.

“I share the preoccupation of the Government of Armenia to combat the dissemination of false information related to the health crisis,” the Representative said. “At the same time, I recall the importance of ensuring the free flow of information, which is a key component for providing the public with information on the vital measures needed to contain the virus, as well as the respect for the right of the media to report on the pandemic and governmental policies.

We will continue to co-operate with the Armenian authorities in this endeavor during this emergency situation and thereafter by developing good practices and a strategy to combat ‘fake news’ and disinformation,” concluded Désir. 

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