Several Armenian media organizations have issued a statement regarding a recent incident between Gyumri-based journalists and the Department of Public Relations and Mass Media of the Office of the President of the Republic of Armenia.
Recall, reporters of Gyumri-Asparez daily, Hingshabti weekly, Tsayg and GALA TV, as well as Aravot daily's and RFE/RL's Armenian service (Azatutyun) correspondents in the province of Shirak were prohibited from participating in the Armenian president's Sept. 4 press briefing in Armenia's second-largest city.
"We expect the Department of Public Relations and Mass Media of the Office of the RA President to apologize to all those accredited journalists who did not get the chance to carry out their professional commitment towards their audience," reads the statement issued by the Yerevan-based Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression, the Yerevan Press Club, Internews Media Support NGO, Asparez Journalists' Club, Media Diversity Institute-Armenia, and the Journalists for the Future NGO.
The signatories of the letter note that such conduct by state officials hinders the ensuring of fair competition among media, as well as the right to receive and disseminate information. Thus, "we call [upon state bodies] to revise such an approach."
"In general, an unwritten rule is observed at the governing elite. According to this rule, when dealing with media outlets, preference is first given to foreign media, then to some 'favorite' national and capital based broadcasters, and at the very end to regional media," reads the statement, in part.
On the day of the incident, the Gyumri-based Asparez Journalists' Club issued a statement, demanding the RA Police Chief to launch criminal proceedings based on hinderance to the legal professional activities of journalists.
The Department of Public Relations and Mass Media of RA President's Office responded to the statement in a story published on Panorama.am.
"The briefing took place in the small foyer of the Austrian Children's Hospital of Gyumri; consequently, aiming to cause as little inconvenience as possible to the patients and due to space restrictions, only a few journalists from TV stations having nationwide coverage were able to ask a few short questions," the state agency explained.
Asparez didn't consider this a proper explanation, while the statement issued by media organizations deemed the clarifications provided by the Department of Public Relations and Mass Media "not convincing": "One can imply from thems that the administration of the President sorts out a certain class of media outlets, where the coverage of activities of the head of the state is preferred more than it is on other outlets."