I’d like to welcome each one of you to this exhibit to mark World Press Freedom Day. And I would like to thank Shushan and FOICA for inviting me to be part of this important event. In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed May 3rd as the day the international community sets aside to reflect on the vital role that free media plays in establishing and maintaining open and democratic societies around the globe.
The free flow of information and ideas within countries and across international borders can be a powerful force for understanding and positive change. Today also provides us an opportunity to pay tribute to journalists around the world who often face violence and intimidation while working to inform citizens, or to reflect or champion their concerns. The Committee to Protect Journalists reported that 71 journalists were killed in 2009. Hundreds more were arrested or assaulted or kidnapped. These brave men and women, often underpaid and overworked, understand that a free media is essential to creating a climate of transparency and accountability. They accept the risk along with the responsibility to accurately report events. And as we deplore violence, censorship, and harassment of journalists—indeed all attempts to put down a free media—we must commit ourselves to working toward improving the environment in which journalists operate.
I don’t think I need to remind anyone here today that Armenia has again been ranked “not free” Freedom House’s annual press survey. Among the issues cited in the report were incidents of violence, the threat of administrative or financial pressures, self-censorship, bias and selective political coverage. We strongly urge that attacks on journalists be thoroughly investigated and prosecuted vigorously by the authorities. A sense of impunity will only encourage further harassment. Looking forward, we hope that the new libel law will be responsibly implemented. We also hope the digitalization process is carried out in an open and transparent way that does not adversely affect smaller regional and local media, and that new licenses will be awarded in a fair and transparent process. We also recognize and appreciate the government’s pro-active steps toward implementing e-governance on a national scale. This represents a significant step forward in allowing citizens easier access to government information.
To advance in today’s dynamic global environment, societies must tap into the creativity and talents of their people. This means trusting their citizens to make meaningful choices based on full information. I urge all of us to recommit to working for a more open and informed society in Armenia, and I applaud the work that FOICA is doing in this regard. Thank you.