Yesterday, on May 3, the international community celebrated World Press Freedom Day. Every year on this important occasion, the United States recognizes the essential contribution of a free press to the institution of democracy, and honors the sacrifices of those who are working to establish an independent media in Armenia and throughout the world.
Freedom of the press is integral to a strong civil society, a healthy democracy, and a successful fight against corruption. Independent media inform and educate the public and provide a check on power and the abuse of power. They are an independent set of eyes and ears that can identify problems in ways that police investigators and prosecutors cannot, and they are an important tool for government officials, to tell them just how well — or how poorly — their subordinates are really doing in implementing a serious anti-corruption agenda. Citizens must have the ability to express themselves, to debate alternative ideas, and to challenge assumptions. Media that are independent from the state allow the peaceful expression and competition of ideas on which democracy depends. World Press Freedom Day is an annual occasion to reaffirm the role media play in a democracy and to support and understand the fundamental relation between press freedom and all human rights.
At this critical juncture for Armenia and the region, both the Armenian authorities and those who work in the media must take responsibility for the establishment of a media that is free, fair, independent and responsible. A greater diversity of views on the airwaves, including responsible coverage of opposition as well as coalition candidates and an open debate of all issues, will ensure that citizens have the information they need to make the best possible democratic choices. A free media includes television and radio stations that present lively debates in which all sides are fairly represented, and newspapers that publish articles independent of the political interests of their financial sponsors. Recently some progress has been made, with television stations presenting political figures from different sides of the political spectrum. It is important that this progress continue. The United States will continue to work with Armenia toward the establishment of free and independent media.
On World Press Freedom Day, I would like to express my appreciation to Armenian mass media for their essential contribution to democratization in Armenia. At the same time, I urge the government, the media, and the people of Armenia to take all possible steps to strengthen independent media in support of freedom and democracy.
Marie L. Yovanovitch
U.S. Ambassador to Armenia