Accountability systems

Armenian media regulate themselves in a disorderly manner. Today there is no single organisation that has managed to unite the entire journalistic community. Several attempts have been made by Yerevan Press Club. The first attempt at media self-regulation in Armenia was the Code of Conduct for members of the Yerevan Press Club, adopted in 1995. The current version of the document was adopted in 2002 and applies only to members of the club. The club’s Ethics Commission is responsible for monitoring compliance with the requirements of the code. On 10 March 2007, at the initiative of Yerevan Press Club, 18 Armenian media outlets signed a joint Code of Conduct of Media Representatives and elected members of a new body called Media Ethics Observatory (MEO). The signatories committed themselves to publish the decisions of the commission in their media. The mission of the Media Ethics Observatory is to consider complaints of violations of the Code and make conclusions on them. The media representatives that signed the Code recognised the right of the Media Ethics Observatory to review the compliance of the actions and publications with the provisions of the Code, and expressed their readiness to publish the decisions of the Observatory in the media.

Currently, 46 Armenian media outlets have signed the Code and the initiative is supported by eight journalistic associations. However, a number of large media outlets and associations, including most of the leading national and metropolitan broadcasters, mostly loyal to the authorities and generally serving their interests, have not joined the Code. Neither have the well-known opposition newspapers, which hold a prominent place in the print media market, among them the Aravot newspaper and the published by the Investigative Journalists NGO, which prefer to follow their own codes. Other organisations and individuals also made attempts at self-regulation: Some media outlets, such as the regional channel GALA TV and the Aravot newspaper attempted to introduce an ombudsman position, but these initiatives did not last long due to financial difficulties. Another attempt at self-regulation was undertaken by the Public Council, created by the Decree of the President of the Republic of Armenia. The Public Council developed a document called the Charter of the Ethical Principles of Television and Radio Broadcasters, which was signed by 11 television companies, but in practice the Charter has not been used. Still another attempt at self-regulation was made by the Human Rights Defender’s Office (Ombudsman), who initiated the creation of the Information Disputes Council (IDC).

The IDC and the Media Ethics Observatory have different functions. The former prepares explanatory letters for consultants in lawsuits for cases involving the media, while the latter investigates complaints from individuals and legal entities and promulgates its findings on media violations of journalistic ethics, thereby facilitating out-of-court dispute resolution. These two bodies cooperate in a number of cases.