Human Rights Defender warns investigators for summoning journalists

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Armenian Ombudsman Arman Tatoyan has released a statement a day after investigators sent a summons to Armlur and Hayeli, two news websites who published an article about the death of ex-police chief Hayk Harutyunyan which was later refuted by authorities for containing false information.

“According to the investigative body the purpose of these writs is to determine the authors of the articles and question them regarding the circumstances subject to clarification in the case,” the Ombudsman said in the statement.

“The Human Rights Defender finds it necessary to publicly record that the abovementioned issue is under his direct focus due to the reason of relating to journalistic activities and work. In addition, the concerns of the executives of these media outlets that they might be presented with a demand to disclose their information source is already recorded. They consider the fact of being sent a summons for questioning as a way to pressure them,” the Ombudsman said.

He warned law enforcement bodies that journalists are protected with concrete guarantees regarding their inclusion in any criminal case.

The statement of the Ombudsman reminded that the journalists can be demanded to disclose their information source in the “lawful conditions having comprehensive regulation envisaged exclusively by law”, such as a court decision, the purpose of revealing a grave crime etc.  “Moreover, in any case it is necessary to affirm the simultaneous presence of these conditions”.

“The guarantees of protected journalistic work demand criminal prosecution bodies to display greater attention in involving journalists in the criminal procedural spheres on the occasion of occupational work or when making statements about them regardless the status. All public bodies and officials must also take into consideration these guarantees in their actions or statements.

The journalistic specialized work is directly stemming from the fundamental value of the freedom of speech stipulated by the Armenian Constitution and international obligations, is contributing to securing civil supervision towards the state and must have special protection. The specialized work of journalists has a strategic significance for the Human Rights Defender.

During this entire process the Human Rights Defender will be in touch with the executives of the two abovementioned news websites by keeping the issue under direct attention. The actions of the investigative body will be under direct monitoring,” the statement says.

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