Despite a pluralistic environment, the media remain polarised. The country is facing an unprecedented level of disinformation and hate speech, especially concerning the Nagorno-Karabakh territorial dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
The main news sources in Armenia are social networks, which two-thirds of the population access daily. Since the “velvet revolution” of 2018, the media landscape has grown. Independent online news sites are prospering, among them Civilnet.am, hetq.am, Factor.am and Azatutyun.am, fulfilling their role as an essential counterweight to democracy. Nevertheless, most broadcast and print media, affiliated with major political and commercial interests, continue to face pressure concerning their editorial policy.
The polarisation of the media mirrors that of the political scene: many media outlets are close to political leaders who came to power after 2018, while others remain faithful to former oligarchs. Only a handful of media demonstrate independence. Two political topics are especially sensitive: the Nagorno-Karabakh war and the Russia-Ukraine war. Some political groups run disinformation operations and attack journalists.
Despite the decriminalisation of defamation and the implementation of legislation that guarantees the transparency of media ownership, the legal framework that regulates the sector does not sufficiently protect freedom of the press, nor does it follow European standards. Recent reforms have not resolved problems posed by disinformation and gag orders. Access to state-held information is limited by the government (refusal to respond, delays, etc.)
Most media are controlled by people close to political movements or supported by influential public figures. Few outlets have adopted paid subscription models, and the advertising market remains under-developed, which limits the financial independence of privately-owned media. State-owned media refrain from any criticism of the government.
As a profession, journalism is disparaged and subject to especially troubling hate speech. Anti-media rhetoric from political elites, who accuse journalists of “corruption” and of being in the service of their adversaries, creates a climate of intolerance that hinders reporters’ work. They are constantly insulted, assaulted and subject to abusive prosecution for calumny, which reinforces self-censorship.
Clashes on the border with Azerbaijan and the blocking of the Lachin corridor linking Armenia with the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh enclave within Azerbaijan complicate the work of journalists. Furthermore, they are regularly subjected to pressure, insults and violence by both elected officials of the ruling party and the opposition, as well as their supporters – whether it be in Parliament, in the street, or on social media. In general, violence against journalists goes unpunished.