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Human Rights Defenders' Office must be recognised as an important actor in protecting fundamental rights, says ARTICLE 19

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - London, 5 June 2009 - ARTICLE 19 believes that the Armenian government must recognise the Human Rights Defenders' Office of Armenia as an important actor protecting fundamental human rights. Repression of freedom of expression in Armenia remains of great concern.

ARTICLE 19 congratulates the incumbent Armenian Human Rights Defender, Armen Harutyunyan, on the fifth anniversary of the establishment of his office and stresses the continued importance of his work in the area of human rights and, in particular, freedom of expression. The Human Rights Defenders' Office is independent and non-political, established to monitor and report on human rights violations and examine individual complaints. It also has the authority to instigate its own investigations.

ARTICLE 19 welcomes Mr Harutyunyan's commitment to freedom of expression, as a central element of the national debate on human rights. This was clearly demonstrated by last week's conference on the right to freedom of expression and fair trail, organised by the Human Rights Defenders' Office, to celebrate their fifth anniversary.

However, ARTICLE 19 would also like to use this opportunity to once again raise concern about ongoing repression and erosion of the right to freedom of expression in Armenia. We call on the Armenian government to:

- Reform Armenian legislation to bring about greater independence, pluralism and diversity of its broadcasting services, in particular by lifting the moratorium on the distribution of frequencies. We specifically call on the government to implement a European Court of Human Rights 'decision' (See: http://www.institute.am/images/Document_files/ECHR_Judgments/case%20of%20meltex%20ltd%20and%20mesrop%20movsesyan%20v.%20armenia.doc ) to allow A1+ to take part in a public tender process under equal and fair conditions.
- Further amend media legislation, to ensure that the National Commission on Television and Radio is fully independent from the influence of the government and that its composition represents the diversity of Armenian society.
- Ensure safety for journalists, effectively investigating attacks and intimidation of journalists, and bringing to justice those who have instigated and carried out attacks.

ARTICLE 19 urges the Armenian government to enter into constructive dialogue with the Human Rights Defender and civil society organisations in order to facilitate a serious programme of reform.

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