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Mass Media Should Not Be Prosecuted for Protecting Their Sources, Expert Says

Without anonymous sources, there can be no journalism – especially investigative journalism, Ashot Melikyan, Chairman of the Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression told reporters on Friday, July 17, commenting on the criminal case initiated against Ilur.am news portal. 

Recall, in summer 2014 a Yerevan court ordered Ilur.am website and Hraparak daily to disclose their sources as part of a criminal investigation involving a high-level Armenian police official. Ilur.am had reported earlier in the year that Armenian Greco-Roman wrestler, three-time European Champion, and Olympic bronze medalist Artur Aleksanyan had been attacked by then Shirak Police Chief Vardan Nadaryan (the official has since been relieved of his position for reasons unrelated to the investigation).

This case, Melikyan said, sets a dangerous precedent. The law on mass media, he added, clearly states how and when sources should be disclosed: “A number of circumstances must be present; investigation has to be of cases of grave or especially grave crimes, which, however, is not the case here.”

Law enforcement, as stated by the expert, tried to make the investigation look like one in order to conform it to the law; however, “they are not doing a very good job of it, and the public does not trust such formulations.”

Another reason is that [before demanding anonymous sources be disclosed] all other possible sources, ways of solving the crime must be exhausted, Melikyan said, claiming that "that's not true either,” since the entire Gyumri was talking about “the incident,” and Levon Barseghyan, Chairman of Gyumri's “Asparez” journalists' club was even willing to “shed some light on it.”

“It's clear that the incident has happened; it's a fact, and the entire country knows about it. I'm sure there is no doubt the information is trustworthy,” Ashot Melikyan stated. In terms of public interest, he added, the right to freedom of expression is much more important than the crime itself, and public interest in this case means not disclosing the sources.