Ara Harutyunyan from Armenia, 23, recently graduated from the Caucasus School of Journalism and Media Management and is currently a freelance journalist for the NGO Chai Khana.

First of all I want to mention that we don’t have any imprisoned journalist in our country. This is a praiseworthy fact but on the other hand we should take into consideration that it doesn’t mean that we have independent media in Armenia. Self-censorship is a big factor in decision-making process for journalists and for editors. Before a journalist publishes something he/she has to think: what would happen to me, what would happen to my family members, what if I lose my job? Or they find a courage to write about whatever they want to write but at the end the article isn’t being published because of interference of the ‘’hero’’ of the article or other interested parties. 
Once I had such an experience when I worked on an article and it was not published. One of eco activists told me that an oligarch, who is also parliament member of Armenian National Assembly, wants to build another supermarket and he plans to cut the trees in the area of construction. I went there with my cameraman. We started shooting the area, the trees which were cut. Meanwhile a man who was working on construction called directly to that oligarch and he himself came to the area with his bodyguards. He started to convince us not to publish the material we have because he already have some problems in other parts of the city where he plans to open a supermarket. He suggested to be ‘’brothers’’ by which he meant giving bribe to me and my cameraman. Afterwards he spoke to editor-in-chief of the website I was working for. It was decided that the article will not be published. 
Of course, as a journalist who has different principals and work style I should have left my job, but it wasn’t an easy decision. The website for which I was working for was considered as one of more or less independent media outlets in Armenia despite having strong ties with one of the opposition parties. I thought that the situation in other media outlets which have connection with authorities the situation would be worse. So I kept working there till I left the job to continue my studies abroad. 
The media in Armenia is mainly controlled by the political parties. Let’s divide media landscape of Armenia into 3 parts: ones which are controlled by opposition (still they are not independent media outlets because of political influence of the parties), ones controlled by authorities and ones which try to find different financial sources to survive such as grants from international organizations, sponsors etc. So we have to admit that we don’t have independent media outlets as such in Armenia because even the ones which get financial aid from international organizations have their own agenda, for example, to promote Armenian-Russian path for the development of the country etc.
That’s why I started working for outlets which are more or less independent from different influences of the sponsors. I’m currently working for RFE/RL’s Armenian Service as a freelance correspondent in Nagorno Karabakh, Stepanakert, also I’m freelancing for ‘’Chai Khana’’ non-governmental organization based in Tbilisi which is to strengthen citizen engagement and Independent Journalism in the region. 
So having this introduction about the Armenian media you could imagine the role of propaganda as well. In the recent years when the online media is taking over it becomes harder and harder for authorities to control the online media especially the social networks. But the propaganda of the authorities is still has a huge role in the traditional television. Social media users or journalists often say that the Public TV shows the country which doesn’t exist and they notice sarcastically that it’s the country they would like to live in. And I have to mention that television has a huge impact in the regions and villages where the Internet is not that available and the only source of information for people is television. Citizens pay taxes to have an independent Public television but instead they have to watch news where the most important topic is the visit of president to this or that country. 
I do hope that one day we will have independent and free media in our country. I believe that free journalism is a very important milestone in process of democratization of country.

 Ara Hayrapetyan