PRESS SYSTEMS IN THE SOUTH CAUCASUS:
IMPEDIMENTS IN THE TRANSITION TO DEMOCRATIC JOURNALISM IN ARMENIA, AZERBAIJAN AND GEORGIA

Eric FREEDMAN, Richard SHAFER


Eric Freedman, J.D., Associate Professor of Journalism and Director of the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism, Michigan State University (East Lansing, U.S.A.)

Richard Shafer, Ph.D., Professor of Journalism, University of North Dakota (Grand Forks, U.S.A.)


ABSTRACT

This article examines the contemporary press environment and existing research on the pressincluding the role of new media in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. In the early 1990s, these successor states emerged from the dismantled Soviet empire to form new governments, press systems, and other national institutions. Each was nominally committed to developing free enterprise-based economies and democratic governance. The article discusses the press after they became part of the U.S.S.R., critiques the three national press environments, and examines how rapid expansion of social media use is blurring traditional definitions of journalism. Last, it concludes that significant obstacles remain to development of functional, effective press systems that can maintain economic and political autonomy and plurality in the South Caucasus.

Keywords: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, press environment, new media, post-Soviet, press freedom.

Introduction

As in all former colonized nations, the transition of the historically subjugated South Caucasus statesArmenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgiato independence and democratic governance inherently requires freedom of expression, whether individual, collective, or mediated by news organizations. In democratic theory, a leading normative belief is that guaranteeing press rights helps ensure that free media will play a watchdog role over government and over nongovernmental influence-wielders and over actual and


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