Armenia Politics

Kocharyan prepared to ease the restrictions on media

Following the announcements from Armenian media as well as growing pressure from the international community to ease the pressures on freedom of speech and media, RA President Kocharyan has told journalists during a media briefing today, that he sees no reasons to further prolong the state of emergency. Hence we can expect to see it end on March 20th. 

Armenian Public Radio reports, that President Kocharyan has noted lack of violations of the state of emergency and has stated, that the situation in Yerevan is peaceful and fully under control.

Robert Kocharyan has also informed that today or tomorrow he will sign a decree on mitigation of the restrictions on mass media activity under the state of emergency.
According to the President, the decree will clearly indicate the activities which the mass media should avoid. It particularly refers to publication of obvious lies and provocative information.
Speaking of Levon Ter-Petrosian’s statements on the intention to hold a rally right after the state of emergency is lifted, President Kocharyan described them as “provocative”, and noted that “for some time one should refrain from rallies, rest a little and reduce the level of polarization in the society.” “Imagine if we give permission to hold rallies, and the people, who participated in the unrest and collisions with the police, and the representatives of law-enforcement bodies gather at one square. I cannot imagine what their “communication” will be like. One should be a provoker to repeat the same steps. Maybe, some people will be glad to have new collisions and new victims, and it will become a ground for publications in foreign newspapers, but the authorities will not allow that, especially taking into account the fact that Article 40 of RA Constitution provides us with necessary legal grounds for that. I advise the citizens to refrain from participation in rallies and not to obey to provocative statements.”


Levon Ter-Petrossian. “They will not be able to manage this society”

On March 11 Levon Ter-Petrossian met with the reporters. Based on the post-electoral tradition, this meeting as well took place at the first president’s house that is still being controlled by the special guards’ forces. Ter-Petrossian covered the Constitutional Court decision. He reminded the details of his speech at the Constitutional Court trial, drawing the attention of the court to two legal issues.

The first was about the article 78.1 of the Electoral Code, according to which the prime minister could be registered as a presidential candidate only in one case – if he had the status of an acting president of Armenia.The second issue was about the article 53.1 of the Constitution, according to which “during martial law or state of emergency no elections of the President of the Republic shall be held.” According to Ter-Petrossian, CC was obligated to express its attitude concerning these two issues, reaching a certain conclusion, which, however, did not happen.“This means one thing – the Constitutional Court avoided covering the most objectionable grounds putting the legitimacy of the past elections under question, in order not to face a legal dead-end or turning up in an awkward state,” Ter-Petrossian announced.

Today Ter-Petrossian has also received the refusal of the city administration, in response to his application to get permission for organizing a rally at the Freedom Square on March 21. He said they would continue applying to get permissions for the following days, too, although he did not exclude that, up to April 9, the authorities would try not to permit conducting any mass event.“For 5 months, there have been no infringements on our behalf; no incidents have been registered during numerous rallies and gatherings. Did anything happen to change the people in one day? The following thing happened – the authorities applied truncheons against the people, and an unmanageable situation was created. However, I am sure that the situation was being wonderfully managed by the authorities,” Levon Ter-Petrossian said.

He covered the future actions, saying that “we have never gone for non-political tension to date, and are not going to. They are going to fight by all the legal means – civilized, clear, and uncompromising. According to the first president, “70 percent of AAM board, all the leaders of the territorial headquarters, most members of the central headquarters are arrested.” But the mass arrests and the happened events make the authorities more anxious, according to the first president, “A lot of blood has been shed. The authorities feel responsibility for that. OSCE/ODIHR has presented a very strict assessment. There has never been a stricter report after 1995. These are phenomena that cannot be ignored.”Ter-Petrossian once more emphasized that today we have another society – society that “is different from what we had 5 months ago.” It will be difficult to manage this society in conditions of such a lack of legitimacy of the authorities.According to Ter-Petrossian, the authorities talk about the necessity of a dialogue but “they do everything to disrupt that possibility, with all their steps contributing to a tenser situation.” Ter-Petrossian repeated his approach that he had presented at the Constitutional Court –taking the suggestions of the European Union statement as a basis and turning them into a plan of actions. The European Union had offered to stop the state of emergency, release the arrested people, eliminate the restrictions of the media activities and implement an independent investigation of the incidents on March 1. According to Ter-Petrossian, the acceptance of these offers can become a full-fledged basis for negotiations and a dialogue.


Bryza and RA MFA exchange contradicting statements on March 1 violence in Armenia

Having returned to U.S. afte a visit to Armenia, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza, has sharply condemned a government crackdown on protests following last month’s presidential election.

“The violence really was deplorable,” Bryza said Monday.”It seems clear that the reaction by the government was harsh and brutal.”

Tigran Balayan, Head of the RA MFA Press Division, has said, in response to a question by ‘Mediamax’ News Agency:

We’re astonished that even after his visit to Yerevan, after meeting with and hearing from various official and unofficial sources, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matt Bryza could make such arbitrary statements.Assigning such one-sided blame is unfounded and not helpful. The number of wounded law enforcement officers (108) — 43 of them wounded by firearms and hand-grenades — clearly demonstrates that rioters were in posession of firearms and explosives. That coincides with the operative information of law enforcement agencies which had informed the public about all this, days before the events of March 1. In that case, labeling the reaction of the government as “a crackdown on opposition protests”, or qualifying it as “harsh and brutal” is incorrect. This was not at all an attack by policemen on civilians.Armenia’s challenge, now, 10 days after that disastrous day, is to fully explore and understand what happened and find ways to move forward together.The international community’s focus should be to encourage all involved to take responsibility for the damage to the fabric of our society and to look for inclusive ways to move forward.Ill-informed statements can and do contribute to an escalation of political tension.


Statement on media

On March 2, following the day of announcing a state of emergency in Yerevan, the employees of National Security Service (NSS) visited editorial offices of newspapers and presented a short letter, without a signature and a seal, warning that the activities of newspapers would be suspended if the newspaper publications contained information that was different from the official information. On the same night, the materials of newspapers taken to the printing house were checked in detail by NSS employees, and there was a verbal instruction to prohibit the printing.

Taking into consideration that the information called official is at least one-sided and does not reflect the whole picture, being continuously broadcast by about a dozen TV channels, certain newspapers simply decided not to get published, and the others turned up in a forced idle time.

This becomes a basis for us to announce that the RA authorities have just prohibited the activities of the media that are undesirable for them, especially when the demand to publish exclusively official information has not in the least concerned “their own” media that are being published in the conditions of state of emergency.

To make the information terror complete, Internet web sites have also been blocked. Moreover, advertising is being broadcast instead of the CNN and Euronews newscasts covering the events in Armenia. The broadcasting of Liberty radio station was totally suspended.

We announce that all these things not only do not contribute to toning down the tension existing in the public but also deepen the atmosphere of hatred and hostility. The overwhelming majority of the media spreading information that is called official and, especially, the press speakers with their aggression just contribute to igniting unhealthy moods and deepening the mistrust in the government.

In the created situation, our constitutional right to spread and receive information has been violated; the universally-acknowledged principles of freedom of speech and the press freedom have been infringed; the media sustain material losses; censorship is being implemented in Armenia, and our country has turned up in a complete informational blockade.

A1+ chairman
Aravot daily newspaper editor-in-chief
Yerevan Press Club president
Zhamanak Yerevan daily newspaper editor-in-chief
Internews managing director
Haykakan Zhamanak daily newspaper deputy editor-in-chief
Hayk daily newspaper editor-in-chief
Lragir web site editor-in-chief
168 Zham newspaper editor-in-chief
Hetk online newspaper editor-in-chief
Hraparak daily newspaper editor-in-chief
Chorrord Ishkhanutyun newspaper editor-in-chief
Taregir newspaper editor-in-chief
ArmeniaNow online magazine editor