Constitutional Freedom of Expression forced out of Northern Avenue

It has become obvious that the protesters of Northern Avenue can’t avoid incidents, that pursue an aim to restrict their constitutional right to freely express their opinion. People taken to the police station have become a usual thing, but no one expected the Police to see danger also in the posters fixed on the walls of the buildings.
On August 25, as people of Northern Avenue said at about 10:30 about 20 policemen intruded and started tearing the posters. There were very few people there at that time. Probably it was a planned operation, as the Police had chosen the time when most of the go home or to their workplaces. On hearing this news lots of people hurried to the Northern Avenue after the incident. Some of them said that the reason of this operation were recently added big posters (including the big poster of Robert Kocharyan).
We cannot surely justify the Police operation, as the poster is another way of expressing an opinion and as it’s written in article 27 of the Constitution “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression including freedom to search for, receive and impart information and ideas by any means of information regardless of the state frontiers”.

By Seiv (New author on Ditord)
Artur Papyan

Journalist, blogger, digital security and media consultant


  1. I still can’t believe that someone would stand in the street with Khachatur Sukiasyan’s poster and call it fighting for democracy. As one of my friends, who attended the rallies in the Liberty Square told me,the moment they announced general Manvel’s support to this movement, he lost all belief in the good intentions of LTP. How can you talk about democracy when you don’t shy of accepting the support of local feudals and warlords, oligarchs who fell out with the government,political wannabees looking for quicker access to power only in order to redistribute the wealth of the country, everyone who either has been at power but didn’t do well enough to stay or never had the capacity or leadership skills to achieve anything. All these surrounded by young activists who want to make a change, a noble cause of course, but who repeatedly fail to understand that who they fight for is, in essence, who they fight against.

  2. It’s awful.
    Hope,there is no victim among the posters:)
    Of course,having such things on posters is the real expression of freedom and respect to others
    Մասնագետները ինձ հուշում են,որ այժմ պողոտայում հարյուր հազար մարդ կա/ց/
    At 13.30 there were around 150 people hurried there to save the posters.

  3. Tigran jan – we have a new author on the blog – Seiv. Feel free to criticize 🙂

  4. Գոնե հայ ա?::)
    Last update.
    Today,after the attack on the posters three of them were killed,more than ten were wounded. Fourtunately,poster with Khachatur Sukiasyan escaped from the Northern Avenue.
    Youth movement “After” strongly accused the Shumero-Aqqdakan regime and demand from Europian Union to condemn Armenian authorities.
    Plakat,plakat minchev verj!!!!

  5. Well, let’s turn this around. Can I go and fix a poster onto your house and if you complain and tear it down I can accuse you of preventing my right to free expression? Can I go up to a shop and put a poster up without permission?
    Unfortunately, one problem here in Armenia is that people think that freedom of expression or whatever means they can do whatever they like. However, that’s not the case because there are also laws which protect the rights of things like private property, for example.
    Fixing posters onto lamp posts is one thing. Fixing them without permission onto residential buildings and shops is quite another. I don’t see it in England and I’m glad because it is an infringement of the rights of those people who own that property.
    In fact, in democratic countries — where opposition groups don’t think they can do anything they want and then scream foul when they are prevented from not understanding the fine line between their rights and those of others.
    For example, who is responsible for removing the posters and cleaning up any mess made? Should political parties be able to stick posters on my outside apartment wall or on the Opera’s wall? Of course not. It is illegal and so it should be.
    Handing out leaflets or using public areas where posting is permitted is another matter, however. And let’s look at how the city of Vancouver views posters:

    Street posters are encouraged and welcomed as long as legitimate media for installing posters are used. To facilitate postering, the City of Vancouver provides official poster cylinders. These cylinders are located on street light standards throughout Vancouver. Most anyone that has walked around one of Vancouver’s busy commercial streets has encountered a cylinder. The poster cylinders measure roughly 4 feet in height and appear as natural extensions of the light standards they rest on. A once inch thick orange strip at the top and bottom of the cylinder demarcates the permitted poster space.
    A list of poster cylinder locations can be accessed via the city website. A map of poster locations culled for the City of Vancouver’s VanMap is also provided below.
    The geography of the poster cylinders is not entirely surprising. Broadway (between Alma and Commercial Drive), Main Street, Commercial Drive, and a number of streets on the Downtown peninsula are where the cylinders are concentrated. Vancouver’s “high streets” and activity centers serve as the principle locations. These are locations that are easily visible, and benefit from tons of pedestrian traffic.
    None of this is to say that posters don’t exist off of the sanctioned cylinders. Posters can still be found on poles, traffic control boxes, benches, abandoned businesses, and construction sites on a regular basis. It is these “unsanctioned” locations that pose a problem for many people. The City of Vancouver ultimately reserves the right to take down any offending posters and further reprimand or fine any groups or individuals implicated in putting the posters up.

    Putting up posters on other people’s property is NOT a matter of freedom of expression. It is a violation of public and private property or else what is to stop everyone plastering the walls on every building in every city with garbage. Handing out leflets or carrying placards is another matter entirely, but it is obvious that people think that they can do anything when a democratic rule of law country is actually one where they can’t.
    Laws exist to protect everyone, and citing a constitutional provision is not an excuse. There are also laws which protect others from violating that priviledge to the detriment of others. It does highlight a somewhat imature understanding of either the law or the constitution. The only provision which would allow posters to be posted wherever people want would be if there is legislation which clearly states you can do so.
    How about some Republican posters on Levon Ter-Petrossian’s house, for example, or some racist posters on the community centers of national minority communities? Or maybe let’s go stick some posters on an Embassy building or the Genocide memorial. Sounds ok? Of course not.

  6. From Wikipedia:

    Flyposting is the act of placing advertising posters or flyers in illegal places. In the U.S., these posters are known as bandit signs, snipe signs, or street spam.
    In most areas, it is illegal to place such posters on private property without the consent of the property owner or on public property without a sign permit from the local government. In contrast, some areas have public bulletin boards where notices may be posted.
    It is an advertising tactic mostly used by small businesses promoting concerts and political activist groups, but there have been occasions where international companies subcontracted local advertising agencies for flyposting jobs in order not to get caught in illegal behavior. In 2004 Sony Music and BMG were threatened with anti-social behaviour orders by Camden Borough Council for illegal flyposting[1].

    Of course, the matter in Armenia might be one of selective application of the law, but anwyay. Fact is, I wouldn’t want someone to paste posters on my walls and I daresay the rest of you wouldn’t either.

  7. A Modest Proposal
    Let’s work with Onnik’s Vancouver suggestion, but here’s where the poster cylinders would go: First take down all the oligarch cafes and structures in the Greenbelt, restore the entire space to parks, and then put up the poster cylinders on the WELL-LIT paths where people stroll or bike. Also they can be put in “Freedom Square” as well.
    Transgression breeds transgression, and piracy breeds piracy. When the government takes whatever it wants away from its citizens, when the Prosecutor General apparently still believes in witchcraft, when “Freedom Square” becomes “Don’t Go There”, then citizens will seize any opportunity they have to express themselves. As for private property, Northern Avenue and environs still has an air of having been “cleansed” of its former residents and owners. As such, it is not defined as surely as “private property” as your apartment building or Ter-Petrossian’s house. In fact, it’s a little NKR in Yerevan, and it’s going to continue to be fought over.
    Anyway, let’s hope that the main lesson Sargsyan learned while in China wasn’t that it is okay to send 75-year-old women to “re-education camps” for simply wanting to hold protests. At least China has provided economic opportunities for many of its citizens; Armenia hasn’t been able to do that either.

  8. Unless democracy is restored in Armenia, unless freedom of assembly is restored in Armenia, unless freedom of expression and media fully restored in Armenia, all talks by the authorities about “infringing rights of owners” in this and similar cases would be viewed as merely an excuse (a lame excuse!) for oppressing further dissent and a sign of intolerance.

  9. We are speaking about democracy,but my comments are moderating.

  10. Onnik jan
    You are compeletely right,but you should take into consideration,that this peple consider their own property everywhere they located:)
    One day they will come to your house,stay for a time,and you never will have chance to kick them out:)
    And explain me,why Artur moderated this one?
    Last update.
    Today,after the attack on the posters three of them were killed,more than ten were wounded. Fourtunately,poster with Khachatur Sukiasyan escaped from the Northern Avenue.
    Youth movement “After” strongly accused the Shumero-Aqqdakan regime and demand from Europian Union to condemn Armenian authorities.
    Plakat,plakat minchev verj!!!!

  11. My comments go to moderation half the time, Tigran–it’s nothing personal (I hope!) They go to moderation anytime I include a link.

  12. Last update.
    From b2minus
    Today,after the attack on the posters three of them were killed,more than ten were wounded. Fortunately,poster with Khachatur Sukiasyan escaped from the Northern Avenue.
    Youth movement “After” strongly accused the Shumero-Aqqdakan regime and demand from Europian Union to condemn Armenian authorities.
    Plakat,plakat minchev verj!!!!

  13. Last update.
    Today,after the attack on the posters three of the posters were killed,more than ten were wounded. Fourtunately,poster with Khachatur Sukiasyan escaped from the Northern Avenue.
    Youth movement “After” strongly accused the Shumero-Aqqdakan regime and demand from Europian Union to condemn Armenian authorities.
    Plakat,plakat minchev verj!!!!

  14. Eeeee,Ani jan…..
    In my comment as I understood there were 2 spam words-Northern Avenue and Khachatur Sukiassyan:)
    No link:)
    Onnik jan my respects!!!

  15. Tigran – I don’t know why Spam catching mechanism of wordpress had marked your comments as spam. As you know I have no time neither Internet access to sit and personally moderate anything.

  16. “I don’t know why Spam catching mechanism of wordpress had marked your comments as spam.”
    Couldn’t have been the author, could it? 😀
    Property rights? So we’re gonna ignore people’s right to move, live, freedom of speech, political affiliation, assembly, speedy and fair trials, participation in elections free of intimidation, but uphold…some store owners’ inalienable right to 100% Grzo-free storefronts? That’s hilarious.

  17. I of course agree with Onnik almost all the way.
    It is funny that oligarchs and the government are accused of seizing all the space while the protest is for Grzo and LTP. Just sounds ironic. Well, as long as the protests are for these creatures and not for the people, I will be approving everything that our qambax government does.
    Having said this however, I will have to add to Onnik’s post that removing posters and etc are exactly the things that westerner use to promote their position that there is no democracy in Armenia and countries like Armenia. So you can blame Armenians all you want for their misunderstanding of the so-called western values , but those Armenians get their wrong ideas from westerners, unfortunately.

  18. Of course what happened today morning is terrible and such think could in no way take place in a democratic country. Anyhow this wasn’t a surprise for me cause I think I’ve lost the ability of getting surprised after MARCH 1. This event was just one of the many taken place in the past, one of the many taking place in present and this chain will go further and further. The question is what can we do to prevent this disaster? Should the opposition come to power I don’t really think much will change, we’ll have new oligarchs in some six months. If the situation stays the same there is a threat of seeing the old demon again. And the incident with the posters may be an indication of this. Here I saw how the city of Vancouver views posters, had a read of Wikipedia info and ONE THING I CAN TELL YOU IS YOU’VE GOT TO BE FREE.
    There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done.
    Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung.
    Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game.
    It’s easy.
    Nothing you can make that can’t be made.
    No one you can save that can’t be saved.
    Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time.
    It’s easy.
    All you need is love.
    All you need is love.
    All you need is love, love.
    Love is all you need.

  19. The only reason for this attack was the poster that you can see here:
    The Only Man of the republic was furious.

  20. It’s a good look for him–maybe he could sell a whole new clothing line… 😉

  21. Onnik
    A way to go. So if somebody puts a poster in the yard of your apartment building or on its walls you will go out and crack their heads.
    Why don’t you update that wiki entry? So instead of an ASBO the Camben Council could send some thugs to break the kneecaps of the Sony employees. There you go, that’s the real way to sort things out. It will ensure that it will never happen and save taxpayers’ money. They can even outsource those services to Armenia.
    You should be ashamed of it.

  22. I thought Levon people are more meaningful these days. But …..

  23. It is just goading. No one takes seriously these phony calls for justice/principle/blah blah blah. They want a fight, as this is the only way to try and breathe life (not to mention legitimacy) into the movement. Don’t fool yourselves, it has nothing to do with freedom of expression or anything other freedom.
    Hopefully everyone will just get on with their lives.

  24. Payqar,
    The method of removing them is another issue. As I said on Unzipped’s blog, I would rather expect the municipality to remove the posters rather than the police. Of course, I would expect the police would have to be around to monitor because I suspect Levon’s people would crack the skulls of anyone upholding the law.
    Regardless, fact of the matter. Putting up posters on other people’s wall is not permitted in any country and it shouldn’t be in Armenia. On the other hand, people were handing out leaflets and holding plackards is another matter.
    As for Avetis’ comments about this not being able to happen in a democratic country, it’s right. Anyone putting up posters on other people’s property would have been prosecuted and fined long ago.
    Basically, you are just NOT ALLOWED to do this in democratic countries where the law protects the majority and where a minority is not allowed to think they can act above the law whenever it suits them and then scream that it’s all a violation of freedom of expression.
    It is ILLEGAL to put posters up in such places in any democratic country. PERIOD.

  25. Onnik, the key word is “democratic” . Anyway, it’s so strange that you’re comparing Yerevan with Vancouver. I didn’t know that there were political prisoners in Canada, or that Stanley Park had had all its beautiful trees cut down so that millionaires could put up private clubs–is that something new???
    Comparison should be instead to San Francisco in 1968 (but without the drugs!) That was definitely not a neat and tidy place either. In comparison, the Yerevan protests are much more lawful, contained, and respectful. The only people with weapons are crazy government supporters and skinheads. And in democratic countries, protests and freedom of assembly aren’t illegal, and there are television media channels that cover all points of view.
    As for “people getting on with their lives”, I think the political prisoners would really like to do that. And if the many legitimate things that the protesters were asking had been addressed, then we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

  26. Onnik, do you really need a rundown of things that would be happening in a “democratic” country? Needless t o say, 95% of the protesters’ demands would already be enshrined in law and followed to the letter by the police.

  27. Onnik
    If people are robbed of their vote, land and property, their freedoms, justice and fairness there is no democracy, it is not democracy.
    If people are beaten up and killed and nobody is punished there is no legality. If the killers, the thugs feel like the owners of the country there is no law.
    Are you living in a teletaby world?
    Wake up man.

  28. Payqar, people are being punished for March 1. The ones in jail are being punished for what they did, at least that is what the government says. You like to call these people political prisoners the government likes to call them criminals. The difference between you two isn’t that big, and moreover, you are both doing your job. Of course, in the meantime the people are suffering, but who cares about them right?
    Look, people, democracy is the name of the product that the west sells to small innocent lost countries. Do us all a favor please, stop using that word! Democratic countries don’t torture nor have only two political parties. Please, don’t sell that to Armenians, they don’t know what it is and above all, you don’t know what it is. So why don’t you just stop using it. It makes you look smart but only to someone who doesn’t know what the word means. Capiche!

  29. grigor, no one is being punished for March 1, that’s the whole problem. The hooligans who actually looted, broke into stores, threw rocks, set cars on fire are getting suspended sentences and people with absolutely no connection to any of that are being held for months for no reason whatsoever or at worst for “resisting” or “hurting” a police officer. Even if all of these politicians resisted en masse, that still doesn’t shed light into who the perpetrators of March 1st were.
    It’s only natural to assume that they are detained because of their political activity. It’s been 6 months, and yet no one knows of a single demonstrator who a)carried illegal weapons and/or b) used them. If no such demonstrator exists, that means the police/ military had no right to use weapons or guns, roll in tanks into the city and slaughter peaceful citizenry (you would claim that the people who were shot were militant and had it coming, but the relatives of the guy who was shot in his own balcony would beg to differ.) Further, a number of people were detained even before March 1st, so that argument simply doesn’t work with them.
    As far as democracy goes; it’s all about what system people would prefer to live under, and it should be up to people of Armenia, not me or you or anyone else. It really is no coincidence that some of the richest countries around the world are also the most free. Recently, it’s become very fashionable to criticize the United States, but the criticism holds little merit. There are more than 2 parties there and even if there weren’t, as long as there are more than one, democracy isn’t necessarily measured by the number of parties: at last count, Armenia had something close to 75. The torture was a dark episode in its history but it has been able to steer itself back on to the right path precisely because of its democratic institutions and mechanisms of checks and balances that are in place.

  30. Again, neither me nor you nor anyone else knows what democracy is. It is customary to call what people see in USA or in other RICH countries as democracy rather then richness. It is a word that hides many unwanted things. Basically according to the modern use of the word democracy seems to stand for “life in the west” not some way of living that westerner chose.
    I am not sure what you mean fashionable. I have never seen a person in my life other than me who claimed that Americans should be the last people in the world to talk about democracy. Maybe what Americans got is democracy, assuming this is actually referring to something other than “life in America”, but when they talk about what is democratic and what is not in other countries that is just ridiculous. Essentially it is a fake value that Americans, more notably republicans, created among their voters so that they can then make statements like “Russia is attacking the freedom and democracy loving Georgian people and we need to save them”. It serves very well for their foreign policy. Anyone they don’t like they call undemocratic and then the whole country starts hating them.
    Freedom again is a word that just sounds good and it is easy to use it while criticizing those you don’t like. Most people forget the horrors that America went through to get where it is. What we don’t have is not the democracy that so many people pretend to be fighting for, but people who will lead the nation through the kind of horrors that any nation who wants to have basic human rights (like France 68 or US 60s and etc) went trough. Being able to fight for your rights is a western value you need to spread among Armenians not the empty words that go with it, like democracy or freedom or what have you.

  31. On the topic of punishing someone for March 1st. Well, in my eyes March 1st was already a huge punishment. Everyone got punished. Innocent people got punished because they followed Levon for whatever mysterious reasons they had, government got punished because few trust them now, Levon people are getting punished for whatever reasons they are being held in prisons. That was just a big chaotic unorganized mess, remember that “incer ases or chen ani amboxnery xelagarvac”. You and me can spend all day arguing about big words like democracy and freedom, while fact of the matter is something else. The nation doesn’t know what it wants, while few who think they know what the nation should want spend their time criticizing the government for being undemocratic and violating human rights. The whole thing is just a huge mess.

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