Armenian Traffic Police have been required to wear special surveillance cameras since June 2016. The cameras were introduced as part of the Government’s anti-corruption efforts [More info about cameras in this video]. A controversial incident on September 4th, which has caused a bit of uproar around the Armenian segment of the internet, has raised many questions about these cameras.
It all happened after Lianna Zurabian, a little known poetry reciter, announcer and master of ceremonies published her complaints in Hraparak newspaper about the Traffic police. She confessed of violating the law by driving the car without proper papers, as well as hitting a police car while putting it on reverse, but said the police officers were disrespectful to her and didn’t consider the fact that she was irritated and had a crying infant in the car.
The Police responded by publishing edited footage from their wearable cameras, which displayed how the police officers are quite respectful, while Lianna Zurabian is irritated, shouts at the officers, behaves inadequately and claims she should be shown some respect because of who she is and not be fined (see the video below).
Even though Lianna Zourabian looks and behaves totally like she deserves to be punished, the legality of publishing the video footage can be challenged. The Armenian Constitution and the Law on the Protection of Personal Data provide guarantees for personal privacy.
The Police are claiming that they have published the video based on a provision of the Law on Police, which allows them to use discretion when applying preventative means. They say they have published the video to prevent others from trying to pressure police officers and trying to avoid the law. However, this can certainly be challenged in court. Specifically, the fact that the video was published without Zourabian’s consent, as well as the fact that it was edited seem to contradict to provisions of privacy laws.
Meanwhile, I guess we’ll just have to get used to the idea that we’re under constant surveillance by the Traffic Police and they can use and misuse the video footage from their wearable cameras as they please.