Armenian Traffic Police have wearable cameras and they're not afraid to use them

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.

Artur Papyan

Journalist, blogger, digital security and media consultant


  1. How do you say, “Don’t taze me, bro!” in Armenian?

    1. Ինձ մի ջղայնացրու, ախպերս

  2. Isn’t there a provision (an analog of Freedom of Information Act) under which Liana can petition the police and get a copy of the entire time-stamped video (I find it hard to believe that the raw video is not time-stamped, otherwise the anti-corruption focus is moot, as you won’t be able to prosecute anything on the basis of potentially doctored videos)? If she is right that the video was edited to hide the portions during which the police officers were disrespectful, then it’ll all come out. Otherwise, it all looks like a semi-celebrity trying to use her celebrity status to get out of a ticket.
    As to the lack of privacy, it’s hard to expect privacy in a state which doesn’t even respect freedoms, and, anecdotally, has a very large police force per capita. And besides, with the ubiquity of smartphones capable of capturing HD videos, surveillance is omnipresent. I don’t see a difference between a passerby shooting a video on their phones and publishing it online and the police doing the same. Now if they are doing it to discredit Liana with an embellished video, then I smell a potential libel case.

    1. I really hope she goes to court, because it is definitely a winner! If not in the Armenian court system, definitely in the European Court of Human Rights.

      1. It doesn’t look as clear cut to me. The video doesn’t reveal any more personal details than the article she had published. I see this as a lose-lose for her, whether she goes to court or no. There is no human rights violation here, and she has an uphill battle in the court of public opinion. I don’t know how it’s done elsewhere, but in the US the police logs are public information and can be requested by anyone, and the police is required by law to comply, unless the release of the information would identify a minor, a victim of a sexual crime or would potentially harm an ongoing criminal investigation.

  3. […] for using the tools of responsible policing in tyrannical ways. The police have been known to publish footage from Chinese-manufactured body cams (ironically a tool lauded in the West for bringing […]

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