Categories
Internet Legal Politics Security Social Networks

A Facebook user detained on pretext of “endangering national security” in Armenia

A Facebook user, who recently came to the center of public attention for posting misinformation under the pseudonym Դիանա Հարությունյան (Diana Harutyunyan) has been detained by the National Security Service of Armenia, after Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan called the user’s posting a threat to national security.

The Facebook account in question seems to be deleted by now. Last time I accessed it, the account’s About section made it clear that it is a sarcastic and/or parody account.

Following the US Drone strike in Iraq, which killed the Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, the Facebook user had posted misinformation, as if theArmenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has congratulated the US President Donald Trump on the “successful operation.” The misinformation had been first picked up by Azeri news sites and then by the Iranian ones, risking serious consequences for Armenian – Iranian relations.

“This is the case, when the false “freedom of speech” has endangered our national security,” Nikol Pashinian stated in a Facebook post. “The authors of the news and their motives must be investigated,” Armenian PM wrote.

Hours after Pashinian’s post, the National Security Service issued a statement, claiming it had carried out “investigative – operative activities” and as a result identified and detained the Facebook user.

Commenting on OWASP Armenia Facebook groups, cyber-security expert Samvel Martirosyan finds it unlikely that the NSS would have the technical capabilities to identify the user with technical means. He also excludes the possibility that Facebook would have provided data on the user for such a posting and in such a short period of time.

Meanwhile, Armenia’s top lawyer specialized on technological issues — David Sandukhchyan, has raised serious concerns about the legal aspects of the detention and claimed that the Facebook posting does not constitute a crime according to Armenian legislation and mocked both Pashinian and the the NSS for claiming that “the post by some fake user can endanger national security.”

Referring to the video published by the NSS (see below this post), which neither publishes the real name of the Facebook user, nor the article of criminal code, according to which the detention has taken place, Sandukhchyan has also written “What if there was no fake at all and it was done only to scare people, who post undesirable content on Facebook?

PS: I should just add that this is a very troubling development, since this is the second case, when a Facebook user has been detained after Pashinian directly instructed the National Security Services to take action.

Categories
Armenia Politics Region

Armenia Issues A Statement on Developments in Baghdad

Armenian Foreign Ministry has issued a statement in connection with the US drone strike, which killed a top Iranian commander.

General Qasem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, was killed in his vehicle near Baghdad International Airport. The news was confirmed both by the US and Iran.

“We are seriously concerned about the recent incidents in Baghdad which led to human loses as well. They risk further undermining the regional security and destabilizing the situation in the Middle East and beyond. Armenia calls for the de-escalation of situation exclusively through peaceful means,” Armenia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted. “Armenia will continue to closely cooperate with all its partners aimed at ensuring regional stability and security.”

Soleimani’s killing has raised fears of serious escalation in the Middle East. Both USA and Iran are key partners for Armenia, while Iraq has become an increasingly important export market. Any escalation in the Middle East is problematic for us, so it is no wonder that the drone strike has stirred heated debates in the Armenian section of Facebook.

Pashinyan reacts

Armenia is enjoying prolonged New Year and Christmas holidays these days, which started on December 31st and will conclude on January 7th. While most state agencies and news media are enjoying the holiday break, the debates around US – Iran tensions and speculations of an all-out global nuclear war is cutting through the half-drank, half-lazy-congratulatory mood of the Armenian social media users.

Meanwhile, Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, who is always eager to jump into every Facebook discussion, has published a post on Facebook, noting that “there are institutions capable of following the situation, analyzing the developments and act upon those as needed” and that “all the necessary instructions have been given.”

“The Republic of Armenia, RA citizens and numerous tourists visiting our country live a normal life,” the PM has stated and has advised “self-professed geopolitics analysts, who want to engage in fear-mongering, to relax and sit back on their places.”

The point about tourists is especially noteworthy, as a war in the neighboring Iran would be detrimental to the Armenian government’s hopes to stimulate continuous growth in the tourism industry.

Categories
Armenia Politics

Not Cool. Serzh Sargsyan Confirms Plans To Stay in Power

If anyone had any doubts, Serzh Sargsyan gave the clearest signal so far about his intentions to stay in power after his second presidential term expires on April 9th.

Categories
Armenia Politics Region

King Bako Sahakian of Artsakh Inaugurated

This is a sad day. Nagorno-Karabakh President Bako Sahakian personally and deliberately defeated one of the greatest arguments in support of Karabakh’s independence from dictatorial Azerbaijan by swearing in for yet another term on Thursday and extending his decade-long rule.

Categories
Armenia Politics Society

TV host Felix Khachatryan, banned from Public TV for years, returns

After former PM Hovik Abrahamian’s fall from power, TV host, rapper Felix Khachatrian is allowed to return to the Public TV of Armenia as the host of the new program “Formula of Love” («Սիրո բանաձև»).

Categories
Armenia Politics Society

Armenia: Limited Justice for Police Violence

One-Sided Prosecutions Year After Attacks on Protesters, Journalists

(Yerevan) –  The Armenian government has failed to ensure full accountability for police violence against largely peaceful protesters and journalists a year ago, Human Rights Watch said today. At the same time the authorities have indicted at least 32 protesters, convicting 21 of them, with 11 sentenced to prison.

Categories
Armenia Politics

Gagik Tsarukian, Armenia’s Trump, leading in Parliamentary Election Polls

Armenian Businessman, leader of “Tsarukian” bloc during pre-elecition campaign

At least two competing opinion polls have shown that Armenia’s richest businessman Gagik Tsarukian’s election bloc named “Tsarukian” after him, is leading the race for the April 2 elections with 40-41% rating.

Categories
Armenia Politics Society

Internet Freedom declines in Armenia

Freedom House published its “Freedom on the Net 2016” report on Monday. Armenia retained its position among the countries with free internet (the report covers June 2015 – May 2016), but its overall score declined by two points and the country came really close to the “partly free” category, which was mostly due to the police violence against journalists (including myself) during the #ElectricYerevan protests as well as the increased self-self-censorhip during the 4 day war with Azerbaijan in April 2016. 

Categories
Armenia Politics Region

Protesters Throw Eggs at Russian Embassy in Yerevan


Russia has been shuffling Armenia and Azerbaijan as a pack of old cards for its interests. It took hundreds of lost lives until at least some people in Armenia started to understand this. Today this understanding took concrete shape and form as hundreds of people rallied in Yerevan against Russian sale of arms to Azerbaijan as well as Russia’s treacherous stance towards Armenia.

Categories
Armenia Politics Region

Analysis of Developments in NKR


Political analyst and Director of the Regional Studies Center, Richard Giragosian about recent developments in Nagorno Karabakh and their regional connotation.