Documentary film by Tigran Khzmalyan censored in Armenia

The screening of Tigran Khzmalyan’s documentary film “Sardarapat”, produced with state funding, has been banned. The presentation of the film was scheduled on September 26th and 27th in Yerevan’s “Moscow” cinema theater.
Hetq has published the full script of the documentary, which contains some revealing details on the behavior of the Armenian government of the First Armenian Republic, portreying the ARF-Dashnaktsutyun led authorities as incompetent cowards and traitors, ready to surrender brightest heros of the nation, like Andranik to the mercy of Turkish army. I could not stop thinking, that the film has been banned by the efforts of ARF – the party is one of the most influencial political forces in Armenia today and is member to the ruling coalition, along with Republican and “Prosperous Armenia” parties. To complicate matters even further, Tigran Khzmalyan, one of the leading film directors in Armenia today, has openly voiced his support for the Levon Ter-Petrossian led opposition on several occasions. Knowing Ter-Petrossian’s dislike of ARF (on December 28, 1994, President Levon Ter-Petrossian in a famous television speech banned the ARF, which was the nation’s leading opposition party, along with Yerkir, the country’s largest daily newspaper.), it is easy to establish a link between supporting Ter-Petrossian and wishing to blackmail ARF – the party in rulling coalition.
And while it is hard to established, whether the biased film director has produced a POSSIBLY biased documentary or not, it is clear, that banning the film by the state is censorship – in it most brutal form. An act absolutely forbidden by the Armenian Constitution. Will anyone answer for this crime?

President's press secretary says media restrictions will be lifted, justifies state censorship

In the course of the briefing that took place today, the RA President’s Press Secretary Victor Soghomonyan has stated, that the restrictions imposed on the Armenian mass media introduced by Presidential decree as part of the limitations under a declared state of emergency, are temporary in nature, and in a couple of days such restrictions will be lifted.
President’s press secretary also spoke of the modification of media restrictions by Presidential decree on March 13th, after which a number of independent and pro-opposition newspapers attempted to publish, but were again faced with illegal preemptive censorship by state security officers, and in sign of protest refused to publish their issues prepared for March 14th. Victor Soghomonyan attempted to justify the anti-consitutional steps of the authorities, noting, that on the issues prepared for publication on March 13th, “Zhamanak-Yerevan” carried an article, claiming, that the authorities are concealing dozens of death casualties of March 1 events and that the authorities had planted provocateurs among the protesters; “Haik” newspaper had alleged, that the detainees are being beaten by police, and that there are political prisoners in the country. “Isn’t this provocation?” Presidential press secretary has asked. Moreover, according to Mr. Soghomonyan, the fact that the “Haykakan Zhamanak” had prepared for publication an interview with its editor-in-chief Nikol Pashinyan, who is officially wanted by the authorities, “is simply not-acceptable”.
After all the brilliant blunter stated above, Victor Soghomonyan has gone even further and remarked that “it is technically impossible” to block websites on the web, referring to “rumors among the public”, according to which after the introduction of the state of emergency certain Internet-publications have been blocked by the authorities.

Armenian President Elect Accepting Questions on His Blog

Armenian president elect Serzh Sargsyan has started taking questions from internet users on his blog. The questions will be taken all day today and tomorrow. Serzh Sargsyan has promised to answer all questions. This is a unique chance and a welcome attempt, to address some pressing issues under conditions of information blockade and internet censorship, forged by the running president Robert Kocharyan. The post, under which users can put their questions, reads:

Dear Internet users, I’m happy to welcome you in my personal blog. Please note, that questions with insult and rhetoric speech will not be accepted. All questions will get responces within few days. The most interesting questions will be included in the broadcast version of the interview.

Still, one has to wonder, whether internet users will not shy away from asking really tough questions under the current state of emergency situation and the possibility to trace down the IP address and other informtion about the users asking the question, even if the questions are asked anonymously?
At any rate, I would strongly urge and encourage everyone reading and commenting on this blog to go and ask their qeustions. This is a rare opportunity, and one, we cannot afford to miss!

Armenia: Protest Internet Censorship

Given that various media sites as well as YouTube have been blocked in Armenia since the declaration of a state of emergency in the country last weekend, Reporters Sans Frontieres’ first International Online Free Expression Day comes at an appropriate time. On 12 March its second 24-hour online demo against internet censorship will be held. Perhaps Armenia will take its place alongside countries such as China, North Korea and Turkmenistan.

To denounce government censorship of the Internet and to demand more online freedom, Reporters Without Borders is calling on Internet users to come and protest in online versions of the nine countries that are “Internet enemies” during the 24 hours from 11 a.m. on 12 March to 11 a.m. on 13 March (Paris time). Anyone with Internet access will be able to create an avatar, choose a message for their banner and take part in one of the nine cyber-demos (Burma, China, North Korea, Cyba, Egypt, Erithrea, Tunisia, Turkmenistan and Viêt-nam).
Reporters Without Borders will release its latest list of “Internet enemies” together with a new version of its Handbook for Cyber-Dissidents.
When the first “24 hours against Internet censorship” was held last year, some 40,000 Internet users came and clicked on an inter-active map of the world to help make the “Internet black holes” disappear. This time we can do even more to make this new protest a success and to put pressure on the governments that try to muzzle what should be space where people can express their views freely.

Source: Armenia Election Monitor 2008

Sirusho's "Qele, Qele" – The Next Eurovision Song?

On November 14th, 2007 Public TV Company of Armenia officially announced, that Sirusho, a young Armenian singer, who has won the Best Female Singer nomination at Armenian National Music Awards 2005, has been selected to represent Armenia at Eurovision 2008. I have to say, that Eurovision has become a big deal in Armenia, and this year is also important, because, Azerbaijan will be entering the contest for the first time, and there is this feeling, that we have to at least be better then them, especially having ensured 8th place in both previous Eurovision finals, with Andre and Hayko representing Armenia in 2006 and 2007 repsectively.
Yesterday, Harmick at Blogrel posted links to 4 songs that Sirusho, noting, that “we have a potential Eurovision winner on our hands!”.

However, it turns out the venue for the Eurovision final was changed yesterday. Looking around the web I couldn’t quite understand what has happened in the end anyway, but one thing that I could see on the Public TV website, is that the song “Qele, qele” was selected, despite cancellation of the finals. Now I’m not quite sure, if this is official or no, and here in UK I have no access to the Armenian Public TV(not that I’m particularly concerned for not watching all the propaganda crap they broadcast). None of the still functional news resources in the web seemed to report anything about Sirusho and Eurovision, probably the news is too political and can’t be published? My journalism students had made some paparazzi photos of Sirusho dating with Robert Kocharyan’s son, perhaps that has something to do with cancellation of the finals in this tense period? I hopes the internal politics is not involved at least in something as simple as the Eurovision song contest!

Increased Censorship: Radio Liberty Blocked Completely

Starting from today, people in Armenia won’t have access to Radio Liberty even via internet. Having previously blocked some of its domain names, now the Armenia State Security Services have blocked (illegally), also all the .eu, .org and other domain names of Radio Liberty, along with IP addresses of RFE/RLs servers outside of Armenia, so even direct links to its FTP servers with recorded audio files won’t be possible to download. Apparently, the Armenian Security Services have gone completely mad, if they’re trying to control the uncontrollable! Anyway – here’s a link to a web resource, which republishes Radio Liberty materials – http://azathayastan.googlepages.com/.

 

Also in an attempt, to provide some freedom of speech and opportunity to overcome the state of emergency situation, ArmeniaNow.com have launched a blog, where posts from Armenian bloggers are welcomed – it is available at this address: http://www.armenianow.com/blogs/

 

I can’t be too sure, but it seems like Hetq of Investigative Journalists of Armenia and E-channel.am of Internews Armenia seem to ramain, however, coverage on these resources is limited to official information, which is one-sided, to say the least. 

 

Internet is being censored in Armenia

In the evening of March 2, the Internet Society of Armenia (ISOC) has ILLEGALLY stopped the maintenance of several domains, including A1+ – www.a1plus.am, Haykakan Zhamanak – www.azatutyun.am, E-channel – www.echannel.am. In the database of ISOC- https://www.amnic.net/whois/ , they are registered as “on hold.”
With that step, A1+ has been deprived not only of his site but also if its mail service.
The domains have been “frozen” without the decision of the ISOC board – either by the instruction on behalf of the presidential office, or the National Security Service.
In the decree of president Kocharyan, there was nothing about freezing the domains, closing web sites and the media.
We would like to provide some help to those, who still want to access the above mentioned websites. Firstly, Echannel.am and Azatutyun.am have their backup DNS records. You can access Echannel.am also at E-channel.am (e-channel with a -) and Azatutyun.am at armenialiberty.am. At the moment we are negotiating with the ISOC board to urge them to stop this illegal blocking of our domain names. However, there is a possibility, that the backup domain names (E-channel.am and armenialiberty.am) will also be blocked. For that case, I will be posting a list of IP names for the servers, where these and other blocked information websites are located, and you can access them by clicking the links in the list below (I’ll update the list as soon as colleagues let me know the relevant IP addresses):

  1. a1lus.am – 75.125.179.218:8080
  2. echannel.am – 76.163.218.144
  3. azatutyun.am – 193.111.134.85

Let me remind everybody, that A1plus YouTube channel and Asplus blog are still functional. There is also an Armenian Newspaper Electronic Archive, where you can find Archived publications from some of the blocked newspaper websites.
As for bloggers – I would strongly recommend, that all of you access your email addresses and blog accounts using one of the anonymous web browsing suggestions, and change your email and blog account passwords. Make sure they’re strong, contain figures and letters.

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