Armenia: Limited Justice for Police Violence

One-Sided Prosecutions Year After Attacks on Protesters, Journalists

Riot police and barbed wire block protestors from marching down Baghramyan Street in downtown Yerevan on July 30, 2016. © 2016 Giorgi Gogia/Human Rights Watch
Riot police and barbed wire block protestors from marching down Baghramyan Street in downtown Yerevan on July 30, 2016. © 2016 Giorgi Gogia/Human Rights Watch

(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. Continue reading “Armenia: Limited Justice for Police Violence”

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Statement of journalists covering the “7 trial”

On January 9 correspondents of “Chorrord Ishkhanutiun”, “Aravot”, “Haikakan Zhamanak”, “Taregir”, “Zhamanak” newspapers, “A1+” TV company released a statement regarding the obstacles that they face in covering the trial on “The Case of Seven” (the separate trial of the case of seven supporters of the RA First President Levon Ter-Petrosian, charged with the organization of mass disorders and attempts for violent seizure of power). At the hearing of the case that started on December 19, 2008 in the court building of Shengavit community of Yerevan, the statement of the journalists stresses, the judge at chair, “with the consent of all parties ruled to make no restrictions on the activities of media – reporting on the court session, being present in the court room, making video, audio and photo records”. However, the statement goes on saying, at the subsequent three sessions the court bailiffs either did not allow the reporters in the courtroom, offering them to follow the process by monitors in a designated room, or let in selectively, prohibiting the journalists from having recording equipment on them.

Qualifying the occurrence as obstruction of journalistic activities, violation of the RA Constitution and RA Law “On Mass Communication”, the signatories called on the relevant bodies to ensure the necessary conditions for their work, not to restrict the right of journalists and society to complete and comprehensive information on the trial.

The statement of the journalists was joined by the editorial staff of “Hraparak” daily.

Unprecedented levels of violence against journalists in August

August 2008 was unprecedented with the amount of violence against media representatives. Gagik Hovakimyan of “Haykakan Zhamanak” (August 1), freelancer Gagik Shamshyan (August 5), Gohar Veziryan of “Chorrord Ishkhanutyun” (August 6), Lusine Barseghyan of “Haykakan Zhamanak” (August 11) and Hrach Melkumyan of the Armenian service of Radio Liberty (August 18 ) were all subjected to attacks and illegal actions of police, court officials and unidentified males for their affiliation with media outlets known for their criticism of the authorities and oligarchs.

This new wave of attacks against the freedom of speech and expression comes at a time, when the Republic of Armenia is claiming its willingness to implement the provisions of the PACE resolutions 1609 and 1620 issued in the aftermath of the March 1, 2008 violence in the country, which includes a clause on improving the situation with the freedom of speech in the country.

A group of 7 non-governmental organizations have issued a statement expressing their concern with the developments and pointing to the unwillingness of the authorities to undertake effective measures to stop violence and interference with the professional activities of journalists and media representatives.

In a poll marked by widespread irregularities, vote buying and bullying, power was handed down by incumbent president Robert Kocharian to his protege Serge Sargsian. Administrative resources were used extensively to control the media coverage of the election campaign and ensure the victory of government preferred candidate, which resulted in severe degradation of the media and freedom of speech situation in the country as well as provoked a bloody clash between the opposition supporters and police forces in the center of capital Yerevan on March 1, 2008.

Incidents with journalists in post-election period

On the evening of February 27 a group of men in civilian cloths interfered with the work of the correspondent of the Armenian Service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Erik Ghazarian in Yerevan. The Armenian Service of Radio Liberty informed YPC, that the journalist was accompanying RA National Assembly deputies from the “Heritage” party Zarouhi Postanjian and Stepan Safaryan, along with representatives of the non-governmental organizations, who came to the Police Department of Kentron community of Yerevan, to find out reasons, for detention of two young men during the protest action of Armenian presidential candidate Levon Ter-Petrossian’s supporters on the same day. In the course of conversation with the police officials the deputies also tried to find out why are the above mentioned men stationed in
the police building for already a lengthy period of time. The latter didn’t like this, and they used force to push the deputies and the people accompanying them out of the building, taking away the microphone from Erik Ghazarian and throwing it out of window. After this they set in the cars and drove away. Continue reading “Incidents with journalists in post-election period”