Podcast: Armenian Blogs Divided on Amnesty

PodcastThe National Assembly of Armenia adopted a decision on announcing amnesty on Friday. The initiative, put forward by the President’s administration, is primarily seen as a move to ease political tension in the society and release 56 opposition supporters charged in connection with post-election violence in Yerevan in March 2008.
Armenian blogs paid a due share of interest to the Amnesty issue. Most were interested in the fashion it was done, rather than the fact of amnesty itself, saying the move was only undertaken because of the upcoming PACE session which will very likely again discuss the functioning of democratic institutions in Armenia.
Formerly, there had been 6 cases of amnesty in Armenia – in 1992, 1995, 1997, 1998, 2001 and 2006.
This episode of the Armenian Blogosphere podcast brings views and comments from top Armenian bloggers on Amnesty and related developments.  Download the 1.1 Mb mp3 file of the podcast from here or listen to it online by clicking the player icon below.

 

"7 trial" pulled apart, "political" context stripped off

The controversial trial of ex-president Levon Ter-Petrosian’s 7 prominent supporters de-facto ended today – separated into isolated cases by the ruling of judge Mnatsakan Martirosyan. The charge for “usurpation of state authority by force” was dropped, making the now separate cases against the oppositionists more “politically neutral”. RFE/RL carries the news:

The new twist in the so-called “case of the seven” resulted from the newly enacted amendments to Articles 225 and 300 of the Armenian Criminal Code used against the prominent supporters of opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian. The articles deal with provocation of street violence and “usurpation of state authority by force” respectively.

The judge ruled, that the seven oppositionists should stand separate trials for “provoking mass disorders and violence”, while the charge of “usurpation of state authority”, which was the main charge politicizing the case, was dropped. 
While this means, that the trials will continue beyond the deadline of PACE April session, it also means, that the opposition will have fewer arguments in claiming that the seven oppositionists are “political prisoners” at the PACE’s upcoming session.
It will also disperse the “high profile” cloud from the case, making it harder for the society to follow.
All of this looks like a thoroghly considered plan for putting the oppositionists in jail for good (BtW: Shant Harutyunyan’s case had been suspended earlier in March while he undergoes psychiatric examination).
It also signalls the decisive stance of the authorities to punish political dissidence as the country heads into Yerevan’s municipal elections.

The usual week vs the political one

The announcement of “popular walks” started a chain-discussion of usual vs political everything – bloggers discussed things like usual cats and chess and “shaurmas” (eastern dish: grilled meat rolled in pita bread, similar to Donner Kebab), contrasting them with their political alternatives.

The attempts by mk.am to find 8 differences between the two cats in the picture (the regular cat on the right and the politically motivated one on the left) were certainly entertaining, although quite unproductive – which is, in part, what the blogger was trying to prove.
The ‘draft legislation for all things walking’, proposed by the Zbosanq blog, found the sympathy of RA former president Levon Ter-Petrossian supporter blogs. Here are a couple of articles from this mock-law (unofficial translation):

Article 2. General points
The people have the right to walk solely in the cases stipulated by this law. […]
The location of the walk, the maximum radius of departing from the starting point of the walk, the direction of the walk as well as the hour designated for the walk are approved by the RA president as presented by the RA prime-minister […]
Article 3. The guidelines for implementing a walk
Walks should be attended alone.
Those attending the walk should carry a passport at all times. The passport must be valid for a duration, which is three months longer then the duration of the intended walk.

Speaking of the ‘draft law’ Unzipped writes:”I am telling you – this is just fantastic. You have to read it! 🙂 Creativity without limits!”
As to the whole concept of ‘political walking’, Onnik Krikorian comments on Unzipped’s blog: “Might sound like a fun idea, but it won’t achieve anything, in my opinion, but anyway. Again, the problem is that a) the actions are either a) too subliminal or b) considered too pro-Levon.”
Pigh writes about political chess and Levon Ter-Petrossian’s supporters: “Looks like when they start chanting ‘Levon, Levon’, it will turn out that they meant Aronyan 🙂 Also, on March 21 they were carrying a poster with Sasun Mikayelyan’s photo. To the question of the policeman, who that was, a lady replied: ‘My grandpa’.”
As to eating “Political shaurma” on the Northern Avenue, Uzogh is laconic:”Is it just me, or has marasm surpassed all limits?”. Later on the same entry, responding to Yaloona’s question, why is it, that the Ter-Petrossian supporters are not doing any “political garbage collection”, Uzogh explains: “Everything’s simple Mam. You can’t have lot’s of people willing to collect garbage, whereas in the case of shaurma eating, a crowd will come running.”
All in all it is clear, that the blogosphere has adopted a waiting stance, rather then a happy-mocking one. Most are limiting themselves to rather surfaced discussions. Mark Grigorian is exploring the reasons for this, suggesting, that either bloggers have nothing to say, or are scared to speak, whearas, according to him, this is the time, that the heated debates would have been most useful.
A1plus blog on its turn, has a rather grim depiction of the developments around the ‘political walks’, portreying its vision in the post, entitled – “brave steps to dictatorship”:

For several days in a row the political political walks in the Northern avenue end with “manhunt”. The police keep detaining people walking in this area, passers by, a citizen who took the dog out for a strall, literally everybody. (the police are explaining, that they are detaining the people in this area, because there are people under investigation, and it is quite probable, that they might be in the Northern avenue).

Check out the fresh issue of the “Armenian Blogosphere” radio program available here in mp3 format. You can also use Itunes or an Ipod to subscribe to podcasts on this blog. As to the radio program – it was put together by the Internews Armenia team, which also has a section based on the Armenian version of this post. The program will be broadcast by Radio Hay this Saturday, in their 11 o’clock political program.

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