Important questions on March 1 and an interesting analyses

E-channel has posted an analyses of March 1 events. There are a couple of key points in the analyses, which I want to draw your attention to:

  1. Actually, in the silent, uncompromising psychological struggle conducted between the authorities and fundamental opposition on February 20-29, the nerves of the authorities were the first to give out, on which the whole strategy of the opposition had been built.
  2. The authorities did not notice [] the appeal of Ter-Petrossian towards the international public, according to which he was giving a ten-day period to Western democracies in order to define the future of Armenia. [] Therefore, he had already defined a ten-day period for the movement led by him, which could be hardly interpreted as anything but a confession of actual failure.
  3. Actually, no facts or irrefutable proofs have been presented to date, confirming the statement or justification of the authorities that on March 1 the opposition was going to start wide-scope actions of protest, full of provocations. To date, the only justification has been the statement of law enforcement bodies, claiming that the disorders near the embassy of France after the noon were those very provocations, planned in advance. If it was really like that, it turns out that the measures of cleaning the Freedom Square were completely useless. Moreover, it was a most serious tactical blunder because with that the law enforcement bodies have instilled the opposition with new charges and pretexts, contributing further to heating up the atmosphere.
  4. Actually, if the blunder of the authorities were related to the measures taken at the Freedom square, the serious mistake of the opposition was not predicting the consequences of the spontaneous (according to them) gathering near the embassy to France. Taking into account the fact that a part of the members of Yerkrapah Volunteers union and almost the whole Trial of Spirit organization were with them, in case of demonstrating sufficient organizational skills, it would, perhaps, be possible and necessary to suppress or isolate the active participants of disorders, with the help of the above-mentioned resources. It did not happen, and it allowed the authorities to develop and, with the help of the further preliminary investigation, to support the approach that the disorders had been organized by one center. And it became a basis for presenting it as a coup d’Etat – that is, a danger immediately threatening the constitutional order.

The author of the analyses also suggests a very valid topic for discussion:

Continue reading “Important questions on March 1 and an interesting analyses”

State of emergency over in Armenia


In the Press Conference held on March 20, 2008 – President of Armenia Robert Kocharyan announced, that no violations of the State of Emergency have been recorded in the past 20 day period, hence, it will be terminated on March 21st, as initially planned.

Armenian NGOs Condemn Recent Developments Especially in Media Scene

We, the undersigned public organizations, realizing the existing tension, respecting the letter of the law, have in no way broken the Decree of the RA President on the state of emergency in Yerevan and to this day – until the Decree was amended – have refrained from any public statements.
Yet during the same period (March 1-13, 2008) in the media sphere there were numerous violations of the legality and the emergency rule, the responsibility for which lies with a number of state bodies. These violations not only did not serve the realization of the Decree goals, that is, the elimination of circumstances that have prompted the state of emergency, but also bore a danger of further polarization of the society, intensification of intolerance and hatred.
In particular, a number of media, violating the subclause 4 of clause 4 of the Decree, “the publications in the mass media on the issues of internal situation and state importance to be restricted to official information provided by the state entities”, published and broadcast not only official information, but also presenting political propaganda, most of which was one-sided, discrediting and insulting for the opposition. Apart from being a violation to the Decree, this, in fact, runs contrary to the appeals made by the authorities to reach accord and reconciliation in the society.
The most prominent example of such unacceptable coverage was shown by the First Channel of the Public Television of Armenia that not only neglected the clause of the Decree, but also once again broke Article 28 of the RA Law “On Television and Radio”: “The prevalence of a political stance (…) in the programs broadcast by public TV (…) is prohibited.”
The National Commission on Television and Radio, which, according to the Law, is an independent regulator and is also “to oversee the activities of TV and radio companies” (RA Law “On Television and Radio”, Article 37, part 1), failed to perform one of its main functions and did not prevent the violation of the Decree provisions not only by the PTA First Channel, but also the majority of private broadcasters.
Violations of the relevant Decree provision were recorded also in a number of print media, with no response ensuing from the RA Ministry of Justice. The Ministry, within its competence, had to take steps to eliminate the violations.
While censorship was not listed among the restrictions, imposed by the Decree, moreover, according to Article 4 of the RA Law “On Mass Communication”, it is actually prohibited, these days not only in Yerevan, but also all over the country factual pre-emptive censorship was practiced. Due to this the publication of a number of national newspapers was banned because of their content. Some others, facing illegal obstacles, refused working, because they were unable to voice opposition and critical viewpoints, while the publication of opinions, discrediting and insulting for the opposition, often even aggressive, in other newspapers was in no way restricted. The media report that the pre-emptive censorship is practiced by people introducing themselves as officers of National Security Service.
The Decree was directly followed by blocking of several news web sites that did not even have time to make any report on the situation. Such actions were completely illegal, and imposing restrictions with no grounds, under the circumstances, is qualified by us to be a violation of the presumption of innocence. Here, too, we deal with political discrimination, as only those sites were blocked that had previously disseminated criticism of the country authorities.
Being well aware of the pressure exerted on media over the past years, we emphasize that the responsibility for such violations falls not so much on the journalists and editors but rather on competent bodies. The actions or inaction of the latter has resulted in a situation when the provision of the Decree, “the publications in the mass media on the issues of internal situation and state importance to be restricted to official information provided by the state entities”, was made not so much to serve the peace in the society, but rather has become a tool for shattering free media and expression, restoring the traditions of one-sided propaganda, typical for totalitarian regimes.
The suspension of publication of some newspapers – whether due to the refusal to work in these conditions or because of the prohibition to publish – has resulted also in economic consequences, making the competition unequal. This has occurred on political grounds. The suspension of publication has already affected their readership, and is likely to affect it even more in future.
Under the conditions of manipulative use of media the statements by international structures and officials were also presented in a skewed manner, which is disorienting for the society and is an additional factor, adversely influencing Armenia’s international reputation.
Since displays of law infringements in the media sphere under emergency rule were directly related to elections, the responsibility for these offences is as important as the punishment of those guilty of electoral violations.
It was expected that the amendment to the Decree on emergency rule will be directed at providing greater freedom in reporting the current developments. Yet with its enforcement on March 14 none of the problems listed above was solved. Moreover, the amendment contains definitions, allowing arbitrary interpretation, in particular, a ban on “(…) publishing or disseminating deliberately false or destabilizing information on state and inner political issues”. Under the conditions of selective law enforcement and illegal actions that the media sphere has encountered lately, this makes the media quite vulnerable.
In this regard we demand that:
– the National Commission on Television and Radio and the Council of Public TV and Radio Company be held accountable for the unacceptable situation in broadcast media;
– the circumstances of illegal censorship, of blocking web-sites be investigated and the implementers and commissioners of these illegal actions be held accountable;
– the subclause 4 of clause 4 of the RA President’s Decree on the state of emergency be reviewed immediately.
At the same time, realizing that the bodies mentioned in this statement as responsible for the existing situation and the grave violations of the rule of law acted within the overall context of the policy of the Armenian authorities, we emphasize not so much the harsh punishment, but rather the legal record of the violations and those responsible for them. The supremacy of law and the legal precedent are particularly important to exclude any future violations of the free expression.
Yerevan Press Club
Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression
Media Diversity Institute-Armenia
Internews Media Support NGO
“Asparez” Journalist’s Club
Vanadzor Press Club
Helsinki Citizens Assembly Vanadzor Office
Transparency International Anti-Corruption Center
March 14, 2008

Heritage Files Legal Challenge to State of Emergency

Yerevan—Today the Heritage Party filed a petition with the Administrative Court of the Republic of Armenia, demanding annulment of the president’s March 1, 2008 decree on the declaration of a state of emergency. The appeal asserts, among other things, that the suspension of the activities of democratic institutions and specifically the restrictions imposed upon the media contradict the requirements both of Armenian law and of the European Convention on Human Rights. As a result, independent and opposition-oriented newspapers and online news services have been effectively blocked, and this stands in flagrant violation of the citizens’ right freely to receive objective and comprehensive information.
In its cause of action, Heritage asks the Court to invalidate the aforesaid decree which, as evidenced by the party, is unlawful and incongruent with the current situation. At the same time, petitioner has moved for a temporary restraining order against the Armenian president’s imposition of further restrictions on civil liberties, as well as for ruling to expedite judicial consideration of the case.
The Heritage Party expects the Administrative Court to deliver a just judgment lifting the extraordinary measures ordered by the president’s decree, eliminating the hardships caused by the state of emergency, and reinstating the constitutional rights and fundamental freedoms of Armenia’s citizens.
Heritage’s petition can be accessed at www.heritage.am.

Who Broke Karabakh Ceasefire and Why?

The uneasy ceasefire on the frontline held by Armenian forces from Nagorny Karabakh and the Azerbaijani military was broken early on March 4, IWPR reports, and notes that some people have been questioning, whether front-line skirmish was connected with political turmoil in Armenia.

Accounts differ as to who fired first. But all agree it was the most serious breach of the ceasefire in a decade, and one that could have alarming consequences if it were repeated.
Azerbaijani defence ministry spokesman Eldar Sabirogli said Armenian units broke the ceasefire by firing on Azerbaijani positions near the villages of Cheliburt, Talish and Gapanli in the Terter district, and the Tapgaragoyunli settlement in neighbouring Geranboy district. Both districts are to the north and east of Nagorny Karabakh.
Armenian sources confirmed that the fighting was in this general area, adjacent to the Mardakert district of Nagorny Karabakh.
Sabirogli said four Azerbaijani soldiers were killed and two civilians injured.
Senor Hasratian, spokesman for the defence ministry of the unrecognised Karabakh government, also cited a figure of four Azerbaijani dead and said two Armenian soldiers were injured, although in neither case were the wounds life-threatening.
He dismissed the accusations coming out of Baku, saying, “They are deliberately distorting things. If we had launched an attack, the bodies of the four Azerbaijani soldiers who died would not be lying on territory held by the army of Nagorny Karabakh.”
The two sides agreed on these casualty figures, although according to Reuters, the Azerbaijanis also claimed that the Armenians lost 12 soldiers, which Hasratian denied.
The defence ministry of Armenia itself, which treats Nagorny Karabakh as a separate and independent entity, came out with a statement blaming the Azerbaijanis for starting the firefight.
Ministry spokesman Colonel Seyran Shahsuvarian said Azerbaijani forces seized an important defensive position held by the other side, which then responded with gunfire, regained the territory, and forced their opponents back to their original lines.
Major Hachik Tavadyan, one of those injured on the Nagorny Karabakh side, confirmed this account of events from his hospital bed, adding, “I was there and I know how it started. I cannot tell a lie – they attacked us first.”
Other commentators in Azerbaijan, Nagorny Karabakh and Armenia tended to identify internal political factors which might have prompted the opposing side to deliberately seek a confrontation.
David Babayan, a political analyst in Nagorny Karabakh, speculated that the Azerbaijani leadership might have been probing their opponents’ defences at a time when Armenia itself is in political turmoil.
A second possibility, he suggested, was that Baku was seriously concerned that Nagorny Karabakh’s aspirations for independence had moved a step forward following the declaration of independence by Kosovo, another former autonomous territory within a Communist state.
“Azerbaijan is seriously worried about the right of nations to self-determination, and it chose to react by using force,” he said.
A common theme among analysts across the region was that the exchange of gunfire was in some way connected with the domestic political strife in Armenia, where opposition protests over the results of the February 19 presidential election ended in bloodshed on March 1. Eight people were reported dead after running battles between police and demonstrators in the capital Yerevan.
Azerbaijani political scientist Rasim Musabekov believes the administration of outgoing president Robert Kocharian and his elected successor Serzh Sarkisian stood to gain from creating a diversion to distract attention from their own problems.
Armed forces chief of staff Lt-Gen Sadigov made a similar point, saying the ceasefire was a direct consequence of Armenia’s internal troubles.
Armenia’s foreign minister Vardan Oskanian, meanwhile, accused Baku of “taking advantage of the exacerbation of the internal political situation in Armenia”.
Despite the exchange of recriminations between Azerbaijan and Armenian politicians, and the flurry of international efforts to smooth over the crisis, not everyone was so exercised about it.

Read the full article here.

59 People charged for "organizing mass disorder"

The RA special investigating body has issued information, according to which as a result of mass violence on March 1, 180 police officers and military servicemen have received variuos degrees of phisical injuries. According to the official data, phisical injuries of also 48 citizens have been confirmed so far. From what I remember, many people avoided going to hospitals, fearing, that they would be seized by the police, hence, such a low number of injuries among civilians being reported. According to official information, at the moment 59 people have been charged for “organizing mass disorder”.

Of the 4 MPs, who were charged with the offence of “organizing mass disorder”, 2 have been detained: Myasnik Malkhasyan and Hakob Hakobyan (Lady Hakob), while the two others: Khachatur Suqiasyan (Grzo) and Sasun Mikayelyan, are wanted. Bekaisa also reported, that Alexandr Arzumnayan, head of Levon Ter-Petrossian’s electoral team has been detained. With the constitution court rulling on March 8th effectively ending the electoral process in Armenia, the presidential candidate Levon Ter-Petrossian has also lost the immunity granted by his status as a presidential candidate and can be detained any moment. It is true, that as a former president, Ter-Petrossian has certain privilages too, however, according to article 56.1 of the RA Constitution:

The President of the Republic shall be immune.
The President of the Republic may not be prosecuted or held liable for actions arising from his/her status during and after his/her term of office.
The President of the Republic may be prosecuted for the actions not connected with his or her status after the expiration of his/her term of office.

So, as we can see, arrests and political persecutions continue. I’m sure, in some cases, the law enforcement bodies are quite right to do so – and I’m sure, that arresting most of the “yerkrapahs” is probably justified. However, as of now, no generals, commanders, police or servicemen seem to have been charged with illegal activities for their actions on March 1-2, nor has any high ranking official stepped down for incompetent handling of the rioters, which resulted in 8 deaths and around 200 seriously injured people. Well, what did we expect from a police state, which Armenia is turning into, anyway?

Armenian government making first steps for reconcilliation?

President Kocharyan has signed a decree today, lifting 2 restrictions out of 9, under point 4 of the State of Emergency decree. Hence, the following two restrictions are no longer applicable: 1)Temporary suspension of the activities of political parties and other nongovernmental organizations obstructing the removal of the circumstances serving as a basis for the declaration of the state of emergency. 2) Expulsion of individuals who break the regime of the state of emergency and not residing in a given territory at the expense of their means, and if they don’t have means – at the expense of the means of the Republic of Armenia state budget on the condition of the further return of the expenses made.
2. Serzh Sargsyan continues to play the good guy – restating his willingness to cooperate, discuss, etc. The newly elected president has also decided to set up his own blogs and take questions from everyone. The official blog for Serzh Sargsyan created especially for this purpose runs the following announcement:

On March 13, the RA Prime Minister, newly elected president Serzh Sargsyan will be responding to the questions of the citizens. You can send your questions via the following internet sites:
www.serzhsargsyan.am
www.panorama.am
http://serzhsargsyan.livejournal.com
Alternatively, you can ask your qeustions calling 080099999 phone number. The qesutions weill be accepted from March 11, starting from 10.00 o’clock, till March 12th, 21.00 o’clock.

Given the amount of tensions, suspicion and gossip in the society, this move is more then welcome, and due credit should be given to Serzh Sargsyan for attempting it. However, it remains to be seen, if the new president will indeed be prepared to face the really tough questions.
3. Other then the two positive steps mentioned above, govenment is doing little to help discharge the situation. Persecution of opposition activists continues, along with total media control and policy of disseminting state propaganda and lies.

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. 

 

Bloody Sunday: 8 People Dead. Names Known. RIP


Police violence in Armenia on March 1st, The Bloody Sunday, as a result of which the tent camp of sleeping protesters in Yerevan’s Liberty square was dispersed, their leader Levon Ter-Petrossian taken under house arrest, stirred emotions, resulted in large scale riots after a spontaneous gathering of opposition and anti-government demonstrators, triggering severe police and military action, deaths of civilians and institution of a state of emergency. Over a hundred people were wounded, among them more then 80 civilians. According to official data from Prosecutor’s Office 8 people died, names are known:

Zakar Hovhannisyan
Hamlet Tadevosyan
Gor Kloyan
David Petrosyan
Tigran Khachatryan
Grigor Gevorgyan
Hovhannes Hovhannisyan
Armen Farmanyan

Rest in Peace My Dear Armenian Brothers!
There are no doubts, that President Robert Kocharyan, Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan, Opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrossian and his supporters are directly responsible for these deaths, and should publicly apologise for their uncompromising stance and stupidity.
It is also important, that the activities of the military and police are carefully investigated. The incompetent commanders of police and military forces, who, as a result of their inability to control the situation, have become the direct cause of civilian and police deaths, should be duly punished. Unfortunately, I don’t see it happening at this point. The authorities are playing the one sided blame game, taking advantage of total information blockade in the country, and directing their accusations solely against the opposition activists and media.
God forgive them, for blinded and corrupted they are with power!!!

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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