Overview of Cases of Pressure on Mass Media in Armenia

On October 5, 2019 a group of citizens attacked the “Mirror” press club after the article titled “Aliyev’s belated but powerful response to Pashinyan” was published on hayeli.am website. Citizens, in particular, threw eggs at the wall of the press club, as well as fixed posters.

This case has become a topic of discussion among the public at large in the context of freedom of the press and speech, as well as a brief reminder of such cases. This incident has also provided a brief reminder of similar cases.

Thus, for example, according to the 2008 Annual Report of the Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression, a number of extraordinary incidents have been recorded, including various cases of pressure and harassment against journalists and the media. In 2008 there was a lot of pressure on the media in Gyumri, for example, the building of the Asparez Journalists’ Club and the car of the club’s chairman Levon Barseghyan were set on fire.

In addition, an attempt was made to set fire to the Gyumri TV tower, which used to broadcast “GALA” TV company.

In 2008, there were also pressures on Shant TV, in particular the person who called the TV station had threatened to set it on fire if the TV station reported slander to the first president Levon Ter-Petrosyan.. A particularly brutal case was registered with Edik Baghdasaryan, President of Investigative Journalists NGO, who was brutally beaten when he leaving the editorial office.

In the same year, Haykakan Zhamanak (Armenian Times) journalist Lusine Barseghyan and the acting head of Yerevan office of the Armenian Service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Hrach Melkumian were also severely beaten. In both cases the culprits were not identified.

In 2009, many Armenian media outlets have been subjected to various pressures. Haykakan Zhamanak daily, for example, in the name of publisher “Dareskibz” LLC, according to the court ruling, for a publication about the second president Robert Kocharyan’s son, Levon Kocharyan was obliged to pay 3 million AMD to the Kocharyan Jnr.

Pressure on the newspaper was also applied in 2010 for the same case. There were pressures on Haykakan Zhamanak that year by Prosperous Armenia Party members. Pressure on the media in the above-mentioned years was manifested mainly through various lawsuits and administrative resources, as well as through numerous attacks on journalists, including photojournalist Gagik Shamshyan.

The year 2011 was particularly notable for the pressures on journalists and media. That year, for example, the car of Vanadzor Lori TV editor-in-chief Narine Avetisyan’s car was set on fire, and the lawsuits against Armenian Times continued (filed by MPs and prominent businessmen Ruben Hayrapetyan, Levon Sargsyan and Samvel Alexanyan ), Zhamanak daily has been in a row over the lawsuit regaring the court cases connected with Kocharyan family.

It is noteworthy that in 2011 the Hraparak newspaper also had problems with the Kocharians: Robert Kocharyan filed a lawsuit against the newspaper demanding to arrest the newspaper’s property and accounts. That year, 7or.am was also under pressure, which has become inaccessible for a long time.

Ruben Hayrapetyan put pressure on Hetq journalist Grisha Balasanyan, while Gyumri’s GALA TV station had ongoing problems with the aforementioned TV tower. In 2011, the newspaper Iravunk also reported about persecutions against its journalist.

In 2012, according to Annual Report of the Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression, pressures on journalists and the media were mainly in the form of lawsuits. That year, perhaps the most scandalous case was that of Hayk Gevorgyan, the editor in chief of Haykakan Zhamanak daily. He was accused of running over a pedestrian and leaving the scene. Following Gevorgyan’s arrest, he was transferred to the Nubarashen penitentiary, however, three days later, due to the unified efforts of the journalist community, Gevorgyan’s the precautionary measure was amended, and after a few months the criminal case was dropped. In addition, in April 2012, the Asparez Journalists Club of Gyumri and the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly-Vanadzor office were attacked for several days.

Pressure on journalists and the media has increased in 2013, due to the presidential election of that year. However, they have been mostly expressed in court cases. It is noteworthy that Hetq and Ijevan Studio TV journalists received threats that year. Other cases of insulting and threatening journalists have also been recorded.

Most of the cases of pressure on journalists and media in 2014 also relate to lawsuits, but there were other incidents that year too.

For example, a Lragir.am reporter posted pictures of a young Republican Arkady Voskanyan and his friends on Facebook depicting how they were hindering activists disseminating leaflets during March 1 rally. After this he received threats through e-mail.

The same year, on various occasions, the journalists of the Armenian Times were also subjected to pressure, in particular, Mkrtich Karapetyan was invited to the YSU Military Department where two people had a suspicious conversation with him.

According to the newspaper, the latter were NSS employees and tried to recruit a journalist. In addition, it is worth remembering the action of March 15, 2014 near the editorial office of the “Haykakan Zhamanak”, probably initiated by the Prosperous Armenia Party’s youth organization, whose participants were hitting dhols the front of the editorial office.

2015 has been marked by massive pressures on journalists, that have been caused by physical violence, damage to equipment, and more. Particularly, it is about Electric Yerevan protests and the day of the constitutional referendum in December 2015, when many journalists were subjected to violence.

It is noteworthy that on June 23 only during the coverage of “Electric Yerevan” protests 13 employees of different media outlets were subjected to physical violence. Another 11 media representatives faced other illegal obstacles.

In 2016 was also marked by cases of mass violence against journalists, in particular during the capture of the Patrol Service Police regiment and during the coverage of the subsequent demonstrations. In addition, both in 2015 and 2016, there have been numerous cases of harassment, obstruction of journalists, pressures, and litigation.

In 2017, among the cases of pressure against the media and journalists are noteworthy those that were connected with the developments surrounding the publication by Union of Informed Citizens revealing the principals of the schools who worked in favor of the RPA during the parliamentary elections

Following that publication, extensive pressures have been made agains the UIC, 30 school principals have filed lawsuits against the organization, while the Iravunk newspaper has published personal information about the UIC program coordinator Daniel Ioannisian in violation of the law. In addition, there have been numerous pressures on journalists in the coverage of parliamentary elections in 2017.

In 2018, due to the Velvet Revolution that took place in April-May, there were also numerous pressures on the media and journalists.

At the same time, during the period of the revolution, along with pressures by government officials, April 14 incident should also be recorded, it is also necessary to record the incident on April 14, when many demonstrators, led by Nikol Pashinyan, entered the Public Radio building demanding live broadcasting. Pressures of a different nature have also been recorded in the post-revolutionary period.

Going back to the current events, it should be noted that these days the VETO movement is pressuring the Open Society Foundations – Armenia office, which is accompanied by an office blockade and hate speech against office staff and guests.

It should also be noted that the abovementioned cases do not fully reflect the actual volume of pressures and barriers against the media.

Vah Ghukasyan

Union of Informed Citizens.


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