On May 8 the session of the Government of Armenia heard the results of an internal investigation made by the article of “Aravot” daily of April 23, 2008. According to the communication of “Aravot”, in the city of Goris the Governor of Syunik Region Suren Khachatrian gave a beating to a minor, having broken his jaw.
On April 25 at the session of the Government the RA Prime Minister Tigran Sargsian commissioned the Vice Prime Minister, the Minister of Territorial Governance Armen Gevorgian to hold an internal investigation. The Prime Minister stressed the need to change the mode of Government’s work with media: “In particular, the first principle that the President of the country has put forth to us is as follows: if we want to have responsible media, we must first of all have responsible authorities. (…) From now on we must respond to the developments of public significance, addressed by media. (…) We aim to protect the dignity and reputation of our colleagues, officials, and if media publish libelous rumors or untrue information, we must make a joint response.” Tigran Sargsian also noted that the President of the country had ordered to develop appropriate legislative amendments for “all of us to be protected” (quoted by the RA Government’s web-site).
On April 29 “Aravot” informed that the editorial staff found out the details of the incident in Goris, however it will so far refrain from their publication, since “our state is incapable of ensuring the safety of the victim and his family”: the “brutalities” of Syunik Governor and his entourage are well-known not only in the region, but all over the country. Expressing a “weak hope” for an objective internal investigation, the author of the publication, the Chief Editor of “Aravot” Aram Abrahamian noted that finding out the truth will not be difficult for the Vice Prime Minister, if “our newspaper was able to do so within several days”.
On May 8 at the session of the Government the Vice Prime Minister reported that the information about a beating given by the Governor to a teenager, published by “Aravot” on April 23, is not true. After a new article in the daily of April 29, Armen Gevorgian noted, an inquiry was made to the Chief Editor, from the response of which it turned out that the incident occurred to another teenager. The further investigation showed that between the latter and the Governor’s son an “ordinary quarrel” occurred, after which their fathers met and settled the conflict. According to the Vice Prime Minister, the chairman of the investigation commission, the Deputy Minister of Territorial Governance Hovhannes Hovsepian during the meeting with the teenager “did not notice a broken jaw or any other serious injury with a naked eye”.
“The Syunik case is quite instructive for us, because it turns out that the child was not 12, but 16, that it was not the child who was beaten, but the child gave a beating himself, that no jaws were broken, nothing of the kind happened, there were no complaints, there is peace and so on. Thus, quite a different situation from the one disclosed during an internal investigation was depicted. This means, of course, that we are responsible for such publications, the media would realize their responsibility, since we are not going to leave such publications with no consequences”, was the comment of the RA Prime Minister on investigation results (quoted by the web site of the RA Government). At the same time, Tigran Sargsian expressed his gratitude to “Aravot” correspondent Anna Israelian for assisting in investigating the incident in Goris.
On May 14 in an interview to “Zhamanak-Yerevan” newspaper the Chief Editor of “Aravot” Aram Abrahamian expressed his satisfaction with the results of the internal investigation, since “it convinced him that the investigation was made not to find out the truth, but to put “Aravot” in the wrong”. “When a new person is appointed to a certain position, I am inclined to believe this person wants to do something good – until the contrary is proved”, Aram Abrahamian said. Besides, the head of “Aravot” noted that the Government violated certain agreements: “The Deputy Minister of Territorial Governance Hovik Hovsepian called me and asked to present the circumstances of the case as known to me in writing, giving a word of a man that only he and the Minister will know about this letter. A few days later the content of my letter appeared in the Government’s newsline. I leave it to your discretion to name this behavior.”
YPC Comment: As to the new approaches of the Government to “work with media”, the aspiration “to respond to the developments of public significance, addressed by media” is extremely praiseworthy. Yet on the other hand, the phrase “work with media” sounds frightening: we have been observing examples of such “work” for all of the past years, and it is due to it that Armenia keeps going down in the list of the countries with unfree media. We would have preferred the authorities to simply follow the law and the norms for interactions with press, common in civilized society. In particular, we would wish that the officials, responsible for the illegitimate preliminary censorship during the emergency rule (March 1-20, 2008), as well as those who, violating the Decree of the RA President went much beyond the limits of official communication and threw dirt at the opposition from the TV air, be punished. It is not quite clear why the facts published by “Aravot” were not taken up by the Prosecutor’s Office, as stipulated by the law, with an internal investigation being made instead – of course the Government can have such investigation but not in replacement for the procedures, established by the Criminal Code. And what is even more unclear is why the Prime Minister should see to the protection of dignity and reputation of his colleagues, when this is purely a personal matter and nobody impedes the officials libeled or insulted from suing the media or addressing the Prosecutor’s Office.