The Prosecutor’s Office of Center and Nork-Marash communities of Yerevan has instituted criminal proceedings against the Chief Editor of “Haikakan Zhamanak” daily Nikol Pashinian on Article 132, s.2 of the RA Criminal Code (insult). The proceedings were based on the appeal of Hovhannes Eritsian, the Head of the RA Main Civil Aviation Department (RA MCAD).
On November 6, 2001 “Haikakan Zhamanak” daily published a piece quoting the minutes of a meeting held by the MCAD Head. According to this piece, Hovhannes Eritsian commissioned his deputy “to study and report to the MCAD Head how, despite the regime zones, airplanes happen to carry aboard such periodicals that present authorities in a distorted manner”. The postscript to the piece informed that “the previous day the Chief Editor of ‘Haikakan Zhamanak’ held an extraordinary meeting and commissioned the journalists to find out and report how imbeciles find their way to the state administration system”.
Apparently, the Head of MCAD took this to be an insult to himself personally, and this is to account for his appeal to the law-and-order bodies.
The daily itself thinks the institution of criminal proceedings illegitimate. In particular, the article “Another Case” (“Haikakan Zhamanak”, February 26, 2002) says that, according to the RA Criminal Code, the notification about a crime must be submitted not later than in ten days’ time, while the appeal of MCAD Head was sent to the Prosecutor’s Office in December, 2001, and the decision on instituting criminal proceedings was made in mid-February, 2002.
The Chief Editor of “Haikakan Zhamanak” has already been criminally prosecuted for his professional activities. In January, 2000, Nikol Pashinian was sentenced to one-year confinement with a year’s deferral on the article of negligence at work and to compensation on the scale of 20 minimum salaries on the articles of insulting a representative of power on duty and non-execution of the court decision (see details in the Annual Report of the Yerevan Press Club Commission on Protection of Freedom of Speech in 2000). A similar punishment is looming over the Chief Editor today. So far he had to give a written guarantee of not leaving the place of permanent residence.
The journalistic community has several times raised the issue of unacceptability of criminal prosecution of journalists for their professional activities. Under the circumstance of practical absence of legislation on media a journalist becomes an easy prey for the officials, who often take too little time to think whether their resentment is justified.