On March 1 the Prosecutor’s Office of Center and Nork-Marash communities of Yerevan accused the Chief Editor of “Haikakan Zhamanak” daily Nikol Pashinian on article 132, s.2 (insult) of the RA Criminal Code. The preventive punishment – a written guarantee of not leaving the place of permanent residence – inflicted on the Chief Editor remains the same.
As it has already been reported, the criminal proceedings against Nikol Pashinian were instituted through the appeal of the Head of RA Main Civil Aviation Department (RA MCAD) Hovhannes Eritsian who found one of the publications of “Haikakan Zhamanak” (November 6, 2001) to be personally insulting for himself. The publication told that as a response to the order of Hovhannes Eritsian to his deputy calling “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 Chief Editor of “Haikakan Zhamanak” commissioned the journalists “to find out and report how imbeciles find their way to the state administration system” (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, February 23 – March 1, 2002).
The institution of the criminal proceedings and the accusation of the Chief Editor of the opposition daily did not go unnoticed. On March 5, “Aravot” daily published an open address of journalist Tigran Hakobian to the Senior Assistant Prosecutor of Center and Nork-Marash communities Sergey Abrahamian. The letter said, in particular, that having instituted criminal proceedings, the Prosecutor’s Office “impedes the journalistic investigation aimed at answering the question of great concern to the public – how imbeciles, incapable personalities and bribe takers, who found their way into the state administration system by unknown means, have managed to wreck the Armenian aviation”. “Since all the citizens of the Republic enjoy the inseparable right to information (see the RA Constitution), I appeal to include myself as a defendant on the case, as I also want to know how imbeciles find their way into the state administration system”, are the concluding words of Tigran Hakobian’s address.
The Chief Editor and two journalists of “Aravot” daily joined this demand, and the edition itself announced its willingness to publish this address everyday with the names of those Armenian citizens, who agree with its content. The response came fast: on the subsequent days the letter kept reappearing in the newspaper accompanied by 22 more signatures.
On March 5, the leaders of eight political parties voiced their support to the Chief Editor of “Haikakan Zhamanak”. The statement of the party activists stresses the necessity to protect the freedom of speech in Armenia, and it mentions that along with the introduction of the notorious draft law “On Mass Communication”, the criminal prosecution is still “used to suppress the free press and the free journalists”.
On our behalf we think the following noteworthy: the appearance of the draft law “On Mass Communication”, the absurd decision of the court benefiting HSBC-Armenia bank and the tragicomic case on insulting the official cause certain misgivings. The desire of the authorities to tighten the collars of the freedom-lovers will increase as the elections draw nearer.