On February 22, RA Procuracy informed about the results of verifying the facts on cases of impeding professional activities of journalists on the ballot day of February 18, 2013 Armenia’s Presidential Elections.
Two criminal proceedings were instituted upon the incidents at the electoral precinct 17/5 of Artashat, Ararat region, and at the electoral headquarters of the presidential candidate, incumbent President Serzh Sargsian. As we have reported, at the 17/5 Artashat precinct some young men used force against journalist Artak Hambardzumian, representative of “Journalists for Human Rights” NGO, to prevent the recording of the ballot stuffing. A group of people, standing at the electoral headquarters of the presidential candidate Serzh Sargsian, prohibited the entry of Marineh Kharatian, correspondent of “1in.am” news portal, and Gayaneh Saribekian, correspondent of “Hraparak” daily, by taking away the video and photo cameras (later the devices were returned to the journalists). Fifteen journalistic and human rights organizations, including Yerevan Press Club, made a statement, calling the authorities “to take immediate measures for conducting a thorough and objective investigation and bring the insulters to account” (see details in YPC Weekly Newsletter, February 15-21, 2013).
Criminal proceedings on the abovementioned cases were instituted by the RA Special Investigation Service: on the first incident – upon Articles 149 (“Hindrance to implementation of the right to elect, to the work of election commissions or to the implementation of the authority of the person participating in elections”) and 153 (“Voting more than once or instead of another person”) of the RA Criminal Code; on the second incident – upon Article 149.
The RA Procuracy reported that it had verified the information provided in an article by Hripsimeh Jebejian “‘Aravot’ Journalist Assaulted” (“Aravot” daily, February 18, 2013). The article stated that the policemen, the chairman and the secretary of the electoral commission of 9/27 precinct of Yerevan hindered the correspondent of “Aravot” Hripsimeh Jebejian to shoot and to interview a group of women, conveyed to the electoral station on a mini-bus. In the RA Procuracy’s account, the representatives of the electoral commission explained this prohibition by the fact that Hripsimeh Jebejian was not registered as a journalist with the electoral commission (as required by the CEC decision of February 24, 2012). Thus, they suggested the journalist register, first, and then make shootings. However, by that time, the women had already left the station. The Procuracy noted that measures are being taken for identifying the women and finding the mini-bus, which had conveyed them.
According to the Procuracy, the Artashat Department of RA Police continues the preparation of materials upon an alert, received on the hotline of iDitord. The alert notified that three proxies impeded the work of correspondent of “Iravunk” newspaper Elmira Martirosian at the precinct 17/1 of Artashat.
The Procuracy also reported about the results of verifying the evidence, published on February 18, 2013 in the article by Marineh Petrosian, “They Threatened the Journalist: ‘I’ll Come and Put Your Eyes Out!” (www.asparez.am) and in the article by “Aravot” daily correspondent in Shirak region, Nuneh Arevshatian, “They Not Only Buy Votes in Gyumri, but Also Threaten the Journalists: ‘If You Shoot, I’ll Break Your Neck!’” (“Aravot”). The Investigative Department of RA Police of Shirak region decided not to institute criminal proceedings on any of the cases “due to absence of criminal action”.
On February 25, RA Procuracy also informed about other criminal proceedings regarding violations on the ballot day.
Particularly, some cases were instituted not upon the facts of obstructing the journalistic activities but upon the verification of the media reports on alleged crimes.
Thus, criminal proceedings were instituted on Articles 34 and 153 of RA Criminal Code (attempt of voting instead of another person) upon the confirmed evidence, provided in “Hetq” online on February 18, 2013 (“Case of Falsification at 17/31 Electoral Station of Artashat”).
Criminal proceedings were instituted upon Article 154 (“Breaching the confidentiality of ballot”) of RA Criminal Code upon some other confirmed evidence, appeared in the February 20, 2013 piece, “Khurshudian Informed the Ministry of Defense about the Electoral Station, where a Military Serviceman Exercised Premeditated Voting” (www.panorama.am).