We draw the attention of international organizations to the encroachments of the authorities on the right to free press, free speech, free expression of opinion. UJA

23:04 25-03-2024

On the morning of March 22, after leaving his apartment, several police officers attacked Narek Samsonyan, the founder of AntiFake.am website, founder of “Civic Consciousness” NGO, co-author and moderator of “Imnemnimi” podcast, from behind in the parking lot and, using disproportionate brute force, knocked him to the ground.

The Union of Journalists of Armenia, without referring to the initiated criminal proceedings and its details, on the same day condemned the police brutality, considering the inhumane violence against any person due to the content of the subject matter unacceptable.

Narek Samsonyan could have been arrested in such a way only if the latter showed strong resistance, was armed or threatened the life of the policemen, which, judging by the posted video, did not happen. The arrest of the founder of the news site, the host, was clearly outside the scope of the criminal law.

The Union of Journalists of Armenia also strongly condemned the brutal actions of the police officers, the outrageous tendency to grossly violate Narek Samsonyan’s dignity as a person and the founder of the media.

Later on the same day, the second host of the “Imnemnimi” podcast, Vazgen Saghatelyan, was also arrested, not brutally after the noise related to Narek Samsonyan’s arrest.

The boys were arrested and are currently serving two months in prison for their thoughts expressed during the program. Free speech was targeted, that is, anchors, journalists, bloggers and just ordinary people in our country do not have the right to criticize the government with harsh language.

Let’s remind that during Nikol Pashinyan’s rule, grave insult was criminalized, then after the unprecedented noise raised and apparently pressured by European structures, it was decriminalized by the new Criminal Code that entered into force on July 1, 2022. Within this case, the sharp criticism of Vazgen Saghatelyan and Narek Samsonyan was qualified as hooliganism. It is clear that the “grave insult” article has been revived by the current authorities to use as a cudgel against political opponents if necessary.

In this way, the government is trying to mislead the international community by giving a new life to the decriminalized “grave insult” article within the framework of another article of the criminal code.

The Union of Journalists of Armenia draws the attention of international partner organizations to this very important and urgent issue. We expect that international journalistic and human rights organizations will adequately respond to these large-scale and unprecedented pressures unleashed by the Armenian authorities on free speech.

In our country, the opposition media, opposition politicians, and public figures with opposition views continue to be targeted. The number of political prisoners in Armenia is increasing day by day.

Unprecedented pressures are applied against the opposition media, including through numerous lawsuits filed against them, and under the conditions of the controlled judiciary, the opposition media are forced to pay huge sums of money and suffer financial losses.

We draw the attention of international organizations to the encroachments of the authorities on the right to free press, free speech, free expression of opinion.

Satik Seyranyan, President of the Union of Journalists of Armenia

March 25, 2024