Friday, June 25, 2010
English Document Link Here
H.E. Mr. Kanat Saudabayev,
The OSCE Chairperson-in-Office,
Kazakhstan's Secretary of State and Foreign Minister
Since 2003, when the OSCE Office in Yerevan and the Armenian police signed their first memorandum of understanding, the Office has initiated the implementation of a number of projects focusing on the introduction of democratic policing practices. The Armenian Media has been broadly covering the involvement of the OSCE in the process of the reformation of the Police.
Just to make a comparison - in 2004 our neighboring Georgia also started similar programme. As a result of deep structural reforms today almost 80 % of the population of Georgia trusts the Police. Now the Ministry of Interior of Georgia became one of the most credible and efficient structures in the country. Citizens of Armenia, notwithstanding TV blockade on any positive information on Georgia, are also aware that with the assistance of international structures, the political leadership of Georgia successfully implemented the task of the fighting the Police corruption and making its work visible and transparent to everybody.
Coming to Armenia we also see statements, mainly by the OSCE, on the success of the reforms in Police. However what we see on the ground is that 5 years after the cooperation with the OSCE Yerevan Office, during March 1, 2008 events, the Police shoot to death 10 peaceful demonstrators and bullet-wounded about 200 persons. Then the Police arrested more than 150 opposition supporters and intimidated thousands. We do not state, that it happened due to failings of the international organizations, since we know the capacity of cooperation and the dept of the involvement of the international community in the reforms. But we strongly regret that no statement, calling or stating that Armenian Police must behave as an institution should in democratic country, has been made by the organization leading that process - the OSCE. There was no condemnation or even a reaction of the OSCE Yerevan Office on the bloody crackdown on opposition, no comments on the persecutions of oppositional figures months and years followed the March 1 deadly events.
Now the OSCE supports another Police Reform programme, which covers 11 areas. How credible could be the programme when the OSCE Yerevan Office did not react to the vandal behavior of the Police on May 28, 29, 30 and 31, June 1, 2010? On these days the Armenian Police violated the right to freedom of movement by not letting to enter the Freedom Square (Azatutyan hraparak). During the mentioned 5 days, about 30 Armenian citizens were apprehended by the police without any legal substantiation. David Qiramijyan, a nineteen-year-old student, who studies at the Institute of Cinema and Theatre, is among them. Probably feeling the backing of one of the most prominent international organizations, the
Police charged three persons with serious indictments. The reporter of Armenian Times daily Ms. Ani Gevorgian is among that three.
Mr. David Qiramijyan, who was arrested on May 31, just wanted to enter the Freedom Square with some young members of the opposition. David was arrested by people who were not dressed in police uniforms. Then during the transportation to the Police station he was beaten by police officers and his leg, which had already undergone a surgical operation, was injured yet again and, in addition, he is currently suffering also from constant headaches. He has not been provided with any medical care until today, in spite of the results of his medical examination available to the police, in which it is clearly stated that David needs medical care and in the absence of appropriate medical interventions he risks losing the ability to move.
On June 3, David Qiramijyan was charged with hooliganism and was sanctioned to 2 months detention as a detention measure. According to the Armenian Legislation and various international agreements the decision of the court is illegal.
The leadership of the Armenian National Congress has provided to the OSCE Yerevan Office the video materials of the attack of the Police, so the brutality of the actions of the police is obvious. We believed that after that there would be relevant reaction, pressure on the Police to release Mr. David Qiramijyan. However there was no reaction by the OSCE Yerevan Office, which allowed authorities to continue keeping the young activist in prison.
We would like to ask you to urge the Armenian authorities to free David Qiramjyan immediately, since he has not committed any crime. He only used his right of free movement and we would like to ask you to urge the authorities to identify the real instigators. We also are requesting you to execute your authority to make the OSCE Yerevan Office’s efforts in the reformation of Armenian Police more effective.
Youth Branch, Armenian National Congress
H.E. Ambassador Marc Perrin de Brichambaut, the OSCE Secretary General
H.E. Ambassador Yanes Lenarcic, the ODIHR Director
Friday, June 18, 2010
A number of things were different about this sit-in. In no specific order: it was not at the Matenadaran, it was at Liberty Square; it was held even without official permission; many of the leaders of the opposition movement, including those who had been political prisoners because of the March 1-2, 2008 events, were there; people actually SAT...
There was apparently quite a large police presence, as tweeted by Onnik Krikorian:
The amount of police around Liberty Square in Yerevan is ridiculous, it has to be said... #Armenia
The police started speaking through the megaphone at some point, and that's when the a1plus video gets to be really good. The policeman speaking is either on some weird medicine, has no humanity, or has basically become a robot spokesperson for the authorities above him, as we know happens with many good humans who are faced with orders from authorities from on high, especially when their livelihood depends on it. He basically says that what the people are doing is illegal, it is a disruption of the public order, etc... But it is not what he is saying that caught my attention - he is merely repeating what he has been told to say calmly, so that it seems to outsiders that the police and the regime actually are trying to reform and improve... But this guy is beyond calm, he speaks as though his soul has been sucked out of him, like a robot... He may as well be saying something like...
"I am robot #9384. I was told to buy cheese. I need to buy cheese. Cheese is made from milk. I must get cheese."
"I am policeman #9384. I was told to be calm. I am calm. Therefore I look calm. This will appease my chief. See, I am calm."
And if the following came out of his mouth, I would not be so surprised...
"That is a water drop on the human's face. It must be a tear. The human is small, it is perhaps a child. A child with a tear. It perhaps is a sad child, then."
But, really, the best part is when Vladimir Karapetyan goes up to the policemen with the megaphone, and starts doing what appears to be a newscast on them, pointing to them and explaining what they are doing, that what they are doing is instigation, since the police know well that the sit-in ends in 45 minutes, and the only reason they are doing what they are doing is to try to stop others from joining the sit-in. He is dressed and acts like a newscaster, reporting on an crazy tornado or volcano, on some horrible plan crash or incredible human feat - as though the police themselves and their actions are the event for the evening. It is in fact the behavior of the police and the regime that is the aberration, the abnormal, and jaw-dropping.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH has issued a statement (below)regarding recent amendments which would severely restrict even further media freedoms... For those who aren't up to date on this, Pashinyan explains exactly how the amendment is so limiting in one of his editorials.
Dear President Sargsyan,
Human Rights Watch is writing to express its concern regarding the negative impact on media pluralism and public access to diversity of information and opinion in Armenia, recent amendments to the "Law on Television and Radio," are likely to have. We urge you to refrain from signing the law and instead return it to the National Assembly and urge them to continue their deliberations with the aim of bringing any and all amendments into compliance with Armenia's international obligations on freedom of expression.
While we appreciate the government's intent to regulate Armenia's ongoing transition to mandatory digital broadcasting, it is unfortunate that the rushed legislative process did not allow for full incorporation of concerns expressed by civil society and Armenia's international partners, including the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE).
We are first concerned that the amendments to the law will reduce the number of television stations able to broadcast in Armenia from 22 to 18. The changes in the legislation could have created room for more actors to participate in provision of media facilitated by digitalization, yet reducing the number of television broadcasters poses the opposite risk of limiting media pluralism. There is a serious concern that the reduction in available television stations may particularly disadvantage new television broadcasters, especially as the amendments indicate that preference in future licensing competitions should be given to existing broadcasters or those with at least three years' experience.
Armenia's civil society members and international partners have also criticized numerous other aspects of the amendments, including the failure to require the National Television and Radio Commission (NTRC) to provide explanations for its decisions to reject broadcasting license applications, which would increase transparency of the licensing process. The amendments also do not address long-standing concerns that the law does not ensure pluralism in the selection and appointment of members of the National Television and Radio Commission (NTRC), which is responsible for the granting of licenses.
In a welcome step, during the final reading of the law the National Assembly convened a working group to revise the law which included non-governmental organizations and opposition parliamentarians. However, the rushed legislative process did not allow for a thorough public discussion of the draft. On June 10, a group of Yerevan-based ambassadors of European countries urged the Armenian government to "continue working closely with civil society, the Council of Europe and OSCE experts with a view to bringing the law further into line with international standards." However, the National Assembly adopted the bill in an emergency session later that same night.
The draft Law on Television and Radio was developed by the Armenian Ministry of Economy and adopted by the National Assembly in the first reading on May 20th. Armenia was obliged to amend the law on Television and Radio following a June 2008 European Court of Human Rights judgment finding Armenia in violation of Article 10 (Freedom of Expression) as a result of the NTRC's repeated denials of a broadcast license to A1+, an independent television station. The court found that the Armenian legislature did not provide sufficient protection against an arbitrary decision of the licensing authorities. A1+ was taken off the air in April 2002 and has not been able to resume broadcasting despite the ECtHR judgment.
In the interest of ensuring Armenia's full compliance with the ECtHR judgment and protecting media pluralism, we urge you to use your discretionary power and veto the amendments to the Law On Television and Radio. We strongly hope that the National Assembly will heed the concerns of Armenia's civil society, the OSCE, and others and make the necessary changes to bring the legislation fully into line with Armenia's international obligations.
Executive Director, Europe and Central Asia Division
Thursday, June 10, 2010
The tweets led me to the Civilitas site, which has a very toned down article on what sounds like was quite an interesting and even fiery conversation. The tweets also led me to google some of the speakers who made interesting comments, including Stepan Danielyan from the Partnership for Democracy. That let me this article on a1plus, which confirmed the tweets:
According to Stepan Danielyan, the authorities are often the ones creating NGOs to use them against the society and those NGOs are the ones receiving 80% of grants in Armenia.
Writer, publicist Marine Petrosyan noted that the society must gain from NGOs, but in Armenia it is the opposite. The NGOs are legitimized by the authorities, the government and, more often, from abroad.
Now, this reminded me of a blog post I did on a supposed NGO called Free Society Institute, one which has been an "observer" in elections in Armenia of late and has called them legal and up to normal standards; a member of which once threatened physical violence against a journalist at a polling station; one which I in fact tried to contact as I wanted more information about them, especially as I had read and heard that they were actually just a fake NGO set up by the regime - they never wrote me back, they still haven't.
Civilitas has started a new initiative in trying to catalogue and connect NGOs, which is a great idea. Included in the catalogue, as of two or weeks ago, is this Free Society Institute, and the contact email is firstname.lastname@example.org, which is exactly the same email I wrote to back in January - the email is valid now as it was then. I guess they just didn't want to write back.
What's ironic is that Civilitas itself (in my opinion) is one of these organizations - claiming to be something it is not. I won't belabor the point as I have made my opinions and reasoning clear in past blog posts. But here's the short of it: How do you talk of Civil Society, without talking about Human Rights, and how do you talk about Human Rights if you don't address free speech and press? And as Amnesty International put in a recent Tweet, "Human rights must be at the centre of efforts to eradicate poverty."
Why would the regime do such things? Well, it allows them to control not only grant finances coming in to the country, but also allows them to guide and limit what directions are taken and progress (if any) is made. Not to mention that having so many NGO's, some trustworthy some not, makes it difficult for the average Armenian citizen to tease out the true ones from the bunch - thus, in effect, drowning them all out, encouraging feelings of distrust, disinterest and disengagement on the part of citizens towards NGOs, rather than the opposite. They've used similar strategies with misinformation and disinformation of news and events, so this is no surprise.
And as a cherry on top, I just saw that Civilitas is promoting Asbarez as a news source for the Armenian Diaspora. It doesn't get much more ARF than that in terms of publications. I suppose in return Asbarez will publicize Civilitas and promote the priorities (read 'diversionary tactics') of Civilitas over the next few years, until at least the next elections...
I wonder if Oskanyan will go on another book tour soon...
[*Addendum: The original tweets were sent out by Lara Aharonian (Lara-Aha) during the event itself]
Sunday, June 6, 2010
I took many long looks at the video posted on police.am of the protests over the last weekend of May. First of all, the fact that these incidents were important enough for them to put together a video, with a voice over, AND then, post it on their website just below their police video, is a sign of just how hard they're trying to justify themselves, and really, just how scared they are. What are they scared of?... In Bazaz's own words
“Large numbers of people must not gather here. If 100, 150 or 200 persons gather here today, this square will become a rally site tomorrow.”
The video they posted is a series of clips from May 29 and May 31- and the only reason I know that is because some of the clips have a date and time at the bottom left, some don't.
Now, Ani is charged with assaulting an officer, but where is the proof?? The video clip, which seems to be offered up as some type of evidence, shows her knocking a hat off of a policeman's head - but no contact with his head, or any other part of his body. Where's the assault?
That portion of the video is not dated, but it is embedded in videos that are from May 31. Yet, it is impossible that that video is from May 31. On May 31, Ani was wearing a RED shirt, but in the video where she knocks off the hat, she is wearing a BLACK shirt. So when is it that video from? Do the police even know?
And, if that video is not from the 31st, it must be from before then, since she was arrested on the 31st. Why didn't they arrest her before, if it happened before? If she hit a police officer on May 31, then it makes sense that they would arrest her on May 31. But I can't find what day she supposedly committed this alleged assault- maybe its somewhere, in some article, but I can't find it. Do the police even know?But all video footage of May 31, from a1plus and azatutyun, show her on the sidelines, camera in her right hand (attached to a right arm in a RED sleeve) in the air, doing her job as a photojournalist. Still no proof of assault.
It seems to me the police went back over their videos and tried to look for something, anything, to charge her on. They came up with this video, that has no date, and threw it in among videos from May 31, to make it look like she was arrested that day she knocked the hat off, to try to justify their own actions.
[Top photo is of Davit Kiramijyan, who remains in prison on charges of hooliganism, from a1plus]
Thursday, June 3, 2010
For those not familiar with the system, this is how it works in Armenia. If you piss off a policeman (or policewoman, for that matter), you can be taken in for questioning to the police station - questioning regarding your identity, address, and apparently other basic such information. By the end of three hours, you need to either be released, or charged and arrested. If they charge/arrest you, they can keep you up to 72 hours. By the end of 72 hours, a court decides whether you will stay in detention until your trial (pre-trial detention), be released with travel restrictions and bail, or have all the charges dropped. The pre-trial detention can supposedly be for up to two months, but can be postponed an unlimited number of times, from what I understand.
So, while I am very happy that Ani and Sargis Gevorgyan have been released, the following is true:
1. None of them should have been taken in, arrested or detained, at all;
2. ALL three still have charges against them, and will have to go to court;
3. Davit Kiramijyan is STILL in pre-trial detention
As far as I am concerned, the charges against these individuals, and their detentions, are not only unjust, but completely illegal, as is the persistent violent and aggressive behavior of the RA police against the citizens of Armenia, and the continued attempts at keeping opposition members out of Liberty Square.
And it seems that numerous international and national organizations feel the same way, as several statements have been released which express the same fundamental sentiment.
Kiramijyan needs to be released - but that is only the tip of the iceberg. The charges need to be dropped. Alik Sargsyan(for yet one more reason) needs to resign.
Alik, just go, and take the rest of this banditocracy with you, and don't forget your red berets, your plainclothesed minions, and your snipers. But, maybe, actually, leave Bazaz, because I think maybe he just needs a hug, or a lollipop, or maybe Unzipped has figured something out.
[permission obtained for photo]
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Haykakan Zhamanak has put out a statement regarding the arrest of Ani Gevorgyan:
STATEMENT ON THE ARREST OF ANI GEVORGYAN,
JOURNALIST, THE ARMENIAN TIMES DAILY
On May 31, 2010, Ms. Ani Gevorgyan, journalist of Haykakan Zhamanak (The Armenian Times; www.armtimes.com) daily was apprehended in Freedom Square in the center of Yerevan, while performing her professional duties. Ani Gevorgyan was covering an act of resistance initiated by young activists of the Armenian National Congress.
Later that day, Ani Gevorgyan was charged with Part 1, Article 316 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Armenia, "Violence against a State representative." As of today, June 2, 2010, no detail or visual evidence has been provided by the Police regarding the alleged violence by the 23-year old journalist against the police.
During the same act of protest, two other young female journalists were subjected to compulsory appearance to the police department - Suzanna Poghosyan from Haykakan Zhamanak daily and Lilit Tadevosyan from Hayq daily, were subjected to compulsory appearance. The latter two were released within a couple of hours.
The Editorial staff and management of Haykakan Zhamanak daily consider that:
- Violence against journalists and against young women is unacceptable;
- Ani Gevorgyan's arrest is an act of revenge by the head of the Police of Armenia (Mr. Alik Sargsyan), because Ani Gevorgyan is the journalist responsible for the coverage of activities of the RA Police and the National Security Service, among others. In particular, last week Ms. Gevorgyan published two articles that covered the production of a video clip devoted to the police and revealed fraud related to the production of that clip.
- The arrest of journalist Ani Gevorgyan is a violation of the Law of the Republic of Armenia “On dissemination of mass information" (Article 4. Guarantees for the freedom of speech in the sphere of media), which stipulates, inter alia, that "When conducting his or her lawful professional activities, a journalist, as a person performing a social duty, shall be protected by the legislation of the Republic of Armenia", and which prohibits "interfering with lawful professional activities of a journalist."
- Violence against Ani Gevorgyan and her subsequent arrest violate the Criminal Code of the Republic of Armenia (Article 164. Obstructing lawful professional activities of a journalist), which stipulates that "1. Obstructing lawful professional activities of a journalist, or forcing the journalist to disseminate information or not to disseminate information, is punished with a fine in the amount of 200-400 times the minimum salary. 2. The same actions committed by an official abusing his or her official position, is punished with a fine in the amount of 400-700 times the minimum salary, or imprisonment for a term of up to 3 years, by deprivation of the right to hold certain posts or practice certain activities for up to 3 years, or without such deprivation."
We demand that the Police and the authorities of Armenia,
- immediately release Ani Gevorgyan, Haykakan Zhamanak daily journalist;
- stop criminal persecution against Gevorgyan and bring to justice the police officers who exceeded their powers.
So - what's all the fuss? What are these videos that Ani wrote about? She wrote an article noting the incredible similarities between the newly produced RA police hymn and accompanying video, to the not as new hymn and video of the police of the Georgian Republic. She also points out the massive misrepresentations in the armenian version. Unfortunately the piece is not yet available in English, though as Ani Wandaryan points out in my prior post, the google translate version isn't half bad (here).
Both videos are available online, and I've posted them here (thanks again to Ani W. for both the idea, and sources for the videos). Judge for yourselves.
Georgian Video Armenian Video
And to top it off, here is the video of Ani Gevorgyan being taken off by the police (first several minutes of video):
The Committee to Protect Journalists has an article on their website regarding her arrest - here is an excerpt:
“Based on the video and accounts provided by her editor, we’re deeply skeptical of the police allegations against Ani Gevorgian. The evidence indicates that she was at the rally doing her job,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “We join with our Armenian colleagues in calling for Gevorgian’s release.”
If you use twitter, and tweet about any issue related to her, please attach the hashtag #AniG... Each new hashtag seems to be a step further from democracy - #March1, #Pashinyan, #Khalafyan, #AniG, #DollarArmen, #NonuthinAlik #humanrights #Bazaz... hopefully soon new hashtags will actually be a positive thing...
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Attempts by opposition demonstrators to peacefully just exist, sit, or just walk in the newly re-opened Liberty Square continued after May 29, despite attempts by the RA police and red berets and other such characters to stop them. On May 31, according to various reports, somewhere between tens to 100 demonstrators were present, and approximately 17 individuals were taken into custody, including SDHP chairwoman Lyudmila Sargsyan. 3 of those 17 were reporters, two from HZH and one from Hayk. Ani Gevorgyan, a photojournalist from HZH was one of those three, she was later arrested, she remains in police custody.
She is about 22 or 23 years old per reports. She is charged with hitting one of the police in the face, but per a witness statement in a video taken during the clashes with police, she is the one who got hit - another of the banditocracy's favorite techniques: figure out what they were going to say about you, and turn it around. In fact, it seems she was picked out in advance, as the video records one of the police saying “this is that very journalist.”
Now, why would the RA police and red berets and the rest of that posse (since they are exactly that, a posse) want to persecute this young woman? Just take a look at her recent writings - in addition to working for HZH, a strongly pro-opposition newspaper, whose editor-in-chief is Nikol Pashinyan - she has been writing about Alik Sargsyan, and the RA police. Most recently she commented on just how similar the video for the RA police is to the video for the Georgian police.
On a side note, the police and red berets and the rest of them have somehow decided that undercover, plainclothes police are the way to go in these situations (one of their older strategies). I'm not sure why, since they're easy to pick out - watch any of the videos and within seconds its clear who is who. I wonder if it is for photos, so it appears that there are fewer law enforcement, or to mislead people, or something else entirely.
If I have some time, I'll start a nice little collage of the cops in plainclothes, just so they don't feel underappreciated. We wouldn't want that, now would we?
For more reading: Tert
HZH "Once bit, twice shy", HZH "Revenge"
ArmeniaNow, A1plus "Alik Sargsyan's Revenge"