The incident that took place in the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia on August 24, 2021 with the involvement of the officers of the General Department of State Protection was accompanied by the removal of the journalists from the lodge of the parliament session hall by the officers of the National Security Service. A similar action was undertaken on August 11, when the broadcast of the parliament sitting was stopped by the order of Speaker of the National Assembly Alen Simonyan, and the journalists in the lodge were removed by the officers of the National Security Service, resulting in journalists not being able to cover the incident in the hall. The activities of the journalists were also hindered during the August 25 sitting of the parliament, when the they were not able to cover the conflict between the MPs, and violence was used against them by officers of the National Security Service.
It should be noted that this situation has been in place in the parliament building since August 2, against the backdrop of restrictions on the activities of journalists. As a result, journalists cannot walk freely in the corridors, cannot take photos of security officers, and can be present at the sittings of the parliamentary committees only at the discretion of the chairpersons of the committees.
What is more alarming is the answer given by the Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to the question of one of the MPs about the removal of the journalists and the use of force against them, with which the Prime Minister encouraged the behavior of the officers of the National Security Service and, in fact, assessed them as lawful.
The undersigned NGOs express their concern over the aforementioned manifestations of obstruction of journalists’ professional activities. In particular:
- The restriction of the journalists’ activities in the corridors of the parliament and, especially at the sittings of the parliamentary committees contradicts Articles 42 and 51 of the Constitution, as well as the international commitments undertaken by Armenia (including Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights). That decision should be reconsidered to ensure that the restriction of this essential right does not exceed the limits of proportionality and common sense.
- The removal of journalists from the lodge by the officers of the National Security Service is assessed as an obstacle to the legal professional activity of journalists. These cases should be subject to legal assessment, and the perpetrators, as well as those who gave the apparently illegal orders, should be prosecuted.
- Representatives of the executive branch should refrain from justifying restrictions and violations of journalists’ rights. Moreover, the head of the executive branch should refrain from making statements about the legality of actions to be evaluated by law enforcement agencies, as such statements call into question the independence of investigators and prosecutors in making legal assessments.
We should emphasize once again that freedom of speech is one of the most important components of a democratic society, and restrictions and violations of journalists’ rights, and their subsequent justifications, or the devaluation of the institution of the media in general further exacerbate the situation with the lack of democracy and make it impossible to establish sustainable democratic traditions.
Union of Informed Citizens NGO
Open Society Foundations – Armenia
“Asparez” Journalists’ Club
Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly-Vanadzor
Educational Center for Equal Rights NGO
Public Journalism Club NGO
Protection of Rights without Borders NGO
Helsinki Association Human Rights NGO
Freedom of Information Center NGO
Center for Community Mobilization and Support NGO
Peace Dialogue NGO
Center for Human Rights Research NGO