Suspicion of citizen action pervades the authorities’ approach to civil society in Armenia.read more
Thousands of women marched during the Velvel Revolution, demanding a change in government and for their rights to be respected.
As reported on the Monitor in April, Armenia experienced some of its largest protests since becoming independent after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The massive demonstrations led to a peaceful transition of power. A recent article published by Global Voices highlights the role women played during the so-called 'Velvet Revolution'. Thousands of women took to the streets during the 40 days of the Revolution, protesting "not only for a change in government, but for their rights in a traditionally patriarchal society."
It was reported previously on the Monitor how several cases involving members of armed opposition group Sasna Tsrer regained public attention in Armenia and sparked protests in January 2018. In May 2018, members of the group Sasna Tsrer blocked Arshakunyats Avenue in Yerevan to demand the release of all political prisoners in the country. On 8th June, it was reported that Aram Akopian, a member of the group, was released on bail. Three other members of the group had already been released, and the four of them are banned from leaving the capital, Yeveran.
Members of Sasna Tsrer were involved in storming a police station where several police officers were taken hostage in July 2016. A few police officers were injured and one was killed during the clashes between members of the group and security forces. They demanded the release of opposition leader Jirair Sefilian, and the resignation of President Serzh Sargsyan. After the incident, Armenian citizens started to protest against the government. This was seen as an opportunity to raise awareness about the socio-economic problems facing the country.
The Analytical Center for Globalization and Regional Cooperation (ACGRC) conducted an investigation from October until December 2017, where they monitored selected Russian and Armenian media outlets. The objective of the study was to "examine how the propaganda is carried out on Russian TV and how much it is reflected on Armenian air."
Part of the findings stated that "Russian influence on choosing the topics of Armenian broadcasting and the discussion of the topics is obvious regarding international events, especially when it comes to discuss issued related to Ukraine, Syria and Russian humanitarian and peacekeeping role."
Despite the presence of 5,200 civil society organisations registered with the Ministry of Justice, the laws governing the creation and operation of CSOs are cumbersome and result in an overly regulated environment for civil society.
Despite the presence of 5,200 civil society organisations registered with the Ministry of Justice, the laws governing the creation and operation of CSOs are cumbersome and result in an overly regulated environment for civil society. Studies estimate that only 15 – 20% of registered CSOs are active and there is growing concern over the prevalence of government-driven corruption in the sector. Unregistered CSOs do not enjoy the same levels of legal protection and are unable to process financial transactions to support their activities. Moreover, the Law on Public Organisations and Law on Foundations (2001) prevent unregistered entities from sharing information about their activities or working with international civil society groups.
The Armenian government has a well-documented record of interfering with protests and public gatherings.
The Armenian government has a well-documented record of interfering with protests and public gatherings. Protests during the “electric Yerevan” movement resulted in over 200 arrests and reports of violence by police. Armenian human rights groups have highlighted the misuse of the penal code to intimidate protesters and prevent protests deemed unfavourable by the government. In particular, pro-democracy protests have borne the brunt of politically motivated arrests, detentions and torture.
Armenia’s media and news houses are not formally regulated, but informal influence by the government impedes journalistic freedom.
Armenia’s media and news houses are not formally regulated, but informal influence by the government impedes journalistic freedom. Journalists covering protests and gatherings are particular targets of violence and intimidation. In 2015, there were 19 documented cases of violence against journalists, with no one held responsible. With 46% of the Armenian population having access to the internet, online news outlets have begun to flourish. For the most part, bloggers and online journalists are able to operate free from coercion or fear of reprisals. Discrimination against LGBTI communities remains a serious concern in Armenia, with inadequate anti-discrimination laws and frequent reports of hate speech.