Activists detained during protest
During an event organised under the programme "Fostering and protecting human rights", the Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan made a speech highlighting the role of Armenian civil society in promoting democracy. Pashinyan appreciated the importance of a democratic society, where principles and values are implemented, and human rights are also respected. In his speech, the prime minister mentioned civil society as an important player in promoting reforms in the field of justice, anti-corruption and measures to strengthen democratisation in Armenia.
A week later, Council of Europe (CoE) Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović also appreciated the role of Armenian civil society in the sphere of human rights. The Commissioner was on an official visit to Yerevan, where she met with the Foreign Minister of Armenia, Zohrab Mnatsakanyan. During this meeting, they discussed perspectives for developing new programmes for cooperation and supporting initiatives for the defence and promotion of human rights.
On 12th September 2019 clashes erupted between supporters and opponents of the former president of Armenia, during which three people were detained and one was hospitalized. A few days later, two activists were detained as supporters and opponents of former president Kocharyan held protests outside the courthouse in Yerevan where his case was being heard. As previously reported on the Monitor, Kocharyan was charged with financial fraud and his connection with the violent dispersal of opposition protesters in Yerevan in 2008 following disputed election results.
In other developments, on 6th November 2019, the students of Yerevan State University of Armenia went on strike, to protest against a proposed “Law on Higher Education and Science,” which provides that teaching subjects such as “Armenian Language”, “Armenian Literature” and “History of Armenia” would no longer be mandatory for students of non-humanitarian faculties. The students joined protesters in an indefinite sit-down strike in front of the ministry building. Two days later, on 8th November, hundreds of protesters staged a sit-down protest on the sidewalk in front of the ministry of education and demanded the resignation of the minister of education, Arayik Harutyunyan, who they accused of ignoring Armenian traditions, culture and language.
On October 29th 2019 the Armenian Institute of International and Security Affairs (AIISA) prohibited several news outlets from attending its event titled “20 Years after the October 27th: A Glance in Retrospect, Lessons and Thoughts.” A day before, the Armenian think tank leader, Stepan Safaryan, indicated on his social media account that news outlets “News.am”, “Hayeli.am”, “168.am”, “Yerevan Today”, “7or.am”, “Livenews.am” and the television companies “5th Channel” and “Yerkir Media” would not be allowed to cover the event.
As a reaction, on 29th October, media NGOs from Armenia released a Statement where they accused the think tank of discrimination regarding mass media. The statement read in part:
" Non-governmental organisations must not engage in discrimination and be guided by their likes and dislikes…we call on the AIISA to review its approach with regard to the media outlets, demonstrate tolerance and exclude discrimination in respect of the media in the future.”