Armenia’s expression ranking improves, protests held over Azerbaijan-border conflict
Protests held over Armenia concessions
In September 2022, new anti-government protests erupted in Armenia. These had a spontaneous character and were a consequence of the escalation of the conflict with Azerbaijan, as well as the intention of the government authorities to make concessions to Azerbaijan regarding the border demarcation line. Nikol Pashynyan declared before the National Assembly (parliament) that he was ready to announce his decision to preserve peace.
In this context, new protests broke out in Stepanakert and in Yerevan. Thousands of people in front of the parliament building demanded the resignation of Nikol Pashynyan for the concessions made by Armenia and for the faulty management of the crisis. The protests lasted several days and gathered several thousand people.
The Prime Minister’s comments came after new military clashes erupted between Azerbaijan and Armenia on 13th September 2022, the worst escalation of the conflict since the war in the fall of 2020.
Protests demand withdrawal from military alliance
In November 2022, ahead of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) summit, the Armenian opposition protested to demand the country's withdrawal from this military alliance, which they believe has not been beneficial to the country. The demonstrations were held in the context of the new military operations in Nagorno-Karabakh and the negotiations between Armenians and Azerbaijanis over the border lines. The protesters chanted anti-Russian slogans as they marched through central Yerevan. Before the Summit, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan accused Moscow, one of the main mediators involved in resolving the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, of not providing the necessary support Yerevan needs in negotiations with Azerbaijanis. Earlier, in October 2022, at least 40,000 people gathered in the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh to express concern over the region's fate and its ethnic Armenian population.
Students protest universities’ planned mergers
In separate developments, on 18th October 2022, several hundred students protested against the government’s intention to merge several universities including Brusov State University, the Armenian State Pedagogical University (ASPU) and the Armenian State Institute of Physical Culture and Sport (ASIPC). Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan had earlier declared his intention to merge eight state universities, including Brusov, ASPU and ASIPC, and move them to a different town. According to the students, this merger would affect the quality of their education.
Armenia is listed as a "free" country in the NET index
In 2022, according to the Freedom House index, Armenia scored 74 points, an increase from last year's 71 points. The report attributes this success to civil society efforts to protect the freedom of expression in the virtual space. In addition, at the insistence of civil society, the Armenian authorities back tracked on the criminalisation of grave insult, a law that was promoted in 2021. NGOs, in discussions with diplomats and partners, encouraged the need to withdraw these legislative mechanisms that would have affected freedom of expression. The report covers the period from 1st June 2021 to 31st May 2022.
Civic Space Developments