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Amnesty International: Armenia must protect all forms of free expression

Amnesty InternationalA new report by Amnesty International has revealed an alarming culture of persecution in Armenia. “Armenia: No Space for Difference” was titled the report.

At a glance, it seems there are no issues with freedom of expression in Armenia. Critical views are freely expressed in newspapers, TV and the internet on a variety of topics. But certain topics are left out of critical discussion or examination. Speaking critically about issues considered to be “state or national interests” remains taboo. Even the NGOs and human rights defenders, whose primary role is to question and examine these subjects, are wary of taking an ‘unpatriotic ’stand.

The harassment and intimidation of those who oppose or challenge the state or mainstream societal values has a chilling effect on others.

Through national and international obligations the Armenian authorities have committed to ensure that activists can carry out their work without interference, obstacles, discrimination or fear of retaliation.

The report is more about the Armenia’s obligations under international law, harassment for investigating abuses in the army, attacks on conflict resolution activists, discrimination and suspected hate crimes.

The report also reveals discrimination and attacks on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) people and the unwillingness of the authorities to protect them.

It documents cases of discrimination and suspected hate crime against LGBT people in Armenia, as well as incidents of harassment and attacks including on human rights defenders, activists and journalists.

Amnesty International’s researcher on Armenia, Natalia Nozadze, said: “The targets of such attacks are often left without adequate protection and offences against them go unpunished, which has a chilling effect on others.

“Frequently the result is that journalists and human rights defenders self-censor on contentious issues, which further contributes to the shrinking space for difference of opinion within Armenian society.”