Individuals were free to criticize the government in private and online without fear of arrest, the US Department of State in 2018 Human Rights Report on Armenia.
According to the report, broadcast and larger-circulation print media generally lacked diversity of political opinion and objective reporting. Besides, it said, social media users freely expressed opinions about the new government and former authorities on various social media platforms.
It noted, however, that the use of fake social media accounts and attempts to manipulate the media, however, increased dramatically after the “velvet revolution.”
According to media watchdogs, individuals used manipulation technologies, including hybrid websites, controversial bloggers, “troll factories,” fake Facebook groups and fake stories, to attack the government.
On violence and harassment, the Department of State highlighted several cases of violence and professional intimidation against journalists during the April protests that led to the change in government.
An estimated 22 reporters and camera operators were abused by police during April 13-23. While using cameras to film the protests and arrests, several reporters were assaulted by police officers. There were cases in which police damaged reporters’ equipment to prevent them from filming. Reporters also were injured by police using special means, such as stun grenades and nonlethal weapons. A number of media representatives reported being attacked by police in plain clothes.
The report reminds that on April 14, a group of demonstrators led by then opposition MP Nikol Pashinyan broke into the Public Radio building, demanding coverage of their protest. The protesters broke one of the studio doors and seized key radio studios. The criminal charge of organizing mass disorders was later dropped.
The Department of State notes that the new government has taken steps to investigate and punish abuse, especially at high levels of government and law enforcement. Furthermore, there have been no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.
According to the report, Pashinyan’s government gave new impetus to accountability for the events surrounding the aftermath of the 2008 presidential election, in which eight civilians and two police officers were killed.
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