December 17, 2018

Press Freedom

Armenia

Armenia July 12, 2006

H.E. Robert Kocharian
President
Office of the President
26 Marshal Paghramian Street
Yerevan 375095
Republic of Armenia
Facsimile: (011.374.1) 52-15-81

Your Excellency:

We are following with great concern the recent arrest of Arman Babadzhanian, editor-in-chief of Zhamanak Yerevan, who as of this writing has been held in jail without bail since his detention June 26th.

Our understanding is that Babadzhanian is charged with fabricating documents in a fraudulent attempt to evade military service, a charge that carries a penalty of up to five years in prison. According to the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), the alleged forgeries are said to have taken place in 2002.

We join many of the world’s press-freedom organization in our suspicion that Babadzhanian’s real transgression is editing a newspaper known for its critical reporting of the government. We note, for instance, that Babadzhanian was detained just a few days after Zhamanak Yerevan published an article questioning the independence of the Armenian prosecutor general’s office. According to published reports, the prosecutor general responded by summoning Babadzhanian for questioning as a witness in a criminal case but then jailed him for the alleged forgery.

As you may know by now, the Yerevan Press Club, Internews Armenia, the Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression, the Helsinki Committee of Armenia, and other press-freedom groups have petitioned the prosecutor general’s office for Babadzhanian’s release on bail. Their petition has thus far been denied — highly unusual in such a case, as our colleagues at IWPR point out, and more typically reserved for notorious felons.

Editors of seven Armenian newspapers have issued a joint declaration calling Babadzhanian’s arrest an effort to intimidate Armenia’s free press. We are too well aware that Armenia’s journalists have contended with unprecedented stresses from official sources in recent years, particularly since the enactment of legislation hobbling the coverage of terrorism in 2005.

We can think of no better way of sending a message on behalf of Armenian democracy, Your Excellency, than by doing all in your power to secure the prompt release of Arman Babadzhanian.

Respectfully yours,
Kevin McDermott     
Norman A . Schorr
Freedom of the Press Committee

cc:

 

Prime Minister Andranik Markaryan

Office of the Prime Minister

Government Building #1

Republic Square

Yerevan 385010

Republic of Armenia

Fax: (011.374.1) 15-10-35/ 52-94-43

 

Tatoul Markarian

Ambassador of Armenia to the U.S.A.

Embassy of the Republic of Armenia

2225 R Street, NW

Washington, DC 20008

Fax: (202) 319-2982

 

Ambassador Movses Abelian

Permanent Representative

Permanent Mission of the Republic of Armenia

to the United Nations

119 East 36th Street

New York, NY 10016

Fax: (212) 686-3934

 

John M. Evans

U.S. Ambassador to Armenia

Embassy of the United States of America

7020 Yerevan Place

Yerevan

Armenia

Fax: (011.374.1) 52-08-00

 

(OR: U.S. Embassy – Yerevan , Armenia

c/o U.S. Department of State

Washington , DC 20521 )