The 16th episode of the “Banadzev Akumb” TV program on the Armenia TV channel aired on February 18, 2018, touched upon the brawl that erupted at the Yerevan city council meeting between the council members of Yerkir Tsirani and Republican parties.
The guest speakers of the program were the Head of Yelk Bloc Fraction at Yerevan City Council Davit Khazhakyan, the President of “Armenian PR Association” scientific-informational NGO Astghik Avetisyan, and Facebook user Artur Danielyan. During the mentioned program, a number of false statements were made.
Justification of Violence
One of the panelists, Arthur Danielyan, described the violence against the members of Yerkir Tsirani party as “self-defense”.
After the brawl erupted, the council member Marine Khachatrayn [representing Yerkir Tsirani], was hit by a member of the ruling Republican Party Edmon Kirakosyan in response to a slap that she gave to him initially. Although she was the first to hit Kirakosyan, nevertheless the violence against Khachatryan that followed this incident cannot be described as self-defense.
The striking evidence of this is the footage that depicts how karateist Gor Vardanyan [city council member of the Republican Party] approached Marine Khachatryan from behind, while she was arguing with the other council members, and forcibly threw her out of the session hall.
Moreover, it is known that the police launched an investigation and initiated a criminal case under Article 258, Part 1 (“Hooliganism”) and Article 118, Part 1 (“Assault”) of the RA Criminal Code. It should be noted, however, that under the Criminal Code, hooliganism can not be a means of defense (self-defense).
Furthermore, Danielyan claimed that the protest, that followed the brawl, was planned in advance.
«Only minutes after their [TN: Yerkir Tsirani] action, our version of Femen was standing in front of the city hall with posters, along with some NGOs that are engaged in the protection of sexual minorities’ rights…only minutes later…. that is to say, this was a deliberate operation.”- stated Danielyan and as a conclusion added that “there are donors in the country that create these tension groupswhile some people receive grants for initiating protests”.
However, this “logical chain of ideas”, that aired on TV, is based on a lie. The brawl in the city hall started at approximately 11:45a.m., while the protesters gathered in front of the city hall at 5:15p.m. Thus, what is presented as “minutes after” was in fact about 5 and a half hours later.
Without looking into the details of these conclusions that were initially based on false information, we would like to add that the footage also shows how the demonstrators gathered in front of the municipality prepare their posters on the spot. Moreover, there are no grounds for the allegations that grants were provided by some organizations for the organization of the rally.
As an option for reducing tensions in the Yerevan Council (and not only), the speaker suggested legislative amendments which provide that these organizations should call themselves as foreign agents: “We just copy and paste legislation of the USA and we replicate everything in Armenia … all the structures (organizations) that are financed from foreign funds must officially mention in their name that they are foreign agents.”
However, the US Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) implies that only natural persons and legal entities whose economic or political activity serves foreign interests should be registered as “foreign agents”. Whereas, the proposed legal regulation suggested by Danielyan operates in Russia and in other less democratic countries. Russian Ambassador to Armenia Ivan Volinkin has previously proposed to adopt such legislation in Armenia.
Moreover, in Armenia the body that receives the largest foreign funds and grants is the Government. Over the last ten years the Armenian Government received more than half a billion USD from USA, EU and other donors. The largest beneficiaries of foreign grants are the Ministries of Defense, Justice, and Nature Protection as well as the Police.
In conclusion, it should be noted that none of these obviously false allegations were questioned by the program host Artak Aleksanyan. While preparing for the program, the host should have at least got acquainted with the information about the violence in the municipality and the rally that followed it.