On February 19, 2018, the professional activities of the journalists were hindered at Yerevan Municipality. Artur Gevorgyan, the Head of the Department of Information and Public Relations of the Yerevan Municipality, demanded the A1+ TV company journalists and Radio Liberty reporters to leave the building and justified it by “internal regulations in the administrative building”. Afterwards, Gevorgyan sent letters to both media outlets calling them to punish their journalists.
However, it turned out that there is no such regulation mentioned by Gevorgyan. Moreover, in his letter aimed at calling the journalists to account, Gevorgyan distorted the requirement of the law.
On February 19, the leader of Yerkir Tsirani faction of Yerevan City Council accompanied the journalists of A1+ TV Company and Azatutyun radio station in the Yerevan Municipality building.
Postanjyan, in particular, invited the journalists to the recreation room of the municipality drivers where the journalists recorded their playing cards. Afterwards, Artur Gevorgyan, the Head of the Department of Information and Public Relations of the Municipality, approached them and claimed that the journalists and Postanjyan violated the “internal regulation” of the municipality, and based on this regulation he demanded that the journalists leave the administrative building of the municipality.
Immediately after the incident, the Union of Informed Citizens requested the municipality to provide the mentioned “internal regulation”, however, it turned out that there is no such regulation available. Arthur Gegorgyan personally stated this in response to our inquiry, explaining that by internal regulation he meant the rules of the municipality building and the security control.
Journalists to be punished?
Following the incident in the municipality Arthur Gevorgyan sent quite interesting letters to both media outlets enquiring what measures the editors had taken to call to account the journalists who had violated the law.
The municipality official particularly stated, “On February 19, 2018 in the recreation room assigned for the municipality drivers located on the first floor of the administrative building at the address of 1 Argishti Street,Yerevan, a video recording was made without a prior warning to the people in that area. Then, the video footage was disseminated through electronic media and social networks.
As per Article 7, part 2 of the RA Law on Mass Media, it is prohibited to disseminate information obtained by video and audio recording conducted without notifying the person of the fact or recording, when the person expected to be out of sight or earshot of the implementer of video and audio recording and has taken sufficient measures to ensure it (…).
Based on the abovementioned, I kindly ask you to inform what measures you have taken against thejournalist….for violating abovementioned law.”
However, it should be noted that the law clearly states that the dissemination of video is prohibited if the person is not notified or expected to be out of sight of camera recording. That is to say, this part refers to the secret filming (hidden camera). However, if the person can see that the camera is recording him/her, then there is no need to warn him/her.
Furthermore, the secrete filming by journalists is not punishable in any way (unless the information disclosed is a family issue matter or a state secret).
Whereas, in the given case, the issue would concern the secret filming if the drivers, that were playing cards in the Yerevan municipality, were blind and could not see quite large video cameras of two media outlets pointed at them.
The ignorance of the police general
Responding to the inquiry of the Union of Informed Citizens about the actions of the police in the Yerevan municipality, the Head of the General Department of State Protection of the RA Police mentioned that “the police officers have carried out their actions … upon the request of the Head of the Information and Public Relations Department, the entity authorized to issue filming permit.”
However, everyone in the city hall has the right to make video shooting. There is no legal regulation that limits the filming in the administrative building of the municipality. Moreover, the head of the Legal Department of the Municipality has also confirmed this fact in his letter.
Furthermore, it is a subject of separate discussion why the Police Major General is convinced that anyone in the Yerevan Municipality can permit or prohibit the shooting, while his/her subordinate police officers must follow the instructions of that person.