By Karine Kalantarian
The editor of “Haykakan Zhamanak,” a leading Armenian daily highly critical of the authorities, was on Friday formally charged with slandering a senior government official, facing his second criminal prosecution in just over two years.
The editor, Nikol Pashinian, has already served a one-year suspended jail sentence after being convicted of similar charges by a Yerevan court in January 2000.
The latest criminal case against Pashinian came after Hovannes Yeritsian, the controversial head of Armenia’s civil aviation agency, lodged a complaint with the office of prosecutor-general, saying that he was insulted by “Haykakan Zhamanak.” The accusation stems from an allegedly slanderous caption that accompanied a front-page photograph of Yeritsian in the November 6 issue of the newspaper.
“Degenerate officials recruited for the civil service,” the caption read.
Pashinian has rejected the defamation charge and claims that the authorities are again trying to silence his paper. His lawyers have appealed to the prosecutor’s office, calling for the criminal proceedings to be scrapped.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” is one of the country’s best selling publications largely thanks to its hard-hitting coverage of President Robert Kocharian and the government. It is believed to be linked to some well-known allies of former president Levon Ter-Petrosian.