By Anush Dashtents
A Yerevan court on Wednesday rejected a petition to end criminal proceedings against Nikol Pashinian, the editor of the independent daily “Haykakan Zhamanak” charged with slandering a senior government official.
The court ruled that state prosecutors should carry on with their investigation into a complaint lodged by Hovannes Yeritsian, the controversial head of the Armenian civil aviation agency. Yeritsian claims that he was insulted by “Haykakan Zhamanak.”
The relevant accusations formally leveled against Pashinian stem from an allegedly offensive 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.
The editor, who is facing his second criminal prosecution in just over two years, reiterated on Wednesday that his newspaper did not mean to insult anybody. He told the presiding judge, Gayane Karakhanian, that neither the prosecutors nor Yeritsian can prove the charges.
Pashinian’s lawyers urged the judge to throw out the case, arguing that there are no sufficient grounds to prosecute their client. Their appeal was turned down, however. Karakhanian also refused to annul the prosecutors’ decision obligating Pashinian not to be absent from the city pending the inquiry.
Journalists were not allowed to attend the court session which proceeded behind the closed doors at the request of the prosecution.
The case against Pashinian has been condemned by a local media association which views it as a threat to press freedom in Armenia. Most Armenian parties represented in the parliament have also criticized it.