(Thursday, August 26)
Rafik Petrosian, chairman of the Armenian parliament’s committee on legal affairs, tells “Hayastani Hanrapetutyun” that fellow lawmakers must pave the way for the ouster of their opposition colleagues by voting next month to declare the opposition boycott of National Assembly sessions “unjustified.” Petrosian says the opposition deputies should not continue to live at the taxpayers’ expense for “doing nothing.” “Not only is the National Assembly discredited but the state suffers financially,” he argues.
“The opposition will not return to the parliament,” opposition leader Aram Sarkisian assures “Haykakan Zhamanak.” “And let them not try to intimidate us with police methods and various political blackmailing.”
Citing unnamed government sources, “Aravot” says that President Robert Kocharian is supporting a candidate representing Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian in Sunday’s by-election to the parliament from the Yeghvard constituency. His man opponent in the race represents the Orinats Yerkir Party of parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian. The paper says Kocharian wants to “show Orinats Yerkir and Artur Baghdasarian their place” for their failure to unequivocally endorse his April crackdown on the opposition.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” laments the Armenian athletes’ failure to win any medals at the Olympic Games in Athens which are drawing to a close. “The reasons for this are understandable,” the paper says. “Sport bureaucrats take part in political intrigues, flattering Robert Kocharian and Serzh Sarkisian and stealing petty cash from the state budget.”
In another report, “Haykakan Zhamanak” discusses the recent creation of the State Protection Service headed by Kocharian’s chief bodyguard, Grisha Sarkisian. “There are concerns that it will become a super-structure, a secret police that will gain control over all security structures and upon which Armenia’s political life will depend.” Sarkisian dismisses such concerns, though. He also says he will have “several hundred employees.”
“Azg” lays the blame for escalating violence against Armenian journalists on Kocharian. “The man responsible for the failure to end the atmosphere of violence against journalists is Robert Kocharian,” the paper declares. “The silence of Armenia’s leader is only creating fertile ground for more violence.”
According to “Aravot,” the Armenian authorities have always ignored and will continue to ignore such criticisms because they were not elected by the people. “Our government reproduces itself, while we perform the role of observers. That is why they are so cynical and unsavory.”
(Wednesday, August 25)
“Aravot” leaves blank space on one of its pages that was due to carry the pictures of expensive houses which have sprung up in a section of the resort town of Tsaghkadzor covered with forests until recently. The photographer who took those pictures was on Tuesday attacked and forced to surrender them to what appeared to be security guards of their wealthy and government-connected owners. Among them, the paper says, are the deputy chief of the national police, Armen Yeritsian, customs chief Armen Avetisian and tycoon Gagik Tsarukian.
“Aravot” adds that a special road cutting through the local forest has been built for President Robert Kocharian. “He has a habit of riding a snow-tractor there in the winter. So in order to make sure that our legitimate president is not hindered by any [tree] branch, they have plowed a road with a tractor.” The paper also claims that the picture storage card stolen from photographer Mkhitar Khachatrian was taken to the headquarters of the National Security Service, the former KGB, in Yerevan.
In a separate editorial titled “A country of shaven heads,” “Aravot” sees a direct link between the beating of Khachatrian and the mass smashing of TV and still cameras by individuals during an opposition rally on April 5. “The heroes that attacked journalists on April 5 saved their shaven heads with a light punishment. The court contented itself with a symbolic fine and the issue was closed. It is with that logic that they beat journalists, steal their cameras.” Those journalists who dare to take their cases to the court are then shown “who the masters of this country are.”
“Haykakan Zhamanak” also covers the incident with a front-page report. “It is noteworthy that both Mkhitar Khachatrian and [“Aravot” correspondent] Anna Israelian have not applied to the law-enforcement bodies.” The paper finds this “not only understandable but also acceptable,” arguing that Hovannes Varian, another deputy police chief who reportedly ordered the beating of one of its journalists on April 13, is “still at large.”
“In this case, it is absolutely clear that the attack on the journalist is directly connected with his professional and legal activity,” writes “Hayots Ashkhar.” “The bone-crackers aimed and perhaps were instructed to obstruct the journalist’s work at any cost.” The paper sympathetic to President Robert Kocharian urges all Armenian media outlets to send correspondents to Tsaghkadzor and photograph its luxury villas and shrinking forest.
“Azg” carries a joint statement by the Armenian Journalists Union and the Yerevan Press Club strongly condemning the violence. The statement says it was made possible by the authorities’ failure to punish the perpetrators of the previous attacks on journalists.
“Aravot” discloses what it says is yet another violent incident involving relatives of senior officials. The paper reports that the son of Arshaluys Paytian, a senior army general, was shot and wounded in the legs by a wealthy businessman in a dispute over a young woman. It says the shooting took place in a restaurant in downtown Yerevan late on Monday.