“Azg” says that only those unfamiliar with the state of affairs in Armenia could think that the Armenian government did not influence a Yerevan court that gave the seven-year prison sentence given to opposition leader Nikol Pashinian this week. “If this was the result of a political decision, then it is an absolutely wrong decision because, first of all, it opens a new front of struggle for the already faded opposition movement,” writes the paper. “Secondly, it will hurt the country’s image as it will be used against Armenia in international bodies. After all, the sentenced person is a journalist and newspaper editor.”
“Thirdly, in effect, he was sentenced because of his political activities,” continues “Azg.” It also argues that former President Levon Ter-Petrosian has remained free despite playing a much more important role in the events leading up to the March 2008 clashes in Yerevan.
“Kapital” reports that the World Press Freedom Committee condemned the court ruling against Pashinian on Wednesday. The group said in a statement that Pashinian only exercised his constitutional right to free speech on March 1-2, 2008.
Suren Sureniants, a senior member of the opposition Hanrapetutyun party, tells “Aravot” that low voter turnout in the recent parliamentary by-election in Yerevan, which was contested by Pashinian, exposed a lack of public trust in the Armenian opposition. Sureniants believes that the opposition has stopped participating in “the formation of our political agenda.” “After Serzh Sarkisian came up with the initiative to normalize Turkish-Armenian relations and the Armenian National Congress (HAK) stopped being an initiator, the rules of the game inside the country have effectively changed,” he says. “They are now dictated by the authorities, which is very bad.” The oppositionist says the HAK should have avoided “populist” statements on the Turkish-Armenian dialogue and the Karabakh peace process and not feared at least partly agreeing with President Serzh Sarkisian’s policy on these issues. “We are in deadlock now,” adds Sureniants.
Armen Harutiunian, the state human rights ombudsman, tells “Haykakan Zhamanak” that he largely agrees with Freedom House’s latest report critical of Armenia’s human rights record. “Of course the report does not say that Armenia is a military dictatorship because that would have been very subjective,” he says. Harutiunian believes that Armenia is only an “authoritarian country.”
Lragir.am seeks to disprove the view that President Sarkisian would have liked to change the political and economic system which he inherited from his predecessor Robert Kocharian but is simply unable to do that. “Serzh Sarkisian himself has not publicly described that heritage as a burden yet,” says the online journal. “What is more, Serzh Sarkisian seems to be quite successfully building his authority on that heritage for the time being.” The news service points to the way in which his government handled the elections in Yerevan and Pashinian’s trial and his refusal to free all “political prisoners.”