A former high-ranking police official threatened to shun journalists “distorting” his statements as he took over as governor of Armenia’s northwestern Shirak province on Friday.
Ashot Gizirian was named by President Serzh Sarkisian to run the region bordering Turkey on Thursday. Deputy Prime Minister Armen Gevorgian introduced him to the regional administration staff in Shirak’s capital Gyumri the next day.
Speaking to journalists afterwards, Gizirian pledged to be “open and transparent” to mass media. But he also warned, after telling them to switch off cameras and voice recorders, that he “will not cooperate” with those media outlets which he thinks misrepresent his statements.
Shirak is home to over a dozen television and ration stations and newspapers. One of them, GALA TV, has been at loggerheads with the local and central governments since 2007 and is still at risk of closure. Also, Yervan-based media outlets have correspondents in Gyumri.
Asked about reasons for his surprise appointment, Gizirian said: “It happened so that I started my professional activities in the Shirak region. I think may appointment has to do with that.”
Gevorgian, who is also Armenia’s minister of local self-government, gave the same reason. “Ashot Gizirian’s appointment was conditioned by the fact that most of his professional life was spent in the Shirak region,” he told reporters. “He knows the region very well and, despite working in Yerevan in recent years, has not stayed away from it.”
A native of Nagorno-Karabakh, Gizirian served as head of Shirak’s police department from 1996-2000 before being promoted more high-level security posts in Yerevan. He ran the powerful Sixth Directorate of the Armenian police, tasked with combating organized crime and drug trafficking, from 2002-2008. The feared police unit is believed to have been actively involved in the 2008 post-election crackdown on the Armenian opposition.
Shortly after Sarkisian was sworn in as president of the republic in April 2008, Gizirian became the chief of an investigating arm of the Armenian government’s main tax collection agency. The police general was appointed last year as head of a Justice Ministry department managing Armenia’s prisons.