(Saturday, May 14)
“Aravot” says that not all statements made by Amnesty International must be taken at face value, commenting on the human rights group’s latest annual report. In particular, the paper disagrees with Amnesty’s characterization of young Armenian men jailed for refusing military or civilian service as “prisoners of conscience.” “If the organization means that those 73 men are sect members, do not want to serve because of their religious beliefs and have not been offered an alternative service, then that’s what they should have written,” it says in an editorial. It says Amnesty International should have also said more about Armenia’s political prisoners.
“Hayots Ashkhar” is ambivalent about a European Union statement that welcomes recent “positive political developments” in Armenia and at the same time calls on the Armenian authorities to free all opposition members remaining in prison. The paper disagrees with the EU’s assertion that the authorities restricted freedom of assembly in the country until recently, saying that Armenian opposition groups have always been able to rally supporters in the center of Yerevan. It argues that no major opposition rally has been broken up in the last three years. The EU’s assessment of the Armenian government’s respect for freedom of assembly should not be confined to Yerevan’s Liberty Square, it says.
“168 Zham” claims that abuses within Armenia’s state pension fund are continuing despite the recent sacking of its head, Vazgen Khachikian, and continuing corruption allegations made by the Armenian parliament’s Audit Chamber. The paper says officials handing out pensions and other social benefits still illegally withhold 200 drams from every payment. It says this is another proof that government pledges to combat corruption should not be taken seriously. “The authorities just can’t fight against themselves. It’s like forcing an alcoholic to fight against vodka sales,” concludes the paper.
“Haykakan Zhamanak” brushes aside Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian’s claims that his government has already managed to improve Armenia’s business environment. “This is nonsense,” claims the opposition daily. “A country’s business environment can not improve amid a fall in living standards. Such a thing has never happened anywhere … Our economy is not developing and everyone except Tigran Sarkisian probably knows that.” The paper says that Armenian businesspeople may now be spending less time on enterprise registration but they still cannot compete with powerful “oligarchs.” And tax authorities continue to inspect and harass them even if they can submit their financial reports electronically, it claims.