A relative of a woman blamed for spreading the novel coronavirus in the Armenian town of Echmiadzin has filed a crime report with the public prosecutor, alleging illegal acquisition of personal data and publication in the press and social media of information about infected persons, their photographs as well as insults against them.
It became known late last week that a woman who had arrived from Italy disregarded healthcare recommendations and attended a family occasion in Echmiadzin involving dozens of guests. The unnamed woman later tested positive for the novel coronavirus causing a highly contagious and potentially deadly disease known as COVID-19. After her hospitalization dozens of people from her surroundings were placed under 14-day quarantines. Along with another incident of mass infection they now account for the bulk of Armenia’s 122 coronavirus cases reported so far.
Amid the news of sanitary cordons being set up around Echmiadzin to curb the further spread of the infection and later the introduction of a state of emergency countrywide many users on Facebook and other social media in Armenia gave vent to their anger over what they described as irresponsible conduct. Some have used offensive language and ridicule against the woman. Her photograph also appeared online.Armenia’s ombudsman Arman Tatoyan interfered by calling on social media users to stop insulting the women and degrading her dignity.
Lawyer Gohar Hovhannisian, who represents the interests of the currently quarantined woman, said that her relative who lives abroad filed the crime report, considering that illegal actions have been committed against his relative in Armenia.
She expressed confidence that the Prosecutor’s Office and the police will be impartial in investigating the case and that the offenders will be called to account.
The Prosecutor’s Office said the report was forwarded to the police to investigate the matter.
According to Hovhannisian, the photograph of the woman was published on both real and fake accounts. “It affects the mental state of a person. Imagine that a person is sick and such expressions are made against her or him and her or his personal data are published,” she said.
Human rights activist Zaruhi Hovhannisian (no relation to the lawyer) stressed that the protection of personal data is enshrined in Armenia’s law, adding that in this case the disclosure of data made it possible to identify the person. “Moreover, under the law on medical care and public services it is forbidden to disclose medical secrets, talk about people’s medical examinations and the course of their treatment as well as to pass these data to third parties,” she said.
Earlier this week, a shop owner in Yerevan filed a report with the police, alleging that he had been attacked by relatives of the Echmiadzin woman for posting a joke about her on Facebook.
The police said they had identified and questioned three persons over the incident, but did not reveal their identities.