Armenia’s Court of Cassation has declared illegal a lower court’s decision to give a law-enforcement agency access to the recordings of phone calls of a newspaper editor facing criminal proceedings.
The Special Investigative Service (SIS) launched the proceedings against Knar Manukian shortly after her “Zhoghovurd” daily published a year ago leaked testimonies by ex-President Serzh Sarkisian and other former officials interrogated over the 2008 post-election unrest in Yerevan.
The SIS repeatedly questioned Manukian in connection with that it sees as illegal revelations, prompting accusations of harassment from the independent publication. After Manukian refused to disclose the source of the leak, the SIS asked a district court judge in Yerevan to allow it to obtain her cellphone records. The judge granted the request.
Manukian appealed against that decision after an SIS investigator informed her that he has the transcripts of her phone conversations with two other persons suspected of leaking the testimonies.
In a January 2020 ruling, the Court of Appeals backed the editor’s claim that the district court judge’s authorization of the disclosure of her phone calls was illegal.
Prosecutors filed an appeal against the ruling in the higher Court of Cassation in February. The court rejected the appeal in what Manukian hailed on Wednesday as a victory for all Armenian journalists.
“We aimed to prove that the SIS and the Office of the Prosecutor-General broke the law and we succeeded in doing that,” Manukian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “The current authorities must make an appropriate evaluation of the actions of the SIS and prosecutors.”
The editor again made clear that she will not disclose the source of the sensitive information published by her paper. “I would rather face the strictest punishment, including arrest, than reveal my sources,” she said.
Manukian was most recently interrogated by the SIS in December. A few days later unknown intruders broke into the empty offices of “Zhoghovurd” and caused havoc there. They did not steal anything, according to the newspaper staff.
Taguhi Tovmasian, the paper’s founder who is currently a parliament deputy representing the ruling My Step alliance, suggested that the intruders “looked for information.” Tovmasian described the overnight break-in as a serious threat to press freedom in Armenia. Nobody has been detained in connection with it.