The controversial lawmaker, Vahagn Aleksanian, lashed out at Armenian TV channels in a speech delivered on the parliament floor last week. He claimed that almost all of them have been disseminating “hate speech” against Pashinian and his family members since Armenia’s defeat in the 2020 war with Azerbaijan.
“They are not journalists, they are verbal prostitutes,” Aleksanian said, drawing strong condemnation from opposition lawmakers and Armenia’s leading press freedom groups.
More than a dozen such organizations issued a joint statement last Friday demanding that the ruling Civil Contract party public denounce Aleksanian’s insults. They warned that failure to do so would mean that Pashinian’s political team approves and encourages such rhetoric.
Pashinian, who himself is a former journalist and newspaper editor, defended on Monday his loyalist’s scandalous comments.
“If I was still a journalist … and first and foremost honesty served my profession, I would not attribute those comments to myself,” he told Armenian state television.
The media associations also called on the Armenian parliament to form an ad hoc ethics commission that would investigate and evaluate Aleksanian’s conduct.
Pativ Unem’s Taguhi Tovmasian, who chairs the parliament’s standing committee on human rights, said that her opposition bloc will propose a relevant decision to the National Assembly in the coming days.
The decision must be backed by the parliament majority representing Civil Contract. Lawmakers from Pashinian’s party declined to comment on the opposition initiative.
Pointing to Pashinian’s remarks, Tovmasian suggested that Civil Contract is unlikely to agree to the ethics inquiry. “But we should try,” she said.
“After Pashinian’s words, I can say for certain that the ruling force will not agree to set up the ethics commission,” said Gegham Manukian of the opposition Hayastan alliance.
In the course of last year Armenian media watchdogs repeatedly accused Pashinian’s administration of seeking to curb press freedom in the country. In particular, they denounced government-backed bills that tripled maximum legal fines for “slander” and made it a crime to gravely insult state officials and public figures.