Andranik Kocharian, who heads the parliament’s committee on defense and security affairs, complained about the annoyance of journalists who tried to ask questions to Defense Minister Suren Papikian while the latter came to the National Assembly to present a new army reform package on Tuesday.
Speaking from the parliament tribute, Kocharian compared the journalists who gathered in the parliament’s corridor for a possible interview with the minister who rarely talks to the media to the “Great Wall of China.”
Implying that there were a lot of young males among the media representatives, including cameramen, he reminded them of the government plans to replace three-month training assemblies for selected army reservists with shorter annual trainings that would embrace all men liable for military service and include a two-week period of combat duty.
“Three-month assemblies are being replaced by 25-day training gatherings, in which everyone will participate, and this “Great Wall of China” will disappear,” Kocharian said.
The remarks sparked criticism in civil society against the lawmaker who is known to have made controversial statements also before.
“It is not Andranik Kocharian’s job to say where journalists should be and how they should work,” said Ashot Melikian, the head of the Committee To Protect Freedom of Expression.
Melikian said that threatening journalists that they would be taken for combat duty at the frontline is unethical and unacceptable.
“Opinions of this style, which seems to have become a norm for Andranik Kocharian, are simply unacceptable,” Melikian said.
The head of the Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression also called for a better communication between official and the media.
“It’s time for senior officials, especially those in charge of the military and law-enforcement sectors, to reconsider their manner of work and realize that they have worked very poorly with the public in recent years,” Melikian said.
This is not the first time that Kocharian makes statements that cause a controversy in society. During the opposition rallies demanding the resignation of the government last spring the head of the parliament’s defense and security committee suggested that male protesters could be drafted into the army and sent to man the restive border with Azerbaijan. Opposition activists then criticized Kocharian for equating military service with punishment.