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HOMOPHOBIA IS BEING REGARDED AS FREEDOM OF SPEECH IN ARMENIA

Karen Tovmasyan

The decision of the Kentron-Nork Marash districts court has raised a great concern among the liberal circles in Armenia.

 

The victory of Austria's representative Konchita Wurst in Eurovision 2014 raised a great debate whether the image of Konchita played a major role or the song itself. Famous Armenian duet Inga&AnushArshakyan sisters who represented Armenia in 2009 and were among the Armenian juries of Eurovision song contest, judging about Konchita's victory said "She was as disgusting as mentally ill people".

This announcement became a reason for a strong criticism against Arshakyan sisters, and during the Radio Liberty's online interview many citizens protested against them in a Facebook, saying that it is intolerable to criticize mentally ill people. Not long ago after this demonstration "Iravunk" newspaper published an article titled "They are protecting the interests of world gay lobby: Blaclist of the nation's and state and treasons." (http://iravunk.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=16435%3A2014-05-17-16-18-23&catid=41%3Alurer&Itemid=57).

 In the article the editor in chief of the newspaper Hovhannes Galajyan was calling to isolate people who participated in this online protest, to fire them from their jobs, not to provide public service to them and not to greet them in the streets. The newspaper also published the links of their Facebook profiles and made them personal targets for homophobic groups.

Some of the individuals included in the list took this case to the court demanding 5 000 000 drams compensation for violating their honor and dignity. This case became one of the most discussed topics in Armenian media and social networks. Society was actively  criticizing this decision, saying that the verdict was expected because the owner of the newspaper is an MP from the ruling party Hayk Babukhanyan.

Artur Minasyan, the editor in chief of Newsline.am popular outlet who's name was also included in the blacklist of  "Iravunk" newspaper, refused to join the lawsuit.

"The main reason why I didn't join the lawsuit was that I surely know that there is no separation of power in Armenia. There is no independent court. That is why I think it is senseless to go to the court to restore my rights. Moreover the owner and the head of the editorial council of the newspaper is a representative of the parliamentary ruling majority."-Artur says.

Another person also included in the list 22 years old Davit Tadevosyan in a interview to newscafe.ge also noticed, that he was sure, the court would not make a satisfactory verdict but anyway decided to take the case to the court.

"In Armenia intolerance is being encouraged from the highest level. The hate speech, dirty propaganda and liquidation calls are being accepted as an expression of freedom of speech, Armenia is not a secure country for LGBT and liberal thinking people.

In a country like Armenia where the rulers take the power without elections there can be no independent juridical system. We are living in a State, where constitution doesn't work, nobody is protected against the discrimination but anyway me and my friends decided to voice this issue, and if we don't restore our violated rights in Armenia, we will take this lawsuit to the European court".

The chairman of the committee for the protection of freedom of speech Ashot Melikyan says "The comments of the court and officials are not convincing, and I think there was a insult and according to the civil code it must be punished.

In the article were used such expressions as "Konchita called human junk", is a evident insult and it is difficult to call as estimate judgment. And the author is also calling for 0 tolerance and that everything should be done that ordinary people do not have any contacts with them,  they had no chance to work in a state services, the employees should not employ them or fire from the job contains not only defamation but also violation of human rights"

 The editor in chief of "Irvunk"  newspaper Hovhannes Galajyan responding to the question if he accepts, that in the article were expressions which can be regarded as violation of human rights said "Whom you mean saying human rights? If homosexuals then I don't think they have any rights. They are degenerate sort, who should be isolated not to spoil the society if surely we are speaking about a healthy society."

We also tried to speak to another representative of the ruling party, the chairman of the state-legal issues parliamentary commission Hovhannes Sahakyan, but listening the question he said he doesn't know the topic (but few days ago he gave an interview about this verdict to LGBTnews.am saying that gays are a danger for the country) and hang out the phone.