Democracy Watch: Violent dispersion of protesters and media polarization

Democracy Watch: Violent dispersion of protesters and media polarization



Violent Dispersion of Protesters in Kirants


Police have violently dispersed demonstrators protesting the handover of four villages to Azerbaijan. The detainment of three dozen protesters who were blocking the road in Kirants, Tavush region violates Armenian citizens’ right to peaceful assembly.


Armenian human rights defender Artur Sakunts notes that “when peaceful demonstrators are detained, law enforcement must provide valid justification for their actions,” and continues highlighting that in this case, the police’s actions contravene both local laws and the European Convention on Human Rights. Furthermore, the response by law enforcement appears disproportionate to the nature of the protests. Physical force should only be employed by police in exceptional circumstances, and even then, citizens must be duly informed of the intention to use force. Kirants residents assert they received no prior warning before the police intervened forcefully.


Several independent civil society organizations have criticized the police for resorting to disproportionate measures. An excerpt from a statement endorsed by a group of NGOs reads: “In this regard, the instances of the police using clearly disproportionate force against protesting citizens in the village of Kirants, and the instances of illegal detention of peaceful demonstrators are inexcusable. […] The police’s suppression of residents’ legitimate concerns and struggles is not justifiable and can lead to increased feelings of insecurity and mistrust among residents.”


Criminal charges initiated for insulting PM’s wife


A protester from the National Democratic Pole, a fringe nationalist group, was charged with a criminal offense. This happened after he, alongside others, called the Prime Minister’s wife, Anna Hakobyan, a traitor and genocider, among other insults, at the Armenian Genocide Memorial. The crime was labeled as “public speech intended to incite or promote hatred, discrimination, intolerance, or hostility.” While recognizing the damaging nature of such language, the government’s actions are a misuse of legislative measures, aiming to silence critics and restrict freedom of speech.


Reporters Without Borders Armenia 2024 Report


RSF’s 2024 Armenia report reveals a complex picture. While noting some progress, the report highlights that Armenia’s media landscape reflects the political polarization in the country, with many outlets aligned with various political figures, both current officials and individuals tied to the former regime.


While independent platforms like and thrive, mainstream media face pressure over editorial independence. Legal reforms have not adequately protected press freedom, with disinformation and gag orders persisting. Economic constraints, such as limited advertising revenue and state control, hinder media independence. Journalism faces societal disdain and hate speech, with politicians exacerbating hostility. Safety concerns arise from border clashes with Azerbaijan and persistent violence against journalists, often without consequences.


ANIF Investigation


recent Civilnet investigation revealed that the Armenian National Interests Fund (ANIF) entered into a $30,000 contract with Ernst and Young audit company’s Yerevan offices. The contract was meant to assess the salaries of high-ranking staff within the ANIF, a state-owned enterprise, and to compare them with those of similar companies abroad. ANIF initiated this analysis in response to inspections by Armenia’s State Supervision Service. Importantly, ANIF maintained control over the selection of companies used as a benchmark for salary comparison.



Democracy Watch is a joint initiative by CivilNet and the Regional Center for Democracy and Security.