168: Armenian Civil Society is Being Aggravated


In the Armenian reality an alarming situation has emerged around civil society. The latter is considered to be a relatively independent institution from political system. There is no exaggeration to say that this system, which is considered to be one of the more or less well-developed institutions, in now on the brink of extinction, at least in the sense that it has become a surrogate and serves interests diametrically opposite to its main goals.

For decades a considerable part of civil society organizations as well as expert and journalistic community getting financial support from Western organizations for the sake of fostering democracy, has been deviated from the realization of their main mission and inadvertently has become a party to the conflict present in the current political situation. And now they quite often act as government lawyers and as government accusers of those who criticize the current government.

Moreover, the blatant anti-democratic developments in the country’s socio-political life not only meet the disdain aforementioned segment, but also through their efforts the topics unwanted by the government are simply silenced.

There are a number of examples: the issue of Amulsar mine exploitation, which still remains insoluble by the government, highly disturbing facts present in the content of the conversation bugged between the heads of National Security Service of Armenia and Special Investigation Service of Armenia, the apparent terror of freedom of _expression_ on social media and outside of it, the obvious selective attitude within the judiciary, the country’s deteriorating economy, the willingness of the government to send RA Armed Forces personnel to Syria just to please the Russian Federation, and, finally, the recent developments around the NK conflict, which reached the most dangerous point ever witnessed throughout the negotiation process.

The above-mentioned issues has been manipulated by this very same group, which prior aim must have been, in fact, to detect and present all these issues to the public in time. Let us go into details issue by issue: it’s approximately 2 decades since many Western organizations have been continuously funding particular organization in the Republic of Armenia for protection of human rights. These funding sources are available to the public and the amount of the money allocated is more than sufficient to ensure proper response to human rights violations in the country.

Until the recent change of government these institutions responded promptly even to the slightest issues, but after the change of power their functions seem to have diametrically changed.

Aftermath the change of government vast majority of prominent representatives of the non-governmental organizations funded by Western grants, have in this or that way become involved in the government system (some have become involved in the SNCOs, some in the executive branch, some participated in Yerevan municipal elections becoming aldermen representing the ruling political force, names of the many will probably be found in the upcoming National Assembly snap election list representing the ruling political force) thus they have become governmental non-governmental organizations (GONGOs), meanwhile, these people continue to get financial support as non-governmental organizations, and, consequently, are obliged to respond to obvious violations of human rights, particularly, freedom of _expression_.

24 hours a day hate speech campaigns are run on Facebook by different fake accounts against those people, web-sites and organizations who speak out of the shortcomings of the current government. But those who are fed by Western grants in order to promote democracy in the Republic of Armenia, instead of responding to the hate speech attacks organized by thousands of fake accounts, are busy with looking for “lies” in the words of the government critics.

About a specific case: a couple of days ago a group of people in Maralik attacked the group of strongest critics of the government. None of those human rights defender organizations made a statement on this case, some of these human rights defenders even encouraged on social media what happened in Maralik.

The same worrisome situation is among the Western private and state-funded media outlets. It is important to note that Western foundations spend money on media in our country for we are considered to be a country with partly free media and these funds should be directed to creating alternative platforms to government propaganda.

Moreover, while assessing international freedom indexes, often some formal indicators are taken into account such as the amount of money funded to fight for freedoms and allocating money to experienced partners over the years. Now the donors do not even see that these funds are used for diametrically opposite purposes than it has been declared before.

After May 2018 all the Western-funded media have become government propaganda satellites. For instance, the most well-known Western country budget-funded media outlet has invested all of its media resources into promoting government propaganda.
It is already 2 months since the local authorities activities in Maralik have simply been paralyzed by a group of people, the rights of Amulsar mine employees have been violated and they cannot go to work, dissidents are attacked in Maralik, meanwhile the police remains indifferent to that, and media financed by the Western money for the sake of the prospect of creating free media, either totally ignore all these issues or send their crews to cover the people who act under direct patronage of the government.

There is also an interesting fact in the context of media freedom. The thing is that all those media groups that have never been funded by the Western organizations are relatively neutral in the media recently.

Rather disturbing signals are received by the expert community and in this case the consequences are likely to be more than dangerous. The experts once strongly criticizing the government have turned into “revolutionary figures”. One of them writes a book praising “revolution”, the other “justifies” the participation of Armenian troops in Syria in this or that way, another tries to explain, to put it mildly, the worrisome plight of the Armenian positions in the NK negotiation process, the next one tries to justify the deterioration of the country’s economy.

These people think that the society has forgotten how diligently they interfered in the foreign and domestic political developments over the past years and do not realize that their current “revolutionary” posture is a much bigger threat to Armenia’s security.

In Nakhichevan, the opponent is improving its positions, the Armenian positions in the NK peace process are weakening, and the leaders of the Minsk Group co-chairing countries one after another make statements outlining that the final settlement of the NK conflict is near, but the representatives of our expert community are bypassing these issues and try to silence the discourse around it by all possible means.

The shameless fact of having a military presence in Syria in order to please the Russian Federation by the current government is being attempted to present as mildly as possible by the expert community. And those who remain true to the expert impartiality and do not turn into “revolutionary” will be faced with harassment in social media by several thousands of fake accounts, which users, most likely, receive salaries at the expense of RA taxpayers.

Such a perversion of civil society should be of concern to all of us, not just to its donors as civil society is an important part of the country’s democratic structure. Meanwhile, this path is depriving Armenia of democracy and if until now we had only put the blame on the previous government, now the current government is companioned by the civil society representatives funded by the Western foundations as well as media outlets and the vast majority of expert community funded by the same source.

Narek Samsonyan