A Clash of Freedoms: Armenian Journalists Denied Access to Interview Political Prisoner Armen Ashotyan

Feb 27 2024

Imagine standing at the gates of 'Nubarashen', a name that resonates with the echoes of unresolved stories and silenced voices. Here, at this criminal-executive institution, a confrontation unfolds between the press and the pillars of justice in Armenia, a tussle not of fists but of fundamental rights. At the heart of this struggle lies Armen Ashotyan, the vice-president of the Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) and a political prisoner, whose voice journalists sought to amplify, only to be met with denial. This is not merely a story of denied access; it's a narrative about the intricate dance of democracy, where every step and misstep counts.

On February 16, a collective of Armenian journalists found their application to interview Armen Ashotyan unceremoniously rejected. The reason provided was a puzzling one; Ashotyan had apparently exhausted his visitation rights for the month. This rationale sparked disbelief and frustration among the journalists, who argued that the law allows for at least two short visits per month, with the potential for more. This incident wasn't just about a denied request; it was perceived as a symptom of a larger malaise affecting journalistic freedom and the right to information in Armenia.

The rejection letter, steeped in bureaucratic language, cited Article 15 of the RA Law "On Keeping Arrested and Detained Persons", but failed to convince. The journalists, well-versed in the laws of their land, pointed out inconsistencies and potential biases in the decision-making process. They saw this as a direct interference from higher political echelons, including Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, aimed at stifling press freedom. This wasn't just a matter of protocol or policy; it was seen as a deliberate obstruction, a means to control the narrative and suppress dissenting voices within Armenian society.

The refusal to grant journalists access to Ashotyan raises significant questions about the balance between security, order, and the fundamental rights of freedom of _expression_ and press freedom. These events resonate beyond the walls of 'Nubarashen', touching upon the core values that underpin a democratic society. The right of prisoners to communicate with the media, unless there are compelling reasons to restrict this right, is a cornerstone of press freedom and transparency. This incident, therefore, is not an isolated grievance but a reflection of the challenges facing journalistic freedom in Armenia and possibly beyond.

In the end, the clash at 'Nubarashen' serves as a poignant reminder of the delicate equilibrium between state authority and individual freedoms. It underscores the importance of vigilance and advocacy in safeguarding the rights that enable societies to flourish. As this narrative unfolds, it serves as a testament to the enduring struggle for transparency, accountability, and the unyielding spirit of those who seek to bring light to the shadows.