Armenia: New report paints bleak picture for country's independent media, human rights activists and LGBTI community

A shocking new report from Amnesty International published today reveals an alarming culture of persecution in Armenia against both critics of the ruling regime and the country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI) community.

The 20-page report, Armenia: No space for difference, exposes the harassment and intimidation suffered by civil society activists and journalists who question the mainstream view of the country’s conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.

The report also reveals discrimination and attacks on LGBTI activists and people, and the unwillingness of the authorities to protect them.

In 2011, a survey by the Armenian human rights group, Public Information and Need for Knowledge, found 71.5% believed the state should take measures to fight against homosexuals. Since then posters have appeared across the city of Yerevan calling for citizens to “fight against homosexuality” and claiming “homosexuals are leading our country to destruction”. The views have been echoed by Armenia’s ruling Republican Party and Parliament’s Deputy Speaker Eduard Sharmazanov.

Through national and international obligations the Armenian authorities have committed to ensure that activists can carry out their work without interference, obstacles, discrimination or fear of retaliation.

Amnesty International’s researcher on Armenia, Natalia Nozadze, said:

“This contrasts starkly with the reality in Armenia – public officials condone violence against those with dissenting opinions. The targets of such attacks are often left without adequate protection and offences against them go unpunished, which has a chilling effect on others.

“Frequently the result is that journalists and human rights defenders self-censor on contentious issues, which further contributes to the shrinking space for difference of opinion within Armenian society.

“The ability to exercise the right to freedom of expression, even when the views expressed may be deemed controversial, and the ability to gather and demonstrate peacefully are essential for the defence of human rights and for a functioning civil society.”

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