Does the special investigative service not perceive criticism, or is it trying to save its face?

On February 2, the RA Special investigative service responded to the article from February 1 by Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression, under heading “No Progress in Pre-investigation of “Sari Tagh” case?”, which was published on the website of the Committee and was copied in a number of media outlets (“Aravot.am”, “A1plus.am”, “1in.am”, “News.am”, etc.) The reply by the SIS under heading “The Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression misinforms the public” was published on “Hraparak.am”, “Iravaban.net” and “Armlur.am” websites. As there are a number of ungrounded judgments and false information, we consider it necessary to provide certain clarifications.

First of all, the CPFE has never misinformed the public and does not intend to do it in future. In terms of the criminal case filed on the events that took place in July of 2016 in Khorenatsi street and Sari Tagh, despite many, including the law enforcement, the organization will continue to draw the public attention to the pre-investigation conducted within the scope of that case, to follow its developments and provide the public with objective information not considered confidential.

The article by the CPFE about that topic is important in the sense that it made the SIS publish a lengthy article, while introducing the process of the aforementioned case from its perspective. Whereas during the recent three months this investigative body has not published any information about it on the official website. Under similar conditions the CPFE decided to conduct a survey among the journalists who suffered during the July events, and via making proper references and quoting their words in good faith, reached a judgment which became the heading of the article, and with a question mark: is there no progress in the pre-investigation (see original text on “Khosq.am” website). By the way, from the copying media outlets only “1in.am” did not preserve the question mark, and the SIS thought that the CPFE provided that article only “1in.am”.

It is evident, that the SIS might not like the judgment, but that does not mean that we are misinforming the public. Let us refer to the facts again. Six months have passed since the criminal case was filed, and according to the recently published data, 21 journalists and cameramen were recognized as victims, and charges were brought against eight people. Only eight people, and all of them civilians. Where are the police officers who abused their powers? As it can be seen from the reply by SIS, some of them were only interrogated at best. No new suspects and no new defendant. At least, there is no official information about it. Does this not enable us saying there is no progress in the case? Or, is it misinformation when we state that the SIS provided no information on its official website for three months? Prove the opposite, if we are mistaken. We will apologize publicly.

One more question: what is the progress in #ElectricYerevan case, related to events, which took place on Baghramyan Avenue, on June 23, 2015? It was stated that according to the pre-investigation, 21 journalists and cameramen were recognized as victims. There was no defendant or suspect 14 months after the criminal case was filed, and only after the July 2016 events, when RA President Serzh Sargsyan apologized for the actions by the law enforcement, four police officers were charged. Only four: that is in the case when the whole Internet was full of video footages how dozens, if not hundreds of police officers beat up mass media personnel, break video cameras, unlawfully apprehend them. The last message on this case was published on in August of 2016. There were no news about further developments, i.e. no new charges were brought, and the victim journalists state that there were no meetings with the investigators. Doesn’t this mean that there is no progress in the case. Do we misinform the public with this judgment as well? Or the SIS addresses ungrounded blames on CPFE to withstand the criticism thus to save its own face?

Pretending objectivity, in a number of cases the SIS distorted the facts in its reply. E.g., according to SIS, Mariam Grigoryan, journalist from “1in.am”, “was invited a number of times for interrogation as a victim, but she refused to come, informing about it via the phone”. This is semi-truth. In fact, when dealing with SIS for the first time the journalist with bandaged injuries from fragments happened to be in a complicated situation: they wanted to engage her in the criminal case not as a victim, but as a witness, while proposing her to give a testimony against the protesters. Moreover, when Mariam Grigoryan refused to give a testimony in this status and said she was planning to leave the city, the investigator threatened, that in case of not giving testimony as a witness she would be criminally charged, and he personally would not let her leave the country. On August 1, 2016, Mariam Grigoryan informed about this during a discussion at “Media center”.

It is natural that such an attitude to a victim journalist could result in her avoiding further contact with the investigators. Moreover, Mariam Grigoryan did not have an advocate. Later, on October 25, 2016, the reason for the first meeting at the SIS was that an advocate was provided to Mariam Grigoryan. The SIS also claims, that the journalist “was notified about the decisions to assign case-related examinations and about the need to go to the investigating body to get familiar with the received results, but she did not turn up.” The CPFE decided once again to check this up with the journalist, and she reconfirmed that the aforementioned statement by the SIS is not true, and that she did not receive any notification from the investigative body.

We received the same answer from Robert Ananyan, journalist from “A1+”. In conversation with CPFE he stated that he did not receive any notification at his permanent and residence addresses. “I provided both addresses to the investigators. I did not receive any notification; they have my phone number, as well, they could have called, but I received no phone call either” – stated Robert Ananyan.

Unlike Mariam Grigoryan and Robert Ananyan, independent journalist Gevorg Ghazaryan received two notifications, but in fact, he did not go. The journalist has his substantiations: those meetings were not significant investigative and legal actions to solve his case.

Other information and arguments in the statement by the SIS also cause suspicion or at least are questionable. Many claims that “necessary investigative actions have been and are being taken” can hardly seem convincing to public, which has not been informed about any tangible results of pre-investigation since October. Unlike the first months of pre-investigation, later the “operative-investigative and legal actions” by SIS did not identify any new suspects and defendants.

By the way, besides the actions being “operative”, it is also important to mention accuracy. Evidently this is a problem at SIS, too. In the publication by the investigative body, Arthur Hayrapetyan, correspondent from “4news.am” website is introduced as a journalist from “News.am” website, whereas they are different media outlets.

For unknown reasons, the investigative service considers information provided to CPFE by journalists who suffered during the July events as “inconsistent with reality claims”, which cannot be relied on. It turns out that testimonies by all the journalists are not trustworthy, and only this investigative body is right!? We absolutely disagree. Moreover, we think that the actions initiated by the SIS are not equivalent to the volume of violence against the mass media personnel during the July events. Ineffectiveness of those actions is also stated by certain advocates of victim journalists and cameramen, who express the intention of preparing materials to apply to the European Court without waiting to exhaust all remedies in domestic courts. Perhaps, this is also a vivid assessment of the SIS activity.

Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression

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