MP Gevorg Petrosyan has donated a significant part of his public activity to “eradicate” minorities and those that defend them. In his opinion, the fight against sexual and religious minorities is a key issue, because “we are losing the country.”
“There are bigger problems threatening our state and statehood than corruption and a change of power… Homosexuality and sectarianism are “laying eggs” right under our noses at every step…,” Petrosyan wrote on Facebook.
He proposes “uniting forces” in the fight against the phenomena he has mentioned. A few hours later his next post was a response to the responses to the former one.
Here the MP moves on to more stringent vocabulary, calling those who criticize him “wastes,” “malicious beings which are a result of spontaneous, irregular and sudden contact with malignant formations,” etc..
The MP’s speech was quickly disseminated in the media. Petrosyan’s “unfiltered” words have been reprinted by about two dozen media outlets, including some with the highest ratings.
The activeness of Gevorg Petosyan may have different reasons. For example, by playing on the negative emotions towards minorities by a part of society, winning the sympathy of that segment.
It is possible that aggressive homophobia has something to do with Gevorg Petrosyan’s personal motivation. A combination of the two scenarios isn’t ruled out.
The problem here is how the media should respond to this activity. Do you need to broadcast his hate speech and discriminatory words in a “raw” state, without commentary, or do you need to ignore it, or serve it with a bit of clarification, emphasizing its incompatibility with the requirements of the Constitution and laws.
Article 29 of the RA Constitution prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sex, race, skin color, ethnic or social origin, genetic traits, language, religion, outlook, political or other opinion, national minority affiliation, property status, birth, disability, age, or personal or other social circumstances.
On one hand, Petrosyan is a public figure and his opinion can be interesting for the media, especially when the subject of sex is usually more attractive and brings clicks. But should Petrosyan’s statements be viewed in the context of freedom of speech?
According to the European case law, hate speech is not a protected right, and the subject who spreads hatred and discrimination cannot expect to be protected under the right of freedom of expression.
On the contrary, they can be held liable for their words both in the criminal and in the private field of civil law. (By the way, Gevorg Petrosyan is a private law specialist, YSU lecturer, and also for some time, in the late 2000s, occupied the post of Minister of Social Affairs).
Public media can and should refrain from spreading hatred. They can “block” hate and discrimination spreading newsmakers, deprive them of airtime and interview opportunities, even if the topic does not deal with their problematic viewpoints.
Like, for example, in Germany, they refuse to broadcast anti semites, in the Czech Republic, stalinists, or in the US, racists.
After all, when it comes to some of the written or unwritten laws, Armenian media have rejected spreading swearing, violent scenes and pornography. Consequently, they should also feel obliged to refrain from disseminating discriminatory and hate-spreading content.
Co-Founder of Boon TV, Gemafin Gasparyan, hinting at Gevorg Petrosyan’s quoted post, writes, “We, having survived the Genocide, how can we wish the death, elimination and suffering of others living among us, purely because they have other beliefs, bear other cultures or have other sexual orientations? Please do not forget that hundreds of years ago, we were subjected to genocide because we believed in another faith, we were bearers of another culture and represented another ethnic group.”
In addition to Gemafin’s words, Armenians are a minority in all countries apart from Armenia, furthermore we Armenians are a minority compared to a 7 million Diaspora. We know very well what it means to be “others,” and for some “unbearably different.”
Now, many in Armenia are suggesting that people, their fellow citizens, hide their own religious preferences or sexuality, to wrap their flags “at home” or “in their own beds.”
But we are rightly indignant when we, Armenians, in foreign countries are suggested to restrain the manifestation of our own identities or to express them in “closed spaces.”
Even in non-democratic countries we make use of privileges granted to minorities, which are fixed in the norms of international law. We get emotional with pride when President Macron gives words of admiration towards the Armenian people, fo adding Armenian patterns to French diversity.
But in our country, we refuse to tolerate “others,” allowing even some officials to incite the hatred and intolerance of a large part of society towards those that differ.
The views expressed in the column are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Media.am.