Today, on Dec. 26, journalists who wanted to attend Yerevan mayor Taron Margaryan’s defense of his doctoral thesis encountered tough resistance.
Outside the economics university, journalists were greeted by a group of young men who refused to identify themselves and who prevented their entry into the university.
As witnessed by video reports, the incomprehensible role of the cursing young men and their cynical attitude received no response from the university’s security officers and its rector, Koryun Atoyan.
Here are the remarks of journalists who were at the university.
Nane Sahakyan, journalist, RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun)
I even went one hour early to the economics university, assuming that they might say there’s no room in the auditorium. But the rector quite harshly asked me to leave the corridor, guaranteeing that I will be able to get in later. But the same rector later did not allow a single journalist into the auditorium.
What was surprising was when we called the rectorate, they said the rector is not in the office and they don’t know when he will return. The university’s press relations officer’s phone was also turned off. And here we already met that “pack” of boys (I can’t use another word), who formed a chain and blocked the auditorium’s entry.
Those boys were ready for anything — insults, curses, brawls. When we asked the rector whether these boys are assuming the role of security personnel, he avoided replying.
In any case, a few of those boys’ faces were familiar to me: later we found out that one of them is the president of the university’s student union; another is a member of the youth parliament; and so on.
From such a minor incident, when it becomes clear that the young man blocking the building entrance with his chest has a photo where he is receiving an award from the prime minister of Armenia, one can understand what is happening in the entire country.
Gohar Hakobyan, journalist, Aravot daily
That which we journalists witnessed at the Armenian State University of Economics was simply reproachful. Rector Koryun Atoyan prohibited journalists’ entry in that case when universities are not specially protected areas. Under the rector’s orders, carrying out our professional activities was hindered by students of the university and, as was later discovered, representatives of the student union sporting Republican Party of Armenia badges. They were spewing curses of a sexual nature and pushing journalists — we were barely keeping our balance on the stairs. And, by the way, dissertation defenses are open [to the public and members of the press].
The funniest thing was the rector’s wish to gather all the audio and video devices, hand them over to him, and only then be permitted inside, which naturally we didn’t do. Taron Margaryan is a mayor, a public figure, and not an ordinary [doctoral] candidate.
The rector leaving journalists’ requests unanswered, left the dramatic events to the cursing, pushing, gum-chewing young men. One is left with the impression that they are the true owners of the Armenian State University of Economics, since neither the police officers present at the university nor the rector attempted to calm them down.
Journalists called both the police and the Human Rights Defender’s Office. What’s interesting is that the Human Rights Defender’s Office staff came much quicker.
Hayk Gevorgyan, journalist, Haykakan Zhamanak daily
We had gone to Taron Margaryan’s doctoral thesis defense at the Armenian State University of Economics because we had a few questions to ask him. We simply wanted to know the meaning of the terms in his scientific work.
About 20 brats had blocked the checkpoint just inside the university’s entrance. Literally. I can’t call them anything else. And they weren’t opening the path. We tried to go around them. And that moment — pushing and shoving, insults, and the lowest level of behavior by those brats. And they never said who they were.
That which occurred is actually a small model of Armenia from the perspective of obstructing and putting pressure on the press.
There is even no need for an assessment of hindering the work of journalists — everything is clearly visible from the videos. In their actions were characteristics of obstructing journalists’ work and hooliganism as defined by Armenia’s Criminal Code. We have gone to the police. They said there is no decision to launch criminal proceedings in this matter, though they have more than enough grounds to launch a criminal case. We called the police while even at the scene: we waited 40 minutes, but no one came.
This incident showed the real situation of Armenia’s educational level. There is no doubt that hindering the work of journalists was an organized affair. Taron Margaryan attempted to hide his ignorance. It didn’t work.
Taron Margaryan’s intellect is completely clear for us: he can be awarded the title of academician at once.
Speaking with journalists:
Nune Hakhverdyan and Gegham Vardanyan
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