Local Paper Removes Article Featuring Naked Woman on Yerevan Street But Doesn’t Believe It Violated Ethics Rules

Anna Barseghyan


Local daily Zhoghovurd removed the article titled “Armenian Woman’s Naked Bath on Isakov Avenue” from its Armlur.am website. 

The photos and video accompanying the piece featured a woman standing on the street, naked from the waist up.

The article reported that this “hobo” woman from Yerevan was “taking a bath” on Admiral Isakov Avenue with irrigation water.

The article became a topic of hot debate [AM] in a Facebook group for local journalists called “For the sake of conscientious journalism” [AM]. Many journalists considered publishing the naked woman’s photo a violation of the rules of ethics and this move of the news outlet’s, unacceptable. 

The National Disability Advocacy Coalition issued a statement asking Zhoghovurd to immediately remove the article from its website.

“Your website’s behaviour is unacceptable, as a gross violation of human rights was recorded, and the dignity and reputation of an Armenian citizen with mental health issues was indecently humiliated. In addition, subjecting people with mental health issues to ridicule and creating a sensation with this is not fitting to professional journalism,” reads the statement. 

“The video shows that the person clearly has health issues. Publishing this article is an act that degrades a person’s dignity, which is punishable by the criminal code, especially if it’s done on a mass scale — through news outlets. It’s just that the most deplorable thing is that the news outlet doesn’t realize that it ridiculed a person who has mental health issues and allowed a violation of both journalism ethics and human rights,” said National Disability Advocacy Coalition President Zaruhi Batoyan.

According to Batoyan, news outlets have to be particularly prudent when publishing articles about people with mental health issues, as they are a doubly vulnerable group among people with disabilities. 

She finds that publishing such a piece intended to ensure a greater number of visitors to the site. 

“We ceased publishing naked pictures and videos of stars, now we’ve moved on to ridiculing people with mental health issues in need of care? Don’t they think that this woman might have children, relatives, family members? How can you do such a thing?” she says. 

According to media expert Mesrop Harutyunyan, publishing the piece is a gross violation of journalism ethics. “News outlets have to be very cautious when writing any articles about people with disabilities. Exploiting their helpless state is unacceptable and objectionable from the perspective of ethics,” he says.  

Media expert Samvel Martirosyan likewise condemns the publication of such an article. “This article is beyond good and evil. It’s even difficult to talk about [the fact] that you can’t film people who cannot be held responsible for their actions without their permission, that inserting a naked woman’s photo is likewise wrong. The question is that such articles shape a unique environment, which makes making fun of the ‘moonstruck’ (as they say) a normal part of life,” he says. 

Prior to removing the article from the website, Zhoghovurd editor Taguhi Tovmasyan told Media.am that Armlur.am simply presented the reality. 

“If that person is mentally ill, that’s not our problem — the ministry of healthcare has to think about the mentally ill not appearing on the street because this is not the first incident. That person went naked today, but there were cases when the mentally ill stabbed people; that is, anyway, the victim [here] is the public, and if that person is mentally ill and is outside, Armlur.am is definitely not to blame,” she says. 

In the opinion of Davit Vanesyan, the person in charge of Zhoghovurd‘s website, Armlur.am, there was no breach of ethics in publishing the article. He stresses that they filmed in a public space, on Admiral Isakov Avenue in Yerevan.

“Many opinions are voiced on Facebook that this person is mentally ill — I ask a question to those writing on Facebook: from where did you confirm this person’s state of health? Aren’t these writers perhaps doing something worse than, it seems to them, we did? They are labelling a person in the worst way. If a person, after all, is mentally ill, which can be suspected, what is she doing in a public space? Why don’t the relevant authorities isolate her [from society] and work on restoring her health?” he says. 

According to Vanesyan, the news outlet didn’t intend to ridicule anyone. 

“The article aimed to draw the relevant bodies’ attention, that there are people like this in this city, and they need to be isolated [from society]; their state of health has to be checked. This article aimed to fulfill a basic journalistic function: to present the reality,” he says.

At the end of the day, the article in question was removed from Armlur.am. Disseminated on Zhoghovurd‘s Facebook page [AM] was the newspaper’s journalist Tatev Harutyunyan’s post, where it says that the article was removed, since “if there is a misunderstanding concerning any article of ours, we won’t allow it to deepen. We will remove the article, without offending anyone. There’s already a lot of venom in our society; we preach love. Love each other; life is short.” 

Anna Barseghyan

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