During a press conference, Suren Papikyan, the Minister of Territorial Administration and Infrastructures, talked about the information about his criminal record published in the media, as well as the criminal action prosecuted in this connection.
“I have no issues with the reporter, or the media. I have an issue with the person that leaked the secret information about a government official,” Papikyan said
He stated that it was an unacceptable case for Armenia. “If it is in the field of activity of law enforcement bodies, it should remain secret, and the guilty person should be punished.”
Papikyan also said that two days earlier he had been invited to the Special Investigation Service of Armenia, assumingly in the status of an injured party.
In response to the question of Hraparak correspondent about disclosing the information source, Papikyan noted, “If I have issues with your newspaper, I will apply to the court. I have not done it so far; it means I have no issues. The media have their own rights, and your newspaper is aware of them.”
“I insist that the leaker – most probably, a government official – should bear responsibility. My goal is to find out how the secret information about a government official has been leaked from law enforcement bodies, and which official or non-official person is responsible for that,” the minister added.
It was Hraparak that had written about the criminal record of Papikyan. After that the minister went live on Facebook, stating that the incident had taken place during his military service in 2016. He was serving in a non-Armenian army, and somebody “hurt his national pride.” As a result, he was sentenced to 2 years and 3 months of imprisonment but was granted a general pardon and was released a year later. He mentioned in his live speech that, according to the RA legislation, if a conviction is expunged, the criminal record of the convict is considered to be erased.
Papikyan addressed the police and the National Security Service, asking them to find out “who and how leaked the secret information about his personal life to the public and the media, thus defaming him.”
On February 20, SIS instituted criminal proceedings, based on the article, titled as Suren Papikyan has hidden his Criminal Record published in hraparak.am on February 13, 2020, as well as the article, titled as Suren Papikyan implied who had leaked the Secret Information about him, published in lragir.am on February 14, 2020.
The criminal proceedings were instituted based on the 144th and 308th articles of the RA Criminal Code.
Pastinfo agency talked with Ara Ghazaryan, an expert in international law and an attorney. He does not think that the information about the criminal record of a minister should be a secret, “That kind of information is open even in DataLex. That kind of information should be secret only if it’s about a person from a vulnerable group.”
In this case, “it’s about an official, and that information shall belong to the public.”
Boris Navasardyan, the president of Yerevan Press Club said in a Radio Liberty interview that criminal proceedings can be viewed as pressure on the media, “Even if it’s not direct pressure, it is pressure on the sources of the media.”
Navasardyan said that the minister’s request in his live speech “was considered as an opportunity to perform services for a high-ranking official.”
“If information is not secret, if it’s accurate, how can its dissemination be illegal? Even if an official working in a law enforcement or security body has been involved in it, an internal investigation should be conducted instead of criminal proceedings.”
In the same Radio Liberty interview, Armine Ohanyan, the editor-in-chief of Hraparak said that attempts were being made “to disclose the source, find out how the media got the information and make the media realize that, apart from trying to learn about the information sources, criminal proceedings could be instituted against them as well.”
The editor added that they were not going to give up their principles and work style, “They are getting paid from the state budget, and none of the facts of their life can be kept secret from the public.