9 Criminal Cases Have Been Initiated For Insult And Swearing

Gayane Asryan


From September 2021, criminal liability is envisaged in Armenia for cursing and severely insulting a public figure. The law was passed in a hurry, without public discussions and gave rise to many concerns.

The current regulations are different: from fines to imprisonment for up to three months. In response to Media.am’s inquiry, the police informed that 9 criminal cases were initiated under Article 137․1 (insulting a person, cursing or insulting his dignity in another extremely indecent manner), 6 of which were due to the person’s public activity.

According to the law, public activity is the conduct of a person in connection with journalistic, publicist activities, performance of official duties, public service or public office, public or political activities.

The police clarifies the criteria distinguishing swearing and severe insult, “by interpreting the mentioned words and expressions.”

There is no separate subdivision in the police dealing with these cases. The structure cannot provide other information in the interests of the preliminary investigation.

Boris Navasardyan, President of the Yerevan Press Club, says that the history of the amendment to this law shows that situational decisions are made in the legislative field, which reflects the dissatisfaction of the government with the dissemination of information.

According to him, it is also obvious that the creators of the project have not assessed what tendencies and consequences may result from such regulations.

“I think there is no doubt that this change is aimed at protecting the highest officials from sharp criticism. Here we are dealing with a violation of the principle of equality because although several layers of public people are separated, the law will protect those who hold a particularly high position.”

According to him, this contradicts the standards of democracies, because it is clear that law enforcement agencies will use it more diligently to protect the officials whom they are instructed to protect.

“This is a painful process for society and in order not to have serious consequences, it would be good to refuse such a legislative regulation at this stage. And if they are concerned about the spread of insults and swearing, they should start wide discussions with experts,” said Boris Navasardyan.

According to the YPC President, the discussions will be important to understand what should be emphasized and especially which cases are causing alarm in society. “Perhaps based on international experience, it is more expedient to focus on hate speech, as it protects all citizens.”

The most notorious case after the criminalization of swearing and insult was the criminal case initiated for writing an insulting comment on Facebook under the photo of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. Steps are being taken to find the author of the comment, the case is being investigated by the investigative committee.

There were various posts on social networks about this incident, mainly humorous, some users joked that from now on they should be ready to take responsibility for what they wrote.

Information security expert Samvel Martirosyan says that the amount of swearing, insults and slander in the networks cannot be reduced with a fine. And although the number of insults has decreased to some extent now, it is conditioned by the closure of some fake farms after the elections.

“In general, this law has not caused any reflection on the Facebook network, it is not discussed in terms of meaning, there are more different emotional manifestations around it,” he said.

According to Martirosyan, it was clear from the beginning that this settlement could not work, there were no mechanisms, it was just a tool of internal political struggle. “This is an instrument of justice for the government and is not aimed at protecting public health at all.”

Social networks and the online domain, according to him, is a broad concept and the most important question is not clear. How will they identify the perpetrator of the insult, if the ones who mainly swear and insult are fakes?

Defamation and insult in Armenia were decriminalized in 2010, taking into account the call of the PACE member states. The proposal to criminalize slander and insult again was made by the Prosecutor General’s Office.

Gayane Asryan

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