Ashot Melikyan, Chairman of Committee to Protect Freedom of Expression (CPFE), considers the extradition of Russian blogger Alexander Lapshin to Azerbaijan a bad precedent which must be fought at the international level.
In an interview with Aravot.am, Mr. Melikyan considers such retribution with the journalist unacceptable, “In fact, the Supreme Court of Belarus gave a legal aspect to the decision which was made by President Alexander Lukashenko. Therewith, it was once again emphasized that the judicial system in this country is the submissive of the authorities, in particular, the President and the executive authority. This situation is typical of post-Soviet countries, which was once again expressed in Belarus.” According to Mr. Melikyan, in fact, driven by some political ambitions, the freedom of expression and the right to free mobility is a violation. “I have had the chance to say that the journalist or the blogger decides on his own which country to go, what information to gather and how to deliver,” noted Ashot Melikyan.
To our question of what steps should Armenia and NKR resort in the current situation, Mr. Melikyan replied, “Everything must be done for the foreign journalists, nevertheless, to continue to come to Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh and cover the situation. The method applied once when foreign journalist missions were invited, was good.” Ashot Melikyan is concerned that the incident with Lapshin may cause some caution with foreign journalists but at the same time, Mr. Melikyan emphasized that journalism is a profession of men with brave spirits, and such people will be found in the journalistic community of any country. The CPFE Chairman is convinced that Belarus’s actions must be counteracted by active support to activities of free media and freelance journalists.
To the question of what steps should be taken by the RA Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the current situation, Mr. Melikyan responded, “Active operations are required. I think that the Foreign Ministry is well aware of the whole instrumentation. Not need to wait long, maybe it makes no sense to be limited only to the statements and in the same EaEU framework, an impact should be made in Armenia-Belarus bipartite relations. It seems to be a little more complicated with Azerbaijan as there are no relationships but it is necessary to show that human rights, however, are more important, and such a demarche for political purposes should not be made.”
We reminded that once Robert Kocharian used to ski with Belarus President, an Armenian-Belarus center is opened in Armenia, consequently, why these connections are not working, Mr. Melikyan replied, “These are popular and interpersonal communications but it is necessary to have an impact at the state level. Going to ski with Lukashenko can be continued, but the relations with Foreign Ministry and law enforcement should be reviewed and required steps taken.”