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Freedom of Speech Under Threat: Armenia's Controversial Use of Article 329 Sparks Concerns

Freedom of Speech Under Threat: Armenia's Controversial Use of Article 329 Sparks Concerns

Armenia has been facing growing concerns over the apparent misuse of legal measures to stifle freedom of speech, particularly in cases involving social media posts. The most notable example is the ongoing case of Narek Malyan, who has been in custody for four months. In an exclusive interview with The Armenian Report, Malyan's attorney, Ruben Melikyan, shed light on the unique nature of Malyan's situation and the broader implications for freedom of expression in Armenia.

Melikyan emphasized the rarity of enforcing Article 329 in Armenia (Article 329 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Armenia: "Public speech aimed at promoting hatred, intolerance or enmity towards a person or a group of persons due to political views." Defined punishment: 1-4 year), with only four cases recorded, two of which involved pro-Pashinyan individuals who faced no imprisonment. The other two, who held anti-Pashinyan views, received detention, and one tragically died during the trial.

The prosecution's main argument against Malyan revolves around a statement he made during his arrest, asserting that he would repeat his actions as he believed he did nothing wrong. Melikyan raised concerns about the lack of specific details in the arrest document regarding what Malyan said or wrote, arguing that it fails to demonstrate any incitement of hatred.

Despite Malyan's attorney offering alternatives such as house arrest or bail, the court declined these options. Melikyan contended that these circumstances lead to the conclusion that Malyan is a victim of political persecution, given his reputation as a vocal anti-Pashinyan activist.

Narek Malyan, an activist and head of the "VETO" movement, was detained based on his Facebook "live" during a spontaneous meeting on September 19 in Republic Square, where he called to save Artsakh. Malyan has been imprisoned under Article 329 of the Criminal Code, which addresses public speech aimed at promoting hatred, intolerance, or enmity due to political views, carrying a punishment of 1-4 years.

The "VETO" movement, founded by Malyan in 2019, aims to counter Soros' alleged agent network operating in Armenia. The movement alleges that Soros' "Open Society Foundations" recruits and funds individuals with anti-national and anti-state mentalities to disrupt state pillars, including legal, educational systems, and the Armenian Apostolic Church.

As Armenia grapples with accusations of political persecution and concerns about freedom of expression, the case of Narek Malyan highlights the delicate balance between national security and safeguarding individual rights in the realm of social media activism.


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