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Armenia detains two podcast hosts for insulting Pashinyan

25 March 2024
Vazgen Saghatelyan (left) and Narek Samsonyan (right). Image via Facebook.

The hosts of an anti-government podcast have been detained on charges of hooliganism after insulting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and other figures from the ruling party.

Vazgen Saghatelyan and Narek Samsonyan, the hosts of Imnemnimi, were given two-month pretrial detention on Friday on charges of hooliganism. If found guilty, they could face up to five years in prison.

In its statement about their arrest, Armenia’s Investigative Committee stated that Saghatelyan and Samsonyan committed hooliganism by ‘showing an openly contemptuous attitude towards moral norms’ and swearing at Pashinyan and his cabinet.

The committee cited an episode streamed on YouTube on 20 March about a parliamentary session as the reason for their arrest. In the episode, Saghatelyan and Samsonyan are seen commenting on Pashinyan’s statements about the possible handover of four Armenian-occupied villages to Azerbaijan. They were charged with hooliganism the following day.

AntiFake, the outlet that publishes Imnemnimi, published footage of Samsonyan’s arrest on Friday. The video shows a group of police officers, including those who appear to be plainclothes officers, tackling a man and pushing his face to the ground.

On the same day, Armenia’s Human Rights Defender’s Office stated that they were examining the video of Samsonyan’s arrest with the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

On Monday, Interior Ministry spokesperson Narek Sargsyan announced that Interior Minister Vahe Ghazaryan had instructed the ministry to examine the footage.


‘If an examination is ordered, that means there is something problematic, that the examination should find out if there is or isn’t something problematic’, said Sargsyan.

‘Biased narratives and inauthentic content’

Both Samsonyan and Saghatelyan have ties to political parties or civil society organisations; Samsonyan works with Civic Consciousness, an organisation that runs AntiFake, while Saghatelyan is the brother of Arman Saghatelyan, a former Republican party MP.

During their 20 March Imnemnimi episode, Samsonyan and Saghatelyan said that their commentary on the parliamentary session would include expletives as there ‘was no alternative’.

‘[Pashinyan] behaved like a hooligan in the National Assembly today, and this 18+ is equivalent to his hooligan behaviour’, said Samsonyan.

‘If we could, we would do something more appropriate’, followed Saghatelyan.

In 2019, the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Lab, a platform documenting disinformation and fake news campaigns, reported that AntiFake was responsible for spreading ‘biased narratives and inauthentic content online’.

They concluded that AntiFake may be ‘affiliated with individuals or entities based in Russia’, and that AntiFake’s domain was registered in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

‘A foreign IP location is often a hallmark of an inauthentic influence operation, though it is not conclusive proof of one on its own’, they wrote.

Read in Georgian on On.ge.
Read in Russian on Jnews.
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