An Armenian court on October 30 rejected a complaint against a newspaper editor who published a gay hall-of-shame list.
Hovannhes Galajian, editor-in-chief of the Iravunk tabloid, was standing trial on charges of defamation for an article lengthily headlined "They Serve the Interests of the International Homosexual Lobby: A Blacklist of the Nation’s and State’s Enemies.”
In the story, published on May 17, the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, Galajian listed 60 individuals allegedly engaged in what he termed gay propaganda. He included links to their Facebook profiles and called for their total ostracization. He also urged employers and schools to cut off any contact with these individuals. State employers, he added, “should fire them under any convenient pretext," one English translation of the Armenian text reads.
When Public Information and Need for Knowledge (PINK), an LGBT-rights group, and 16 individuals from the blacklist sued Galajian, his newspaper responded with articles laced with homophobic slurs, which described the plaintiffs as "fag defenders" and grant-guzzlers; the latter an ex-Soviet pejorative for international donor-sponsored civil society groups.
The defense and court maintained that such remarks were within Galajian's rights to freedom of expression.
Some, though, link the verdict to the newspaper's connections to Armenia's powers-that-be. Saying that the newspaper holds a respected place in the country’s media industry, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan personally congratulated Iravunk this week on its 25th anniversary.
"We believe that [the] high level support of official[s] reflected on the decision of the Court and this shows once more that hate speech and homophobia is [sic] highly supported by the high level officials of Armenia, and this creates [an] atmosphere of impunity, gives floor for hate crime [sic] and fascism in the country," PINK said in a Facebook statement.
Such conditions ultimately could put LGBT Armenians at risk, PINK Projects Director Mamikon Hovsepyan commented in an email interview with EurasiaNet.org.
"While we cannot fully foresee the consequences of this decision, we can surely state that it will contribute to the continuation of such practices in media . . . " Hovsepyan wrote. PINK plans to appeal the court ruling, he said.
Homophobia is widespread in Armenia and elsewhere in the region, and abuse of LGBT individuals is common.