The municipality has considered illegal the campaign for happiness and human rights in Armenia. Mamikon Hovsepyan

Dismantling of LGBTI thematic advertising posters proves that according to the municipality the campaign for happiness and tolerance is illegal in Armenia. The executive head of “Pink Armenia” NGO Mamikon Hovsepyan came to such a conclusion because of the actions of the municipality and their partial clarification.

We should recall that since May 25 in the center of the city – hereabout Swan lake, thematic social posters on LGBTI had been placed by the order of “Public Information and Need of Knowledge” NGO based on the signed contract with  a private advertising company.

According to the contract, they should have remained posted on boards until June 24 of the given month.

2 days after the publication of the posters, on May 27, they are removed by the advertising agency without informing “Pink”. A few hours after the removal of the posters, the head of the External Design and Advertising Department Araz Baghdasaryan posted the following note on his Facebook page: “3 advertising posters campaign for tolerance towards people with different sexual orientation have been placed in the capital city… Regardless of the content of the ads, the posters have been dismantled as Yerevan municipality had not give permission for their installation”.

“With these posters we want to show that everyone, regardless of his/her social status, wants to be happy, that there are LGBT persons in every sphere and everywhere. Trans people have also been emphasized, as the violations against them are especially more”, – Mamikon Hovsepyan explained the meaning of the posters during the meeting in “Media center”.

According to Hovsepyan, this atmosphere of fear and hatred against LGBT people is formed because of the lack of awareness.

“The media is controlling, and the educational system does not give proper knowledge for receiving and analyzing the information. Thus, we are limited by the information, which is roughly provided to us”, – told Mamikon Hovsepyan.

The speaker highlighted that propaganda cannot influence on the change of sexuality.

“You can propagate tolerance, equality, but not sexuality: if a black-eyed person take a long look on a blue-eyed one, his/her eye color wouldn’t change”, – brought an example Hovsepyan.

The executive director of “Pink Armenia” told that after the installation of the posters, they studied the reactions of the passers-by, who either read and pass, or even did not notice the posters. There has been no aggression from the passers-by, and if the groups directed by Russia do not interfere every time, the issue of LGBT people rights would not cause such a sharp debate.

Hovsepyan also drew attention to the fact that Araz Baghdasaryan – the official “clarifying” the dismantling of the posters, urged the network users not to respond the issue, in order not to advertise the posters additionally.

“In other words, they do not want the posters spreading happiness and equality to be advertised”, – concluded Mamikon Hovsepyan.

The lawyer of “Pink Armenia” Hasmik Petrosyan is sure that the problem is not in the absence of poster installation permission, but in their content.

“Even if there are technical problems with installing the advertisements, this doesn’t allow the municipality to violate our right to speech”, – highlighted she.

Petrosyan noted that the municipality oversee the correspondence of the advertisement content to the Law.

“And in this case, when there is not an illegality in terms of content, the municipality should be flexible. Human rights should prevail, and they should not contradict the principle of human rights priority by their actions”, – said Petrosyan and expressed the opinion that the municipality must show that in every case of absence of advertisement permission, they dismantle the billboards.

“We were not aware that the advertisement agency had not sent the ads for approval. The agency, in its turn, is guided by its long lasted practice”, – assured Hasmik Petrosyan.

The lawyer noted that they are going to challenge the municipality’s decision and do everything in order these posters again appear on billboards.

“This is the attitude of authorities towards human rights: human rights are just a formality for them. The campaign for tolerance is, first of all, state function, and it turns out that the state not only failed to realize its duty, but also deprives others to implement this right”, – noted Hasmik Petrosyan.

Member of Yerevan Council “Elq” alliance Tigran Avinyan mentioned that they will wait for further explanations from the municipality, but at this stage, he considered unlikely the opportunity to act on their own initiative in the National Assembly or in Yerevan Council.

“Any legislative initiative in the National Assembly or municipality is not relevant because the public is not ready: the first thing to do is to organize and participate in such discussions and to express one’s position, and step by step we will come to a state where all citizens have equal opportunity. Currently, we don’t have such discussions, and I do not think that there will be something like this in the near future. If there is a suggestion, it will be discussed”, – said Avinyan, meantime emphasizing, that a person and his rights are ultimate values for him.

“Media Center” also had sent an invitation to participate in the discussion of the issue to the RPA faction, as well as to the representative of the External Design and Advertising Department of Yerevan municipality, but both sides did not attend the debate.

Today “Pink Armenia” released a statement, which particularly says: “We evaluate the actions of Yerevan municipality as arbitrary, by which the latter has violated the right to free speech, manifested discrimination conditioned by the content of the posters. Thereby, the municipality contributed to the further most dangerous manifestations of discrimination against LGBT people. The organization applied to Yerevan municipality in order to get official clarification regarding the removal of the posters, to debate the lawfulness of the decision (if it is) and to reinstall the mentioned posters”.

Photo by Media center