A special ‘Medal of Appreciation’ was given to editors of Iravunk, including editor-in-chief Hovhannes Galajyan, for their contribution to journalism in the country. The award ceremony took part in Armenia’s capital of Yerevan and was attended by the country’s President, as well as a number of high-ranking politicians.
Iravunk, since its establishment, has always been a pro-state publication, who often aim to promote patriotism and traditional Armenian values. The newspaper also has strong links to the ruling Republican Party of Armenia, who have often been praised in articles and editorials from the publication.
News of the award comes shortly after editor-in-chief Hovhannes Galajyan appeared before an Armenian court following a legal case against his newspaper for the publication of a homophobic article which was viewed by many as an incitement of hate-crime. The article in question shared the personal details of 60 individuals and called for the public to ‘boycott’ them because of their apparent ties to the LGBT community.
As a publication Iravunk has regularly attacked the LGBT community in their hate speech, using individuals and groups as scapegoats in order to promote their ideology. According to Iravunk editors LGBT individuals stand against the ‘traditional values’ of Armenia and should not be welcomed in mainstream society.
The award has upset many campaigners, who see the government as legitimising the hate-crimes of Galajyan and his newspaper. According to one individual the award was proof of the Armenian government ‘sponsoring’ human rights violations.
Ties between homophobia and the Armenian government are sadly not uncommon. Despite homosexuality being decriminalised in Armenia homophobia and transphobia are still common in public life and Armenia currently has no legislation protecting individuals from hate crime based on their sexual or gender identity.