YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has pledged to purge Armenia’s government, judiciary and security apparatus of remnants of the country’s former leadership, accusing them of trying to discredit him and scuttle his far-reaching initiatives.
In a video message streamed live on Facebook on Sunday night, Pashinyan charged that many Armenian media outlets are also sympathetic to the former regime and keen to undercut him.
“It’s probably about time that real purges within the government took place,” he declared before hitting out at former President Serzh Sarkisian and his political allies.
“They still have lots of their people in the government and the law-enforcement system,” he said. “They do because we said that there will be no vendettas and gave everyone a chance. But now the time for using that chance is up.”
“The state governance system must be cleansed of Serzh’s remnants … Nobody can blame us for doing that because they had that chance and haven’t used it,” added Pashinyan. He did not name anyone.
The remarks followed a scandal that marred Pashinyan’s live address to the nation broadcast on Friday evening by Armenian Public Television. Several other, private TV broadcasters, some of which are controlled by Pashinyan’s political foes, were allowed retransmit it.
It emerged afterwards for at least 15 minutes preceding the broadcast, Public Television also filmed Pashinyan’s preparation for the address which focused on the Armenian government’s response to the coronavirus epidemic. The sensitive footage was leaked to some of his detractors who circulated it on social media to mock the prime minister.
On Sunday morning, Pashinyan’s spokeswoman, Mane Gevorgyan, accused Public Television of negligence and a lack of professionalism, saying that it should have alerted the premier that he is being recorded. Gevorgyan also lambasted the state-funded broadcaster for giving the other TV channels access to not only the speech but also what preceded it.
The Public Television management denied any wrongdoing. It insisted that prior to the broadcast one of its employees informed the prime minister’s aides about the filming.
Nevertheless, Public Television’s executive director, Margarita Grigoryan, resigned on Monday, saying that she takes responsibility for the incident. In a statement, Grigoryan also implicitly accused other broadcasters of violating ethical standards of journalism and leaking the footage. She described that as a “stab in the back.”
In his late-night Facebook message, Pashiniyan downplayed the incident while attacking “swaggering scumbags” who he said are taking advantage of his administration’s tolerance of political dissent. He stressed that during the 2018 “Velvet Revolution” in Armenia he prevented their “lynching” by angry crowds that toppled Sarkisian.
“People were demanding that … we take the scumbags, who are swaggering now, out of their homes and swat them in the streets,” he said. “But we said no, this is not our work style.”
Pashinyan went on to allege that Armenia’s former regime is stepping up its smear campaign against him because of what he described as major progress made in ongoing corruption investigations conducted by law-enforcement bodies. He said they are also worried about the Armenian parliament’s passage of government bills on judicial reform and confiscation of assets deemed to have been acquired illegally.
Pashinyan also blasted the Armenian media, saying that that up until the 2018 revolution “99 percent of media outlets and 70 percent of journalists received money from the [former] authorities.” “They are not getting that money now and the entire media field is furious with that,” he claimed.