Defamation campaigns carried out by the state media and public officials are often used to stigmatise HRDs and discredit their work in Armenia. These campaigns tend to portray HRDs as foreign agents and spies and can result in increased threats, judicial harassment and onerous tax inspections of their organisations. A major cause for concern is the treatment of LGBTI rights defenders, who are often faced with physical attacks and verbal abuse, both from state officials and the general public. Women’s rights defenders are regularly threatened and are frequently criticised for their work by the media, public opinion in general, and their family members. Additionally, some HRDs working in remote areas face judicial harassment and threats from local law enforcement agencies.
Even though freedom of expression is relatively respected and a free media exists in Armenia, journalists who are critical of the authorities and those who expose human rights violations and corruption are subject to harassment, restrictions on their work, threats and attacks. The arbitrary persecution and intimidation of HRDs and journalists, as well as widespread impunity for those who target HRDs, remains as much of an issue today as it did in 2010 when the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Defenders highlighted these areas of concern following a country visit in June of that year. The failure of the police and judiciary to investigate offences against HRDs and bring perpetrators to justice often results in further self-censorship and reluctance to engage in human rights reporting.