Marianna Grigoryan runs the Armenian satirical newspaper Medialab, which is very critical of the government and is struggling to appear. She has recently been the subject of death threats via social networks, but has no protection, while the author of the threats, once identified, has not been concerned.
” From the beginning, people from the government have been trying to figure out what my price would be to keep quiet. But they quickly realized that we were not playing this game . In the writing of her satirical journal, Medialab, standing in front of a wall covered with the twenty or so international awards she received for her work, Marianna Grigoryan did not part with her determined air. The editor-in-chief, who founded her media in 2009, is not at her first attempt at intimidation: the price to pay for being independent.
However, at the end of January, these pressures took a more worrying turn. Mariana Girgoryan received death threats, via Facebook, from a man who promised him the same fate as cartoonists Charlie Hebdo. Marianna’s daughter was also targeted by the threats. The author invited them to ” live their day because there may be no others. “
Medialab had just revealed that the Armenian Foreign Ministry had spent more than 7 million drams (around 12,000 euros) on the purchase of flowers. This was all the more shocking because, at the same time, the minister was asking the Armenian population to pay money to pay the medical expenses of a wounded soldier during the Nagorno-Karabakh war. The drawing was mocking, but Marianna herself admitted: ” We have already drawn much worse things ! “
Concerned by reports of death threats against Editor @MedialabArmenia. Any threat against journalists, including online, is a threat to democracy. Hope the investigation will be swift and the perpetrator can be brought to justice. #JournoSafe #SOFJOhttps://t.co/FfP0loQyvS
— OSCE media freedom (@OSCE_RFoM) February 6, 2018
“The Ministry of Defense bought roses for 7 million drams at the end of December – That’s enough for you, is not it? (Medialab)
” I discovered the identity of the man who threatened me and on Instagram, he says he is a sniper of the army. I brought everything to the police but they did nothing , “says Marianna Grigoryan. ” The man even gave interviews, saying that I was making noise only to get money . ”
The case provoked reactions from the United States Embassy in Armenia and the OSCE, which expressed their “concern”.
In Armenia: an “imitation of freedom of the press”
Medialab never mince words: from the endemic corruption of the government to the behavior of the head of the Church of Armenia, everything passes under the murderous pencil of Marianna, of her companion Vahe Narsesyan, with whom she founded the title, and the small group of caricaturists working with them. ” We do not just do drawings. We wanted serious media with surveys and research, ” says Marianna. ” Armenian journalists are content with very poor journalism and we have to be different. More than 20,000 people follow the Facebook page of the media.
What disturbing a power that, according to Marianna, intends to keep control of most media in the country. ” In Armenia, we have an imitation of freedom of the press. But we are not free, ” says the editor. Armenia ranks 79th in Reporters Without Borders’ world press freedom index, which points to a lack of plurality in public broadcasting. And while investigative journalism is thriving on the Internet in this country, the organization denounces the fact that ” police violence remains as recurrent as it is impunity. ”
Medialab cartoon referring to an episode of 2016, when a dozen media professionals were injured by police covering the dispersal of an event. “There was no violence,” says the manager / (Credit: Medialab)
To set up her journal, Marianna invested the money she had received for a “Reporter Without Borders for Press Freedom” prize obtained in 2008. Today, her newspaper lives on a grant from the European democracy.
“I still believe that I can change the world”
Marianna Grigoryan is a confident and determined woman, bubbling with projects. When she met the man who became his companion, a common friend warned the young man: “she told him,” But be careful, because Marianna sees life in color, it will not be easy, ” reports the young woman laughing. But I think it allows me to do more, I still believe that I can change the world, “she says. Although she has a keen interest in public debate, Marianna has no sympathy for any political party, not even those of the opposition. She believes that all are corrupt.
Before creating Medialab, she worked for foreign newspapers. She notably covered the anti-government demonstrations of 2008, enamelled with violence that killed eight people. His mental health and abortion investigations were priced and weighed down to change Armenia’s abortion law.
“Either we were told we were crazy or very brave but we could not help us”
His character as a fighter allows him to overcome the difficulties that the media encounters. In 2016, Medialab aims to make an exhibition with his drawings, but the newspaper finds no place ready to welcome them. ” Either we were told we were crazy or we were very brave but could not help us ,” says Marianna. Never mind, the exhibition entitled “Not banned” will take place in the open air: the drawings are printed on t-shirts and signs to put around the neck. ” The police came several times, but I printed the law proving that we had the right to be there,” says the editor.
With success in the capital, the team travels to other cities in the country: Gyumri and Vanadzor. ” People hugged us, thanked us … We brought a new wind, they understood that we should not be afraid, ” recalls Marianna. But one evening, the editor’s car is fractured and the caricatures stored in it are stolen. She files a complaint. Many surveillance cameras were filming the car that night. Managers should not be difficult to find, says the editor. But despite these circumstances, the case is closed.
The exhibition “Not banned” was held outdoors in Yerevan, Gyumri and Vanadzor / Credit: Vardine Grigoryan MediaLab
Can not be served
Another obstacle to overcome: diffusion problems. Two years ago, the team decided to be present on paper, and not only on the Internet. She goes in search of a sales network. Marianna then receives refusal on refusal: the company which diffuses the newspapers on public transport assures it that distributing Medialab will provoke quarrels in the street; another institution is demanding an exorbitant membership fee and 50% of the revenue from the sale; finally, the local post office agrees to sell the newspaper before knowing its contents, but ends up hiding the copies.
Today, the team is trying to find an economic balance that would allow it to do without foundation funding. She will soon publish a comic strip and hopes to spread her diary via foreign NGOs. ” I do not know yet how we will do. But as always, I hope, says Marianna Grigoryan. ” I know we are important and dangerous to power, otherwise he would not do all that to stop us . ”