Ani Hovhannisyan

A Case of Vote Rigging? Hetq Source Says Orange Armenia Instructed Jury to Drop Mher Yenokyan's Book from the Running

Mher Yenokyan, who is now serving a life sentence in Armenia, wrote a book called “Toward Lifelong Freedom”.

The book was selected as a finalist, along with two other works, in the 2013Orange Book Prize in the short story category.

Yenokyan’s book didn’t win.

A Hetq source close to the awards committee, who wishes to remain anonymous, told us that Orange Armenia Marketing Director Aram Mkrtchyan approached the jury members and instructed them to overlook Yenokyan’s book in their deliberations. This incident is supposed to have taken place after the online votes had been tallied.

Our source told us that the jury members balked at the suggestion, responding that Yenokyan’s work was the only one they all were ready to vote in favor of. In response Mkrtchyan told them that while he had nothing personal against the book, they should take into account public sentiment and the position of the authorities which was clearly not favorable regarding Yenokyan.

“While all of us personally perhaps like his work, but the reputation of the company drops when a prize is awarded to an individual who is perceived as a murderer,” Hetq’s source said, paraphrasing the viewpoint of Mkrtchyan.

Our source also points out that Mkrtchyan was probably pressured as well since he noted that Orange would consider financing the printing of Yenokyan’s book in the future.

When the prizes were announced, Hetq spoke to Orange Armenia Marketing Director Aram Mkrtchyan, asking him if he had indeed given last minute instruction to the jury members about Yenokyan’s book.

“To be honest, Orange has never involved itself in the affairs of the jury. So, I can’t imagine where you heard such a thing. All I can say is that I cannot comment on such a statement. The jury always carries out its work based on professional standards,” Mkrtchyan replied.

Jury member Karineh Chobanyan told Hetq that she had evaluated the works of the three finalists equally.

“Regarding the rest, we entered into an agreement with Orange that the affairs of the jury would stay in-house. I’d be violating the disclosure agreement if I answered such questions,” Chobanyan responded when Hetq asked her whether they indeed had received any instructions from Orange management about Yenokyan’s book.

Ani Chiboukhchyan, another jury member, said that no such instruction had been given.

“If indeed such an instruction had been given, it would have been more logical to have made it before the three finalists were announced, so that the book wouldn’t be eligible for online voting and public review,” Chiboukhchyan said.

We also asked jury member Yerazik Grigoryan the same question.

“As far as I know, a few jury members phoned me and said they had been asked a similar question. They were surprised and got quite irritated. We never received such an instruction. We voted…Specifically, I never betrayed my literary tastes and principles,” Grigoryan replied.

P.S. Mher Yenokyan has spent 18 years of a life sentence at the Noubarashen Correctional Facility. He is now a second year student at the Armenian-Russian Slavonic University’s Faculty of Law. Yenokyan is also a contributing writer to Hetq.