September 24, 2010 - 4:26pm, by Joshua Kucera
Hazing in post-Soviet militaries is unfortunately common. What's less common is someone getting punished for it, but that's what's happening in Armenia, where an officer was arrested and faces a sentence of up to five years for beating a young soldier. And that's at least in part thanks to the efforts of Armenian activist bloggers, who kept pushing the story until the Defense Ministry was forced to act:
The Armenian Defense Ministry officially confirmed on Wednesday the identity of an army officer who was arrested last week for abusing his soldiers and is now facing up to five years in prison.
The arrest followed the circulation of an amateur Youtube video that shows a uniform-clad man hitting and humiliating two army conscripts during what looks like a picnic. The footage caused public outrage, prompting the Armenian military to order an inquiry.
The Defense Ministry initially questioned its veracity and said those who posted it on the Internet are keen to `discredit' the Armed Forces. Subsequent media reports said military investigators tracked down the officer shown in the clip.
As EurasiaNet reported just earlier this month, the Armenian MoD had been taking stronger action against hazing even before this video came out. But the existence of video makes it much harder for those who are inclined to reflexively defend the army to deny that hazing is a problem. (The same thing happened in Azerbaijan a couple of years ago.) While the promise of cyberactivism can often be exaggerated, this is one case where there's room for optimism.