By Emil Danielyan
The Yerevan-based representative of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on Thursday condemned this week’s attack on Armenian journalists covering an opposition rally, calling on the authorities to punish its perpetrators.
“Any violence against journalists should be condemned, the instigators identified and criminal proceedings against them initiated,” Ambassador Vladimir Pryakhin said in a statement. “I hope the Armenian authorities will keep their promises to take the necessary measures in this respect.”
The Russian diplomat had earlier contradicted eyewitness accounts by saying that “there were victims on both sides” during violent incidents that marred Monday’s street protest in Yerevan staged by the National Unity Party. A group of burly men tried to disrupt it by throwing eggs and firecrackers and hitting some of the angry opposition supporters.
The thugs then attacked journalists, smashing television and still cameras that filmed their actions. Scores of police were present at the rally but did not try to stop the violence, prompting opposition allegations that it was orchestrated by the authorities.
The chief of the Yerevan police, Nerses Nazarian, again denied those charges. Speaking to RFE/RL, he said the police are trying to establish the identity of the attackers and will formally launch criminal proceedings into the incident later in the day. Prosecutor-General Aghvan Hovsepian gave a similar pledge to Armenia’s human rights ombudsman, Larisa Alaverdian.
A privately owned TV channel, Kentron, has repeatedly broadcast a brief footage of the attack, exposing some of the thugs. One of them knocked to the ground a female correspondent for the daily “Aravot,” according to eyewitnesses. The paper printed the man’s picture for the second time on Thursday, identifying him as a distant relative of a senior police official.
“If the police don’t track down that individual after all of this, that will mean our law-enforcement authorities are trying to cover up the crime,” “Aravot” said.
The anti-journalist violence in Armenia has led international media watchdogs to raise the alarm. In separate statements, the Paris-based group Reporters Sans Frontiers and the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists mentioned the fact that the police failed to step in.