Armenia must fully investigate police attacks on media workers

Capture d’écran 2015-06-25 à 21.52.08

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) have together condemned the actions of Armenian police who attacked and briefly detained at least 10 media workers who were covering a demonstration on 23 June in Yerevan (Armenia). The two organisations have asked the authorities to investigate the incidents and punish the perpetrators.

According to media reports, at least 10 media workers were assaulted and briefly detained by police officers who destroyed phones, cameras, laptops and video equipment of many journalists. The police also confiscated the memory cards of those who had filmed the crackdown against protesters. Thousands of people have been recently demonstrating in Armenia, gathering in front of the President Serzh Sarkisian’s residence to voice their anger over the increase in the electricity prices.

“After police had cleared the area, the plainclothes police came after the journalists intentionally. They came at the journalists who had been filming the crackdown and tried to grab cameras, confiscate their materials, and break all the equipment that had made videos,” journalist Sisak Gabrielian was quoted by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).

In addition to Gabrielian, other journalists attacked and briefly arrested included RFE/RL Armenian correspondent Garik Harutyunian; online Hetq newspaper’s reporters Ani Hovhannisian and Hrant Galstian; CvilNet TV journalist Arpi Makhsudian; Armenia TV reporter David Davtian and his cameraman Gevorg Ghazarian; Panorama.am photographer Karapet Sahakian; photographer Ani Gevorgian; Gala TV cameraman Paylak Fahradyan and cameraman Garik Azibekian, working for RFE/RL. Azibekian told RFE/RL that the plainclothes police punched him repeatedly in the face and torso and forced him to the ground, kicking both of his kneecaps. Media workers of Haykakan Zhamanak (Armenian Time) and online news agencies News.am, PanArmenian.net, Espress.am and Arajin.am were also assaulted while covering the demonstrations, RFE/RL added.

“We are outraged by such heavy handed action by police against journalists who were treated like criminals for covering the public exercise of the people democratic right to demonstrate,” said IFJ President Jim Boumelha. “Press freedom in Armenia has come under direct, violent attack and we therefore urge the administration to launch a full investigation and ensure their security forces respect and enforce journalists’ rights.”

“In Armenia, violence, harassment against the media and impunity contribute to widespread self-censorship in the newsrooms”, said EFJ President Mogens Blicher Bjerregård. “Armenian authorities must identify and charge the perpetrators of any reported attack against journalists”.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)’s Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatovic, has also condemned the attacks.

Photo : A woman waves an Armenian flag as thousands of protesters block a street during a demonstration against an increase of electricity prices in Yerevan late on June 24, 2015. © Karen Minasyan / AFP Photo

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