June 19, 2000
His Excellency Robert Kocharian
President of the Republic of Armenia
26 Marshall Baghramyan St.
Yerevan, Armenia 375012
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is deeply disturbed by the brutal beating of an independent Armenian journalist. We call on you to ensure that this attack is investigated, and that its perpetrators are brought to justice.
According to local sources, Vahagn Ghukasian, a contributor to the Yerevan-based daily Aravot, the daily Haykakan Jamanak, and the weekly Chorrord Ishkhanutiun, was taken on June 6 to the Interior Ministry, where two senior officers of the Ministry’s Department of Criminal Investigation interrogated him and beat him severely. The journalist says he was beaten for two hours in the stomach, back, neck and head.
Ghukasian believes he was attacked in retaliation for a 20-page brochure titled ‘An Observer’s Version’ which was published on May 27 and disseminated among journalists and both pro-government and opposition political leaders. The brochure reported on the investigation by security forces into the October 27, 1999 attack on the Armenian parliament. In the publication, Ghukasian alleged that Hrachya Harutiun, the current head of the Department of Criminal Investigation, had been fired in 1994 from the Ministry of National Security, for keeping drugs, and for illegal possession of a firearm.
Ghukasian claims that Harutiun was one of the two men who beat him on June 6.
According to Ghukasian, his house and a shoemaker’s store which he owns were searched while he was held at the Interior Ministry for nine hours, and a computer diskette and the remainder of the brochures were removed.
Colleagues are supporting the journalist in his efforts to seek an investigation. Three Yerevan-based newspapers (Azg, Aravot, and Haykakan Jamanak) have printed Ghukasian’s description of the attack, and his account has been corroborated by CPJ sources in the Armenian capital.
As a nonpartisan organization of journalists devoted to defending press freedom around the world, CPJ condemns violence against our colleagues. We respectfully urge that you ensure that any government official who abuses his authority is swiftly brought to justice. We ask that you do everything in your power to ensure that journalists in Armenia are free to exercise their internationally-recognized right to express their opinion and inform the public, without fear of reprisal.
Thank you for your attention to these urgent matters.
Ann K. Cooper