Nagorno-Karabakh: Opposition journalist arrested

April 6, 2000

Karen Mirzorian
Representative of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic
Yerevan, Armenia

VIA FAX: 011-3742-151-778

Dear Mr. Mirzorian,

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is greatly disturbed by the arrest and continued detention of Vahram Aghajanian, a journalist with the newspaper Tasnerord Nahang in the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, and a contributor to the Yerevan, Armenia-based paper Iravunk.

On March 28, Nagorno-Karabakh Interior Ministry officials burst into Aghajanian’s apartment in the Nagorno-Karabakh capital, Stepanakert. They failed to produce a search warrant before they ransacked the premises and searched through the journalist’s personal and professional documents, including newspapers and video and audio cassettes. Aghajanian was later summoned to the Interior Ministry where he remains in custody today.

Although nine days have now passed since Aghajanian’s arrest, no explanation has been offered for his detention. Nor has he been charged with any crime. On the day of his arrest, a spokesman for the Prosecutor’s Office announced that Aghajanian had been arrested for “obstructing the implementation of martial law.” Just two days ago, the Interior Ministry told reporters that Aghajanian had been detained for ten days “for instigating a violent situation,” but declined to provide additional information.

CPJ is concerned that Aghajanian’s arrest may have resulted from his published criticisms of Nagorno-Karabakh leader Anushavan Danielian and from Tasnerord Nahang‘s links with opponents of Danielian’s government. The paper is said to be controlled by Samvel Babayan, former commander-in-chief of the disputed territory’s army. On April 4, your government accused Babayan of orchestrating the March 22 assassination attempt against Arkady Gukassian, self-proclaimed president of Nagorno-Karabakh.

While CPJ deplores the attack against Gukassian, we urge you not to victimize Aghajanian because of the political slant of his newspaper or the critical nature of his reporting. As a nonpartisan organization dedicated to defending the rights of our colleagues around the world, CPJ urges Nagorno-Karabakh authorities to provide an immediate explanation for Aghajanian’s arrest, and to ensure that he is treated according to international due process norms.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. We await your comments.


Ann K. Cooper
Executive Director