Journalists beaten at an opposition rally

New York, April 13, 2004—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns today’s early-morning attack on several Armenian journalists who were covering an opposition rally in the country’s capital, Yerevan.

According to local and international reports, four journalists were seriously beaten. Ayk Gevorgian and Avetis Babajanian, reporters with the opposition daily Aykakan Zhamanak (Armenian Times); Levon Grigorian, a cameraman with the Russian TV channel ORT; and Mher Ghalechian, a journalist with the opposition weekly Chorrord Ishkhanutyun, were all hurt after being beaten by police, according to the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).

Elina Poghosbekian, editor of the newsletter of the Yerevan Press Club, told CPJ that Gevorgian was treated for serious injuries but that he is now in stable condition. CPJ does not currently have information on the status of the other journalists. Police destroyed the cameras of both Gevorgian and Grigorian.

The rally, organized by several opposition parties, began yesterday evening at around 6 p.m. with about 15,000 demonstrators marching toward the residence of President Robert Kocharian and calling for a referendum on his rule, RFE/RL reported.

Violence erupted at about 2 a.m., when the lights went out in the area. Police then beat protestors and the journalists with batons, using stun grenades and water jets to disperse the remaining demonstrators.

Another opposition rally had been held on April 5. Several hundred police stood by while about two dozen unidentified men smashed the video cameras of three Armenian television stations and the still cameras of two opposition dailies. See CPJ’s alert of April 6, 2004.

“CPJ calls on Armenian authorities to investigate these attacks against our colleagues and bring those responsible to justice,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “We also urge officials to ensure that journalists in Armenia are able to do their jobs freely and safely.”