Investigative journalist severely beaten

New York, November 19, 2008–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the brazen attack on Edik Baghdasarian, the editor of the Yerevan-based online newsmagazine Hetq. Three unidentified men ambushed Baghdasarian on Monday outside his office and badly beat him. 

Baghdasarian was immediately taken to a hospital with a concussion, the journalist’s son, Tigran, told CPJ. He is still recovering today.  

“We condemn this vicious attack on Edik Baghdasarian and call on the Armenian authorities to conduct their investigation thoroughly and bring his assailants to justice,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “Authorities must not let impunity in attacks on journalists silence investigative reporting in the country.”

According to the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), two men beat Baghdasarian as he was walking to his car at around 8 p.m. on Monday. Baghdasarian tried to defend himself but did not see a third attacker who came up from behind, he told RFE/RL. The man hit him on the head with a heavy object, possibly a rock, and he lost consciousness, he said. According to international news reports, the assailants fled the scene when a policeman noticed the scuffle and fired a shot into the air. The attackers took only a computer disc with notes for the journalist’s stories on it, RFE/RL reported.

Baghdasarian is a prominent investigative reporter who also heads the Armenian Association of Investigative Journalists. He regularly covers corruption in the Armenian government. According to local CPJ sources, his most recent reports concerned corruption in the mining industry. He said he believes the attack is related to his work, but could not say who could be behind the incident, RFE/RL reported. Currently hospitalized, the journalist was not available to talk to CPJ.

Armenia’s authorities denounced the attack on Baghdasarian and pledged to investigate it. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan visited him in the hospital and assured him that prosecutors will investigate the attack, the independent Caucasus news site Kavkazsky Uzel reported. Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan’s spokesman said the president urged the investigators to find those responsible. Today, Yerevan Police Chief Ashot Miridzhanian told independent news agency ArmInfo that he is personally overseeing the investigation and said police are talking to the officer who witnessed the attack.