Haykakan Zhanamak
Haykakan Zhanamak

Police in Armenia detain pro-opposition journalist

New York, June 2, 2010—The Committee to Protect Journalists is very concerned that Armenian authorities are detaining Ani Gevorgian, a journalist for the pro-opposition daily Haykakan Zhanamak, after she was arrested on assignment on Monday. Police in the capital, Yerevan, arrested Gevorgian, left, as she was covering a sit-in at Liberty Square being staged by activists with the Armenian National Congress, Anna Akopyan, Haykakan Zhanamak’s director, told CPJ. 

The Russian news agency Regnum reported that Armenian police clashed with the protesters and detained 17 people, including Gevorgian, Haykakan Zhanamak colleague Syuzanna Pogosian, and Lilit Tadevosian, a journalist with the Yerevan-based daily Hayq.

Pogosian and Tadevosian were released the same day along with several protesters, but Gevorgian remained in custody on criminal charges of assaulting police, Akopyan told CPJ. Police alleged that Gevorgian struck an officer in the face, according to news accounts.

Police also continued to hold the journalist’s teenage brother and one other activist. The brother, Sarkis, was accompanying Gevorgian on the assignment, Akopyan said. He was charged with hooliganism.

A video of the detentions, posted on the Armenian service of the U.S.-government funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, appears to show Gevorgian photographing police dispersing the protesters before being suddenly arrested herself. There is no evidence in the video to support the assault allegations.

“Based on the video and accounts provided by her editor, we’re deeply skeptical of the police allegations against Ani Gevorgian. The evidence indicates that she was at the rally doing her job,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “We join with our Armenian colleagues in calling for Gevorgian’s release.”

Akopyan told CPJ she believes her colleague was taken in retribution for her reporting on local police. In two recent articles, Gevorgian alleged that an Armenian police anthem had copied words and music from one used in neighboring Georgia. The story had angered police officials, according to news accounts.

Haykakan Zhanamak said in a statement: “As of today, June 2, 2010, no detail or visual evidence has been provided by the police regarding the alleged violence by the 23-year-old journalist against the police.”