Journalist Artak Khulyan is seen at a protest in Yerevan, Armenia, where he and camera operator Karen Chilingaryan were assaulted by protesters on February 23, 2021. (Photo: YouTube/Karen Chilingaryan)

Demonstrators attack 2 RFE/RL journalists at political protest in Armenia

New York, February 25, 2021 – Armenian authorities should swiftly and thoroughly investigate the attack on journalists Artak Khulyan and Karen Chilingaryan, and hold those responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On February 23, in Yerevan, the capital, a group of about 20 protesters harassed and assaulted Khulyan, a reporter with Azatutyun, the Armenian service of U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and Chilingaryan, a camera operator with the outlet, according to news reports and Khulyan, who spoke with CPJ in a phone interview and posted about the attack on Facebook.

“Armenian authorities should investigate the attack on journalists Artak Khulyan and Karen Chilingaryan, hold those responsible to account, and ensure that journalists can do their jobs safely,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “Journalists should be able to cover political events without a fear of being harassed and assaulted, and authorities should take attacks on the press seriously.”

The journalists were broadcasting live from a rally demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, when a group of demonstrators started yelling insults and curse words at them, saying that Azatutyun “will soon be closed down,” according to Khulyan.

Chilingaryan asked those protesters not to interfere with their work, but about five members of that group began punching and kicking Khulyan and Chilingaryan in plain sight of police, and attacked them for about five to 10 minutes before officers intervened and broke up the scuffle, Khulyan said.

The journalists had bruises as a result of that attack, but were not seriously injured and did not need medical assistance, Khulyan told CPJ. The attackers also damaged their equipment, breaking a part of the camera, according to the journalist and reports.

The prosecutor general’s office is “investigating the incident,” according to reports. CPJ emailed that office requesting comment, but did not receive any response.

In November, demonstrators attacked Azatutyun’s offices in Yerevan and assaulted two journalists, as CPJ documented at the time.